Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Protests mushroom nationwide

Protests mushroom countrywide
Tue, 30/03/2010

Scores of people demonstrating before Egypt's parliament building in downtown Cairo on Tuesday--for a host of different reasons--threatened to step up protests if their parliamentary representatives failed to address their demands. In recent days, the sidewalk opposite the parliament building has become the site of six independent demonstrations.

Employees of cabinet-affiliated information centers, whose sit-in has now entered its eighth day, complain that they have worked for nine years without receiving health insurance or financial incentives. They were also angered by the recent dismissal of a colleague from his job at the Daqahliya Information Center for taking part in the demonstration, and threatened to resign from the ruling National Democratic Party.

Only meters away, a group of physically-challenged people also maintained their days-long protest to demand jobs in accordance with the law, which stipulates that both public- and private-sector companies must allocate five percent of job vacancies to those with special needs. They also demanded residential units in public housing projects and permits to open small-size businesses.

Agriculture Ministry employees also continued their protest in demand of salary raises, while 300 workers of Al-Maasara Company for Manufacturing Telephone Equipment urged the government to take over ownership of the company from its foreign owner, who, they say, plans to liquidate the firm.

Meanwhile, 30 young subscribers to the Mubarak National Housing Program--launched as part of President Hosni Mubarak's electoral platform--also staged protests against the government's failure to provide them with housing units on schedule.

Employees of the public socialist prosecutor's office likewise maintained their protest against their planned transfer to jobs within the court system, for which they say they are overqualified. The public socialist prosecutor's office was established by the government in 1971 as an exceptional form of prosecution, especially in corruption-related cases. The office was abolished by parliament in 2008, with its authority being transfered to the attorney general.

Similar demonstrations were also reported in several areas outside Cairo.

In Tanta, some 1500 railway workers declared a strike after failing to receive promised bonuses, bringing trains in and around the city to a halt for more than two hours. Also in Tanta, roughly 400 nurses of the Tanta University Hospital continued protests for a third day to demand higher salaries.

In Daqahliya, meanwhile, about 200 nurses from a local hospital suspended their strike until 1 April. They demand that the hospital hire a security company to protect them from harassment after a nurse was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant inside the hospital.

In Alexandria, employees of Egyptian steel manufacturer Ezz Steel agreed to call off their strike after company officials promised to meet their longstanding demands for salary readjustments and bonuses.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

Brotherhood accuses Egyptian police of harassment

BBC News
Muslim Brotherhood accuses Egypt police of harassment
Monday, 29 March 2010

Egypt's biggest opposition group has accused the police of "terrorising" members' wives and daughters during raids on their homes.A statement from the group also accused the police of stealing belongings from the families.

The homes of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt, are regularly raided by the authorities.

Human rights groups have criticised the government's record.

In a statement posted on its English Language website the Muslim Brotherhood condemned the "arbitrary arrests of members", the "terrorising of women and children", the "assault of Muslim Brotherhood neighbours" and the "confiscation of personal belongings".

The group said the assaults against the families of members happened on 23 March in Gharbeya and Giza provinces, by people they called "well-known and identifiable officers".

"The Muslim Brotherhood strongly condemns these violations which are contrary to the Islamic legislation, constitution, law, traditions, values and behaviour of Egyptians," the statement said.

The group said the actions of a few police officers would be "like poisonous seeds which may trigger tension", according to the statement.

There has been no official response from the government to the Muslim Brotherhood's accusations.

In the past the Egyptian government has said any police officer found guilty of breaking the law during raids will be punished.

Six different protests converge on parliament

6 different protests converge on parliament
March 29, 2010

Hisham Omar Abdel Halim

Six independent demonstrations were staged opposite the parliament building in downtown Cairo on Sunday. Although of different vocations, demonstrators shared a common demand--that the government improve their living conditions. They called on President Hosni Mubarak to personally intervene to resolve their respective problems.

Employees of cabinet-affiliated information decision and support centers continued their sit-in for the seventh day in a row, with many donning masks bearing the slogan, "Nine years of injustice." They complain they have worked for the centers for nine years without receiving health insurance or financial incentives.

Only meters away, a group of physically-challenged people also maintained their days-long protest to demand jobs in accordance with the law, which stipulates that both public- and private-sector companies allocate five percent of job vacancies to those with special needs. They also demanded residential units in public housing projects.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Ministry employees staged demonstrations to demand permanent contracts and greater job security. They complain that they have worked for the ministry on a temporary basis for the last 15 years.

Employees of the office of the public socialist prosecutor likewise held demonstrations outside the parliament building to protest a recent decision to transfer them to work in Egypt's court system, a field in which they say they lack experience which puts them at risk of imprisonment. The public socialist prosecutor's office had been established by the government in 1971 as an exceptional form of prosecution, especially in corruption-related cases. The office was abolished by the parliament in 2008, and its authority was transfered to the attorney general.

Finally, Education Ministry employees also staged protests to demand bonuses corresponding to 50 percent of their basic salaries. Roughly 20 private-sector contractors similarly protested against the ministry for failing to pay them for completing construction projects for which they had been contracted by the ministry.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ahmonseto workers win; Disabled persons still demonstrating

Jobless workers from the Ahmonseto Textile Company called off their 21 day sleep-in protest outside the Shoura Council - on Sunday, March 21 - after winning a written agreement from the Labor Ministry which met their demands.

The workers demanded that the Labor Ministry liquidate the company and provide early-retirement packages, and that Bank Misr - which took possession of this company when its owner fled the country - compensate them.

Some 1,700 workers at this company - located in the Tenth of Ramadan Industrial City - suddenly found themselves jobless when owner Adel Agha fled the country (and a lengthy prison sentence) two years ago. Since that time 1,200 jobless workers have actively been demanding the liquidation of the company.

Another 500 workers, employed in a subsidiary company within Ahmonseto known as - the Economic Company for Industrial Development, had managed to run their production lines under a system of workers' self-management. These 500 workers self-managed three production lines for dyeing and embroidery.

They were able to operate these production lines because they were the least capital-intensive operations. They secured piecework orders from small-scale investors and exporters, but their demand was not reliable, and as a result production was not steady. Furthermore, the Bank and the utility companies expected these workers to pay Agha's outstanding debts and bills.

With the liquidation of Ahmonseto came the natural liquidation of its subsidiary, the Economic Company for Industrial Development. This brings a rare experiment in workers' self-management to an end.

Meanwhile over a dozen disabled persons and their family members have been sleeping outside Parliament for their 30th consecutive day (as of Monday, March 22.) On Sunday a police officer assaulted two of these disabled persons who crossed the street to shout their demands at parliamentarians.

In their wheelchairs and on crutches, these protesters chanted slogans against police brutality, and in demand of their rights. Their demands include the provision of housing units for the disabled, and kiosks or other employment opportunities.

Authorities, including the Governorate of Cairo and the Ministry of Social Solidarity, have called on these protesters to end their demo before engaging in agreements for assistance. From her wheelchair, "Om Noura" shouted: "why is the government disregarding these basic demands of ours?"

"The Ministry of Social Solidarity has offered us no solidarity whatsoever, and the spokesmen from the Cairo Governorate are full of hot air and empty promises, as for the Ministry of Health immediately behind us here, they offer us absolutely nothing - in fact they have even prevented us from using their restrooms. Meanwhile the Interior Ministry calls in its officers to assault us."

She added "we are only demanding our right to life, and our right to live in dignity so that we can provide for ourselves and for our children. Just one small housing unit for each disabled person and their family, a kiosk or a work opportunity? The laws stipulate that governmental institutions and companies are to employ a minimum of disabled persons amounting to 5% Is that too much to ask for?"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tetris Music on Casio VL-10 and Typewriter

Very impressive remix of the Tetris tune by The Thieving Beggars

International Women’s Day Observed Worldwide

International Women’s Day observed worldwide

Kathy Durkin
Published Mar 17, 2010

The centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day was commemorated throughout the world by marches, rallies and meetings. Though themes differed, the activities showed women expressing their rights, protesting injustices and demonstrating solidarity with their sisters in struggle.

Women’s voices could be heard from Uruguay to Haiti, from Bangladesh to the Philippines. Some of the highlights of the many global activities on IWD — March 8 — are summarized here.

Women of Haiti marched in Port-au-Prince with banners held high, asserting “Women will rebuild Haiti,” referring to the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, which took hundreds of thousands of lives and homes.

Many women’s organizations in Puerto Rico and Latin America dedicated their IWD programs to the women of Haiti, especially paying homage to women community leaders who had perished in the earthquake.

Activities in Europe varied, but the global economic crisis was not forgotten. In Athens, Greece, women protested against government austerity programs, which are affecting workers and retirees.

In Spain and Portugal women asserted demands for reproductive rights, similar to many protests in Latin America, to counter the stronghold of the Catholic Church on their governments’ policies.

In Istanbul, Turkey, women proudly marched. In Calcutta, India, women called for political rights and representation.

The women of Gaza marched with their children, showing their strength and determination in the face of Israeli aggression and occupation, one year after its horrific bombing campaign.

Their Palestinian sisters held a sit-in and rally in Beirut, Lebanon, demanding the release of their sisters who are tortured and imprisoned in Israeli jails. Their signs hailed struggling women everywhere.

To celebrate IWD, the National Garment Workers Federation sponsored a rally of women garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They demanded their right to a safe workplace. Women, who form 80 percent of the clothing factory workforce, face sexual abuse, long hours, low pay and unsafe working conditions.

A contingent of hearing- and speech-impaired women joined the IWD march in Kathmandu, Nepal. They carried signs calling for “equal rights and opportunities.”

Women workers in Seoul, South Korea, marched to protest the anti-worker policies of President Lee Myung-bak.

Philippine women marched throughout their country to protest growing poverty and political repression at the hands of the U.S.-backed government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Marchers called for justice for women victims of human rights violations. Many women demanded “Free the Morong 43.” These 43 health care workers, of which 26 are women, are being illegally imprisoned at Camp Capinpin, an army headquarters in Tanay, Rizal.

In Baguio City, demonstrators honored the heroic struggles of Indigenous and working women in Cordilleras, while in Calamba City, they marked women’s long struggle for equality and justice.

On IWD, the government of South Africa announced it was setting up more health care programs for women and children.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions celebrated the gains of women workers and called on unions to promote women’s role in collective bargaining and gender equality in the workplace.

In Latin America, the progressive governments of Bolivia and Venezuela have implemented pro-women policies. On IWD, the Bolivian government announced the creation of a commission to promote women’s equality.

Nilda Copa, the minister of justice, told of Bolivia’s new constitution which contains 34 articles promoting women’s rights, a codification of women’s equality and prohibition of all forms of discrimination.

More than 200,000 women from all over Venezuela marched together in Caracas to celebrate the gains in women’s equality that have been made through the Bolivarian Revolution. Women now lead four of the five branches of government, while social programs have been implemented to help poor women. A Bicentennial Women’s Front was launched on IWD to help build socialism there.

Socialist Cuba celebrated IWD’s centennial with national celebrations and tributes to Vilma Espin, founder of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), and revolutionary hero Celia Sanchez.

The Cubans’ celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the FMC began on IWD and will continue through August. This 4-million member organization has been the leading force in helping women gain political, social and economic equality.


See also:
International Women's Day (IWD) - Wikipedia

Egyptian Supreme Court Backs Women Judges

Egypt Supreme Court backs women judges
March 15, 2010

(AP) CAIRO — Egypt's Constitutional Court backed the right of women judges to sit on the bench in the state's administrative courts, despite opposition from conservatives, state media reported Monday.

The ruling follows a dispute within the State Council, the top administrative court, over whether women should be appointed.

The body's general assembly voted overwhelmingly against female judges, reigniting a debate within the country over women holding senior government posts, particularly in the judiciary.

Women's groups picketed the State Council following the decision.

The court's supervisory body, however, is headed by a moderate and overruled the assembly, saying women should be considered for the job. The prime minister then referred the standoff to the Constitutional Court.

The top court's ruling Sunday said all citizens are equal before the law, and backed the State Council's supervisory body's jurisdiction over the issue.

Nasser Amin, a legal expert, said however the ruling was not "decisive" and debates within the administrative courts could still continue along the conservative-liberal faultline.

"This is a conflict between liberals and conservatives within all instituations of the state," he said. "The Constitutional Court could have put an end to it by saying discriminating against women in public office is unconstitutional and must stop."

The president appointed the first female judge to the Constitutional Court in 2003 and four years later 31 other female judges were installed.

Despite seeing beginning of the women's emanicipation movement in the Middle East and being the birthplace of several historic activists for women's rights, Egypt has lagged behind other Arab countries like Tunisia in appointing women judges.

Workers Demos Outside Egyptian Parliament

Salemco workers settle, but Amonsito strikers remain on downtown sidewalk
Mon, 15/03/2010

Philip Rizk

On Sunday at 4 PM the Salemco workers took down their banners and rolled up their blankets. By 5 PM they had disappeared from the sidewalk on Qasr el-Ainy Street in downtown Cairo where they had been sleeping for ten consecutive days.

The sit-in came to an end after successful negotiations between the textile factory union leaders, factory owner Mohamed Abdel Halim, and Minister of Manpower and Migration Aisha Abdel Hady.

To end the strike, the Ministry of Manpower committed to paying six months basic salaries for 216 workers. Many more unregistered, newer hires are not among those to be reimbursed.

“If I had negotiated for unregistered day laborers, the owner would likely have fired them,” said Subhi Khattab, the head of the Salemco workers' union.

According to Khattab, this is this practice is typical with day laborers in Egypt. Firing of short-term employees leads to no repercussions for the factory owner.

Abdel Halim promised to pay the remainder of monthly salaries for the 216 workers by Tuesday 16 March.

In Sunday’s agreement, the factory owner also committed to addressing other issues, such as delayed social bonuses, by the second half of April.

Fathi Mohamed, one of the Salemco workers was enthusiastic. “This is the first time that the minister sat down personally with our union representatives,” he said. “She had to act under the pressure.”

However, some other strikers said they were still confused about why there was no concrete agreement between the union leaders and the government on the getting factory running again. For three years, Abdel Halim has shut down the factory for months at a time, in what the workers say is an effort to encourage them to leave.

Khaled el-Shishawy, union head of the Amonsito protesters, who have been sitting in alongside the Salemco workers to save their company from liquidation, looked with disapproval on the accord. Sheikh Khaled, as he is called by his compatriots, considered the government promises nothing but “anesthesia."

"They won nothing, our resolve is even stronger than it was before,” he said.

Surrounded by his fellow protestors el-Shishawy continued: “If we spend another two or three months here and they don’t give us any conclusive decisions, we still won’t leave.”

The Amonsito workers are still awaiting an evaluation from a committee that researched the viability of re-opening their factory.

In related developments, the Tanta Flax and Oils Company workers who concluded on 23 February their own sit-in at nearby location in downtown say they still have not been paid the agreed to compensation for the factory’s shutdown.

Hisham Okal, who was fired but remains active in the Tanta Flax workers union, said that workers are close to agreeing that they will return to protesting if the company owner and government do not fulfill agreements.

Today, around 500 workers demonstrated in front of the factory compound in Meit Hebeish, a village south of Tanta, calling for the factory's return to the public sector.

New Jimi Hendrix Album - Valleys of Neptune

Listen to Jimi:

Buy it if you like it; but in the meantime - stream the hell out of it! It's awesome.


The Ottawa Citizen
A Must-Hear For Hendrix Fans
March 13, 2010

Valleys of Neptune ****

Jimi Hendrix
(Experience Hendrix/Sony)

Any new Jimi Hendrix material is cause for celebration.

September will mark 40 years since he died, yet his family is still finding unreleased recordings from the legendary guitarist who had a wealth of material in the vaults when he died on Sept. 18, 1970.

Valleys of Neptune collects some of the final recordings by the original Jimi Hendrix Experience along with three tracks featuring Billy Cox on bass in place of Noel Redding. Most of the 12 songs were recorded in 1969 following the release of Electric Ladyland, but prior to the sessions that would produce the posthumous First Rays of the New Rising Sun.

The material finds Hendrix moving away from psychedelia into heavier blues and funk territory. Collectors will have many of the songs on Valleys in different versions on numerous collections that have been released over the years. A reworked Stone Free is here, along with a rehearsal of Fire, an eight-minute version of Red House and Mr. Bad Luck, the set's oldest song, which evolved into Look Over Yonder. Fans may also recognize Lullaby for the Summer, which eventually became Ezy Ryder.

Among the highlights of the unearthed material is a seven-and-a-half-minute studio version of the live staple Hear My Train a Comin', a fuzzed out take of Lover Man and an instrumental run-through of the Cream classic Sunshine of Your Love. Considering Hendrix recorded an entire new collection of tunes after these, you wonder if he was happy with these songs, which would be highlights for many other artists, but are merely good for him.

Valleys of Neptune is the first in a series of new releases from Experience Hendrix, which also put out deluxe reissues of the three original Hendrix albums (Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland) earlier this week. Hendrix newbies should start there before moving on to Valleys, which is essential listening for fans, but not the place to start.

Egypt: 14 NGOs back UN call to stop shooting migrants

14 Egyptian NGOs support UN call to stop shooting migrants at border

Omnia Al Desoukie
March 10, 2010

CAIRO: Fourteen Egyptian human rights groups expressed their support Tuesday to a statement issued by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights condemning the Egyptian security forces for killing up to 60 migrants on the Egyptian side of the borders with Israeli since mid 2007.

The 14 NGOs echoed the UN stance by calling on the Egyptian government to immediately stop the killing of illegal migrants on the border, to open a serious and independent investigation to determine the reasons for the high number of fatalities, and to prosecute those responsible for them.

“Since the Egyptian government agreed with Israel on tightening the security measures of securing the borders, most of the victims were sub-Saharan African migrants including a number of women and at least one child,” said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In her statement, issued on March 2, Pillay expressed her astonishment at the high number of fatalities.

“I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces… the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy. It is unlikely that so many killings would occur otherwise. Sixty killings can hardly be an accident.”

She urged the government to order an immediate halt of the use of “lethal force” against migrants, and to open an independent and credible investigation into the killings that have occurred in the past 30 months.

“There needs to be clarity about what has occurred, what policies have been applied to migrants trying to cross this border, and what specific orders have been given to security forces patrolling the area,” she explained.

In response, the Egyptian foreign ministry said Pillay’s statement “contains many errors and false allegations ... and lacks professionalism and impartiality.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said the infiltration attempts from Egypt amounted to “criminal acts ... and damage the sovereignty of the state.”

“You must bear in mind that this border is of a special military nature,” he said, adding that most of the incidents took place at night, complicating the work of Egypt’s border forces.

In a March 1 statement, the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for International Organizations had defended the Egyptian security forces.

In it, the government acknowledged that Egyptian security forces killed 56 immigrants in less than 18 months (from the beginning of 2008 until 1 June 2009) without providing any details on the circumstances of their deaths or if those responsible for their shooting where ever investigated.

“Fatalities did not exceed 2 percent in 2008 and 4 percent in 2009 of the total number of illegal crossers,” according to a statement issue by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The NGOs consider that with the government’s acknowledgement there should be an immediate investigation.

“Even if it’s a small percentage, by acknowledging these killings the government believes that they are doing something wrong,” said Soha Abdul Ati, deputy director of the Egyptian Initiatives for Personal Rights

According to Abdul Ati, there are certain guidelines for shooting a human being that are known and recognized by the world.

“[Not shooting] people who are unarmed is one of these guidelines,” she explained.

Among the recommendations that the Egyptian government pledged to implement during the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council on Feb. 19, 2010 — recommendation number 118 — was to “require that the police act with restraint when not directly threatened.”

“The government has committed itself to ensure the safety of the migrants; at least they should respect its obligations,” said Abdul Ati.

According to the NGO’s press release “at least one African migrant was killed since the endorsement of this recommendation, which brings the number of killings to at least 9 migrants since the beginning of 2010.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Graffiti & Street Art in Egypt

A cry on the walls

Jano Charbel / Special to Daily News Egypt
First Published: March 3, 2010

In contemporary Egypt, graffiti — an ancient art form involving the inscription of lettering and/or images through the etching, marking, or painting of surfaces — and street art typically take the form of hastily prepared messages of a commercial, electoral, religious or personal nature.

Elaborate street art and large murals are far less common.

Graffiti has existed as a popular art form for millennia, evidenced on the tombs and temples of Ancient Egypt. In fact, graffiti far precedes Ancient Egypt, dating back to the cavemen — approximately 30,000 BC.

In modern day Egypt, the most prevalent forms of graffiti are hand-painted, spray-painted, or stenciled onto innumerable walls across the country, including commercial advertisements for plumbers, marriage registrars, driving instructors, private tutors, and slogans in support of football teams.

Religious graffiti is also common, including depictions of pilgrimages to Mecca — with a drawing of the Kaaba, along with an airplane or ship. While the two words Uzkor Allah (mention God) are graffitied on countless walls and surfaces across the country. Personal graffiti is universal — including the painting of signatures, stylized name “tags,” amorous messages (i.e. an arrow-pierced heart between two inscribed names) along with sexually oriented graffiti written or scratched onto bathroom walls, often accompanied with telephone numbers.

In the law books of virtually every state, graffiti is closely associated with vandalism of public and/or private property. In Egypt, such acts are punishable by law according to the provisions of the criminal code.

Two graffiti artists from the opposition grouping known as the April 6 Youth, Ahmad Maher and Amr Ali, were arrested for spray painting political slogans on Feb. 17. Maher said he and Ali were spray painting — in Giza, Dokki, Agouza and Imbaba — for two nights prior to their arrest.

“We managed to paint tens of slogans onto walls in these neighborhoods and drive off. But late on Tuesday night (Feb. 16) a microbus began trailing us.”

Maher was forced to stop at a police checkpoint in the neighborhood of Zamalek.

“Policemen in civilian clothes jumped out of the microbus brandishing their pistols, and turned us over to the officers at the checkpoint,” Maher said. Maher's car, laptop, camera, along with the two youths' cell phones and spray cans were all confiscated. He added; “the prosecutors will return the car, but they said they will hold on to all our other belongings — for ongoing investigations.”

Pending further investigations and legal action, the North Giza Prosecutor ordered the release of the two activists on February 18 on a bail of LE 200 each.

“I agree that graffiti may be perceived as vandalism,” Maher argued, “However, our aim is not vandalism, but rather the posting of messages on the streets in order to raise political awareness amongst the Egyptian people. We want to express our opinions openly where everybody can see them. We're simply calling for democratic change, and supporting (former IAEA chief) Mohamed ElBaradei as a candidate for such change.”

“Graffiti can be found just about everywhere — in the form of spray painted advertisements,” he continued, “While the authorities may object to such graffiti, what they will never tolerate is graffiti with a message of opposition. All our graffiti has been painted over since our arrest.”

On the other hand, a growing number of graffiti/street artists in Cairo and Alexandria are attempting to prove through inventive visuals how street art is not vandalism. Youth from these two cities meet in Alexandria for their periodic outdoor artwork sessions.

During one of their sessions, on Dec. 25, they encountered resistance and reprimand from the police. Cairene Street Artist, Mohamed Gaber, said that a police colonel stopped them while they were painting.

Gaber was painting a clenched fist gripping a roll-brush with the Arabic stylized inscription “Be pro art.”

“The officer told us, ‘You need permits from the Ministry of Culture so that you can display these works in galleries.’” Gaber explained that “this is street art for public display,” to which the officer responded, “Finish this one and leave, or else you'll come with us where you can spend the night in our company.”

The artist added “while the officer was unconvinced, he was fairly patient and tolerant with us.”

Gaber, along with other Cairenes, has been working with a small group named Alex Street Art which organizes graffiti workshops, and takes to the streets engaging in their collective art work. Based in Alexandria, the group, a brainchild of fine arts student Aya Tarek, started off in 2008 as a graffiti-art collective known as Foq wa Taht (Above and Below) before it was remodeled and renamed as Alex Street Art last year.

“We prefer to use the term street art rather than graffiti,” Tarek said, “This is because we use a variety of art styles on the streets, including paint brushes, spray paints, stencils, stickers, posters, freehand sketches, and mixed media.” She added that Alex Street Art is “developing Arabic stylographies which are unique, and quite different from the hip-hop styles of graffiti prevalent in the West.

“Several years ago I began painting and submitting my works in art galleries, for display and for sale. However, I realized that I wasn't making any real money, and that my works were being seen by only a few people who visit these galleries.”

To increase the exposure for her paintings, Tarek decided to openly display her artistic talents on the streets of Alexandria.

“Graffiti and street art are not very popular here for a number of reasons. First of all, the materials are quite expensive. Second of all, there's only a small variety of colors, paints and spray cans to choose from,” she said.

Tarek explained that the aerosol cans available are for spray-painting cars and refrigerators, not for the artistic spray-painting of walls. “Abroad, you can find specialized graffiti art stores which sell a wide array of colors, spray cans, nozzles, stencils and brushes. This culture is generally lacking in Egypt.”

On Dec. 16, another graffiti workshop was organized by the Darb 1718 Contemporary Art and Culture Center hosting prominent French DJ/Graffiti Artist Missill. Located in the Cairo district of Fustat Al Gadida, Darb 1718 made use of this workshop to beautify their environs. In the adjacent neighborhood of Kom Ghorab, an area which has been turned into a garbage dump, trash was cleared out, and gray lifeless walls were decorated with colorful murals.

The Center's Director, Moataz Nasr, said “this is the first graffiti art workshop that we have organized here, and it will not be our last. We plan on organizing similar graffiti workshops in the future.”

He added, “the local residents of Kom Ghorab have welcomed this clean-up and beautification project. They are quite pleased with the new artsy look, as are we.”

A Cairene graffiti artist participating in this project referring to himself by the initials AB said, “My main problem is that I can't find the right sprays and colors to work with.” AB said he has not encountered any difficulties with police as of yet.

Squatting next to him, another artist, AS, said “personally, I've encountered problems with the police. Once they stopped me and four friends while we were working on a wall. They arrested us for a couple hours. The police officer took down our personal ID numbers and promised to lock us up if he saw us working on graffiti again.”

A few feet down the wall, Alexandrian artist, Winch, said, “I love this form of art because it involves interaction with the street, and with people on the street. For example, there is one street corner where a lot of youth do drugs. So we painted a portrait of (Egyptian Movie Star) Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, from the (drug-themed) movie ‘Al-Keif’ extending his arm out with a piece of hashish in his hand.”

Fellow Alexandrian artist Amr said, “We use these themes frequently. If there is a wall on which people usually urinate, we'll paint a urinal, or somebody taking a pee. Some people, especially the police, may consider this vandalism, but we're only making art. This art beautifies dull walls and empty spaces.”

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jethro Tull - Bourrée

Ultra-groovy rendition of JS Bach's Bourrée in E minor

Egyptian Workers Protest Against Privatization

Egyptian workers protest privatization
Wed, 03/03/2010

Ekram Ibrahim

Protesting workers from the Tanta Flax and Oils Company ended a 15-day sit-in this week after reaching a compromise with Manpower Ministry representative Wael Allam. They were offered a sum equivalent to two months’ salary and an early retirement package of LE40,000, which they accepted.

This strike is the latest in a series of workers’ actions seen since mid-2004. The current wave of protests emanates from the largest social movement Egypt has witnessed in more than half a century. Over 1.7 million workers engaged in more than 1,900 strikes and other forms of protest from 2004 to 2008.

On 8 February, approximately 400 workers began a sit-in in front of the Egyptian cabinet to protest the government, which they say is ignoring their demands for their fundamental rights as workers.

The strikers requested the reinstatement of several workers that were fired; an increase in their meal allowances in line with those received by workers in public-sector textile factories; and payment of back wages and bonuses.

Company employees had two options: either they could accept things that would enable them to resume their work-- such as increased meal allowances, reinstatement of fired workers and bonuses--or they could accept early retirement packages. "This way, the government has chosen the getaway option by giving them the early retirement package," said Mostafa Bassiouni, one of the foremost experts on the contemporary Egyptian labor movement.

The Tanta Flax and Oil Company is one of the largest Egyptian companies to have been privatized. According to Bassiouni, the company conveys the “worst” picture of privatization. The government sold it to a Saudi businessman for LE83 million, even though its original value was over LE3 billion, says Bassiouni

This raises serious questions about the process by which the company was sold off and whether its value was even evaluated before the sale.

According to a recent report by the Solidarity Center, a non-profit US-based organization that assists workers around the world who are struggling to build democratic and independent trade unions, workers have been actively striking against rising prices; inadequate wages; delays in payment of bonuses, profit shares and other wage supplements; and the negative results of privatization of public-sector firms.

The report, entitled “Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt,” found that fears of job loss and an unwillingness on the part of private investors to pay fringe benefits--such as share dividends and retirement funds--motivated a wave of labor actions that began in the early 2000 and accelerated after pro-business Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was appointed in July 2004. The labor unrest continues today.

Two strikes in particular have stood out as the largest and most politically important since these labor actions began. In December 2006, workers in the Nile Delta town of Mahalla conducted a three-day strike involving more than 20,000 workers, inspiring a series of copycat strikes after their demands for unpaid bonuses--promised by Nazif to public sector workers--were eventually met.

In a book coauthored by Bassiouni and labor writer Omar Said, argue that the Mahalla strike is a watershed in the modern Egyptian labor movement. This was not due to the size of the strike, its impact on the media, or even the fact that it triggered the biggest wave of strikes since the 1940s. Rather, it lies in the fact that the workers’ movement after December 2006 bore the imprint of the Mahalla strike in several key ways. The September 2007 strike was marked by its high level of organization and low level of spontaneity, which had been largely absent in workers' organizations.

The Mahalla workers won substantial economic gains, but, as of April 2008, their negotiated gains had not yet been fully realized, according to the Solidarity Center report.

On the other side, Kamal Abbass, director of the Center for Workers and Trade Union Services (CTUWS), thinks the core of the problem can be attributed to the absence of bona fide trade union organization in Egypt.

The need for an Egyptian union is what the Mahalla workers have been trying to establish since January 2007, without much success--but they managed to inspire other blue- and white-collar workers in different sectors to launch similar actions. Only employees of the Real Estate Tax Authority have been successful so far in founding Egypt's only independent union in December 2008.

But in Mahalla, the local trade union committee remains pro-government, representing the government’s interests and not those of the workers, Bassiouni told Al-Masry Al-Youm. The fact that Hussien Megawer is the head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and negotiates with striking workers in the name of the government proves how the union is not a real trade union committee devoted to safeguarding workers’ rights. Moreover, Bassiouni points out that Megawer is a member of the board of Torah Cement Company. So how can the employer represent the employees?

This is considered a violation of Egyptian law No. 35 of 1976. Yet labor activists are working hard to change this legislation, which they consider an impediment to organizing “true” trade unions.

Khaled Ali, head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, sees this law imposing a single, institutionalized trade union system, while the workers lack the right to establish or join organizations outside the "official" trade union structure. Forming more than one trade union for each industry or groups of similar or related industries, meanwhile, is prohibited. The union organization takes a pyramid form, whereby power is concentrated at the top while workers at the base of the pyramid are stripped of any authority.

The report sees these recent workers’ actions as the most powerful movement for democracy in Egypt in more than half a century--a movement that deserves far more support and recognition from the international community than it has garnered so far. Such support and recognition would demonstrate a commitment to the democratic transformation of Egypt by its own people, and significantly contribute to this process of transformation.

The dilemma largely stems from the new shape of the labor market in Egypt. The neoliberal era--and how the government and the ETUF respond to it--will represent a major factor in determining the future of workers' rights in Egypt.

The solidarity report sees the record so far as not very encouraging. Egypt’s privatization program and other neoliberal measures have won accolades from international financial institutions. The IMF, World Bank, and World Economic Forum all rank Egypt high among the “global economic reformers”--i.e., countries that make it easy for private-sector enterprises to do business in them.

According to statistics provided by the Solidarity Center report, the Nazif government’s economic policies resulted in high levels of economic growth--about 7 percent a year from 2005 to 2008--but workers have paid a high price for the achievement.

The neoliberal project is creating a new Egypt, which many believe is benefiting only the top 10 percent or so of the population. It leaves behind most industrial workers, clerical employees and virtually all workers within the informal economy.

The series of recent strikes have been prompted by more than just demands for wage rises, in an economy where it is not unusual for even professionals to hold two jobs in order to feed their families.

But some strikes have taken on a political edge, as workers protest privatization under President Hosni Mubarak's sweeping economic reform program.

تعليق اعتصامين

Two out of the four demos staged outside the houses of parliament were called off today (Wed. March 3.) Workers from El Nil Printing Company, and workers from the Nubaria Agricultural and Engineering Company, called off their demonstrations after having received pledges of monetary assistance, and re/employment from their respective authorities.

Whether these pledges are fulfilled or not will be evidenced by further demos, or a lack thereof.

Over 200 jobless textile workers from the Ahmonseto Company are still demonstrating and sleeping-in outside the Shoura Council - for their third consecutive night. Meanwhile dozens of disabled persons and their family members continue to sleep-in outside Parliament for their eleventh consecutive day.

دار الخدمات النقابية والعمالية
تعليق اعتصام عمال النوبارية

مارس 3 ,2010 – الساعة الثالثة عصرا

بعد تدخل العديد من أعضاء لجنة القوى العاملة بمجلس الشعب والتأكيد لعمال النوبارية المعتصمون أمام مجلس الشعب منذ يوم الاثنين الماضى أن اللجنة ستصدر قراراها يوم الاثنين المقبل، بتعيين مفوض عام للشركة وإعادة تشغيلها.. وافق العمال على تعليق اعتصامهم حتى يوم الاثنين المقبل، مع حضور ثمانية من العمال لمقابلة حسين مجاور رئيس اللجنة ورئيس إتحاد العمال يوم الاثنين المقبل عقب انتهاء اجتماع لجنة القوى العاملة، وذلك لتسلم القرار المزمع إصداره.. حيث توجه العاملون الآن إلى مقر النقابة العامة لصرف مرتب شهر كإعانة على شامل المرتب ثم العودة إلى الإسكندرية ..

دار الخدمات النقابية والعمالية

Read also:

مصر تتنفس مظاهرات

اليوم السابع: بالصور.. 4 اعتصامات أمام البرلمان والشورى
عمال مصر ينتفضون لرد مستحقاتهم

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Four Demos Outside Egyptian Parliament

There are (as of Tuesday night - March 2) four ongoing demonstrations and sleep-in protests outside Parliament and the Shoura Council.

1) Dozens of disabled persons and their families have been sleeping-in outside Parliament for their fourth night. At least three are now on hunger strike. These protesters, on their crutches and in their wheelchairs, are demanding governmental housing units, employment opportunities or the provision of kiosks, and medical assistance.

2) Immediately next to them, on the same sidewalk, around 100 workers from the Nubariya Company for Agricultural and Engineering Services are in their second day of protest. They are demanding the re-operation of their privatized company - from which they have been locked for the past two years.

The Ministry of Manpower and the General Union for Agricultural Workers has provided the company's 230 workers with emergency funds (amounting to the workers' basic salaries) for nine months out of the past 24 months.

3) Over 200 worker from Ahmonseto Textile Company have been sleeping-in outside the Shoura Council for the second consecutive day. Around 1,200 workers at this company have been unemployed and with no source of income (save the occasional, and meager, monetary assistance from the Ministry of Manpower) since the company's owner Adel Agha fled the country (and a lengthy prison sentence) around two years ago.

4) Around 20 protesting workers from El Nil Company for Printing and Binding arrived in Cairo today from the Tenth of Ramadan Industrial City where they protested outside a bank (Al-Masraf Al-Mutahhid) which now controls much of their company's assets. The company's original owner went bankrupt nearly one year ago.

Having failed to secure any concessions from the bank, these workers are now sleeping-in for their first night on the sidewalk across the Shoura Council.

Around 145 workers managed to continue production at this company through a system of self-management for a duration of four months. However, they have not been able to sustain their piecework for the past four months.

Read also:
Protesters sleep on sidewalk in front of parliament
إصابة عامل من عمال النوبارية المعتصمين ونقله إلى المستشفى

HRW strongly criticizes Egypt for blogger's military trial

BBC News
Egypt blogger military trial criticised
Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Egypt has been strongly criticised by Human Rights Watch for trying a blogger, Ahmed Mustafa, before a military court.

The 20-year-old is accused of publishing false information in a blog a year ago, alleging a case of nepotism at Egypt's premier military academy.

Egypt's emergency law, in place since 1981, allows indefinite detention and trials of civilians in military courts.

Egyptian officials have denied that the power is much used.

The only evidence presented at his trial this week is the post on his blog.

The trial has been adjourned to 7 March to give defence lawyers more time to review the evidence.


There has been no investigation into Mr Mustafa's allegation of corruption, namely his claim that a teacher's son was pushed out of the academy, to make way for the son of a more influential individual who could make financial contributions, Christian Fraser, the BBC correspondent in Cairo says.

Under two international human rights accords, both ratified by Egypt, the government is required to protect freedom of expression.

Yet Human Rights Watch draws attention to a growing list of bloggers who remain in detention.

Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2006, for writing about sectarian tensions in Alexandria and criticising President Mubarak.

Another blogger, Hany Nazeer, was detained in October 2008 under the country's emergency law that was designed to fight terrorism for expressing forthright views on Christianity and Islam.

Last year after a visit to Egypt, the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on human rights reiterated that the trial of civilian suspects in military courts raised concerns about the independent administration of justice.

"The Egyptian government says one thing in Geneva and then immediately makes a mockery of the Human Rights Council's review process," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"No civilian should be tried before a military court, and no government that claims to respect human rights should be prosecuting someone solely for writing about corruption," he added

UN urges Egypt to stop shooting at migrants

Agence France Presse
UN urges Egypt to stop shooting at migrants
March 2, 2010

(AFP) GENEVA — The UN human rights chief on Tuesday urged Egyptian forces to stop shooting at African migrants trying to enter Israel illegally through Egypt, after 60 were killed in the past two and a half years.

"While migrants often lose their lives accidentally when travelling in over-crowded boats, or trying to cross remote land borders, I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces," Navi Pillay said.

"It is a deplorable state of affairs, and the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy... Sixty killings can hardly be an accident."

Most of the migrants hail from sub-Saharan Africa's Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, and have been heading for Israel.

The latest victim was killed at the weekend, bringing the number of fatal shootings to nine in the first two months of 2010 alone.

"The Egyptian government should issue an immediate order to its security forces to ensure that firearms are used in strict compliance with international standards," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement.

She also urged an "independent and credible inquiry into the killings."

"There needs to be clarity about what has occurred, what policies have been applied to migrants trying to cross this border, and what specific orders have been given to security forces patrolling the area."

The Sinai desert border between Egypt and Israel has become a major trafficking route for migrants from Africa and east European women headed to work voluntarily or involuntarily in the sex trade.

Egypt has stepped up border controls in recent years but has drawn criticism from human rights watchdogs for its readiness to use force to prevent illegal crossings.