Letter from a Sinai Bedouin: We do not hate our homeland

Bedouin community leader Moussa el-Dalah, who is wanted by police, sent a letter to Al-Masry Al-Youm last week expressing his thoughts about the current tensions between Bedouins and Egyptian security forces in Sinai that have involved a series of clashes and the detention of many local residents of the region. Al-Masry Al-Youm has published the letter below–addressed to the editor-in-chief of the Arabic edition–in order to present another side to the story.

Dear Mr. Magdy El Galad,

We respect Al-Masry Al-Youm’s objective and professional news coverage, which is why I am sending this letter so that your readers will better understand the situation in Sinai.

According to Bedouin customs and traditions, peace is both a sacred right and duty. When security is jeopardized so is public order.

In the vast far-off deserts of Sinai, evil no longer hides; it rears its ugly head in plain day. It does not submit to rules or legislation. A Bedouin poet once said “Overnight, the sheep dog transformed into a wolf; only his rules they must follow.”

It is true that people should obey their governments. But that only happens when a government is wise, looks after the interests of its people and does not let them fall prey to the evil wolves that impose their own unfair rules under which a victim is turned into a criminal and the criminal into a hero.

We have for long endured the harm done to us by those ravening wolves. The tall mountains and golden sands of Sinai’s desert can tell you the whole story.

We were left to fend for ourselves and to fight our enemies alone. Sadly, when our people finally recognized our existence we were turned into the enemy.

Have they come to humiliate us? What mistake have we made? Is it that we have decided not to sell our land and to stay faithful and loyal to our people?

Why are we deprived of land ownership? Why are our youth arrested and hunted down? Why are we harassed and chased at border points, and humiliated in the press and on television? Why is our image always negative and why are we always regarded with suspicion?

How much longer are we going to have to wait for the situation to improve?

Bedouins are compelled to use violence to show that the use of excessive force to quell us will not work.

The government has to find another way to deal with us if it genuinely believes we are part of a single nation with one common destiny.

Egypt can accommodate us all, and we will never accept any other homeland. All we wish for is to be treated as human beings and as Egyptian citizens.

We do not want to be treated like strangers, we want to reach an agreement whereby the Bedouin issue will no longer be treated exclusively as a security issue. We only see officers in our deserts to the extent that in our culture the word “state” has become synonymous with “police”.

We hear about social and economic development, but we hardly see meaning to it here in Sinai.

We do not hate our homeland, but we are living as unwanted outlaws in its mountains and deserts.

We are forced to use illicit methods to secure a livelihood for the government has left us with no alternative. Instead, it has chosen to shape our communities by handpicking our tribal chiefs and recruiting our younger men as undercover agents.

So I ask, are there still any wise men among us who can rectify the situation?

I am using your reputable newspaper to issue a call for help, hoping it will be heeded by Egypt’s decision makers. Force will not resolve the Bedouin issue; we need a comprehensive national initiative that can address the roots of the problem.

So are we asking for too much?

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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