Sunday, November 30, 2014

This is how the "justice" system functions in Egypt

 

 




*Art courtesy of Carlos Latuff



Independent trade unionism in Tunisia VS. Egypt's state-controlled unions

Mada Masr
A Uniting Union 
Tunisia's labor federation has much to teach Egyptian trade unions

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Jano Charbel 


Behind Tunisia’s ongoing presidential elections, with a run-off already scheduled for December 21, lies an intricate web of power conflicts and mediation.

Moving beyond the traditional labor federation role, Tunisia’s Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT) has been playing a pivotal role in helping to resolve national political disputes, as it has been widely credited with helping the country avert bloody power struggles since the revolution.

The UGTT has been an integral mediator in Tunisia’s National Dialogue sessions since 2012. Following political assassinations and heated governmental conflicts, it succeeded in resolving a deadlock between the Islamist Ennahda Party and secular parties in October 2013.

This is when the UGTT moved a crisis-solving initiative that preserved the National Constituent Assembly drafting the constitution, formed a technocratic government and set the dates for the elections.

UGTT’s position in the Tunisian political landscape today sits in stark contrast with that of Egypt’s Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which closely remains within the state’s sphere of influence.

After the July 2013 military-led takeover from the Muslim Brotherhood, it campaigned for a “yes” vote in the January 2014 Constitutional Referendum, a move that also acted as an endorsement for the pro-military regime that followed its toppled Brotherhood predecessor.

In 2014, the ETUF commemorated the third anniversary of the January 25 uprising by campaigning for the presidential bid of military strongman Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Acting ETUF President Gebali al-Maragahi announced in his official address: “All of Egypt’s workers and populace call on you o’ Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to nominate yourself for the presidency.”

ETUF would officially join Sisi’s presidential campaign in May. Since then it has organized labor conferences to support the general-turned-president, Armed Forces and the police.

Moreover, the federation has echoed governmental calls to end strikes and industrial actions. In May 2014, ETUF signed a “code of honor” with the Ministry of Manpower to “halt strikes and all other forms of labor protests” until the election of a president and parliament. Parliamentary elections have been slated for 2015.

Some point to the basic difference in the independent outlook, since their inception, between the two workers' organizations.

“There’s almost no common ground on which to compare the ETUF and UGTT. In Tunisia their federation was established for the defense of workers’ rights. While the ETUF is a state-controlled apparatus that has always remained in the embrace of Egypt’s ruling regimes and the Ministry of Interior,” says worker-activist Nagy Rashad, who served as caretaker bureau member of the ETUF.

Secretary of the UGTT’s Educational Workers' Union, Qassem al-Afiya, echoes Rashad’s conviction. During his 23 years in power, he says, “[former Tunisian President Zein al-Abidine] Ben Ali managed to manipulate much of civil society to support his regime, with the exception of the local UGTT unions. The independence of our unions from the government is of paramount importance to us.”

The UGTT’s independence was played out during the revolution where its supportive stance was a major player in breaking Ben Ali’s regime in January 2011.

In late December 2010, scores of UGTT secretaries along with rank-and-file members participated in Tunisia’s protest marches and occupations. However, the UGTT’s executive leadership was reluctant to move against Ben Ali.

The UGTT’s upper rungs were finally pressured into launching a general strike on January 14, 2011 – the day on which Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia.

Not only did the UGTT call for a general strike during Ben Ali’s last days as president, it also opened its doors to protesters injured on the streets of Tunis, along with making demands to release imprisoned political activists.

The Teachers’ Union was particularly involved in these street protests. “Following great pressures from lower-ranking membership, the top leadership found itself forced to ride the revolutionary bandwagon and support the popular demands of the uprising,” says Afiya, a teacher and trade unionist.

Egypt was different. According to Rashad, the ETUF openly stood against the revolution.

Following Tunisia’s lead, Egypt’s January 25 uprising would be joined with public bus drivers’ strikes, labor protests along the Suez Canal and nationwide industrial actions beginning on February 7 – until Mubarak stepped down on February 11.

Meanwhile, Rashad explains he was summoned to the ETUF headquarters along with other workers and unionists two days prior to the revolution – on January 23 – where “the federation’s leadership and high ranking police officers called on us to refrain from joining the planned protests, or engaging in any strikes.”

During the 18-day uprising, ETUF headquarters closed its doors to anti-Mubarak protesters, while its leadership denounced the uprising in media outlets.

Rashad claims to have witnessed evidence of ETUF leaders actively organizing attacks against the January 25 uprising.

ETUF President Hussein Megawer would later be implicated in organizing attacks on anti-Mubarak protesters – specifically on Tahrir Square, including an attack on February 2, dubbed the Battle of the Camel, resulting in 11 fatalities and over 1,000 injuries.

Megawer was arrested in April and jailed pending trial on charges of instigating the attack. However, in October 2012, the court acquitted Megawer and his 23 co-defendants – mostly figures from Mubarak’s inner circle.

 
Meanwhile, additional purges and democratic renewals within UGTT ranks are responsible for pushing it forth, while additional governmental intervention has kept the ETUF stagnating in its traditional role, analysts argue.

The UGTT Secretary General Abdelsalam Jerad, and ETUF President Hussein Megawer, were both deposed shortly after the downfalls of Mubarak and Ben Ali. Their executive leaderships have since been replaced – but through very different means.

During the UGTT’s 22nd Congress in December 2011, Jerad and the federation’s old executive bureau were purged and new leaderships were chosen – via elections involving rank-and-file members.

In Egypt, however ETUF’s executive bureau was dissolved on August 4, 2011 - by decree of the interim cabinet. The Ministry of Manpower appointed caretaker committees to replace this executive bureau, and has been doing so for the past three years. Although ETUF elections were scheduled for October/November 2011 they have repeatedly been postponed.

The last time the ETUF held nationwide elections was in 2006.  The decision to dissolve the ETUF’s executive bureau was backed by an Administrative Court verdict in November 2006 – ruling that these elections were invalid due to mass violations and irregularities – including the absence of judicial supervision. 

“We initially had hopes and aspirations regarding our ability to reform this federation. We quickly realized that it is resistant to reform,” says Wael Habib, worker at the Mahalla Textile Company and former caretaker member at the ETUF.

For Habib, the ETUF is doomed to remain a state-controlled entity, “especially if no progress is made in reforming the outdated Trade Union Law (35/1976.)”   

In 2014, several of the ETUF’s constituent unions have filed lawsuits to ban or outlaw independent unions in accordance with this law. These unions have sprung up in response to the state's control over ETUF.

The UGTT’s relevance today arguably stems from its ability to serve the interests of the workers it represents, which is considered to be less the case with ETUF. The 750,000 member union represents a national workforce estimated at four million people and includes nationwide professional associations, industrial and service workers’ unions, with blue-collar and white collar workers, in both the public and private sectors.

“The UGGT has always stood by our side and our demands, although we sometimes wish they’d act quicker to resolve our problems of punitive sackings and increased unemployment,” says Abdel Qader Selim, a Tunisian textile worker and unionist.


With the official unemployment rate in 2014 at 15.2 percent, Tunisia has the highest rate of joblessness in North Africa.

As for the ETUF membership, it has declined since the 2011 uprising. It currently claims around 4 million members – from Egypt’s national labor force of approximately 28 million – and consists of 23 general unions and around 1,900 local union committees, largely industrial and service sector unions – primarily in the public sector.

The history of both establishments gives reason to understand the level of their independence today.

The UGTT was freely and officially established on January 20, 1946, coming into existence a decade prior to independence from France, and prior to Tunisian state control.

Armed with a long history of strikes and labor resistance against French colonialism, the UGTT has aligned with national independence leaders. Nevertheless, it was subjected to crackdowns in the late 1970s at the hands of Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba.

Subsequently the UGTT’s upper rungs would be coopted to some extent. Its executive bureau endorsed Ben Ali’s presidential bids and re-elections. However, the more independent lower rungs were subjected to dismissals, arrests and police harassment under both Bourguiba and Ben Ali.

As for the ETUF, its origins date back to 1957. Established by the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser as the only legally recognized union federation, it has remained under the influence of the Ministry of Manpower since then.

Since the 1950s, tens of leaders from the ETUF and UGTT served as members of parliament in both Egypt and Tunisia, typically representing the ruling party. While several of their top leaders have served as ministers.

Meanwhile, the ETUF and UGTT have entirely different track records when it comes to labor strikes.

While thousands of strikes have taken place in Egypt over the past few decades, the ETUF has officially authorized only two: the national miners’ strike in 1993, and the Tanta Flax and Oils Company strike in 2009.

The ETUF has not staged a single general strike in its 57-year long history.

In contrast, the UGTT continues to authorize both local and general strikes for its members’ rights – as it has over its nearly 70-year history.



*Photos by Jano Charbel

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Photos: Protests against Mubarak regime acquittal in Abdel Moneim Riyad Sq.

Peaceful protesters chant against Mubarak, Sisi & military rule

Elderly activist holds signs commemorating martyrs of the January 25th Revolution, denouncing the governments of Mubarak & Sisi
Well over 2,000 joined peaceful protests near Tahrir Square, numbers were growing until police cracked-down around 9pm

Chants against Ministry of Interior & police brutality
Strong criticism of the judiciary and their verdicts
Riot police trucks deployed in front of army APCs in Tahrir Square, sealed-off by barbed wire barriers. Water cannons, tear gas, and shotguns were used to forcefully disperse the peaceful protesters. At least one protester was killed, tens of others injured and arrested.

Court dismisses charges against Mubarak regime of corruption, killing protesters

CNN 

Egypt: Ex-ruler Hosni Mubarak, accused in deaths of hundreds, cleared of charges

November 30, 2014 
 
Jason Hanna, Sarah Sirgany and Holly Yan
 
 
Cairo (CNN) -- Egypt's formear longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was cleared of charges in a retrial Saturday and could soon be released -- a stunning reversal for a man who faced life imprisonment or worse after a revolution toppled him in 2011.

A Cairo judge dismissed charges linking Mubarak to the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 revolt and found him not guilty of corruption.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt as president for 29 years, was stoic as his supporters in the courtroom cheered the decision that capped a months-long retrial. The 86-year-old, reclining on a hospital gurney in a defendants' cage, nodded while fellow defendants kissed him on the head.

Later, he told the country's Sada ElBalad TV station in a brief phone interview that he "didn't commit anything."

"I laughed when I heard the first verdict," he said of the first trial. "When it came to the second verdict, I said I was waiting. It would go either way. It wouldn't have made a difference to me either way."

Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat will appeal the verdict, Egypt's government-controlled Al-Ahram newspaper website reported early Sunday.
 
Mubarak was convicted in 2012 of issuing orders to kill peaceful protesters during the country's 2011 uprising and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed and was granted a new trial last year.

Also acquitted Saturday were Mubarak's former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and six of el-Adly's aides, who'd been accused of being connected to the deaths of 239 protesters as security forces cracked down on them in 2011. Mubarak's two sons also were acquitted Saturday of corruption.

Mubarak still has a three-year sentence for a previous conviction for embezzlement, but it wasn't immediately clear how much time he's already been credited with, and therefore when he will be free.
CNN's efforts to reach Mubarak's lawyer Farid El-Deeb for comment weren't immediately successful.

Both sides have alleged that Mubarak's trials have been politicized, with supporters arguing he was unfairly vilified and opponents fearing that he'd be acquitted as memories of the revolution faded.

His legal fortunes did seem to parallel the political climate -- just last year, Mohamed Morsy, the Islamist who became Egypt's first democratically elected president, supported a retrial with the backing of his supporters, who argued Mubarak should have received a death sentence rather than life in captivity.

But Morsy himself was deposed by the military in July 2013, as opponents accused him of pursuing an Islamist agenda at the exclusion of other factions.

And now the Arab Spring revolt that ousted Mubarak has come nearly full circle -- Mubarak appears close to freedom; Morsy is jailed, his Muslim Brotherhood banned; and Morsy supporters allege the current government has returned to Mubarak's authoritarian practices.

EXPLAINING THE VERDICT

Judge Mahmoud el-Rashidy said he dropped charges against Mubarak because Cairo Criminal Court didn't have the jurisdiction to try him for the protesters' deaths.

The judge said the case that prosecutors initially referred to the court listed only el-Adly and his aides as defendants -- not Mubarak himself.

But after mass protests pressured the prosecutor general to question Mubarak, a second referral was made to the court, and the two cases were merged into one.

Lawyer Hoda Nasralla, who represents the families of 65 slain and injured protesters, said the inclusion of Mubarak in a second referral should have trumped his exclusion in the first.

"The judge shied away from directly acquitting Mubarak even though he was accused of conspiring with Adly, and Adly was acquitted," she said. "The judge resorted to formalities instead."

'I WANT ONLY GOD'S RETRIBUTION'

Salway El-Sayed, mother of one of the slain 2011 protesters, sat down on a sidewalk outside the court after she heard Saturday's verdicts, praying to God to deliver justice.

She broke down in tears, her hands shaking, as she recalled her son Tamer Hanafy, who was killed in January 2011 at Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicenter of the uprising.

"I'm worried my son's blood would go in vain," she said. "Our children's blood isn't cheap. Their blood is precious, like any other blood."

"I don't want execution," she continued. "This won't bring back my son ... I want only God's retribution. Nothing more."

Tahrir Square was closed to traffic following Saturday's verdicts.

One man was killed and nine people were injured as several hundred demonstrators clashed nearby with Egyptian security forces, Egyptian Ministry of Health spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar told CNN.

Police fired tear gas and bird shot at the protesters. The Ministry of Interior said police were pelted by rocks before the incident escalated.

The human rights group Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, whose lawyers represented more than 60 civil plaintiffs in the case, said that Saturday's verdict solidified the impunity that it says security forces and their leaders enjoy.

"Justice was dealt another severe blow," the group said in a news release.

HOW IT STARTED

In January 2011, throngs of Egyptians filled the streets of Cairo to decry the country's poverty, unemployment and repression. Protesters called for Mubarak to step down but were met by a fierce and often violent government crackdown. Mubarak eventually stepped down in 2011.

That freed up long-supressed Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to run for office. Morsy, backed by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, became president in June 2012.

But Morsy was ousted in a coup about a year later amid widespread protests against his rule. Since then, Cairo's military-installed government has banned the Brotherhood, calling it a terrorist group -- an allegation it denies -- and accusing it of being behind a wave of deadly attacks on police and the military.

Many Islamist and secular activists have been arrested and given lengthy sentences. A restrictive protest law and repeated deadly crackdowns on demonstrations followed.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the general who led Morsy's ouster, was elected president in May after leaving the military to run for the office.

NOT FREE YET

Since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011, the ailing former ruler has appeared in court numerous times on a variety of charges, often wheeled in on a gurney. His lawyers say he suffered health problems after his 2011 arrest, including a stroke, and he has served much of his prison time at a military medical facility.

In May, a Cairo court sentenced him to three years in prison for embezzlement. His sons Gamal and Alaa were sentenced to four years each on the same charge.

All three were convicted of embezzling $18 million that was allocated for the renovation of presidential palaces. The Mubaraks have insisted they are not guilty.
 
 
 *Photo dick-tator Mubarak courtesy of AFP

Gov't widely expands definition of "terrorism" in new oppressive law

Mada Masr
Cabinet passes “terrorist entities” law

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Egypt’s Cabinet passed a draft law on “terrorist entities” Wednesday night, presented by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The law’s 10 articles focus on defining terrorist entities, placing identified terrorist entities on lists, and stipulating the process of legally appealing these lists.

Article one of the law defines terrorist entities as “any association, organization, group or gang that attempts to, aims to or calls for destabilizing public order; endangers society’s wellbeing or its interests of safety; harms individuals or terrorizes them, or endangers their lives or freedoms or rights or safety; endangers social unity; harms the environment or natural resources or monuments or communications or transportation or funds or buildings or public or private property, or occupies them; obstructs the work of public authorities or the judiciary or government entities or local municipalities or houses of worship or hospitals or scientific institutions or diplomatic missions or international organizations; blocks public or private transportation, or roads; harms national unity or national peacefulness; obstructs the implementation of the constitution or laws or bylaws; uses violence or power or threats or acts of terrorism to achieve one of its goals.”

The second article gives prosecution the right to draw up lists of identified terrorist entities, which includes groups that are officially ruled as terrorist organizations. Prosecution will also be tasked with creating lists of “terrorists” found guilty of running the identified terrorist groups.

The law stipulates that organizations designated as terrorist entities must remain on the lists for three weeks, and if no judicial order is issued to confirm the terrorist nature of these organizations, the prosecution retains the right to extend the period for which these organizations are kept on the lists.

Penalties against designated terrorist entities can include dissolving the organization, suspending its activities, shutting down its headquarters, banning meetings held by its members, halting funding to the organization directly or indirectly, freezing assets owned by the organization or its leaders, banning membership to or promotion of the group, and temporary banning the group from political participation.

At least 5 dead, over 200 arrested as police crush Islamist marches

IBTimes
At Least Five Dead After Egypt Protests Put Down By Government





 
At least five people are dead following the suppression of a number of anti-government protests by Islamists in Egypt on Friday. At least two killed were protesters, while three senior military officials were killed in separate shootings, the Associated Press reported. Dozens were reportedly injured in the demonstrations.

Salafi Front, a conservative Islamist group, backed the protests, calling for a “Muslim youth uprising” on its Facebook page. The protests, which attracted a few hundred, are the first in months following the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi by the Egyptian military last year.

Cairo was reportedly on lockdown during the protests, with security forces authorized to use “lethal force.” The interior ministry says it thwarted 10 bombings and arrested 224 people who were connected to the protests, according to Reuters. Two of the officers killed were shot in Cairo, while another officer was killed in Alexandria.

Though some groups such as Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supported the protests, others spoke against the demonstrations. “Don't do it.... You can't fix corruption by sabotage, terrorizing safe people, and shedding blood,” an imam said on state television, according to the AP.

Following Morsi’s removal from office last year, the Egyptian government led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood members, with hundreds sentenced to death in June and thousands more jailed.

Fear, violence & hardship part of everyday live in North Sinai towns

Daily News Egypt

Fear, violence and hardship part of everyday life in volatile North Sinai town

Residents of Al-Arish are caught in the fight between militants and the military 




“At 5pm the day ends with the sound of gunshots – a new ritual to remind people that it’s curfew time – and by 7am another round of gunshots informs residents that the curfew has ended,” said the teacher – a mother of two living in Al-Arish, northern Sinai.

Several residents of the town have shared their experiences with the Daily News Egypt of living under curfew. A state of emergency was declared in the area following attacks by militants on 24 October, which left at least 30 army personnel dead. A militant insurgency in Sinai has flared since the military’s ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The residents, who all of whom asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, revealed that – even under curfew – explosions are a common occurrence, and the people are living in fear.
 
The teacher’s six year-old daughter wakes up every night crying and screaming, terrorised by the sounds of explosions and gunfire. A few months before the curfew, the family’s house was shot at when the children were at home alone with their mother. “Since then, the nightmares have never left them,” she said.

Residents often feel the need to report a car or a suspicious bag left in the street but, as the mobile phone networks are frequently cut, it has become difficult. “Even when something gets reported, the response from the army or police is very slow,” said the teacher.

According to a pharmacist in his late twenties, the poor mobile coverage is a protective measure used by the authorities to prevent militants from contacting each other. “However, the government is unable to take control of the situation even with this precaution,” he added.

An engineer in his mid-twenties however had a different theory, attributing the network cuts to the authorities’ aim of preventing those living outside of the area from knowing what is really going on in Al-Arish.

The mother teaches at a school in Sheikh Zuweid – a Bedouin town near the border with the Gaza Strip – and claimed that she has seen planes bombarding a village in the area known as Al-Toma.
She noted that travelling between towns in the region has become difficult.

On 17 November, teachers returning to Al-Arish from Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah had to wait for hours at a checkpoint outside Al-Arish due to suspected explosives on the road. The delays meant they were not able to get home before the 5pm curfew and as a result a 28 year-old teacher was shot in the thigh while passing a security checkpoint later that night in Dahiyat al-Salam neighbourhood of Al-Arish.

The man is currently at Al-Arish hospital and his condition is stable, she said. Other teachers were taken from the checkpoint in the Alreesa district in ambulances and military vehicles, not reaching their homes until 7-8pm.

Some mothers were not able to collect their children from day care centres and there was no network coverage to enable them to contact the centres and inform them about the delay. “The mothers were extremely worried and the children were kept at neighbours’ and baby sitters’ houses until the mobile network came back at night and the mothers were then able to know where their children were,” according to the teacher.

The day after she and a group of teachers met with the governor of North Sinai Abdel Fatah Harhour to find a solution to problems cause by security delays when travelling from Al-Arish to other towns. Two days later, on 20 November, Harhour ordered the indefinite closure of schools in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah for security reasons.

Even travelling around Al-Arish in the day time has become arduous as security forces frequently set up new checkpoints made of sand, stone, and metal barriers, forcing residents to take longer routes to reach their destinations.

Residents report that travelling from Arish to Cairo and vice versa has become very difficult. A year and a half ago they used to pass over the Suez Canal on Al-Salam Bridge. However, following the increased security threats, people are now often forced to pass the canal via ferryboat. “The lines of cars waiting to pass are endless and more time is consumed because almost every car in the queue gets inspected,” said an Al-Arish housewife.

The financial situation has become challenging for many people in Al-Arish. All types of entertainment have been removed from their lives and they can hardly afford to buy basic necessities. Traders of fruits, vegetables and clothes have raised their prices to cover losses from the early closure of their shops under curfew.

“After 5pm Al-Arish becomes like a ghost town. Places that used to be full of people and shops that were open all night are now dead and no one dares to not abide by the rules,” said a pharmacist living in Al-Arish.People are losing their tempers because of what’s happening. “I am now considering leaving this country for good and the coming days will help me determine whether I’ll stay or leave,” the pharmacist said.

Some residents express a lack of confidence in the ability of the security forces to secure the area.
On 11 November residents stated that they had reported a suspicious car parked in their neighbourhood to the police around 4pm. At 8.30pm the car exploded, before the security forces could investigate, said one of the residents who preferred to remain anonymous.

No one was killed but some sustained minor injuries. Houses and shops sustained significant damage from the explosion. Two shops were completely shattered, buildings around the car were left with cracks and holes and windows were broken.

“I thought that the whole building was being blown up, all the windows in the house were smashed inside falling on beds, sofas and on the floors,” said a housewife and a mother of four living near the place of the incident.

Another housewife shared her view regarding the situation. She implied that things are moving from bad to worse and people are feeling unstable and insecure. “I don’t have a good feeling about what’s currently happening. After the displacement of residents from Rafah I personally think that Al-Arish will be next. I have a feeling that the government is planning to isolate Sinai from Egypt and everyday my doubts get justified even more,” she said.

The housewife is living with her husband and two children near a police station in Al-Arish; security is tight to protect the station from any attacks. She claimed that, if a car passes by the area, the security forces fire their weapons and start screaming at the driver to leave immediately. The woman always parks her car on the other side of the house trying to avoid any kind of panic. “For the same reasons we can’t even get out in our balconies,” she said.

Residents say that the behaviour of the security forces is alienating citizens.

“During the setback of the 1967 war with Israel, when the Israeli army invaded Sinai and occupied Arish, many Egyptian soldiers weren’t able to leave immediately, so they hid in local houses, where residents provided them with food, clothes and even created fake ID’s for them to protect them from the Israeli army. Now things have changed. If a similar situation happened with the new enemy in Sinai, residents wouldn’t respond the same,” said an engineer living in Al-Arish.

“The police and the military are now treating people in a very bad way, the possibility of people being taken to jail for no good reason is very high and it has been actually happening a lot lately,” said the engineer. He claims that innocent people are often arrested in their homes or in the streets.

Another resident shared a story about a neighbour who was taken from his home about a month and a half ago. The resident claims that 10-15 soldiers came to the house next door at 2am and asked for an 18 year-old man who was living in the house.

“The sound of knocking and yelling was so loud that people started getting out on their balconies to see what has been going on, but soldiers kept yelling at them, telling them to go back inside. My mother and my sister were crying out of fright and out of pity for the young man and his family.”

“Until now the parents have no clue where their son is; they looked for him at all the police stations in Al-Arish and even in Cairo but couldn’t reach him. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now,” the resident said.

“No one is reflecting the whole picture of what is happening in Al-Arish to the external world. Some residents in the town don’t even know what has been going on. The lack of media coverage in Sinai can definitely open the door for more human rights violations,” said the engineer.

According to the teacher, some houses are now being inspected by the army. They approached her brother’s house and asked for his family’s identity cards as well as the contract for his apartment. “He was lucky to be home at the time because if the army finds an empty apartment they smash it down without notice, which happened with his neighbour’s house,” she said.

Yet, while some criticise the military and their actions in Al-Arish, others see this as the right way to handle the current situation. A working father said that, when it comes to national security, the military and Egyptian general intelligence are the only ones who should determine what is to be done.

He said that the tunnels found in Rafah between Sinai and Gaza show that the army isn’t just performing carelessly. “They do know what they are doing,” he said.

“My work has been highly affected by the recent events as I’m losing a lot of money but I believe that what the military is doing is all in favour of the people of Sinai and to prevent the city from being separated from Egypt,” the father added.

Hundreds of stories can be told by the people of this small town as every day seems to bring them a new unpleasant adventure. People are actually eager to talk and share their experience, fear, and uncertainty with the outside world.

“Every day I feel like a disaster is about to happen and I only ask God to keep my parents and my children away from any harm, and I hope that I can get back to them safely,” the teacher said. “”Oh, Sinai, where are you headed to?”