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Roundup of Internationals in Cairo

CairoRising | 04.02.2011 19:57 | Palestine | Repression | Social Struggles | World

This is part of a series of posts from European anarchists who wanted to send reports of the Egyptian uprising and pool calls for international action in solidarity with the rebellion.

Unfortunately our first post is concerned with intimidation that we were on the receiving end of. As we arrived we were arrested with scores of foreign passport holders in a round up of internationals in Cairo, including many foreign journalists.

Whilst this might seem as if its a personal account, in fact the intimidation of foreign passport holders is indicative of the almost total repression of the Egyptian people and moves by the state to cut all reporting of the ongoing rebellion. It can be seen as an attempt, along with the attacks on access to the phone network and internet, to completely isolate the uprising and limit the possibility of international solidarity.

The arrests have been reported as targeted at foreign journalists. However those arrested yesterday included residents of Cairo with dual nationality and Palestinian refugees.

We were stopped by the army on the road into Cairo and passed between a host of different security services before being detained at a flying military checkpoint for five hours, then passed to the military police. After initially being taken to an army base we were driven to what appeared to be a police compound. Outside the gates we were suddenly blindfolded from behind and lead into the building, then handcuffed. Having been detained at three o’clock in the morning, we seemed amongst the first people there but more quickly arrived. Altogether there were around forty internationals detained there – most of them picked up by the military, who had been checking IDs since that morning and grabbed people throughout the day. Some Egyptians with foreign passports had been handed in to the army by neighbourhood checkpoints (roadblocks set up by Egyptian civilians since the start of the rebellion). This was clearly a coordinated police operation against all foreign passport holders in Cairo.

After being detained for eight hours people were interviewed separately and told that the reason for the arrests was the fear of foreign ‘threat’ of foreign spies and troublemakers at Tahrir Square.

Since Wednesday a claim has been circulated that Israeli spies have infiltrated the demonstrations. This has lead to a mistrust of foreigners on the streets, and even to the neighbourhood checkpoints checking IDs and handing people in to the military.

Interrogators went through phone handsets and asked detainees to explain text messages. We were also filmed and photographed.

At around 7pm all detainees were led, blindfolded, into a courtyard and told to sit looking at the ground, in silence without moving. We were repeatedly told that if anyone moved or spoke they would be shot. At least one international was beaten.

Everyone was released at 9pm, some had been detained for eighteen hours.

This treatment was a clear attempt by the state to terrorise internationals into leaving Cairo.

Although the target of this clampdown may have been foreigners, residents of Cairo were also caught in the roundup. Some had been attempting to stock up with food before the curfew began. The treatment terrorised them as much as the internationals arrested with them – and they have a lot more to lose.

These arrests are a clear attempt to silence and isolate the rebellion. The internationals detained represent a channel linking the Cairo dissidents with solidarity movements outside the county and around the world. The Egyptian state tried, and failed, to prevent the voice of the ordinary Egyptians to get out and spread throught the internet. The round up was a desperate measure as part of the same strategy. Although the mainstream media operates a self-imposed statist view of the situation, media reports of the ongoing uprising weaken Mubarak, through providing a witness, and ameliorate the state’s ability to launch an unrestrained backlash. There is clearly also a fear, also, that international activists may join the demonstrators.

This movement needs as many outlets as possible, and needs global solidarity.

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