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.