Sunday, January 31, 2016

On Jan 25 anniversary, police arrest more than 150 people nationwide

Mada Masr
At least 150 people arrested nationwide on Jan 25 anniversary

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Police forces were deployed in huge numbers in the streets and squares of Egypt’s urban centers on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising, with media reports suggesting at least 150 opposition protesters were arrested across the country on Monday.

Arrests have been ongoing in the lead-up to the anniversary. On Sunday, Akhbar al-Youm reported the administrator of the Revolutionary Socialists Facebook page was arrested on charges of instigating violence by calling for protests on January 25. The paper claimed that the administrator, 24-year-old Mohamed Essam, was actually a member of the banned April 6 Youth Movement.

On Monday, prosecutors extended his detention for another 15 days pending criminal investigations, according to Akhbar al-Youm.

Also on Sunday, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported police arrested 78 Muslim Brotherhood members in Giza as part of their security crackdown in the lead-up to the revolution anniversary.

On Monday, demonstrators who came out to show support for the police and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were photographed waving Egyptian flags, brandishing portraits of the president and handing flowers to the troops without any interference from security personnel.

Sisi supporters in Tahrir Square, January 25, 2016
 Sisi supporters in Tahrir Square, January 25, 2016

But Islamist and leftist opposition protesters appear to have been widely targeted. While tallies from local news outlets put the number of arrests or detentions at over 150 on Monday, no official numbers have been released. The latest update to the Interior Ministry’s official website featured photos of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrating the 64th National Police Day at the Police Academy in New Cairo.

The majority of arrests targeted purported Muslim Brotherhood members, according to local media. The Cabinet declared the Brotherhood a banned terrorist organization in December 2013, leading some media outlets to refer Monday’s detainees as “terrorist elements.”

Monday’s arrests were concentrated in Cairo and the Nile Delta Governorate of Gharbiya, where several news outlets trumpeted the same headline: “Police arrest 40 Brotherhood members in preemptive raids.” The date and time of the raids were not mentioned, and Mada Masr was unable to determine if they occurred on Monday or earlier.

In Cairo, police forces arrested 60 Brotherhood members in several locations in and around the capital, an unnamed senior security official told the privately owned Youm7 news site.

Police arrested another 42 people allegedly affiliated with the Brotherhood near Cairo’s Mostorod Bridge, according to Youm7. They were apprehended as they got off a bus and headed to the nearby Matareya neighborhood, where the news outlet claimed they were intending to protest and “spread chaos.”

The anonymous security source told Youm7 that “six other members of the terrorist Brotherhood” were arrested in the adjacent district of Ain Shams while “seeking to protest and to commit acts of violence.”

Another 12 “terrorists” were reportedly arrested in Cairo’s southeastern neighborhoods of Helwan and Dar al-Salam while attempting to conduct marches and street protests.

Elsewhere, the privately owned Al-Watan newspaper reported that six members of the Brotherhood were arrested in Cairo’s satellite 6th of October City, which falls within the Giza Governorate. They were reportedly arrested on charges of attempting to block the roads after participating in a small protest of a few dozen people, which was forcefully dispersed by police units.

Another three protesters were arrested just north of Cairo in the industrial district of Shubra al-Kheima, located in the Qalyubiya Governorate. They were detained on charges of obstructing traffic while protesting and blocking the roads by burning tires, the privately owned Al-Shorouk news site reported.

In Alexandria, police arrested 15 purported Brotherhood members on Monday, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA). The arrests occurred as dozens of people took to the streets to protest. MENA also claimed that security forces defused two explosive devices planted in Alexandria’s Al-Max and Moharram Beik neighborhoods.

In the central governorate of Fayoum, police forces arrested 15 Brotherhood-affiliated protesters in Qasr al-Basil district and impounded 22 motorcycles used in their protest, the privately owned Veto news site reported.

Akhbar al-Youm reported that police forces fired tear gas to disperse “terrorist” protesters in the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh when they allegedly attempted to block off a highway leading to the town of Balteem. Police forces arrested 10 of these “trouble-making” protesters, Akhbar al-Youm wrote, all of whom were alleged Brotherhood members.

In Damietta City, the privately-owned Al-Bawaba news site reported five members of the “terrorist Muslim Brotherhood” were arrested for conducting unauthorized street protests in violation of the controversial protest law. They are reportedly being detained until prosecutors conclude their investigations into the protest.

The privately owned Akhbar Masr news site added that they were arrested in the evening while marching in a protest out of the city’s Galal Kuraytam Square.

Many other arrests linked to protest actions were reported across several other governorates, but the numbers of detainees and further details were not published in local media outlets.

 *Photos by Basma Fathy

Egypt: 4 dead as police take control on Jan 25 anniversary

Mada Masr
4 dead as police take control on Jan 25 anniversary

Monday January 25, 2016

On the fifth anniversary of the January 25 revolution, it was the police that took to the streets, distributing flowers and chocolate amid scattered groups of their supporters and those of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A celebratory atmosphere was especially present in the prominent Tahrir and Rabea al-Adaweya squares, where crowds cheered for security forces.

In other areas around the country, however, security presence intensified. In Matareya, police quickly dispersed a small protest allegedly staged by the Muslim Brotherhood, according to state-owned Al-Ahram.

Police forces also killed two people in 6th of October City in an exchange of fire. Al-Ahram reported that security forces raided an apartment after receiving information that two assailants involved in attacks in Giza's Haram district were located there. The two men shot at police officers as they attempted to arrest them, according to the newspaper, leading security forces to respond with deadly force.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry stated that it also received reports of an individual storing explosives in an apartment in Kerdasa. Police forces reportedly engaged in an exchange of fire with the suspect, Mohamed Abdel Hamid, eventually killing him.

Another alleged member of the Muslim Brotherhood was also shot in Kerdasa, according to a statement by the ministry.

In Beni Suef, a man was killed as he attacked a police checkpoint, according to Al-Ahram. The newspaper did not provide other details.

*Photo of Sisi supporters handing flowers to heavily-armed masked police in Tahrir Square, by Basma Fathy

Egypt remembers 'Martyr of Roses' Shaimaa al-Sabbagh

Mada Masr
Commemorations for 'martyr of roses' Shaimaa al-Sabbagh

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Commemorations were held in Alexandria on Sunday to mark one year since the death of political activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh at the hands of police.

Thousands of mourners also expressed condolences for the “martyr of roses,” as she has become known, on social media.

Police forces shot Sabbagh during a peaceful rally near downtown Cairo’s Talaat Harb Square on January 24, 2015, in which she, and a small group of leftist activists, held roses in remembrance of all those killed by police forces in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

The 32-year-old poet, wife, mother of six-year-old Belal, and member of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, became an icon of resistance and a moving symbol of police brutality on the fourth anniversary of the January 25 revolution, as photos and videos emerged of her being carried away after she was shot by security forces.

Sunday’s memorial was held at Manara Cemetery, where Sabbagh is buried in her hometown of Alexandria. Local media reported that dozens of members of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party, along with Sabbagh’s friends and family, attended the memorial, holding photos of the young activist by her graveside, which was covered with roses.

The liberal opposition April 6 Youth Movement tweeted in Arabic, “Martyr of Roses … The regime’s security forces killed her when she attempted to commemorate the martyrs of #Jan25.”

Another Twitter user wrote, “Shaimaa sought to pay tribute to the martyrs, and ended up in their company.”

Egypt’s prosecutor general referred 13 members of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party to investigation following Sabbagh's death, for protesting without permission. However, they were acquitted by an appeals court in October 2015.

In June, the police officer accused of killing Sabbagh was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the excessive use of force. Lieutenant Yassin Salah Eddin appealed the verdict, which is due to be heard in court on February 14.

Only a handful of Egypt’s security forces have been brought to trial for the deaths of protesters in the last five years.

The day after Sabbagh’s death, security forces killed 18 protesters, injured 52, and arrested several others on January 25, 2015, according to Health Ministry figures.

Last year, the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cancelled and banned all commemorations of the January 25 revolution, choosing instead to mark the death of the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who passed away on January 23.

*Photo courtesy of Shaimaa al-Sabbagh Facebook page

1,117 strikes & labor protests across Egypt in 2015: Report

Monday, January 11, 2016

Jano Charbel

The NGO Democracy Meter issued its annual report on Egyptian industrial actions on Saturday, citing 1,117 labor protests throughout 2015. In other words, Egypt witnessed an average of around three labor protests during each day of the year, and approximately 93 such protests per month.

As high as this rate of labor unrest is, it represents a marked decrease in comparison to the numbers of industrial actions witnessed in the previous year. The Mahrousa Center for Socioeconomic Development (another NGO) documented 1,651 labor protests in the first half of 2014 alone.

Democracy Meter said the rate of strikes may have diminished in 2015 as a result of a state-sponsored campaign to ban these work stoppages for a year. The NGO also noted that the Ministry of Endowments was brought into play last year, sponsoring religious sermons to denounce the right to strike. Nonetheless, employees of the ministry also conducted several protests and strikes in 2015.

As in previous years, Democracy Meter said that last year's labor protests were primarily linked to wage disputes, contractual demands, physical assaults against employees, punitive dismissals and relocations, along with the closure of workplaces.

Nearly 30 different forms of labor protests were documented last year, including marches, sit-ins, occupations, blocking of streets and the filing of petitions. A total of 392 labor protest rallies were organized in 2015, according to the report.

As for strikes, these included partial strikes, slow-down strikes and comprehensive work stoppages, along with hunger strikes. Incidents of “boss-nappings" and the detention of workplace administrators were also reported, along with the phenomenon of worker suicides. A total of 207 work stoppages were cited in the study.

At least one worker committed suicide last year due to labor grievances, according to Democracy Meter, while another 11 attempted suicide.

In an infograph, the democracy indicator claimed that the 1,117 labor protests in 2015 took place in over 50 different sectors — from factory workers to civil servants, teachers, tourism industry employees, doctors and medical workers, along with many more.

The industrial production and factory sectors witnessed the greatest amount of labor unrest, followed by the governmental employees and civil servants sectors, and then teachers. Such industrial actions were reported in more than 439 different workplaces nationwide.

According to Democracy Meter, 26 out of 27 governorates witnessed labor protests last year, with Matrouh the only governorate in which no such protests were recorded.

Labour protests across Egypt in 2015
 [Labor protests across Egypt in 2015] 

On a national level, Cairo and its environs witnessed the greatest number of labor protests in 2015, with 422 industrial actions. The Nile Delta witnessed 207, and the Suez Canal governorates 187.

2015 saw perhaps the largest street protest since 2013, when thousands of civil servants protested in August against the new civil service law introduced by presidential decree. Several other protests were also staged against this controversial new law.

Moreover, a large wave of strikes took place in October 2015 over the non-payment of a 10 percent bonus for employees in the public works sector, which was also decreed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In terms of labor trends, the report claims that the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and other state entities launched a concerted attack against independent trade unions and sought to tighten their stranglehold upon them.

Many workers perceive the ETUF as continuing to serve as “a representative of the executive branch of government, rather than a representative of workers," Democracy Meter said.

The ETUF did not authorize a single strike in 2015. Since its establishment in 1957, the ETUF has only ever authorized two strikes.

Democracy Meter reported that dozens of workers were arrested last year in light of their labor protests — with courts sentencing 10 of these workers to prison terms. The NGO added that another 80 workers were fired from their jobs due to such industrial actions. Dozens of others were referred to disciplinary hearings or prosecution for engaging in strikes.

Many laborers perceive that the state’s crackdown as discriminatory, Democracy Meter said, pointing out that the state did not charge any of these low-ranking policemen with violating the protest law imposed in 2013.

*Photo of Mahalla strike courtesy of Libcom; Map & graph courtesy of Democracy Meter

VIDEO: The Corporation

Strikes & labor protests hit state-owned companies

Mada Masr 

Strikes and labor protests hit state-owned companies  

Companies affected include petroleum and coke-fuel plants, gas billing services, and Nile cruise ships

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jano Charbel 

Thousands of workers at state-owned companies have been embarking on strikes and other industrial actions this week in protest at low wages and bonuses, and in demand of parity with their co-workers in other company branches.

Among those taking part in industrial actions are Nile dockworkers in Aswan, employees of the Petrotrade Company in several governorates, petroleum workers in Suez, and workers at the Nasr Coke Company in Cairo.

Petroleum workers demand contractual agreement

As of Monday, thousands of employees of Petrotrade – a state-owned petroleum services and billing company – have been on strike for the past 25 days. Thousands of striking employees of Petrotrade have been demanding the implementation of a company-wide contractual agreement established since 2011 – to which few are apparently entitled.

Strikes among Petrotrade employees broke out in Cairo nearly five years ago, and have spilled-over to other company branches nationwide.

Employees have been demanding the application of the 2011 employment contract – which would help raise their salaries, bonuses, and benefits – along with the reinstatement of 25 sacked workers/unionists, and the accountability of administrators, who they claim are involved in acts of corruption.

Strike coordinator, Karim Reda, told Mada Masr that of the company’s 56 branches nationwide, around 52 are on strike. Reda added that the company employs around 18,000 workers across the country – of which approximately 16,000 are on strike.

Reda stated that “only a couple of branches in Cairo and in North Sinai are not partaking in this strike.”

According to company administrators, this nearly month-long strike has resulted in losses for Petrotrade amounting to over LE80 million.

However, Reda explained that striking workers can compensate Petrotrade for these losses. “We can collect overdue bills at a later point in time, when our demands are met. But we are also willing to carry on with our strikes for another week, month, or however long it takes.”

According to Reda: “Company administrators claim that our strikes are being led by the Muslim Brotherhood and April 6th Youth Movement. They claim that opposition political forces are instigating these industrial actions, but we are not politicized. We are just ordinary employees with professional demands.”

Indeed, photos posted on the website of the privately-owned Al-Wafd news portal – from several Petrotrade branches – even reveal workers carrying posters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and respectfully asking for his intervention.

Reda added that Petrotrade employees are demanding parity with other employees and administrators who are employed under the work contracts of 2011. “For the past five years, the company’s administration keep dragging its feet regarding the implementation of the 2011 employment contracts. Only a few chief administrators and allied employees who tow the line are currently employed according to the collective agreement of 2011.

Reda reported that Petrotrade administrators are involved in corruption and the misappropriation of the company’s funds. “Administrators decree the disbursement of large salaries, and periodic bonuses amongst themselves; and likewise for those employees who are their obedient followers.”

The strike coordinator added that administrators have filed complaints at local police stations against some 150 striking employees nationwide – citing their obstruction of official public sector work.

Reda added that a complaint has been filed against him at al-Daher Police Station in Cairo.

Nile and Suez Canal workers seek parity, contractual changes

Meanwhile, on Monday, nearly 100 maintenance and dockworkers in the district of Armant – in the southernmost governorate of Aswan – commenced a strike at the Canal Company for Nile Services and Maintenance Works.

The privately-owned Youm7 news portal reported that these workers are demanding parity with their co-workers in the Suez Canal Authority (which oversees the Canal Company for Nile Services) in terms of their wages, benefits, bonuses and allowances.

The strike in Armant’s Nile docks has reportedly halted all repairs and maintenance work on cruise boats, and floating hotels. These striking workers are also reported to have filed an official complaint at the Armant Police Station, demanding an audience with the administrators of the Suez Canal Authority.

Likewise, last month several hundred workers employed at seven subsidiary maritime companies of the Suez Canal Authority embarked on protests and partial strikes – demanding parity with their co-workers who are directly employed by this state-owned maritime transport authority.

These seven subsidiary companies (involved in maintenance, transport, roping, etc.) are administratively – but not financially – managed by this state authority.

These hundreds of workers along the Suez Canal have largely suspended their industrial actions after receiving official pledges that their demands would be heeded.

Elsewhere, around 100 workers at the Suez Petroleum Production Company reportedly protested outside their company’s headquarters, demanding contractual changes.

The private Al-Masry Al-Youm portal reported that these workers are demanding that the duration of their service at the Suez Petroleum Production Company be calculated from the dates upon which they started their employment – not from the dates of the signing of new contracts.

Workers from this state-owned company told Al-Masry Al-Youm that their wages and bonuses would negatively be affected if the duration of their employment – under their initial contracts – are not included as part of their total number of years of service.

Coke workers suspect strike action

Finally, workers at the Nasr Coke Company – for the production of coke/coal fuel – in Cairo’s south-eastern industrial district of Tibeen, suspended their strike action on Monday.

After six days of strike action, approximately 2,300 workers at the Nasr Coke Company reportedly called-off their work stoppage for a duration of one week so as to allow state authorities an opportunity to meet their demands.

According to the privately-owned Al-Watan news portal, the demands include: payment of overdue profit-shares; the detailed publication of the company’s financial accounts for the year 2015; the accountability of company officials for any acts of corruption or mismanagement, along with the dismissal of the chief of the Holding Company for Mining and Mineral Industries – which oversees the Nasr Coke Company.

The coke workers are reported to have suspended their strike action after having met with representatives from the Office of the Presidency, and from the Armed Forces, who pledged to look into their demands.

The coke industry is of great importance to other state-owned companies – such as the mammoth Egyptian Steel and Iron Company, and other steel mills, located in the adjacent district of Helwan – which use this coke to fuel their furnaces.

*Photo by Jano Charbel

Journalist Mohamed Abdel Moneim sentenced to 3 yrs. imprisonment

Mada Masr
Journalist Mohamed Abdel Moneim sentenced to 3 years imprisonment

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Journalist Mohamed Abdel Moneim was sentenced to three years imprisonment on Sunday, after a court found him guilty of partaking in an unauthorized protest dating back to April 24, 2015.

However, Abdel Moneim’s coworkers at the Tahya Masr news portal insist he was arrested while covering this protest, not participating in it.

Convening at the Police Academy, Cairo Criminal Court ruled that Abdel Moneim had breached the Protest Law by taking part in an unauthorized street protest. The court also ruled that the 22-year-old journalist was guilty of possessing weapons, Molotov cocktails, obstructing traffic, endangering the lives of civilians, as well as damaging both public and private properties.

The privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that the court had issued an identical sentence against two other defendants on Sunday: a 19-year-old student Essam Abdel Hakim, and 15-year-old student Abdel Rahman Sayyed.

The three-year sentence against the journalist was issued despite the in-court testimony of Tahya Masr's administrative chief who, according to Al-Shorouk, confirmed that Abdel Moneim was his employee, and had been covering the street protest in question.

Abdel Moneim’s boss added that the young journalist was objective in his coverage of protests, siding neither with the current administration, nor with the ousted regime of the Muslim Brotherhood.

According to state-owned Al-Ahram, the court did not recognize that Abdel Moneim was a journalist, as he is not an officially registered member of the Journalists’ Syndicate. However, there are several thousand journalists said to be operating in Egypt who are unable to enter this syndicate due its restrictive preconditions for membership.

As of last month, the Liberties Committee of the Journalists’ Syndicate announced that there are at least 32 journalists in detention across Egypt, from which at least 18 were arrested while reporting in public spaces.

The Liberties Committee has organized several petitions calling for the release of detained journalists and media staffers, along with several legal appeals, protests, and marches along with campaigns for improved treatment of jailed journalists.

According to the chief of the Liberties Committee, Khaled al-Balshy, at least 350 cases of assaults against journalists have been documented over the past two years.

In December 2015, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) listed Egypt as the world’s second worst jailer of journalists, second only to China.