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Mona Salem
منى عبد الوهاب سالم
Mona Salem has written for both the online and print versions of 'Al Badil' newspaper. She currently works for the online magazine, 'Al Dustour' and has a particular interest in investigative work around corruption issues.

Close Yet So Far Away

Border Libya
Barbed wire demarcates the border between Libya and Egypt
Close Yet So Far Away
Tensions continue to rise as residents of Matrouh are now required to have visas to cross the border into Libya.
30/4/2013 | Matrouh

Efforts of the Libyan Elders Committee and the Matrouh Mayor and Tribal Leader Council have failed to calm the border tensions arising from a decision requiring Matrouh’s citizens to have visas to enter Libya. Previously, Matrouh citizens – contrary to all other Egyptians – were not required to obtain a visa due to the natural extension of the Bedouin tribes on both sides of the border.

Sporadic clashes between the two sides have occurred during the last few months, claiming the lives of dozens and burning several cargo trucks.

“My sister is married to my Libyan cousin and I used to go with my mother to visit them every now and then, but now we have to travel a thousand kilometers round trip to Cairo to obtain a visa,” said Taher Muftah from Matrouh.

Abdullah Fardi Moussa also objected to the visa restriction, saying, “During the Libyan revolution, we sent aid convoys with food and medicine to Libya on a daily basis, but now they have closed the borders on us and imposed visa requirement while they let Tunisians enter without a visa. No good deed goes unpunished.”

Assault and torture

Tension on the borders has further escalated due to crackdowns on Egyptians by armed Libyan brigades.  Most assault victims however have refused to comment on the attacks in fear of vengeance.

Mohamed Ramadan however, dared to narrate his story. "I was forced with other fellows to go back to Egypt on the ground that our visas were forged, but when I objected, I was led to prison where I was kicked in the stomach and electrocuted. I went into a nervous shock and was unconscious and unable to speak as mentioned in the report of Matrouh Hospital where I was hospitalized for two days," said Ramadan.

File 5931
A victim of harsh border controls

When he regained consciousness, Ramadan experienced severe back pain. When he took off his shirt, he discovered that someone had carved 'February 17' on his back with a sharp object.

Ramadan’s testimony has been one of many reported in the governorate lately, but no official position has been adopted by either side to explain the incident, verify testimonies or prosecute offenders.

It is all based on affection

Tribal leaders on both sides of the borders believe that the conflict could be resolved peacefully. Head of Matrouh’s Mayor and Tribal Leader Council Ahmad Tram said, “We have to emphasize the good Egyptian-Libyan relations despite the differences that surface every once in a while. It is all based on affection, bonding and union between the two countries in addition to intermarriage between tribes of Western Egypt and Eastern Libya.”

“We have accepted the Libyan decision to temporarily impose a visa on Matrouh’s residents in consideration of both sides’ interests, since Libya has promised to reconsider visa restrictions in the coming days and start investigations on the violations committed against dozens of Egyptians to prosecute the offenders,” he added.

Image: Mona Salem