Sunday, July 31, 2011

Egyptian Islamists seen having limited strength

Agence France-Presse
Egyptian Islamists seen having limited strength

July 30, 2011

A massive show of force by Islamist groups at a rally in the Egyptian capital on Friday may have showcased their organisational skills, but their actual political clout remains limited, analysts say.

Hundreds of thousands of Islamists from across the country packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square to defend what they called “Egypt’s Islamic identity” in the country’s largest protest since a revolt ousted president Hosni Mubarak in February.

But while the protest may have been visually dramatic, divisions within the Islamist groups and their lack of nationwide support are bound to restrain their strength, analysts said.

Chants calling for Egypt to “implement the law of God” rang across Tahrir in an impressive display of religious banners and slogans, dotted with Saudi flags.

The sheer size of the protest appeared to have angered, and in some cases intimidated, secular activists.

But analysts say that while Friday’s rally showcased the Islamist groups’ organisational skills and their ability to mobilise members efficiently, its political impact remains limited.
“Friday’s demonstration represents the full capacity of the Islamist forces, there are no more of them,” said Emad Gad, a political analyst with the Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Studies.

The Islamists who thronged the square “came from all over Egypt. The turnout was a reflection of their full political power,” said Rabab al-Mahdi, a professor of political science at the American University in Cairo.

Egypt has more than 40mn eligible voters, so the hundreds of thousands in Tahrir demanding an Islamist state, while significant, are not representative of the overall population, Mahdi said.
Divisions among the groups also need to be considered, she said.

“Dealing with the Islamists as one homogenous group is wrong,” said Mahdi.

“There are different trends, the Salafis, former militant groups like the Gamaa Islamiya, the Muslim Brotherhood and they all have different ideas on how to conduct politics and what they mean by an Islamic state,” she said.

The rally “will have a negative impact (for Islamists) because it showed that they are not able to co-operate with other groups,” said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, a professor of political science at Cairo University.

“They are powerful and organised, but they represent a... minority of the public opinion,” he said.

International union federations vie for Egypt’s workers

Al-Masry Al-Youm
International union federations vie for Egypt’s workers

July 27, 2011

Maggie Hyde

The recently liberated Egyptian labor movement is being courted by international union federations looking for inroads into one of the world’s largest worker populations.

The federations see the country as fertile ground to spread the message of worker’s rights. Labor activists estimate that over 150 independent unions have been established in recent months.

In interviews with Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition, representatives from the world’s two largest federations expressed their desire to bring Egypt’s unions on board.

“Right now, we are expressing our support and solidarity with Egyptian workers,” said Alexandra Liberi, a representative from the Athens-based World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), on a recent trip to Cairo.

She said the group was in dialogue with both the newly formed unions that are cropping up, as well as the state-sanctioned Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which has long been controlled by members of former President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party.

“We’re talking with all forces, all sides,” she said. “We need to have a clear picture of the situation.”

Under Mubarak, workers were only allowed to organize through the ETUF, a non-democratic body that was largely seen as a trapping to maintain appearances with the West. It was illegal for workers to associate in any other way. Despite its being largely viewed among labor activists as being too tainted by its previous policies to continue after Mubarak’s fall, the union has yet to be fully dissolved.

Liberi’s federation had a relationship with ETUF, but she said the group has also cultivated ties among the emerging independent unions, which she also consulted during her visit.

In May, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), based in Belgium, opened an office in Cairo, ending the organization’s years-long boycott of the country because of the government’s attempt to control union activity. The ITUC had repeatedly turned down the ETUF’s application to join the confederation, and repeatedly asked the government to give workers the right of association.

When Mubarak fell, the ITUC decided to establish a permanent presence here. They immediately began talks with the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, an NGO that advocates for workers rights, and four independent unions.

“We are keen to have an affiliate in Egypt,” said Mustapha Saeed, representative for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), sitting in the confederation’s new office on Qasr al-Aini Street.

To join the confederation, a union must fit the criteria of being independent and democratic. Admitting the ETUF, said Saeed, which was an arm of the Egyptian government, was out of the question.

International union federations, the two largest being the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), are international bodies that hold congresses to unite worker’s movements and unions around the world.

Both groups say that their foremost goal is to provide “solidarity and support” for workers across the globe. Both function like unions on an international scale, with groups petitioning for membership and paying dues.

Though they have similar missions, the two groups are ideologically divided.

The WFTU is largely associated with the former Eastern Bloc countries and its alliances with communist governments; the ITUC has the reputation of working with capitalist systems in Western countries. Today, the WFTU has members in Sudan, Iran and North Korea, while the ITUC’s members are in freer, Western societies.

The two parties have an ideological split dating back before the Cold War, when many of the Western members left the Federation over a disagreement about the group’s support for US funding and economic interference to Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. The WFTU emerged, composed of mostly communist states, and the ITUC became the confederation for the European and American unions.

Since then, the WFTU has taken a strong stance against capitalism while the ITUC has a less stringent position, cultivating a relationship with the World Bank and the IMF.

There remains some bad blood. Liberi accused the ITUC of being a pawn of Western governments, and of paying money to unions to convince them to join.

“We do not use money to buy out trade unions,” she said.

Saeed said the accusation was completely unfounded, and that there were no real ill feelings, just some differences in philosophy. The ITUC, he said, is funded by dues from all its members, which are then redistributed according to activities and need.

“We are not competing,” said Saeed. “I have nothing against them.”

In Egypt, both representatives said their primary aim was to help Egyptian workers secure the right to organize, then to advise them on how to coordinate.

According to Saeed, there is a lot of work to be done, including providing stable, decent jobs with health insurance and pensions and a fair wage to Egypt’s workers.

“All of these problems can be solved by a strong union,” he said. “But we do not even have a class consciousness of workers yet. “

Neither could predict what an established, formal, and independent Egypt labor movement will look like, but both representatives said they were optimistic that Egypt’s labor movement, once organized, could wield great political and economic influence.

“When a working class realizes its power, it will be unstoppable,” said Liberi. “That’s why we will strengthen the labor movement.”

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Peaceful protest march ambushed; 200+ injured

Thousands of protesters marched peacefully from Tahrir Square, on their way to the military junta's HQs in eastern Cairo, on the evening of July 23. However, an army roadblock - set up hours earlier, on Ramses St. - in the neighborhood of Abbassiya prevented the protest march from advancing.

Angry local residents emerged from the side-streets of the neighborhood (along with hired thugs, and plain-clothed police) and quickly moved to hurl rocks at the peaceful protesters; knives and swords were brandished, while glass-bottles, Molotovs and bricks came raining-down from balconies.

In self-defense, hundreds of protesters fought back with rocks. A cordon of riot police was immediately deployed in the rear. Abbassiya residents, (along with thugs from other neighborhoods) positioned themselves behind the police and began hurling rocks, bottles, and petrol bombs over the cordon, at the protesters. The riot police then fired several teargas canisters at the protesters.

Some 200 activists, and dozens of local residents/thugs, were injured in these clashes. Several protesters were reported to be arrested; along with the abduction and disappearance of Activist/Blogger Amr Gharbeia.

The ruling military junta, along with the Ministry of Interior (and their hired thugs,) ambushed this otherwise peaceful protest march. The security forces chose to block traffic in central Cairo for hours, to instigate attacks upon the protesters, to pose as peace-keepers, and then to blame the violence upon the protesters.

Thousands of protesters marched back to Tahrir Square - to continue with the July8 sit-in, and to plan for the upcoming struggles; to defend the January 25 Revolution, and its democratic demands.

March against Egypt's military junta, attacked

New York Times
March Against Egypt’s Military Collapses Into Violence

July 23, 2011

David D. Kirkpatrick

CAIRO — The first major protest aimed squarely at Egypt’s transitional military rulers ended Saturday night in violent clashes with neighborhood youths, who are opposed to the continued demonstrations that threaten stability.

Egyptian Health Department officials said at least 25 people were hospitalized and 120 others were treated on the scene.

The demonstration, on the day Egyptians celebrate the 1952 military coup against the British-backed monarchy, underscored how liberal elements of the protest movement have increasingly turned on the army after the heady days of the demonstrations that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power.

But it also showcased both the mounting hostility toward the Tahrir Square activists in some precincts more worried about stability and economic growth than swift political change. And, following several other recent bursts of nocturnal street violence, it was the latest reminder that the potential for chaos is still present in this hot, overcrowded city where the still-despised police force has yet to reconstitute and reassert itself.

Late Saturday afternoon, thousands of demonstrators began marching from the two-week-old sit-in in Tahrir Square toward military headquarters to show their impatience with the pace of change, especially in the reorganization of the police and the prosecution of former officials.

A half-dozen army tanks and hundreds of soldiers behind a barrier of barbed wire blocked the final stretch of the road, and when the march reached the barricade around 7 p.m., young counter-protesters, including some armed with knives and machetes, started fistfights and threw rocks and, ultimately, Molotov cocktails.

Organizers pleaded with the demonstrators to hold back or retreat to Tahrir Square. In contrast to the discipline that prevailed before the revolution, these demonstrators quickly retaliated. About a half-dozen cars were set ablaze during a chaotic two-hour street fight as the military watched from behind its barrier without interfering.

The fight died down after hundreds of riot policemen arrived and showered the streets with tear gas. The protesters quickly departed before they came under direct attack. And within another hour, the demonstrators paraded out again, chanting, “We are going to the square.”

*Heba Afify contributed reporting.

Egypt: Police disperse Alexandrian protesters

Egypt police disperse Alexandria protesters: witness

July 23, 2011

Abdel Rahman Youssef

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian military police fired shots in the air and beat demonstrators blocking a main road in Alexandria on Friday, witnesses said, a move which could further sour relations between the army and civilians.

It was a rare incidence of violence in two weeks of largely peaceful protests in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez Canal city of Suez following a court's decision to free on bail 10 policemen accused of killing protesters during the uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence in Alexandria and an incident in Suez angered hundreds of protesters camping in Cairo's Tahrir Square, witnesses said.

They said a crowd of more than 1,000 began marching towards the headquarters of the ruling military council, chanting: "Down with the Field Marshal" -- a reference to the council head, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. Witnesses said military police fired in the air to stop them approaching the building.

The ruling military council, in a statement on its Facebook page, denied the authorities used force against demonstrators anywhere in Egypt and accused the April 6 Movement, one of the groups behind the uprising, of trying to drive a wedge between the armed forces and the people.

Egypt's interim rulers have reshuffled Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet and promised to speed up trials and political reforms, but thousands kept up protests across Egypt on Friday to back demands for the policemen's trials to be held soon.

Hassan al-Ruwaini, a member of the ruling military council, told state television the council was trying to meet protesters' demands, but it was up to the courts to free or convict suspects on trial.

Witnesses said the clash in Alexandria erupted after hundreds of protesters blocking the coastal road near the army's northern command headquarters refused to leave the area. Police fired shots in the air and charged demonstrators who responded by hurling stones at them.

"The military police are firing in the air. They are also beating protesters with batons and kicking them hard," a witness told Reuters.

Witnesses said up to 10 people were believed to have been hurt in the clashes. Many demonstrators fled but a group of men seized a police truck and set it on fire, witnesses said.

In Suez, the state MENA news agency said military police "foiled" an attack on the local security headquarters and detained four people after a crowd attacked the building with a firebomb and stones.


Sharaf, in a speech after his new cabinet was sworn in on Thursday, promised to set up an anti-corruption body and work to scrap a 30-year-old emergency law. He also said the interior minister would appoint a human rights adviser, and human rights and civil society groups would have access to prisons.

But activists said this was not enough.

"We are continuing the sit-in because the families of the martyrs have demands that have not been met yet," said Shadi Ghazali Harb from the Youth Coalition in Cairo.

Their demands include putting officers charged with shooting demonstrators into "protective custody so they would not intimidate the families of martyrs" and appointing a new prosecution team to look into outstanding cases of killings of protesters.

Activists, mainly representing secular, liberal and leftist groups, have been camping in Tahrir Square since July 8, after a court decided to release on bail the 10 policemen charged with the January killings in Suez.

About 300 people held a rally in another part of Cairo in support of the military council, calling for "stability" and an end to protests in Egypt.

Islamist groups, including the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups who advocate adherence to early Islamic teachings, plan to hold a rally in Cairo on July 29 to press for a return to stability in Egypt.

Political groups have called for a rally on Saturday to oppose trials of civilians in military courts, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1952 revolution led by the army.

"The July 8 protests were triggered by the pending demands of families who are angry with the slow pace of prosecution of those who killed protesters," he added.

Harb said the Youth Coalition was forming a committee to meet the interior and justice ministries to press the demands of families of the 840 Egyptians killed in the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Street Children find safe place to learn in Tahrir Square

Street Children find a safe place to learn in Tahrir Square

July 20, 2011

What have workers gained from Egypt’s revolution?

Foreign Policy
What have workers gained from Egypt’s revolution?

July 20, 2011


CAIRO — Since June 12, half of the 18,000 workers who operate and service the Suez Canal have been on strike. They are employed in maritime services by seven subsidiary companies of the Suez Canal Authority in Suez, Isma‘iliyya, and Port Said. In contrast, those employed directly by the canal authority have always received higher wages and better benefits. Long before January 25, 2011 subsidiary company workers raised the demand for parity, effectively a 40 percent wage increase.

Management of the subsidiary companies accepted this demand in April, an expression of the new possibilities of the post-January 25 era. But the interim government has maintained that wages and working conditions of public service workers are established by parliamentary legislation, and therefore, no changes can be made while the parliament is dissolved. The strike expresses workers' rejection of this logic.

Egyptian workers have achieved increased strength and self-confidence in the course of the revolutionary movement. This is expressed by the capacity to sustain a five-week-long strike in an industrial sector linked to the economically and strategically critical Suez Canal and by insisting that economic demands be met despite the absence of the legal framework established by the old regime. Labor unions continue to rebuff myriad accusations in the press and by some of the "revolutionary youth" that workers' economic demands are narrow "special interests" rather than "national interests." In this respect, workers share the achievement of all Egyptians who heeded the revolutionary call, "Lift your head high. You are an Egyptian" -- the recovery of their human dignity.

The removal of former president Hosni Mubarak and the top layer of his regime empowered Egyptians to find their voices and demand "dignity, democracy, and economic justice" -- a popular chant during the occupation of Tahrir Square in January-February and since then. This was not an entirely new experience for millions of industrial and white-collar workers. Many of them won substantial economic gains, like those demanded by the Suez Canal Authority subsidiary company workers, during the movement of over 4,000 strikes, sit-ins, and other labor collective actions that began escalating in 1998 and continue today.

During the three days before Mubarak's departure on February 11, workers visibly contributed to the revolutionary process by engaging in some sixty strikes, some with explicitly political demands. Strikes and sit-ins have continued regularly since then at the rate of several per week. The total of perhaps two-hundred workers' collective actions for the first six months of 2011 is at the same order of magnitude as the pace of labor protest since 2004.

This has allowed workers to consolidate several gains. The most important institutional achievement is the consolidation of the right to organize independent trade unions.

Since its establishment in 1957, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) has been an arm of the Egyptian state and a key institution in its repressive apparatus. ETUF enjoys a legal monopoly on trade union organization established by Law 35 of 1976 and subsequent amendments. ETUF elections, especially the most recent in 2006, were rigged. State Security Investigations arbitrarily disqualified oppositional political elements of any stripe - from Communists to Muslim Brothers - from running for union office. ETUF and most of its local officials stood aloof from or actively opposed the workers movement of the last decade.

Before January 25, three independent unions unaffiliated to ETUF were established. The largest and most important was the 35,000-member union of Real Estate Tax Authority (RETA) workers. A dramatic sit-in strike of 3,000 RETA workers in front of the Ministry of Finance in December 2007 resulted in a 325 percent wage increase. Kamal Abu Eita and other strike leaders used the momentum of this victory to establish an independent union in December 2008. In April 2009 the government recognized it as the first non-ETUF affiliated union since 1957. The independent RETA workers' union was a founding member of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), whose existence was announced at a press conference during the Tahrir Square occupation on January 30.

Among the newly-established unions affiliated with EFITU are eight unions and a city-wide labor council in Sadat City, where 50,000 workers are employed in 200 enterprises -- mainly textiles, iron and steel, and ceramics and porcelain. There were only two unions in Sadat City before this year. A largely non-unionized labor force was only one of the generous incentives to private investors offered in special economic zones established in the new satellite cities of Cairo. Another is that in Qualified Industrial Zones, if 10.5 percent of a product's assessed value comes from Israeli sources, it receives duty-free and quota-free access to the United States.

EFITU and the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), a non-governmental organization established in 1990 to promote trade union independence, successfully resisted the imposition of the original candidate of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the former ETUF treasurer, as Minister of Manpower and Migration in the transitional government. Instead, they proposed Ahmad Hasan al-Burai, a professor of labor law at Cairo University who had publicly advocated trade union pluralism for years. SCAF accepted the nominee of the independent workers' movement.

Minister al-Burai argues that the legal basis for the registration of independent unions is that Egypt has ratified International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions guaranteeing freedom of association and protection of the right to organize (No. 87) and the right to organize and bargain collectively (No. 98). These international treaty obligations supersede national legislation. With al-Burai's approval, the Ministry of Manpower and Migration has formally registered about twenty-five independent unions not affiliated to ETUF. Dozens of other independent unions are in the process of formation.

Some independent unions -- like the Cairo Joint Transport Authority union of bus drivers and garage workers and the RETA workers' union -- are quite large and command the loyalty of a great majority of the potential bargaining unit. Others have only fifty to one hundred members in factories employing hundreds or thousands. The pensions and social benefit accounts of some public sector industrial workers are tied to their membership in ETUF-affiliated unions. Minister al-Burai has indicated his willingness to sever this connection, which could dramatically increase the number of independent unions. But the financial procedures involved are complex.

Meanwhile, the EFITU, the CTUWS, and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) have filed a court case seeking dissolution of ETUF and sequestration of its assets. Their legal brief argues (correctly) that, like the dissolved National Democratic Party, ETUF was an institution of the Mubarak regime. This coalition has also drafted a new trade union law to replace Law 35. The Ministry of Manpower and Migration has held three rounds of discussion on the draft law, the latest with the participation of representatives of the ILO. Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator of the CTUWS, is optimistic that a new trade union law will be enacted before the parliamentary elections this fall.

Another workers' achievement is an increase in the minimum wage. In 2010 Nagi Rashad, a worker at the South Cairo Grain Mill and a leading figure in the workers' protest movement, successfully sued the government over its 2008 decision not to increase the national minimum wage. Khaled Ali, director of the ECESR, was the lead attorney on the case. As a result, the minimum wage was raised to £E 400 (about $70) a month - still a woefully inadequate amount that would leave the average Egyptian family of five with two-wage earners well below the World Bank's poverty line of $2 a day. It is also far less than the consensus demand of £E 1,200 (about $200) that has emerged from the workers protest movement since 2008.

The interim government promised a further increase to £E 700 (about $120) monthly, effective July 1, 2011. However, the state budget for the fiscal year that began on that day reduced the amount to £E 685. Workers and their supporters continue to press the demand for £E 1,200.

The minimum wage, however, applies only to those employed on permanent contracts (the equivalent of tenure). The private sector operates primarily on the basis of indefinitely renewable "temporary" contracts lasting one-year or less. The "informal sector" is unsupervised by the government. Therefore, the minimum wage applies primarily to public sector workers on permanent contracts.

Struggles to obtain permanent status for public sector employees have escalated. For two weeks in June, some 200 workers on temporary contracts at Petrojet, an oil services firm, conducted a sit-in demonstration in front of the offices of their employer, the Ministry of Petroleum. Although access to the offices was not blocked, five workers were arrested. On June 29, they were convicted in a military court and received suspended sentences of one year in jail. This is the first implementation of SCAF's Decree 34 of March 24, which established penalties of up to £E 500,000 (about $83,400) and up to one year in jail for participating in a "disruptive" strike or demonstration.

The suspended sentence suggests the delicate balance SCAF must maintain. It seeks to minimize the political and economic changes that occur under its watch and until it can hand off power to a legitimate civilian government. But the SCAF cannot repress all popular demands and remain legitimate in the eyes of the people.

The April 6 Youth Movement and other "revolutionary youth" groups that emerged from the Tahrir Square occupation from January 25 to February 11 were, at first, reluctant to embrace specific economic demands, despite the popular chants demanding "social justice." Since the mass demonstrations of July 1 and July 8 and the reoccupation of main squares in Alexandria and Suez as well as Tahrir in Cairo, the April 6 Movement has raised the slogan, "The families of the martyrs and the poor first."

Economic demands have become more prominent since clashes between families of the martyrs and thugs of the Ministry of Interior in Cairo in late June. A large banner overlooking occupied Arabain Square in Suez supported the general demands of the current phase of the revolutionary movement. Speedier public trials for Hosni Mubarak and the high officials of his regime accused of corruption and purifying the Ministry of Interior, which commands the police and other security services, are high on the list. The banner also demands a jobs program for youth - unemployment is especially high in Suez - and a national minimum and maximum wage. The later demand has been adopted by those continuing to occupy Tahrir Square.

In addition to SCAF's reluctance, there are many obstacles to fulfilling the revolutionaries' aspirations for social justice. Personnel, practices, attitudes, and institutions of the old regime are entrenched throughout the country.

For instance, a manager at the Suez Maritime Arsenal, one of the subsidiary companies of the Suez Canal Authority, coordinated with military intelligence and then imposed his presence on an interview with a striking worker on July 11 (1,200 workers of the Maritime Arsenal are currently on strike). The same manager reported to military intelligence that he and others had intervened in the Arbain Square sit-in on July 8 to force those occupying the square to retract a "stupid" statement they had made. (One journalist shared with me his inadvertent recording of the conversation between the manager and a military intelligence officer.)

On June 7, one hundred women formerly employed at the Mansura-España textile firm tried to collect their monthly wages for April, ranging from £E 250-300 (about $42-50), from the United Bank offices in Mansura. In 2008 Mansura-España, a private-sector firm established in the 1980s in the Nile Delta town of Talkha, across the river from Mansura, went bankrupt. United Bank, its largest creditor, acquired most of its shares. In November 2010, the bank sold its interest in the firm without paying legally required severance compensation to the workers remaining on the payroll.

Among the workers seeking their salaries was Mariam Hawas, a 44-year-old mother of three. United Bank employees refused to pay the women, taunted them, and told them, "Go and block traffic in the streets if you want your rights." So they did.

A traffic policeman urged one truck driver who could not move his vehicle through the ensuing traffic jam, "Run them over. The blood money for each one is £E 50 (about $8)." The truck ran into Mariam Hawas and another woman, Samah Isa. Mariam died on the way to the hospital and Samah was badly injured.

Neither has yet received any compensation. The truck driver who ran into the two women has been charged with causing wrongful death and injury. But he was released without bail, an indication that he may be treated leniently if he can be located at all when the trial begins in late July. The traffic policeman has not been found.

Ten days after Mariam Hawas died United Bank paid severance packages to Mansura-España workers at the rate of 2 ½ months' salary for every year of employment. The total cost to the bank was $62,000.

The lives of Egyptian working people are still cheap in the eyes of a great many policemen, government officials, and managers of firms in both the private and public sectors. What has changed, and this is the most important gain of the revolutionary movement, is that workers no longer accept this.

Recovering in the hospital, Samah Isa asked, "How can a life be worth 50 pounds? I don't see a future until I get my rights. That's what I want."

Joel Beinin is the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford University. His latest books are The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt (Solidarity Center 2010) and Social Movements, Mobilization, and Contestation in the Middle East and North Africa (Stanford University Press, 2011); co-edited with Frédéric Vairel.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Egyptians Back in Tahrir Sq. & Winning Victories

Egypt: Back in Tahrir Square and Winning Victories

July 14, 2011

The Egyptian people have proven themselves to be a patient nation. They showed an active patience over the three decades of Mubarak rule, speaking out when they could but waiting for the right time to rise up in Tahrir Square and across the country to oust him.

Since the success of the Jan. 25 uprising, many in America have wondered whether the uprising died out prematurely after Mubarak’s resignation. The pace of reform has slowed, the military regime has dragged hundreds of protesters before unfair military trials, and the New Egypt looks suspiciously like the Old Egypt.

This week, they have their answer. Today, for the sixth straight day, thousands of Egyptians have returned to sit in Tahrir Square to demand their promised rights. Despite public warnings from the interim military rulers, the protesters are not budging and are preparing Friday to present one of the largest protests in Egypt since Jan. 25.

This is what change looks like. It’s not a straight line and it’s not inevitable. But what the Egyptian people are doing is effective. One of the critical demands from the people is that the government investigate crimes by the police and security forces under the Mubarak regime. This is a step the government hasn’t wanted to take, focusing instead on prosecuting Mubarak and a few top former regime leaders.

But the Egyptian protests forced the government on Wednesday to go farther, firing some 600 to 700 senior police officers. At least three dozen were specifically accused of being involved in the killing of protesters during the Jan. 25 uprising, according to Al Jazeera. That’s not enough, as Amnesty International’s documentation on Egypt’s corrosive security forces makes clear, but it’s a good victory, and it wouldn’t have happened without the protests. The military rulers have also acted to improve judicial transparency, particularly related to the upcoming trials of former regime members. That’s another victory for the protesters.

A second critical demand for protesters is justice and reparations for the thousands of people injured by the Egyptian security forces, particularly in the aftermath of the Jan. 25 uprising. A new Amnesty International video with Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, AI’s deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program, documents the organization’s research on police violence in the Suez and the victims’ inability to date to get justice.

The protests have also led to a resignation of an unpopular deputy prime minister. But there has been resistance, with groups of armed men forcing their way into Tahrir Square and injuring at least eight people, according to al Jazeera.

Watch Egypt on Friday, when the protests should be the largest. The Egyptian people haven’t forgotten what Jan. 25 was about, and if the rest of the world supports them the New Egypt may be newer and come sooner than we thought.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Photos: Political graffiti & street art around Cairo

Simple message to the pigs.

All Cops Are Bastards. Letters in the image of AC/DC logo. Homeless man rests on sidewalk beneath the street art in Nasr City.

"The (Ministry of) Interior are thugs"

"I am the people." Stencil of the late comedian Nagah el-Mogy

"Their weapons." "Our weapons." Armed forces & police forces VS. civilians & their cameras

US $25 - Price of an imported tear gas canister. Similar canisters were fired at protesters on Mohamed Mahmoud St. during the recent clashes with police forces on June 28 & 29.

"Be realistic, demand the impossible" - Anarchist graffiti in Tahrir Sq. Revolutionary quote borrowed from the French Uprising of May 1968.

A message of non-violent resistance - to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces

One (Arab) nation - Third Intifada. Street art borrowed from the revolutionary Brazilian artist Carlos Lattuf.

The Mugamaa' (the massive administrative bureaucratic complex in Tahrir) is closed.

Nooses hang on the wall, awaiting the necks of Mubarak, Habib el-Adly and their criminal police officers. "Retribution." Street art by the Revolutionary Socialists.

"Now I understand you." Mubarak hangs. "Don't believe the SCAF hype."

Anarchy is order.

Stencil by 'Freedom Painters' on Ahmad Fakhry St. Nasr City

"He hasn't stood trial." Stencil of ousted dictator Mubarak with a swastika on his forehead, painted on Mugamaa Building in Tahrir Square.

Mubarak pulling the military council's marionette strings

Mubarak's loyal Minister of Defense for 20 years, chief of the ruling military junta. Fascist Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi (Swastika on forehead) behind bars.

Anarchy sign on Mugamaa' - "July 8 sit-in"

The word "revolution" in green, sprouting out of the word "martyrs," dripping blood.

Image of a "Military Council" arm striking with its hammer on the words "Popular willpower." The military junta's hammer shatters upon impact.

"I am heading out (to Tahrir) on July 8." A message encouraging more girls and women to participate in the ongoing revolution.

Artist paints "March 9" with prison bars. This piece of street art is meant to raise awareness and solidarity with 170 civilians protesters in Tahrir - who were arrested, beaten, tortured and imprisoned by the army on that day.

"The revolution has a guardian watching over it

"The revolution has revolutionaries protecting it." Red Sea Governorate Youth

Revolution first and foremost

Steadfast in our revolution - April 6th Youth Movement

We are resilient!

The revolution continues...

Massive mural on the street in Tahrir Square. Images and words speak of revolutionary "freedom" along with "change" and "social justice."

"The real revolutionary sees his/her revolution through, perseveres"

Egypt fires more than 600 top police officers

This act of appeasement will not suffice! All policemen and officers responsible for the injury/deaths of Egyptian protesters must be put on trial. Prison sentences and executions are due!


Los Angeles Times
Egypt fires more than 600 top police officers

July 14, 2011

In a purge aimed at appeasing anti-government protesters, Egyptian authorities fire 669 police officials linked to the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. The move comes as parliamentary elections are delayed.

Jeffrey Fleishman and Amro Hassan

Reporting from Cairo—

Egypt fired more than 600 high-ranking police officers Wednesday in a purge aimed at appeasing thousands of antigovernment protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square amid deepening divisions over wiping away the remnants of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The move came on the same day the military council ruling the country announced that parliamentary elections planned for September would be delayed until October or November. The postponement will help new political parties challenge the more experienced Muslim Brotherhood, which was expected to win at least 25% of the seats in parliament.

Secular parties had pressed for a delay, fearing that a parliament heavily influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood's conservative agenda would threaten human rights and religious tolerance. The Islamist organization's reach may be further diminished by new regulations for choosing the 100-member assembly that will draft a new constitution.

The firing of 669 police officers was the biggest reshuffle in the Interior Ministry's history. It includes 505 brigadier generals, 82 colonels and 37 officers charged in the deaths of hundreds of protesters during the weeks-long revolution that overthrew Mubarak on Feb. 11.

The announcement came during the sixth day of demonstrations in Tahrir Square by activists seeking to pressure the interim government to bring Mubarak and members of his regime to justice. The government and military council fear that the return of tents and banners to the square will further disrupt a nation facing labor strikes, a troubled economy and political unrest.

"The firings are to gradually dismantle the police state we used to live in," said Ammar Ali Hassan, head of the Middle East Center for research and political studies. "Protesters have succeeded in forcing security officials and the police into such changes, despite police efforts to keep the system they had before the Jan. 25 revolution."

So far, only one police officer has been found guilty of killing demonstrators last winter. He was sentenced to death. The country is awaiting the trials of Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib Adli, both of whom have been accused in the deaths of protesters.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Photos: July Revolution in Tahrir Square - Day 5

Tens of thousands converged on Tahrir Square, to protest against the interim government and the ruling military junta.

Protesters demanded that all the demands of the January 25 Revolution be met - including swift and just trials against Mubarak, his regime, and his criminal police force; the release of all political prisoners, and ending the referral of civilians to military trials.

Protesters march and chant slogans against Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, the chief of Egypt's ruling military junta. Egypt's revolutionaries demand that Tantawi be sacked, along with General Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, and Interior Minister Mansour el-Eissawi.

Activists hang-up a massive banner demanding justice in the trials of the Mubarak regime, the trials of police forces responsible for the injury and/or murder of protesters. Other demands include limiting the powers of the military junta, and the elimination of military tribunals.

Tahrir's protests, songs, festivities; its occupation/liberation continues on into the sixth day.

Thousands rally for Egypt military chief's ouster

Agence France-Presse
Thousands rally for Egypt military chief's ouster

AFP | Jul 13, 2011

CAIRO: Thousands of Egyptians rallied on Tuesday for the downfall of Egypt's military leader, as anger mounts over the army's handling of a transition from the country's former autocratic regime.

Five months after a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak, activists fear their revolution is in jeopardy and accuse the ruling military council of keeping an absolute grip on power that blocks the path to democracy.

Protesters have been camping out in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and in the canal city of Suez since mass nationwide rallies on Friday to demand political change.

"The people want the fall of the Field Marshall," chanted demonstrators in Cairo, in reference to Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak's longtime defence minister who now heads the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

"Down, down with the Field Marshall," thousands chanted in Suez where the army erected barbed wire and formed a wall to block any attempt to reach the strategic Suez Canal.

Tahrir Square was bubbling with energy tonight, with speakers on podiums and a concert planned, amid tight security overseen by the demonstrators.

The army, which was hailed as heroes at the start of the January 25 uprising for not shooting protesters, has come under fire for using Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent and maintain an unchallenged hold on power.

But the council insisted it will not cede control over the transition.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces stresses that it will not renounce its role in managing the affairs of the country during this critical time in Egypt's history," SCAF member Mohsen al-Fangary said in a speech broadcast on state television.

In a stern address, Fangary warned those who "deviate from the peaceful approach during demonstrations and sit-ins and obstruct the institutions of the state."

But Fangary's speech only furthered the protesters' resolve to pursue their sit-ins, they said.

"They think their warnings will drive us away from Tahrir, they obviously don't understand the revolution," said protester Mohammed Hamdy.

The protests -- dubbed the revolution's "second wave" -- have put Prime Minister Essam Sharaf under increasing pressure amid accusations he is too weak to face the military junta.

Gunmen blow up Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel

Associated Press
Gunmen blow up Egyptian gas pipeline to Israel



EL-ARISH, Egypt — Masked gunmen blew up a terminal of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan in a pre-dawn attack Tuesday, security officials said.

It was the second attack on the pipeline in as many weeks and the fourth since an 18-day uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11. Tuesday's attack used the same methods as the previous one, Egyptian officials said.

The officials said the attack was carried out by at least four assailants.

The terminal is located in the city of El-Arish in the northern part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of the Israeli border.

The attackers ordered the guards on duty to leave and then blew up the terminal, starting a huge fire that sent flames shooting into the air and lit up the night sky, according to the officials.

There were no casualties, they said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

No one claimed responsibility for Tuesday's explosion, but disgruntled Bedouin tribesmen in the area have been blamed for attacking the pipeline in the past. Islamists opposed to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel have also been suspected.

Later Tuesday, Israel's Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said the attacks on the pipeline could threaten Egypt-Israel relations.

"This was an anchor, perhaps the most important element of our peace agreement with Egypt from an economic perspective and it is slowly, slowly eroding," he told Israel radio.

He said Israel had other sources of energy and that consumers were not expected to face disruptions.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Free haircut & free music in Tahrir Square

While protesting in Tahrir Square, Barber Sobhi 'The Artist'- from Mansoura - offers his hairdo services free of charge. You can also have your photo taken while having your hair trimmed. Kid with apron takes a haircut and a photo-shoot; holds a sign reading: "Shave me, thank you."

Assistant holds up a sign reading "Free haircut - Barber of the Revolution." There are a couple of other revolutionary barbers in the square, who also provide free haircuts for protesters.

Arabic rock-fusion band (didn't catch their name) performing on the Omar Makram stage in Tahrir square.

Songs speak of freedom, the fight against corruption, and presidential candidates, along with other issues/concerns.

Many fine performers - including: Ramy Essam, Mariam & Abu, Iskenderella, Mostafa Saeed, amongst others - have played on this stage throughout the revolution.

Traditional Egyptian sing-along. Little circles of musicians, singers and clappers play in and around the square.

Just like this sign says.