Saturday, February 27, 2010

Egypt Court: Gas Exports to Apartheid Israel Legal

Egypt gas exports to Israel legal
February 27, 2010

Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court has authorised the sale of Egyptian gas to Israel, overruling a previous verdict by a lower court.

But the new verdict on Saturday stipulated that Egypt should monitor the price and quantity of its exports and ensure it met local energy needs before exporting.

The ruling ends a legal battle that caused a public controversy which focused on the price of gas sold to Israel, and reflected Israel’s unpopularity among Egyptians despite a 1979 peace accord.

Gas started flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the first time in May 2008 under an agreement signed in 2005 for the supply of 1.7 billion cubic meters a year over 20 years.

Sovereignty issue

Mohamed al-Husseini, the most senior judge of the panel which issued the verdict said: "It is not within the jurisdiction of the courts to hear appeals against the government's decision to export gas to eastern Mediterranean markets, including Israel. It was a sovereign decision."

In November 2008, a Cairo court overruled the government's decision to allow the exports after a group of lawyers filed a suit against the state, saying the Israelis were buying the gas at prices below international prices.

The Egyptian government is reluctant to reveal the price it receives for natural gas exports.

A court ruled in February 2009 that gas exports could continue pending a review of the November ruling, although the government had ignored the verdict anyway.

Against the principle

Some Egyptian leftists and Arab nationalists oppose the sale of gas to Israel in principle , having fought four wars against the Jewish state between 1948 and 1973 before making peace in 1979.

Egypt exports gas to Israel and Arab states by pipeline and also ships liquefied natural gas (LNG) abroad.

In 2008 it said it would not sign any new gas export contracts until 2010 in order to meet rising local demand.

Egypt's privately owned East Mediterranean Gas (EMG) began exporting fuel to the state-owned Israel Electric Corp in May 2005, after agreeing to supply 1.7 billion cubic metres (5.6 billion cubic feet) a year for 20 years.

Earlier this month, Ampal-American Israel Corp, which has a 12.5 per cent interest in EMG, said a September 2009 deal to increase the supply to 42 billion cubic metres had come into force.

It said the contract was worth roughly six billion dollars (4.4 billion euros).

Further Fortifications to Besiege Gaza

Maan News Agency
Egyptian security constructing guard towers on Gaza border

Al-Arish – Ma'an – Egyptian security sources announced the start of construction of steel-plated guard towers along the 13.5-kilometer Gaza border on Wednesday, confirming witnesses reports of new building in the area.

The towers will replace several wooden birds nest structures already in place along the border.

The security sources said the decision to replace the towers was made following the early January shooting death of a soldier along the border, allegedly by Hamas policemen, though the claim was denied by a de facto government internal investigation.

New towers will reportedly be seven meters tall and bulletproof, security officials said.

The security sources added that material for about 23 new control towers was delivered to workers at the border area, and officials planned to install 13 and possibly up to 16 towers along the length of the border; from international marker 1 to international marker 7, security personnel said.

The sources said the towers were part of an effort to stop smuggling.

International Middle East Media Center
Egypt Fortifies Gazan Border
Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
February 26, 2010

Egyptian Authorities have begun the installation of bulletproof watchtowers, replacing older wooden towers, along its border with the Gaza Strip.

The decision is attributed to the death of an Egyptian soldier stationed in an older wooden watchtower.

A total of 23 new towers have been prepared for installation; 13 – 16 will be installed along Gaza starting from international border marker #1, at the Mediterranean coast, until border marker #7, near the Kerem Shalom (Karem Abu Salem), 4.5 kilometers south of the Rafah Border Terminal.

Egyptian sources claim that security forces will use rubber-coated bullets to fire at protesters near the border in an attempt to limit the number of casualties and injuries.

A new plan to prevent smuggling is slated to be implemented later this year. Egyptian authorities will encircle the Egyptian side of Rafah City with barbed wire, effectively sealing it off from Gaza.

There are also Egyptian plans to install a gate on the outskirts of Rafah that can detect weapons or metal, further discouraging the entrance of supplies into Gaza.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Egypt Wrangles Over Female Judges

Egypt wrangles over whether women should be judges
Jailan Zayan, in Cairo for AFP
25 Feb 2010

A row over the appointment of female judges to an influential court that governs administrative law in Egypt has highlighted a general malaise over women holding top jobs.

A row over the appointment of female judges to an influential court that governs administrative law in Egypt has highlighted a general malaise over women holding top jobs.

On Monday Mohammed al-Husseini, the head of the Egyptian state council, overturned a decision by its general assembly which voted by overwhelming majority last week against appointing women judges to the council.

The state council or Maglis al-Dawla is the court authorised to settle administrative disputes concerning the exercise of public power.

Husseini, who said his ruling was supported by the constitution, has since faced a barrage of criticism from fellow judges who want an emergency meeting to overturn his decision.

Some have even sought legal proceedings to have him removed from his post.

The decision to bar women from sitting on the state council is "unconstitutional," said Judge Noha al-Zeini of the administrative prosecution authority, one of only 42 women judges out of the country's 12,000 in total.

She said she was "shocked" by the ban on women sitting on the bench, but conceded that it was a reflection of society's unease with women holding positions of power.

"It shows society's rejection of women's progress. But the decision strips women of their rights," she said.

Despite steps to avoid gender-based discrimination, the idea that a woman's place is in the home is deeply rooted.

"The circumstances are currently unsuitable for women to be judges," said Judge Mahmud al-Khodeiri. "It's a difficult job, we work in difficult conditions," he said.

Khodeiri said judges are not allowed to preside over courts in their place of residence, "so how is a woman supposed to abandon her husband and her children and go and work somewhere else?

"Motherhood is something that carries all of society - it can't be ignored."

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the state council general assembly's decision and urged the government to end discrimination against women in judicial positions.

"The continuing discrimination insults the many Egyptian women who are fully qualified to serve as judges," Nadya Khalife, women's rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa at HRW, said.

Currently, only three women serve as ministers in Egypt's 27-member cabinet.

A quota was imposed by law in 2009 requiring women to hold at least 12 per cent of the seats in the lower house of parliament, or 64 seats.

Khodeiri, who resigned last year as deputy chief justice of the Court of Cassation in protest at the lack of judicial independence, said priorities needed to be revised.

"It is a bad time for judges in general right now. Let us first fix that, then we can look into the position of women," he said.

"In Egypt, judges' rulings are not respected. I used to hand out a ruling and then a police officer would throw that decision into the bin. We have a lot of work to do, and now is not the time for the women."

But Zeini, who waged an unprecedented public campaign against electoral fraud after witnessing vote rigging in the polling station she supervised in 2005 parliamentary elections, said the two ideas were not mutually exclusive.

"There is no reason why the reform of the judiciary and appointing female judges cannot go hand in hand," she said.

But she said the concept of women's rights is often perceived as an imported idea in Egypt's conservative society. "By opposing it, the judges feel they are maintaining their independence."

Last week, 380 judges took part in the state council general assembly - and 334 rejected the appointment of females to judicial posts.

Until 2007, when 31 female judges were appointed by presidential decree, only one woman was a judge in Egypt, a country of more than 80 million people.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Workers, Pharmacists, Nurses & Disabled Protest in Cairo

A day of protests
Wed, 24/02/2010


Around 300 pharmacists protested on Tuesday in front of the Doctors Syndicate against a decision by the health minister requiring pharmacies to have a minimum floor area of 40 square meters. Security forces prevented the pharmacists from staging their protest in front of the health ministry's headquarters.

The syndicate issued a statement in which it said it had requested the Minister of the Interior for permission to organize a march from the Doctors Syndicate to the Ministry of Health. The request had been declined, said the statement.

Although a protest in front of the ministry had been approved by both security forces and the syndicate, according to the syndicate's statement, security "notified the syndicate at short notice" that the protest in front of the ministry was not in fact approved. The pharmacists questioned what security concerns their "professional" protest could possibly pose.

Zein el-Abideen, syndicate treasurer, said the syndicate was planning a gradual escalation against the health minister.

Tanta Flax workers

Workers from the Tanta Flax and Oils Company fiercely attacked MP Ahmed Shoubeir in a statement they issued on Tuesday. They accused him of having opposed them since they began their sit-in, despite the fact that he is the representative for their constituency.

The protesting workers also criticized Aisha Abdel Hadi, Manpower and Migration Minister, for her absence, along with that of other concerned government officials from the People's Assembly's Manpower Committee, which discussed the workers' demands on Monday.

The workers, have been protesting for 16 days, and suspended their sit-in on Tuesday 6 PM, after accepting a government offer of early buyouts of LE40,000 for each worker.

Physically disabled persons

Dozens of physically disabled persons protested in front of the Cairo governorate to demand their rightful 5 percent share of apartments and kiosks provided by the state. The protesters said they had staged several protests before but with no result.

Ahmed Ali, a protester, said that for the last 20 years he has been requesting an apartment. He currently rents an apartment for LE350 a month, while his salary is LE300, which means he has to depend on charity to pay his children's school fees.

Ayman Sobhi, another protestor, said he submitted a request for an apartment 12 years ago, but hasn't received anything so far. Without a job, he has asked officials several times to give him a kiosk to enable him to make a living.


Gharbiya--Around 400 nurses from the Tanta University Hospital protested on Tuesday in front of the Emergency Hospital demanding that their bonuses and allowances be paid. They also requested equal treatment with their Zagazig, Alexandria and Cairo counterparts.

Some nurses reported being assaulted by university guards, who allegedly caused three injuries. El-Geish Street was cordoned off to prevent the protesting nurses from exiting the area.

Meanwhile, President of Tanta University Dr.Abdel Fattah Sadaqa held a meeting with a number of nurses and other concerned officials. He promised to resolve the problem.

In Alexandria, 15 members of the Community Medicine Unit also protested in front of the health ministry's offices to express dissatisfaction with what they termed "random dismissals" from work after 13 years of service. They called on First Lady Suzanne Mubarak to intervene on their behalf.

The protesters were not allowed into the ministry until security leaders accompanied one of the protesters into the building to submit a complaint on behalf of all her protesting colleagues.

*Translated from the Arabic Edition.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Egyptian Police Kill Yet Another Migrant At Israeli Border

Egypt Police Kill Migrant At Israel Border
February 23, 2010

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian police shot and killed an Ethiopian migrant Tuesday, injured two others and arrested 10 as they tried to cross the Egyptian-Israeli border, medical and security sources said.

The death is the third this week and brings the toll of migrants killed at the sensitive border this year to eight. At least 19 migrants were killed by Egyptian border guards last year.

The Sinai border is a main transit route for African migrants and refugees seeking work or asylum in Israel. Egypt has come under pressure from Israel to staunch the flow, while rights groups complain about the methods of the border police.

The man was shot in the back at the border and later died in a hospital in Egyptian Rafah. He identified himself as an Ethiopian but did not carry documentation, medical sources said.

The two injured, a 23-year-old Eritrean and 20-year-old Ethiopian, were transferred to el-Arish hospital.

Analysts and aid workers say the flow of migrants from the Horn of Africa through Egypt to Israel has increased as it has become more difficult to travel on other routes, such as via Libya to Europe.

Eritreans make up the largest single group of people trying to cross into Israel from Egypt, though Ethiopians and Sudanese also make the trek.

Amnesty International earlier this month called on Egypt to check their border guards use of excessive force against unarmed migrants, in a week when four migrants were killed.

Security forces say they only fire at migrants after repeated orders to stop are disregarded and that smugglers who ferry migrants to the border sometimes fire on security forces.

*(Reporting by Rasha Kamal and Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Dina Zayed; Jon Boyle)

Tanta Flax Workers Call Off Strike & Demo

Having demonstrated for 16 days on the sidewalk outside the Council of Ministers, some 400 workers from the Tanta Flax & Oils Company called off their demo on Tuesday afternoon- February 23. Around 850 workers at the company had been on strike for 46 days - since January 9.

The workers received promises from the Ministry of Manpower that they would be paid their monthly wages for January and February - plus an end of service/early retirement package. All workers (including the ten sacked workers - amongst them three local trade union leaders) at the company were each promised early retirement packages amounting to LE 40,000 (less than US$ 7,300.)

As for those workers who had spent 20 years of service there - they would be released on early-retirement packages amounting to LE 40,000 each, plus insurance policies guaranteeing monthly pensions.

Sacked trade union leader, Hisham el-Okal, described the agreement with the Ministry of Manpower as inadequate. He did however, describe the workers' strike and demo as being "a partial victory." He added "I didn't want to leave the protest site outside the Council of Ministers until we received a more just settlement - in writing."

"But our Union President, Salah Mosallam, urged workers to accept the offer. Plus we have been without any sort of incomes for the past two months, the workers had to feed their families, pay their rents, utility bills, expenses, etc. etc." He concluded "I can understand why they would accept such an offer under such difficult conditions and pressing demands."

The Tanta Flax & Oils Company, which was privatized and sold to Saudi Investor Abdel Ellah al-Kahki in 2005, is apparently on its way to liquidation.


Tanta Flax sit-in dispersed on day 16
Photograph by Mohamed Abdel Ghany for Al-Masry Al-Youm

دار الخدمات النقابية والعمالية فى 23 فبراير 2010

فى تمام الساعة السادسة من مساء اليوم، أنهى عمال شركة طنطا للزيوت والكتان اعتصامهم أمام مجلس الوزراء وذلك بعد اتفاق جرى بينهم وبين وزيرة القوى العاملة.

ينص الاتفاق على خروج عمال الشركة الذين اتموا عشرين عاماً بالخدمة على المعاش المبكر مع حصولهم على مكافأة نهاية الخدمة تقدر بـ 40 ألف جنيه (أربعون ألف جنيه فقط لا غير)، كما يتضمن الاتفاق منح العمال المفصولين نفس القيمة ممولة من صندوق الطوارئ التابع للنقابة العامة لعمال النسيج. وهذا بالإضافة إلى حصول جميع العمال على راتبى شهر يناير وفبراير المتأخرين وذلك على أن يتم الصرف فى نهاية فبراير الجارى.

كما نص الاتفاق الشفهى على أن تقوم الوزارة بشراء مدد تأمينية للعمال الذين لم يتموا عشرين عاماً فى الخدمة حتى يتسنى لهم صرف معاشات مجزية.

وتعهدت الوزيرة بإتمام تنفيذ الاتفاق كما صرحت للعمال بأن رئيس الوزراء قد وافق بنفسه على الاتفاق، وبناءاً عليه فض عمال طنطا للكتان اعتصامهم بشارع حسين حجازى وغادروا المكان فى أتوبيسات وفرتها لهم وزارة القوى العاملة لنقلهم إلى منازلهم بوسط الدلتا.

Monday, February 22, 2010



Sepultura - Refuse Resist

Amazing song with an amazing clip from an amazing band with a super amazing drummer - Igor Cavalera. Recorded in 1992, released 1993 & '94.

Chaos A.D.
Tanks on the streets
Confronting police
Bleeding the plebs
Raging crowd
Burning cars
Bloodshed stars
Who'll be alive?!

Tanta Flax Workers Continue Demo - Parliament Adjourns Discussion

Around 200 workers from the Tanta Flax & Oils Company demonstrated outside parliament today - Monday, February 22 - in hopes of being issued a resolution to end their deadlock with the company's administration.

The workers were informed that parliament would postpone this session till next Monday - March 1.

Some 850 workers at the company went on strike 45 days ago (since January 9)in response to the sacking of their local union president, Salah Mosallam. The company's administration swiftly responded by imposing a lockout.

In response, around 400 Tanta Flax workers relocated their demonstration to the Council of Ministers in downtown Cairo - where they have been sleeping-in for 15 days (since February 8.)

The wives and children of these workers were, again, bussed-in today to partake in the ongoing demo. These workers expressed their willingness to continue with their demo, not only for a week, but for several more months if need be.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Egyptian Police Kill 2 African Migrants Near Israeli Border

Egypt police kill two African migrants near Israel border
Sunday February 21, 2010

EL-ARISH, Egypt — Egyptian police shot dead two African migrants as they attempted to enter Israel illegally on Sunday, a security official told AFP.

Both men, whose nationalities are not known because they were not carrying identity papers, died on the spot after being shot three times each, the official said.

He said police opened fire after the men refused orders to stop.

In a separate incident on Saturday, an Eritrean man and two Ethiopians were wounded after police shot them also for trying to cross the border into Israel.

The three were taken to El-Arish hospital in north Sinai, where two are said to be in critical condition, the official said.

Egyptian border guards often shoot at African migrants who pay smugglers for passage into Israel to escape poverty and look for work.

Israel has insisted that Egypt clamp down on the traffic, and has approved the construction of barriers along the two countries' 250-kilometre (155-mile) border.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Egypt: Protesting the Barring of Female Judges

Cairo protest over anti-women vote
Feb. 18, 2010

Dozens of Egyptian women and human rights activists have staged a protest in Cairo against a recent decision that bars women from holding judicial positions.

Thursday's protest came after the Council of State's association voted on Monday by an overwhelming majority against the appointment of women as judges in the council, an influential court which advises Egypt's government.

Up to 80 women showed up at the protest with most of the activists holding up posters that read in Arabic: "This is a black day for Egypt's history."

"Three-hundred and eighty judges took part in the general assembly and voted, with 334 rejecting the appointment of females to judicial posts and 42 agreeing, with four abstentions," the Egyptian MENA news agency reported on Tuesday.

May el-Sallab, an Egyptian women right's activist who attended the protest, told Al Jazeera: "This move shows the flawed nature of Egypt's legal system because the vote is unconstitutional as it contradicts article 40 of the Egyptian constitution.

"The kinds of people representing Egypt's legal system obviously do not want women to be part of the decision-making process," she said.

El-Sallab said: "How can we talk about justice when those implementing the law choose to discriminate against women?"

According to article 40 of Egypt's constitution: "All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed."


The country's supreme judicial council, which has jurisdiction over criminal and civil courts, selected 31 women in 2007, who were later appointed by presidential decree.

But the decision angered conservatives who said women were not suited for the role.

Up until 2007, Egypt had only one woman serving as a judge who was appointed by Hosni Mubarak, the president, to the constitutional court.

Azza Kamal, a leading Egyptian women's rights activist who also attended the protest, told Al Jazeera: "This is a very discriminatory act and it will carry a rippling effect onto Egypt's culture because it tells society that women do not know how to handle roles associated with so much responsibility.

"In that sense, we, as women's rights activists, are losing the battle, we are losing the war to change minds and the present stereotypes that prevent us from gaining the rights that we are now being told to stay away from," she said.

Hossam Bahgat, an expert on human rights law and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, also criticised the judges' decision.

"I'm disappointed to see that there is a deep-seated bias prevalent among judges against women," he said.

Bahgat said the decision could technically be overruled by the Special Council, a supervisory body that oversees the Council of State.

Media Watchdog: Middle East Oppresses Journalists

Watchdog: Middle East oppresses journalists
Wed, 17/02/2010
Max Strasser

Egypt is among the world's worst oppressors of internet journalists, charged a report released yesterday by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based media watchdog. The report also said that media coverage of human rights issues in the the Middle East and North Africa is increasing, yet still faces strong challenges from repressive governments.

In 2009, according to the report, 70 journalists were killed and more than 136 were imprisoned, with Iran and China cited as the worst offenders. The numbers given are the highest since the CPJ began issuing its annual report 30 years ago.

"It's a pretty grim picture," CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said at a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Iran was highlighted as a particularly egregious offender, with 23 journalists imprisoned in the wake of the unrest following the June 2009 presidential elections. Other countries in the region also fared badly. In Egypt, according to the report, "[a]uthorities followed familiar tactics to control news media, pursuing politicized court cases, imposing fines, using regulatory tools, and harassing journalists."

Among the Egyptian government's violations, according to the CPJ, were fines imposed on newspapers for ignoring a ban on covering the trial of businessman Hisham Talaat Mostapha, who was accused of murdering Lebanese singer Suzanne Tanim. The report also mentioned the prosecution of newspaper editors who raised questions about President Mubarak's health.

But Egypt's strongest efforts at repression were directed against online media. "[A]uthorities moved aggressively to monitor and control online activity," said the report. According to the CPJ, the Egyptian government "relies on Web-specific regulators such as the Directorate for Computer and Internet Crimes" to monitor and persecute web-based journalists.

One Egyptian blogger told the CPJ that the government has its own "internet police", ostensibly to protect against online fraud and theft, but in reality responsible for monitoring political bloggers.

As of early December, when the CPJ conducted its research, at least three online journalists were in Egyptian jails. In mid-January around 30 bloggers and activists were arrested on their way to Naga Hammadi in Upper Egypt, where they hoped to show solidarity with the families of Coptic Christians killed in a sectarian shooting on 6 January.

While virtually every country in the Middle East and North Africa was criticized for repressing journalists, the CPJ report saw glimmers of hope in the increasing coverage of human rights abuses, a trend which the report says started with reporting on human rights abuses during the first Palestinian Intifada, which was then brought back and continued by journalists in their home countries.

Increasing use of the internet has helped to open debate in the Middle East and North Africa on human rights issues. “This is a very different world from in the ’90s and it’s a world in which governments can no longer completely control the message,” the CPJ report quoted Lawrence Pintak, a journalism professor who designed a study on media in the Arab world. “They can crack down on individual news organizations, they can jail individual reporters, they can harass individual editors, but they can’t stop the flow of information.”

Egyptian Activists Detained for Anti-Gov't Spray Painting

Egypt detains activists over anti-govt spray painting
Wed Feb 17, 2010

CAIRO, (Reuters) - Egyptian security detained two members of a protest group on Wednesday after they spray-painted walls in Cairo to support a potential presidential challenger to Hosni Mubarak, members of the group told Reuters.

Ahmed Maher, 29, and Amr Ali, 25, both members of Sixth of April Youth, were detained after daubing walls in Cairo with slogans backing political change and a possible presidential run by former U.N. nuclear agency head Mohamed ElBaradei.

ElBaradei, due to arrive in Cairo on Feb. 19, has stirred Egypt's calcified politics by saying he might be interested in running in 2011. But his terms for running include changes to the constitution which analysts say are unlikely to be met.

Mubarak, 81 and in power for almost three decades, has not said if he will run in 2011. But many Egyptians believe that, if he does not, he will seek to hand power to his politician son, Gamal, 46. Both father and son deny such plans.

"Security agents appeared as soon as Ahmed and Amr had finished spraying messages supporting ElBaradei and change in Egypt," Sixth of April Youth member Omar el-Hadi told Reuters.

Interior Ministry officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Activists are periodically detained and harassed, rights groups say. The Egyptian authorities have also intensified a crackdown against bloggers and Web activists seen as subversive.

Activists said members of the youth group and opposition Ghad (Tomorrow) party, including Ghad founder and lawyer Ayman Nour who is representing the two, gathered at a police station where the activists were detained to demand their release.

"These youth did nothing deserving of arrest and what happened is a violation of their freedom of expression," Nour told Reuters by telephone.

Nour, 45, who was Mubarak's main rival in the 2005 race, said he had been coordinating with Maher and Ali before their arrest to organise a campaign to welcome ElBaradei home.

The youth sprayed "Mubarak's reign has come to an end. Support change" and "No to Mubarak...Yes to ElBaradei for President for 2011" along Sudan street in Cairo.

Nour, who came a distance second to Mubarak in 2005, has said he wants to run for presidency in 2011 and to challenge a rule barring him from office because of a prison term that he said was based on politically motivated charges.

(Writing by Marwa Awad; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Tanta Flax Workers' Demo - No End in Sight?

Tanta Flax workers' demo - no end in sight?
Tue, 16/02/2010
Jano Charbel

A conflict at the privatized Tanta Flax and Oils Company has left some 850 workers with no source of income since January. Workers launched a strike on 9 January after the dismissal of their local union head, Salah Mosallam. The company administration responded to this strike by imposing a lock-out and withdrawing all raw materials from the production lines.

In light of this impasse, around 400 workers have relocated their protest from the company’s headquarters in the Delta village of Mit Hebeish to the Council of Ministers in downtown Cairo, where they have been demonstrating and sleeping-in for the last nine days. So far they have not been offered a resolution for their grievances.

The workers had been demanding the payment of overdue bonuses, periodic pay-raises, the reinstatement of ten sacked workers (including three local union members), an increase in their food allowance, and the re-operation of the company. Having lost faith in their company’s administration, these workers have recently called for the company's liquidation and a guarantee for end-of-service reimbursements and early retirement packages amounting to no less that LE60,000.

A statement issued on 13 February by the company's legal consultant, Ahmed Atta, described the workers' strike as illegal, and accused the media of inaccurately portraying the crisis.

"There are no talks or negotiations between the Manpower Ministry and the company administration regarding early retirement packages," Atta said. The statement added that the ongoing demonstration outside the Ministers' Council "is an escalation orchestrated by political currents who aim to secure private gains."

Abdel Aziz Mohamed, a worker who has been employed at the company for the past 25 years, said, “I used to make LE450 per month, but have not been able to generate any income for the past two months. I have to pay rent for my apartment, utility bills and school fees for my three children.”

"What am I supposed to do to pay these bills and expenses? Have my wife work on el-Haram Street?” he added angrily, referring to a street famed for its belly dancing nightclubs.

"Following 32 years of service at the company, my monthly wage was only LE518, which was barely enough for my own expenses," said Mohamed Gad Allah, another factory worker. "What am I supposed to do now with no source of income? Must I steal and become a thief? I would do so if I knew how, but I don’t.”

“Aisha Abdel Hady cannot possibly be the Minister of Manpower," he continued. "She neither speaks for the workers nor in their defense. Clearly she has forgotten her past, when she used to be a worker and a unionist.”

In near-unison a group of workers shouted “no governmental officials have come to visit us or hear our pleas. Not (Hussein) Megawer (President of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation), not Abdel Hady, not (Saeed) el-Gohary (President of the General Union for Textile Workers).” The only official from the Ministry of Manpower who has visited these workers at their campsite was Wael Allam, the ministry’s undersecretary in Gharbiya Governorate.

According to Hisham el-Okal , one of the sacked unionists, “Allam asked us to evacuate the premises and in return promised that the ministry would cover our unpaid insurance premiums for the past five months, as well as our wages for the month of January. Naturally, we couldn’t believe him after so many empty promises. We will remain here until we have an acceptable written resolution from the officials.”

Despite repeated attempts to contact Saeed el-Gohary, he could not be reached for clarifications as to the General Union’s stance. At the onset of the strike 39 days ago, el-Gohary, in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm, ruled out the possibility of re-nationalization and said it was up to the investor to re-operate or liquidate the company.

Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hady was not available for comment, while a spokesperson for the ministry, Ibrahim Ali, was unable to respond to Al-Masry Al-Youm’s queries by the time of publication.

A handful of MPs from the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as independents, have visited the workers and expressed solidarity with their demands.

“The example of the Tanta Flax Company has proved that the policy of privatization is a failure,” said Gamal Zahran, leader of the independent bloc in parliament. "I will be filing an urgent parliamentary petition to this effect,” he added.

Brotherhood MPs Ibrahim Zakariya and Saber Abul Fotouh have also petitioned People's Assembly Speaker Fathi Sorour, and a special session is due to be conducted on Monday regarding the crisis facing the Tanta Flax Company. Parliamentary recommendations regarding this crisis are reportedly due to be issued Monday evening.

Ramadan el-Dessouqi, one of the ten sacked workers, is looking to parliament for a solution. “I really hope that a binding decision will be issued on Monday. I've had no source of income for the past two years and four months.”

Dessouqi added that while during the last strike, from 31 May-10 November, the Ministry of Manpower had paid the workers basic wages, but he wasn’t paid because he was fired and has not yet received a court order for his reinstatement. "I have filed a case against my dismissal," el-Dessouqi explained, "and the court in Tanta will issue its verdict regarding my reinstatement on Thursday.” A total of six sacked workers have received court orders for their reinstatement.

"I have two wives, and a total of 11 children," el-Dessouqi said. "Due to my inability to pay the utility bills we no longer have electricity or running water in our home. I used to be the breadwinner of the family, but now my eldest son--an electrician--is the one providing for the household. I am indebted to so many friends and family members. May God help us all.”

Protesting Mubarak's "Wall of Shame"

Around 200 hundred activists converged upon the Journalists' Syndicate in downtown Cairo - on the evening of Saturday, February 17 - to protest against the Egyptian government's "Wall of Shame" along the border with the Gaza Strip. Slogans called for - bringing down the wall, and bringing down Mubarak.

Similar anti-wall demonstrations were held in Beirut. Earlier demonstrations against Egypt's "Wall of Shame" were held in a numerous cities - from London to Jakarta.

The old puppet/Dick-tator Hosni Mubarak authorized the construction of an underground iron barrier, some 30 meters deep, in order to cut off all tunnels/smuggling between Gaza and Egypt's border town of Rafah. The Mubarak Dick-tatorship has kept closed the Rafah border crossing since 2007 - when the Hamas resistance movement took over the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian dick-tatorship is not only oppressing its own people, it is also besieging some 1.5 million Gazans. The Egyptian government exports its subsidized natural gas to Apartheid Israel via a direct pipeline, while simultaneously denying Gazans access to fuel.

Following the demonstration tens of activists went to visit, and express solidarity with, 400 striking Tanta Flax workers who were on their sixth day of their protest/sleep-in outside the Council of Ministers.

Their protest is ongoing.

See also:
Anti-Wall Campaigns Erupt in Cairo & Beirut

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 3 - Police Attack Tanta Flax Workers

Around 450 workers from the Tanta Flax & Oils Co. protested outside the Council of Ministers for the third consecutive day on Wed. (Feb. 10) In the hopes of having their voices heard, these desperate workers traveled from their homes in the Nile Delta to sleep-in on the cold sidewalk facing the prime minister's office.

Some 850 company workers have been on strike for 33 days (since Jan. 9) protesting the forced dismissal of their local union president, Salah Mosallam; in response to this strike the company's administration swiftly imposed a lock-out. All raw materials were removed, and all production lines were frozen.

Amongst numerous unheeded demands, the workers are demanding either the re-operation of the company, or its liquidation - with adequate severance pay, and benefits.

Policemen attacked workers as they set up tents outside the Council of Ministers. Police forces assaulted and injured Hisham el-Oqal, member of the local trade union council, with batons and boots.

The Police also assaulted five solidarity activists and briefly arrested three of them.

See Also:
Excuse me, we will take it from here
Strike With No Beginning, Strike With No End
Tanta workers continue sit-in protest downtown