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The Desert of Death

View of the Israeli-Egyptian border next to the southern city of Eilat

Photo Credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash90

Due to my appearances in the Arabic media, from time to time I receive email messages from Arabs or Muslims who are not Arabs, with information that may interest me, in their opinion. Some of these are requests for me to get involved in a specific matter, either personal or public. I answer them all, and I keep contact with some of them. I have gotten more than a few insights about the Arab and Muslim world from these people, who reveal to me the most sensitive, hidden, secret, inscrutable aspects of the societies that surround us. There are also a few women among them, who send me their hair-raising stories about their lives and their familial and social settings into which they were born and in which they must live.

This week it was a man from Eritrea who lives in Europe, a Muslim refugee from the hell-on-Earth which is the African Horn, who now lives in tranquility and safety. He sent me an email message that shocked me, and I would like to share this with my readers.

Everyone knows that Israel has served for years as a haven for refugee workers from Eritrea, Sudan and other African countries. A few of the infiltrators into Israel came from the embattled areas of Darfur, and until now Israel has absorbed about forty thousand African infiltrators under this category, who have no connection with Darfur. They come to Israel to find work and a normal life, because of the unemployment, the corruption and poverty in their homelands.

The infiltrators arrive to Israel by way of Egypt and the Sinai Desert, and it’s Bedouin of Sinai who bring them to the border between Israel and Egypt. These smugglers get thousands of dollars per person in exchange for this service, an astronomical sum for those destitute and desperate Africans. Some of them, who cannot pay the smuggler’s fee, remain as prisoners of the Bedouin, and are tortured and humiliated until their families send the required sum. The lot of the women is even worse, because they often fall victim to the sexual passions of the Bedouins who rape them. In many cases the Egyptian soldiers who are stationed at the border shoot Africans who try to infiltrate into Israel, apparently because they cannot pay the Egyptian soldier the “passage money”, that he demands from them, since the Bedouin have robbed the little that was in their pockets.

The bitter reality of Sinai has caused thousands of Eritreans to disappeared into the expanses of this desert. Recently, the reason for these “disappearances” has become known. Some of them are killed because they could not pay the Bedouins the great sums that were demanded, and some were murdered in order to “harvest” organs: kidneys, corneas, hearts and even livers. A few honorable and creditable media outlets – CNN, BBC – reported on this phenomenon including photographs of bodies of Africans who were discarded in the desert after internal organs and eyes were removed from them.

CNN reported that Egyptian doctors from Cairo and Ismailiya are implicated in the removal of organs: they were found to be in contact with the bedouin tribes, specifically Sawarka and Tiaha. They come to the tribal area in which Eritreans are held, with vehicles equipped with a refrigerator, choose among the Eritreans those who look healthy and strong, put them to sleep, remove from them the required organs and their bodies are discarded as food for the birds of prey and carrion eaters. In exchange for this, the doctors pay the Bedouins great sums of cash.

An Egyptian television station brought Bedouin witnesses who said that sometimes the doctor doesn’t even bother to put the victim to sleep for the “operation”. One body that was photographed showed evidence of asphyxiation by a rope – probably because “anesthetization” by asphyxiation is less expensive than anesthetization by administering an anesthetic drug. One of the witnesses said that in some of the cases, blood was taken from the Africans, to be used for blood transfusions.

About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.


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