CAIRO: Representatives of the Bedouin tribes in North Sinai held a press conference Monday evening to respond to what they deemed was negative coverage by the foreign press.
Organized by the Popular Committee for the Rights of Sinai Citizens, and including representatives from prominent tribes in the area like the Tarabin and Sawarkeh, the press conference was called in response to an article published in Time magazine earlier this month.
Comments made by some Bedouins in the article had caused consternation with people in North Sinai, who feel it is not representative of the residents’ viewpoint and is an attempt to paint the Bedouins of Sinai as a fifth column.
Democratic Front Party member Mohamed El-Menei told Daily News Egypt, “It is causing concern here amongst the tribes in Sinai. We wanted to send the message that what was said in this article was not true. The names used in the article are not even real.
The Time magazine article, entitled “Egypt’s New Challenge: Sinai’s Restive Bedouins, published Feb. 3, quoted a smuggler who said he was cheering for Algeria in the World Cup qualifying game against Egypt in November and a cement worker who said Bedouins are more aligned with Israel than Egypt.
The Bedouins’ “history of discrimination and abuse at the hands of the security forces combined with a distinct cultural identity has produced political attitudes that even the most disgruntled Egyptian in Cairo would deem heretical, the article said.
In a statement released following the press conference the tribesmen said, “We were surprised by the mysterious Time magazine article . as sons of the tribes, we assure that the magazine was trying to smear the people of Sinai. The writer of the article was obviously a guest of the worst of the Bedouins.
“What was said by these people was not representative of the views of the Bedouins and Israel will always remain the enemy as long as the Palestinians live under occupation, the statement continued. “We do not forget what harm Israel has caused us.
The press conference was also taken as an opportunity to reiterate the previous grievances of Sinai residents, including the lack of state interest in developing the area and the repeated security crackdowns and raids.
“We also called for the development of North and Central Sinai, and the release of Bedouin detainees, and called for better treatment by security forces in the area, El-Menei said.