Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday of Rage... Take two

Hundreds of thousands participated in the second 'Friday of Rage' in Tahrir Square on May 27 - in response to the military junta's systematic injustices, and the interim authorities' failure to bring dictator Mubarak and his regime to justice.

Protesters demanded an immediate end to the referral of civilians to military tribunals, along with the release of all political detainees. Others called for the establishment of a civilian executive council, to replace the (interim) rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

Thousands packed into Tahrir Square to demand swift justice - along with transparency - in the trials of the Mubarak family, and their ousted regime.

Thousands more demanded the purging of the interior ministry (and other ministries/authorities), the dissolution of the fraudulently elected local city councils, and the sacking of Deputy Prime Minister Yehiya el-Gamal, amongst other officials.

Egyptian activists express solidarity with the 'Spanish Revolution' and all other popular democratic revolutions.

There was a massive turnout of revolutionary activists in Tahrir demanding democracy, justice and human rights - despite the declared absence on the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis and other reactionary elements.

Activist with an artistic banner calling for an end to religious sectarianism. Unity and brotherhood amongst Egypt's Muslims and Christians.

Egypt's second 'Friday of Rage'

The Guardian
Why we are holding Egypt's second 'Friday of rage'

May 27, 2011

Wael Khalil

In Egypt this week, plans for a large protest on Friday 27 May have attracted more controversy than any other call for a "millionia" (a million-man march) since the revolution. Partly this stems from the names used to describe the day this time: in accordance with the revolutionary tradition of giving names to the various Fridays since the "Friday of rage" on 28 January, it has already become known as "the second revolution", or "the second Friday of rage".

The call for a "second revolution" chimes with a growing restlessness and impatience at the pace of developments and the overall performance of the governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). This culminated in the #NoSCAF blogging day, when more than 200 bloggers criticised SCAF to show that no one is above scrutiny in the new Egypt. Simultaneously, activists – myself included – have called for consensus demands aimed at mobilising large sections of the people. Below are these demands.

One concern is the growing talk and continuous leaks about intentions to pardon Hosni Mubarak and members of his regime from facing criminal trials. We demand no clemency for Mubarak, his family or his regime.

The biggest grievance has been the manner in which the security forces – the military police, the army and the police – reacted when the protests got more heated. There has been more than one incident since the revolution when they have used disproportionate force, mass arrest, torture as well as live ammunition against protesters. We demand that not a single peaceful demonstrator should be confronted, arrested, beaten up or humiliated. The Egyptian people have earned themselves that right.

The army have also extended their use of military trials against civilians to unprecedented levels, with hundreds of civilians having received severe and disproportionate prison sentences. At first, this was presented as a measure to restore security in the absence of a regular police force; increasingly, however, it has been used at will against protestors and normal citizens. We demand the immediate end of military trials, not only against activist and protestors, but also against petty thieves and so-called thugs. We refuse to trade our security with our basic rights

Pressure from below has been the main instrument of democracy during this transitional period in Egypt's history. Occupying the square has been our tool to achieve the demands of the revolution since Mubarak stepped down on 11 February. The collapse of the Shafik government (the prime minister appointed by Mubarak, who outlasted him for a few weeks); the banning of the National Democratic party; even the criminal indictment of Mubarak and his gang: they were all achieved through the Midan (the square).

We will be out again in Tahrir Square on Friday 27 May in order to assert that the interim power respect our rights and demands. The Egyptian people have earned their right to control the future of this country.

Egypt's Libertarian Socialists Arise!

Egypt's libertarian socialists/anarchists have emerged! Our egalitarian political movement is still in the making, yet is growing steadily.

The statement issued below is not a manifesto.



Egypt: Libertarian Socialist Movement

May 26, 2011

We libertarian socialists struggle for a socialist society without classes, an anti-authoritarian society free of the repressive apparatus of the State and of Capital. We stand against the introduction of State capitalism, such as in the oppressive regimes that existed in "socialist" countries. We reject and oppose the capitalist system.

We libertarian socialists struggle for a socialist society without classes, an anti-authoritarian society free of the repressive apparatus of the State and of Capital. We stand against the introduction of State capitalism, such as in the oppressive regimes that existed in "socialist" countries. We reject and oppose the capitalist system.

We believe that the working class is capable of leading a vast coalition arising from tenacious efforts to bring down the power of both capitalism and the repressive State.

Our immediate aims are:

1. Administrative decentralization without governors and mayors, managed by local neighbourhood and area councils, the right of popular control with elected, recallable delegates of local councils and citizens' committees.

2. The conversion of all service companies and production plants into cooperatives self-managed by their members in a democratic, decentralized society with the aid of freedom and independence from the administrative State.

3. The cancellation of tax incentives given to investors and the application of progressive taxation in order to support the service cooperatives which will include sectors such as education, healthcare and so on.

4. Trade-union pluralism, freedom of association in factories and workplaces and the creation of unions for all State employees and military establishments in order to support the participation of all workers in the management of workplaces, self-management in the factories and companies that were privatized amid injustice and corruption during the Mubarak era.

5. The confiscation of all money of illicit origin and its distribution among the cooperatives.

6. A Constitution which guarantees all forms of human freedom, such as the freedom of religion, association and thought; the creation of a parliamentary republic, decentralized governance with permanent popular control by the local administrations and citizens' committees who take the place of the Government and the Head of State; the right of delegates acting on popular mandates to propose laws and referendums.

7. The constitution of a socialist society, that does not depend on an act of liberal authority but rather on the will of the cooperatives without a central authority, so that a society without classes can be self-organized through popular committees and local committees, against the authority of a central, repressive State.

On Facebook: الحركة الاشتراكية التحررية

Read also: الأناركية بالعربية


The Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia

The Root
The Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia

May 24, 2011

Jenée Desmon-Harris

Manal al-Sherif's campaign against Saudi Arabia's law prohibiting women from driving is earning her comparisons to Rosa Parks. After posting a video of herself behind the wheel on a Facebook page titled, "Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself" and urging authorities to lift the country's driving ban for women, al-Sherif was detained and released by the country's religious police on Saturday. On Sunday she was arrested again and charged with "violating the public order."

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women, both Saudi and foreign, from driving. There is no written Saudi law on the topic, but fatwas, or religious edicts by senior clerics, are enforced by police.

The Facebook page was removed after more than 12,000 people indicated their support for its call for women drivers to take to the streets in a mass drive on June 17. The campaign's Twitter account also was deactivated.

Al-Sherif and her fellow organizers have focused on the importance of women driving in times of emergencies and in the case of low-income families. She argues that, contrary to the traditional argument that driving exposes women to "sinful temptations" by allowing them to mingle with policemen and mechanics, women who drive can avoid sexual harassment from their drivers and protect their "dignity."

The AP reports that Human Rights Watch urged Saudi authorities to release al-Sherif, but she has been ordered held for five days while the case is investigated.

See also:

New York Times/The Lede - More Saudi Women Record Driving Videos


Egypt must prosecute protest killings

Egypt must prosecute all those responsible for protest killings

24 May 2011

Amnesty International has called on the Egyptian authorities to prosecute all those responsible for the killings of anti-government protesters, after it was announced that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak and his two sons are to stand trial.

The three, along with Mubarak's ally Hussein Salem have been charged with "premeditated murder of some participants in the peaceful protests of the January 2011 revolution," Egypt's public prosecutor said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

"The families of those killed during protest violence have a right to justice as do all those who were seriously injured or subjected to arbitrary detention or torture, including at the hands of the military," said Amnesty International

"That Mr Mubarak and his sons are to stand trial is a very welcome step but all those found responsible for the killings and other human rights violations, such as torture, must face prosecution and must be held accountable."

"The trial must offer the victims and their families the chance to confront the defendants and get answers. This is a unique opportunity for truth to be revealed and justice to be seen to be done in Egypt."

The four men also face a series of charges related to corruption and the misuse of public funds.

Last week, Amnesty International published a report calling on the Egyptian authorities to provide justice to all of the victims of violent repression that took place during mass anti-government protests.

Egypt rises: killings, detentions and torture in the '25 January Revolution' detailed abuses that led to at least 846 deaths during the protests and set out the critical steps needed to hold those responsible accountable.

The report provided evidence of the use of excessive force by security forces in a bid to suppress protests calling for the removal of Hosni Mubarak.

Many protesters were killed by gunfire. Over 6,400 people were also injured in protests, some of them permanently.

The trial of Interior Minister Habib El Adly resumed last week and the next trial session is scheduled for 26 June 2011. He faces charges arising from the killings of protesters along with other former senior officials in the Ministry of Interior.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Mad Graffiti Weekend challenges military tribunals

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Mad Graffiti Weekend challenges military tribunals

May 22, 2011

Jano Charbel

More than a dozen artists and activists took to the streets of Cairo on Saturday night and Sunday to work on painting stencils of the 25 January revolution martyrs, along with street art against military tribunals. The event known as "Mad Graffiti Weekend" commenced on Friday, with the artists and activists working around the clock, tracing and cutting massive stencils.

According to organizer Aida el-Kashef, the Mad Graffiti Weekend is a response to the censorship of Islam Rafaat's portrait in Bab al-Loq. A massive portrait of the 18-year-old martyr was painted on the wall of a public restroom in late March. This commemorative piece was painted-over in late April, to the dismay of many.

"Those of us bothered by this act of censorship decided to take action. We circulated messages via Twitter, and a group of us decided that we must cover more walls with graffiti in response," said Kashef.

Among the key forces behind this weekend's creative outpouring is Ganzeer, the artist responsible for the short-lived portrait of Islam Rafaat. Ganzeer has, in fact, created several such portraits of revolutionary martyrs.

The fresh artistic assault on Cairo's streets is focused mainly in Zamalek and Downtown neighborhoods. In Bab al-Loq, Ganzeer took the chance to repaint the portrait of Islam Rafaat in the same location in Bab al-Loq.

Another portrait reinstated over the weekend was that of Amr al-Beheiri, a political activist who was arrested on 26 February and sentenced to five-years in prison by a military tribunal.

Street Artist Omar Mostafa, who painted (and repainted) the portrait of al-Beheiri, asked: "Why is Amr still being imprisoned? A number of other political detainees, who similarly stood trial before military courts, have been released over the past week."

Al-Beheiri’s piece is meant to deliver a message to the municipal authorities in the areas of Bab al-Loq and Abdine.

"I have repainted Amr's portrait, using a larger stencil this time," Mostafa told Al-Masry Al-Youm, adding that he would continue to use al-Beheiri's portrait as an “awareness-raising icon against the injustices of military courts."

Originally, the portrait had text spray-painted underneath, reading: “I'm in prison for the sake of freedom.” The new portrait bears the inscriptions: “Freedom for Amr al-Beheiri” and "I'm in military prison – because I participated in the revolution."

Activist Salma Said said the weekend was the first street art event she had taken part in, and that she was motivated to get involved by the injustices of censorship and military tribunals.

"Thousands of civilians have been unjustly imprisoned," she said. "Military tribunals are the newest and biggest form of injustice since Mubarak's downfall. This art serves to call for the end of military tribunals against civilians."

Another group was busy painting a massive mural in Zamalek – of a tank confronting a bicycle. Youssef Mazen, who is also new to street art, said, "I'm more interested in the art than in the political message behind it.

"I have one point of criticism though. Mubarak and members of his corrupt regime are standing trial before civilian courts, while civilians and peaceful activists are being referred to military ones," Mazen added.

For Sherif Boghdady, the weekend was a second taste of revolutionary street art. "My first experience involved painting the portrait of Tarek Abdel Latif, a martyr of the revolution and a family friend," he said.

Boghdady was less critical of the military tribunals, however. "Like all other Egyptians, I hope for stability. I hope that our work will serve to clean-up and beautify Cairo's walls. I'd like Cairo to be one big open-air museum, which is full of such artwork," he said.

Photos: 'Mad Graffiti Weekend' - revolutionary street-art

Field Marshall Tantawi's underwear.

"Freedom for Amr el-Beheiri." Stenciled portrait of the imprisoned activist, with graffitied message reading "I'm in military prison - because I participated in the revolution." The panda stands in solidarity.

Street-artist Omar Mostafa has repainted a larger stencil of Amr el-Beheiri this time around. His first stencil was censored/painted-over in late April.

In Talaat Harb Square. Tantawi the Salafi. Stenciled portrait of Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi - chief of the ruling military junta, and Mubarak's Minister of Defense for 20 years - sporting a Salafi beard with a shaved mustache. The interim military dictator is accused of getting into (the political) bed with the Salafis, amongst many other reactionaries.

New to the street-art scene, a number of female activists worked tediously to repaint the censored mural dedicated to Islam Raafat, an 18 year old 'martyr of the revolution.'

Islam Raafat's new memorial mural. The angles are a bit crooked, and it looks like he now has Molotov-cocktail earrings (as a result of painting-over extant street-art.) But nice nonetheless. The date May 27 is painted to remind passersby of the massive street action planned for that day - in order to reclaim the popular revolution.

In the district of Zamalek. King of Spades the old-ass fallen-dictator Hosni Mubarak. Fine street-art by 'Sad Panda.'

"Glory to the revolution." Portrait commemorating Kareem Banouna, another revolutionary martyr.

Mohamed Gamal el-Dein. "Glory be to the martyr."

Revolutionary Martyrs Ahmed Bassiouni and Mustafa al-Sawi. In honor & memory.

Street-artist 'Ganzeer' and other activist-artists involved in massive mural. Image of delivery man on bicycle with a large tray of bread on his head (Egyptian-style.) This brave cyclist is confronted by a life-sized army tank on the same wall.

Big-ass tank. This mural took over three days to finish. Photo from the third day of tedious and back-breaking work. Layers of stencils were still being added.

Cars drive by. Some pull over, while countless numbers of passersby stop to admire the art and the effort.

Independent labor union rejects ETUF representation

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Independent labor union rejects minister decision on representation

Fri, 20/05/2011

Hisham Yassin

The Independent Federation for Egyptian Workers refused Minister of Manpower Ahmed al-Borei’s decision to allow the official Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) to represent Egypt in international conferences. Head of the Independent Federation Kamal Abu Eita called on the minister to implement the State Council ruling to dissolve the ETUF’s board of directors.

ETUF vice president Abdul Monem al-Ghazali asserted that the existing board of directors will remain in place until democratic elections are held next November.

Abu Eita told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the official federation must be brought down, much like other agencies representing the old regime. Egypt’s workers deserve the same as the rest of Egyptian citizens, he said, and their federation must be powerful and independent.

We do not deny that workers got a number of privileges after the revolution, including trade union freedoms and the establishment of a committee to reformulate wages, Abu Eita added. Abu Eita pointed out that the workers’ motto prior to the revolution was “a fair wage and an independent union.” He said that the demand for an independent union has not been achieved yet and everyone must remember that Egypt was put on the black list because of the official federation.

Abdul Monem al-Ghazali asserted that the ETUF has played an important role in the previous period to secure workers’ rights and said that the ETUF’s dissolution should not be achieved through court rulings.

The ETUF can only be dissolved by the workers themselves, said Ghazali. Al-Ghazali noted that the ETUF includes 5 million workers and 24 unions and that its board of directors is elected by the workers.

Al-Ghazali added that the ETUF does not like to hem and haw, because this is how the weak behave. Instead, the ETUF resorts to serious work. Al-Ghazali said that elections to the ETUF’s board of directors would take place next November and that the ballot box would be the judge. Al-Ghazali expected that this year’s elections would bring about changes in the board of directors. He said such changes are natural and noted that the last elections changed 60 percent of the board’s members.

*Translated from the Arabic Edition

Spanish Youth rally in Madrid echoes Egypt protests

BBC News
Spanish youth rally in Madrid echoes Egypt protests

18 May 2011

About 2,000 young people angry over high unemployment have spent the night camping in a famous square in Madrid as a political protest there grows.

A big canvas roof was stretched across Puerta del Sol square, protesters brought mattresses and sleeping bags and volunteers distributed food.

The nature of the peaceful protest, including Twitter messages to alert supporters, echoed the pro-democracy rallies that revolutionised Egypt.

The Madrid protests began on Sunday.

On the first evening, police dispersed the protesters, but on Tuesday they let them stay overnight.

Spain's 21.3% unemployment rate is the highest in the EU - a record 4.9 million are jobless, many of them young people.

Spanish media say the protesters are attacking the country's political establishment with slogans such as "violence is earning 600 euros", "if you don't let us dream we won't let you sleep" and "the guilty ones should pay for the crisis".

The atmosphere in the square has been quite festive, with the crowd singing songs, playing games and debating.

They are demanding jobs, better living standards and a fairer system of democracy.

About 50 police officers are deployed in side-streets off the iconic square and outside the Madrid municipal government building.

The protesters are not identifying with any particular political party, Spanish media say, but they are getting more organised.

In another echo of the Cairo rallies that eventually forced President Hosni Mubarak from power in February, the Spanish protesters have set up citizens' committees to handle communications, food, cleaning, protest actions and legal matters.

*Photo by AP

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Military court sentences 17 year-old to death

Egypt teenager’s death sentence condemned

18 May 2011

Amnesty International today condemned the death sentence handed down by a Cairo military court against a 17-year-old boy, warning that unfair military trials are corroding Egypt’s criminal justice system.

Ahmed Marous Ibrahim was one of four people sentenced to death by hanging by Cairo’s Supreme Military Court for abducting and raping a 17-year-old girl.

“The military cannot be judge, prosecutor and executioner in post-uprising Egypt,” said Amnesty International.

“If justice is truly to be done for this terrible crime, the accused must first have a fair and public hearing before a criminal court and the victim be granted the right to confront the suspects,” said the organization.

“Sentencing a minor to death is frankly abhorrent and goes against a very clear prohibition in international law“.

The other three men convicted in the case are Mohamed Tarek Ragheb, 33, Karim Dahrouj Ahmed el-Sawy, 28, and Mahmoud Ramadan Abdul Hussein, 21.

Amnesty International is calling for Ahmed Marous Ibrahim and the three others to be re-tried before a civilian court. The organization has also urged the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the girl who was sexually assaulted is offered support, including counselling, and sees justice being done in a open and fair trial.

Hundreds of civilians have been tried before military courts since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt’s governing military body, took power in February 2011. The SCAF has pledged to hand over power to civilians before the end of this year.

Amnesty International opposes trials of civilians before military courts, whose judges are serving members of the military.

“These courts flout international standards for fair trial, and are grossly unjust. The faith of many Egyptians in the criminal justice system is being sorely tested by military courts”.

“Law and order cannot be restored with the summary trials and sentencing of hundreds of civilians”.

Those convicted face an uncertain future. In military trials, the right to appeal to a higher tribunal is limited to hearings before the Supreme Court for Military Appeals (SCMA) which is composed exclusively of military officers.

The SCMA only examines the law and its interpretation, rather than the evidence itself or the factual basis of the charges. The right to an effective appeal is a fundamental judicial guarantee.

On 1 April, the SCAF announced that it would permit the death penalty for convicted rapists if the victim was under 18. The law would apply to minors under 18 as well. Both Egyptian and international law prohibit the death penalty for minors.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as the ultimate form of inhumane and degrading punishment.

Protest stand for release of political prisoners

Around 500 activists gathered in Tahrir Square on Wednesday to protest for the release of hundreds of civilians held in army detention centers. This protest comes in response to the latest security crackdown - during the rally of May 15 outside the Israeli Embassy in Giza. Around 180 were arrested in this collective-roundup.

Thousands of civilians - including hundreds of political activists - have hastily stood trial before military tribunals and received harsh prison sentences, without right to due-process or right to appeal. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ordered collective roundups of activists on Feb 26, Mar 6, Mar 9, Apr 9, Apr 12 & May 15.

Release Tarek Shalaby (wrongfully arrested on May 15) along with all other detainees.

Activists hold up signs bearing names of dozens of political detainees, along with demands for their immediate release.

Sign reads military tribunals: Without lawyers, without proper investigation, under torture. WITHOUT JUSTICE. Photos of imprisoned activists Amr el-Beheiri, Islam Abdel Hafeez, Tamer el-Sheshtawi, Amr Eissa, Ra'afat Mohamed Kashef, Hany Maher Hanna, Mohamed Abdallah Khalil, Walid Samy Saad.

Members of the White Knight Ultras hold up signs calling for the freedom of Mahmoud Saad - a fellow White Knight, 18 years old - arrested on May 15.

Protesters chant slogans and sing songs of freedom, denouncing military tribunals and military rule.

Doctors begin open-ended strike for better conditions

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Doctors begin open-ended strike for better conditions

Tue, 17/05/2011

Jano Charbel

Doctors across the country launched an open-ended general strike today to press again for a raft of demands that have so far not been satisfied, despite a one-day strike on 10 May.

The doctors’ demands include an increase in the allocation of funds to health care from the national budget from 3.5 percent to 15 percent, the improvement of working conditions and hospital services, the impeachment of Doctors Syndicate President Hamdy al-Sayyed, and the replacement of the interim Health Minister Ashraf Hatem.

An estimated 85 percent of Doctors Syndicate members participated the strike today, according to strike leaders.

The strike committee leading this action is also demanding an overhaul of the existing health care system, which is deemed to be inefficient and corrupt, along with an improved salary scale for doctors. Strike leaders plan to meet with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and Finance Minister Samir Radwan to discuss their budgetary demands on Tuesday evening.

On 10 May, an estimated 80 percent of members of the Doctors Syndicate, which includes some 230,000 doctors, went on strike nationwide. The most recent strike is said to have spilled over into more hospitals.

"Our strike has reached new areas, in Sinai, Hurghada, Qena and Upper Egypt, along with other locations across the country" said Dr. Mona Mina, a member of the strike committee and a leading figure in the grouping known as Doctors Without Rights.

Dr. Mina called the strike a success despite rumors that it would be canceled.

The syndicate's website warned that the president would take disciplinary action against those doctors who neglect patients' interests or cause them harm.

In a televised address this week, al-Sayyed argued that the doctors' strike would negatively affect the Egyptian revolution and its gains.

All emergency rooms, intensive care wards, nurseries, chemotherapy treatment facilities, and dialysis machines in every hospital will remain functioning around the clock throughout the strike, strike leaders said.

The committee emphasized that no patient was harmed as a result of the strikes on 10 May or 17 May. They aim to protect the rights and health of patients throughout the ongoing strike.

"If any patient has complaints regarding negligence or inability to access essential health services in any hospital, we urge them to file written complaints so that we can address the problem,” Dr. Mina said.

The strike committee has threatened to escalate their protest if their demands are not met. A million-person march and protest is being planned, and some doctors are even threatening to undertake collective resignations.

"Health care is not a luxury; it is a basic human right,” said Dr. Mohamed Shafiq, another member of the strike committee. “We are undertaking this strike action specifically for the sake of poor and underprivileged patients."

"We want the underprivileged patients to have the same access to health care as the wealthy," Dr. Shafiq said.

Dr. Mohamed Zeid, a strike leader from Monufiya Governorate, suggested that the doctors’ strike is under pressure from a number of sides, including the Health Ministry and officials in the Doctors Syndicate.

“We must cleanse our ranks in the syndicate and the ministry in order to improve health services and working conditions,” Dr. Zeid said. “The dignity of Egypt's doctors and patients has been trampled underfoot for far too long."

Estimates suggest that 100 percent of doctors in the Suez Canal area went on strike today. Around 85 percent in the Monufiya Governorate and other Nile Delta areas participated, while around 75 of Cairo's doctors took part.

"The strike is not an end in itself. It is a means towards realizing improved conditions for both patients and doctors,” Dr. Mina said. "The issue is one of national priorities. Is health care going to be a priority in light of the revolution or is it going to remain neglected?"

Egyptian police fire at rally outside Israeli Embassy

The Associated Press
Egypt police fire at rally outside Israel Embassy

May 16, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian riot police fired tear gas and live ammunition overnight to disperse thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and a security official said Monday that at least 185 demonstrators were arrested over allegations of attacking police and vandalism.

The rally in Cairo followed calls on Facebook for Arabs to march on Israel on Sunday in support of the Palestinians, who were holding annual ceremonies marking the "nakba," or "catastrophe" — the term Palestinians use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war surrounding Israel's 1948 founding.

The protesters set fire to an Israeli flag, chanted anti-Israeli slogans and called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador and the closure of the embassy.

Egypt's Health Ministry said at least 353 people were hurt outside the embassy, most of them from breathing tear gas. Some protesters had bullet wounds and one was in critical condition, a security official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Eighteen members of the security forces were injured by thrown rocks.

A youth organization that played a key role in the uprising that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on its Facebook page that the protest in front of the embassy was "civilized," and questioned the riot police's use of force in dealing with the demonstrators.

A witness, who wouldn't give his name out of fear of reprisals, claimed the police used unjustified force.

Egypt's state-run news agency, MENA, said the protesters managed to push aside barricades placed around the embassy building and attempted to storm the embassy itself to tear down the Israeli flag, which prompted the police action.

Security forces had used trucks and barricades to close off at least three main roads leading to the embassy.

Mozart's Turkish March - Four Hands, One Guitar

Rondo Alla Turca, Performed by Los Desperados

Ruling military council blocks Gaza-bound convoy

Al-Ahram Online
Egyptian convoy bound for Rafah banned

Saturday 14 May 2011

Egypt's ruling military council has forbidden solidarity convoys aiming to reach Rafah ahead of the Palestinian Nakba Day on Sunday

Salma Shukrallah

As planned, hundreds gathered on Saturday in Tahrir Square with the aim of heading to the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah. However, organisers say, the ruling military council ordered tourism offices not to send the buses rented as transport for the convoy as it set a ban on all journeys to the border.

Starting 9am, several hundred stood in Tahrir Square waving Palestinian and Egyptian flags, hoping to march towards Gaza to stage a sit-in on Sunday, 15 May, which marks the Palestinian Nakba Day, or day of catastrophe, in reference to the founding of Israel in May 1948. The convoy was not able to leave Cairo.

May Shahin, one of the organisers of the convoy, said “We have been preparing for this for the past month and a half now. We wanted to have a convoy in memory of the Palestinian Nakba. It was supposed to be a mass march towards Palestine. After realising that entering Gaza might be a risk for the Palestinians, we decided to head only to the Rafah border. We were surprised, then, to know that all tourism offices refused to rent buses to reach Rafah and canceled our contract. They told us that this was an order from the ruling military council. Under the Mubarak regime we were able to organise a convoy from Cairo to reach Rafah. Now, after the revolution, we are banned.”

The solidarity convoy set to leave Cairo was not the only one to be stopped. A group of 15 activists from the “Free Egyptian Group" and “We are the Bus People”, a group that tours Egypt staging artistic performances, left Cairo Friday and were also stopped.

Ragia Omran from the “Free Egyptian Group” recounts: “We were heading to Sheikh Zwaied village near Arish to stage an awareness show and we had all the musical equipment with us. We were stopped right after crossing Salam Bridge. We told them that we were only going to stage our show there, and showed them the musical instruments, but they did not let us pass.”

Still attempting to reach Rafah, individuals stopped in convoys tried to reach the border either on foot or via public transport. Estimates from people living in Arish are that hundreds of those who were trying to reach the border area in solidarity with the Palestinians were able to, despite strict restrictions from the military.

Egypt is expected to witness mass demonstrations on 15 May despite security alerts issued from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Shahin says: “On Friday, more than 5000 demonstrated in front of the Israeli embassy. That is the biggest demonstration ever staged in front of the embassy, which shows how much Egyptians are enthusiastic this year to participate in solidarity with Palestine.”

The Egyptian army fired shots Friday trying to disperse thousands of demonstrators in front of the Israeli embassy. Although protesters fled the scene upon hearing the shots, they quickly returned, chanting “We are going in!”

Egypt’s downtown area is flooded with posters reading “Palestine, we will return,” while Palestinian flags are sold on many street corners in the area surrounding Tahrir Square. The square itself was packed with tens of thousands on Friday chanting in solidarity with Palestine.

Prisoners protest against military rule

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Behind bars, 9 March prisoners continue protesting

Wed, 11/05/2011

Heba Afify

In Tora prison, they are known as the 9 March group – more than 100 protesters who, after being arrested in Tahrir Square, faced military trials and were given prison sentences ranging from one to seven years.

But despite what they call harsh treatment and questionable trials, the 9 March prisoners continue to demonstrate from inside the notorious prison, organizing protests, cultural events and political meetings.

On Sunday, they staged a peaceful protest to demand their freedom, denouncing military trials of civilians and showing solidarity with victims of Saturday's sectarian clashes in Imbaba.

“This was a release of pent-up energy,” says Mohamed Ahmed, one of the prisoners who has been leading the protests. “We were all taken from Tahrir Square and then we transformed this ward into another Tahrir Square.” Ahmed’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

The prisoners, who were arrested on 9 March when the military emptied Tahrir Square, say they were tortured inside the Egyptian Museum before being transferred to military trials that took less than five minutes and lacked all the elements of a fair trial.

They were then transferred to military prison without having been informed of their sentences, they say. Once at the prison, they say they endured the worst week of their incarceration, allegedly being beaten and tortured.

In public statements, the military repeatedly denied the allegations of torture and said it had only arrested thugs.

But even some prison officials disagree with that assessment.

"I have developed a sense from my work that enables me to assess people, and when I saw this group, I felt that they were here by mistake," said a prison guard who wished to remain anonymous to protect his job.

The prisoners were then transferred to Tora prison, where they were kept with other inmates.

“We were imprisoned with the people that we avoid on the streets,” said Mohamed Abdallah, who was working toward his masters degree in social sciences at Al-Azhar University before receiving a three-year sentence on charges of thuggery.

Members of former President Hosni Mubarak's regime, including the former president’s two sons, are being held on corruption charges in the prison. The protesters say they have not seen the regime officials in the prison.

At some point during their incarceration, most of the 9 March group was transferred to a separate ward at their request.

In addition to staging protests, the inmates make use of their days by discussing politics and current events. They say this has enriched their awareness and politicized some who were not politically active prior to their arrest.

“I don’t want anyone to come out of here without having learned something,” says Ahmed. “We consider this ward our small Egypt, and if we fail to make a change here, we will fail outside.”

The inmates had their first political seminar on Sunday.

Ali Ibrahim, an electrician who says he was arrested while passing through the square, says that his conversations with the other inmates have raised his awareness and willingness to participate in politics.

Some cells have been transformed into art workshops. Amr Eissa, an artist who is serving a three-year sentence, continues to produce drawings inside his cell, some of which have been shown in galleries around Cairo.

“We are political prisoners," says Mostafa Mohsen, an employee in a marketing company who’s serving three years. "This is our identity inside and outside prison. We went out to demand freedom for all, and the result is that ours was taken away from us.”

While most inmates try to keep their spirits up by practicing their talents and engaging in political conversations, some have reached a state of desperation.

The inmates are allowed out of their cells from 9 am to 5 pm. They spend the other 16 hours inside their cells.

Five prisoners reside in each cell. The cells are 2 meters long and 2 meters wide, including the bathroom. There are no beds.

Mohamed Shebl, one of the inmates, attempted suicide by taking an overdose of his medication, according to eyewitnesses. Shebl was left in a critical condition with no medical attention until his colleagues protested heavily and he was taken to the clinic, other inmates say.

The lack of medical attention is the main grievance of the group. Some inmates have chronic conditions, and injuries are left untreated.

Moataz Abdallah, who has a liver disease, says he endures long periods of pain and that the clinic offers him pain killers instead of the medicine he needs. Another prisoner, Abdel Aziz Abu Bakr, says he suffers from a double fracture in his arm that requires an operation.

But perhaps the most hurtful, the inmates say, is being referred to as thugs.

“Every revolution has its victims, and we don’t mind being this revolution’s victims as long as we are known as such and not as thugs,” says Hany Maher, one of the 9 March detainees.

Efforts by civil society groups to free the detainees or provide them with new trials have failed.

Activists have staged protests denouncing military trials of civilians and a popular campaign against military trials is under way. But legal action to appeal the rulings is hindered by the fact that the sentences have not yet been ratified.

Six weeks ago, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces released statements announcing the retrial of some inmates and said it would reconsider the cases of all people who received military sentences, but so far, the inmates have not seen action on the military’s promises.

Regardless, the protesters assert that their imprisonment will not deter them from political activity, says Ahmed, who organized the protest inside the prison.

“We will not live on the margins after our release, we will come out of here to continue our struggle," he says.

*Photo by AFP

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thousands rally for Egyptian unity

Thousands rally for Egypt unity

14 May 2011

Thousands of people rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday calling for national unity, after attacks on Egyptian churches, and for solidarity with the Palestinians.

Protesters later broke off and joined a rally outside the Israeli embassy calling for the expulsion of the ambassador. Soldiers guarding it fired in the air to repel them.

In Tahrir, some held up crosses and others waved Palestinian flags as the numbers swelled in Cairo's iconic square, the epicentre of protests that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February after an 18-day uprising.

"If you attack a Christian, you're attacking all Egyptians," said one man delivering a speech at a podium.

"The churches attacked in Imbaba are not less than the mosques attacked in Jerusalem," he said, linking the two themes of Friday's protest.

"National unity was there during the revolt but the remnants of the old regime want to destroy the country," said Ahmed Muhanna, who wore a green headband bearing the words "the army of Mohammed."

A Coptic priest took the podium, in front of a big banner that said "national unity" and "Palestinian reconciliation", to plead for tolerance.

"We all worship the same god in our churches and mosques," he said.

But most Coptic protesters stayed away from Tahrir, choosing instead to gather in front of the nearby state television building, where Christians have staged a sit-in since clashes on Saturday.

The thousands of Coptic protesters outside the state television building held wooden crosses and chanted against hardline Islamist fundamentalists.

"We are going to church to pray, no matter what happens to us," they chanted.

Twelve people were killed in the weekend violence after Muslims surrounded a church in Cairo demanding the handover of a woman they said Christians had detained after she converted to Islam and left her Christian husband to marry a Muslim.

The Muslims also set fire to a second church.

The woman who sparked the clashes was arrested on Thursday, along with the Muslim man said to be her husband. She is accused of having more than one husband, a judicial source said.

The unrest threatened to drive Egypt's often tense religious tensions to the brink, prompting the military to arrest more than 200 people it said will swiftly be tried.

Activists had called for a mass show of unity on Friday, which has become a regular day of protest after the weekly Muslim prayers at noon.

The demonstrators in Tahrir waved Palestinian flags as they listened to speeches denouncing Israel and chanted in support of Palestinians.

A cleric who gave the Friday sermon accused Arab rulers of "selling" the Palestinians in order to keep their positions.

One of the protesters, 17-year-old Mahmud Gamal, had painted the colours of the Palestinian flag on his face.

"We are all Arabs. We all need to be united," he said. Some other protesters held Tunisian and Syrian flags and chanted for pan-Arab solidarity.

The protest outside the Israeli embassy remained peaceful, but the demonstrators blocked traffic after the soldiers fired in the air to repel them as they chanted "we are going in."

The Palestinian-flag waving demonstrators pointed at the Israeli flag at teh the top of the residential building that houses the embassy and chanted: "Take it down! Burn it!"

An Egyptian peace treaty with Israel is widely unpopular among Egyptians because of the Jewish state's policies towards Palestinians.

Activists have called for a march to neighbouring Gaza at the weekend to show solidarity with the Palestinians as they mark the "Nakba" or "catastrophe" which befell them following Israel's establishment in 1948.

But authorities blocked access to the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza Strip in anticipation of protesters who intend to set off from Tahrir on Saturday, an AFP correspondent said.

The cleric who preached in Tahrir Square also denounced the sectarian tensions that have plagued Egypt for decades, although both Muslims and Copts took part in the protests that overthrew Mubarak.

"Egyptians, you were united by Tahrir Square, and now Camilia Shehata divides you," he said, referring to a priest's wife Islamists claim was detained by the Coptic Church after converting to Islam.

Shehata went on television last week and denied those allegations.

Copts account for up to 10 percent of the country's 80 million people. They complain of discrimination, and have been the target of repeated sectarian attack.

The most recent violence has been blamed on a hardline Islamist sect, the Salafists, who have regularly staged protests demanding the church release women they believe converted to Islam.

The sect was mostly apolitical under Mubarak, but since February it has grown more assertive, and its leaders say they will form parties to contest a parliamentary election in September.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stop playing dead; Go to jail Suzanne Mubarak!

Agence France-Presse
Mubarak wife in ICU after heart attack: TV

May 13, 2011

By Jailan Zayan (AFP)

CAIRO — Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's wife, Suzanne, was moved to an intensive care unit after suffering a heart attack Friday, hours after being ordered detained in a corruption probe, state TV said.

"Suzanne Thabet has been moved to the intensive care unit at Sharm el-Sheikh hospital after suffering a heart attack," the television reported, referring to Egypt's Red Sea resort.

Mohammed Fathallah, who heads the hospital, said in a statement handed to reporters that Mrs Mubarak had suffered a "suspected heart attack and a sharp increase in blood pressure ... She will be kept under observation."

The news came hours after the Illicit Gains Authority ordered Suzanne Mubarak's detention for 15 days on charges of illegal acquisition of wealth and as preparations were underway to move her to prison outside Cairo.

Preparations were underway to move her from Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, where she was staying with her husband, to Qanater women's prison, Mohamed al-Khatib, head of south Sinai security, earlier told state news agency MENA.

She will be taken to Cairo by plane "due to the danger of transporting her by road," he said.

It was the first detention order for Mrs Mubarak, who along with her husband had been questioned on Thursday night by the illicit gains department.

The former first couple are accused of having abused their position for the illegal acquisition of wealth.

Crowds of people in Tahrir Square broke out into cheers and women ululated on hearing the news of her detention.

The half-Welsh former First Lady was seen as the driving force behind plans to have her son Gamal take over the presidency from his father, a highly unpopular prospect in Egypt.

On Friday, the authority also ordered a further 15-day detention of Mubarak after the three-hour interrogation.

He was first detained on April 13 and is currently in custody in the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital after having reportedly suffered a heart attack when he was first questioned.

He has already been interrogated by the state prosecutor over several charges, including ordering the shooting of anti-regime protesters, and has been held under remand for repeated 15-day periods.

During the questioning, Mubarak and his wife had agreed to reveal details of their bank accounts both in and outside of Egypt, MENA said.

Mubarak was also questioned about a villa he owns in Sharm el-Sheikh worth 36 million Egyptian pounds (about $6 million) "without counting the cost of the swimming pool," MENA said.

He was also asked about having personal control of the $145-million bank account of the Alexandria Library.

The former First Lady was interrogated about a luxury villa she owns in Cairo, as well as 20 million pounds (about $3.3 million) held in a bank account, MENA said.

Mubarak, his wife, two sons Alaa and Gamal and their wives were banned from travel and their assets ordered frozen by general prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmud shortly after the former strongman was overthrown in February.

The two sons, along with dozens of officials and businessmen associated with the former regime, are being detained in Cairo's notorious Tora prison which housed political dissidents during the Mubarak era.

Alaa and Gamal had been questioned on their ties "with a company in Cyprus and one of the British Isles managing investment funds of some businessmen," a spokesman at the public prosecutor's office said.

Both men are also accused of forcing businessmen to give them a cut in local partnerships with foreign companies.

Before the popular uprising which ousted Mubarak, Gamal, who was close to business executives and held a top post in Egypt's ruling party, was regarded as the political heir to Mubarak, while Alaa concentrated on business.

The wives of Alaa and Gamal, Heidi Rasekh and Khadiga al-Gammal, have also been questioned over Mubarak's wealth.

Earlier this month, Switzerland said it had frozen 410 million francs ($463 million) in funds linked to Mubarak and his associates.

Mubarak's 30-year grip on power was brought to an end on February 11 following mass nationwide protests that called for his resignation and for political and economic reforms.

The military council which has been in power since Mubarak stepped down has vowed to bring to justice all those accused of abuse and launched a sweeping probe into corruption.

At least 846 people were killed during the anti-regime protests that kicked off on January 25 and took 18 days to overthrow Mubarak. More than 6,000 people were injured in clashes with security forces and regime loyalists.


Los Angeles Times
Egypt's former first lady hospitalized after detention order

May 14, 2011

Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of former President Hosni Mubarak, reportedly suffered a heart attack and will undergo tests, officials say. She had been ordered held for 15 days in a corruption inquiry.

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Amro Hassan

Cairo— Hours after Egypt's former first lady, Suzanne Mubarak, was ordered detained as part of the widening corruption investigation of her husband's regime, she was hospitalized after reportedly suffering a heart attack, officials said Friday.

The manager of a hospital in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el Sheik told the state news agency MENA that she had been transferred to intensive care. The hospital official told the news agency that the former first lady would undergo tests over the next 24 hours to determine whether she had suffered a heart attack.

Her husband, former President Hosni Mubarak, 83, has been in the same hospital since he suffered what were termed health complications last month, shortly after authorities announced that he would be detained.

Suzanne Mubarak was interrogated Friday, according to MENA, and had been ordered detained for at least 15 days, but was instead hospitalized.

The detention order was a once-unthinkable turn of events for the 70-year-old socialite, who styled herself as a patron of women's causes and spent years arranging for her son to succeed her husband, only to see her plan defeated in January by a popular uprising.

She was seen as a political operator who worked behind the scenes to promote son Gamal, who, along with her other son, Alaa, is among those being investigated.

"She had the upper hand in so many things in Egypt, sometimes even bypassing her husband's will. A whole Ministry for Family and Population was established a few years ago just for her sake," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "She was the strong lady at the presidential palace."

Nawal Saadawi, an outspoken Egyptian feminist and one of Suzanne Mubarak's archenemies, called her detention "a positive step." She described Mubarak, who earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the American University in Cairo, as a "butterfly" who was "fond of her jewelry and clothes and her looks and plastic surgery." She said the former first lady used her connections to ban Saadawi's grassroots Egyptian Women's Union and consolidate her own power.

The public prosecutor on April 13 ordered the former president detained as part of an investigation of charges of abuse of public funds and the killing of protesters.

Class Struggle Calling From Cairo

Socialist Worker Online
Class struggle calling out from Cairo

14 May 2011

Trade unionists from Britain met Egyptian workers in Cairo last week. They found that workers’ struggle is playing a critical role in developing Egypt’s ongoing revolution

Cairo, 1 May. Some 3,000 doctors spilled out of the Doctors’ Union, intensely debating whether to call for a national strike over pay and health funding. In nearby Tahrir Square, the Minister of Labour watched uncomfortably from the stage as thousands of chanting workers surged past him in the swelling May Day rally.

Bus drivers, postal workers, tax collectors and textile workers—all were there with banners proclaiming independent unions.

The spirit of 1 May seemed to have even reached the conscript troops of the old riot police. At the Gabal al-Ahmar camp, they had thrown out their officers and elected a strike committee to negotiate over longer breaks and air conditioning units in barracks.

The revolutionary energy of the popular uprising is turning to the struggle for bread and dignity at work. Workers are up-ending the common-sense hierarchies of the workplace and challenging the logic of capitalism.

Impelled into battle by economic crisis and driven by an emerging consciousness of their own power, workers are enlarging the social soul of the revolution day by day.

The trajectory of the workers’ movement is on the rise, although the number of strikes has dipped from the huge wave that followed Hosni Mubarak’s fall.

There is a marked trend towards the politicisation of workers’ demands. Workers are more frequently calling for reforms that would bring benefits beyond individual workplaces.



Some are demanding the implementation of a national minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian pounds per month.

University lecturers and students are organising a national campaign of strikes to democratise the universities by enforcing elections for college heads and deans of faculties.

Workers are also building independent unions out of strikes and coordinating strikes through the unions.

This gives them greater opportunities to coordinate and build networks that can turn spontaneous protests into organised collective action.

The model of union organisation that has spread like wildfire is also highly democratic. It relies on elected reps immersed in the day-to-day struggles in the workplace, not well-paid bureaucrats sitting in an air-conditioned office.

But there remain massive contradictions between the workers’ movement’s potential and reality.

One serious obstacle is the relatively small weight of organised workers in a political landscape that contains groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The independent unions are largely organised at a workplace level, and do not yet represent mass organisations on a national scale. The forces of the left are also small, despite gains being made through initiatives like the founding of the Democratic Workers’ Party (see Struggle and solidarity in the streets of Cairo ).

The activists on whom this project depends are vulnerable to repression. Groups of workers are now being targeted under the anti-strike laws.

It will take time to build workers’ organisations-particularly a mass workers’ party which can lead both the social and political struggles from below.

This is an urgent task, as other political forces are stirring up sectarian violence (see right). Yet after the clashes in Imbaba on 8 May there were large united protests between Christians and Muslims. This unity can be an alternative to all those who would rather see workers and poor fight each other than win real social gains.

Anne Alexander



The Muslim Brotherhood was the focus of much of the visible opposition under Mubarak’s regime. Now it is under serious strain.

It is cooperating with the military government but its base includes poorer people. Many of these admire the Brotherhood’s sacrifices before the revolution, but—as social issues move centre stage and sharp political questions remain—they want a pro‑poor politics now.

Mohammed is a worker and trade unionist in a military factory, run by generals. He told us how workers in his factory and others like it have been striking, even though they face military trials for doing so.

Mohammed is a Brotherhood member and says he understands the need for patience. But his actions and support for class demands point to a much more aggressive clash with the government and those who support it.

Such contradictions pushed the Brotherhood to hold its own workers’ demonstration on May Day. Staged outside the headquarters of the old unions, it called for a higher minimum wage and other improvements.

But the Brotherhood’s leaders have no strategy to win such demands. And their opposition to strikes cuts them off from many of the new union activists.

Strong pressures could split the Brotherhood—into a conservative layer based on small owners and sections of the Mosque leadership and a more radical section based on the poor.

But the upcoming elections give the Brotherhood a reason to stay united.

Meanwhile the Salafist movement, Islamist activists who stress strict adherence to Islam and focus on how individuals behave, has organised political mobilisations recently.

In the past, the Salafists have criticised the Brotherhood for contesting elections and engaging in mass politics. They have also strongly denounced the left and the unions.

But now the Salafists are calling demonstrations that can mobilise tens of thousands of people.

In smaller numbers some Salafists have been involved in organising protests against Coptic churches.

Clashes at Imbaba in Cairo last Sunday led to the deaths of 12 people —although it is far from clear who was resposnsible for the killing. It may have been Salafists, Copts, elements of the old regime manipulating the protests or a combination of these forces.

Neither the Brotherhood nor the Salafists offer any way forward to Egypt’s masses. Their policies would derail the revolution. But their influence will remain, and can even grow, in the absence of a left alternative for workers, peasants and the poor.

That makes building such an alternative even more urgent.

Charlie Kimber



The Cairo bus workers’ strike, in the week before Mubarak fell, helped take the revolution out of Tahrir Square and spread it across the city.

Bus workers were organising before the revolution—and once Mubarak was gone they turned networks of activists into an independent union.

Elected committees represent each bus garage. They can make their own decisions about strikes. Members can easily call their officials to account and recall them if necessary.

The reps are closely attuned to the rhythms and moods of the workplace.

The Egyptian state sees the bus workers as a real threat. Ali Fattouh, a leading activist, was summoned for trial at the State Council on 7 May. The case was then postponed until 4 June.

His charges are highly symbolic of the continuity between the old regime and the new military rulers.

Ali faces the sack under a charge brought through pre-revolutionary legislation of what we would call “bringing the company into disrepute”. He could also be jailed for incitement to strike under new laws brought in since the revolution.

Our RMT union delegation arrived back from Cairo and went straight to a meeting of London Underground Engineering branch. Members wanted to hear about Ali’s case.

It is very close to our hearts, given the number of times we’ve been threatened by the courts and ­anti‑union laws. The meeting unanimously agreed a statement in solidarity with Ali. Our general secretary, Bob Crow, has sent him a personal message of solidarity.

Unjum Mirza, part of RMT delegation

Email messages of support for Ali Fattouh to



Muhammad Shafiq is president of the Manshiyet al-Bakri hospital workers’ union.

“It started on 7 February. I had been at the protest in Tahrir Square working in a makeshift hospital. I went back to my hospital and found a revolutionary mood. Even people who supported Mubarak were saying the situation in hospitals couldn’t continue. So I made a petition with doctors’ demands.

Unlike previous experiences of petitioning, nearly every doctor signed.

A number of nurses asked to sign. At first I said no. There has always been an invisible barrier between doctors and nurses. But so many asked that I thought, ‘Why not?’

We got 300 signatures on the first day—out of 750 workers.

Then the revolution happened.

Afterwards at the hospital people were asking how we would take things forward. We decided to set up one trade union for our hospital. Within two weeks we held elections.

Some were uneasy that doctors, porters and nurses would have an equal say. But we won this argument.

We rearranged the hospital and the budget. Our manager refused to implement these changes. Hospital managers are small dictators—Mubaraks. So we told him to go and not come back.

The union council ran the hospital but there were problems—cheques need to be signed and we have to work with government and local officials. So we elected a manager.

The new public transport trade union oversaw the process. Technicians made ballot boxes and we had special forms that couldn’t be copied. Some workers are illiterate so we used pictures of candidates.

About 500 staff voted. We asked the deputy minister for health to appoint our manager before the story appeared in the press. He tried to argue—but rang us within two hours to agree.

There are problems. The total budget for the ministry of health is only 3.5 percent of the government budget. To win changes, we have to take this up in every hospital in Egypt—we cannot do this alone.

We started talking about linking hospitals together. Other hospitals are taking the same steps as us. They have reached the same conclusion as we did. It is spontaneous.”

As Socialist Worker went to press doctors were on strike over conditions and pay after a union mass meeting of 3,000 voted for action.

Send messages of support to the striking doctors and



Anna Owens and Andy Lawson are civil service workers in the PCS union in Britain. They spoke to Kamal Abu Aita—president of the independent Real Estate Tax Authority Union (RETA). More than 40,000 of Egypt’s 50,000 property tax collectors are RETA members—the majority women.

“Egypt had the first strike in history 5,000 years ago when the workers who built the pyramids struck. Since then the struggle has never stopped.

In 2007 we organised strike committees in 27 provinces across Egypt and set a strike date. It was a dramatic step, and different from other strikes because it was held in the street. It was the first strike on the street involving women.

We held a sit-in outside the official trade union federation building and faced water cannon. The president of the official union said he could beat the strike in two weeks. The strike grew.

Colleagues from all over Egypt gathered in Cairo—from different cultures and dialects. They took over the street. Men and women slept alongside each other. This was real direct democracy.

Workers voted to continue the strike and called out more people. Bigger delegations arrived and families of strikers joined us.

We won a pay rise for all tax workers—opening the door to winning more demands. We agreed to turn the strike committees into a new union.

The strikers showed people they could change things. It was a precursor to the revolution. So on the fifth day of the revolution we announced the formation of the IFU and called a strike in defence of the revolution. Many workers came out the next day. This was crucial to the downfall of the regime.

We changed from being some of the most hated people to some of the best loved. We are seen as a model for organising, with the ruling class split on how to respond. The independent unions are now legal, but the state is trying to put its mark on the rights that we have won.”



Kieran Crow, London Underground worker from London Transport Region RMT

The railways have been a tough place to work in Egypt. Rates of pay were grossly unjust and bosses saw training, safety and maintenance as luxuries.

The breakthrough came when workers in one station hung up a banner proclaiming that they were going to organise a new union for their area. They set 4 May as the date for its founding conference.

They were inundated with contacts from other train lines and even members of the public.

By 1 May, over 50 percent of the workforce had pledged to join the new union. The 4 May conference became the launch of a national organisation.

Rank and file democracy, based in workplaces, is extremely important to the railworkers, as is all-grade unity. They are extremely proud to have drivers, crew, engineers and admin staff fighting for each other’s rights.

It was an honour for us to deliver solidarity greetings to their founding conference.



Nick Grant, teacher and member of the NUT union’s executive committee

Resources for education in Egypt are scant. Some 63 percent of schools have class sizes of at least 45, rising to 90 in urban pockets.

One teacher in Giza told me that some of his classes held as many as 120. He described his job as more like a prison guard than a teacher. Teachers in their first year earn only around £30 a month.

Thousands of teachers have formed new trade unions.

The Syndicate for Education Professionals (SEP), the only teaching union recognised before the revolution, is seen by many as closely allied to the Mubarak regime. It has around one million members.

An officer of the newly formed Independent School Teachers Trade Union (ISTTU) said that it has around 40,000 members.

Another union, the General Union of Egyptian Teachers (GUET), has also emerged. It is smaller than the ISTTU.

These unions are campaigning for a decent minimum wage, an end to private tuition as a means of subsistence, greater professional development and class sizes of no more than 30.

Both organisations want to cleanse management and administration of corruption in all provinces—including the SEP.

There is a strong battle in the universities. On 9 May, the “March 9 Movement” for academic freedom will stage campus protests calling for the removal of the rectors of all Egypt’s universities.

Lecturers and students want an improved university curriculum.

Egyptian doctors launch first general strike

Al-Masry Al-Youm
Doctors strike for health-care reform, better conditions
Tue, 10/05/2011

Jano Charbel

Egypt's doctors on Tuesday held the first general strike in the history of the Doctors Syndicate to call for health care reform and improved working conditions for doctors. The strike comes in the wake of mob attacks on a number of hospitals and medical staff.

The organizing committee threatened to resume a general strike on 17 May if their demands are not met.

"This general strike has been in the making for three years. The straw that broke the camel's back is the recent attacks on hospitals and doctors," said Rashwan Shaaban, a member of the strike committee at the Doctors Syndicate in Cairo.

Primary demands include overhauling the existing healthcare system, which the doctors call corrupt and inefficient, sacking interim Health Minister Ashraf Hatem, impeaching Doctors Syndicate President Hamdy al-Sayyed, and increasing the allocation of the national budget from the current 3.5 percent for health services to 15 percent.

The strike committee argued that allocating 15 percent of the national budget is required in order to improve doctors' salaries and working conditions and provide adequate medical services for patients.

Sayyed, the syndicate’s head since 1992 and a member of the recently dissolved National Democratic Party (NDP), has threatened to take disciplinary action against the strike committee and doctors participating in the general strike. Sayyed warned against harming patients' right to healthcare as a result of the strike.

"I'm opposed to this strike by doctors because there are so many patients that need medical attention all across the country. Doctors should serve to improve healthcare, not ruin it," said Om Mahmoud, a passerby outside the syndicate headquarters.

According to the strike committee, however, emergency rooms were fully functioning , as were intensive care wards. Operations and surgeries were not affected as a result of the strike, and the treatment of serious illnesses and medical conditions were unhampered.

"We are proud to announce that not a single patient who was in need of urgent medical attention was harmed in the course of this strike," said Shaaban.

"Only cosmetic procedures may be halted during the strike, like Lasik eye surgery and beautification operations, etc." said Dr. Mohamed al-Banna, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the chargé d'affaires of the syndicate's Alexandria branch.

The Brotherhood initially received criticism from the strike committee after leading members voted against the general strike.

"On 1 May the general assembly voted for the strike by a majority of those present,” Banna said. “Some members of the Brotherhood voted for, and some voted against the strike. In any case, we respect the decision of the majority and will abide by the general assembly's vote."

However, Banna characterized demands for dismissing the health minister as “unrealistic,” and said he opposes Sayyed’s impeachment.

"Sayyed is one of the best and most effective union presidents,” Banna said. “It doesn't matter if he's a former member of the NDP."

He stated that such a motion would require the votes of at least half the 230,000 general assembly members to pass, and to commence impeachment procedures.

Mona Mina, a member of the strike committee and of Doctors Without Rights, an advocacy group for the improvement of Egyptian healthcare services, disagreed. "Sayyed has been president of the syndicate for the past 20 years, and chief of the Parliamentary Health Committee for nearly 25 years. He presided over the deterioration of national health services during this time," said Mina. She insisted on the legitimate right of doctors to strike.

"The existing health system serves to abuse the rights of both doctors and patients," she said, adding that "rumors abounded today regarding the cancellation of the strike by the Health Ministry. Yet the strike was not called by the ministry in the first place. These rumors served to divide the ranks of striking doctors."

A blacklist of strike breakers, especially the directors of hospitals and medical institutes, was announced at a conference held at the Doctors' General Syndicate today.

The governorates with the greatest percentages of strikes were Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Kafr al-Sheikh, Mansoura, and Qalyubiya, where it was estimated that 100 percent of doctors took part in the strike.

Ninety percent of doctors went on strike in the governorates of Beheira, Sharqiya, Monufiya, and Alexandria, while around 70 to 80 percent of doctors in Cairo are said to have participated. The governorate of Aswan was nearly strike-free.