The Textile Workers League activists Kamal el-Fayoumi and Kareem el-Beheiri, as well as a number of the Mahalla detainees, are currently undergoing interrogation at the Tanta Prosecutors Office. I have a report from an activist, which I couldnt confirm yet, that Kareem was subject to severe beatings in police custody. The activist I spoke with said he heard this from one of the recently released detainees. We should know soon whether Kareem and the others were abused in custody or not when the lawyers who are attending the interrogation come out
Journalist Per Björklund witnessed the second day of the Mahalla Intifada
The scenes outside the police station was incredible. I was almost like the ending of Youssef Chahines Heyya Fawda, except in real life the battle was won by the police
This was the point at which the mostly peaceful protest turned into a battle in the streets. Before the crowd reached the police station the police was standing back, even hiding behind their cars, as they knew they wouldnt be able to control the crowds
the most important reason i could be there and take these photos was the residents of mahalla (not just demonstrators, but citizens who were just watching the events), who intervened several times when police or security agents approached me and tried to prevent me from taking pictures or confiscating my equipment as happened before..
Click below to watch a fantastic collection of photos of yesterdays events in Mahalla, taken by Per
Omar Said was also present in Mahalla on Monday and sent me some pix
For continuous updates on the detainees, please follow Tadamon, April 6th Strike, Abna2Masr and the HMLC blogs, especially as reports are coming out that those ordered by the prosecutor to be released in Alexandria and Mansoura, remain in police custody
Shehab Ismail also called me from NYC yesterday to say his sister Sarah who had been detained earlier in Cairo was still in police custody despite a release order
Videos of the riots, caught on cellular phones, keep surfacing on the net
Check out some of them here, here, here, and here
Videos of the Cairo U protests could be found here
Also Keep an eye whenever you can on my bookmarks for more links and resources on the current fight against the Mubaraks dictatorship
The Egyptian Workers and Trade Unions Watch issued a report on Mahallas Monday riots, which you can download here
Solidarity statements are flocking in from local and international activists
Ill be posting them soon
UPDATE (1:30pm): The HMLC blog is reporting that Ghazl el-Mahalla blogger Kareem el-Beheiri said he was taken blindfolded to an unknown place by the police, where he was beaten up and subjected to electric shocks. Shehabs sister Sarah was finally released around two hours ago..
UPDATE (9pm): James has been twittering from Mahalla .. The most touching SMS was that of a Mahalla man quoted saying give me my son from prison and i will stop revolt
Click on the photo below to also go and check out his flickr account, to which he uploaded photos of the two day rioting
Earlier in the day, Mubaraks PM Nazif accompanied by Labor Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi and the Minister of investments Mahmoud MohieEddin visited Ghazl el-Mahalla factory, in an attempt to contain an explosive situation in a northern industrial city rocked by two days of deadly riots over high prices and low wages, some of the worst economic unrest here in 30 years. The worker bonuses and other concessions promised to workers by the prime minister show the governments worry that economic angst could boil over.. I spoke with an activist in Mahalla.. He says Nazif promised all workers in the textile sector a 15-day bonus, and the workers in Mahalla specifically will get a one month bonus. The ministers also promised injecting LE400 millions into the Ghazl el-Mahalla company to modernize it, together with the transportation services for the workers, opening up outlets for Consumer Cooperatives in the company compound (where subsidized food would be sold), increase the number of doctors at the General Mahalla Hospital, increase the supply of flour aimed at the Mahalla bakeries. The workers who attended the ministerial meeting amounted to 2000 (out of a total labor force 27,000). But those workers who attended were from the management, as well as the govt-backed trade unionists, State Security agents in plainclothes, NDP members in Mahalla, and a selected number of workers in the factory whom the management trusts are not gonna assault the ministers in addition to the members of the CTUWS faction and their circle of sympathizers who sabotaged the planned 6th of April strike
Nazif, Aisha and MohieEddin gave very inspiring promises and sincere speeches to the workers, which you can see for yourself below
The town in general was calmer on Tuesday than it was the past couple of days, but police troops continued their deployment around the city and in public squares, and there were reports of clashes in the afternoon. Moreover, the funeral of the 15-year-old who was killed in his balcony yesterday by the police, was banned by the authorities fearing the event could trigger once more a full scale anti-govt riot
The brave photographer and friend Nasser Nouri sent me a big dispatch of photos depicting the protests and clashes on the 6th and the 7th of April in Mahalla, some of which have already been posted
Click below to check out the set
Nasser was hit with a rubber bullet in his right leg, which turned all blue. Despite that he kept limbing around in Mahalla over the past three days snapping photos. Nasser was today in Mahalla also, and reports a wide scale intimidation by the uniformed police and plainclothes thugs against journalists and photographers in the streets.
UPDATE: Wael Abbas confirms the PR nature of the ministerial delegations visit (which was not previously announced, and came more or less in secret) to Mahalla, and says the workers they met were collaborators with the security. Wael also says the regime has instructed newspapers and TV channels NOT to report on Mahalla
I received also a new set of photos from Mahalla on Tuesday, taken by James Buck
Click below to watch the set
The demonstrations were not that big today. The city returned to a strange kind of quiet. James told me, The police were in control with troops lining every major street and armored vans with snipers on top patrolling the streets. Many shops were closed but there were people out and about, if kind of subdued. But still there were people protesting the prices of food, however the main focus now is Where is my son? I met many people today who were scared for their children. They said they were taken by the police. They didnt know anything about them. The police was denying also they had them. Im talking about minors, teenagers and young men. They disappeared. The demonstrations today were mainly targeting the detention center [Mahallas First Police Station], where they believed their kids were held. Around nightfall a crowd gathered near the police station where apparently police had said they could bring food to those in jail, but many still didnt know where their brothers, sons, fathers were. I was told by many that when they asked where is so and so, the police said I dont know. Mothers were wailing and crying in the streets. By night a large crowd was outside the prison barricade awaiting the release of prisoners. By 10pm only three had been released, all young boys aged around 10. When I interviewed people about the ministers decisions today they didnt know about it and seemed not to care much about the benefits for factory workers. They still complain about the rising prices of food. I was told cooking oil used to be 5 pounds, now it is 11 pounds. a man yelled I make 300 LE a month, and 10 pounds goes to oil!?
598 The Mahalla Intifada
A protester runs from a tear-gas canister in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, April 6 (Photo: AP/Nasser Nasser)
The local council elections were today, but their results were a foregone conclusion even before the countrys largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, withdrew its candidates and called for a boycott. The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) won 70 percent of seats uncontested before polls opened. A few independents may win in some districts. Most of them will join (or re-join) the NDP after the election. So much expense and bad press could be saved by appointing the local councils.
In Cairo, after Sundays apocalyptic sandstorm, all-out security lock-down, and marginally successful general strike, the elections passed as a non-event.
A coalition of opposition groups is calling for a repeat of the April 6 general strike on President Hosni Mubaraks 80th birthday, May 4. Secular activists have set up a Facebook group called We dont want the Brotherhood with us on May 4. They will likely get their way. After the detention of 1,000 Brotherhood members and the groups withdrawal from the elections, its unlikely that theyll send members out to protest on President Mubaraks birthday.
In the meantime, all eyes have been on Mahalla. Officials have confirmed that a 15-year-old boy, Ahmed Ali Mabrouk Hamada, was killed in yesterdays protests over the high cost of living when police shot him with a rubber bullet at close range. On Sunday night, there were reports of two other fatalities, a 20-year-old man and a 9-year-old boy. The Daily News reported the deaths on Monday, but Ive yet to see official confirmation. At least 90 protesters have been injured, hundreds more have been arrested, Mahalla City Hall has been ransacked, businesses and buses have been torched, and the images and the videos (more here, here, here, and here) coming out of the industrial town look like Gaza, circa Fall 2000.
Certainly nothing like this has happened in Egypt since police brutally crushed an August 1989 strike at a steel mill in Helwan, a southern industrial suburb of Cairo. But the comparison more frequently drawn, particularly given clashes in bread lines that have left seven dead in recent months, is with the 1977 bread riots. The comparison hasnt been lost on the government, which has raised grain subsidies, ordered the Army to begin baking and distributing bread, canceled import duties on some foodstuffs, and indicated it will begin paying market prices for Egyptian grain in an effort to encourage domestic production.
Mahalla was quiet today. There were a few more arrests. Labor organizers were interrogated. But the big news was Prime Minister Ahmed Nazifs trip to the city at the head of a delegation of Cabinet ministers. They came to appease the workers and to thank them for standing up to the ruffians and the troublemakers.
Arabist, on his way back from Mahalla, tells me by phone that all the workers he spoke to said the rioting had nothing to do with them, but rather was the work of poor youths frustrated by a lack of opportunity and a rising cost of living (look for his post tonight).
If true, this suggests the Mahalla Intifada has more in common with the 1977 bread riots than the 1989 strike in Helwan. This has troubling implications for the government. The Mubarak administration has effectively pacified strike after strike over the past year or so by acceding to the workers demands, but it can hardly right the countrys economic and agricultural imbalances overnight. More than a third of Egyptians live on $2 or less a day.
Its hard to imagine what grander step the government could take to alleviate pressure on hungry citizens than calling in the Army to bake breadespecially given that a substantial retreat from the sort of free-market reforms that have driven the countrys growth in recent years would spook foreign investors and creditors. I expect it will try to find one in the weeks to come. But in the meantime, I expect it will look to its massive security apparatus to keep the lid on.
This is a temporary solution at best, and at worst a provocation. Streets filled with riot police (such as we saw in Cairo last Sunday), mass arrests (such as weve seen over the past month), rigged elections (such as we saw today), and jail sentences for high-profile critics (such as weve seen in the past weeks and years): all give the impression of a government pitted against its people. Its an impression that isnt lost on the people. But its an impression that must change if the country is to weather the gathering storm.
April 8, 2008 | In Egypt |
The police breaking their own car and scapegoating the 'savage people' in Mahalla...
The savage people of Mahalla who kept shooting teargas at themselves...
Who used live bullets on their own...
Gat'hom seteen neela - bahayem!!
4 are dead so far
It is no less than an uprising...
I salute the people of Mahalla who proved to have the biggest balls of us all..
People who don't demand their rights don't deserve them...
The leftists are calling it an Intifada...
Extensive coverage and thorough updates at Arabawy's and some at Sandmonkey's as well...
I can't wait until May 4th... we should give him the 'biggest birthday present'...