Monday, December 28th, 2009
Before leaving the states, CODEPINK reached out to Mrs. Mubarak, wife of Egyptian premiere Hosni Mubarak about the Gaza Freedom March, and the government's denial of our passage to Gaza. She had interceded on our behalf when we were having the same experience with the Egyptian Government in March, when they refused to let our buses take us to Al Arish, as they did this morning at 7 a.m. In March, we were all able to enter and deliver the thousands of pink baskets of aid to the women of Gaza for International Women's Day.
This morning, I went to Mrs. Mubarak's offices at the Women's International Peace Movement to ask for her help again in opening the border of Gaza for our delegation. Her program manager was quite helpful and delivered a copy of the email thousands had been sending all weekend from the states, translated into Arabic.
Just hours later, an assistant from the office of the First Lady called, and said Mrs. Mubarak wanted to help us: Could I describe what we were taking and what we needed? I told her we needed the 1,300 to be allowed to enter Gaza and deliver the aid we had brought from thousands more who cared deeply for the situation the Gazans are suffering under.
An hour later, the head of the Red Crescent (of which she is Chair) called and said he had been instructed to help us in any way he could. He would send a car for me at 11 a.m. and we would go over all the details of who was with us and what they were bringing. Mrs. Mubarak would take the information to the Foreign Ministry. This call came as we finished stringing the hundreds of prayer flags that came from around the world to be included in our visuals at the vigil.
All this was happening as hundreds held vigil with now-hunger-striking Hedy Epstein in front of the building that houses the UN. Parliamentarians from the Philippines, Walden Bello, Ann Wright, Ali Abunimah, and Medea Benjamin went up and down to the offices with requests to intercede on our behalf. Dozens and dozens of police surrounded us man-to-man and held us like a cage, not letting us out. Those who were able to sneak out where not allowed back in and by the end of the night there were a few arrests.
The heartful solidarity and engagement of entire group is so palpable. Everyone showing up to support in someway, to offer themselves to what ever is needed. The French are still holding vigil outside their Embassy and have gone from threats of being put in a school and deported to holding their ground, many of the delegates, supplying coffee, water and food through out the day. The Germans who had made there way to Al Arish were held in detention all day, but at the end of the day their passports were returned and they were allowed to make the long drive back to Cairo.
A group of fifty--Castellanos, French, Italians, Brits and others, including American artist Kathleen Crocetti--made it close to the border and will attempt to take their bus to the border tomorrow. Needless to say we are leaving no stone unturned. We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us. Wait until our many actions at various embassies tomorrow and our various actions to protest Netanyahu's visit to Cairo. Shame on him and the Egyptians. It is a busy day ahead.