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Egypt detains women protesting Israel's war on Gaza outside UN Women office in Cairo

At least 15 activists are believed to be detained after a protest calling for an end to war on Gaza and conflict in Sudan
Egyptian activists reading a letter to UN Women calling for an end to the Israeli war on Gaza and the conflict in Sudan, 23 April 2024 (X/screengrab)
Egyptian activists read a letter to UN Women calling for an end to the Israeli war on Gaza and the conflict in Sudan, 23 April 2024 (X/screengrab)

Egyptian security forces dispersed a Gaza solidarity protest outside the headquarters of UN Women in Cairo on Tuesday and detained several activists who took part, according to local media and activists.

Police forces detained most of the protesters, including Mahienour el-Masry, Lobna Darwish, Rasha Azab, Ragya Omran, Mai el-Mahdy, Israa Yusuf and Farida al-Hifny, according to Egyptian activist Ahmed Douma.

During the demonstration, the protesters read a letter addressed to the UN agency for gender equality and women's empowerment, condemning the human rights violations and war crimes affecting women in Gaza and Sudan as a result of the conflicts there.

"Dear UN Women, we are a group of Egyptian women appalled by the atrocities committed against our sisters in Gaza as a result of the Israeli genocidal war on the Palestinian people since 7 October," the letter read.

"We are also appalled by the failure of the UN to protect the two peoples from the ongoing war crimes, especially sexual crimes, and in particular equivocating between the victims and culprits," it added.

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The letter accused UN Women of "discriminating against women in Gaza and Sudan" by failing to stand up for them.

It also called on the UN agency to carry out investigations into alleged sexual crimes and war crimes against women in the affected areas.

Middle East Eye has contacted UN Women for comment.

Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said his organisation has lost contact with Lobna Darwish, the director of EIPR's women's rights and gender programme.

"She [last] said she was with the other detained feminist activists on a microbus of the security agencies; they did not know where they were going," Bahgat told MEE.

"We have asked at the police station and we have been unable to identify their location."

Bahgat said the number of those detained remains uncertain, but at least 15 women activists are believed to be in custody, since their phones are no longer reachable. 

Crackdown on pro-Palestine protests

The police action on Tuesday is not the first time protesters in Egypt have been detained for taking part in protests about Gaza.

Egypt has effectively banned protests since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power over a decade ago, and security forces routinely suppress any anti-government activity.

Egypt detains ten pro-Palestine protesters on charges of 'spreading fake news'
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Security forces have detained dozens of pro-Palestine protesters since 20 October, when thousands took part in a rally in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, which was the epicentre of the revolution that culminated in the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Following the crackdown on that gathering, protests have been smaller in size and have been quickly dispersed by security officials.

On 30 November, four international activists were detained and held incommunicado for over 27 hours, following a pro-Palestine protest outside the Egyptian foreign ministry in Cairo.

They had staged a rally to demand security clearance for the Global Conscience Convoy, a humanitarian convoy into Gaza planned by Egypt's Journalists' Syndicate, to deliver badly needed aid.

Security forces also dispersed a women's pro-Palestine protest in Cairo on 8 March, which coincided with International Women's Day.

On 4 April, authorities detained at least 10 protesters at a vigil outside the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo, denouncing the Egyptian government's role in the siege on Gaza

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