CAIRO — Egypt deported Friday dozens of women activists, who had flown in to Cairo but been barred from entering the country in their bid to reach the neighboring Gaza Strip, an airport official said.
About 100 women, most of them from Europe and the United States, had hoped to enter the Palestinian enclave through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing to celebrate International Women’s Day on Saturday.
Eleven women were sent back to Istanbul, another 22 to Paris and six to Frankfurt, the official said.
They were among 65 activists deported over the past 24 hours, some from the United States, France, Belgium and Switzerland, the official added.
Northern Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire and American anti-war activist Medea Benjamin were deported earlier this week.
Egypt controls the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, the only one that bypasses Israel, and is accused of colluding with the Jewish state in blockading the territory, ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas.
Authorities have urged the delegation to abandon the trip over safety concerns, foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said in a statement Thursday.
“Given the current extraordinary security conditions in northern Sinai and the difficulty of ensuring the security” of the activists until they reach Rafah, the timing is “not appropriate.”
Rafah is located in northern Sinai, where militants have killed scores of policemen and soldiers since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
Ann Wright, an American organizer of the delegation told AFP that eight American women were in Cairo and that some of them will wait to see if they can go ahead with the trip.
“Some of the delegates will probably go home in the next couple of days,” Wright said.
“But some others will stay to see if the government will allow us to go (to Rafah) at the last minute”, she added.
Another organizer, from France, told AFP “requests to pass through the Rafah crossing for a dozen French women will be sent to Egyptian authorities by the French embassy.”