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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ancient nomads denied work, robbed of ancestral lands

Bedouin woman
Wikipedia image
Cries from Sinai: Bedouin subjected to needless crisis
Re-reporting, editing, end comment by Carolyn Bennett

Middle East: Asia/Africa bleeding

Bedouin man
 lighting camp fire
Contemporary Bedouin shepherd
The Bedouin (also spelled Beduin; Arabic Badawi; plural Badw) are Arabic-speaking nomadic peoples of the Middle Eastern deserts: Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan.

Bedouin warriors were the nucleus of the Muslim armies that invaded the Middle East and North Africa in the 7th century and later on. Most of the Bedouin tribes migrated from the Arabian Peninsula (to what is now Jordan) between the 14th and 18th centuries. Today Bedouins make up 33 to 40 percent of Jordan’s population.

Historically, the Bedouin engaged in nomadic herding, agriculture and sometimes fishing. They also earned income by transporting goods and people across the desert. Scarcity of water and of permanent pastoral land required them to move constantly.

Bedouin population today: 4,000,000
(Wikipedia figures)

Regions with significant populations

Saudi Arabia 1,119,000 (2000)
 Iraq 1,437,000 
 Jordan 832,000 
 Libya 919,000 
 Syria 1,389,000 
 Egypt - mainly in Sinai 894,000 (2007)
 Eritrea 46,000 
 Kuwait 260,000 
 UAE 765,000 
 Israel 111,000 (2012)
 Western Sahara 13,100 
 Mauritania 54,000 
 Qatar 39,000 
 Oman 28,000 
 Palestine 30,000

 Child inspects a destroyed
security building
Palestinian city, southern Gaza Strip
site of Rafah Border Crossing
only crossing between 
Gaza Strip and Egypt

Natural gas pipeline
running through
the Sinai
In the 1950s, Saudi Arabia and Syria nationalized Bedouin range lands; Jordan severely limited goat grazing; and conflicts over land use have increased since then.

In most countries in the Middle East the Bedouin have no land rights, only users’ privilege; this is especially true for Egypt. Since the mid-1980s, the Bedouins who held desirable coastal property have lost control of much of their land as it was sold by the Egyptian government to hotel operators. The Egyptian government did not see the land as belonging to Bedouin tribes, but rather as a state property.

In the summer of 1999, the latest dispossession of land took place when the army bulldozed Bedouin-run tourist campgrounds north of Nuweiba as part of the final phase of hotel development in the sector, overseen by the Tourist Development Agency (TDA). The director of the Tourist Development Agency dismissed Bedouin rights to most of the land, saying that they had not lived on the coast prior to 1982. Their traditional semi-nomadic culture has left Bedouins vulnerable to such claims.


Egyptian border guards
The 2011–2012 Egyptian revolution brought more freedom to the Sinai Bedouin; but because of “weapons smuggling into Gaza” after a number of terror attacks on the Egypt-Israel border, a new Egyptian government in the summer-fall of 2012 initiated a military operation in Sinai.

Egypt-to-Gaza commerce through underground-tunnels that had brought income to Bedouins and Palestinians on either side of the border was abolished by the Egyptian military. This army (long-standing recipient of U.S. aid) demolished more than 120 of tunnels, threatened local Bedouin and forced them to cooperate with state troops and officials.

Sinai Peninsula (Egypt) Bedouin

Bedouin reside largely in the Sinai Peninsula and in the Egyptian suburbs of Cairo. The past few decades were difficult for traditional Bedouin culture because of changing surroundings and construction of new resort towns on the Red Sea coast (e.g., Sharm el-Sheikh). Bedouin in Egypt face a number of challenges: erosion of traditional values, unemployment and various land issues.

Because employers routinely offer low wages to Bedouins living in the Sinai Peninsula, they did not benefit much from the area’s initial construction boom. Also Sudanese and Egyptians were imported to the Peninsula to take jobs as construction workers and laborers. When the tourist industry started to bloom, local Bedouins increasingly moved into new service positions ─ such as cab drivers, tour guides, campgrounds or cafe managers ─ but competition was steep and many Sinai Bedouins remained unemployed.

Scarce employment opportunities led Tarabin Bedouins and other Bedouin tribes living along the border between Egypt and Israel to involve themselves in cross-border drugs and weapons smuggling and human trafficking.

Still robbed and denied 
Demonized and militarized
Al Jazeera reporting

Rafahpopulation of 71,003
Goods, people
move via
underground tunnels 
Bedouins today are prohibited (officially) from owning land, serving in the army or police (civil service jobs), or profiting from local tourism. Many locals cannot claim ownership of the ancestral lands their families and tribes have been using for centuries.

“Since the Egyptian uprising in 2011,” Al Jazeera reported in late December last year, “the Sinai Peninsula, a vast land of mountains and deserts, has become increasingly volatile. The new government (overthrown in 2013) inherited a legacy of lawlessness caused by 30 years of neglect, marginalization and hostility between the Bedouins native to the region and the state.”

Increasing attacks on “army checkpoints and police stations” have prompted “calls for more development in the region, which many see as a possible solution to the unrest.”

Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines edition “The battle for the Sinai” reported on underlying causes and the continuing crisis for “half a million people” wedged between Israel and the Gaza Strip. “For decades,” the report said,
The people have been governed by a strong security paradigm and the Camp David accords with Israel – underwritten by billions of dollars in U.S. military aid. 
The documentary concludes with a quote from Hossam Baghat of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights:
‘Only the people of Sinai can defeat terrorism. The central government is not going to defeat terrorism; it is stoking terrorism through its practices.’
Cannot simultaneously
prevent and prepare
This quote could have been referring to the people of the United States and the U.S. government's foreign relations character, policies and practices.

Sources and notes

Bedouin profile Britannica and Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedouin

“In Pictures: Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula ─ The Sinai has become more volatile since Egypt’s revolution - the result, many say, of years of government neglect” (Mosaab Elshamy, last modified December 27, 2012, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2012/12/2012122484750886262.html

“The battle for the Sinai: Fault Lines examines the changing U.S.-Egyptian relationship through the lens of the Sinai Peninsula), December 19, 2012. Fault Lines can be seen on Al Jazeera English each week at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 2230; Sunday: 0930; Monday: 0330; Tuesday: 1630, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2012/12/2012121874352233407.html

Al Jazeera images
Egypt’s troubled Sinai Peninsula (in pictures)

A natural gas pipeline running through the Sinai has been targeted more than a dozen times since the 2011 uprising. Bedouins who oppose the peace treaty and export of gas to Israel have attacked the pipeline, which starts in the building pictured above and extends hundreds of kilometers through the desert.

A child inspects a destroyed security building in Rafah, which was targeted by armed groups during the uprising. The Mubarak government's iron-fist policy in Sinai alienated Bedouins and resulted in violent attacks on state buildings during the uprising.

In the border town of Rafah, goods and people smuggling to Gaza has thrived for years using the subterranean tunnels burrowed beneath the border. Just a few hundred meters away from the besieged (Gaza) strip, Rafah lives depend almost exclusively on the tunnels’ economic activity, a more or less open secret.

A now-deserted police checkpoint in north Sinai is one of many that has been attacked by armed Bedouins with heavy weaponry.


A Palestinian city in the southern Gaza Strip, Rafah is the site of the Rafah Border Crossing, the only crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Located 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Gaza, Rafah’s population of 71,003 is overwhelmingly comprised of Palestinian refugees. Rafah camp and Tall as-Sultan camp form separate localities. Rafah is the district capital of the Rafah Governorate. Yasser Arafat International Airport, Gaza’s only airport, is located just south of the city; the airport operated from 1998 to 2001 when it was bombed and bulldozed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) after the killing of Israeli soldiers by members of Hamas.

Rafah (Arabic: رفح‎; also known as Rafiah), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafah


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