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Egyptian government complicit in the siege of Gaza

By Johanna Rivera
(Johanna Rivera is a graduate student and the University of Connecticut)

Close your eyes and imagine this: You are a student living in CT and want to study in Massachusetts; you are denied permission to study in another state, and if you attempt to do it, you will be immediately deported. You are seen as a potential terrorist instead of a potential leader. You are a farmer cultivating your land and soldiers come with guns and bulldozers to uproot 200 of your trees. You have a serious disease and need to get to the hospital. You need a visa and chances are that you get sicker and possibly die before your visa is approved, if it ever does. You don't have access to basic human needs such as clean water or freedom of movement.

All these are realities faced daily by Palestinians.

Last December, I was one of thousands of people from more than 40 countries gave up everything for two weeks to gather in Cairo on the first anniversary of last December attack on Gaza. Our purpose, to let the world know about the siege, to deliver humanitarian aid and to demand the end of this brutal blockade meant to target Hamas political leaders but now starving millions of Palestinian civilians. We were restrained, barricaded by the Egyptian police and denied entry to Gaza.

I joined hundreds of internationals in the World Trade Center in Cairo to demonstrate against the decision to keep us away from Gaza. We gathered in a spirit was one of camaraderie intonating songs of peace while surrounded by police. Delegates were singing songs like "Imagine", from John Lennon and the song for Gaza that goes: "We will not go down, in the night, without a fight, you can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools, but our spirit will never die…" Being with people from all around the world, gathered in one place, singing in one voice for the people in Gaza, was an incredible experience. This provided a safe space for the Egyptian young people, and women to join us and it reflects that people in Egypt are tired of the oppression and intimidation of their government. Later, I joined around two- hundred French and other internationals in front of their embassy; they refused to leave embassy grounds until their demands to enter Gaza were granted.

On New Year's Eve, we marched, and in doing so, we defied the Egyptian authority. We gathered in front of the Egyptian museum. Everyone came running to the middle of the street when the sign of banners and Palestinian flags were held high. We held hands and stopped the traffic while police tried to push hundreds into the sidewalk. I felt as if time had stopped as we resisted and sat in the middle of the street. The people in Cairo showed us their support from buses and cars. Suddenly, police started to pull the people by the hair out of the crowd, hitting and kicking everyone including old people and women.

Without realizing it, I was in the middle of Cairo, experiencing just a tiny, tiny bit of that desperation, powerlessness, fear, and uncertainty that Palestinians face every day. The uncertainty resulting from the separation, the isolation and the indifference of two governments that are neglecting the rights of the people in Gaza. An illegal siege is claiming thousands of children's lives. I wonder what will be the future of Gaza if their children are drinking polluted water; their youth is being deported and unable to achieve a higher education, their fathers are jobless and their mothers are widows.

The Egyptian government is supporting the siege imposed by Israel. They are crueler than the Israeli government in sustaining the siege by building another wall to completely isolate Palestinians and by mistreating thousands of people from all over the world, whose only purpose was to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

The people in Gaza do not need out pity, or charity or a system of institutionalized welfare. They need our support by denouncing this deadly siege. They are people capable of sustaining themselves and their children. It is time for the world to demand that Palestinians in Gaza be allowed to exercise their human rights, to trade with the rest of the world, to leave and enter their land when they want to and to be free of threats of new attack.