Friday, May 19, 2006

Sinai Insurgency

Chris Zambelis of the Jamestown Foundation discusses the Sinai terrorist problem as a potential Bedouin insurgency against the Mubarak regime:
"In varying degrees, Sinai Bedouins represent an oppressed and impoverished segment of Egyptian society. Led by Nasser Khamis el-Mallahi, the el-Mallahi tribe is among the poorest in the region. One source of popular resentment toward the state is that much of the severely disadvantaged region has benefited little from the local tourist industry. This is especially true for the tribes that reside in northern Sinai near al-Arish, including the el-Mallahi. Local tribes also resent Cairo's political interference in local affairs. In contrast, southern tribes have benefited somewhat from robust investments in the tourist sector and social welfare projects. This translates into a more positive attitude toward the state (al-Ahram, November 2, 2005).

"Cairo is known to employ harsh measures in securing and policing the region. It is not uncommon for security services to round up men in the hundreds, sometimes thousands, often comprising entire tribes and villages, in security sweeps targeting alleged terrorist cells (al-Jazeera, February 28, 2005). In extreme cases, women and children are also detained. The state also co-opts certain tribes through preferential treatment and the provision of benefits in order to expand Cairo's reach in what is otherwise hostile territory. This strategy inflames tensions between rival groups and alienates others, which in turn take out their anger against the state.

"In general, the tribal identity of many Sinai Bedouins supersedes any attachment to the rest of Egypt. Although many tribes settled into towns and villages, their nomadic and tribal traditions differ markedly from the agricultural sedentary tradition characteristic of most Egyptians of the Nile River Delta region. The state's incursion into their traditional lands and way of life has always been seen as an affront on different levels. Cairo's failure to integrate most of the region into the rest of the country socially, politically and economically is largely to blame for these sentiments (al-Ahram, November 2, 2005)."

This reminds me of the point often made by Juan Cole that coalition forces are probably incurring tribal feuds with lots of Sunni kin groups in central Iraq. If the Egyptian government is harshly cracking down on Sinai tribes, they could be done the same thing, fueling even greater opposition against them.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home