Under House Arrest in El Arish

Posted by CODEPINK Staff

reposted from Kathleen Crocetti's blog

December 28
House Arrest and Other News

Bill and I are under house arrest as are all other Gaza Freedom Marchers that made it as far as El Arish. El Arish is the last town before the Raffa border crossing. We left Cairo a day early other wise we would be stuck there like all of the rest of the Gaza Freedom Marchers. There are about 40 of us here, in El Arish. 5 Americans from Viva Palestina, 20 from Spain, 2 Japanese, 1 French, 4 Brits, 4 or 5 from Luxenburg, 4 Jews from New York City, and us.
We are the lucky ones, a whole bunch of people who left Cairo after us have been detained at check points along the route to El Arish. They have gotten out their transportation and refused to go back to Cairo. The result of this is forced hunger strikes all along the route.

The authorities in Cairo have made it illegal to transport any foreigners out of Cario. There have been some arrests,and peaceful protests have been broken-up.
Is the US press covering any of this?

Bill and I are here to deliver hope and friendship in the form of a community made art glass mural. It will likely not get delivered. Thankfully the police officer who is in charge of watching our house is very friendly and kind.

We will wait it out and see what happens, on a plane back to the US on January 3rd, no matter what else is happening here.
Peace,Love and Light,

Sunday, December 27, 2009
Be Ready to Change Plans Quickly!

Please excuse me if this is too long and if I make spelling mistakes, I have just an hour window to speak my mind. We arrived in El Arish yesterday. It was not a good day’s travel what with all the check point stops. Bill and I were going to go to the Raffah Border Gate this morning in a taxi that was arranged by the Hotel Concierge. When we got up in the morning and came to the desk to leave we were given a covert warning by the hotel manager not to go. He said that there would be a bus we could take later.

Later when we came back to the hotel to get on the bus the hotel was surrounded by secret police, we went to our room to get our stuff, our British friends came to the room and told us that they were going to leave the hotel and go somewhere else. We like the Brits, they are thoughtful and considered in their decisions and they do not broadcast their intentions. We grabbed our bags and headed out, I walk fast and thought Bill was behind me, the 2 Brit girls did the same. But trying to leave with our bags is when the shit hit the fan. Bill and the 2 British men were made to stay in the hotel. The hotel is on the second floor. Once we got out and were on the steps of the hotel we women parked ourselves with our stuff and waited for the men to be released.

Phones numbers between phones began to be blocked, I could no longer call the codepink organizers or any of the other International delegates who were also stuck up in the hotel with Bill. One of the Brit girls got some tweeting done and we got the numbers for the US and British Embassies. The US number did not work; I got the same error message as I did with all the other numbers I had previously been able to call. I began calling friendly Egyptians Bill and I had met in Cairo, explained our situation and asked them to call the US Embassy on our behalf. Eventually they let Bill and the Brit (Ian and Peter) men come down to talk with us (Ali and Charlotte) but they made them leave their luggage up in the hotel.

I have no idea who pulled strings or worked on our behalf, but we 2 Americans and the 4 Brits were allowed to leave and bring their stuff down to join us. However, no taxis were allowed to come down the street. This American Woman who lives in El Arish had joined us and she was able to get 2 taxi's down the street by calling a police contact she has. The 2 taxi's pulled up but as soon as we tried to put our stuff in it they grabbed it and would not allow us to get in the taxi's, thankfully we all worked in unison quickly grabbed our bags and walked quickly away from the hotel, we got to a more busy street hailed cabs and took off.

We have rented a chalet on the beach, for less than the cost of the hotel, and if we were not on a mission, it would be a beautiful vacation spot. However we were there for less than an hour and the police parked out front and then kicked out the Egyptians in the adjacent space and moved themselves into it.

Some of the French tried to take a cab to the Raffah border they were stopped and turned back. The Castellanos are stuck in the hotel we were able to escape.
We are not sure, but we think that there are about 50 internationals who were able to make it as far as El Arish. We let ahead of the main body of the marchers who are stuck in Cairo. The few that try to get out are now being detained at checkpoints, the peaceful non-violent CODEPINK actions that have tried to take place in Egypt have been broken up.

I have some really great photos but am unable to upload them right now. Our Chalet does not have internet access, we are at a hotel using the internet access here, but do not want to stay too long and get detained or have our computers confiscated.

We are fine, we are safe; we are determined to get to Gaza, at least to the Raffah border! How that will happen is impossible to say, but I think once we have exhausted all options we will begin the Gaza Freedom March here in El Arish, and march towards the border.

If you have not been following this story please see my blog.
Please call our senators and ask then to advocate for our free and safe passage.
Sen. Boxer is on the Foreign Relations Committee and Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues (Chairwoman) 415 403 0100 leave voice mail or talk to staff on Monday. In peace, Cheri

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Arish via Checkpoints
We left the Lotus hotel in downtown Cairo today at 9 a.m. Each of us is carrying a back pack that weighs about 40 pounds. We have enough food and water to last us 5 days. In addition to the backpacks we are dragging along the mural, the crate is back in it’s suitcase, but it weighs 80 pounds, and since we don’t want to wreck the wheels we have to lift it up and down stairs. There are a lot of stairs in subway stations.

From the subway we caught a group taxi. to Arish. There were 6 Egyptian men including the driver Bill and myself stuffed into an old diesel Mercedes station wagon. The pre-arranged price was 18 Egyptian pounds per person, but it did not go that way. There have been too many foreign internationals making their way to El Arish which is the last town before the Raffah border crossing. A group of 4 Castellanos were traveling in another taxi at the same time, to this area that rarely sees tourists. The Gaza Freedom March has been banned and Egypt has said that they will not let any internationals through the gate. They have revoked all permits for gatherings of more than 5 people in one place and they will not allow CODEPINK or any other bus full of internationals to leave Cairo in the direction of Raffah. We decided to try to trickle in, but traveling so close together in time we were suspect. I think that if our taxis were not full of Egyptians who needed to get where they were going our taxis might have been turned back. Our drivers paid bribes to the police. At the last crossing they took the drivers licenses of our drivers and gave us a police escort to our hotel. We have had to say we are tourists and coming to El Arish to see the Mediterranean Sea. If we had said our true and final destination we would have been turned back right away. In the end we paid our taxi driver $150 pounds and another $20 to the police man who hung around to make sure we went in and registered at the hotel.

Aside from being on a mission that could get us in trouble and therefore a little nerve wracking it was a beautiful ride and it was great to get out of Cairo. The people are super friendly here too, but I have not been hustled here. This evening when we went out to get fruit for out camping trip some small boys were following us and begging, an older man swatted them both on the head with a newspaper they yelped and took off. I sure appreciated this kindness.

Our hotel manager is quite sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and has been very hospitable. He wants to get me a gift of a dictionary for translating Arabic into pronounceable English lettering for me so that I can do some more communicating. I’ve been having a good time learning some Arabic words and phrases, and the Egyptian people really seem to appreciate the effort.

We spent and hour or so with the Castellanos this evening planning strategy for getting to the Raffah border. Apparently we will have 5 more check points to get across, I suppose this means more bribes, and we are running really low on Egyptian money. We could spend dollars in Cairo, but not here.

Codepink’s new plan is to wait until about 25 of us reach the border and then they will descend on one of the embassies in Cairo and demand that that country help clear the red tape for those of us who are sitting at the border waiting to get in. They are not sure which country they will descend upon yet, but I am pretty sure it will not be the U.S.

We have one last meeting tonight with the Castellanos, off to bed and then on our way!
Wish us luck, if I don’t post a bog tomorrow it is because we are camping at the border!

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