Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hundreds protest court verdict outlawing 'April 6 Youth Movement'

Mada Masr
Hundreds protest banning of April 6 Youth Movement

Wednesday April 30, 2014

Several hundred activists converged upon the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo on Wednesday to protest the outlawing of the oppositional April 6 Youth Movement, while also calling for the release of two of the group’s jailed leaders, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel.

This liberal movement was outlawed on Monday by the Court of Urgent Affairs. Its judges ruled that April 6 had received foreign funding with the aim of sowing discord within Egypt, and of tarnishing the country’s image abroad.

Also on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement urging Egyptian authorities to lift the ban imposed on this youth movement. The statement said that Monday’s court ruling was a “further attempt to silence dissent.”

HRW added that the verdict is “a clear violation of citizens’ rights to free association, peaceful assembly, and free expression.”

The April 6 Youth Movement is the second oppositional group to be outlawed since December 25, when the interim government classified the Muslim Brotherhood as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Standing on the stairs outside the Journalists Syndicate, hundreds of members of the April 6 Youth Movement chanted against Monday’s court verdict and against the recently issued Protest Law, which restricts freedom of assembly and grants police forces sweeping powers in dealing with rallies, protests and public gatherings.

“Down with your laws … protesting is our right,” chanted throngs of angry youth, along with, “Judges have sold their principles and justice … but you will not keep us from our cause.”

April 6 Spokesperson Mahmoud Gamal told Mada Masr: “We plan on appealing against the court’s verdict. Yet we also know that our appeal may be dismissed or the verdict upheld. We have lost faith in many judges.

Two leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel — along with a number of other activists — were arrested in late November for violating the provisions of the newly issued Protest Law by conducting an unauthorized street protest.

On December 22, the Cairo Court of Misdemeanours sentenced Maher and Adel, together with liberal activist Ahmed Douma, to three years imprisonment and fines of LE50,000.  On April 7, the Cairo Appeals Court rejected the activists’ appeal and upheld their previous sentences.

Attending the protest at the Journalists Syndicate, Mohamed Yassin identified himself as a sympathizer of the April 6 Movement. Yassin commented: “We no longer expect justice from the judiciary. They only issue politicized rulings to punish opponents of the regime.”

According to Gamal, “the ruling authorities are accusing us of ridiculous things, such as being agents of both Israel and Iran.”

Holding up black April 6 flags and clenched fists, protesters chanted: “You who ask about foreign funding ... Sisi is a traitor and foreign agent.”

The unified chant: “Down with military rule” rang loud and clear well over a block away from the Journalists Syndicate.

Other chants, which included curse words directed against police forces, were hushed by April 6 members, who apparently did not want the throngs of journalists, camera crews and passers by hearing such words.

Other protesters held up banners calling for the release of all political activists.  The names of tens of jailed secular activists were held up on placards.

Others held posters of Sayed Abdallah of the April 6 Movement who was shot dead — reportedly by security forces — during the third anniversary of the January 25 Uprising.

The April 6 Youth Movement was established in 2008 in solidarity with a labor strike at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the Nile Delta City of Mahalla. While this strike was thwarted by police forces, a localized uprising took place in the city on April 6 and 7.

The April 6 Movement was a leading force in a number of street protests under the regime of Hosni Mubarak and was a key player in the January 25 Uprising in 2011, which culminated in Mubarak’s resignation on February 11.

This youth movement aligned itself with the Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential campaign for Mohamed Morsi in 2012. It continued to support the Islamist president, but later opposed him just ahead of the June 30 Uprising in 2013, in which it participated and called for his ouster.

However, following Morsi’s removal by the Armed Forces on July 3, 2013, this youth movement began to criticize the interim authorities and the presidential ambitions of military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted the elected Islamist president.

*Photo by Jano Charbel

Egypt: Unjust trial, mass death sentences make mockery of judiciary


Egypt: unfair trial, death sentences make mockery of justice

28 April 2014

Amnesty International today warned of grave flaws in Egypt's criminal justice system after a court in El Minya, Upper Egypt, confirmed death sentences for 37 people and imposed terms of life imprisonment to 491 in one case, and began the legal process of sentencing 683 to death in another.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said, “Today’s decisions once again expose how arbitrary and selective Egypt’s criminal justice system has become. The court has displayed a complete contempt for the most basic principles of a fair trial and has utterly destroyed its credibility.

It is time for Egypt’s authorities to come clean and acknowledge that the current system is not fair or independent or impartial “Egypt’s judiciary risks becoming just another part of the authorities’ repressive machinery, issuing sentences of death and life imprisonment on an industrial scale.”

“The verdict must not be allowed to stand – the convictions of the 37 sentenced to death and 491 sentenced to life in prison must be quashed and fair retrials with no possibility of the death penalty must be ordered immediately for all the defendants.”

All 528 defendants were facing charges in connection with an attack on a police station in August 2013 and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The verdicts in their cases come after a grossly unfair trial in which the judge did not review evidence or allow the defence to cross-examine witnesses. Defence lawyers and defendants alike were barred from the previous session on 24 March, in which the court indicated it would sentence all 528 to death.

Today, the same court also referred 683 defendants, including Mohamed Badie, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, in a separate case involving political violence to Egypt’s Grand Mufti – who under Egyptian law must review all death sentences before the court formally imposes them.

They were accused of murder, attempted murder, burning Adwa Police Station, belonging to a banned group and participating in a gathering of more than five persons with the intention of committing the above mentioned crimes. This trial also was fundamentally unfair, as reported by an Amnesty International delegate who attended the trial.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and considers it to be the ultimate cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment.None of the defendants in either case was brought to court.

Court issues mass death sentence against 683 Brotherhood members


Egyptian court sentences 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death

Mass trials in the biggest Arab state have reinforced fears among human rights groups that the government and anti-Islamist judges are using all levers of power to crush opponents.

April 28, 2014

An Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death on Monday, intensifying a crackdown on the movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election next month.

In another case signaling growing intolerance of dissent by military-backed authorities, a pro-democracy movement that helped ignite the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 was banned by court order, judicial sources said.

The death sentence passed on Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, will infuriate members of the group which has been target of raids, arrests and bans since the army forced President Mohamed Morsi from power in July.

The movement says it is committed to peaceful activism. But some Brotherhood members fear pressure from security forces and the courts could drive some young members to violence against the movement's old enemy the Egyptian state.

Badie was charged with crimes including inciting violence that followed the army overthrow of Morsi, who is also on trial on an array of charges.

In a separate case, the court handed down a final capital punishment ruling for 37 others. The death sentences were part of a final judgment on 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters sentenced to death last month. The remaining defendants were jailed for life, judicial sources said.

Death sentence recommendations in the case involving Badie will be passed on to Egypt's Mufti, the highest religious authority. His opinion can be ignored by the court.

Mass trials in the biggest Arab state have reinforced fears among human rights groups that the government and anti-Islamist judges are using all levers of power to crush opponents.

"The decisions are possibly the largest possible death sentences in recent world history. While they're exceptional in scale, they're certainly not exceptional in kind," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

"It seems that these sentences are aimed at striking fear and terror into the hearts of those who oppose the interim government."

In an early reaction from a Western government, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter that the mass trials were an "outrage." "The world must and will react!"

There have been Western reactions to Egypt's approach to dissent. But it mostly comes in the form of statements, not action.

Egypt's relations with the United States — the source of $1.5 billion in annual aid, most of it to the Egyptian military — have been strained in the three years since the overthrow of Mubarak.

Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy is currently on an official visit to the United States, describing it as a trip to "redirect relations between Egypt and America."

The United States froze some of its military aid to Egypt last October following Morsi's overthrow and the state's violent crackdown on his supporters.

Last week, Washington said it would deliver 10 attack helicopters to help the government in its fight against Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

Monday's rulings can be appealed. Many defendants are on the run.

Nevertheless, the cases have raised new questions about Egypt's stumbling political transition three years after an army-backed popular uprising ousted Mubarak and raised hopes of a robust democracy.
The political turmoil that has gripped Egypt and an Islamist insurgency based in the Sinai have hammered the economy, which grew by a meager 2.1 percent last year.

"In a month, Egypt sentences more people to death than the rest of the world combined. It is not the kind of news to rekindle confidence," Angus Blair, chairman of business and economic forecasting think-tank Signet, wrote on his Twitter feed.

Pro-democracy movement banned

As soon as word spread of the death sentences, relatives of the defendants screamed and cried outside the court in the town of Minya.

"This is a corrupt government. This is a failed regime. We have no real police. We have no real state," said Sabah Hassan, whose son was sentenced to death.

Others collapsed on the street as soldiers with AK-47 assault rifles standing on an armored vehicle looked on.

Relatives blamed Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who deposed Morsi. The former head of military intelligence under Mubarak is expected to easily win presidential elections on May 26-27 in a country long ruled by men from the military, Morsi's time in office representing the rare exception.

"Sisi is ruling like a king" and "May God punish you for what you did" some people chanted.
Authorities have extended a crackdown to secular activists.

A ruling on Monday banning the activities of the April 6 movement follows the imprisonment of three of its leading members last year on charges of protesting illegally.

The charges against April 6 included "damaging the image of the state."

Authorities still see the Brotherhood as the most dangerous threat. Egypt's biggest political party until last year, the Brotherhood has been outlawed and driven underground.

It has vowed to bring down the government through protests, despite a security campaign that has weakened a movement believed to have about one million supporters in the nation of 85 million.

Despite decades of repression under one Egyptian ruler after another, the Brotherhood has managed to survive, winning over Egyptians with its social networks and charities.

The judge who handed down the death sentences, Saeed Yousef, has a history of imposing the maximum punishment. In one case, he sentenced someone to 30 years in jail on charges of shoplifting clothes and illegal possession of a knife.

He is not always tough on defendants. Last year, Yousef acquitted a police chief and 10 policemen accused of killing 17 protesters during the revolt that ousted Mubarak.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Court outlaws opposition 'April 6 Youth Movement'


Egypt outlaws anti-Mubarak April 6 movement

Youth group, a key player in the 2011 uprising, is accused of espionage and defaming state's image. 

28 Apr 2014 


An Egyptian court has banned the activities of the April 6 youth movement, which played a key role in mobilising support for the revolution against Hosni Mubarak's rule.

The verdict, which included the freezing of the movement's activities and confiscation of its headquarters, was issued by the Court for Urgent Matters on Monday which accused April 6 of espionage and tainting the state's image, the state-run newspaper Al Ahram reported.

Lawyer Ashraf Saeed filed the lawsuit, which he said was prompted by recordings aired on a private-run television channel, of members of the group allegedly plotting against Egypt.

The movement had joined calls for the unseating of elected president Mohamed Morsi last year, given his reluctance to heed calls for political reforms. The April 6 movement supported the army-led overthrow of Morsi.

However, it quickly turned against the military-installed regime amid an intensified crackdown against dissent, which led to the ruling against its founders Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, who are accused of staging protests without securing the Interior Ministry's approval as stipulated by a law the government has issued. The two leaders now face jail sentences.

The group has often faced accusations of receiving funds from abroad and plotting against the country. Members of the group have denied all these allegations.

"All of the group's activities are peaceful expression of opinion... The key goal of the movement's activities is to object to any move made by the regime that could lead to sabotaging of the state," April 6 said on its Facebook's official account in response to the court ruling.

"April 6 is a vital part of this generation's dream and voice. We will go on, and our activities, opinions and voices will be expressed as we please," the statement said.
Members of the youth movement had on Saturday joined other liberal and secular groups in a march to the presidential palace against the law curbing protests, demanding the freedom of their members, along with thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who have been detained since the July coup.
*Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

US-based Cargill Co. workers assaulted & besieged in Alexandria

Mada Masr
US-based company workers assaulted, besieged in Alexandria

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Jano Charbel 

The US-based multinational corporation, Cargill, has been criticized both locally and internationally over its heavy-handed response to an ongoing workers’ protest at its plant in Borg al-Arab City, which has been ongoing for over four months. Videos circulating of workers being physically assaulted and having barking dogs unleashed upon them has led to widespread condemnation.

The National Vegetable Oil Company, which is owned by Cargill, is witnessing a wide spectrum of labor violations, including the wholesale sacking of protesting workers and unionists, assaults on protesters using private security contractors and dogs, a virtual siege of the workers’ sit-in with electricity and water being cut off from the company – preventing the entry of food, drink, medicines and visitors to the workers inside – amongst a host of other transgressions.

After protesting (yet not striking) for their overdue bonuses, profit-shares and insurance coverage, workers at this company have been subjected to a lockout since December 15. Moreover, the company administration has since sacked nearly 90 percent of its workforce – including the local labor union committee in its entirety.  

A total of 86 workers were employed at this company, 75 of whom have been punitively sacked for protesting – including all eight members of the union committee. Around 66 workers are still occupying their company grounds and maintaining their sit-in.

Only 11 workers remain employed at the company, although production has come to a complete standstill since mid-December.

Company workers, along with state officials, labor unions, NGOs and rights activists have all spoken out against the punitive measures that the National Vegetable Oil Company has taken against its workforce. Representatives from the US Embassy in Cairo are also reported to be involved in negotiations with the Egyptian employers.

Following an inspection of the company, the Ministry of Manpower’s Regional Bureau in Alexandria issued a written statement on February 10 criticizing Cargill’s administrators for “unnecessarily halting production, as there is no economic justification to do so.”

Mostafa Sebai, chief inspector at the Manpower Bureau in Alexandria, recommended that punitively sacked workers should be reinstated and that overdue payments should be delivered.

Speaking at a labor conference on March 23, sacked worker Alaa Abdel Aleem commented, “We’re being treated like enemy combatants.”

“They’ve tried to terrorize us into withdrawing from the company through the use of armed thugs and dogs. When that failed they tried to impose a siege upon us and to starve us,” he added.

Abdel Aleem added that the physical and psychological health of many of his protesting co-workers remains threatened. The storming of the company grounds by private security forces and their dogs resulted in minor injuries, trauma and psychological harm.

The sacked worker explained that “people are no longer allowed in to visit us or to inspect our conditions. Those of us who leave the sit-in are forcefully prevented from returning and rejoining our co-workers.”

In statements issued during the first week of April, the Ministry of Manpower has denounced the ongoing transgressions against workers’ rights at the National Vegetable Oil Company, and has cited 41 violations of Egypt’s Unified Labor Law 12/2003.

The Ministry has given the company’s administration until mid-April to address these transgressions, or face a referral of these violations to the prosecutor general.

However, the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) has criticized the Ministry’s “lack of action and its foot-dragging” since December. In a written statement issued on April 15, the EFITU denounced suggestions proposed by the Minister of Manpower, Nahed al-Ashry, to the effect that workers should accept their dismissals, while the company should offer them compensations.

Events at the Cargill-owned company have also drawn a response from the International Labor Organization, whose regional representative, Mohamed al-Taraboulsi, described the administration’s tactics as “a grave violation of international labor laws.”

Speaking at a conference dubbed “Ending the siege on Cargill’s workers” on April 7, Taraboulsi commented that he aspired to resolve the conflict between Cargill’s administrators and its workforce, before raising these violations with the ILO’s general assembly.

Taraboulsi added that the company’s policies should not resort to punitive sacking and physical assaults on workers but through dialogue and negotiations, and that he is willing to provide consultancy and mediation regarding workers’ rights and international labor conventions.

Since the crisis at the National Vegetable Oil Company began in December, sacked workers have received letters of solidarity from some 60 local trade unions and labor rights organizations, along with petitions and campaigns from the International Food Workers’ Union (IUF), the IndustriALL Global Union Federation, and the US-MENA Labor Solidarity Network. Workers from the US, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland have also sent messages of solidarity.

Another sacked worker, Waleed Mossaad, told Mada Masr, “This week we’ve launched an online campaign in both English and Arabic to raise awareness regarding the plight of all workers at the National Vegetable Oil Company.”

Mossaad claims he has forcefully been denied entry back into the sit-in within the company since February.

According to Mossaad, “On February 2, we left the sit-in to meet with then-Minister of Manpower Kamal Abu Eita. Upon returning, we were told that we were not to be allowed back in the company as we had been fired.” Indeed, since January, the administration has posted notices within company gates to all those workers it had laid off.

Mossaad explained that he had sought the ministry’s intercession in resolving the crisis between the workers and administrators. According to Mossaad, the UK-based G4S private security company was hired to forcefully disperse and remove the workers on December 23.

Videos circulating of this attack on December 23 show burly private security forces – many of whom were dressed in black shirts and camouflage pants while swinging clubs in their hands, while others donned orange helmets and handled large black dogs – yet the G4S logo is not visible on their clothes.

Mossaad claims that retired Armed Forces General Sameh Seif al-Yazal, chairman of the G4S Company in Egypt, ordered these private security personnel to forcefully disperse the sit-in. This could not be verified, however.

Several workers are reported to have suffered minor injuries on December 23, while others are allegedly suffering from trauma and psychological breakdowns since dogs were unleashed on them. 

The security company succeeded in removing the workers from their sit-in by the factories, to the garage area within the company gates.

According to Mossaad, from December 23 to March 13, “we had to smuggle food, water and medicine over the company’s gates and through its fences to our coworkers within. We had to run from the dogs and security guards who were constantly threatening us.”

The company’s administration is said to have resorted to another private security company on March 13, the name of which is not known. According to workers, on that day the water supply was turned on in the bathrooms once again.

According to Mossaad, the security guards agreed to let food and medicine in to the protesting workers on March 18.

Mossaad claims that this “easing of the siege” was a result of negotiations between representatives of the US Embassy, the company’s administration and the Ministry of Manpower to end the crisis. 

According to Mohamed Kashef, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, “The administration of the National Vegetable Oil Company has proven to be very obstinate and unyielding towards the basic rights of its workers.”

Kashef explained that the company was very profitable, and that its workers had helped increase productivity. The company’s vegetable oils constitute about 40 percent of the contents of each bottle of state-subsidized cooking oil.

“The most recently employed worker at this company has been there for six years, others have been working there for many more years. Nevertheless, workers have been denied bonuses, profit-sharing, long-term contracts, health insurance, social insurance, medical compensations and, for the past four months, have been denied their union representation, along with their incomes and jobs,” he added.

Kashef added that the company’s administration is seeking to isolate its protesting workers from contact with the outside world, so that their grievances will not be heard. Kashef, along with numerous other researchers, doctors, lawyers, activists and journalists have repeatedly been denied entry into the company gates to meet with the workers within.

The researcher went on to state that “the Cargill Company in America appears out of touch with events at the National Vegetable Oil Company. As for the local Egyptian administrators, they have claimed that the protesting workers are opportunists, demanding things which they are not owed.”

Kashef concluded by saying that the company’s “local administration is not willing, as of yet, to partake in collective bargaining agreements with its workers, or with the Ministry of Manpower. This is why they have arrived at no agreement or compromise in order to settle this labor dispute through dialogue.”

According to Mossaad, “We need to have Cargill in America hear our voices. The workers of the National Vegetable Oil Company are desolate, besieged, gagged, monetarily broke, and are suffering from hunger and illnesses. The company here wants to get rid of us and hire new workers to work for less pay, but nobody should have to put up with such exploitation and blatant disregard for labor rights.” 

Despite repeated attempts to contact the administrators by phone and email, there has been no response. As for Cargill’s representatives in Egypt, they declined to respond to questions via phone and email.

The agricultural and food processing giant Cargill has been operating in Egypt since 1994. Cargill has acquired 98 percent of the National Vegetable Oil Company’s shares since 2004.

Beyond the National Vegetable Oil Company in Borg al-Arab, Cargill owns a grain transport terminal, the National Stevedore Company, in the Alexandrian port of Dekheila. This multinational corporation is also involved in the trade of grains, soybeans, animal feed, and sugar along with sugar-processing. According to Cargill's website, this mammoth corporation employs some 370 people in four locations across Egypt.

*Photos courtesy of MENA Solidarity Network & International Food Workers' Union

Labor resistance poses new challenge for Sisi dictatorship

Agence France-Presse
Labourers pose a new challenge for Egypt's El-Sisi

April 23, 2014

MAHALLAH, Egypt // Egypt’s next president will have to contend with frustrated workers who have threatened a new wave of nationwide strikes if their demands are not met by an already cash-strapped government.

Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the ex-army chief who removed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last July and is hailed by supporters as a tough leader who can restore stability, is widely expected to win next month’s election.

But he is likely to face strident demands from the same labour leaders who organised a massive 2008 strike seen as a precursor to the 2011 uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule.
And with tourism and investment having largely dried up following three years of turmoil, it’s unclear whether the government can meet their demands.

Labour activist Kamal Fayoumi says he struggles to make ends meet despite having worked at a textile factory for 30 years, and he and other labour leaders insist the promise of the 2011 uprising -- “bread, freedom, social justice” -- has yet to be fulfilled.

“All governments over the past three years, including Morsi’s, have only made promises, but never delivered,” Mr Fayoumi said at a roadside cafe in Egypt’s textile hub of Mahallah, 115 kilometres north of Cairo.

In the years since Mr Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, workers have staged persistent strikes across the country, only halting them in February under a temporary truce with military-installed authorities.

The strikes had taken place in key sectors, including textiles, steel, cement, public transport, ports and postal services, further compounding the country’s economic woes.

Protesting workers have demanded higher wages along with a minimum wage plan, improved working conditions, a halt to the privatisation of state-owned units and an end to corruption.

After three decades at the massive state-owned Masr Spinning and Weaving factory in the Nile Delta city of Mahallah, Fayoumi, 53, says he earns a paltry $200 a month.

“How am I supposed to offer a life of dignity to my family? If this situation continues, we will strike again, no matter the next president, Sisi or (Hamdeen) Sabbahi,” he said.

Mr El Sisi, who is riding a wave of popularity and nationalist fervour after ending Mr Morsi’s divisive year-long reign, is expected to win the May 26-27 vote. Leftist leader Mr Sabbahi, his only rival, came in third in the 2012 election won by Mr Morsi.

Mr El Sisi’s picture is displayed on shop windows in Mahallah but are in smaller numbers than in Cairo, where large posters and banners have sprung up in almost every square.

Analysts say that for more than five decades, the authorities have negotiated with the state-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) as the sole representative of workers, much to the frustration of critics who accuse the union of being hand in glove with the authorities.

Independent unions have proliferated since 2011, but the authorities refuse to recognise them, and often use the army to help break strikes.

In February, Egyptian media said the army had dispatched scores of its drivers to replace striking public transport workers.

“This comes as we witness ...a new (interim) government that includes figures linked to the Mubarak regime ... which takes us back to a dark period of Egypt’s history,” the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said in a report.

Giving in to the workers’ demands, however, would add to the government’s already hefty deficit at a time when tourism and investment are at an all-time low and the economy is being propped up by aid from Gulf allies.

“The budget deficit for this year to June 2014 is estimated at about 20 per cent. If the government adopts a minimum wage plan or increases salaries across categories as demanded by workers, the deficit will simply soar,” said Shaheer George, a labour researcher with EIPR.

Officials say the government wants to cut the deficit — burdened by fuel and food subsidies — to 10 per cent and set up labour-intensive projects to address unemployment, which rose to around 14 per cent last year from nine before the 2011 revolt.

Labour minister Nahed Ali Ashri declined an interview request, but the cabinet said on Thursday it has approved a draft law which proposes setting up fast-track courts to resolve labour disputes.
Labour activists have shrugged in response, warning that more confrontations may await.

“Workers in cities like Mahallah are supporting Sisi, but if he fails to achieve social justice, they will return to the streets against him,” said activist Hamdy Hussein.

Man shot dead inside Imbaba Police Station

Daily News Egypt
Man shot dead inside police station

April14, 2014

Hend Kortam

Investigations are underway into the shooting of a man inside a police station on Sunday night at the hands of a non-commissioned policeman.

The incident was followed by tight security measures around Imbaba Police Station. State-run MENA reported that the man was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the Egyptian government.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Hany Abdel Latif said that the man who was killed entered the police station to post bail for a detained friend who was held inside.

However, the victim himself was also wanted, the spokesman added. Abel Latif said the man was identified by the non-commissioned police officer. The two were involved in a fight and the non-commissioned police officer fell to the floor in the struggle.

The victim was shot twice by the non-commissioned policeman who was trying to arrest him, killing him instantly, state-run MENA reported, citing a security source. He was wanted for partaking in a protest and blocking roads.

Giza Director of Security Kamal Al-Dali ordered the detention of the policeman and investigations began Sunday night.

2 journalists shot, 1 student killed in police crackdown on Cairo University protest

Committee to Protect Journalists

Two journalists injured covering clashes in Egypt

New York, April 15, 2014--Two Egyptian journalists were shot by live ammunition on Monday while covering clashes in Cairo between security forces and university students supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to news reports. At least one student was killed in the clashes, news reports said.

Amr Abdel-Fattah, photographer for the independent TV channel Sada El-Balad, was shot in the back and underwent surgery at a local hospital, according to news reports. He is in stable condition. Khaled Hussein, reporter for Al-Youm al-Saba'a, was shot in the chest, according to the independent daily. He underwent surgery and is in critical condition, reports said. Both journalists were taken to Qasr El-Einy Hospital.

While being taken to the hospital, Hussein said the police had fired at him, according to a video published by Al-Youm al-Saba'a.

Ahmed Mamdouh, a student and protester who helped take the journalists to the hospital, told CPJ the police used live ammunition to shoot at the journalists and protesters. Independent photojournalist Amru Salahuddien also wrote a post on Facebook that said police had used live ammunition. Al-Youm al-Saba'a published photos showing damage to the outer doors and walls of Cairo University.

The Interior Ministry denied police used live ammunition and said Muslim Brotherhood protesters had shot at journalists, according to news reports.

"We call on the Egyptian government to ensure that journalists can safely cover demonstrations," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Authorities can take the first step toward quelling the violence by fully investigating the attacks on Amr Abdel-Fattah and Khaled Hussein and holding those responsible to account." 

Al-Dustour daily reporter Mayada Ashraf was shot dead while covering clashes in Cairo last month, according to news reports.


Workers stand up to government, demand rights nationwide

Washington Post
From Cairo to Suez, Egypt workers defy government with strikes

April 11, 2014

Erin Cunningham

SUEZ, Egypt — Strikes staged by thousands of Egyptian workers for higher wages and better working conditions in recent months are setting the stage for a possible confrontation between the impoverished laborers and a new president after elections this spring.

The rallies and sit-ins that have crippled the postal service, textile factories and even public hospitals are still fragmented, largely uncoordinated and lack unified demands. But as the cash-strapped government moves to quash labor unrest in places such as Suez, the strikes underscore a social discontent that is still festering among Egypt’s working class and could evolve into a more solid opposition to the military-backed administration.

“Businessmen in this country have sucked the blood of the people — and the one who is responsible is Abdel Fatah al-Sissi,” Ahmed Mahmoud, who heads the Cairo branch of the Independent Union for Public Transport Workers, said of the powerful former defense minister and now presidential hopeful.

Sissi, who spearheaded the coup against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last summer and recently resigned as military commander to run for the presidency, oversaw in February the mobilization of scores of army bus drivers to thwart a strike led by Mahmoud’s union. Sissi’s allies have included some of the corrupt businessmen and politicians who grew rich under former autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

“The army and police are stronger than us,” Mahmoud, 49, said at a rally held by government postal workers outside the cabinet building in Cairo last month. Police had arrested and detained five postal employees in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, the week before for leading strikes for better pay.

“But our movement will spread in the face of this government,” he said.

Not all of Egypt’s striking workers are as quick to link their bread-and-butter issues in the workplace to a wider political struggle — or even to the shared pains of their fellow laborers.

Scattered strikes led by textile workers in the Nile Delta in the late 2000s laid the groundwork for the anti-regime activism that eventually toppled Mubarak in 2011. Later, sustained labor demonstrations across several industrial sectors also destabilized Morsi’s already embattled administration.

But decades of state control over workers’ unions and political parties with a weak grass-roots presence have hobbled the labor movement’s ability to organize effectively on a national level, activists and experts say.

The state-run Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions, founded in 1957, has “always worked as the regime’s arm in suppressing labor strikes” by routinely siding with the government over the workers, said Hossam el-Hamalawy, a prominent activist with Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists movement.

According to Hesham Sallam, co-editor of the Jadaliyya Web site published by the Washington-based Arab Studies Institute, workers’ needs have long been thwarted by regime-friendly opposition parties that claimed to speak for labor but “who sought to keep the workers quiet.”

Just 3.8 million of Egypt’s total workforce of 27 million people belong to the state-run unions, which this week endorsed Sissi's candidacy as “a lifeline for workers.” As a result, “there are still large sections of the working class that are not unionized,” Hamalawy said.


Both public- and private-sector strikers have so far focused their demands on higher salaries, increased hazard pay and, in some cases, implementation of a national minimum wage. In January, the government led by then-Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi failed to make good on its promise to grant all government workers a minimum monthly salary of about $172 — up from $100. Instead, one-third of civil servants received a pay bump.

More than a quarter of Egyptians live under the national poverty line of about $570 in annual income, according to the government’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. Over the past three years of political turmoil, prices of basic goods have skyrocketed because of inflation, a sinking Egyptian currency and the depletion of the country’s foreign currency reserves.

“We can’t survive through the month,” said Osama Rashed, a 38-year veteran of the postal service who said he receives a monthly salary of $143.

Rashed and his colleagues, who were demonstrating outside the cabinet building on the same day as the transport workers, say the government eats into their paychecks with fees for such things as uniforms, chairs and ceiling fans in the summer — goods that never materialize.

Arrests of workers, while sporadic, have sent some labor leaders underground and have angered their colleagues on the outside.

“The arrests scare the workers, but they also make them more defiant,” Fatma Ramadan, an independent labor activist, said.


In Suez province, a critical industrial center and strategic hub of global maritime trade, the military has been particularly involved in suppressing factory workers’ strikes, labor rights activists say. Those actions could indicate how a military-supported Sissi presidency would deal with the ongoing labor unrest.

In August, military police stormed a worker sit-in at the privately owned Suez Steel Company. The workers accused management of failing to honor an agreement that granted them hazard pay, health care and a share of the company’s profits.

Last month, a senior army commander in Suez helped eliminate the union leadership at a local factory belonging to international ceramics and porcelain producer Cleopatra Ceramics, according to workers.

On March 3, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Shams summoned 23 of the union’s first- and second-tier leaders to the area’s army headquarters and threatened to have Egypt’s secret police investigate them for terrorism if they did not sign resignation letters and leave the company, Cleopatra workers and labor activists said.

Factory owner Mohamed Aboul Enein — and former Mubarak heavyweight ally — had been locked in a years-long struggle with workers over a 2012 agreement for better salaries, overtime pay and food allowances. In a telephone interview, Enein said he was forced to sign the contract under duress, after employees barricaded him inside the factory overnight.

“These people belong to the Muslim Brotherhood,” Enein said of the workers. The Egyptian government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood and declared the group a terrorist organization. But there is no evidence the union was acting on behalf of the Islamist group.

“They always ask for money,” Enein said of the workers. “They are criminals.”

But company labor leaders said Shams’s and Enein’s close advisers threatened to bring the leaders’ wives and children to the military base until they promised to leave. A spokesman for the Egyptian armed forces did not respond to requests for comment.

“They kept saying that if we did not sign, we would go to prison,” said Ayman Nofal, one of the union members who was pushed out. The move has paralyzed worker organizing there, current employees said.

“Like any entity in power, the military does not want strikes,” Ramadan said.

If he becomes president, “Sissi will try to repress the workers, but that means there will be another revolution,” she said. “They want democracy, but they also want their economic rights.”

*Sharaf Al-Hourani and Lara El-Gibaly contributed to this report.
**Photo by Sabry Khaled, courtesy of the Associated Press 

Super Sisi: Egypt's new video game hero

The Guardian

Meet Super Sisi, Egypt's new game hero

Animated game version joins tat such as Sisi underpants and Sisi branded fast-food in milking general's cult-like status
Friday 11 April 2014
Patrick Kingsley
On Egyptian streets Abdel Fatah al-Sisi – the top general who ousted ex-president Mohamed Morsi last summer – reached superhuman status months ago. Now the digital world has caught up: developers have released a Sisi-themed arcade-style game for Android users, billing the strongman as an Egyptian superhero.

Super Sisi sees a two-dimensional version of Egypt's likely next president fly through a cartoon Cairo, attempting to save the country. In real life, Sisi's picture looms over most main roads in Cairo, with many seeing his leadership as the answer to three years of political instability.

In the game, Sisi's avatar flies over the pyramids and the river Nile dodging bombs and explosives – a plotline that might remind some of a real-life wave of militant attacks aimed at soldiers and policemen.

The game is the latest in a string of unlikely memorabilia aimed at cashing in on Sisi's cult status. Elsewhere, Sisi's face adorns tat ranging from underpants, fast-food packaging and, most famously, chocolates – at least until police raided the patissiers who made them last month.

But popular culture has not all been favourable to the man many expect to be elected Egypt's next president in late May. In late March hundreds of thousands took to social media to express disgust at the general. Using the slogan "vote for the pimp'  -  it was a reminder that many Egyptians revile Sisi for his role in a crackdown that has seen at least 16,000 political dissidents arrested since regime change last July, and thousands killed.

After months of speculation as to whether he would stand for the presidency, Sisi resigned from the military in March, paving the way for a return to strongman leadership for Egypt.

Sisi had been spoken of as a potential head of state after he removed Morsi last July, following days of mass protests against the Islamist-slanted government.

A poll from late March by Egypt's leading pollsters, Baseera, suggested that 39% of Egyptians would  vote for Sisi in an election. This dwarfs support for the two other well-known candidates currently in the race – the rightwing football club chairman Mortada Mansour and leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, who moulds himself in the image of Egypt's 60s autocrat, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

But it is a marked drop from Baseera's February poll, which gave Sisi 51%. Most voters say they are yet to decide, but their choice is already limited by the withdrawal of two leading candidates who say that the race will be neither free nor fair.

Increased arrests of homosexuals in Egypt

Index On Censorship

“We no longer feel safe”: Egypt’s attacks on gay rights

There is increased anxiety over the insecurity of Egypt's vulnerable gay community

9 April, 2014

Shahira Amin 

A Cairo misdemeanour court on Monday sentenced three men to eight years in prison “for committing homosexual acts”. A fourth defendant in the case was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour.

The men were allegedly found dressed in women’s clothes and wearing make-up when they were arrested last month, following a police raid on a private apartment in Cairo’s northern residential suburb of Nasr city. The apartment had been a meeting place for some members of Egypt’s gay community, who had been attending a party there when the raid occurred.

During Monday’s court session, prosecutors said one of the defendants had rented the apartment to receive “sexual deviants” in his home and host parties for them. While there are no laws banning homosexuality in Egypt, “debauchery” or breaking the country’s law of public morals is outlawed.

Egyptian courts use legislation on debauchery to prosecute gay people on charges of “contempt of religion” and “sexual immorality.”

The severe sentences the four men received on Monday have raised concerns among rights campaigners of a widening crackdown on Egypt’s long-oppressed and marginalised gay community.

Youth-activists expressed their dismay and disappointment at the verdicts on social media networks.

In a message posted on her Twitter account on Tuesday, Shadi Rahimi, a journalist and photographer working for Al Monitor described the verdicts as “outrageous”. Blogger Nervana Mahmoud meanwhile said: “The verdicts demonstrate that the current regime is as conservative as their Islamist predecessors.”

In Egypt’s conservative, predominantly Muslim society, homophobia is deeply embedded, with 95% of Egyptians sharing the conviction that “homosexuality should not be accepted”, according to a 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre.

The recent crackdown on Egypt’s gay community is highly reminiscent of the security clampdown in the spring/summer of 2001 when authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak was still in power.

In May 2001, 52 people suspected of being gay were arrested on charges of immorality during a raid on a tourist boat moored on the Nile in Cairo. Twenty three of the men were sentenced to up to five years in prison with hard labour.

The highly-publicised “Queen Boat case”, named after the discotheque-boat that for long had been a known meeting place for Egypt’s gay community, signalled what rights campaigners feared might be an end to long years of discreet and quietly tolerated public activity by the country’s threatened LGBT population.

Some analysts said at the time that the sudden crackdown was a means of diverting attention away from the regime’s failures, including a political crisis and a looming economic recession. Critics of the 2001 crackdown also believed it was an attempt by the then-autocratic regime to present an image as “the guardian of public virtue so as to deflate an Islamist opposition movement that appeared to be gaining support every day”.

Not surprisingly, many of Egypt’s gay men and women were at the heart of the January 2011 protests demanding democracy, freedom and social justice. They had hoped that the revolution would usher in a new era of change including greater freedoms and tolerance, allowing them to better integrate into mainstream society.

Karim, who requested that only his first name be used out of concern for his safety, told Index: “We had a lot of hope then but the last three years have only brought disappointment. There has been no change in people’s attitudes. In fact, we get insulted more often now, as people feel emboldened knowing that the authorities are siding with them.”

Rights campaigners agree that life has gotten worse for Egypt’s gay citizens since the Arab Spring.

Adel Ramadan, a legal officer at the Cairo-based Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights told NBC News last year that “after the fall of Mubarak, the criticism of revolutionary groups has always contained a sexual element. Women who participate in protests are often called prostitutes or ‘loose’ women, while male revolutionary activists are called homosexuals”.

Meanwhile, the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt in the post-revolution era fuelled fears among rights groups and Egyptian gay citizens over greater restrictions on the gay community. They anticipated an even harder crackdown under Islamist rule and worried that the Islamist-dominated parliament would pass anti-gay legislation.

Whether or not their fears were justified is uncertain, for Islamist rule in Egypt was short lived, lasting only one year. President Morsi was toppled by military-backed protests on July 3, 2013 and the People’s Assembly (the lower house of Parliament responsible for issuing legislation) was disbanded by a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling in June 2012, only a few months after its members were elected.

However, in their time in power, there were signs indicating a potential tightening of restrictions on Egypt’s gays. In August 2012, a man was arrested for allegedly leading a “gay sex network” while later that year, vigilantes beat four men suspected of being gay before handing them over to the police.

“Many of my gay friends fled the country when the Islamists came to power; they were terrified of what would happen to them under Islamist rule. They knew they would not be able to live freely so they emigrated,” said Karim. “Those who stayed behind, participated in the 30 June mass protests demanding Morsi’s downfall. We were overjoyed when he was toppled and hoped there would be fewer restrictions on us from then on,” he added.

Paradoxically, since Morsi’s ouster in July 2013, there has been a rise in the number of arrests of people based on their sexual orientation, according to the US-based Human Rights First group. The group says the surge in arrests and prosecution of gay men and women is part of the military-backed regime’s efforts to reassure Egyptians that the current regime is as conservative as any Islamist party.

In October 2013, state-owned Akhbar el Youm reported that at least 14 men were arrested for “practicing homosexuality” after a raid on a health club in El Marg district in northeastern Cairo.

According to the weekly newspaper, police found the men “in positions that were against religious precepts”. Less than three weeks later, police arrested ten more people on “homosexual-related charges”. The arrests occurred during a police raid on a private party held to celebrate Love Day (Egypt’s equivalent of Valentine’s Day) in Cairo’s western suburb of 6 October.

The men were subjected to humiliating anal examinations before being convicted of prostitution and sentenced to between three and nine years in prison. Mohamed Bakier, one of the defence lawyers in the case, said the charges against them were “political rather than criminal”. He added that the harsh sentences they received were meant to deliver a message that the society is still conservative.

Similarly, the severe sentences handed down to the four men on Monday may be an attempt by the military-backed authorities to appease a sceptical public and win over conservatives in the deeply polarised society ahead of upcoming presidential elections in which the former defence minister Abdel Fattah El Sisi is the lead contender.

The verdicts, meanwhile, coincided with another court ruling upholding three-year jail terms imposed on three secular revolutionary activists convicted of organising or participating in unauthorised protests, prompting rights campaigners to concur in opinion that this is all part of the wider, ongoing crackdown on personal freedoms.

Whatever the motives are behind the harsh sentences, one thing is certain: The verdicts have increased anxiety over the insecurity of Egypt’s vulnerable gay community. “We no longer feel safe,” said Karim. “We know we are being targeted by the police and sooner or later, they will come after us.”

Lenghty prison sentences against 4 homosexuals

Agence France Presse

Egypt court sentences four homosexuals to prison

Monday April 7, 2014

CAIRO (AFP) - A court in Egypt sentenced four men to up to eight years in prison on Monday for practicing homosexuality, a judicial official said. 

Prosecutors had accused the men of holding "deviant parties" and dressing in women's clothes. Three were sentenced to eight years and the fourth to three years in prison.

Prosecutors have used a law banning "debauchery" to try homosexuals in the past.

Those accused of homosexuality are often forced to undergo medical tests to establish they are "habitual" homosexuals, a practice rights groups have decried as abusive.

Homosexuality is not tolerated across the Middle East and much of Africa.

Court upholds jail sentences of 3 leading activists


Egypt court upholds jailing of leading pro-democracy activists

Monday April 7, 2014

Yasmine Salah

(Reuters) - An Egyptian appeals court on Monday upheld the jailing of three leading figures of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising, tightening a crackdown on secular activists opposed to the army-backed government.

Critics see their case as an attempt to stifle the kind of political street activism common since the uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak three years ago, as Egypt prepares for presidential elections next month.

A court handed down three-year sentences to the three liberal activists, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel, in December for protesting without permission and assaulting the police.

The verdict was the first under a new law that requires police permission for demonstrations. The case stemmed from protests called in defiance of the law. The European Union and the United States had urged Egypt to reconsider the verdict.

Popular leftist politician and presidential hopeful Hamdeen Sabahi condemned the sentences and urged Interim President Adly Mansour to grant the activists a presidential pardon. The liberal al-Dostour party made the same request.

The three men appeared in court on Monday inside a metal cage wearing blue prison suits and chanting: "Down, down with army rule, our country will always be free!"

They have one final chance to appeal to a higher court but analysts see little hope of the verdict being overturned.


"I was not expecting this sentence at all. I was certainly expecting it to be overturned. That is very bad news," said Dostour party spokesman Khaled Dawoud.

"This will definitely send a very negative signal to all the young people who supported the (2011) January Revolution."

Already pursuing a crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed president Mohamed Mursi, the army-led authorities have arrested a number of secular activists in recent months for breaches of the new protest law.

"Today's verdict against three of the most recognized faces of the January 25, 2011, protests is one more nail in the coffin for Egypt's revolution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch.

"The appeals court has failed to undo the worst excesses of the government's campaign to crush dissent."

The U.S. State Department said the continued imprisonment of the trio ran counter to the Egyptian government's commitment to protect the universal rights of all Egyptians.

"We urge the Egyptian government to exercise its constitutional authority to commute these excessive sentences, which are not in line with the rights guaranteed in Egypt's new constitution, Egypt's international obligations or the government's own commitment not to return to Mubarak-era practices," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a briefing in Washington.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who toppled Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule, is expected to win next month's presidential election easily.

The former army chief's supporters see him as a decisive figure who can bring stability. Islamist and secular opponents say he has helped to turn Egypt back into a police state.

Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members and arrested thousands. Mursi and many other top leaders are on trial.

Western powers have called for democracy to be restored and for an end to human rights abuses, but there are no signs that they intend to exert the kind of pressure that might force change.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is expected in Cairo on Wednesday for talks with Egyptian officials, the state news agency said.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin and Tom Perry, and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Yasmine Saleh; Editing by Michael Georgy, Kevin Liffey and Mohammad Zargham)

*Photo courtesy of AFP

State-controlled labor federation campaigns for Sisi

Cairo Post

ETUF supports Sisi’s nomination to run in presidential election

April 6, 2013

CAIRO: In its meeting Saturday the general assembly for the Egyptian Trade Union Federation demanded that all ETUF headquarters be open to act as operation rooms for Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi‘s presidential campaign, Youm7 reported.

 ETUF Treasurer Gamal Ukby authorized the councils’ leaders to mobilize workers and gather official mandates to support Sisi’s nomination in the upcoming election.

Gebaly al-Maraghy, ETUF’s head, said there is a necessity to motivate workers to participate in the upcoming presidential, reported Al-Ahram newspaper Saturday.

The ETUF will form committees to execute a plan for promoting Sisi’s presidential campaign, which would include creating promotional material such as signs.

*Additional reporting by Ashraf Zazoo.

Authorities thwart workers' self-management of their factory

Mada Masr
Workers struggle to self-manage
Renationalized companies left idle as workers fight to make factories function

April 3, 2014

Jano Charbel

Weary of governmental inaction regarding the court-ordered re-nationalization of their companies, many workers have sought to take matters into their own hands through experiments in workers’ self-management — only to find that the government is actively obstructing their efforts.

Last month, authorities pulled the plug on one such experiment at the Tanta Flax Company, which has been awaiting re-nationalization for over two years.

On March 15, the Middle East Paper Company (Simo) became the seventh company to become re-nationalized by court order since late 2011. However, state authorities have not yet moved to bring this company back into operation under the public sector.

Since September 2011, the Administrative Court has issued verdicts nullifying the privatization contracts for the Tanta Flax Company, Nubariya Seeds Company, Shebin al-Kom Textile Company and the Nile Cotton Ginning Company, as well as the Nasr Steam Boilers Company and Omar Effendi chain of department stores.

According to the court’s findings and rulings, these public sector companies had been sold off to private investors from 1990s to 2010 at far less than their real market value. Yet these companies and their workers have been largely left in a state of limbo, no longer operated by either private or public investors.

With the exception of the Omar Effendi stores, and to a lesser extent the Shebin al-Kom Textile Company, the state has not invested in re-nationalizing or re-operating these stalled companies.

In hopes of getting their jobs back and their factories running, workers from these seven companies have filed petitions and staged protests and sit-ins nationwide demanding a return to their jobs over the course of three years.

These labor pleas come amid intensified calls from leading state officials — including Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Minister of Manpower Nahed al-Ahsry, among others — for workers to stop protesting or striking, and to help salvage the economy by resuming production.

But these calls for a return to production are ringing hollow for many workers.

“This is empty talk delivered for the sake of media consumption,” says Hesham al-Oql from the Tanta Flax and Oils Company.

“The opposite of these official statements is true. We workers are jobless and want to re-operate our companies, but the government is keeping us from getting back to work.”

Driven by frustration and years without an income, workers from the Tanta Flax Company were the latest group to try their hand in self-managing their factories.


On March 19, dozens of former workers began to operate two production lines out of the ten within the Tanta Flax Company. Yet as news of this effort spread beyond the company’s walls, local authorities switched off the electricity to the company, and the experiment was over within a matter of hours.

According to Oql, police forces were dispatched to the factory within two hours after receiving news of the workers’ experiment.

“They claimed to sympathize [with] and support our efforts, yet a few minutes after they had departed all electricity to the company was suddenly cut off,” he says.

Another former worker, Gamal Othman, explains, “Upon announcing our intention to self-manage the company, the Holding Company for Chemical Industries called the local utilities authority in Tanta and had them cut off our electricity.”

“Our intention in self-management was to show the Holding Company that it is easy to re-operate the company’s factories, and that we have raw materials to last us for a month of production,” a frustrated Othman recounts.

Othman adds that he and his fellow workers sought to pressure the Holding Company and the Ministry of Investment to follow through on their promise of purchasing the necessary amount of flax seed crop from local farmers — estimated at about LE7 million — by mid-May.

“We fear that if the Holding Company does not buy these crops from the farmers, they will sell their produce to others, and plans to re-operate the company by next year will never be implemented,” he warns.

Both the Holding Company for Chemical Industries and the Ministry of Investment had made statements to the effect that they would re-operate the Tanta Flax Company by 2015, although no specific date has been mentioned for this operation.

Othman criticizes the government’s failure to re-operate Tanta Flax and other stalled companies.

“The authorities shouldn’t be paying workers compensation amounting to only their basic wages, while they and their production lines remain idle. This is a waste of the state’s resources. The authorities should move to invest in the actual re-operation of workers and their companies, as this will benefit both the state and the workers,” he asserts.

The Tanta Flax Company’s workers were inspired by the successful experiment in self-management which workers at the Nubariya Seed Company had embarked upon some two years earlier. These two years of self-management proved fruitful for the company, generating an estimated LE10 million in profits during this time.

The profitable Nubaseed Company had been sold to Saudi investor Abdel Ellah al-Kaaki in 1999 — the same businessman who would purchase the Tanta Flax Company in 2005.

Kaaki had ceased his investments in these two companies by 2011, when workers began filing their cases before the Administrative Court and calling for re-nationalization.

The Nubaseed workers’ successful experiment in self-management was halted by former Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi’s Cabinet in late 2013, when the ministers appealed against the re-nationalization verdict issued in 2011.

The Administrative Court is scheduled to issue its verdict regarding this appeal on April 12.
According to Oql, “The ball is in the playing field of the Finance Ministry. It has been there for nearly three years now, yet we continue to await any action.”

So as to encourage the Ministry of Investment to re-operate our company, we informed them that we are willing to work for one month without wages, free of charge, in order to get our company back on its feet and also to get our jobs back. Yet we didn’t hear back from them, and thus we decided to try self-administrating the company.”

Former presidential contender Khaled Ali, who served as the lawyer for many of the aforementioned privatized companies, has called on state authorities to allow workers to self-manage their companies when they are stalled, or when investors flee the country.

Notable experiments in workers’ self-management include those of Ramy Lakkah’s light bulb factory in the Tenth of Ramadan City, which lasted from 2001-2006. Although the owner and investor had fled the country, this experiment managed to increase both the company’s production and profits. After settling his finances, the company was returned to Lakkah upon his return from France.

In this same industrial zone, the textile enterprise known as the Economic Company for Industrial Development was successfully managed from 2008-2010. Its owner, Adel Agha, had fled the country and left over 500 workers behind, who managed to operate the company themselves. This company, and its mother company Ahmonseto, was liquidated in 2010 and shut down as banks repossessed Agha’s assets.


While Simo’s workers have considered self-managing their company, they are unable to do so as gas lines and electricity have been cut-off since June 2013 due to the former-owners’ failure to pay their industrial utility bills.

As is the case with the aforementioned companies, the Administrative Court found that the Simo Paper Company — which had been privatized as a share holding company in 1997 — was sold-off to investors at a fraction of its original market value.

Over 500 workers at the Simo Company — the company originally employed around 3,000 workers prior to its privatization — have been without work, pay or compensation since they brought forth their case before the Administrative Court in June 2013.

“We signed petitions to government officials, the Cabinet and local authorities to re-operate our company — to no avail,” says Abdel Ati Ghareeb, president of Simo’s local union committee.

Simo’s workers protested outside Cabinet headquarters on March 8 along with workers from several other stalled companies, where they demanded state investment in order to get their company up and running.

A judicial appeal filed by the Holding Company for Chemical Industries — which, like the Tanta Flax Company, is supposed to manage and oversee Simo — against the March 15 verdict has halted the re-nationalization of the Simo Paper Company. The Administrative Court has still not delivered its verdict regarding this appeal.

“Our company is very profitable and can easily be re-operated with a little bit of investment, maintenance and the payment of wages,” says Ghareeb.

“We are willing and able to get back to work, and in fact we are insisting upon returning to work. We just want our jobs and company back.”

The Ministry of Manpower is due to pay Simo’s workers one month of basic wages as of next week, according to Ghareeb, who adds, “While we are grateful for any sort of assistance, we are not calling for monetary handouts or temporary solutions. We demand the actual re-operation of our company and the reinstatement of all sacked workers.”

Simo’s workers are taking shifts sleeping-in at the company, located in Shubra al-Khaima, in order to protect its five factories, and to keep intruders and thieves out, Ghareeb explains.

“We are unable to pay our rents or feed our families. We’re quickly losing all hope as there appears to be no genuine concern from the authorities, or any real willingness to resolve our grievances. Over 500 workers are slowing dying as our company is paralyzed.”

We are desperately screaming for the state to salvage our company,” he pleas.

Ghareeb and thousands of other workers remind the ruling authorities that in April 2013, former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to uphold the verdict of re-nationalization for the Nile Cotton Ginning Company.

Qandil appealed against this verdict, but again the sentence was upheld in September 2013. The former prime minister was arrested in December 2013 and is now serving his sentence.

“We just want the government to practice what it preaches regarding production and the ‘wheel of production,’” Ghareeb says. “Help us get this company back in production, and within one month we will be bringing back the profits.”

*Photo of workers at the self-managed Economic Company for Industrial Development in 2009, by Jano Charbel 

1 year in prison for dressing donkey like General Sisi

Daily Mail

The law is an ass! Farmer is jailed for a year in Egypt after naming his donkey after country's former military chief

April 1, 2014

Simon Tomlinson

An Egyptian farmer has been jailed for a year for naming his donkey after the country's former military chief who is running for president.

Omar Abul Maged was accused of 'humiliating the military' for calling his animal Sisi after Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Maged, 31, put a military-style cap on his donkey, covered it with a poster of al-Sisi and rode it through his village in protest against the decision to oust Morsi last summer.

Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies told the Egypt Independent that it 'raises doubts about the fairness of the judiciary system in Egypt'.

The conviction comes after the judiciary last week sentenced 529 pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood defendants to death in a massive crackdown on government dissenters.

The electoral commission announced on Sunday that Egypt's presidential election will be held in late May, finally setting dates for the crucial vote widely expected to be won by al-Sisi.

The commission set the first round of voting for May 26 and 27, with results expected by June 5.
If a second round is necessary it will be held by mid-month with results announced no later than June 26, the commission said.

Al-Sisi sparked protests after announcing his bid for office, but is widely expected to win.
His victory would restore a tradition of presidents from military backgrounds that Egypt had for all but one year since 1952, when officers overthrew the monarchy and became the dominant force in politics.