Monday, September 30, 2013

Egypt: Labor activist wades into the deep state

Mada Masr
Labor activist wades into the deep state
Kamal Abu Eita, the new minister of manpower

September 30, 2013  

Jano Charbel

In 2007, renowned trade unionist and opposition figure Kamal Abu Eita led thousands of workers on strikes and sit-ins outside the Cabinet.

One uprising and an election later, more mass protests led to the ousting of a second president and countless bouts of politically-fueled violence. It’s 2013, and Abu Eita is now the sitting minister of manpower.

In just eight years, Abu Eita has steadily risen from the ranks of an independent trade union organizer, to a member of parliament, to a minister in the very Cabinet building he protested in front of six years ago.

“This may spell political suicide for me,” Abu Eita said prior to accepting his ministerial post on July 16.

The statement was a candid acknowledgment of the great risks and responsibilities associated with running this ministry in such uncertain political circumstances.

Abu Eita was appointed by interim President Adly Mansour, who himself was tapped for the post by the Armed Forces after they forced former President Mohamed Morsi out of office after the June 30 mass protests against his government.

In the aftermath of Morsi’s removal, hundreds have been killed as his supporters held protests and sit-ins demanding his reinstatement. The interim Cabinet has come under fire by some for not reacting to the bloodshed, while others laud the the government’s actions against the Muslim Brotherhood, which they now label a terrorist organization.

Reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei, whose appointment to the position of vice president of international affairs was seen as giving the government a level of legitimacy, resigned from his post following the violent dispersal of two pro-Morsi sit-ins on August 14.

Since accepting his nomination to the Cabinet, Abu Eita has been criticized and condemned for his actions and inactions alike. While some in the labor movement have praised and applauded him, millions of Egyptian workers and employees are still waiting to assess his performance.

Most recently, Abu Eita has been credited with pushing forth a new minimum wage law for government workers, which sets baseline salaries at LE1,200 per month, compared to the previous rate of LE700.

Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi announced in mid-September that the new minimum wage would be enforced in the public sector by January 2014, although the government still wasn’t sure how it was going to find the funds to do so.

On July 17, Abu Eita had pledged that the minimum wage law would be passed within three days. Now, two months later, workers and labor activists are wondering if the law will actually be implemented come January 2014, or whether it will remain arbitrary.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about labor rights since the beginning of the January 25 revolution. In reality, we haven’t seen any of these things materialize,” says Karam Saber, a labor analyst and director of the Land Center for Human Rights.

Prior to and since the 2011 uprising, workers and independent unions have put forth clear labor demands to realize the goals of “bread, freedom and social justice.”

Chief among these is a minimum wage of LE1,200 — or, according to more recent demands, between LE1,500 or LE2,000 — for all sectors of the economy. A maximum wage for public sector administrators has also been demanded, which would have a ceiling of no more than 15 times the minimum wage.

The right to establish independent trade unions and the right to engage in peaceful strikes and other forms of industrial action are seen as vital to any democratic environment. Related to this is the reinstatement of workers and unionists punitively sacked from their jobs due to industrial actions, which was and remains to be a core cause for many labor strikes.

Also integral to their demands is the re-nationalization of companies which had their privatization contracts nullified by court order, which the activists consider to be central in undoing years of corrupt practices and what’s seen as the unfair restructuring of companies. In the same vein, union activists demand the reopening of hundreds of stalled or bankrupt factories and companies nationwide.


While speaking favorably of Abu Eita’s personality and previous struggles, Saber says the minister is “a member of a Cabinet which clearly sides with the interests of businessmen, investors and security forces.”

“Realistically, he cannot prevent these powers-that-be from violating workers’ rights. At the same time, he has a responsibility and duty to uphold domestic labor and union laws, as well as international agreements such as the International Labor Organizations’ conventions, to which Egypt is a party,” he adds.

Tangible dismay has been expressed towards Abu Eita’s relative silence as security forces were deployed to quell labor strikes over the past weeks.

According to Tallal Shokr of the independent Egyptian Democratic Labor Confederation, “Abu Eita is a praiseworthy man, yet he is just one man. Although he is well-informed and in touch with what’s happening, the deep state is bigger than him and his ministry. This deep state serves the interests of businessmen, first and foremost.

“Abu Eita will be the best minister of manpower this country has had if he can fulfill his promises,” he adds. “We wish him success.”

Hailing from Abu Eita’s Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU), Fatma Ramadan also wishes the new minister luck.

“If he finds that this deep state is too deep for him, or if he finds himself unable to carry out his responsibilities under these conditions, then he should resign,” she says. “He should resign as other Cabinet and governmental officials have recently done when they’ve realized that Egyptians’ rights are being violated, and that the revolution is being led astray.”

On the other hand, leading members of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) have openly denounced Abu Eita and his alleged meddling in ETUF affairs.

One of Abu Eita’s chief opponents, particularly since he was appointed minister, is Gabali al-Maraghy, former chief of the ETUF and its subsidiary General Union of Land Transport Workers.

On September 7, Abu Eita’s ministry announced a shake-up of the ETUF’s administrative board. Maraghy was first to be dismissed.

Abu Eita replaced him with Abdel Fattah Ibrahim, the former chief of the General Union of Textile Workers.

Maraghy has since claimed that Abu Eita illegally intervened in ETUF affairs, and even called for protests against the new minister, including a public transport strike.
Saber confirms this claim.

“Yes, this may be viewed as an act of interference in union affairs. But this is how the ETUF has functioned ever since it was created. It has always been under the Ministry of Manpower’s control,” he says.

Abu Eita was instrumental in establishing the Real Estate Tax Authority Employees (RETA) Union in April 2009, which broke away from the confines of the ETUF after weeks of strikes and sit-ins, and became the first independent union to be established in Egypt since 1954. The union claims to have a membership of some 27,000 employees nationwide.

He then went on to help establish the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions on January 30 2011, incorporating RETA with the Independent Teachers Syndicate, Pensioners Syndicate and Egyptian Health Technologists Syndicate.

Abu Eita was subsequently elected president of the EFITU.

He successfully ran for Parliament under the electoral list of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, winning a seat in the Bulaq circuit of Giza in January 2012. Following the court-ordered dissolution of Parliament, and Morsi’s election as president in June 2012, Abu Eita took a more antagonistic stance towards the Brotherhood.

The 60-year-old Abu Eita, a member of the Nasserist Karama Party, welcomed the mass protests mobilized by the Tamarod (Rebel) movement on June 30, and also welcomed the role played by the Armed Forces in giving Morsi an ultimatum that forced him out of office.

Since then, Abu Eita’s outlooks and statements appear to have changed significantly.

Shortly after the Morsi was deposed on July 3, Abu Eita issued statements calling on workers to put their industrial actions on hold, and to forfeit their right to strike during this “period of national reconstruction.”

These comments have caused considerable ire and angst within the camp of independent unionists, left-leaning activists and other labor organizers.

“Our problem is not with Kamal Abu Eita as a person; our problem is that the government has sided with the independent unions rather than the ETUF,” says former ETUF secretary Nagy Rashad.

“The government chose to appoint a minister from a smaller federation, with fewer members, rather than the ETUF, which is the country’s oldest and largest union federation,” he says.

He claims that the ETUF has a membership of 5 million workers nationwide; other statistics say the actual number is less than 4.5 million. The EFITU claims a membership of 2.5 million, although the actual number of unionized workers in this nascent federation could also be fewer.

“Abu Eita has proposed numerous initiatives to promote workers’ rights and liberties since 2006, and he’s been a champion of independent union organization,” Rashad recognizes, adding that the minister is now seeking to reconcile Egypt’s different union federations.

Meanwhile, he has been criticized for appointing several members from his EFITU to leading positions within the ETUF’s administrative board.

Emad al-Araby, formerly a board member of EFITU, is amongst these new appointees announced on September 7.

Araby commented that he, like Abu Eita before him, had stepped down from his post in the independent federation. And despite his membership in the Karama Party, Araby claims, “Kamal [Abu Eita] is neutral and stands at an equal distance from all of Egypt’s unions and workers.”

Abu Eita will continue in the footsteps of former minister Ahmed Boraei — who served as manpower minister from March to July 2011 and is the incumbent minister of social solidarity — in pushing for new labor legislation, namely the anticipated Trade Union Liberties Law, set to replace the intrusive Trade Union Law 35/1976.

Defending the minister’s recent comments about industrial action, Araby says he “did not make these statements against the right to strike. He made these statements in light of the Brotherhood’s calls for strikes and civil disobedience — since Morsi’s ouster.”

“Strikes will remain a basic right, and a weapon in the hands of the workers. However, the Brotherhood is seeking to exploit labor rights in attempt to reinstate their deposed leader,” he claims.

It was the events of June 30 that brought Kamal forward as a candidate for the ministry. “Kamal did not nominate himself to this post; in fact, he had previously turned down the post of minister of manpower, which he was offered in 2011,” Araby asserts.

*Photo by Jano Charbel

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hunger-striking Canadians to remain jailed for another 45 days in Egypt

CBC News 

Canadians in Egypt to be jailed for extra 45 days

John Greyson, Tarek Loubani jailed another 45 days in Egypt

September 29, 2013


Canadians John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, jailed in Egypt since their Aug. 16 arrest, have had their imprisonment extended for another 45 days, according to a friend who spoke with the pair's lawyers in Egypt.

The two men are on the 13th day of a hunger strike in Tora prison, south of Cairo.

Justin Podur, who has been posting updates on his blog, told CBC News he had received information from Greyson and Loubani's lawyers in Cairo about the extension.

Cecilia Greyson, John's sister, said their lawyers told her that everyone arrested on Aug. 16 during the violent protests have had their imprisonment extended for the same amount of time.

She said the lawyers have launched an appeal to free the men, with a decision possible next week.

"John and Tarek were simply witnesses on August 16th to a very bloody series of demonstrations where Tarek was trying to do emergency medical care simply because he was there and people needed a doctor at that point," Greyson told CBC News on Sunday.

"I don't know why the Egyptian government continues to press this case. It seems ludicrous from our standpoint."

Greyson is urging the prime minister to step in.

On Sunday afternoon, Lynne Yelich, Canada's Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular) issued a statement saying she was "disappointed" to learn that the two men would remain in custody.

“Canada continues to press for a timely and positive resolution to this situation and, in the absence of confirmation of the charges, once again calls for their release," said the release.

“Minister Baird and I have been in close contact with Egyptian officials on multiple occasions, and our embassy in Cairo continues to meet with senior Egyptian government officials regularly on this case. The well-being of Dr. Loubani and Mr. Greyson is our top priority. We continue to receive consular access and are in regular contact with the Canadians’ lawyer and families.”

Day of arrest details posted

The news comes a day after Podur posted what Greyson and Loubani say is their full account of the day of their arrest.
Loubani, an emergency room doctor from London, Ont., and Greyson, a Toronto filmmaker and university professor, had been intending to make their way to the Gaza Strip last month when they were arrested. They both have family in the Maritimes — Greyson's sister lives in Halifax and Loubani has family in both Halifax and Bathurst, N.B.

In their statement, the two say they were stuck in Cairo and had decided to visit a protest in Ramses Square, five blocks from their hotel.

Within moments of arriving at the demonstration, they say chaos ensued, with wounded people being carried out of the square and gunshots ringing out. According to the statement, Loubani began helping the injured, at one point performing CPR, while Greyson filmed the scene. They say they witnessed the deaths of at least 50 people.

'Slapped, beaten, ridiculed'

Afterward, the pair say they were having trouble getting out of the police cordon and back to their hotel, asking for help at a checkpoint.

“That's when we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist', slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.

Was it our Canadian passports, or the footage of Tarek performing CPR, or our ice cream wrappers that set them off? They screamed 'Canadian' as they kicked and hit us. John had a precisely etched bootprint bruise on his back for a week.”

According to Tarek’s brother, Mohammed, Canadian consular staff documented the pair’s injuries but told the families of the two not to publicly reveal the two men had been beaten.

“They were worried that the Egyptian authorities might cut our access off to Tarek and John if we publicized their mistreatment," he told CBC News.

Mohammed is also pressing the federal government to take the issue to a higher level.

"We believe it is now past due for the Prime Minister to call the Egyptian Prime Minister directly and highlight how damaging to Canada-Egypt relations this whole episode has been," he said in an email.

Court nullifies privatization of two textile companies

Mada Masr

Landmark verdict nulls Tanta Flax privatization

September 28, 2013

Jano Charbel

A Cairo court upheld on Saturday a previous ruling nullifying the privatization contract of the Tanta Flax and Oils Company, in what is considered a landmark verdict.

The Supreme Administrative Court in the Dokki district of Giza issued the final verdict on Saturday, nullifying the privatization contract of the Tanta Flax and Oils Company which was sold to Saudi investor Abdel Ellah al-Kaaki in 2005.

The ruling upheld a prior verdict issued on September 21, 2011 by the Administrative Court, which found that Tanta Flax had been sold for well below its real market value, at a mere LE84 million when its real market value was estimated at LE211 million in 1996.

Some estimates even suggest that the company was actually worth around LE500 million.

Tanta Flax, along with the Shebin el-Kom Textile Company and the Nasr Boilers Company, all had their privatization contracts nullified by the court in September 2011.

The privatization of Omar Effendi department stores and the Nile Cotton Ginning Company were also dealt a similar fate in May and December 2011, respectively.

The chief justice presiding over today’s case announced that “all appeals against the previous verdict are rejected.” While this means that the rulings cannot be appealed in local Egyptian courts, al-Kaaki has reportedly taken the cases to international arbitration.

The courtroom erupted with celebration when the workers heard the verdict, which they’d eagerly anticipated for years. Workers from other privatized companies, who had come to stand in solidarity with the Tanta Flax workers, also cheered in hopes for similar verdicts.

Gamal Othman, a worker and activist who had been sacked from the Tanta Flax and Oils Company several years earlier, said, “Today our company has returned to its rightful owner and rightful place: the public sector.”

He added, “We just hope the authorities enforce the verdict, to resume company operations in full capacity and to reinstate all sacked workers.”

Since the late 1990s, numerous committees have been established to salvage the state-owned textile companies — often resulting in privatizations, mass-layoffs and factory closures.

While the three public-sector textile companies, which had been privatized under the Hosni Mubarak regime, had their privatization contracts nullified in 2011, the state has repeatedly declined to reabsorb these three companies back into the public sector — thus leaving thousands of workers in a state of limbo.

From its original workforce of some 2,300 prior to the 2005 privatization, Tanta Flax had downsized to fewer than 200 workers, as the majority of its production lines came to a halt.

Workers claim that al-Kaaki had sought to sell-off both the factories and the land on which the company is based, in Mit Hebeish, located in the Delta governorate of Gharbiya.

Neither al-Kaaki, nor his administrators could be reached for comment.

On Saturday, the Supreme Administrative Court adjourned another trial pertaining to the privatization of the Nile Cotton Ginning Company. The verdict in this trial, along with the verdicts pertaining to other companies’ privatization contracts, has not yet been determined.

On April 17, 2013 a court sentenced former Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to one year in prison, along with his removal from public office, for failing to uphold the December 2011 verdict nullifying the privatization contract of Nile Cotton Ginning.

Qandil is still appealing the verdict.

*Photo of Tanta Flax workers outside Administrative Court by Jano Charbel


Daily News Egypt

Court nulls privatisation contract of Nile Cotton Ginning Company

50% of the company’s shares were sold in the bourse in 1997 due to a stakeholders’ decision; process is deemed illegal

Supreme Administrative Court ruled the nullification of the privatisation of the Nile Cotton Ginning Company on Sunday.

Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) lawyer and former presidential candidate, Khaled Ali, tweeted that the verdict was issued; fellow ECESR lawyer Malek Adly confirmed the news.

The verdict cancelled the decision of the then state-owned company’s stakeholders at their meeting in 1997 to sell 50% of its shares on the bourse; it also means the rejection of the objection filed by the government against the first-degree Administrative Court verdict ruling the annulment.

“The hardest challenge regarding Nile Cotton Ginning company case was that it was sold through the bourse,” Adly said. 

He explained that most companies that were privatized under ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s government were sold directly to an investor, thus, the lawsuits were filed against the government and the investor; in the Nile Cotton Ginning company case, it was filed by Ali against the government and the company’s stakeholders for their decision to sell the shares in the bourse. 

Adly said that the reasons behind the verdict are yet to be known, but expected them to be published shortly.

A press statement issued by ECESR read: “The governmental committee that was responsible for valuation of the company has no authority, because it does not have legal basis in the 1971 constitution or in state-owned business sector law.”

The statement explained that Article 26B in the state-owned business sector law , which legalizes such a selling process, was added by a prime minister in 2006, nine years after the selling process, making it illegal by the time it happened.

ECESR lawyer, Hend Al-Adawy, who is a specialist in privatization cases, said: “The company was nationalized by a presidential decree in 1963, thus, the stakeholders’ decision to sell it through the bourse is illegal; Egyptian law prohibits the return of nationalized companies to private ownership.”

Sunday’s verdict is the second verdict by the Supreme Administrative Court this week, ruling the annulment of privatizing a government-owned-company, the first being the Tanta Flax and Oil company verdict on Saturday.

The Administrative Judiciary issued 11 verdicts ruling the annulment of privatizing state-owned-companies since the toppling of Mubarak’s regime on 11 February 2011.

Egypt: Release journalist facing military trial


Egypt: Release journalist facing military trial for Sinai coverage

September 27, 2013

An Egyptian journalist facing an unfair military trial over his coverage of events in Sinai must be immediately and unconditionally released, said Amnesty International ahead of a hearing in his case on Sunday.

The organization believes that Ahmed Abu Deraa, 38, an award-winning journalist, and father of two, is being prosecuted for challenging the army’s version of its operations in the restive North Sinai region.

“The authorities’ decision to try a journalist and a civilian in a military court is a serious blow to press freedom and human rights in Egypt,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Egyptian military trials are notoriously unfair and in any event, trying civilians in military courts flouts international standards.”

Ahmed Abu Deraa, a correspondent for Al-Masry al-Youm, an Egyptian daily newspaper, is accused of publishing false information and trespassing on a military zone without a permit. He was arrested on 4 September at a coastal border guard base after he went there to inquire about an injured relative arrested in early September following a military operation in the village of Muqat’a.

Ahmed Abu Deraa is one of the few independent voices reporting from North Sinai, an area which has been plagued by security threats and instability. The armed forces have conducted several military operations since July 2013 against what the authorities describe as militant groups active in the region.

During a press conference on 15 September, the military spokesperson maintained that the armed forces respect media freedom. He argued that Abu Deraa had made false claims that the armed forces destroyed mosques, evicted residents and targeted women and children during military operations.  

Since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, army checkpoints, security personnel and government buildings have come under increased attack by militants. In one of the bloodiest incidents, on 19 August, 25 conscripts with the Central Security Forces were ambushed on the road and killed by armed militants.

A day before his arrest, Ahmed Abu Deraa posted a message on Facebook reporting that the Egyptian army had bombed the villages of Muqat’a and Touma in Sheikh Zaid in North Sinai. Six homes and a mosque were damaged in the attack, he said. He also reported that the military arrested an injured resident. In an earlier post, he explicitly questioned the army’s and media’s version of events in North Sinai.

“The charges against Ahmed Abu Deraa should be dropped, and he should be immediately released,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Arresting reporters for doing their job under the pretext of fighting terrorism is a breach of Egypt’s international obligations and undermines the right of Egyptians to receive information. Journalists must be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of being targeted by the authorities or facing arbitrary restrictions on their work. The Egyptian authorities’ and armed forces’ respect for freedom of expression will be judged by their actions, not their rhetoric.”

Ahmed Abu Deraa faces charges of spreading false information which endangers “national security” and “weakens fiscal confidence in the country” and its “prestige”. He also faces a separate charge for entering a prohibited military zone without a permit. If convicted, he could face five years in prison.

Under the Code of Military Justice, military courts deal with crimes committed in military bases or other locations occupied by soldiers.

Earlier this week, Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, assured his US counterpart, John Kerry, that civilians will not face military trials in Egypt.

Mohamed Sabry, another independent, Sinai-based journalist, is also facing military trial after his arrest on 4 January. He is charged with trespassing and filming in a prohibited place without authorization.

Military trials

Since 3 July there has been a worrying increase in military trials of civilians, particularly in Suez. A number of alleged supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi were convicted after unfair trials by military courts in Suez. For instance, on 3 September, the Suez Military Court convicted 47 civilians to prison terms ranging from five years to life for committing violent acts, while over a dozen other civilians were acquitted. Their lawyers complained about facing obstacles in getting access to their clients.

Other recent military trials are not linked to the political turmoil. For example, on 24 July, two men, Ramadan Ahmed Ismail Mahfouz, 32, originally from Fayoum, and Mohamed Amin Mohamed, originally from Aswan, were sentenced to one year imprisonment terms for insulting and punching a soldier by the Suez Military Court. The charges are based on an altercation with the soldier at a checkpoint.

More than 12,000 civilians were tried unfairly by military courts during the 17-month rule of the army from February 2011-June 2012.

Amnesty International opposes the trials of civilians by military courts, which in Egypt are fundamentally unfair and breach a number of fair trial safeguards, including the right to a fair and public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

Egypt is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which enshrines the right to a fair trial.

The suspended 2012 Constitution, as well as the July 2013 Constitutional Declaration, allow for the trial of civilians by military courts. The campaign group No to Military Trials and other Egyptians NGOs and activists are urging the 50 member committee currently revising the Constitution to explicitly prohibit the trial of civilians by military courts in all circumstances. 

*Photo by Nasser Azzazi

At least 50 shot dead in Sudanese protests

BBC News

Sudan fuel protests: '50 shot dead'

September 27, 2013

Security forces in Sudan have shot dead at least 50 people in days of protests over fuel subsidy cuts, human rights groups have said.

Police fired tear gas to disperse more protesters on Friday, witnesses have told the BBC.

Officials say fewer than 29 people have died, and they insist that the subsidy was unaffordable.
Protesters have accused President Omar al-Bashir's government of corruption and called on him to quit.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies and Amnesty International say people have been killed by gun shots to the chest or head, citing witnesses, relatives, doctors and journalists.

A 14-year-old boy was said to be among the victims, who were mostly aged between 19 and 26, the groups said in a statement.

Hundreds had been detained, they added.

"Shooting to kill - including by aiming at protesters' chests and heads - is a blatant violation of the right to life, and Sudan must immediately end this violent repression by its security forces," said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Hospital sources have told the BBC that about 60 people have been killed.

Sudanese officials have not commented on the claims but Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said on Thursday that any death tolls higher than 29 were inaccurate.

BBC Arabic's Mohammad Osman in Khartoum says that around 500 people took to the streets of Jabra, an area in the southern part of Khartoum, chanting "peaceful, peaceful" to stress their non-violent nature.

Eyewitnesses have told the BBC that the security forces fired tear gas against the protestors and made several arrests.

Reuters news agency reports that trucks with mounted machine guns were parked at main roads and near large mosques across Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman ahead of Friday's protests.

Our reporter says internet is still available despite reports that access has been cut for the second time in a week.

The unrest began on Monday when the government lifted fuel subsidies to raise revenue. Austerity measures have recently escalated fuel prices, hitting people on low incomes.

The demonstrations began south of Khartoum and have now spread to the capital and other cities.

Sudan's economy has been in trouble since South Sudan ceded in 2011, taking with it 75% of the oil reserves that had fuelled an economic boom.

The Sudanese government reduced some fuel subsidies in July 2012, prompting several weeks of protests and a security crackdown.

Politicians, including President al-Bashir, have defended the austerity drive, saying the only alternative would be economic collapse, according to local media reports.

Despite efforts to mobilise opposition activists, Sudan has not seen a wave of anti-government unrest on the scale of that experienced in neighbouring Egypt or other countries in North Africa or the Middle East

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Egypt's textile workers fight for more than just wages

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jano Charbel
“Egypt is known to the world for its quality long-staple cotton.” This line would resonate to almost all Egypt’s schoolchildren taught to take pride in their country’s agricultural wealth, marked most notably by its long-staple cotton.

But today this marker of pride is only to be found in school textbooks. In reality, it has receded against the import of cheaper short-staple cottons from Asia amid lower motivation to grow it given dwindling government support. The industry itself has been increasingly weakened in the face of growing imports of ready-made textiles and garments, which have flooded Egypt’s markets. 

The bygone pride extends to the textile industry, which once generated billions of pounds in profit and employed hundreds of thousands.
Today, the ageing sector hosts a mere 60,000 employees while until the 1990s, it was the home of some 360,000. Estimates of losses in the sector today range from LE6 billion to tens of billions of pounds with contradictory official figures making it difficult to ascertain the actual levels.

Dozens of textile factories and production lines have been shut down nationwide since 2011, while thousands more workers have either been laid-off or are in precarious employment.

Workers in many of these companies blame this state of affairs on administrative corruption, planned and unintentional mismanagement, profiteering and misallocation of funds.

These deteriorations are arguably among the primary reasons driving public-sector textile workers to the forefront of industrial actions nationwide since 2006.

In response to increasing industrial actions, threatened state officials since the Hosni Mubarak era were pressured to offer monetary concessions to disgruntled workers. Yet these concessions have not kept this once-vital sector of the economy from impending collapse.

Workers and analysts argue that doling out money to quell labor unrest among public sector textile workers is not a sustainable long-term solution, but a short-term remedy.

Most recently, on August 28, the Ministry of Finance, Holding Company for Textile Companies, and the state-controlled General Union of Textile Workers paid LE140 million to workers in 32 public sector textile companies nationwide.  

But this is not halting industrial actions — and many of these are centered around company corruption, in addition to financial demands.

“Ahead of our demands for improved wages and working conditions, our primary demand has been to hold managers accountable for their mismanagement,” says Sayyed Habib, a former worker and strike leader with the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla, which saw a mass protest and partial strike on August 26.

“Following our strikes, we are generally presented with some sort of bonus. Yet these pay raises function only as temporary painkillers, they do not resolve the large problems of mismanagement at our company, or other companies. These monetary painkillers may help workers get by, but they don’t help in the company’s advancement,” he adds.

Employing some 20,000 workers, the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla is the largest textile mill not only in Egypt, but the entire Middle East. This mammoth company has been at the heart of Egypt’s labor movement and industrial actions for the past six years.

“Workers at our company have repeatedly gone on strike demanding our profit sharing payments, yet have first demanded the removal and prosecution of corrupt management officials,” says Habib, who has become a labor rights advocate at the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services in Mahalla City.

He explains that instead of being sacked or held accountable for their mismanagement, “corrupt officials have actually been promoted from managing our company to managing the Textile Holding Company, which oversees all public sector textile companies.”

Kamal al-Fayoumi, a worker and strike leader at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla is skeptical about the government’s response to these actions. “We don’t sense any willingness on the part of the authorities to step in and address these many problems; instead we find them washing their hands,” he says.

Financial figures indicate that until 2006, the company generated around LE100 million in profits per year. Yet since 2008, the company has incurred losses amounting to LE1.5 billion.

“In person and in writing, we’ve called on the successive governments to take action against corrupt and inept administrators who have incurred these massive losses to no avail,” Fayoumi says. “Both administrative and financial corruption has led to these losses. It appears to be an intentional plan of certain officials to drive these public sector companies into the ground — so that they are deemed to be failures, and thus open the way to privatize these companies.”

And this has indeed been happening, yet not without troubles.

Since the late 1990s, numerous committees have been established to salvage the state-owned textile companies — often resulting in privatizations, mass-layoffs and factory closures.

But three public-sector textile companies, which had been privatized under the Mubarak regime, had their privatization contracts nullified via court order in 2011. The state has repeatedly declined to reabsorb these three companies back into the public sector — thus leaving thousands of workers in a state of limbo.

Ragab al-Sheemi is one of nearly 3,000 workers at the privatized Shebin al-Kom Misr Spinning and Weaving Company whose ownership has been contested for more than three years now.

“We’ve lost all faith in foreign investors. We want our company to be returned to the public sector and administered by Egyptians,” he says. The company in which he has been employed for nearly two decades was sold to Indian-Indonesian investors in 2007. These investors changed the company’s name to Indorama Shebin Textiles, and slashed the workforce to less than a third of its original size, and yet were unable to render the company a profitable enterprise.

Previously a public sector company — as is the case with the other two companies, Tanta Flax and Oils Company and the Nile Cotton Ginning Company — the Shebin al-Kom Spinning and Weaving Company was issued an Administrative Court verdict in 2011 which nullified its privatization contract. These companies were found to have been sold for less than their market value in corrupt business transactions.

None of these three companies has been reabsorbed into the public sector.

On April 17, 2013 the Dokki Misdemeanors Court sentenced former Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to one year in prison and his removal from office for failing to uphold the Administrative Court’s previous verdict regarding the Nile Cotton Ginning Company. Qandil is still appealing the verdict.

“We’re tired of temporary remedies; we demand lasting solutions to the problems facing the industry,” Sheemi says.

Sheemi is being paid only his basic wage from the Textile Holding Company, while production in the Shebin al-Kom Spinning and Weaving Company has come to a near standstill over the past two years. This precarious situation of employment and production is almost identical in the Tanta Flax Company and the Nile Cotton Ginning Company.

Propositions have been made to salvage the industry.
Habib recommends that raw materials, including Egyptian long-staple cotton be brought back into production.

“Egypt’s textile industry is a chief pillar of Egyptian economy — we cannot and will not let it collapse,” Fayoumi says.

While he welcomed the Finance Ministry’s most recent effort to appease disgruntled textile workers in the public sector — through the payment of LE140 million to some 60,000 workers for bonuses and monetary assistance in preparation for their children’s return to schools —Fayoumi explains that this is not a sustainable solution to the problems of the textile workers or companies.

“We’ve had two uprisings within 30 months calling for bread, freedom and social justice yet we don‘t see any genuine move on the part of the ruling authorities to realize these popular demands, to get to the roots of Egypt’s economic problems, or to actually solve them.”

Abdel Fattah Ibrahim, president of the General Union of Textile Workers, who was promoted on September 7 to president of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, agrees. He says he has presented a list of recommendations to the Finance Ministry including a resumption of local cotton cultivation, restructuring public sector textile companies both financially and administratively, along with increased investments, and modernization of machinery.

“Government officials will move to revive this devastated industry. However, this revival depends on their willingness to swiftly address the industry’s many problems,” Ibrahim says. “It also depends on how much they’re willing to invest in order to salvage it."

*Photo courtesy of Middle East Online

Egyptian Arrested for Naming Donkey After General Sisi

Associated Press

Egyptian Arrested for Naming Donkey After General

 September 21, 2013


CAIRO (AP) - A farmer in southern Egypt was arrested Saturday after putting the military chief's name and an army-style cap on his donkey, and eight people were detained elsewhere in the country for spraying anti-military graffiti.

The arrests point to a long-standing taboo in Egypt against criticizing the country's powerful military, an offense magnified amid the ongoing crackdown on supporters of the country's ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

The farmer, Omar Abul-Magd, was arrested late Friday in Qena province for allegedly insulting Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi when he rode the donkey through town, reported the state MENA news agency.

El-Sissi led the military's popularly-backed ouster of Morsi in July and has been hailed by millions of Egyptians as an icon. His detractors, however, have called him a traitor and a murderer for overseeing the coup and the subsequent attacks on Morsi's mostly Islamist supporters, including an August raid on two pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo that set off violence that killed hundreds nationwide.

At least one of the eight people arrested on Saturday for spraying graffiti against el-Sissi was detained in Cairo, said security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Earlier this week, a military court ordered five pro-Morsi protesters to serve from two to three years in prison for chanting against the army. Three of them were tried in absentia.

The court said the defendants spread hate speech and false rumors against the military through loud speakers.

Rights advocates fear Egypt's interim, military-backed authorities are using a state of emergency that grants police broad powers of arrest to silence critics.

For decades, any critical mention of the country's army or its top generals was unthinkable in Egypt.

After the popular uprising that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, criticism of the military grew as Egypt's powerful generals took over. Activists began lashing out at the ruling generals for trying civilians in military courts and using violence against protesters.

In one case, former lawmaker and rights advocate Ziad el-Oleimi came under fire for referencing an Egyptian proverb that some saw as an insult to then-military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. El-Oleimi, who was earlier beaten by military police during a protest after he was elected to parliament, had referred to Tantawi as a donkey during a rally.

Egypt now listed as world's 4th deadliest country for journalists


Egypt listed as dangerous for journalists

Ongoing violence and political turmoil in the country has seen many journalists arrested on the front line.

September 19, 2013


The recent violence and political turmoil in Egypt has seen many journalists arrested on the front line.

Six journalists have been killed and at least 25 more arrested, with Al Jazeera being among the most frequently targeted.

Among those arrested were Al Jazeera's Abdullah al-Shami and Mohammed Badr, who are still being detained in Abu Zabaal prison.

All this means Egypt has now been listed within the top five most dangerous countries for journalists, where three years ago it did not even make the top 10.

That is why a symposium is being held in Geneva, Switzerland, alongside the UN's Human Rghts Council meeting, highlighting the importance of press freedom.

*Al Jazeera's Charlie Angela reports from Geneva.

Egypt faces 3rd uprising if workers' demands aren't met

Egypt faces third revolution unless workers' demands are met, warns union

EFITU leader and other activists claim government bluff over devalued wage rise as new revolutionary front is organised

Wednesday 25 September 2013


Egypt may eventually face its third revolution since 2011 if the country's new government does not meet the demands of its frustrated labour movement, a leading trade unionist has warned.

Egypt's prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, recently proposed a minimum wage increase for state employees, in what was supposed to be a populist gesture.

But the leader of the Egyptian federation of independent trade unions (EFITU), a group founded during the 2011 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, has denounced the move as too little too late.

Government officials have said the wage deal is a generous measure given the country's dire economic predicament. But workers are furious that the proposed increase – which from 2014 will raise wages from 700 Egyptian pounds (£70) a month to 1,200 – is based on demands made in 2008 and does not take into account the currency's devaluation.

People are also angry that the increase does not apply to private-sector workers, who form about two-thirds of Egypt's workforce, and fear the amount may include bonuses, lowering the basic salary.

"I'm warning the government. They have to comply with the workers' demands," said Malek Bayoumi, president of EFITU, which was founded in opposition to a decades-old state monopoly on union activity. "It's not planned yet, but they have to look after the workers, otherwise finally there will be a third revolution – in the factories, in the government, everywhere."

Other activists fear the wage proposal is a bluff aimed at placating the powerful labour movement for a few months and until the government has finished suppressing Morsi's Islamist loyalists.

"It's just to postpone the fight with the workers till January," said Hossam el-Hamalawy, a prominent labour activist and revolutionary. "During that time they will have killed off the so-called terrorists, and then they can turn their full attention to the workers."

Egypt's labour movement was one of the main forces behind the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak, while their prolific strikes helped destabilise Mohamed Morsi during the final months of his presidency.

Hamalawy argued that Morsi's army-backed successors fear the movement could have a similar effect on their own administration, particularly after the strikes and sit-ins in Suez and Mahalla this summer.

"The labour movement is the biggest threat to any government," he said. "It's not armed groups that break down a regime but mass strikes."

Away from workers' groups, organised opposition to Egypt's army-led government is still mostly limited to Islamist groups such as Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

But activists opposed to the authoritarianism of both the Brotherhood and the army are beginning to re-emerge, as Monday's formation of a new revolutionary group indicated.

Some of the most prominent names from the 2011 uprising – including Ahdaf Soueif, Ahmed Maher, and Alaa Abdel Fatah – congregated to introduce the movement, the Road of the Revolutionary Front.

"The revolution's goals are being forgotten and hence there is a need for this front," said Maher at the meeting.

Meanwhile, a government minister postponed the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood, a day after a judge banned the group and all its activities.

Ahmed el-Borai, minister for social solidarity, announced on Tuesday that the ban would be delayed until the completion of individual cases brought against many of its leaders this summer.

An outright ban of the Brotherhood would be the most symbolic moment of a brutal crackdown that has already led to the deaths of 1,000 Brotherhood members, and the arrests of thousands more since July.

Many Egyptians support the Brotherhood's complete isolation, but some still hope that the group may be brought back into the political process, fearing it splintering into violent factions if left out in the cold.

Researchers also warn that the Brotherhood's dissolution would have a devastating effect on its ability to maintain humanitarian programmes, which in the past have provided medical help and food to millions of Egyptians.

"Any decision to ban the Brotherhood, regardless of what you think of the organisation, is going to have a pretty big societal impact," said Steven Brooke, an academic researching the extent of the Brotherhood's social work.

"According to balance sheets from the fiscal year 2011, the Brotherhood provided medical care in over a million cases. If you cut this out, who's going to pick up the slack? The state is incapable of doing it themselves, and while there are other charities, the reach of the Brotherhood is hard to beat."

*Photo by Mai Shaheen

Frenchman dies in police custody following beating from cellmates

Frenchman dies after Egypt police cell beating

September 17, 2013

A French citizen died after being attacked by cellmates in a Cairo police station, where he had been detained for breaking a night-time curfew, security officials said on Tuesday.

Police arrested the man in the upmarket Zamalek neighbourhood of the capital for violating the nightly curfew in force since the launch of a deadly crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi on August 14.

The man, described as a teacher, was put in a cell at the central Qasr al-Nil police station, where he was attacked by his cellmates and later died of his injuries, the officials added.

Six cellmates are being kept in custody as part of an investigation into "bodily harm resulting in death," a judicial source said.

A post-mortem found that the Frenchman died from "internal haemorrhaging" and a "skull fracture," the security officials said.

The victim did not have a valid visa at the time of his arrest, the security officials said. The French embassy said he was a long-term resident of Egypt.

The embassy added that it had asked for clarification from judicial authorities of the circumstances of the man's death and was still waiting for a reply.

Curfew is collective-punishment against Egyptians

BBC News

Egypt's economy hurt by post-Morsi curfew

September 16, 2013

Bethany Bell

Security measures in Egypt, imposed after the violent crackdown on supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi in August, are hurting business, especially in the capital, Cairo.

Egypt has just extended its state of emergency for a further two months and a night-time curfew is in effect in many parts of the country.

Cairo prides itself on being a city that never sleeps. Its shops and restaurants usually stay open late into the night.

But these days it is being sent to bed early. The ban on movement after the curfew is being strictly enforced by the army, which has set up tanks and checkpoints throughout the capital.

We met Taha Fouad outside the fast-food restaurant where he works in central Cairo, during what would normally be his peak business hours. But instead the shop was preparing to close.

"All the food business in Egypt is affected because of these restrictions," he said. 

"We lose 50% from our sales on Friday, and between 20% to 25% from our daily sales.

"And we have fixed costs. We have the salaries for the employees. We can't tell them stop work and go away. We have to pay the salaries. There is light, there is gas, each cost we have to pay, but the sales are affected."

Mr Fouad said the curfew had also had an impact on his personal life.

"Malls and shops at nights are closed. When can you buy things? You have to go to shops in the morning, but in the morning you are at work."
Cairo's commuters are struggling too.

For weeks, there have been no rail services in or out of the capital. Cairo's Ramses Station, which usually teams with people, is deserted.

The trains have not run since 14 August, the day the authorities cleared two protest camps set up in support of Mr Morsi. Hundreds of people were killed.

The authorities say the suspension of the trains is for security reasons. It is believed they want to stop Mr Morsi's supporters from other parts of Egypt from converging on the capital.

But it is causing a lot of disruption to Cairo's workforce.

Economist Wael Ziada says an estimated two to three million people commute to Cairo every day. Without the trains, he says, "a vital transport link" has been cut off.

Many commuters now have to travel by bus. Omar, a graphic designer, comes all the way from Alexandria.
"It is very inconvenient for me now," he told us. "I have to travel four to five hours to get to work."

"Also it's more expensive. I pay three times more now for a minibus. It takes much longer for me to get to work. This all affects my professional and personal life."

But even talking about the situation can be sensitive.

As we were speaking to Omar at a crowded bus stop near Ramses station, an argument broke out.

"It's about security," one man shouted at him. "It is to protect you and me, our sons, everyone."


Egypt's economy has been struggling since the 2011 revolution that forced President Hosni Mubarak from power.

Mr Ziada says the security measures are adding to the country's woes.

"It is estimated that the curfew has cost the economy between $200m (£126m) and $350m (£220m) over the last month."

He says the situation is curbing the potential to attract foreign investments and to provide job opportunities for people.

Mr Ziada says he is concerned "no investments will come if there is a country with a curfew."

These days the shutter comes down on Mohammed Mustafa's sweet shop long before his normal closing time. He says his trade in nuts, dried fruits and candy has been hit hard.

"The curfew has affected our business very, very much," he says.

"I hope, God willing, that it will be lifted so that our work can get better. There are some stores right now that have had to lay off employees because of the condition. Thank God, we haven't had to do that so far."

There are hopes the curfew may be eased soon, although Egypt's economic problems will take much longer to solve. For now, the streets at night are still eerily silent.

*Photos courtesy of BBC and the Associated Press

Counter-revolutionary junta extends state-of-emergency by another 2 months

Agence France Presse 
Egypt extends state of emergency by two months   

September 12, 2013

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's interim authorities on Thursday extended a state of emergency in force since mid-August by another two months because of the country's continued insecurity.

President Adly Mansour had initially announced a month-long state of emergency on August 14, at a time when deadly unrest swept Egypt as police dispersed two Islamist protest camps.

"President Adly Mansour decided to extend the state of two months," presidential spokesman Ehab Bedawy said in a statement.

The decision was taken in light of "developments and the security situation in the country," he said.

More than 1,000 people were killed on August 14 and following days after police dispersed two sit-ins in Cairo by ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi's supporters.

Islamists at the time lashed out at Christians, accused of supporting the military coup which ousted Morsi, and burned down several dozen churches and Coptic Christian-owned properties.

Violent protests have largely subsided, giving way to militant attacks such as a suspected suicide bombing that targeted the interior minister last week in a failed assassination bid.

The state of emergency grants security forces wide-ranging powers of arrest.

According to a temporary charter adopted by Mansour, the state of emergency can be extended after the three-month period only by referendum.

Barring a months-long interval in the early 1980s and its suspension months after president Hosni Mubarak's overthrow in early 2011, Egypt has been under continuous state of emergency ever since 1967.

In a newspaper interview on Wednesday, interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi had said the state of emergency would likely be extended by two months.

"I don't think any reasonable person aware of the situation, which keeps getting worse, would want the state of emergency lifted," Beblawi said.

He did not indicate when the government would lift a nighttime curfew also imposed on August 14, since when the government has shortened it by four hours.

With much of its senior leadership arrested, Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement has lost its ability to rally huge crowds to protest for his reinstatement.

But the Islamists still organise weekly rallies.

Meanwhile, attacks on security forces have spiked, even as the military conducts its largest operation in years to quell a radical Islamist insurgency in northern Sinai.

One militant group in the peninsula, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, took responsibility for the failed assassination attempt against interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim and pledged to try again.

It also vowed to target Colonel General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who overthrew Morsi in July and installed Mansour as president.

Foreign 'spy' arrested, slaughtered & eaten after his release

The Independent

Fowl play? Stork suspected of spying in Egypt was 'killed and eaten' by villagers 

An Egyptian wildlife organization claimed on its Facebook page that the unfortunate bird was 'killed and eaten by local villagers'

September 8, 2013 

Rob Williams

An innocent stork detained by police in Egypt on suspicion of spying has been found dead following its release amid reports it was killed and eaten by villagers.

Authorities in Egypt detained the bird after a man in Egypt’s Qena governorate, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Cairo, spotted the animal - described by officials as a swan - among a group of four others.

Suspicions were raised after the man noticed an electronic device attached to the suspected winged infiltrator. The bird was captured and delivered to local police where experts investigated the electronic device and identified it as tracking equipment.

The stork, which was incorrectly referred to as a swan throughout its detention, had been tagged by zoologists to track its migration.

Officials said the device, which had been attached to the bird by French scientists, had stopped working when the bird crossed the French border.

The exonerated bird was released into a conservation area in southern Egypt. According to reports it flew onto an island in the Nile where it was subsequently killed and allegedly eaten by villagers.

Nature Conservation Egypt, who had worked to secure the release of the bird, claimed on it Facebook page that the bird was "eaten by local villagers."

Mahmoud Hassib, the head of Egypt's southern protected areas, denied that the bird had been eaten, though said he didn't know an exact cause of death.

This most recent unwarranted avian arrest follows an incident earlier this year in which an Egyptian security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon he said carried microfilm.

Amid continued unrest in Egypt conspiracy theories abound. In 2010 an Egyptian official said Israel-controlled sharks could be involved in a number of tourist attacks in the Red Sea.

Elsewhere, in December last year an eagle carrying an Israeli tag was touted as a Mossad spy in Sudan and just last month a Kestrel was held in Turkey on suspicion of working for the Israeli security services.

*Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Minister of Interior Survives Bomb Attack

BBC News 
Egypt's Minister Mohammed Ibrahim survives bomb attack

Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim has survived a bomb attack that targeted his convoy in Cairo.
Hours later, he appeared on state TV unharmed to denounce the attack as a "cowardly assassination bid".

Security officials said the blast near Mr Ibrahim's home in Nasr City appeared to have been caused by a suicide car bomb. More than 20 people were injured.
No-one has yet said they carried out the attack. The Muslim Brotherhood "strongly condemned" what happened.

Mr Ibrahim heads the police force which has carried out a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protests in recent weeks.

Nasr City is a stronghold of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group.


The explosion took place at about 10:30 local time (08:30 GMT) moments after Mr Ibrahim left his home to be driven by convoy to work.

There were conflicting reports over the source of the explosion, with some reports saying an explosive device had been thrown from a nearby building and others saying a booby-trapped car had detonated.

Mr Ibrahim told state television that his convoy was targeted by a "large" explosive device that might have been detonated by remote control.

"It destroyed four of the vehicles of my protection team, with many shops in the area badly affected, along with a vehicle of civilians and a small child who had a leg amputated," he said.

"I have an officer with serious injuries and another officer with a leg amputation. There were many injuries amongst my guards."

Later, security officials were quoted as saying initial investigations suggested the bomb had been in a car driven by a suicide attacker. The remains of a person thought to be the suicide bomber were found nearby, officials said.

The interior ministry said 10 policemen and 11 civilians had been wounded in the attack.

Pictures uploaded to the internet by witnesses showed substantial damage to a building next to the blast.
One passer-by said the explosion could be "heard from afar".

"As you can see, cars from the minister's convoy were destroyed and his security people took him to an armoured vehicle that transported him back to his house," he said.

The interior ministry called the perpetrators of the attack "terrorist groups" and said: "We are back to the terrorism of the 1980s."

The Muslim Brotherhood was swift to denounce the attack. Senior leader Amr Darrag said the incident was "regrettable" and one that the Brotherhood "strongly condemns".


This is the first attack targeting such a high-ranking government official as Egypt remains in turmoil over a showdown between the military-backed government and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The police force, alongside security forces, carried out a deadly security crackdown in the capital last month, clearing two protest camps set up by Muslim Brotherhood supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

They had rallied for six weeks demanding the reinstatement of Mr Morsi, who was deposed by the military two months ago following anti-government protests by millions of Egyptians.

Nasr City was the site of the larger of the two protest camps based outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, which was dismantled in the security operation that killed hundreds of Brotherhood supporters on 14 August.

The BBC's Bethany Bell says there has been a lot of Muslim Brotherhood activity in the area over the last couple of weeks.

Since the security clampdown, hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been detained, including the group's most senior leader, Mohammed Badie, and his deputy, Khairat al-Shatir.

Mr Morsi is currently being held in a secret location awaiting trial on charges of inciting murder during anti-government protests that occurred in December 2012.

*Photo by Amr Abdallah Dalsh, courtesy of Reuters

Egypt: 5 journalists killed, 80 detained, 40+ assaulted since July 3

Reporters Without Borders/RSF

Heavy toll on journalists in two months since army takeover

Monday 2 September 2013

There has been an extremely heavy toll on journalists since President Mohamed Morsi’s removal by the army two months ago after a year in power that ended with six days of major street protests.

When the army ousted Morsi on 3 July, Reporters Without Borders urged the new interim government to respect its initial route map by quickly moving to “a new constitution that fully respects human rights, including freedom of information, and to free and democratic presidential and parliamentary elections with respect for pluralism.”

Since 3 July, a total of five journalists have been killed, 80 journalists have been arbitrarily detained (with seven still held) and at least 40 news providers have been physically attacked by the police or by pro-Morsi or pro-army demonstrators.

These violations of freedom of information have taken place in a highly polarized political environment that has made the situation extremely difficult and dangerous for journalists.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the climate of violence and political persecution in which both local and foreign journalists now have to operate in Egypt.

“It is unacceptable that journalists are continually being targeted,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Reporters must be able to work without their lives being put in danger, regardless of the political fault lines. 

We deplore the passivity of the new Egyptian authorities and we urge them to react quickly by taking concrete measures to guarantee journalists’ safety and respect for freedom of information.”

Reporters Without Borders points out that media coverage of the events taking place in Egypt is essential for understanding the complexity of the situation on the ground.


The death of five journalists in the space of the past two months in Egypt is without precedent in the country’s contemporary history.

The first victim was Ahmed Samir Assem El-Senoussi, a photographer for the newspaper Al-Horreya Wal-Adalah (Freedom and Justice), who was among the 51 people killed when the army opened fire outside the Republican Guard complex in Cairo on 8 July. Senoussi was there to cover events.

In what was a black day for the media, three journalists – Sky News cameraman Mick Deane, Al-Akhbar reporter Ahmad Abdel Gawad and Rassd News Network photo-journalist Mosab Al-Shami were shot dead while covering clashes between the police and pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo’s Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square on 14 August.

Finally, Tamer Abdel Raouf, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram’s regional bureau chief, was killed at an army checkpoint in Damanhur, in the northern governorate of Beheira, on the night of 19 August, when soldiers opened fire on his car. Hamed Al-Barbari, a reporter for the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhuria who was travelling with him, was wounded in the shooting.


The police have arbitrarily arrested more than 80 journalists in the past two months. Most were held for less than 24 hours, but some were held for several days or weeks. A total of seven journalists, including three working for the Qatar-based TV news broadcaster Al-Jazeera, are still held.

Those still held include Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr cameraman Mohamed Badr, who was arrested in Cairo’s Ramses Square on 15 July. His initial 15-day detention period (the legal limit for detention without reference to a court) has been renewed twice without any charge being brought against him.

Abdallah Al-Shami, an Al-Jazeera reporter, and Mahmoud Abu Zied, a photographer who freelances forDemotix and Corbis, were transferred to Abu Zaabal prison in northern Cairo on 18 August, four days after their arrest in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square.

Ousama Shaker, a cameraman working for the newly-created pro-Muslim Brotherhood TV station Ahrar 25, was arrested while covering clashes at Damiette, north of Cairo, on 18 August. The detention of Shami, Zied and Shaker has been extended and all three are still being held.

Metin Turan of the Turkish state-owned news agency TRT was arrested while covering the forcible evacuation of Cairo’s Al-Fath Mosque by the security forces on 16 August. Tahir Osman Hamde, the Cairo bureau chief of another Turkish news media, the Ihlas News Agency (IHA), was detained after a raid on the bureau on the evening of 20 August.

An Al-Jazeera crew was arrested in Cairo on 27 August while doing a report on the situation in Egypt. Reporter Wayne Hay, cameraman Adil Bradlow and producer Russ Finn were expelled on 1 September without being able to recover their equipment. The crew’s Egyptian producer, Baher Mohamed, is still being held.

Two foreign journalists – Sebastian Backhaus and Marcin Mamon – have been arrested for violating the night curfew imposed under the state of emergency proclaimed on the 14 August, although the curfew is not supposed to apply to journalists or doctors. Mamon, a Polish documentary filmmaker, was arrested with his interpreter, Przemyslaw Szewczyka, on Alexandria on 25 August. They were freed 20 hours later, after the Polish embassy intervened.

Of a total of 80 arrests for short periods, 23 involved foreign journalists: Daniel Demoustier on 5 July, Emmerich Dirk of RTL on 8 July, Murat Uslu and Zafer Karakas of Star Haber, and Fatih Er and Tufan Guzelgun of A info on 9 July, Sebastian Backhaus on 14 August, Hibe Zekeriye of Anadolu Agency and Metin Turan of TRT on 16 August, Dorothée Olliéric, Stéphane Guillemot and Arnaud Gidon of France 2 on 17 August, Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian and Hugo Bachega and Mathias Gebauer of Der Spiegel on 18 August, Tahir Osman Hamde of the Ihlas News Agency on 20 August,  

Mitsuyoshi Iwashige on 21 August, Marcin Mamon and interpreter Przemyslaw Szewczyk on 25 August, a Reuters correspondent on 26 August and Wayne Hay, Russ Finn and Adil Bradlow of Al-Jazeera on 27 August.

Most of those detained for short periods were journalists with media that support the Muslim Brotherhood, or foreign journalists accused by the authorities of “biased” reporting.

The foreign media’s perceived “bias” was the subject of a statement that Egypt’s State Information Service issued in English on 17 August: “Egypt is feeling severe bitterness towards some western media coverage that is biased to the Muslim Brotherhood and ignores shedding light on violent and terror acts that are perpetrated by this group in the form of intimidation operations and terrorizing citizens.”


Reporters Without Borders has registered more than 40 cases of journalists being attacked and injured while covering demonstrations by Muslim Brotherhood supporters and clashes with the police.

Several journalists sustained gunshot injuries while the security forces were dispersing pro-Morsi sit-ins on 14 August. They included Asma Waguih of Reuters, Tarek Abbas of Al-Watan, Najjar Ahmad of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Mohamed Al-Zaki of Al-Jazeera and an Associated Press journalist.

Many journalists have been physically attacked, often in a very violent manner and often at the same time that their equipment was taken from them. Most of such attacks were by demonstrators.

In one of the gravest cases, journalists Aya Hassan and Mohamed Momtaz were held for several hours by Morsi supporters inside sit-in tents in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square on 9 August and were very badly beaten. Momtaz had to be taken to hospital.

Iman Hilal, a photographer for the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm, was covering the sit-in in Rabaa Al-Adawiya Square on 14 August when Morsi supporters threatened him with a knife and forced him to hand over his camera’s memory card.

Self-appointed “popular committees” that protect their neighbourhoods from the Muslim Brotherhood have also been responsible for violence against journalists. Freelance journalists Jared Malsin and Cliff Cheney were accosted near Ramses Square on 16 August by members of one of these groups, who took equipment from them and slapped Malsin.

The interior ministry banned the “committees” the next day but this has not stopped them from carrying out acts of violence.

These attacks have been carried out with impunity and the authorities have usually proved powerless to stop them and to ensure the safety of journalists.

When a group smashed the camera of a crew working for German public TV broadcaster ARD and destroyed their recordings on 15 August, the crew turned to the police, but the only comment by the police – one that speaks volumes about the current situation – was: “For love of heaven, how could you come here with a camera?”


Around ten media have been censored in the past two months and six have been raided.

One of the first measures taken by the new government on 3 July was to close four TV stations. They were Misr 25 of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Freedom Party and three others that supported Morsi – Al-Hafiz , Al-Nas and Rahma. The police raided them on the official grounds of preventing them from broadcasting messages that incited hatred and violence. All four continue to be closed.

Three days later, Nilesat, the Egyptian telecommunications satellite operators, blocked three pan-Arab channels – Al-Quds, Al-Aqsa and Al-Yarmouk.

Members of the armed forces have also raided news media. Al-Jazeera’s Egyptian TV channel, Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr, was the first. Soldiers raided it on 3 July, confiscating its equipment and blocking a live broadcast.

Security forces raided the Cairo premises of Al-Alam, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Arabic-language TV station on 20 July, and the Cairo bureau of Turkey’s Ihlas News Agency on 21 August.

On 15 August, the Egyptian cabinet accused Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr of operating without a legal basis, inciting hatred and constituting a threat to national security. On 28 August, the ministry of investment, information and communications technology and media declared Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr to be illegal and banned it from operating in Egypt.