Sinai inhabitants: We will challenge the land ownership law

The Cabinet’s approval of the Sinai Development Law amendments regarding the ownership of land has triggered varying reactions among the people of Sinai, with tribal elders saying they will challenge it before the court.
Sheikh Aref Abu Akr said the Sinai Development Authority has not contributed to any development on the ground since it was formed in 2012. “There cannot be any development before security is restored,” he said. “Sinai cannot be managed from closed air-conditioned rooms in Cairo. The residents here must be involved in decisions.”
He said the amended law serves the interests of the investors only. “I own land that has belonged to my ancestors for 485 years, but I have no documents to prove it,” he said. “No land owner here has such documents.”
“Foreigners invest in South Sinai and not in North Sinai,” he said. “We, the inhabitants, must have the right to own land for us to feel that we belong to this country.”
Sheikh Hassan Khalaf said the law limits land and property ownership to Egyptians of Egyptian parents. “There are many here who are married to Palestinians. Why should their children be denied the right to own land?” he asked, adding that terrorism will impede any development. “The very Sinai Development Authority building itself was blown up in a terrorist attack,” he said. “The army is too slow in its fight against terrorism.”
Sheikh Eissa al-Kharafin said Sinai inhabitants should be treated on equal terms with the rest of the Egyptians. “I do not understand why I should acquire land only on a usufruct basis,” he said. “Am I not an Egyptian in the eyes of the government? I will challenge the law before the court.”
“We are Bedouins living in the desert,” he said. “We have no birth certificates or ID cards because we are neglected. How will we prove that we are Egyptians of Egyptian parents?”
Salah al-Bolok, board member of the Sinai Development Authority, said the law has not been finalized yet.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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