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Intervention Strategies Addressing the Case of State Repression and Terrorism in North Sinai

By Fatima Awadalla

The Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Dialogue (DDRD) Initiative

Egypt has a recent successful experience in countering terrorism; during the 1990s, the country led extensive campaigns against militant Islamist groups (the Islamic Group and the Islamic Jihad); the insurgency ended in 1997 with the two groups ceasing their violent activities and conducting a comprehensive ideological reorientation during which they revisited the religious beliefs igniting violence, this knowledge was produced and published by the groups' leaders. And since the ongoing counterterrorism efforts in Sinai are highly criticized due to their focus on security efforts, a Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Dialogue (DDRD) initiative could be beneficial in the long-term to end the conflict in Sinai. This duality of a “hard” approach, using the security solution, combined with the “soft" process, depending on dialogue, negotiation, and reconciliation, will offer a suitable balance to address both the surface level and root causes of conflict, on the short and long terms. This paper focuses on the “soft” approach since the Egyptian security forces have already been involved in the conflict and have been focusing on a security solution. Despite coercion being a traditional approach to counterterrorism, it is barely successful in addressing the fundamental causes of violence and conflict. The conciliatory approach addresses the root causes of violence by focusing on political, economic, and social solutions.


Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the January 2011 Revolution, after a decade of political unrest and substantial restrictions on fundamental freedoms and human rights, the Egyptian State started to take measures toward addressing human rights concerns. In 2021, a five years National Human Rights Strategy was launched, and the State of Emergency that was declared in 2017 and used as a cover for human rights violations during the declared "war on terrorism" was suspended. The year 2022 was dedicated as the "Civil Society Year." It witnessed the launch of a Comprehensive National Political Dialogue and the reactivation of the Presidential Pardon Committee. Leading to legal reviews and the release of 814 pretrial detainees between January and September 2022, as pretrial detention has been widely used to crack down on journalists, activists, and human rights defenders in the post-revolution era. Those measures are considered valuable opportunities for extending the political reform and reconciliation efforts to Northern Sinai and moving forward toward ending the ongoing conflict. In comparison, the Egyptian State's desire to end the conflict and improve its human rights record in front of the international community is an excellent opportunity for this Initiative to take place.

The Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, and Dialogue (DDRD) Initiative can transform the current conflict in North Sinai, it will adopt a comprehensive approach by including different conflict actors in meaningful peacebuilding activities to address the underlying causes of conflict, along with offering opportunities for reconciliation and reintegration in the society. The Initiative will work on different levels to respond to other actors' needs and ensure that their interests are well-represented and responded to. The following chart includes different conflict actors who will be included in the Initiative.

Chart No. 1, Conflict Stakeholders


This Initiative is mainly challenged by the lack of funds, especially when Egypt is experiencing a soaring economic crisis following an IMF Loan Agreement, exacerbated by the war on Ukraine. Other challenges include the Egyptian State's high dependence of the military and security intervention and disinterest in opening dialogue with militant groups; the authorities reluctance from integration of Bedouins as full citizens through promoting their political participation and representation; the Bedouins lack of trust in the Egyptian authorities and hence unwillingness from effectively engaging in the Initiative activities; the overall restrictive political climate in Egypt and adoption of restrictive and authoritarian policy and legislative approaches; the costly and burdening processes of reconciliation both financially and administratively, especially when it comes to issuing national IDs for Bedouin population, proving land and home ownership, and return of displaced persons; lack of international development /humanitarian funding for reconstruction especially following the war on Ukraine and the recent earthquake in Turkey; and most importantly, the lack of political will to conduct reform processes needed to address the root causes of violence in North Sinai, especially with the existence of peacekeeping troops and interference of other regional and international forces in the North Sinai situation (US, Israel and Gaza Strip).

Chart No. 2, Conflict Analysis

Intervention Objectives

The DDRD initiative will build on the United Nations’ efforts in the peacebuilding field with the following objective:

Strengthen the Egyptian state peacebuilding efforts in the North Sinai governorate via

  1. Ceasing all violent activities from the Egyptian State authorities and the militant groups.

  2. Disarmament and Demobilization of Militant Groups in North Sinai.

  3. Conduct two parallel dialogue processes with the militant groups and Bedouin tribes in North Sinai to facilitate the reintegration of armed groups and enhance the Bedouin population's access to socioeconomic development and political participation opportunities.


Mediation support: In this first phase of the Initiative, UN mediation experts will initiate talks with militant groups and Bedouin tribes to reach a cease-fire and disarmament agreement.

Political Dialogue: In this phase, a dialogue will be launched between the Egyptian authorities, Bedouin tribes, and militant groups. It will be facilitated by UN experts and will seek to identify suitable programs to address the root causes of violence, including promoting political representation, improving economic and social conditions in the governorate (i.e., education, employment, and essential services), issuance of identification cards for those without identity, including the North Sinai population in the lucrative tourism industry in South Sinai, and lifting movement restrictions in the governorate, etc. In this stage, policy, legislative and development proposals will be drafted and submitted to concerned authorities for implementation.

Compensation and return of the displaced: Since its start, the conflict has displaced tens of thousands and caused the demolition of thousands of buildings, mostly houses. For the peacebuilding efforts to be successful, an immediate cease of demolition, destruction, and building of buffer zone will be stopped. In contrast, a comprehensive revision of the destruction caused by military operations and militant groups' activities will be conducted. An independent body will lead this revision. It will provide just compensation to the families whose properties were destructed and identify a mechanism for the displaced population to return to their hometowns within a reasonable timeframe.

Reintegration and pardons: As part of their reintegration, ex-militants will be pardoned and offered rehabilitation, professional training, and placement opportunities after engaging them in an ideological reorientation process that will guarantee their abandonment of violent ideology. A pardon and reintegration committee will facilitate the ex-militants reintegration.

Gaza Strip tunnels destruction: Smuggling arms and other commodities, including stolen items, between North Sinai and the Gaza Strip, is a stable source of income for Bedouins and a common funding source for militants. To eliminate the possibility of this illegal trade, the Initiative will offer alternative income-generating opportunities via a lending program while opening secure and discreet channels for coming forward with information regarding tunnel locations.

Read Contextualizing the Case of State Repression and Terrorism in North Sinai here.

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