Philip Rizk, a Wheaton College graduate and a German-Egyptian dual citizen, was arrested by Egyptian authorities on Friday night, February 6th. Despite the Egyptian populace’s widely shared sympathy for the plight of Palestinian civilians, the Egyptian government has chosen to crack down on peaceful Gaza activists and demonstrators. Today, according to the facebook group set up by his family, Philip has been released.
According to the group notices: “Philip is out, he is safe and home with his family. He requests that all upcoming planned protests and marches still take place to end siege on Gaza.”
The incident begs the question of why Egypt would risk the threat of international protests to detain and silence the voice of one humanitarian advocate? Two views from the press:
From the Guardian:
Abducted in Egypt
The detention of protesters highlights Middle East governments’ ambivalent attitudes towards support for the Palestinians
By Ben White
Last Friday night, after a peaceful, small-scale march north of Cairo in solidarity with the besieged Palestinians of Gaza, Egyptian secret police kidnapped one of the event organisers, Philip Rizk. Philip is an Egyptian-German blogger, film-maker and activist, who had previously lived in Gaza for two years. As I write this, no one has yet received confirmation of his location or had any communication with him.
There are more detailed accounts of what happened on Friday and events since then on various blogs. The family, while desperately worried, have been working with local activists and friends abroad to mobilise a campaign for Philip’s release (the Facebook group attracted more than 2,500 members in the first two days).
However, Phil would be the first to point to the fact that what has happened to him is all too common in Mubarak’s Egypt. In fact, this “Mafia-style” abduction, and the Palestine focus of Philip’s work that made him a target for Egypt’s mukhabarat, draws attention to some larger developments in Egypt and the region.
Firstly, it is no coincidence that the Egyptian police chose to clamp down on a display (however modest) of both support for the Palestinians and opposition to Egypt’s policies towards the Gaza Strip and Israel. Even before Israel launched its assault on the Palestinians in Gaza, Mubarak was under pressure for helping to maintain the blockade on Gaza as Israel’s “siege” ground on. But Egypt became the target of particularly fierce anger once Operation Cast Lead had begun, as reports emerged of possible Egyptian collusion.
Van Spirits Away Protester in Egypt, Signaling Crackdown on Criticism Over Gaza
From the New York Times:
By Michael Slackman
CAIRO — State security came for Philip Rizk on Friday night. He had just finished a six-mile protest walk with about 15 friends to raise support for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip when he was detained for hours and then hustled into an unmarked van and driven off. He has not been seen or heard from since.
For two days the authorities denied that he was being held. Then on Sunday, at 10 p.m., a security official at the American University in Cairo, where Mr. Rizk studies, was able to confirm his arrest to his family. His mother and father tried to get some sleep, but at 1 a.m., security agents showed up at their door, five plainclothesmen and two guards carrying automatic weapons.
After searching their apartment, the security agents tried to take his father, Magid, away, too. He refused to go, and the authorities backed off when representatives of the German Embassy and Amnesty International arrived in the middle of the night. Philip Rizk’s mother, Judith, is German, and he has dual Egyptian-German citizenship.
“It’s like a bad movie,” Mrs. Rizk said.
The war in Gaza has left its mark in Egypt. The authorities here have been increasingly frustrated with criticism at home and abroad for refusing to fully open the border between Rafah and Gaza.