The Bedouin question is “a headache for the government,” General Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai, told reporters on Saturday.
Bedouins “have served Egypt in a patriotic way, and that’s why the state is trying to solve their problems through the Sinai Development Law and the new land ownership law. But the implementation will depend on political stability,” Fouda added.
The Bedouin of Sinai, Egypt’s eastern peninsula, have repeatedly complained about economic and political marginalization. Having a shared border with Israel and falling under the restrictions of the 1979 Camp David Accords, the peninsula has always been ruled with a security approach that many believe has been to the detriment of development.
In his press briefing, Fouda told reporters that the proliferation of arms among Bedouins is a main challenge for the state, adding that purging the area of arms is “impossible” and removing it could “drown the area in a blood bath.”
On the other hand, Fouda said that many of the peninsula’s problems will be solved once the law allowing Egyptians in Sinai to own land is applied, while restricting ownership of foreigners to long-term leases.
Bedouins practice de facto ownership of land in the wake of restricted ownership in the peninsula, a reason behind the many contentions between them and the state, which views land ownership as a question of national security.
Bedouins have also been contesting the lease of lands to investors from outside the area, who build tourism projects that exclude them in terms of partnership and employment. Fouda said there are some 15 cases raised by the state to end contracts of investors who failed to deliver their promised projects after securing their contracts.
Fouda added that tourism is picking up in the area, claiming that “Sharm el-Sheikh is witnessing the highest level of hotel occupancy since the 25 January revolution, as it reached 85 percent.” Jordanian, Lebanese and Egyptians are the ones mostly behind the rising hotel occupancies.
But Sinai’s Bedouin often complain that they do not benefit from the tourism economy of Sharm el-Sheikh.
A series of kidnappings of foreigners in Sinai by Bedouins have been an index of a lacking security in the region, but also signal the ongoing rift between Bedouins and the state. Kidnappers would demand the release of their detained relatives, who would usually be accused of being terrorism suspects or drug dealers.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm