Sinai Terrorism

Category: Human Rights

Egypt pleads for U.S. help on ‘war on terror’

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the ex army chief – who looks odds on to become the new head of state – has pleaded with the United States to help in their fight against terrorism originating from the Sinai Peninsula, asEl-Sisi puts it to help avoid the creation of new Afghanistans in the Middle East.  El-Sisi is calling for the resumption of U.S. military aid, which is worth around $1.3 billion a year, yet this was frozen buy the U.S. after a violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters.  “The Egyptian army is undertaking major operations in the Sinai so it is not transformed into a base for terrorism that will threaten its neighbours and make Egypt unstable. If Egypt is unstable then the entire region is unstable.” The Egyptian army has been undertaking operations in the Sinai for a while now, with little success as much of what they have been doing has targeted the local Bedouin population and the underground economy there, which has only further antagonised the Bedouins.  These Bedouins hold the key to peace in the region, and the Egyptian military operations has only set to push them into the welcoming arms of the jihadi groups operating there.

The framing of El-Sisi’s pleading for U.S. money and equipment is designed to push President Obama into a corner where he cannot turn his back on Egypt and their fight on terrorism or he risks losing a strong and increasingly rare ally in that part of the world. However Obama needs to stand firm against these pressures as the lack of any progress towards improving their human rights record is intollerable, especially when Egypt sentances 529 Morsi supporters to death. “No review of evidence, no witnesses, no time for the defense to make their case,” one of the lawyers, Khaled el-Koumi told reporters. The West must take a tough stance against these breaches of human rights not just in this trial but the breaches that take place against those in the Sinai Peninsula and people who oppose the military backed government in place after their coup on 3rd July 2013.

Egypt’s foreign minister said that “The West risks losing the Egyptian people” partly because Western governments do not always fully support the statements and actions of the Egyptian government. For example how the UK has not declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, despite the fact that they have not carried out any terrorist style attack (however it is still unclear about if they have links to or help fund any of the terrorist groups operating in the Sinai). He also claims thathis government will enhance and engage the Sinai population with economic and social measures. Again it remains to be seen if these actions will go ahead, the Bedouin in the Sinai are used to this lip service paid to them when elections come around as it is a common place. But the Sinai is in desperate need of it, as another soldier was killed this week when his convoy was attacked by suspected militants in Sheikh Zuweid inspired by al-Qaeda.

The Sinai which El-Sisi says is a threat to the world if it continues to grow and is not helped by the U.S. giving military aid and equipment, is plausible. However the main reason it is growing is because the local population have been pushed into the arms of these insurgents because of teir horrific treatment by the Egyptian military and government. Therefore i would only resume aid to Egypt once they demonstrate a long term commitment to helping re-develop the Sinai both economically and for equal status for the Bedouin. Actions that would make that a reality would also go a long way to cutting down the number of terrorist groups and attacks that take place.


Terror in the Sinai Report

Report on Terror in the Sinai by the Henry Jackson Society that i helped research for.

The Sinai’s crimes against Humanity

The horrendous breaches of human rights that have occurred through the human trafficking of thousands of  Eritreans through the Sinai into Israel has been decreased since Israel’s building of a fence along the Sinai border – which has had a positive effect of stopping the unrest in the Sinai Peninsula from spilling over.

This crackdown on smuggling by the Israeli government has had a horrific side effect as now the Bedouin smuggling gangs hold them hostage instead, as they realised they can get more money for them through ransom.  Even the most destitute refugees, they found, could stump up lucrative ransoms if they were starved, raped, tortured and terrified enough to plead with relatives over the phone, particularly if some of their loved ones had already made it to wealthy Israel or Europe.The atrocities that occurred to these Eritreans are beyond deplorable, however these breaches of human rights are not just contained to the Bedouin smugglers.

The Egyptian military under the vague term of “war on terror” in the Sinai Peninsula are committing murders, arrests, torture and the displacement of Egyptian citizens. The Egyptian Observatory of Rights and Freedoms said: “Since the coup on July 3, 2013, until now at least 200 citizens have been killed, 1,500 people have been arrested, more than 350 houses have been demolished, as well as the systematic torture within the Azula military prison on citizens of northern Sinai, without investigations.” This blatant disregard by the Egyptian government of the basic human and legal rights of the citizens who live in the Sinai Peninsula is only made worse by how it is ignored by the United States, who have are giving the Egyptian military ten Apache helicopters. These are for use in counter terrorism operations in the Sinai, despite the deliberate breaches of human rights by the military. The overlooking of this type of tactics by the Egyptian military is not just contained to the United States. As when America put on hold its aid to Egypt – as a result of the turmoil in the country – Russia then wanted to give Egypt $2 billion in arms.

The brutal treatment of the Bedouin by Egyptian police, military and security forces has been a cause in the violence in the Peninsula since it started after President Mubarak was ousted in 2011. Continuing with this kind of behaviour is only going to exacerbate the situation further, as it is only going to antagonise the local population who are already angry with the government. Especially when there are already ties between the local Bedouin population and Islamic militant groups that are in operation there since 2011.

The threat from the Sinai Peninsula is still far from being contained as yesterday three policeman were wounded whilst travelling in el-Arish. The Egyptian government need to realise that violence is not the answer as it is only being met with violence back, and the terrorist groups operating in the region are expanding their targets to mainland Egypt with much more sophisticated weaponry. If they want to stop the Sinai insurgency, they need to win over the Bedouin population and introduce wide ranging reforms in the Sinai, or look ahead to years more of violence there.