There are minor tribal leaders and there are influential tribal leaders. And then there is Ibrahim Al-Organi.
Hajj Ibrahim, as his supporters and followers like to call him, is from the Tarabin tribe in the Sinai Peninsula, one of the largest and most powerful tribes in North Sinai. He tried to intervene in 2008 to calm the situation between the Tarabin and the Interior Ministry, but his brother was killed at the time under mysterious circumstances.
He defied the ministry and detained a number of police officers, which opened the gates of hell for him during the presidency of the ousted Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian authorities arrested him and imprisoned him for several years, and he suffered a stroke in prison before he was released following the January 2011 revolution.
After his release, he began a new life. He became a collaborator with the Military Council and the army leaders. He began to reunite the Sinai tribes and formed them into large groups of collaborators with the army to confront the armed groups after the 2013 coup led by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Al-Organi gathered all the Sinai tribes under his umbrella, which had little to do with tribal matters; it was essentially an intelligence umbrella.
He then announced the establishment of the Union of Sinai Tribes (UST), an armed militia very similar to the Rapid Support Forces in Sudan, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, aka Hemedti.
He has a strong friendship with Mahmoud Al-Sisi, the General Intelligence officer and son of the Egyptian president. This has opened doors to business with the army directly, without anyone’s supervision or harassment.
Al-Sisi’s son helped him establish the Organi Group, making him a very wealthy tycoon within a few years. During that period the group developed extensive partnerships with the National Service Projects Organisation and the Egyptian Armed Forces’ Engineering Authority. Al-Organi himself also became the official sponsor of Al-Ahly Sporting Club at one point.
However, the biggest business and the peak of cooperation between Al-Organi and Mahmoud Al-Sisi was in Hajj Ibrahim’s birthplace, North Sinai. After Al-Sisi came to power, he proceeded to wipe the Egyptian cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid from the map. He destroyed them completely, displaced the inhabitants, and established a buffer zone between Egypt and the Gaza Strip to a depth of five kilometres in Sinai. He completed his mission by flooding the tunnels linking Egyptian Rafah and its Palestinian counterpart under the border with the Gaza Strip.
Al-Sisi tightened his grip on the border and closed the Rafah crossing for years, with no one exiting or entering without permission or coordination through one company known to the Palestinians as Hala Consulting and Tourism. It is owned by the Organi Group, but it is not registered in the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism’s company guide. On its Facebook page, the company’s address appears as Nasr City, while the Egyptian tourism company guide shows another company under the name Hala Tourism, registered as number 1233 with an address in Zamalek. This means that Organi’s company established in 2019 reports directly to the Egyptian General Intelligence, and no other party in the country has the right to monitor its work.
Another Organi Group company that manages the crossing business is the Abnaa Sinai Company, including both of its branches, Abnaa Sinai for Trading and Contracting and Abnaa Sinai for Transport and Logistics. You will probably not be surprised to learn that Abnaa Sinai is the company that has the task of developing the entire Egyptian Rafah crossing. It rents a hall inside the crossing complex and is considered fully responsible for all logistical services there. However, the biggest problem is that the Organi Group is also responsible for the entry of Arab and international aid from Egypt to the Gaza Strip.
If you pay Al-Organi, he’ll give you an exit ticket from Gaza via Hala Company, and if you pay him some more, he’ll also give you a ticket allowing an aid truck to enter the Gaza Strip.
Like Gamal Mubarak and Ahmed Ezz, Al-Sisi’s son has created a new monster named Ibrahim Al-Organi. They gave him weapons and equipment, showered him with money, and handed him the keys to the Rafah crossing, which he controls as he pleases without regard to the suffering of the Palestinian people, who are facing bombing, displacement and a catastrophic famine.
Ibrahim Al-Organi, the crossing broker and friend of Sisi’s son, will not stop there. Another major role awaits him the day after the war, in the form of Al-Organi contributing to the reconstruction of Gaza.
This article first appeared in Arabi21 on 3 February 2024
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