Dozens of American and French Women Headed to Gaza for International Women’s Day Detained in Cairo Airport, Accused of Being Security Threat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 5, 2014

 

Contact: Olivia Zemor (in Cairo airport): 0033 680 887 154

Ann Wright (in Cairo at hotel): 012 712 446 30

 

Dozens of American and French Women Headed to Gaza for International Women’s Day Detained in Cairo Airport, Accused of Being Security Threat

 

Dozens of members of an international coalition of 100 women who planned to visit Gaza for International Womens Day are currently being detained at the airport in Cario, Egypt. They were told by the Egyptian authorities they cannot enter the country because they pose as a “security threat”. The whereabouts of three American women and 4 French women detained in the airport by authorities are unknown, and 2 other American women are with a group of about 40 French and Belgian women in a public area of the airport that the police have roped off.  

The youngest delegate is 18 years old and the oldest is 84. While waiting in the airport the women have set up a mock “checkpoint” to mimic those along the Egyptian and Gaza border, and they are singing songs and waving Palestinian flags with “Free Palestine” signs visible.

“The Egyptian authorities are stopping us because Israel has ordered them not to let us go to Gaza to be in solidarity with the women there. They did not tell us in advance they wouldn't let us through, in fact they said they would, so they must have been under immense pressure in the last few days from Israel, and maybe even the US,” said one of the trip organizers from the French delegation, Olivia Zemor. “It's not in their interest to have this bad image by treating us this way, and it hurts the Palestinian people.” She added, “If we are blocked, no one speaks about Gaza. We need people to know that even from Egypt, there is a blockade, and we must break the silence.”  

“We understand that Egypt is experiencing security issues, but we are a group of peaceful women who pose as no threat. We certainly wish the Egyptian government had been more forthcoming about their intention to not let us in, then we could have spent all the money on this money on the people of Gaza who are suffering instead,” said Colonel Ann Wright, one of the organizers of the American delegation contingent.

Several women from the delegation have already been deported, including Northern Ireland Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire, American human right campaigner Medea Benjamin, and Northern Ireland human rights advocate Anne Patterson. Ms Benjamin, who traveled alone, was assaulted by Egyptian security officials, deported to Istanbul, Turkey, on March 4 and was hospitalized overnight in Istanbul until her flight to the US midday on March 5.

The delegation is converging in Egypt before crossing the border into to Gaza to witness the hardships facing the 1.7 million residents, deliver humanitarian aid, and call attention to the need for a longer-term strategy to achieve peace and justice for Palestinians. The delegation’s plan is to enter Gaza through Egypt at the Rafah border on March 6th. They will be in Gaza for International Women’s Day, which is on March 8th, and return to Egypt on March 12th. The delegation will be delivering solar lamps to the women of Gaza, who have been facing severe electricity shortages.

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