Syria refugees in Cairo launch aid initiative

Syrian migrant community organizes grassroots effort to help those in need ahead of Id al-Fitr.

Laylat al-Qadr (370) (photo credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
Laylat al-Qadr (370)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
As Sunday’s Id al-Fitr celebrations draw near, activists within Cairo’s growing Syrian refugee community used social media this week to organize a grassroots drive to reach out to those who have fled the violence in their home country.
The Cairo initiative, run from the Syrian Charity Kitchen in 6 October City near Cairo – itself a project organized by the Syrian refugee community – called on residents of the capital to bring clothing and children’s toys to donate to needy families on Thursday and Friday.
The organizers, who have used blogs and Twitter to spread the word about the donations, said they plan to display the donated items in 6 October City’s Hosary Park before the holiday on Friday evening, so that Syrian families could take what they needed.
“The Syrian refugee situation in Cairo is growing. We are not a charity or an organization.
We are simply the Syrian community banding together to help our brothers and sisters fleeing from monstrosities back home.
After 14 months of the worst brutality the world has seen, your Syrian brothers and sisters are asking for help,” wrote the initiative’s organizer, a refugee who tweets anonymously as @mou2amara and describes herself as “a Syrian woman, an Arab woman.”
Giving charity is a key part of Ramadan and some activists have organized initiatives throughout the holy month for Cairo’s Syrian migrant community, culminating in this week’s pre-Id al-Fitr project.
There are no official figures of how many Syrian refugees are living in Egypt, and the Egyptian media reports on numbers vary.
A recent report by Daily News Egypt said there are an estimated 10,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt, with numbers swelling daily as more Syrians flee the violence, whereas a report by the Moheet Arabic news site on Wednesday said that as of July, there were just 1,230 Syrian migrants in Egypt.
Last week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said that, as of August 9, around 150,000 people had fled Syria, mostly to neighboring countries Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. He did not provide figures for Egypt, however.
UNHCR’s Cairo office did not respond by press time to a request by The Jerusalem Post for more information on refugees in Egypt.
The plight of Syrian refugees in Egypt has received attention from the country’s media, reflecting a broader sympathy for the Syrian revolution.
Many Egyptians support the Syrian uprising, in which opposition sources say 18,000 people have been killed.
According to a February Gallup poll, 56 percent of Egyptians said they supported calls to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy expressed his backing for the Syrian opposition during his June 30 inauguration speech, a move which positioned him with the US, Europe and most of the Arab world, but also with the majority of Egyptians.
A recent op-ed in Egyptian daily Al-Ahram argued that Egyptians from different segments of society support the Syrian uprising, from young liberals to the the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Cairo, Syrian refugees have set up tents in the city’s famous Tahrir Square, the heart of Egypt’s revolution, and have gained the support of Egyptian revolutionary movements.
One such movement, the Egyptian Revolution Union – a coalition of 25 political and independent parties, NGOs and national movements established by youth activists during the uprising last January – organized a recent Ramadan iftar (break-fast) event in Cairo’s Agouza district, during which activists reiterated their support for their “Syrian brothers” fighting against Assad’s regime.
According to Saudi Arabian news site Naseej, union coordinator Muhammad Allam said the group is monitoring the Syrian refugee situation in Cairo in order to help them, and that the aim of the iftar iniative is to make the refugees feel at home in Egypt.
The Union had coordinated with the Syrian National Council, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups based in Istanbul, to send medical aid to Syria, Allam added.
Islamist groups have also shown support for the Syrian opposition. On Tuesday, the leader of the Egyptian Islamist Construction and Development Party pledged to conduct Id al-Fitr prayers in front of the Syrian Embassy in Cairo to show support for the Syrian people.