Saturday, March 8, 2014

Peace and Justice organizer Medea Benjamin of San Francisco targeted for kidnapping and torture by USA-subsidized police in Egypt

Analysis from the Northbay MDS liaison group to the Solano Peace, Justice & Freedom Coalition [link],
March 4th, we learned from our affiliates in the "U.S. Labor Against War" coalition [link] that respected Peace & Justice organizer Medea Benjamin of CodePink [], on her way to join with the International Women's Day Delegation, composed of 100 women from across the world, to Gaza [] to attend a secular conference for Women, was instead kidnapped and tortured by the USA-trained and subsidized police authorities in the fascist Republic of Egypt, then deported to the fascist Republic of Turkey!

She has since been found exhibiting a dislocated and broken arm, bruises, and without legal recourse, otherwise she is now being protected by the Peace & Justice International network and is on her way back to San Francisco []!
Toby Blome,
Northern California Peace and Justice organizer with Code Pink and Occupy Beale AFB, confirms the details, in an update sent the early morning of March 4th, "Medea Benjamin, one of the cofounders of CodePink detained in Egypt on her way to GAZA on a 100 women Peace Delegation. Her shoulder was dislocated, arm broken, and ligaments damaged, and denied medical care in Egypt. Put on a plane and deported to Turkey! U.S. embassy ignored calls for assistance while in Egypt! She will be sent back to NY tomorrow."
During Medea's release into the Cairo airport medical facility, March 4th, she was able to conduct a phone-in interview with renowned FM radio & TV news program "Democracy Now!", transcript here [link], during which Medea describes her injuries, "I’ve gotten two shots of painkiller, but it’s not enough. They fractured my arm, dislocated my shoulder, tore the ligaments. They jumped on top of me. And this was all never telling me what was the problem. And so, it was a very brutal attack, and I’m in a lot of pain."
"They dragged me out, tackled me to the ground, jumped on me, handcuffed my wrists so tight that they started bleeding, and then dislocated my shoulder, and then kept me like that, grabbing my arm. The whole way, I was shouting through the airport, screaming in pain. Then the—I demanded to get medical attention. The Egyptian doctors came and said, "This woman cannot travel. She’s in too much pain. She needs to go to the hospital." The Egyptian security refused to take me to a hospital and threw me on the plane."

"Why I Didn’t Make it to Gaza for International Women’s Day"
2014-03-14 by Medea Benjamin:
When I boarded the plane to Cairo, Egypt, to make sure everything was in place for the women’s delegation headed to Gaza, I had no reason to think I’d end up in a jail cell at the Cairo airport and then violently deported.
Medea upon her return home (Photo courtesy of Medea Benjamin)

The trip was in response to a call from women in Gaza to CODEPINK and other groups asking us to bring 100 women from around the world to Gaza for March 8, International Women’s Day [!about_us/csgz]. They wanted us to see, first-hand, how the seven-year Israeli blockade had made their situation intolerable. They talked about being unable to protect themselves and their families from frequent Israeli attacks and how the closing of the borders with both Israel and Egypt has made it impossible for them to travel abroad or even to other parts of Palestine. They wanted us to witness how the shortages of water, electricity, and fuel, coupled with severe restrictions on imports and exports, condemn most of the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza to a life of misery.
So we helped put together a 100-women delegation with representatives from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, the UK, Ireland, Canada and the United States. The delegates, who ranged in age from 18 to 84, included Nobel Peace Prize winners, doctors, writers and students. We were also bringing hundreds of solar lamps and boxes of medical supplies for the women.
The only ways to enter Gaza is by land--either via the border with Israel or Egypt. Israel restricts entry to non-governmental and official delegations, so our only option was to go through Egypt. CODEPINK had already organized eight delegations to Gaza via Egypt since 2008, so we thought we knew the ropes. We had organized these delegations during Mubarak’s reign and after the revolution, but not since the July 2013 coup that toppled the government of Mohamed Morsi.
The cell Medea was held in in cairo (Photo: Medea Benjamin)

As in the past, we furnished the Foreign Ministry and the local Embassies with all the information they requested to get the delegates the necessary permits to cross the Sinai (which has become a dangerous place) and cross into Gaza.They said as long the situation was not too dangerous in the Sinai, they would help us get safely to the border. Otherwise, we would celebrate International Women’s Day together in Cairo.
I went early, on March 3, as part of the logistics team. When I arrived at the airport in Cairo, I was taken aside and put in a separate room. First I was told “no problem, no problem, just checking the papers, just 10 minutes.” After 5 hours I realized that there was, indeed, a problem, as I was taken to a jail cell at the airport. Never once was I told what the problem was. Thank goodness I had hidden my phone and was able to get the word out about my plight over Twitter []. Friends and family started immediately contacting the US Embassy for help.
At 8am, 5 plain-clothed men with handcuffs came into the cell, looking very ominous. One said, “Come with us, we’re putting you on a plane and deporting you.” I was scared to go with them and I had just received a message that someone from the US Embassy was just ten minutes away. I politely asked if I could wait for an embassy official or if I could call the Foreign Ministry to straighten out what must be a miscommunication.
Instead, the men grabbed me, threw me on the ground, put their knees into my back, yanked my arms back so violently that I heard the pop of my arm coming out of my shoulder, and put two sets of handcuffs on me. I was screaming from the pain so they took my scarf, stuffed it in my mouth, and dragged me through the halls of the airport to a waiting Turkish Airline plane.
I was in such agony from a dislocated shoulder—you could see the bone just sticking up in the air—that the airline personnel refused to let me on and insisted that the Egyptians call an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived, the doctor immediately gave me a shot to ease the pain and insisted that I had to go to the hospital. By this time there were about 20 men on the tarmac, arguing about what to do with me while the Turkish plane with 175 people on board was prevented from taking off. After about an hour of fighting, the Egyptian security prevailed: I was not allowed go to the hospital but was forced to board the plane, with the two men who most abused me sitting on either side of me.
As soon as we were in the air, the stewardess asked if there was a doctor on the plane. Finally, a stroke of luck! Not only was there a doctor, but he was an orthopedic surgeon. He created a makeshift operating bed in the aisle of the plane and got the stewardesses to assist. “Usually I’d put you out before doing this, so I warn you this will be painful,” he said as he manipulated my arm back into its socket. Once we got to Turkey, I went to a hospital for further treatment before flying back home. My doctors here say it will take months of physical therapy before I can recover full use of my arm.
Along with the physical trauma, I am left with many unanswered questions:

* Why didn’t the US Embassy in Egypt ever help me during this 17-hour ordeal, especially when I made it clear I was in danger? When questioned by a journalist at a State Department briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki falsely claimed that the Embassy had provided me with “appropriate consular assistance.” I have since lodged a complaint about the lack of assistance, and you can send a message to the State Department, too [].

*If the Egyptian officials were so brutal to me-- a petite, 61-year-old American woman who has dedicated her life to peace--what are they doing to their own citizens and others languishing in their prisons? And why is Secretary Kerry considering a resumption of US military aid to this brutal regime? According to a recent Amnesty International report [], the current human rights situation is characterized by repeated excessive use of force by the security forces, leading to the death of hundreds of protesters; increasingly severe restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression, as well as academic freedoms; the arbitrary imprisonment of protest leaders, university students, journalists and others; and a failure to protect vulnerable groups, including minorities and women. Take a minute to send a message to the Egyptian embassy in the US and tell them to end the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful citizens [].

*Did Israel put the pressure on Egypt to do a last-minute about-face to keep us out of Gaza? In the end, only 17 of our members made it into Cairo (but not to Gaza) and the rest were deported from the airport. The question of Israeli influence is one we’ll probably never have answered, but during the very time we were supposed to be there, rocket fire was exchanged between militants from Gaza and the Israeli army. This shows the vulnerability of the women of Gaza, caught between the Israeli siege, Egyptian blockade, and internal extremists. That’s why it was so important for us to go there, to show our solidarity with the civilian population. But that will have to wait until Egypt no longer deems peace activists to be a threat to their national security.

As long as the world ignores the ongoing siege of Gaza, almost 2 million people will continue to languish in the world’s largest open-air prison. If Secretary of State Kerry wants the US to be a meaningful peace broker and to reach an agreement that includes dignity and human rights for the Palestinians, he can no longer continue to support military aid to the perpetrators of the blockade: Israel and Egypt.

"Egypt’s shameful rejection of Mairead Maguire and other peace advocates"
2014-03-12 from "Syria Solidarity Movement" []:

The Syria Solidarity Movement views with sadness and dismay the Egyptian government’s denial of entry to Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire for the purpose of transiting to Gaza to attend the International Women’s Day commemorations.  Ms. Maguire is a good friend of the Syria Solidarity Movement and has played a central role in the promotion of peace, justice and human rights in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, and many other places throughout the world.
The Egyptian government knows that Ms. Maguire is an advocate and practitioner of nonviolence and that she is completely harmless to all human life.  Furthermore, the regime knows that the Egyptian people are among the most steadfast supporters of justice for Palestine. The only possible explanation for the refusal to admit Ms. Maguire, therefore, is to prevent the expression of her message of hope and solidarity to Palestinians in Gaza and to demonstrate that the Egyptian authorities will repress such thought and speech regardless of its source.  Such repression serves only the cause of the Israeli oppressor.
Egypt’s treatment of Ms. Maguire is hardly unique.  Egyptian officers used brutal force on her colleague, Medea Benjamin, who helped organize the delegation, causing her grievous bodily harm and even refusing access to medical attention.  Such violence against a peaceful visitor is unfortunately indicative of a brutal regime which has killed thousands of its own citizens expressing their opposition to the overthrow of the elected government.
Egypt is of course hardly the only perpetrator of tyranny.  One of the main sponsors of the current Egyptian government is the U.S., which provides billions of dollars in aid, even in defiance of its own laws against support for regimes that seize power in a coup d’├ętat.  Additionally, despite the ostensible protection of free speech in the U.S., the Obama regime has prohibited Syria’s Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Jaafari from traveling more than 25 miles from UN headquarters in New York in response to requests for him to speak or for any other reason.  Apparently, the expression of an alternative point of view is too much for the U.S. to bear, whether at home, in Egypt, or anywhere else it wishes to project its power.
The Syria Solidarity Movement declares its support for Mairead Maguire and other exponents of compassion, free speech, human rights and respect for diversity.  We therefore ask all people and institutions of conscience to advocate on behalf of Ms. Maguire and other spokespersons for values and principles that raise human dignity for us all.

"Veterans For Peace Respond to Attack by Egyptian Police on Medea Benjamin"
2014-03-06 statement from "Veterans for Peace" []:
Saint Louis. Veterans For Peace are appalled that Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, a U.S. citizen, and member of Veterans For Peace has been brutally attacked and injured by Egyptian police as she entered Egypt to join an international women's peace delegation to Gaza. Medea’s arm was fractured by five Egyptian police officers and her shoulder dislocated as they threw her to the ground and handcuffed her after being detained for 7 hours along with four others with no reason given - ever.
Calling from Istanbul, Benjamin gave the following statement: “I was brutally assaulted by Egyptian police, who never said what I was being accused of. When the authorities came into the cell to deport me, two men threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, pulled my shoulder out of its socket and handcuffed me so that my injured arm was twisted around. I was then forced to sit between the two men who attacked me on the plane ride from Cairo to Istanbul, and I was (and still am) in terrible pain the whole time.”
Equally deplorable, is the failure of the U.S. Embassy to provide any assistance whatsoever even after being called repeatedly to at least help get Medea medical care. They told U.S. citizens, the women from the delegation, "You are on your own."
We condemn this action by the Egyptian government through their police and equally condemns the U.S. State Department for their complicity through inaction. We urge everyone to call and/or email the Egyptian Embassy at 202 895-5400 and to voice your outrage and demand that those accountable be held responsible. Ask for justice for Medea, that they release the delegation from the airport and let them go to Gaza, and stop cracking down on journalists and Egyptian activists.

"Free Gaza!"
2014-03-07 from "United for Peace and Justice (Bay Area)" []:
100 women, mostly from Europe and the US, expected to enter Gaza by March 8 to celebrate International Women's Day in solidarity with their Palestinian sisters in Gaza.  As of now the majority of the delegation has been detained by Egyptian authorities at the Cairo airport or deported. Two of the delegation's leaders, US Peace Activist Medea Benjamin and Irish Nobel peace laureate Mairead Maguire have already been deported. Medea was assaulted and injured by Egyptian police while in their custody and ignored by the US Embassy in Cairo despite repeated calls for assistance. She has returned to the US and is recovering.
The international delegation was formed in response to a call for help from the women of Gaza. The 1.8 million inhabitants of this tiny Palestinian territory have been under siege by neighbors, Israel and Egypt, for 7 miserable years, depriving them of the most basic needs, including access to safe drinking water, electricity, adequate medical care and freedom of movement. Human and material access in/out of Gaza is highly controlled and the only civilian point of entry is through Egypt at the Rafah Gate, where Palestinians are the first victims of frequent border closings. This is where the delegation intends to cross into Gaza if the Egyptian authorities allow them to travel through Egypt.

Actions we can take:
* Call and/or email the Egyptian Embassy at 202 895-5400 and Ask for an apology and justice for the delegation. Demand that they open the Rafah border and stop cracking down on journalists and Egyptian and International peace and justice activists! Send a letter to the Egyptian Ambassador with our demands: []
* Sign this petition to Egypt Desk at the State Department, then call them (202-647-4680). Demand to know why they did not assist, and let them know you want an immediate end to US military aid to Egypt. []

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