|First Published In|
Al Mayadeen English.
Under the guise of the war on ISIS, President Sisi and the Egyptian army stand accused of ethnically cleansing the indigenous Bedouin population in the Sinaï.
An area at the north of the Gulf of Suez that borders both “Israel” and Gaza. With a population of 500,000, it is at the epicenter of a war between Egyptian governmental forces, ‘Wilayat Sinaï’ ISIS fighters, anti-governmental tribes and pro-government militias.
The ongoing conflict has seen destruction, death and war crimes allegedly carried out by all these groups.
Many of those have been forced to leave their homes, farms and villages by the Egyptian army who deprived them of their right of return.
Wilayat Sinaï is governed by a separatist Islamist group trying to turn the Sinai into an Islamic Caliphate.
The people who live there want to stay where their families and ancestors have lived and died.
When the tunnels connecting Rafah to Gaza were destroyed by the Egyptian army, the people were told they would be resettled 800 meters away, in reality; they were transferred over 5 kilometers from their homes.
These Bedouin are now internally displaced within the Sinaï.
It is claimed that ISIS has only around 1000 fighters in the area. The Egyptian army led wars - fighting against terrorism - that resulted in a massive increase in civilian casualties estimated at 90%.
It is claimed that America has gone from (USAID) feeding the people, to arming the dictatorship of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with multi-million dollar armaments.
The war on terrorism has destroyed not only many Bedouin lives and the civilian infrastructure, but also the harmony and peace that were previously characterizing the indigenous people’s life.
They do not want to recall the “Holocaust” perpetrated against the indigenous American peoples and other colonized and occupied lands and countries.
The Egyptian army was largely inactive in the Sinaï for decades but with the overthrow of Egypt’s democratically elected government of Muslim Brotherhood Leader President Mohamed Morsi by the American-backed military coup of General Abdel Fattah El -Sisi on July 3, 2013, everything changed.
A previous peace treaty with “Israel” limiting the number of Egyptian troops allowed into the Sinaï, now appears to have been waived and “Israel” stands accused of assisting the Egyptian army in bombing and killing the Beduoin people as well as ISIS fighters.
“The deal of the century” proposed by the Trump administration in 2020 has been used as an excuse to further occupy the Sinaï.
Through the continued marginalization of the Sinaï tribes, combined with a lack of investment in the area contributed to the conflict; and the fact, the people have no voice in governmental policies that represent them has also exacerbated the situation.
This could all be a result of the Egyptian-Israeli agreement that stipulated a demilitarized Sinaï as part of the de-escalation of the Egyptian-Israeli conflict.
The Bedouin might be the most unfortunate victims of this peace deal, which may limit infrastructure projects and the growth of the economy in Sinaï.
The destruction of the tunnels which once linked Sinaï to Gaza, and provided economic benefits to both areas, combined with the brutal repression from the Egyptian military side against the tribes and ISIS simultaneously. We appear to have two separate belligerents facing the Egyptian security forces.
On one hand, ISIS is fighting to create an Islamic presence, and on the other hand, the tribes are leading in the area an opposition movement in retaliation for the repression of Egyptian forces and governmental neglect.
All Bedouins appear to be bearing the brunt of Egypt's military campaign. Non-combatant civilians, as usual, are suffering death, injuries and displacements.
Caught between the army and the ‘insurgents’ the people are paying a heavy price.
The government is being accused of bombing complete villages after being attacked by ISIS insurgents, many of whom do not live in the area.
The army is using young new recruits with only limited basic training as cannon fodder to fight ISIS. Once these young men have been killed in contact with enemy fighters, the army destroys the villages from whence the attack came or the bases from which ISIS launched the attacks.
Many ISIS fighters come from neighboring Arab countries.
Eyewitnesses accuse the Egyptian military of forcing families from their dwellings, to then loot those homes while also stealing sheep and farm animals. They finally explode the properties or set fire to them. Many families are then forced to relocate and live with neighbors and friends.
People want an end to these human rights violations, attacks on journalists and carte blanche support for the regime’s crimes in Sinaï, supported by the European Union, “Israel” and Washington.
With the Sinaï being a 'restricted area' very little information is available on the numbers killed and injured.
The war has not distinguished between men, women and children; it has simply destroyed the North of Sinaï.
Some Bedouin claim they are caught between ISIS on the one hand, and the Egyptian army and the West’s war on terror on the other.
The conflict can only end through peaceful dialogue.
If the Egyptian dictatorship could address the underlying conditions that have alienated the Bedouin from Cairo, then perhaps ISIS could be isolated and peace could return to the region.
Continued war in Sinaï will only further alienate the Bedouin from the dictatorship of El-Sisi and lead to further unwanted death and destruction in the region creating more instability and a rise in attacks on government forces and potential support for ISIS.
Repression breeds resistance and while the conflict continues the dynamics change and the justification for violence becomes self-sustaining.
While America, the EU and “Israel” support the El-Sisi dictatorship, peace is a long way off in the geopolitical machinations of the region.
𒍨The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al Mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.
|Fra Hughes is a columnist with Al Mayadeen.|