Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Video: Artists use graffiti to depict Egypt's revolutionary stories

Al Jazeera English
Artists use graffiti to tell Egypt revolution's stories
February 27, 2012

Running south from Tahrir Square toward Egypt's interior ministry in central Cairo, Mohamed Mahmoud street has become one of the revolution's most violent battlegrounds. Twelve people died in the area during February street battles between protesters and police stemming from a deadly football riot in Port Said.

With the neighbourhood calm, at least for the moment, Mohamed Mahmoud now serves as a canvas for some of Egypt's most creative revolutionary street art.

Murals portraying the revolution's dead as martyrs and the military as a predatory monster spread along walls next to figurative paintings that draw inspiration from millenia-old pharaonic art. Nearby, the artists debate with anxious business owners, and the revolution continues.

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh reports from Cairo.

Egypt's growing number of street children need help

The Egyptian Gazette
Egypt's street children in need of help

Monday, February 27, 2012

Alaa Koddous

CAIRO - In a crowd, it's difficult to spot the little street children, but they are there, and their numbers are growing.

Ziko Reda, a 15-year-old street child, spends all day in the street rather than going to school, in order to earn some money for his family.

"I don’t want to go to school and I'm not interested in education," says Reda, whose clothes are torn and filthy. "School doesn’t bring me money,” says Reda, not realising that it is not a matter of what one earns but how the money is earned.

Reda, who cleans cars stuck in traffic jams in Nasr City, adds that money, not education, buys everything you need in life, explaining that his father and mother are divorced and he has to earn money for his mother, and his younger brother and sister.

"I'm responsible for my family. I have to bring home at least LE150 ($24.85) per day," he stresses, while scanning the traffic for cars to clean.

Reda works for 15 hours per day, only eats one fuul (broad bean) or taa'miya sandwich during all that time; he must then return home with dinner for his family.

"I wake up every day at 6:00am and begin my work at 7:00. I return home again at 10pm with everything my family needs and give my mother whatever money’s left over.

"In the early morning there are thousands of motorists going to work, so I can make some nice money. In the afternoon they come back home, so I can make more money; in the interval, I rest for one hour and eat my sandwich," he adds.

Reda is convinced that all he wants in life is to make money by whatever means.

Government studies of 2007 and 2009 concluded that there were 10,000 street children in Egypt, although, according to the world Health Organisation, there are really more than 1 million.

Many street children have escaped from abusive homes or left rural areas looking for work in the city. Once on the street, they work collecting rubbish, begging, cleaning and directing cars into parking spaces, in order to live.

According to experts, these street children are like 'clay' that can easily be worked and exploited in many harmful ways.

"The Education Ministry is responsible for this problem," Gamal el-Arabi, the Education Minister said at a workshop, which discussed sending street children to special schools, with the aim of their being reintegrated into society.

"We cannot ignore this problem, which has become worse since the revolution," he asserted. The street children are very prone to violence, with 86 per cent of them describing this as a regular issue, while 50 per cent have been raped, according to a UNICEF study of 2000.

Many thugs and other unsavoury characters pay street children to commit crimes. Street children have been blamed for many of the unpleasant incidents that have happened recently, prompting Hani Helal, the head of the Egyptian Association for Children’s Rights, to refuse to celebrate the National Day for Street Children’s Rights this year.

"More than 160 of these children were made scapegoats for the Mohamed Mahmoud Street, Qasr Al-Aini and Port Said Stadium incidents, where almost 200 lives were claimed in violent clashes," he says.

“The police must stop arresting them in groups, while those in prison must immediately be set free.”

The Association says that the police torture street children, to make them confess to crimes they haven’t committed.

"Street children are well organised," comments Ahmed Hamdi, a downtown shop owner. "Every morning, they meet near my shop and agree where they’re going to work in the vicinity that day; they then meet again in the same place at the end of the day.”

Many street children are just tools in the hands of criminals, who exploit their need for money to perform illegal acts.

"These street children are hired by criminals to beg in the streets," says Um Mohamed, a downtown tissue seller. "They pay the child’s family LE25 ($4.14) to beg in the streets for them," she adds sadly.

Egypt: Police seek reform through unionization

Egypt Independent
Policemen see security reform in unionization

Sun, 26/02/2012

Jano Charbel

Thousands of policemen and officers across Egypt are seeking to establish trade unions with which to protect their interests. Legal obstacles, however, stand in their way.

Egypt's trade union legislation — particularly Trade Union Law 35/1976 and its predecessors — specifically mentions that the police and armed forces are not allowed to join or form any sort of professional associations. In its current format, a new draft law on trade union liberties also stipulates similar provisions.

Moreover, Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labor Organization, which Egypt ratified in the 1950s, stipulate that it is up to each state’s discretion whether to allow for the establishment of unions among police or armed forces.

But policemen argue that their unionization would assist the country in efforts toward reforming the Interior Ministry, with police abuses being a notable cause behind the eruption of the Egyptian revolution: 25 January, the day when masses broke out against the police and the regime, was originally celebrated as Egyptian Police Day.

“Unions may also help us in cleansing, or at least monitoring, corrupt elements and abuses within the Interior Ministry,” said policeman Khaled Badran.

Hassan Shendy, another policeman, said unionizing Egypt's police forces would “help to identify those responsible for acts of corruption, bribery, torture or other abuses, and take action against them.”

Shendy added that unions would “help to improve our working conditions and raise our incomes, and in doing so would help to decrease the phenomena of corruption and bribery among the police.”

“Unions will help us settle our financial and professional problems,” he said. “When we settle our problems, then we will be better prepared to settle the streets’ problems. This will help the whole security balance of the country.”.

Badran said police do not want to protest for a union and the rest of their rights.

“We want a legitimate association through which we can put forth our demands and raise them to the officials as one cohesive group,” the policeman said.

Egyptian labor and law enforcement legislation bans police forces from engaging in protests and strikes, although a number of police protests have taken place since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster on 11 February 2011.

These protests began just two days after Mubarak’s abdication. Thousands of policemen protested outside the Interior Ministry in Cairo on 22 March for improved wages and working conditions, and a fire broke out in the ministry. A number of other police protests took place nationwide in October and November of last year.

Shendy concluded, “We don’t want unions for the sake of engaging in politics or unrest, we want an exclusively professional association. We want a union that prevents punitive measures against both policemen and civilians.”

However, the trajectory for establishing such unions appears hazy among union organizers, particularly as police employees are presenting a less-than-unified front.

Officers are attempting to establish unions for themselves, while lower-ranking policemen are going after separate unions. Some have sought to federate these unions under the affiliation of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, while others have sought to establish their unions under the umbrella of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions.

“Police forces should have the right to unionize because they are state employees who are responsible for law enforcement among the civilian population. Therefore they should have the same rights to organize as any other employees,” argued Emad al-Araby, the independent union federation’s deputy secretary general.

Araby went on to say “unionizing the police would help tend to their needs, and thus it would diminish the numbers of protests and strikes in which they are involved.”

Araby denied allegations that the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions is an opposition entity or a politicized federation.

“We are against the establishment of any unions on the basis of political or party affiliation,” Araby said. “We take off our political robes at the doors of our union offices. This is what we expect of all unions within this federation.”

“Claims that unionizing the police will lead to their politicization are baseless,” Araby said.

The union organizer pointed out that the Union of Civil Employees of the Interior Ministry had already been established under the federation’s umbrella in January of this year, although this union is not open to policemen or officers.

Some 700 Cairo-based policemen have sought to establish a union through the federation, though it seems the majority of policemen and officers have preferred to establish their unions via the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, Araby said.

Shendy said more than 250,000 policemen around the country are interested in establishing unions in their governorates.

“Given that we are state employees, we want ETUF membership because it is more closely associated with the state,” he said.

In Qalyubiya, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions helped policemen establish an independent union, which is pending recognition from the Manpower and Interior ministries but is, in effect, functioning. While that federation is taking steps, the state federation is still dragging its feet regarding the establishment of these unions.

Badran indicated that the coalitions of policemen and officers that emerged since the revolution “aim at promoting the rights of both civilians and police forces in a new Egypt that respects the rule of law.” Badran pointed out that the calls for the establishment of police unions came from these coalitions.

Major Ahmed Ragab, a former member of the Coalition of Police Officers, said there have been numerous applications to Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim calling for the establishment of unions, yet he has not yet replied to these applications.

“This is not the time for such demands. The ministry's first priority is to uphold security on Egypt’s streets, and confront lawbreakers, drug dealers and arms traders,” Ragab said.

The major indicated that unionization of police forces is in itself an illegal act.

Commenting on police unions acting as potential agents of reform within the ministry, Ragab said "there is in fact a nationwide restructuring effort on the part of the Interior Ministry. In its attempt to reach out to civil society, the ministry has established the Administration of Communications with Human Rights Centers and NGOs.”

Ragab concluded by saying “there is no need for such unions, for we already have clubs for police officers and policemen. These are sufficient to serve as venues where police forces can meet and discuss their concerns.”

According to Araby, however, “these police clubs are not like the Judges Clubs, which serve as professional associations. Police clubs are only spaces for informal social gatherings. They resemble cafeterias rather than professional associations.”

“We are still studying the means by which we can establish police unions in keeping with new laws, even if this involves drafting new legislation,” Araby added.

Late last month, Alexandria’s Coalition of Police Officers sent its paperwork and notarizations to the Manpower Ministry calling for the right to unionize. The ministry is due to accept or refuse their application within 60 days.

The coalition has suggested that it might resort to the judiciary in hopes of a ruling for unionization, but their chances appear to be slim — unless the laws are changed, or unless the police are able to exert enough pressure on these authorities to accept their unionization efforts.

Numerous countries around the world have legalized the unionization of police forces, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, UK, the US and Sweden, among many others.

*Photograph by Mohamed Maarouf

Egypt: Recent policing reminiscent of Mubarak era

Egypt: Recent security force policing 'reminiscent of Mubarak' era

22 February 2012

*Over 100 protesters killed in last five months
*Recently-imported US tear gas played a key role in excessive response

A year after the uprising, Egypt's security forces continue to kill protestors with the same brutal tactics used in Hosni Mubarak’s last days in power, Amnesty International said after concluding that riot police used excessive force in policing recent protests in Cairo and Suez.

The protests earlier this month followed the Port Said tragedy in which more than 70 supporters from Al-Ahly club were killed after a football match on 1 February. In Amnesty’s view, between 2 and 6 February the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Forces (riot police) used excessive force as they dispersed the protests, killing at least 16 people and injuring hundreds of others in the process.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“The behaviour of the security forces in dealing with these protests is unfortunately very reminiscent of a time many Egyptians thought they had left behind after the ‘25 January Revolution’.

“Promises of reform of the security forces continue to ring hollow in the face of the killing of more than a hundred protesters in the last five months.

“Not only have the authorities not reformed the security forces, but evidence of the use of rubber bullets and live ammunition is met with denial and accusation of foreign interference by Egyptian officials.

“Police should not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury. Intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

“Security forces have a duty to restore law and order, however, the recent use of excessive force by the security forces show a complete disrespect for human life.

“It is now very clear that the newly-elected parliamentary assembly must urgently tackle the long overdue reforms to the way security forces have been policing demonstrations.

“Unless the Egyptian security apparatus is reformed with the aim of providing security and upholding the right to peaceful protest, we fear more bloodshed will follow.”

Previous calls for reform of the security sector only led to piecemeal changes while the authorities continued to inappropriately use teargas and live ammunitions.

The Egyptian authorities ostensibly announced investigations into incidents leading to the killing or severe injury of protesters. Yet no lessons were learnt and no clear instructions seem to have been given to the security forces, including military personnel, to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and to police demonstrations in line with international standards.

Lethal force was used without prior warning to disperse protesters in Cairo and Suez who were, for the most part, peacefully demonstrating and chanting. Some protestors were, however, throwing stones at the security forces and Amnesty heard occasional reports of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at the riot police. In rare incidents, shotgun ammunition and fireworks were also fired at riot police.


The Cairo University Hospitals alone received some 269 injured people during the protests as well as seven of the 11 deaths that took place in the capital. Most of those injured were suffering from tear gas inhalation or injuries from shotgun pellets, which, in some cases, caused rupture to the eye globe. In one case, a protester died from shotgun ammunition after a pellet reached his brain. Two others died from gunshots to the head and one from a gunshot to the stomach.

In Suez, Amnesty obtained a list of some 85 injured who were treated at the Suez General Hospital, mainly from shotgun pellets and live ammunition. Five people died in the city from gunshots to the chest, head or stomach. The list included four members of the security forces who were also reported to having been injured by shotgun pellets in Suez.


Amnesty delegates witnessed riot police relentlessly firing tear gas at groups of anti-SCAF protesters standing in Cairo's Mansur street and Mohamed Mahmoud street, both leading to the Ministry of Interior and which witnessed the worst clashes. Riot police used tear gas disproportionately in instances when protesters did not represent an imminent danger to safety. They never gave notice before firing tear gas canisters.

Volunteer doctors and witnesses in both Cairo and Suez reported that riot police aimed tear gas directly at the very field hospitals that provide first aid treatment to protesters suffering from tear gas inhalation and other injuries. In Suez, some media workers for TV 25 were also targeted directly with tear gas causing respiratory difficulties.

Some US-made tear gas canisters in Suez bore a manufacture date of August 2011, suggesting they were part of a recent US shipment of tear gas delivered to Egypt in November. In December 2011 Amnesty called on global arms suppliers to halt the transfer of tear gas, small arms, ammunition and other repressive equipment to the Egyptian military and security forces.


Twenty-four year old painter Ahmed Hassan Ali, a protester in Tahrir square, suffered a rupture to his right eye from a shotgun pellet significantly affecting his sight. He told Amnesty he was injured from a rubber bullet in Mansur Street on 4 February at 6am. He sustained the injury as he went to tell other protesters to return to the square and avoid confrontation with the riot police. He said protesters were peacefully chanting against SCAF when police opened fire prior to warning.

On 5 February at around 1.30am, Ahmed Maher, General Coordinator of the “6 April Youth Movement” pro-democracy protest group was injured with a fracture in the top of his skull as he stood at the intersection of Mansur and Mohamed Mahmoud streets, causing internal bleeding. After a meeting with MPs in the parliament he went to tell protesters to move away from the area and end the protest, so that the authorities could build a concrete wall at Mansur Street by the Ministry of Interior. He fell as a result of his injury, losing his blackberry. The Twitter account he administers for the movement was subsequently hacked. Amnesty fears he may have been targeted in this incident as the authorities have been mounting a smear campaign against “6 April”, accusing it publicly of conspiring against Egypt.

On 5 February at around 11pm, 26-year-old Salma Said Abdel Fattah, an activist in the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” and “Mosireen” (Determined) groups, was injured by shotgun pellets as she filmed riot police armoured vehicles attacking protesters from Mansur street rushing towards Falaky square. She told Amnesty that a hooded riot police officer on the top of an armoured vehicle shot at her three times, first at her face, chest and legs, and finally as other protesters were carrying her away.

In Suez, most casualties took place near the Security Directorate headquarters near Paradise Street and Al-Shohadaa Street between 2 and 4 February. The Security Directorate oversees a large square with a garden, from where protesters attempted to approach the building, among other side roads. Access to the building itself was barred by barbed wire. Around sunset, according to protesters, riot police fired indiscriminately tear gas and shotgun ammunition without any prior warning as they approached the Security Directorate.

MOHAMED AHMED ATTA was reportedly killed in the evening of 2 February from a gunshot to his upper body while throwing stones at riot police. Rami Mohamed, a 25 year old member of the “Suez Youth Bloc”, told Amnesty he had witnessed security forces shooting at Atta without issuing any form of warning. Rami Mohamed was himself injured the next day from a live round in his pelvis also while throwing stones at riot police near the Security Directorate.

MOHAMED AL-SAYED AHEMD FARRAG, a 28-year-old daily wage labourer, was killed, apparently by a sniper, in the early hours of 3 February after throwing stones at riot police. Friends of Farrag told Amnesty they witnessed riot police using tear gas intensively near the Security Directorate and climbed to the top floor of a 12-storey residential building still under construction to escape from the effects of the gas. The group said that from the roof they watched security forces shooting live ammunition at protesters and saw snipers at the top of the Security Directorate and in buildings next to it. Every time the police pushed protesters out of the square, the group would throw stones at the riot police. At around 2am Farrag was standing by the window when he was shot in the head and died instantly.


Last June Amnesty's Secretary General presented a copy of its publication “Understanding Policing” to the then Minister of Interior Mansour Essawy. This explains international standards on the use of force and firearms, notably that law enforcement officials must use force only to the extent necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and only in proportion to this legitimate aim. The response should be gradual with an obligation to use non-violent means whenever possible to minimise damage and to protect life. The use of firearms should be limited to situations of threats to life or of serious injury. Both in Cairo and in Suez the intensive and indiscriminate use of force and firearms without prior warning and causing a high number of casualties indicate that these international standards were disregarded in the security forces’ handling of the demonstrations.

Egypt: Efforts to reform state-owned media face obstacles

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Egypt: Media Professionals Calling for the Emancipation of Maspero Investigated

21 February 2012

Press Release

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) are deeply disturbed over the persecution faced by the media professionals who call for the emancipation and the restructure of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (Maspero) to eliminate ongoing corruption in control since the era of the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak.

They also call for the change of the editorial policies which have turned Maspero into an apparatus in the hands of the authorities, expressing a single viewpoint. In addition to that, millions of pounds from the Egyptian people's capital are squandered because of the lack of a standardized and fair statute for the wages, and also the lack of supervision by an independent council on the administrative affairs within the Union.

On 20 February, the legal affairs of Maspero's presiding office summoned three directors of al-Qahira channel; Abdel-Latif Abou-Hmila, Ali Hasanein Abou-Hmila, and Khaled al-Ashry, and the program editor Sayed Said Gom'a, known as Essam Said, for investigation over the protest of 13 February which was organized by a number of Maspero's media professionals within its premises.

The protest demanded the reform of the media, administrative, and financial policies within the various sectors of the Egyptian TV. The protest first began outside "General" Ahmed Anis' office, the Minister of Information, yet received no response. The protesters then decided to escalate their protest to pressure the Minister into meeting them and hearing their demands, so they went up to the second floor where the live broadcast center is.

The military soldiers in charge of securing the building cordoned them to separate the protest from the broadcast center. The officials told them that the Minister had left the building, prompting the protesters to head to the 27th floor where several studios are, among of which Studio 27 which live broadcasts the TV show "Studio 27â-'. They called on the head of the Radio and Television Union to host representatives of them on air in the show and receive a call by the Minister so they could present their demands. After contacting him, the Minister of Information refused.

In fear of the emergence of the protesters' voices during live broadcast, the administration of the TV was prompted to not broadcast the episode on air and broadcast a recorded episode of the same show instead.

It is worth noting that Ehab al-Mergawy, a director of Nile News channel, encountered a similar incidence. He was investigated on 19 February and was suspended from work for tow weeks because of a banner he had held behind the presenter of al-Mash'had show during live broadcasting. Al-Mergawy had "Freedom for Nile News" written on the banner.

These incidents are part of a movement calling for the reform of state-owned media, which started during the Egyptian revolution because of the policies pursued by the official media that made it a major accomplice in the ousted regime's crimes. Maspero's complicity was created through a barrage of lies and fabricated news presented to the public opinion. Hence, the protesters in Tahrir Square were prompted to show solidarity with media professionals' demands related to the purge of the media to turn it into media that seeks public service, not the service of the authorities.

Grave malpractice and moral errors have continued even after the ouster of Mubarak. For example, Maspero presented a biased coverage that incited the public opinion against the Coptic protesters during the Maspero sit-in. During the Ministerial Cabinet events, Maspero also presented an inciting and falsified coverage that adopted the authorities' viewpoint.

In response, staff within Maspero and the media professionals working in its various sectors are currently engaged in a struggle aiming at the change of policies from within through protests and sit-ins. The most famous initiative is the Movement of Nile News Media Professionals, who have escalated their demands calling for the independence of the channel's editorial policy. During the first anniversary of the revolution, they organized a sit-in in front of the Minister's office to pressure for the broadcast of a film called "My Name Is Tahrir Square", which they succeeded in broadcasting it on the Egyptian TV.

ANHRI and AFTE stress on the necessity of the emancipation of the media system owned by the Egyptian state from the control of any power or political authority. Such emancipation will turn the media into a pattern of public service and enable it to develop, entrench freedom of opinion and expression, contribute to the protection of the democratic framework currently being formed in the Egyptian society. Most of the media experts and those concerned about the Egyptian media agree on these principles, which makes us all responsible for supporting the movement calling for the media's emancipation, led by honorable media professionals within the Radio and Television Union.

Thus, the two signatory organizations announce their full solidarity with all Maspero's media professionals who are currently under all forms of intimidation and administrative persecution. In support of the full right to exercise all peaceful forms of expression and protesting within a workplace, ANHRI and AFTE denounce making a scarecrow out of disruption of work, breach of job obligations, squandering of public capital, and storming live broadcast studios.

These scarecrows are used to seize and distort the right to protest and freedom of expression. Therefore, the two organizations call on the civil society, media experts, and the People's Assembly to come together and pressure for a legislation emancipating state-owned media. This legislation should restructure the media so it brings social justice for the staffers of the media institutions and conforms to the standards of professionalism and sober media performance. An independent board of trustees composed of media and societal cadres should supervise the steps to meet the society's needs for a public service to ensure the impartiality and professionalism of the service provided.

In Athens the anarchist tradition is alive & well

France 24
In Athens, an anarchist tradition alive and well

February 19, 2012

Gaëlle Le Roux

Singled out for blame in the wake of riots that broke out in Athens on February 12, Greek anarchists are eager to show that they “are not mere hooligans”. takes an exclusive look at the movement on the ground.

Nikólaos, a 36-year-old Greek anarchist, is reluctant to talk to journalists.

“Let me make it clear: I don’t represent any movement,” he says, making direct eye contact. “What I’m going to tell you is just my personal opinion. I’m not a leader or a spokesperson.”

His goal in speaking to the press is to make people abroad understand that Greek anarchists “are not mere hooligans”.

Nikólaos is seated in the office of Radio-Bubble, a community radio station in the neighbourhood of Exarchia in Athens. Home to numerous soup kitchens, occupied public buildings and squats, Exarchia has been the vibrant centre of Greek anarchy movements for nearly 40 years. In the 1970s, students rose up in revolt against the military dictatorship. Today, graffiti and anarchy posters line the walls of Exarchia’s narrow streets.

“We’re not only in a social war,” he insists. “We’re also in a media war.”

In the wake of the February 12 riots in Athens, news outlets and political leaders were quick to point their finger at anarchist protesters and far-left militants. The same scenario unfolded in 2008, when young Greeks and law enforcement officers faced off hours after the police killed an adolescent in a street protest.

“The major difference with 2008 is that on Sunday [February 12], in Syntagma Square, people applauded us,” Nikólaos explains. “Workers, middle-class people, young people, old people, students…We were all gathered at the same place to fight against the same things.”

If the demonstration got out of control, Nikólaos says, it is because the police used clubs and tear gas against peaceful protesters.


“Many Greeks are now becoming aware of police and media manipulation,” Nikólaos asserts, stirring his coffee furiously. “On the night of February 12, TV news bulletins broadcast very calm images of Parliament as tens of thousands of protesters were being suffocated with tear gas just next door.”

“When faced with state violence, you need to know how to defend yourself,” Nikólaos continues. But if Greek anarchists are, in theory, non-violent, things are a bit different in practice. On February 12, anarchist militants threw petrol bombs and stones at banks, corporations and luxury magazines. “For me, violence begins when your pockets are empty and you have nothing left to eat. Capitalism is a daily form of violence,” Nikólaos says.

Nikólaos is careful to emphasise that “violence is not an end in and of itself”. He elaborates: “The only solution is autonomy and direct democracy.” In other words, no state and no government, but decisions made collectively through assembly-style gatherings.


According to Nikólaos, the anarchist movement in the Exarchia neighbourhood “is a one-in-a-kind phenomenon”.

“Just one kilometre away from Parliament and Greece’s financial institutions, we’re coming up with strategies targeting all the deficiencies of the system and we’re experimenting with alternatives,” he says.

The movement has been increasingly successful. Last year, tens of thousands of people attended an “anti-authoritarian festival” organised in Nosotros, a giant squat that also houses a café, a cultural centre and meeting space. Anarchists from around Europe regularly visit the squat to take notes on the Greek movement in hopes of replicating the “Exarchia model” in their respective countries.

Ypopto Mousi, who hosts a news program on Radio-Bubble, estimates that there are more than 10,000 anarchists in Athens. He says that in recent years he has seen people from increasingly diverse backgrounds and situations drawn to the movement.

“There are a lot of people in society who are anarchists without even knowing it,” he concludes.

Egypt: Students mark 1946 uprising with protest marches against SCAF

Ahram Online
Egypt students mark '46 workers and students anti-British uprising with anti-SCAF marches, protests

Tuesday 21 Feb 2012

Sherif Tarek

University students from across the country on Tuesday are commemorating the 66th anniversary of Egypt's 1946 student and workers uprising by staging a number of protest marches and other activities.

Students from over 15 Egyptian universities and 14 student movements, along with a number of high school students, are using the occasion to demand justice for protesters and activists slain in the wake of last year's revolution and the swift handover of power from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to a civil authority. Doaa Basiouny, a student at Ain Shams University, added that core student demands were also being raised, including calls for free education and better academic facilities.

Among the student movements taking part in the scheduled event are the Students for Justice and Freedom, Revolutionary Socialist Students and the April 6 Students.

Students in several governorates – including Alexandria, Mansoura and Minya – have also invited members of the "Liars" campaign, which is devoted to exposing the SCAF's "lies" since its assumption of power one year ago, to attend the event.

In the capital, around 1000 Cairo University students set out from the university's main gate from which they would march to Egypt's parliament building, passing across Cairo's iconic Abbas Bridge.

The 9 February student-led general strike of 1946 led to one of Egypt's most infamous tragedies, when students organised a protest march to voice opposition to the government's non-confrontational position on the ongoing British occupation of the country.

As marchers passed onto the Abbas flyover, one of several bridges that connect Giza to Cairo, police opened the bridge on the orders of then prime minister Mahmoud Fahmy El-Nokrashi. As a result, dozens of protesters drowned after falling into the Nile, while many survivors were rounded up and arrested.

The incident triggered a student-led general strike that began on 21 February 1946, which was followed shortly afterward by clashes between Egyptian students and British occupation troops. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, destined to become the epicentre of revolution 66 years later, British troops shot down several students participating in demonstrations.

Students retaliated by torching a British military camp as the wave of protests quickly spread across the country. After the dust had settled, an estimated 48 students lay dead.

University students in neighbouring Arab countries, meanwhile, including Sudan and Syria, also staged strikes to express solidarity with their Egyptian counterparts.

El-Nokrashi was assassinated in December of 1948 by the Muslim Brotherhood's Abdel Megid Hassan, who managed to gain access to the prime minister by impersonating a police officer.

Last year, students did not commemorate the anniversary of the strike, as it came in the immediate wake of Egypt's January 25 Revolution and the subsequent 11 February ouster of longstanding president Hosni Mubarak.

The Assault on Egypt's Free Press

New York Times
The Assault on Egypt's Free Press

February 15, 2012


CAIRO — Despite the burgeoning of private, independent media since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster a year ago, there is less freedom of expression under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF,) the current military caretaker government, today than there was under the strongman of Egypt.

The continued supremacy of government-controlled media outlets — television, radio and newspapers — coupled with intensified intimidation of independent journalists, gives the SCAF control over the information Egyptians are getting about their country’s turbulent transition. This near-monopoly perpetuates an unfortunately common practice in the Egyptian media: self-censorship for the sake of survival.

Like many of the ideals born out of last year’s 18-day uprising, the dream of Egypt’s independent media to work freely, without intimidation, has been frustrated. It’s a shame.

Human Rights Watch issued a damning statement on Saturday. “Not only are critics of the military under physical and legal threat, but so are those who deliver these critical voices to the public,” said Joe Stork, the organization’s deputy Middle East director. The Committee to Protect Journalists tallied 50 cases of journalists being assaulted or detained in November and December alone. Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 166th in its 2011 Press Freedom Index, dropping it by 39 places from the previous year because the SCAF “dashed the hopes of democrats by continuing the Mubarak dictatorship’s practices.”

Over the last year, the SCAF has used the arcane penal code to try editors, opposition leaders and activists in military and civilian courts for “insulting public officials” or “insulting public institutions.” During clashes between protesters and the government, security services have raided premises of both local and international television providers and tried to cut off broadcasts.

On Monday, in the office of The Egypt Independent, one of Egypt’s premier independent English-language newspapers, the managing editor, Lina Attalah, described the situation as both an effort by the state to shape media coverage and an attempt to cater to the mood of the public, which was never entirely sure of the Tahrir Square revolution and has by now grown tired of the continued unrest.

“Things are not going to be sorted unless there is a true purging of the state media — the main apparatus itself needs to be purged,” Attalah told me. “You can propagate as many narratives in parallel — they get some resonance; their pool of influence is enlarging with time, I feel — but it’s not going to end the problem.”

She would know: The Egypt Independent was once Al-Masry Al-Youm English, the English-language Web edition of one of the country’s main Arabic opposition newspapers. Under Mubarak, both the Arabic print edition and the English Web edition were known for pushing the boundaries but also for carefully picking their battles. In late November, the editorial board of the English edition decided to print physical copies for the first time, but they only got to publish one issue. Their second issue, which was supposed to be published on Dec. 1 and to feature a critique of SCAF policies by the US scholar Robert Springborg, was stopped mid-printing, Attalah said, at the request of the Arabic editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm. (Springborg’s piece was posted online, however, as was an explanation of what happened.)

The Egypt Independent, which has been operating under Al-Masry Al-Youm’s local license, is now trying to apply for its own. Though it could get a foreign license and print in Cyprus, it wants to prove a point: that local media should be able to practice independently and according to genuine journalistic standards in Egypt. But that process is “a bundle of logistical hurdles, which are no less limiting to freedom of expression,” Attalah added.

The struggle of The Egypt Independent and all Egyptian journalists who report alternatives to the government-approved narrative is yet another in the long list of disappointments of the past year. With free media a critical component of representative government, the SCAF’s escalating assault on the free press is an ominous harbinger.

Hackers attack US tear gas co. exporting to Egypt

Associated Press
Hackers attack American tear gas company that exports to Egypt

Tue, 14/02/2012

LONDON — A US security company whose tear gas has been used against Egyptian demonstrators has become the latest victim of the Anonymous movement, hackers claimed Tuesday.

In a statement posted to the Internet, hackers claimed to have broken into Combined Systems Inc.'s website and stolen personal information belonging to clients and employees of the Jamestown, Pennsylvania-based firm. They accused the company of being run by war profiteers who sell "mad chemical weapons to militaries and cop shops around the world."

The hackers' claims could not immediately be verified, although the company's website was down Tuesday.

Messages left for Combined Systems executives Donald Smith and Jacob Kravel went unreturned. A customer service representative said senior employees were unavailable for comment because they were in a meeting.

Anonymous has claimed a series of Web attacks worldwide and has increasingly focused on security companies, law enforcement and governmental organizations. The group has often worked in tandem with the Occupy protest movement in the US and has expressed solidarity with the pro-democracy activists across the Arab world.

Anonymous said it had targeted Combined Systems because it was supplying weaponry used "to repress our revolutionary movements."

It published a series of what it claimed were intercepted emails, one of which appeared to be a warning that Combined Systems' site had been sabotaged, but the messages' authenticity could also not be confirmed.

Combined Systems says it sells a variety of crowd control devices — including aerosol grenades, sprays and handcuffs — to law enforcement and military organizations across the world. Journalists and activists have reported finding the company's tear gas canisters at Egypt's Tahrir Square, where authorities have repeatedly cracked down on demonstrators with deadly force.

Last year human rights group Amnesty International said that Combined Systems had delivered some 46 tons of ammunition — including chemical irritants and tear gas — to the Egyptian government in three separate shipments.

Amnesty has asked the US government to stop the shipments, which it said should be suspended "until there is certainty that tear gas and other munitions, weaponry or other equipment aren't linked to bloodshed on Egyptian streets."

Anonymous indicated that its attack had been timed to coincide the one-year anniversary of the uprising in Bahrain, the Gulf country hardest hit by upheaval during the so-called "Arab Spring" protests that began last year.

The main Bahrain government website was down for about an hour early Tuesday, but later appeared to be functioning normally. It wasn't clear whether the problem stemmed from any kind of cyberattack.

Australian journo tells of torture in nearby prison cells

Associated Press
Australian tells of torture in nearby prison cells

Tue, 14/02/2012

An Australian journalist who was held in Egypt on suspicion of paying Egyptians to stage protests against the authorities Tuesday denied the claims and told how he could hear prisoners being tortured.

Freelance reporter Austin Mackell was freed on Monday along with a US student and their Egyptian translator after two days in detention.

They had been picked up in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on Saturday, the same day activists held student strikes to mark the first anniversary of ex-President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.

General Mostafa Baz, police chief of the northern Gharbiya Governorate, claimed they coordinated over the internet to meet in Mahalla, which has a history of labor strikes, to "incite people to protest."

Mackell said this was nonsense.

"This is the standard line: that the people who are protesting, that the people who are fighting for their rights in any regard, are actually being paid by foreign agents," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"This is the line that state TV has run with on a number of occasions in similar cases, and it's what happened with us as well."

The Cairo-based reporter, who has been in Egypt for around a year, said he was simply doing his job, hoping to meet with Kamal al-Fayoumi, a prominent union figure.

He said he was moved several times during his detention and could hear people being tortured in the cells surrounding his, with a police officer at one point showing him mobile phone footage of the army torturing somebody.

"Nothing was off limits to them," he said. "From the way I was treated as opposed to the people I could hear being tortured in the room next to me, one thing was clear: that as a foreigner my rights and the safety of my person is still more valued by the authorities than that of an Egyptian citizen."

The Egyptian authorities, including the ruling military which took charge after Mubarak was ousted, have accused foreigners of stirring unrest in Egypt which has seen a spate of deadly protests over past months.

Journalists & student detained for over 2 days in Mahalla

Egypt Independent
Journalist, student and translator detained for two days in Mahalla

Although all three have been released, a few of the trumped-up charges leveled against them have not yet been dropped. Authorities have imposed travel bans pending further investigations.

Mon, 13/02/2012

Jano Charbel

Three youths — an Egyptian, American and Australian — who traveled from Cairo to the Nile Delta city of Mahalla on 11 February to cover a planned day of civil disobedience were detained for two days before being released Monday night.

After being mobbed by bystanders in Mahalla, they were handed over to security forces amid claims that they were instigating, and even funding, acts of unrest in the city. According to their lawyer, Sayed Fathy, these claims were largely dismissed by prosecutors due to conflicting accounts by the claimants.

Australian freelance journalist Austin Mackell headed to Mahalla, along with Derek Ludovici, a US graduate student at the American University in Cairo, and Aliya Alwi, an Egyptian translator, to report on a planned protest march in the city. The three were interviewing Kamal al-Fayoumi, a worker-activist at Mahalla’s Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, in public near Shaun Square when they were assaulted by a group of angry bystanders. The cab driver who had transported them was also assaulted, and his car was damaged by the angry crowd that gathered around them.

All five were arrested and transported to military intelligence in the nearby city of Tanta. Prosecutors there ordered the release of Fayoumi and the cab driver on Sunday. Mackell, Ludovici and Alwi were transferred back to a police station in Mahalla Sunday before being released Monday night. The three are reportedly on their way back to Cairo.

According to human rights lawyer Ragia Omran, who has been closely involved with the case, investigations and interrogations were concluded this morning.

"Obviously the foreigner issue is being used as propaganda to portray this situation as an act of meddling by foreign hands in Egypt. Xenophobia is the way the authorities are trying to spin it. There's somebody from the embassy assisting Derek at the moment," said Ludovici's friend, Beth Warner.

"Derek hasn't been involved in any sort of trouble before, and his paperwork is all valid." Warner said, "but I'm worried that they may continue to hold him and mix his case up with that of the foreign NGOs case."

Egypt is currently trying 43 NGO employees, 29 of whom are foreigners, for working for illegally funded NGOs, in a case that has sparked tension between Egypt and the US.

Ludovici was reportedly able to make a phone call to his parents in the US. "He said he's not being abused or mistreated. He's doing well, just worried about being deported," Warner added.

Ludovici is writing an MA thesis about the labor movement in Egypt.

Mackell has previously visited Mahalla without any problems. In April 2011, he produced documentary videos about labor issues and the textile industry in this city. Upon hearing of industrial workers’ actions planned for 11 February, the freelance journalist said he had hoped to cover the protests in order to better understand the working-class demands behind them.

Mackell has been residing and working in Egypt since early 2011. His writings — primarily on labor, economy and finance issues — have been widely published in media outlets including the Guardian and the Scotsman in the UK, Australia's ABC, The Canberra Times, Lebanon's Al-Akhbar English, Canada's CBC, and America's CBS. He maintains a blog called The Moon Under Water.

Prior to coming to Egypt, Mackell reported from numerous hotspots in the Middle East, including Lebanon during the 2006 Israeli invasion and Iran during the popular protests against the 2009 elections results. He moved to Cairo last year to report on the 25 January revolution and Egypt's transition to democracy.

There are a number of other incidents in which foreign journalists have been detained and harassed in Mahalla.

American graduate student and photojournalist James Buck was detained at a Mahalla police station for 24 hours, along with Mohamed Maree, his interpreter, after a planned strike at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company was thwarted on 6 April 2008. An uprising ensued in this city on 6 and 7 April, and Maree was locked up for nearly three months, while hundreds of others were also arrested. Three workers from the textile company — Fayoumi, Wael Habib, and Kareem el-Beheiri — were also imprisoned.

During another strike at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in February 2001, this reporter was denied entrance into the mill. His photos were erased by military police officers, and he was forcefully removed by an armed escort to the outskirts of the city while being threatened with referral to a military tribunal.

*Photo courtesy of AFP

Violence against women costs Egypt LE150 Billion annually

Egypt Independent
Violence against women costs Egypt an annual LE150 Billion

Mon, 13/02/2012

A research paper prepared by Hamdi al-Henawy, professor of social economy, has shown that violence against women costs Egypt an annual LE147.6 Billion (~$US 25 Billion).

The paper argued that the community pays LE841 a month per adult woman for medical treatment and due to the disruption of her productivity as a result of violence done against her.

The paper revealed that violence against women costs Egypt LE642.3 million in direct losses and LE143.7 billion in indirect losses in 2010.

The study was conducted on a random sample of 1,503 households in Minya, Sohag, Cairo and Alexandria, among families of low, middle and high economic backgrounds.

It showed that 50 percent of women were physically abused at a young age, with 93 percent of them suffering abuse from their parents.

It also showed that 81 percent of men believed they have the right to beat their wives and daughters. This belief is less common in Upper Egypt, where it is culturally taboo for men to beat girls, due to fears that beatings will result in the breaking of the hymen the loss of technical virginity.

According to the study, the first of its kind in the Arab world, 60 percent of parents choose husbands for their daughters, while 40 percent of women were allowed to choose their spouses for themselves.

“The whole society pays for the violence against women,” said Henawy. “And it has serious social and psychological impacts on children.”

Attempts to unionize one of Egypt's most dangerous professions

Egypt Independent
In the dangerous profession of brick-making, talk of organizing

February 13, 2012

Jano Charbel

About 1 million workers employed in Egypt’s brick-manufacturing industry face constant threats of unemployment, exploitation, serious injury, illness and even death. This informal-sector industry relies exclusively on temporary and seasonally employed laborers who have no unions or insurance policies to protect their interests.

But some advocates hope that will change soon.

A conference last weekend organized by the Italian development organization COSPE and a number of Egyptian civil society organizations highlighted the plight of these manual laborers, promoted fair and safe working conditions, and helped them unionize their ranks. Representatives of the brick workers, along with trade union federations, labor lawyers, NGOs and employers, participated in this conference. Although the organization invited governmental authorities, none attended.

The conference focused on the neighborhoods of Saff and Desamy, which have the highest concentrations of red brick manufacturing nationwide. About a thousand red brick factories and workshops are located in this area of southeastern Cairo, and they employ more than 200,000 workers.

“There are no real job opportunities in Saff except for brick-making,” said Reda Abdel Latif, a worker. “In these factories, we are subjected to life-threatening injuries, which often lead to limb amputations.”

Abdel Latif said that “workers in this back-breaking industry toil under the scorching heat of the sun and brick furnaces, and exposure to near-freezing temperatures at night.”

Another brick worker from Saff, Hany Atta, said rampant child labor in the industry means that thousands of children are deprived of their educations.

“They risk their lives and sacrifice their schooling in order to financially assist their families,” Atta said.

He said workers are frequently debilitated in workplace and transport accidents, and are thus “put out of service, or rendered jobless for the remainder of their lives.”

Atta said nearly all brick workers suffer from burns, back injuries and respiratory illnesses associated with inhaling burning diesel and furnace fumes. On average, workers toil for eight to 15 hours per day in these factories.

“In comparison to other forms of manual labor, we are able to generate a decent amount of income from these factories. Yet this comes at the expense of our health. It’s the kind of work that cuts your life short,” Atta said.

Abdel Azim Younis, a brick worker from Desamy, said that while these factories provide money for their workers, there is no job stability, no contracts, no unions, no health insurance and no pensions. Younis added that because they burn diesel and rarely use filters in their chimneys, these factories produce tremendous amounts of pollution, which harms the environment as well as the health of workers and nearby residents.

“We brick workers are expendable capital in the eyes of the employers. If one of us dies, or is injured and unable to work, there are thousands of other workers waiting in line to take our jobs,” Younis explained. “Our production is vital to the building, construction, housing and real estate industries, yet we have no rights.”

Another worker from Desamy, Shaaban Saeed, said that “on average, a brick worker is employed in this industry only until the age of 40 or 45. His body breaks down shortly after this age, and he is no longer able to work in this industry or in any other manual labor for the rest of his short life.” Saeed argued that brick workers receive very low wages in light of their physically draining labor.

Saeed, Younis, Atta and Abdel Latif, along with a host of other brick workers, agreed on the necessity of establishing labor unions in these factories with the goal of improving working conditions, decreasing working hours and/or increasing wages, along with providing workers with contracts, health insurance and pensions.

Intisar Badr, an NGO coordinator involved with the Defending Workers’ Rights initiative, said in terms of environmental and safety standards, the brick-manufacturing industry has not developed and working conditions have not improved in decades. A small minority of these factories have moved to using natural gas instead of diesel, while a few others have installed filters in their chimneys.

“There is stringent resistance from employers regarding workers’ attempts to unionize or organize themselves,” Badr said.

Despite the rise of independent trade unionism since the January 25 revolution, a number of NGO representatives said employers are likely to fire workers who attempt to organize within these brick factories.

Factory owner Qadry Mohamed, who attended the conference, said he sympathized with his workers because they have many grievances.

“I would like to establish an insurance policy for my workers so that they have a safety net to fall on in case they are injured,” Mohamed said.

But he expressed reluctance of establishing a workers’ union within his factory.

“We understand and support the workers’ demands, but the workers also have to understand that such organizations would pressure us beyond our means,” Mohamed said.

Mohamed said the factory is barely making a profit because of rising diesel prices and other expenses, and that such pressure could force the company to shut down or sell off its factories. He pays each worker LE50 for a full day, which averages 10 hours, he said.

Labor lawyer Malek Adly described attempts to unionize brick workers as “a steep uphill struggle, especially if their struggle lacks legal and media support.”

“There is no enforcement of labor legislation with which to protect workers’ rights in the informal sector of the economy,” Adly said.

The lawyer said this roundtable conference was unlikely to lead immediately to the establishment of any unions in these factories, “but it can serve to raise awareness, and to produce labor leaders who could then lead this struggle.”

*Photo courtesy of Ahmed el-Gamal

Year of attacks on free expression in Egypt

Ahram Online
A year of attacks on free expression in Egypt: The full HRW report

International rights organisation, Human Rights Watch releases a report on violations of freedom of expression in post-revolution Egypt. Below is the full text of the report and related communique

February 12, 2012


(New York, February 11, 2012) – The climate for free expression in Egypt has worsened since Hosni Mubarak was ousted a year ago, Human Rights Watch said today. Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) should act to end assaults on journalists by security forces. It should cease prosecutions based on laws violating media freedoms, and the country’s newly elected parliament should promptly repeal those laws.

In one recent example, a Cairo misdemeanor court on December 26, 2011, sentenced a democracy activist, Gaber Elsayed Gaber, to a year in prison for handing out leaflets at a public rally in Cairo. Security forces have engaged in brutal beatings and used excessive force against demonstrators in Cairo and tried to stop journalists from reporting on them. Actions like these were hallmarks of Mubarak’s 30-year rule, but they also have been used repeatedly in the year since the SCAF assumed control on February 11, 2011, Human Rights Watch said.

“The past year has seen a disturbing assault on free expression,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Not only are direct critics of the military under physical and legal threat, but so are those who deliver these critical voices to the public.”

Violations of the right to freedom of expression have included military trials of protesters and bloggers, interrogations of journalists and activists for criticizing the military, the suspension of new satellite television licenses, and the closure of an outlet of Al Jazeera television. In two high-profile cases, the telecommunications entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris and the veteran film comedian Adel Imam have faced charges of insulting religion under vague and arbitrary laws dating from the Mubarak administration.

Human Rights Watch has documented a number of assaults on journalists by security forces during demonstrations and destruction of news media property since the SCAF took power. These efforts to hinder broadcasts of demonstrations follow several months of efforts to curb activities of independent media outlets.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported 50 assaults on and detentions of journalists in November and December alone – actions that “are effectively censoring coverage of ongoing protests in Cairo.” Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 166th in its press freedom index in 2011, a steep decline from 127th in 2010, because “the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ... dashed the hopes of democrats by continuing the Mubarak dictatorship’s practices.”

State security forces have also used excessive and sometimes deadly force to break up a series of demonstrations and sit-ins in which people were trying to exercise their rights to free speech and assembly.

“The SCAF seems to be unjustly prosecuting journalists to obscure repeated brutality against the media by security forces,” Stork said.

The Mubarak government frequently used overly broad provisions in the penal code to crack down on criticism of the government’s human rights record or the political situation. In the past year, editors, opposition leaders, and activists have been tried in both military and civilian courts for “insulting the authorities or “insulting public institutions.”

Prosecutors have relied on existing vague and arbitrary laws still in force under SCAF rule to punish journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens who dare criticize the role of the military. In some cases, people have been prosecuted for making jokes. The new parliament should act decisively to eliminate laws which infringe upon the right to free speech, Human Rights Watch said.

“Sentencing Egyptians to jail for making jokes violates free speech and makes a mockery of justice,” said Stork. “These cases send a chilling message to critics of the military rulers and supporters of democratic reform that they cannot express themselves freely.”


Human Rights Watch interviewed three journalists who said they had been detained and beaten by security forces in November and December 2011 and one in February 2012. In all cases, they said, security officers knew their profession. In addition, two representatives of broadcast companies told Human Rights Watch that police and soldiers destroyed broadcast and photographic equipment, confiscated TV cameras filming from a private home, and threatened a camera crew for taking images of military officers beating male and female protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in December.

On February 4, Central Security Forces agents detained and beat Mostafa Alaa El Din, a reporter and photographer for RASD News Network, an online publication, El Din told Human Rights Watch. He said that the CSF police permitted him to cross their lines near the Interior Ministry during unrest to inquire after a colleague who had been detained earlier. He spoke to a major in the military and told him where he worked. The officer took his camera away and escorted him to El Din’s colleague Mohammed Gaudet.

When El Din tried to phone his superiors, the major took and broke his mobile phone and beat him and Gaudet with a teargas launcher, El Din said. Lower ranking police joined, striking El Din and Gaudet with sticks. They were set free after running a gauntlet of stick-wielding police in the street.

El Din asked for his camera back, but the police did not return it.

On December 17, military forces beat Hassan Shahine, an editor with the independent Al Badil newspaper, after he came to the aid of a woman stripped, beaten, and stomped on by uniformed men, Shahine told Human Rights Watch. He said that the uniformed men then attacked him with clubs, fists, and boots, even as he pleaded for them to stop, saying he was a journalist. He suffered bruises and abrasions to the body and face.

Foreign journalists were also assaulted. Security forces arrested Evan Hill, an online producer for Al Jazeera, on December 16 while he was covering unrest in central Cairo. They beat him and detained him for hours, he told Human Rights Watch.

“Soldiers & men in plain clothes beat me with batons, wooden sticks & once with a crowbar before I was taken inside,” he tweeted that day.

In a published account of his detention at the cabinet office building in Cairo by uniformed soldiers on December 17, 2011, Joseph Mayton, editor of the online newspaper Bikya Masr, wrote, “I was taken in a headlock, lifted off my feet and dragged into the courtyard area, where the grip on my neck increased. I was slapped in the face numerous times and hit on the back.” The soldiers deleted material from his computer and took a memory card from his camera before handing both back, he wrote. He was kept in custody for 10 hours.

Physical attacks were not limited to Cairo. Men in civilian clothing accompanying the police attacked Mohammed Said Shehata, a photojournalist for Akhbar Al Hayat newspaper, on November 19 as he was snapping shots – with police permission – of unrest near Central Security Forces headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, he told Human Rights Watch.

When Shehata started to photograph the beating of a young boy by plainclothes assailants, they turned on him and hustled him into the police station, where police repeatedly hit him and confiscated his camera. Shehata told Human Rights Watch that in December, the Alexandria branch of the Journalists Syndicate filed a complaint to the public prosecutor about his beating and beatings of three other reporters. As of February 1, he had heard nothing about an investigation or charges being brought.

During periods of unrest, security forces have raided premises to try to cut off broadcasts. On December 17, while a crew from the Cairo News Company (CBC) on the eighth floor of the Ismailia Hotel on Tahrir Square filmed a woman being beaten by security forces on the street below, a uniformed soldier on the street motioned to plainclothes bystanders, apparently telling them to go to the hotel and clear out journalists, said Nader Gohar, who owns CBC. The film crew fled their eighth floor outpost after hearing that the plainclothes men were on the way.

The plainclothes men burst through the eighth floor room where the crew had been working and tossed a camera, boxes of broadcast gear and cables, along with transmission equipment, over the balcony, hitting a sweet potato roaster on wheels and setting it on fire. The equipment losses totaled $120,000, Gohar told Human Rights Watch. Two days later, a military officer phoned Gohar and asked him to send someone to get a mobile phone and computer taken from the eighth floor room.

“They said army people don’t steal,” Gohar recalled.

Minutes after CBC+2 broadcast live images of police beating a prone protestor on Kasr al-Aini Street, a group of five men in civilian clothes entered the crews’ ninth floor quarters in another building on Tahrir Square, said Mohammed Hani, the managing director. The men told the crew to stop broadcasting or they would destroy the equipment. The crew stopped for two hours and then began to broadcast again. Hani told Human Rights Watch he did not know whether the men were police, soldiers, or civilians.

Around November 17, uniformed soldiers entered the apartment home of Pierre Sioufi, who is not a journalist, but where journalists using two cameras were photographing Tahrir Square. The soldiers first broke down a door leading to the rooftop and then asked Sioufi if there were any cameras in his apartment. Sioufi let one of the soldiers enter and he took away the journalists’ cameras, Sioufi told Human Rights Watch.


On September 9, then-Information Minister Osama Heikal announced that the government would grant no new satellite television broadcast licenses. Two days later, security forces raided the offices of Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr in Cairo, suspending its operations. Mubasher maintains a bureau in Cairo but currently broadcasts from Qatar, the home base of its mother channel Al Jazeera.

On September 12, Heikal told the official Middle East News Agency that “it was unacceptable for channels to use equipment for real time coverage of events without receiving state permission,” and that Al Jazeera Mubasher had committed several violations.

Soldiers and police raided and shut down two television channels – TV25 and US government-funded Al Hurra – the night of October 9, as they broadcast a violent military assault on demonstrators protesting the burning of a Christian church in Upper Egypt.


On December 26, a Cairo district misdemeanor court sentenced Gaber Elsayed Gaber to one year in prison with labor for distributing, according to the court’s written decision, “publications that disturbed public security and drove a wedge between the Egyptian people and the Egyptian army and harmed the reputation of the Egyptian ruling military council.” A group of men in civilian clothes detained him at a pro-SCAF rally in the Abbassiya district of Cairo on December 23 and turned him over to police as he was distributing a pamphlet critical of SCAF and calling for the continuation of the Egyptian revolution, said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, whose lawyers are defending him and appealing the verdict.

On January 25, the SCAF released Maikel Nabil, a blogger, from prison after almost 10 months of incarceration. A military court had sentenced him in April to three years in prison for “insulting the military establishment,” under article 184 of the penal code, and “spreading false information,” under article 102. In December, the military court reduced the sentence to two years. The SCAF pardoned him and more than 1,900 prisoners on the eve of the first anniversary of the anti-Mubarak uprising.

Nabil, in a video message after his release, rejected the notion that a pardon was adequate, given that he should not have been tried, convicted, and imprisoned in the first place.

“All charges against those implicated for expressing an opinion must be revoked,” he said at a news conference in Cairo on January 28.

On August 13, Asmaa Mahfouz, a former leading member of the anti-SCAF April 6 Youth Movement, received a summons to appear before the military prosecutor the next day for questioning. The military prosecutor questioned her for over three hours about her comments on Twitter and media interviews during protests on July 23 in which she criticized the military for failing to intervene to protect protesters.

On August 16, Egypt’s official news agency, MENA, quoted a military justice official saying the prosecutor had decided to refer Mahfouz’s case to court on charges of insulting the military, dropping the other charges. Mahfouz told Human Rights Watch that the charges against her were withdrawn on August 18.


On February 1, a Cairo misdemeanor court sentenced Adel Imam, a well known veteran film and stage comedian, to three months in jail and a fine of 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($166) for contempt of religion in several movies he has made in recent years. In the films, among a wide variety of subjects, he satirizes pious people and Islamist terrorists. The judge did not make clear what law was violated; a full verdict was not shown to defense lawyers on the day of the ruling, Imam’s lawyer, Safwat Hussein, said he went to court the morning of February 2 to inquire, but the judge did not permit him to photocopy the case file.

Adel Imam told Human Rights Watch he knew nothing of the verdict until a note appeared in two Cairo newspapers the evening of February 1. Such suits had been filed against him during the Mubarak era, but none came to anything, he said.

Naguib Sawiris, a prominent businessman and founder of the secular liberal Free Egyptians Party, is on trial for contempt of religion under article 98(f) of the penal code, which punishes “whoever exploits religion in order to promote extremist ideologies by word of mouth or in any other manner, with a view to stirring up sedition, disparaging or contempt of any divine religion or its adherents, or prejudicing national unity.” Last June, he tweeted cartoons of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in pious Islamic garb.

If found guilty, Sawiris can be punished “with imprisonment between six months and five years or by paying a fine of at least 500 Egyptian pounds.” The first hearing, scheduled for January 14, was postponed until February 11. Sawiris’ lawyer, Naguib Gobraiel, told Human Rights Watch he considers the charges an attack aimed both at Sawiris as a politician and as a Coptic Christian, a minority in Egypt.

“Muslim politicians consider him a strong political rival and think that if they get rid of him, they also get rid of the Copts,” he said.


Egypt’s penal code includes numerous provisions that violate international law by providing criminal penalties of imprisonment for “insulting” public officials and institutions, including the president (article 179), public officials (article 185), “foreign kings or heads of state” (article 180), and foreign diplomats (article 182).

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, the expert body that provides authoritative interpretations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party, states in General Comment No. 34, on Article 19 on Freedom of Expression, that “States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

By this standard, article 184 of the Egyptian penal code, which criminalizes “insulting the People’s Assembly, the Shura Council or any State Authority, or the Army or the Courts,” is incompatible with international law and should be amended accordingly, Human Rights Watch said.

General Comment No. 34 continues: “The mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties, albeit public figures may also benefit from the provisions of the Covenant. Moreover, all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.”

Laws that criminalize “contempt” of religion or religious groupings are incompatible with norms of freedom of expression, the Human Rights Committee said. General Comment No. 34 notes that it is impermissible for “prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws…to be used to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith.”

Egypt: Call for general strike falters but not in vain

Ahram Online
Egypt's general strike call founders but not in vain

Although calls for a three-day strike by political and student movements were ineffective, some believe the effort was not in vain

Wednesday, 15 Feb. 2012

Dina Samak

Faisal Abdel Aziz, a banker in his early thirties was still optimistic as he went to work Monday morning. "The revolution continues,” he says, "even if one action fails. We still have to try and learn from our mistakes."

Abdel Aziz is not a member of any revolutionary group or political party but still sees himself as part of the revolution. "I've been to most of the protests in Tahrir Square since the beginning of the 18-day uprising. This year, on the anniversary of January 25, I marched all the way from Maadi to Tahrir Square to call on the ruling military council to handover power to a civil authority."

The banker, however, chose not to heed calls for a nationwide general strike planned for Saturday, 11 February. Calls for a general strike aimed at pressuring the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to handover power to a civil authority were triggered by a number of university student unions and adopted by a handful of leftist and liberal parties as well as revolutionary groups.

"I don't work on Saturday anyway, and all I could do Sunday is take sick leave," explains Abdel Aziz. It would have been very hard for him to announce that he was on strike, he added, as the call to action did not draw much sympathy in his work place.

In the days running up to the strike, the Egyptian media engrossed itself in talk of the looming trade unionist action, slandering its organisers and calling for stability. But on the first day of the planned three-day strike, it became clear to supporters and detractors alike that the strike was to be grounded before it could even pick up pace.

However, a new debate was soon sparked, as supporters of the call questioned whether the less than stellar response should be read as a major setback.

"I am not depressed at all,” says Gihan Shaban, one of the founders of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, a political backer of the strike action. "I never expected the strike to succeed anyway; rather our support for these calls was rooted in our belief that collective action – in the form of work stoppage – is a legitimate protest tool. We also wanted to declare our support for the demands raised by the student unions who called for the strike."

For Shaban, current economic conditions in Egypt are ripe for a major strike wave, but it is yet-unclear when this could happen. In fact a number of workers strikes did take place before or during the three days of the so-called general strike. The workers who participated in these actions, however, were very careful not to link their industrial action on the shop floor with what was happening on the political scene.

Ain Al-Sokhna port workers, who had announced plans to begin an open strike 9 February against Dubai port operator DP World, decided instead to return to negotiations sponsored by the Suez governor and a number of MPs. When negotiations failed, the port workers decided to start their strike on 12 February, making it clear that their action had nothing to do with the call for a general strike.

"We have nothing against the call," said Hamada Kamel the head of the port's labour union, "The problem is that most of the workers were worried their demands would get lost amongst the general demands of the national strike." Kamel told Ahram Online that on many occasions many port workers would participate in Suez's political protests individually, but most were reluctant to take their political beliefs to work.

"This is exactly the reason why the general strike failed to happen," says Shaban, clarifying that "many of the workers who are actually a part of the revolution do not link their economic demands to political demands; and the political movement for its part has so far failed to bridge the gap between both."

The socialist activist, who was herself involved in solidarity campaigns with workers strikes under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, thinks that Saturday's ineffective strike action could send a good message to Egypt's revolutionary forces: "Tahrir is not the revolution, and they (the revolutionary forces) need to approach the working class that is already trying to organise itself."

Shaban's message was well received by university students, according to Mahmoud Nawar, a student at Helwan University as well as a political activist. "Strikes at universities have attracted a large number of students who have become aware that they cannot fight alone," he said, as he marched on campus with dozens of other students. The slogans used by the students reflected Nawar's sentiment. "We the students together with workers unite against the capitalist gang" was one of the many economic and socially charged slogans widely used in the march.

"Many students were not politicised prior to the revolution and others only came around when they found their colleagues getting killed in protests. The students movement is reviving, and those who called for the strike on 11 February are now aware that they need the workers. The student movement like the whole political movement in Egypt learns from its experience."

According to Nawar some students are now trying to create a national committee for students to collectively organise future student action around the country as well as facilitate coordination with trade unions. This kind of coordination was only present in Egypt in 1946 when workers and students established what was known as the Higher Committee for Students and Workers against British Occupation.

Nawar, like many young political activists, believes that Egypt's protest movement needs to do more to further its demands than simply demonstrating in Tahrir Square. "The protests are important of course, and the marches against military rule on the revolution's anniversary were proof that the revolutionary spirit still exists and is growing," he explains. "But after the Port Said massacre that left more than 70 dead and the ensuing clashes that saw police leaving at least 15 dead outside the interior ministry, it became clear that we have to do more than just confront the police until we are killed or injured."

The call for a general strike, according to Nawar, revealed a new direction the movement could take. However, the lack of organisation cited by both Nawar and Shaban as the reason behind the political movement's failure to effectively organise industrial action, is not the real reason according to other parties that refused to rally around the strike.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), snubbed the call from the beginning and called on people to not participate. The FJP's position was the subject of often fierce criticism by those who called for the strike, who reminded the Brotherhood that they had a totally different position towards the calls for a general strike in 2008.

In 6 April that year the response to the call by anti-Mubarak movement Kefaya and other political groups in solidarity with Mahalla Textile workers was not big either. The Muslim Brotherhood, however, defended the call as a peaceful means of anti-regime expression.

Brotherhood students at Cairo University issued a statement on the first day of the strike saying that they agree with the student movement's demands, declaring their respect of strikes as a peaceful tool for political expression. They too did not call on students to participate and did not go on strike themselves.

Member of Parliament Mohamed Beltagy, who is also a member of the Executive Office of the FJP, stated on Sunday that what happened Saturday was a protest, not a general strike or civil disobedience.

"We succeeded in electing a People’s Assembly that truly represents us all. It is only appropriate for us now to turn to that elected body with our demands which it shall meet," said the MB Secretary-General. "We have to be patient, though. There are many demands, and the new parliament has to effect reforms of thirty years of rampant corruption, which cannot be done in one day."

For Beltagy and other MB leaders, Egypt is still in need of protests and sit-ins to pressure government to enact reforms and to achieve the demands of the revolution, however a general strike is not needed and that is why the Egyptian people did not respond to the calls.

Abdel Aziz thinks that the media played a role in making his colleagues at the bank look suspiciously towards the call for a general strike. "Many of my friends who are pro-revolution did not understand what is meant by a general strike in the first place, and others believed that it would negatively affect the country's security and economy as the main stream media propagated," he says.

"There were no strikes in work places, at least not as far as I know, but the calls for one were really successful, because at least people now know what it means."

*Photo by Mai Shaheen

120 labor groups to lead industrial actions on Feb. 11

Egypt Independent
Labor groups to join strike planned for 11 February

Mon, 06/02/2012

One-hundred-and-twenty labor groups have announced their intention to participate in a general strike planned for 11 February, the anniversary of President Hosni Mubarak’s departure, to pressure the military council to hand over power.

The strike also demands justice for Egypt’s martyrs, the trial of the former President and his aides before a revolutionary tribunal, and the purging of corruption from state institutions.

It calls on people not to go to work that day (save for humanitarian emergencies), to protest the recent bloodshed, and to refrain from paying taxes and utility bills as a means of civil disobedience.

Among the participating groups are the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, the Egyptian Labor Conference Movement, the Sadat City Workers' Union, the Tenth of Ramadan City Workers 'Union and textile workers' union committees.

They hold the military council responsible for the recent violence, and demand that it return stability to the country, maintain national security and preserve the military’s image.

They also express regret that Egypt’s people — who seek a bright future ruled by the values ​​of citizenship, freedom, human dignity and social justice — suffer from conflict with the security services.

*Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm Arabic Edition

Labor unrest in Egypt's largest gold mine

Egypt Independent
Workers continue to protest at Sukari gold mine

Tue, 07/02/2012

Jano Charbel

The Sukari Gold Mine, Egypt's largest and oldest, has been witnessing numerous acts of labor unrest amidst allegations of corruption, smuggling and other controversies.

Located in the southeast of the country some 30 km away from the Red Sea City of Marsa Alam, this massive gold-mining project has been rocked by numerous industrial actions since the 25 January Revolution — including work-stoppages, slow-down strikes, hunger strikes and protests, along with the blocking of roads leading to and from the mine.

Most recently, the mine's two main entrances/exits have intermittently been blocked by tens of protesting workers since late January. Workers employed at this mine claim that they are being systematically exploited by the administration, are being punitively sacked, and are denied their basic labor rights.

"All production has been brought to a halt at the Sukari Gold Mine. There is an ongoing strike and sit-in of all workers within the mine. This open-ended strike has been going on for four days now — since 3 February," said Mohamed Hamed, Deputy Director of the Marsa Alam Youth Center for Development.

The General Manager of the Sukari Corporation, Esmat al-Raghy, posted a notice on 3 February announcing that the workers' demands are still being investigated and will be looked into over the course of the next 15 days.

Quoting a worker within the mine, Hamed added, "A delegation from the Ministry of Manpower's bureau in Hurghada visited the mine on Monday, but makes no promises regarding the realization of workers' demands. The workers are seeking concessions from Egyptian Mineral Resource Authority (EMRA) and/or the Ministry of Petroleum."

Meanwhile, Raghy reportedly "threatened the workers with dismissal, and also threatened to enforce a lock-out throughout the mine." Furthermore, he "called on the armed forces to take over the operations in the Sukari mine," Hamed added.

Workers find these labor grievances hard to understand in light of claims that Sukari is among the ten largest gold mines in the world, with deposits estimated at US$20 billion. It produces around eight to nine tons of gold each year and, according to the EMRA, has potential for increased production.

Centamin Egypt, the chief company managing the mine since 2007, is an Australian mineral exploration and mining company. Centamin commenced operations in 2009 and currently employs some 1,150 workers within the mine, while over 3,000 others are employed by its subsidiary companies outside the mine. Employment policies of these subsidiary companies, particularly the Pharaoh Gold Mine Company and the Sukari Corporation, are the purported cause of labor unrest both inside and outside the mine.

"Workers at the mine typically work 12-hour shifts, in one of the most dangerous and physically-exerting occupations," said Ahmed Fahimi, an industrial safety specialist who was fired from his job two months ago. "Although the vast majority of workers are working full-time and even overtime, very few have signed any contracts."

According to Fahimi, the subsidiary companies’ management has refused to provide their workers with full-time contracts, have not paid overdue bonuses, do not provide adequate insurance for their workers, and deny workers the right to organize themselves in unions or leagues.

Fahimi, along with other workers, claims that the management of these subsidiary companies are "interlinked businesses controlled by the Raghy Family."

Adding that the company boards are characterized by "nepotism, punitive and arbitrary sackings of workers, illegitimate profiteering and smuggling along with administrative and financial corruption … anybody who asks for their rights, or stands up against the administration's abuses can expect to be fired with no compensation whatsoever," Fahimi said.

Raghy declined to answer questions regarding employment policies, environmental standards or industrial actions at the mining project. Raghy said, "I cannot comment, as information previously disclosed has been distorted in the media."

Workers at the mine claim they have been threatened with dismissal if they speak with the media.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a worker employed at the Sukari Corporation said: "We demand eight-hour work shifts instead of the 12-hour shifts that they force us to work each day." Other demands include full-time contracts, the payment of overdue bonuses, the reinstatement of all workers who were punitively sacked, safer working conditions, health insurance and subsidized housing near the project, or at least housing compensation money.

"There is no job security, we are subject to dismissal upon notice, and we haven't received any of the bonuses we were promised years ago when we first started working here," the anonymous worker added.

There had been a preliminary agreement to reinstate fired workers in another operating company — the Capital company — rather than the Pharaoh Gold Mine or the Sukari Corporation from which they were sacked. However, this agreement has not been implemented in light of the ongoing strike.

Since "only a few contracts" have been signed by workers employed at the mine, the rest are deemed to be temporary workers and thus are not granted insurance policies or the right to establish a legally recognized trade union.

Monthly wages for workers at the Sukari Gold Mine are said to range from LE1,300 to 2,000 (around US$235-360), while the wages of engineers and specialists range from LE2,000 to LE7,000 (around US$360-1,270). While these wages are well above average incomes in Egypt, workers toil for the equivalent of nearly two shifts each day, doing physically demanding labor while being exposed to scorching heat and near-freezing nights.

According to Fahimi, industrial accidents in the mine happen almost on a daily basis.

"Dust inhalation from extraction and processing have resulted in respiratory illnesses amongst the workers, while pits and falling rocks have resulted in serious injuries, broken bones, and even some work-related deaths."

He added that "an accident involving a cyanide spill could claim the lives of tens, or even hundreds, of workers."

Regarding environmental hazards, Fahimi stated: "While cyanide is used in a number of operations within the mine, the companies seem to be abiding by Egyptian environmental standards."

Fahimi pointed out that "while the companies claim that the cyanide used is not seeping down into the groundwater, other industrial chemicals have been spilled and have in fact seeped into the groundwater." He claimed that three years ago, around six tons of hydrochloric acid was spilled in an industrial accident, and "no authority was informed — it was their dirty secret."

The mining operations consume tremendous amounts of water drawn from the nearby Red Sea.

"The mining project has harmed the environment, but it has harmed the health and well-being of its workers even more. This mine should bring prosperity, but instead its gold is being smuggled outside the mine and even outside the country," Hamed said.

"We have acted as mediators," along with the mayor of Marsa Alam City, "and have sought to re-instate 24 workers sacked from the different companies operating in the mine," Hamed added.

Like Fahimi, Hamed claimed that "nepotism and favoritism are the norm within the administrations, along with profiteering from illegal activities." Last month, however, Minister of Petroleum Abdullah Ghorab, along with authorities from EMRA, denied that any gold smuggling from the Sukari Mine had taken place.

Centamin began operating in Egypt in 1995, and the Sukari Gold Mine is its chief operation in the country. The mine spans an area of 160 square kilometers. This land was leased to Centamin with an operating license from EMRA for a period of 30 years. This license is subject to renewal for another 30 years.

Completed by 2007, the mining works cost Centamin US$216 million to construct; its operations began by first quarter of 2009. Centamin’s annual expenditures in the Sukari Gold Mine amount to US$365 million. The Egyptian State imposes a three percent tax on its production for a period of 15 years. In 2010, Egypt earned US$10 million from gold production from this royalty fee with Centamin.