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Activists protest in Cairo Photo: AFP
Activists protest in Cairo Photo: AFP
 
Rafah border crossing Photo: Reuters
Rafah border crossing Photo: Reuters
 
 

Suzanne Mubarak gets activists into Gaza

Egypt's first lady obtains entry for 100 activists asking to march on anniversary of Cast Lead

Daniel Edelson
Published: 12.30.09, 23:21 / Israel News

Egypt decided Wednesday to allow 100 protesters from around the world to enter the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing.

 

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Permission was granted after about 1,300 activists protested in recent days against the decision to prevent them from entering the Strip in order to participate in a march marking the one year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead.

 

"Two buses carrying 100 activists left for Gaza this morning," Anne Wright, one of the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March, told AFP. "This is a positive breakthrough, and shows that six days of pressure did the job."

 

The decision to allow some of the activists to cross the Rafah border into the Gaza Strip came following the personal intervention of Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's First Lady Suzanne Mubarak.

 

Despite the decision, Wright said that she and others would continue their attempts to obtain permission for other protesters to enter.

 

"It's not the Egyptian government policy we are trying to take on. We are trying to highlight what is going on in Gaza," she said. The activists have recently protested in Cairo and even held a hunger strike in protest of Egyptian policy.

 

Who is responsible if not Israel?

Jodie Owens, founder of the organization Code Pink, which produced the Gaza march, is among those compelled to remain in Egypt. "We had to give up our desire to march for the sake of other activists who hadn't been in the Gaza Strip," she told Ynet. "I've been there plenty of times."

 

Owens stressed that without Suzanne Mubarak's help, the 100 protesters allowed in would also have been denied entry to Gaza.

 

"We appealed to her because she admires our activities in the organization, and has helped us enter in the past to mark International Women's Day, when we distributed food baskets to Gazan women," Owens said. "Even though she is Egypt's first lady, she had to work hard to help us, and only succeeded in obtaining permits for us after many appeals."

 

Owens blames Jerusalem for Egypt's refusal to grant permission. "It's obvious that the only reason for it is to make Israel happy. Israel is behind the refusal – what other excuse could there be?"

 

She noted that the 100 activists who will take part in the march come from 43 different countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada and India. "These are peace activists – what harm can they do?" she asked.

 

Around 40,000 people will participate in Thursday's protest march against the siege on Gaza, Owens estimates, while similar events will be held at the same time in Cairo and Israel.

 

"The idea is to unite one year after the massacre and show solidarity with the people of Gaza who are still suffering, who don't get the medicine or construction materials that they need," she explained. "We want to take advantage of this opportunity to show the world the situation of the citizens of Gaza."

 

AFP contributed to this report

 

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