Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Update from Cairo - small breakthrough to ease blockade of Gaza

As you may know I've been in Cairo since Dec 25th with an international delegation of over 1360 people from 43 countries seeking to break the blockade of Gaza. This is my first update thus far, but things have been too hectic and uncertain as you can imagine...

Over the past 5 days, we've been involved in many large non-violent protests at embassies, UN offices and public squares throughout the city (in the presence of massive riot police) and solidarity actions with local Egyptians including an ongoing hunger strike and overnight camping at the UN and French Embassy (by over 300 people), many of which are just now being covered by international media.

Some updates here:

I was personally active in many of these, but also formally approached my own Indian Embassy in Cairo to support my entry into Gaza, and had planned a meeting with the Ambassador tomorrow.

Despite all this the Egyptian authorities have held steady to block our request for access into Gaza, but it turns out that there's been a small breakthrough today. We have just been told that they have just approved a convoy of 100 delegates along with humanitarian aid to enter Gaza for 24 hours tomorrow.

Some details just posted here:

I learned only a few hours ago (around 11:30pm) that I've been asked to go with this initial group, while the organization continues to press for others to get through in coming weeks. This was unexpected by all, but for now what we know is that we will be put on an official convoy of 2 buses leaving at 7am today for a day long trip to the Rafah crossing. I'll be lucky to get more than 2 hours of sleep, though the past few nights have not seen much more...

In any case, I hope it will be a crucial experience for all of us going into Gaza and a partial success for the concerted actions on the part of over 1400 people here and all the international support we received these past few weeks.

Just wanted to express thanks to everyone who supported this work thus far (esp. the Boston team and Senator Kerry's office), and hope to make this preliminary visit a productive one - capturing the voices of everyday Gazans and perhaps establishing some linkages with organizations like UNRWA, UNICEF and GCHMP on the ground for future youth media programs and psychosocial work I hope to conduct. I'll be sharing my impressions and experiences when I get back...

I'm unsure how long I will be in Gaza (if we do actually get in) depending on exit permits etc, but I'm hoping to stay for a week or so if possible. My flight back from Cairo is on Jan 15th, unless something changes.

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