Serene Assir, The Electronic Intifada, 5 May 2008
"Egyptian security covertly organized for the cancellation of a week-long series of cultural events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, or the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland by Zionist forces in 1947-48. The events were planned by the Habitat International Coalition-affiliated Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), alongside a number of Egyptian organizations. HLRN is a human rights organization which focuses primarily on advocacy for the right to housing and land. The events, according to organizers and planned participants, were set to bring the Palestinian cause closer to Egyptian youth, to raise awareness on the centrality of the Nakba to their own lives, and to mobilize them to take action individually as well as collectively.
"We had chosen to commemorate the Nakba by holding cultural events because we wanted the message to be accessible to as many people as possible, in particular youth. We also felt culture conveys a variety of different political messages at once with greater strength than other forms of action," said HLRN Global Program Officer Angie Balata.
In addition, given the atmosphere of political repression in a country under emergency law since 1981, it was believed that a series of cultural events would not plausibly attract negative security attention and that therefore more Egyptians would be able and willing to attend.
They were proven wrong. After two months of planning, and agreement with numerous public venues, "one by one the venues started to pull out," said Balata. Shortly before the events were set to begin, within the space of 48 hours and seemingly inexplicably, all but one venue had retracted on their willingness to host events........"