Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Sinai Peninsula is both a vacation paradise and a haven for jihadists and gangs of thugs. The military and the police are trying to regain control over the region. But a new class of haughty warlords and a resentful public mean the state's chances are remote

    Sunday, October 20, 2013   No comments


On the day of his departure, warehouse manager Hussein Gilbana packed his five best shirts and pairs of pants into a black suitcase, together with books and photos. He embraced his wife and kissed his five-year-old son, Omar, and his little boy, Assar.

He told the children that he would return soon, and that he would come to get them and take them to a new home as soon as possible. Then he got into his old Fiat and drove away. He was leaving his home in al-Arish, on the Sinai Peninsula, which he had grown to hate.

Gilbana and his wife had recently taken to calling their city "signa," or "prison." Al-Arish, a city on the northern coast of Sinai, had been sealed off militarily.

Gilbana and his wife had looked on as outsiders invaded al-Arish: petty criminals, Islamists and former felons. They had seen how these people tried to take over the city, and how the Egyptian government had responded with brute violence. They had become familiar with two types of murderers, says Gilbana, "murderers with long beards and murderers in polished military boots."

Gilbana, 32, is a slim and energetic man. He's a Sinai native, and a member of a Bedouin tribe called the Aulad-Suleiman. Life in al-Arish wasn't bad. He worked as a warehouse manager in a cement factory and made a good living. But then his city turned into a war zone, says Gilbana.

The entire country has descended into violence since the military coup in July, but nowhere in Egypt is the fight being waged as bitterly and violently as on the Sinai Peninsula, which is roughly the size of the Republic of Ireland.

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