Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery in USA

The Independent
Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalised Jewish cemetery
Campaign more than doubles its cash goal



Jon Sharman


Muslim groups have raised tens of thousands of dollars to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised amid a wave of anti-Semitic threats sweeping the US.

More than 100 headstones were toppled in the 123-year-old Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Missouri at the same time some 11 Jewish community centres received bomb threats across the US. All bomb threats were determined to be hoaxes.

Now campaigners organised by the Mpower Change and CelebrateMercy Muslim groups have pledged some $55,000 (£44,000) to repair the graveyard. Their target was just $20,000, and organisers Linda Sarsour and Tarek el-Messidi say the rest will go to repair other vandalised locations.

They wrote on their fundraising page: "While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina, an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community."

A regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said she reacted emotionally when she saw the damaged headstones in University City.

“To see their lives desecrated this way is horrific,” Karen Aroesty told the St Louis Post-Dispatch. She did not speculate about whether the damage was caused by a hate-fuelled attack, but she did have suspicions as to the motivations behind the destruction of the headstones.

The St Louis Rabbinical Association denounced the destruction as “horrifying and disgraceful acts of vandalism” in a statement released on Facebook. “Planning is underway for a community clean-up effort,” they said.

Donald Trump spoke against anti-Semitism on Tuesday.

“Anti-semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop”, he told MSNBC.

He added that anti-Semitism was “age-old, and there’s something going on that doesn’t fully allow it to heal. Sometimes it gets better and then it busts apart.

“But we want to have it get very much better, get unified and stay together," he said.



*Photo courtesy of USA Today

5 times in 20 months, Sisi meets reps from Zionist groups

Mada Masr
Sisi meets reps from US-based Zionist groups 5 times in 20 months

Sunday - February 19, 2017



President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with representatives from US-based pro-Israel organizations in Cairo on Sunday, for the fifth time in 20 months.

A delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which includes several groups supporting the Israeli military and self-professed Zionist organizations based in the United States, visited Cairo to discuss a number of issues with President Sisi, according to statements issued by the presidency that were published in Egyptian newspapers.

Sisi first met with a number of similar groups in Cairo in July 2015, followed by meetings in February and December 2016, and more meetings on the sidelines of the 71st United Nations General Assembly session in September 2016 in New York.

Sunday’s meeting included discussions on regional developments, including the situations in Libya and Syria, according to several Egyptian media outlets, as well as a review of counter-terrorism measures and efforts to prevent the funding of militant organizations in the region.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (AIPAC) includes the following groups: The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement (MERCAZ USA), Religious Zionists of America (RZA) and the American Friends of the Likud (AFLikud).

AIPAC describes itself as America’s bipartisan lobby to support Israel, while the FIDF advocates educational and training initiatives for Israeli military personnel, along with the provision of material assistance for Israel’s troops, support for Israeli widows and orphans and medical assistance for wounded members of the Israeli Defense Forces.

The ZOA describes itself as a group that promotes Jewish identity in Israel and other occupied Arab territories and helps prepare new generations of Israeli leaders.

ARZA works to provide material support to its partner organizations in Israel, along with promoting travel and tourism to the occupied territories, while MERCAZ USA promotes unity among Jews worldwide, with Jerusalem as the capital of the “homeland.”

In February 2016, AIPAC issued a statement after meeting with Sisi that said the two-hour meeting covered a wide range of domestic and international issues, including Egypt’s relations with the US and Israel, regional threats, especially those posed by terrorist organizations and their supporters, and Iran.

“The Jewish leaders said that they had an open and very productive discussion and that they were impressed by the President’s analysis on a wide variety of issues,” the statement added.

In December 2016, Egypt’s Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry joined Sisi in meeting the American Jewish Committee (AJC). 

According to a statement issued by the AJC, they “conferred with President Sisi and senior Egyptian officials on the importance of strengthening US-Egyptian ties and the mutual benefits of increasingly close strategic cooperation between Egypt and Israel.”

Gov't shuts down center for torture rehabilitation & treatment

New York Times
Widening Crackdown, Egypt Shutters Group That Treats Torture Victims



CAIRO — The Egyptian police on Thursday shut down the offices of an organization that treats victims of torture and violence in the latest escalation of a harsh government crackdown against human rights defenders and civil liberties groups.

The organization, Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, is one of several groups to have their offices closed, their assets frozen or travel bans imposed on their leaders in the past year. Prominent lawyers, journalists and others considered a threat to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have also been singled out.

In justifying the sweeping measures, Egyptian officials say they need to regulate Western-funded groups that threaten the stability of the Egyptian state and aid terrorism. Critics say Mr. Sisi is seeking to consolidate his control by silencing even the mildest sources of dissent.

Since coming to power in 2013, his government has locked up tens of thousands of opponents and effectively outlawed public protests. Now, many fear, President Trump’s support for Mr. Sisi could embolden the Egyptian leader to go further.

Mr. Trump has embraced Mr. Sisi as a “fantastic guy” and invited him to the White House. Mr. Sisi was notably silent about Mr. Trump’s recent ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Al Nadeem Center, which was founded in 1993, has been fighting for survival since last February, when the government first threatened to close it, citing vague health regulations. The center has provided therapy to about 1,000 victims of police abuse, its founders say, and cataloged instances of police torture, unlawful killings and illegal abductions.

Such abuses have a strong political resonance in Egypt. Public anger at widespread police misconduct was a leading cause of the January 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Early on Thursday, about 50 police officers turned up at the center’s offices and put wax seals on the doors, said Magda Adly, a founding member of Al Nadeem. “I don’t understand how a regime with an army and a police force can be scared of 20 activists,” she said in a phone interview.

Al Nadeem had challenged an order to close issued by an administrative court in Cairo last February. That case is still being heard, so it was not clear why the police decided to enforce the order on Thursday. In a statement, Amnesty International said the closing represented “yet another shocking attack on civil society” by Mr. Sisi’s government.

“The move exposes the chilling extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go to in their relentless and unprecedented persecution of human rights activists,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s deputy regional director, at the group’s regional office in Tunis.

Mr. Sisi has struggled to deal with a painful economic crisis in recent months. Yet he faces little opposition in the news media or in Parliament, which is filled with his supporters. In recent months lawmakers drafted a bill that would place further stringent restrictions on the operation of aid groups in Egypt and that has met with stiff criticism from Egypt’s Western allies.
Mr. Sisi has not indicated whether he intends to sign the bill into law.

Among the groups singled out by the government measures is Nazra for Feminist Studies, which campaigns for gender equality and helps victims of sexual violence. Along with its founder, Mozn Hassan, it received the 2016 Right Livelihood Award, known to some as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Since last year, Nazra’s bank accounts have been frozen, and Ms. Hassan has been prohibited from leaving Egypt. The group has laid off most of its 50 staff members and has been forced to leave its office. Ms. Hassan faces criminal charges that carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment if she is convicted.

“This is the harshest crackdown on the human rights movement in Egypt since the 1980s,” Ms. Hassan said. “It’s so clear from the presidential rhetoric that they do not want us to exist. They want to destroy us.”



Drop Charges; Change Laws that Restrict Right to Organize & Strike

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Drop Charges; Change Laws that Restrict Right to Organize, Strike


*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Partial strike in Egypt's largest textile mill - Mahalla's Misr Spinning & Weaving Co.

Mada Masr
Mahalla textile workers initiate partial strike, warn of comprehensive industrial action

Tuesday - February 7, 2017 


More than 2,000 workers at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the Nile Delta City of Mahalla initiated a partial strike on Tuesday, and warned of a comprehensive strike starting on Wednesday which could potentially involve all of the company’s factories and nearly 17,000 workers.

The strike has affected five factories within the state-owned company, accounting for approximately one fifth of its productive capacity. Workers at the company, which is Egypt’s largest textile mill, are demanding the payment of overdue bonuses and augmented food allowances in light of increasing inflation rates and the recent implementation of austerity measures.

They announced that they will launch a comprehensive strike across all of the company’s Mahalla factories within two days if their demands are not met.

One of the striking workers, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mada Masr that the strike began in a factory manufacturing bed sheets, which is primarily operated by female workers.

They said, “We are all demanding that our incomes be augmented in line with the constantly rising cost of living, and that our basic wages be increased so that we are able to cope with the new austerity policies.”

Despite being a state-owned company, Misr Spinning and Weaving Company workers are not granted the national monthly minimum wage of LE1,200 allocated to public sector employees.

On average, their total wages range between LE900 per month for recently employed workers, to approximately LE3,000 for the most senior manual workers.

“Even this monthly minimum wage is insufficient to provide for workers and their families these days. A minimum basic monthly wage of LE1,500, in addition to bonuses, would be a good starting point so that workers can make ends meet” the worker lamented.

The strikers are demanding the payment of an overdue 10 percent annual “social bonus,” authorized by the Finance Ministry in 2015, calculated based on a workers basic wage.

They are also lobbying for their daily food allowance to be increased from LE7 to LE10, and for monthly bonuses of LE220 to be included in basic wage calculations, rather than being issued separately as a bonus payment. The worker said that those on strike believe this is in keeping with rising prices, proposing a higher allowance of LE20.

Other demands raised include the re-operation of several stalled factories and production lines within the company, the reinstatement of punitively sacked workers and the recall of the local trade union committee.

The company’s employees have been attempting to recall the union committee and replace it with an independent union since December 2006.

According to the textile worker, “This union doesn’t represent us. It represents the company’s management. It always aligns itself with the management’s policies, and always follows the stances adopted by the Textile Holding Company.”

The Textile Holding Company is the state’s umbrella company, responsible for administering 32 affiliated textile companies nationwide.

The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services issued a statement on Tuesday calling on security forces not to take punitive actions against Mahalla’s textile workers for exercising their constitutional right to strike, stipulated in Constitutional Article 15. In recent months strikes at several other companies have been met with a security crackdown.

______________

Read also:

Mahalla textile workers temporarily call off strike, 5 strike leaders face disciplinary hearings


*Photo courtesy of Libcom.org

Police arrest 80+ football fans on anniversary of stadium riot

Associated Press
Dozens arrested on anniversary of deadly Egypt soccer riot

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Egyptian security forces arrested dozens in central Cairo on Wednesday, the anniversary of a soccer riot that killed over 70 fans in 2012.

Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told The Associated Press that over 80 people were taken into custody, with some arrests made near the club grounds belonging to the Al-Ahly team.

Most of the victims of the rioting five years ago were fans of Al-Ahly. The rioting was Egypt's worst soccer disaster to date and one of the world's deadliest.

The lawyer said the police likely made the arrests Wednesday on suspicion those detained had planned to stage a protest. Public gatherings without a permit are banned under Egypt's draconian anti-terrorism laws.

Mounir said the detainees were undergoing security checks and officials would determine whether to release them or press charges. In 2015, a court declared Al-Ahly's hardcore "Ultras Ahlawy" fan group a terrorist organization.

The arrests came as Egyptians gathered in cafes all over the country to watch the national team play Burkina Faso in the first semifinals match of the African championship in Gabon. At least a dozen police and security forces' vehicles as well as armed troops were stationed near the Al-Ahly club grounds in the evening Wednesday.

In 2015, an Egyptian criminal court in the Mediterranean city of Port Said sentenced 11 people to death over the riot. No officials or security personnel were among the convicted. A court is set to review the appeals of the convicted later this month.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IFFCO Oils Co. workers launch boycott of company products to protest sackings, arrests & police raids

Mada Masr
IFFCO workers launch boycott campaign to protest sackings, arrests and sit-in dispersal

January 31, 2017


Workers at the International Foodstuffs Co (IFFCO) in Suez have launched a campaign calling for a boycott of the company’s products after 27 workers were sacked, and a sit-in at the company was forcefully dispersed by police forces on January 2.

The campaign to boycott the company’s products, over 100 of which are produced in Egypt, was announced during a labor conference held at the office of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) on Friday. It is a response to the implementation of measures which violate workers’ rights by the local administration.


According to Ahmed Bakr, the secretary general of IFFCO’s local union committee, 27 workers have been barred from entering the company since police forcefully dispersed a sit-in in early January. Among those sacked are all nine members of the local union, including Bakr.

Workers launched the sit-in to demand the augmentation of their wages in line with increasing inflation rates, and the payment of overdue bonuses.

Bakr told Mada Masr that prosecutors referred criminal charges of instigating strike action to trial, “even though the right to strike is protected by law, and is safeguarded in the Egyptian Constitution.”

Twenty one of the 27 workers stood trial at the Suez Criminal Court for their involvement in the industrial action, and were acquitted on Sunday. They described the verdict, which has cleared them of any wrongdoing, as a victory which upholds their rights as workers.

The privately owned United Arab Emirates-based company, which produces oils, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, has 37 production plants worldwide. It is owned by the Allana family, listed among the top five wealthiest Indian families in the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2016.

Regarding the potential for the boycott to negatively affect wages of IFFCO workers, Bakr said that his fellow workers are overwhelmingly in favor of the campaign, until the rights of all employees and unionists are restored.

He told Mada Masr: “The company is implementing punitive measures against our coworkers, many of whom are afraid to speak up for their rights, especially since the administration sacked the entire union committee.”

According to Bakr, 200 striking workers, many of whom were briefly arrested during the sit-in dispersal, were prevented from entering company grounds until they signed an agreement with administrators pledging to refrain from pursuing industrial action again. “They were forced to sign these papers, and if they refused they were threatened with the loss of their jobs.”

Additionally, administrators at IFFCO’s branch in Suez claimed that the workers’ sit-in had cost the company LE4 million in losses, and accordingly deducted LE500 from each of its 600 workers for going on strike.

The workers have been demanding the reinstatement of the local union committee, and the 27 employees who are currently prevented from returning to their jobs at the company, he said.

The company’s administration could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the alleged infringements on labor and union rights, Mohamed Saeed, president of the local union committee, claimed that he was blindfolded, threatened and summoned for questioning by National Security Agency (NSA) officers in Suez regarding the strike.

He said that during the strike, he was “told to return to the company, to call off the strike, or return to the NSA to face subsequent measures against me.” Saeed added that his apartment was repeatedly raided by police forces.

The CTUWS’ legal consultant Rahma Refaat commented that “boycott campaigns in Egypt may be more symbolic and promotional, whereas they tend to be more successful abroad.”

She suggested that IFFCO’s workers “focus on a boycott centering on your most popular product. Fern Butter, for example.”


Bakr asserted that the boycott is not an open-ended action against the Allana family. “If our boycott does succeed in upholding workers’ rights at the company, then we will call it off.”

The union has requested international solidarity from labor unions and federations, and consumer rights groups. He argued that an effective boycott campaign in the UK or USA could have a great impact on IFFCO’s distribution centers there, saying Allana and IFFCO “would be afraid to lose customers and investments, or even afraid to have their name was tarnished.”

Recent years have seen a crackdown on industrial action in Egypt’s public and private sector, and the state has increasingly turned to the deployment of security forces to arrest workers and impose exceptional legal measures to punish those detained.