Tuesday, December 29, 2009

MPT Member One of Only 100 Cleared to Enter Gaza

 Photo: Medea Benjamin, coordinator for Gaza Freedom March,
supporting Yusif Barakat as he cried out at the plight of Gaza and all Palestinians (December 28th, 2009).

Photo Credit: Al Quds Newspaper, http://www.alquds.com/node/224467 

Michigan Peace Team Member Cleared to Enter Gaza with Freedom March

For more information, click here!

Contact: Nicole L. Rohrkemper, International Team Deployment Coordinator, Michigan Peace Team
Ph: 586-419-1070
For more information on the Gaza Freedom March:
Medea Benjamin | medea@globalexchange.org |
 Egypt (18) 956-1919



Cairo, Egypt

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 00:25:00 GMT

Despite Egyptian official’s refusal to allow over 1300 internationals from 40 countries, members of the nonviolent Gaza Freedom March, to cross into Gaza this week, a member of Michigan Peace Team will be among the select group cleared by authorities to enter Gaza.

Michigan Peace Team member, Michigan resident, and Palestinian Refugee Yusif Barakat will be allowed to enter tightly controlled Gaza with a group of only 100 demonstrators on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009, according to Gaza Freedom March organizers and the Associated Foreign Press. Mr. Barakat is a member of Michigan Peace Team’s six person delegation to the Gaza Freedom March. The nonviolent Gaza Freedom March, in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, is in protest against the siege of Gaza and to commemorate the deaths of 1400 Palestinians during Israeli offensive Operation Cast Lead one year ago this week. Mr. Barakat , 74 years of age, was born in the city of Haifa and came to the US in 1947 after Jewish immigrants were settled in Palestine following World War II.

According to the Gaza Freedom March (which is endorsed by international organization CODEPINK: Women for Peace), organizers met on Tuesday with the wife of Egyptian President Mubarak, Egyptian Chair of the International Red Crescent. Mrs. Mubarak has worked to assist CODEPINK organizers as recently as last March, when she assisted them in securing permission from the Egyptian government to deliver aid baskets to Gazan women for International Women’s Day. After their meeting with Ms. Mubarak today, the Freedom March organizers were given two hours to provide a list of 100 names of delegates who would be allowed to enter Gaza the following day. For the more than 1200 demonstrators who have not yet been allowed to march to Gaza nonviolent demonstrations will continue.

Many International activists, who had planned to march into Gaza en masse on Thursday have been stranded in Cairo and unable to make their way to the border. According to Michigan Peace Team President and Ann Arbor, Michigan resident Sheri Wander currently with MPT’s Team in Cairo, the team has spoken with “many activists who have been prevented from leaving their hotels or from traveling to the border by Egyptian authorities.” International news sources report activists have been put under house arrest by Egyptian authorities. Reports by those on the ground cite MPT's delegation for their work to diffuse potentially violent confrontations during demonstrations, in keeping with their training and experience. MPT Team Members Sheri Wander and Kim Redigan will continue their hunger strike in coordination with Freedom Marcher and holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85 years and others. The international community is invited to join in by fasting on Thursday, December 31st, 2009 in solidarity with Gazans and activists on the March. The other three members of MPT’s delegation, Liz Walters, Dorothy Ritter, and Bella Rowan, will continue their nonviolence work based out of Cairo.

The Egypt-Gaza border has been closed for all but a few days each month since 2007, and the resulting humanitarian crisis due to lack of food, medical supplies and clean water has been called bleak by the International Red Cross. According to the ICRC website, "There has been scarcely any improvement in the situation since the end of the war in Gaza, mainly because of the tight closure, which is preventing reconstruction," said Pierre Wettach, the ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. "Many Gazans feel despair as they have no prospect of living a decent life in the near future."

Michigan Peace Team (MPT) trains volunteers from all walks of life in nonviolent action and communication, and deploys peace teams to areas of conflict worldwide. MPT controlled is one of few NGOs who have been able to place members in tightly controlled Gaza. MPT has sent peace teams to the Gaza Strip the summer and fall 2003, summer 2004, summer 2005, and short term teams in 2006, 2007, 2008. Also, in February 2009 a team was at the gates of Gaza. MPT currently maintains a year-round presence of rotating teams in the West Bank (Palestine).


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