Les grèves se multiplient en Égypte / Extrême violence en province

Publié le par la Rédaction

Grèves et nouvel appel à une manifestation monstre en Égypte

 

Les anti-Moubarak ont appelé leurs sympathisants à amplifier le mouvement mercredi, en réaction à l'impatience exprimée par le vice-président envers les manifestants qui réclament le départ immédiat du président depuis plus de deux semaines. Des milliers de fonctionnaires ont entamé des grèves dans tout le pays.

 

Leaders of the independent Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees, march from Galaa Street to join the Tahrir Square occupation, in solidarity with the revolution.

 

Les efforts du vice-président pour ouvrir le dialogue avec les manifestants au sujet des réformes se heurtent depuis le week-end aux réticences des jeunes meneurs du mouvement, qui soupçonnent Omar Souleimane de vouloir limiter le changement. Ils exigent la démission préalable d'Hosni Moubarak, au pouvoir depuis près de 30 ans.

 

M. Souleimane a fait craindre un retour de la répression en déclarant mardi qu'il existait une menace de «coup d'État» de l'armée, de la police, du renseignement, des Frères musulmans ou même des contestataires si les manifestants refusaient de négocier. «Nous ne pouvons pas supporter cela plus longtemps (…) Cette crise doit prendre fin le plus tôt possible», a-t-il dit.

 

Il a encore alimenté le scepticisme des activistes en estimant que «la culture de la démocratie est encore très éloignée» de celle de l'Égypte et en annonçant qu'un collège de juges désignés par le gouvernement et dominé par des pro-Moubarak proposerait des amendements constitutionnels à soumettre à un référendum. Il a toutefois accepté l'idée d'une supervision internationale des élections prévues pour septembre.

 

«Il menace de décréter la loi martiale, ce qui veut dire que tout le monde va être écrasé sur la place» Tahrir, a réagi Abdul-Rahman Samir, un porte-parole de la coalition regroupant les cinq principaux mouvements de jeunesse à l'origine des manifestations dans le centre de la capitale. «Mais qu'est-ce qu'il fera avec le reste des 70 millions d'Égyptiens qui nous suivront après ? (…) Nous faisons la grève, manifesterons et nous ne négocierons pas jusqu'à ce que Moubarak démissionne», a-t-il lancé.

 

Près de 10.000 personnes étaient massées sur la place Tahrir mercredi, au 16e jour de cette contestation sans précédent. À quelques rues de là, 2.000 autres bloquaient le Parlement et exigeaient sa dissolution. L'armée s'est déployée sur place. Sur la place, des manifestants ont une nouvelle fois dormi sous les chars qui les encerclent pour prévenir tout mouvement des véhicules.

 

Et pour la première fois, les militants ont appelé à des grèves, défiant le vice-président qui a jugé les appels à la désobéissance civile «très dangereux pour la société». «Nous ne pouvons pas accepter cela du tout», a-t-il prévenu.

 

Les grévistes des télécommunications, rassemblés à Ramsès, dénoncent leur hiérarchie : «Voleurs ! Voleurs ! Voleurs !»

 

Des grèves généralement suivies par quelques centaines de personnes à chaque fois ont éclaté à travers le pays, notamment parmi des fermiers, des employés de musée et de l'électricité au Caire, qui exigent du pain, des augmentations de salaire ou un changement de direction. De nombreuses entreprises avaient fermé leurs portes ces derniers jours à cause du couvre-feu. La plupart de ces débrayages ne semblent pas directement liés aux appels des manifestants de Tahrir mais certains grévistes ont menacé de rejoindre le mouvement, notamment quelque 8.000 manifestants qui ont jeté des pierres au gouverneur à Assiout, dans le centre-est du pays.

 

À Port Saïd, sur le Canal de Suez, environ 300 habitants d'un bidonville ont violemment protesté contre l'absence de logement décent. Ils ont monté des tentes sur la place des Martyrs, dans le centre-ville.

 

À Kharga, au sud-ouest du Caire, deux personnes qui manifestaient avec quelques centaines d'autres pour le limogeage d'un responsable policier accusé d'abus de pouvoir ont été tuées par la police mardi.

 

À Suez, c'était déjà le deuxième jour de grève. Environ 5.000 employés de diverses entreprises d'État ont manifesté sur leurs lieux de travail respectifs.

 

De leur côté, les meneurs de Tahrir ont appelé à une nouvelle «manifestation de millions» d'Égyptiens pour vendredi, mais ils prévoient cette fois plusieurs rassemblements dans différents quartiers du Caire, a précisé l'un des organisateurs, Khaled Abdel-Hamid. La manifestation monstre de la semaine dernière a réuni au moins 250.000 personnes sur la place.

 

À peu près autant d'Égyptiens s'y sont rassemblés de nouveau mardi pour accueillir leur héros, l'un des organisateurs de la mobilisation sur Internet, Wael Ghonim, 30 ans, un responsable local de Google récemment relâché après 12 jours de détention.

 

Les Frères musulmans ont quant à eux durci le ton mercredi. L'un de leurs chefs, Muhammed Mursi, a accusé l'armée d'avoir arrêté jusqu'à une centaine de «frères» et de les avoir torturés, pratiques qui ressemblent plus à la police. «Le président doit (…) partir», a-t-il dit, car «la transition n'a pas lieu».

 

Malgré l'agitation et le départ de dizaines de milliers d'étrangers, le plus célèbre site touristique d'Égypte, les pyramides de Gizeh, a rouvert mercredi.

 

Leur presse (AP), 9 février 2011.

 

 

Protest in Egypt Takes a Turn as Workers Go on Strike

 

Protesters demanding the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak appeared on Wednesday to have recaptured the initiative in their battle with his government, demonstrating a new ability to mobilize thousands to take over Cairo’s streets beyond Tahrir Square and to spark labor unrest.

 

23603148.jpgStriking museum workers outside the Supreme Council

of Antiquities in Cairo on Wednesday.

 

As reports filtered in of strikes and unrest spreading to other parts of the city and the country, the government seemed to dig in deeper. Mr. Mubarak’s handpicked successor, Vice President Omar Suleiman, warned Tuesday that the only alternative to constitutional talks was a “coup” and added: “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”

 

But the pressure on Mr. Mubarak’s government was intensifying, a day after the largest crowd of protesters in two weeks flooded Cairo’s streets and the United States delivered its most specific demands yet, urging swift steps toward democracy. Some of the protesters drew new inspiration from the emotional interview on Egypt’s most popular talk show with Wael Ghonim, the online political organizer who was detained for two weeks.

 

At dawn on Wednesday, the 16th day of the uprising, hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators remained camped out at Parliament, where they had marched for the first time on Tuesday. There were reports of thousands demonstrating in several other cities around the country while protesters began to gather again in Tahrir Square, a few blocks from Parliament.

 

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By midday, hundreds of workers from the Health Ministry, adjacent to Parliament and a few hundred yards from Tahrir Square, also took to the streets in a protest whose exact focus was not immediately clear, Interior Ministry officials said.

 

Violent clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr. Mubarak led to more than 70 injuries in recent days, according to a report by Al Ahram — the flagship government newspaper and a cornerstone of the Egyptian establishment — while government officials said the protests had spread to the previously quiet southern region of Upper Egypt.

 

In Port Said, a city of 600,000 at the mouth of the Suez Canal, protesters set fire to a government building and occupied the city’s central square. There were unconfirmed reports that police fired live rounds on protesters on Tuesday in El Kharga, 375 miles south of Cairo, resulting in several deaths. Protesters responded by burning police stations and other government buildings on Wednesday, according to wire reports.

 

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On Tuesday, the officials said, thousands protested in the province of Wadi El Jedid. One person died and 61 were injured, including seven from gunfire by the authorities, the officials said. Television images also showed crowds gathering in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city.

 

Before the reports of those clashes, Human Rights Watch reported that more than 300 people have been killed since Jan. 25.

 

Increasingly, the political clamor for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster seemed to be complemented by strikes in Cairo and elsewhere.

 

In the most potentially significant action, about 6,000 workers at five service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority — a major component of the Egyptian economy — began a sit-in on Tuesday night. There was no immediate suggestion of disruptions to shipping in the canal, a vital international waterway leading from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. But Egyptian officials said that total traffic declined by 1.6 percent in January, though it was up significantly from last year. 

 

More than 2,000 textile workers and others in Suez demonstrated as well, Al Ahram reported, while in Luxor thousands hurt by the collapse of the tourist industry marched to demand government benefits. There was no immediate independent corroboration of the reports.

 

At one factory in the textile town of Mahalla, more than striking 1,500 workers blocked roads, continuing a long-running dispute with the owner. And more than 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the city of Quesna went on strike while some 5,000 unemployed youth stormed a government building in Aswan, demanding the dismissal of the governor.

 

For many foreign visitors to Egypt, Aswan is known as a starting point or destination for luxury cruises to and from Luxor on the Nile River. The government’s Ministry of Civil Aviation reported on Wednesday that flights to Egypt had dropped by 70 percent since the protests began.

 

In Cairo, sanitation workers demonstrated around their headquarters in Dokki.

 

While state television has focused its coverage on episodes of violence that could spread fear among the wider Egyptian public and prompt calls for the restoration, Al Ahram’s coverage was a departure from its usual practice of avoiding reporting that might embarrass the government.

 

In the lobby of the newspaper, journalists on Wednesday were in open revolt against the newspaper’s management and editorial policies.

 

Some called their protest a microcosm of the Egyptian uprising, with young journalists leading demands for better working conditions and less biased coverage. “We want a voice,” said Sara Ramadan, 23, a sports reporter.

 

The turmoil at the newspaper has already changed editorial content, with the English-language online edition openly criticizing what it called “the warped and falsified coverage by state media” of the protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere.

 

The paper described how “more than 500 media figures” issued a statement declaring “their rejection of official media coverage of the January 25 uprising and demanded that Minister of Information Anas El-Fikki step down.”

 

Members of the Journalists Syndicate moved toward a no-confidence vote against their leader, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, a former Mubarak speech writer, the daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on its English-language Web site.

 

Several of the dozens of protesters occupying the lobby on Wednesday said the editor of the English-language division heads to the square to join the protests every night, joined by many of the staff.

 

The scattered protests and labor unrest seemed symptomatic of an emerging trend for some Egyptians to air an array of grievances, some related to the protests and some of an older origin.

 

The government’s bid to project its willingness to make concessions has had limited success. On Tuesday, Vice President Suleiman announced the creation of a committee of judges and legal scholars to propose constitutional amendments.

 

But all the members are considered Mubarak loyalists.

 

The Obama administration was continuing its efforts to influence a transition. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called Mr. Suleiman on Tuesday to ask him to lift the 30-year emergency law that the government has used to suppress and imprison opposition leaders, to stop imprisoning protesters and journalists, and to invite demonstrators to help develop a specific timetable for opening up the political process. He also asked Mr. Suleiman to open talks on Egypt’s political future to a wider range of opposition members.

 

Mr. Suleiman has said only that Egypt will remove the emergency law when the situation justifies its repeal, and the harassment and arrest of journalists and human rights activists has continued even in the last few days.

 

And while he raised the prospect of a coup, he also said, “we want to avoid that — meaning uncalculated and hasty steps that produce more irrationality.”

 

“There will be no ending of the regime, nor a coup, because that means chaos,” Mr. Suleiman said. And he warned the protesters not to attempt more civil disobedience, calling it “extremely dangerous.” He added, “We absolutely do not tolerate it.”

 

On Tuesday, young organizers guiding the movement from a tent city inside Tahrir Square, or Liberation Square, showed the discipline and stamina that they say will help them outlast Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Suleiman, even if their revolt devolves into a war of attrition.

 

Many in the crowd, for example, said they had turned out because organizers had spread the word over loudspeakers and online media for demonstrators to concentrate their efforts on just Tuesdays and Fridays, enabling their supporters to rest in between. And while Mr. Mubarak remains in office, they say, there is no turning back.

 

Many in the crowd said discussed the inspiration they drew from the interview with the freed organizer, Mr. Ghonim. A Google executive, he had been the anonymous administrator of a Facebook group that enlisted tens of thousands to oppose the Mubarak government by publicizing a young Egyptian’s beating death at the hands of its reviled police force.

 

In the tearful conversation on Egypt’s Dream TV, Mr. Ghonim told the story of his “kidnapping,” secret imprisonment in blindfolded isolation for 12 days and determination to overturn Egypt’s authoritarian government. Both Mr. Ghonim and his interviewer, Mona el-Shazly, appeared in Tahrir Square Tuesday to cheer on the revolt.

 

Some protesters said they saw the broadcast as a potential turning point in a propaganda war that has so far gone badly against them, with the state-run television network and newspapers portraying the crowds in Tahrir Square as a dwindling band of obstructionists doing the bidding of foreign interests.

 

Organizers had hinted in recent days that they intended to expand out of the square to keep the pressure on the government. Then, around 3 p.m., a bearded man with a bullhorn led a procession around the tanks guarding the square and down several blocks to the Parliament. Many of the protesters still wore bandages on their heads from a 12-hour war of rocks and stones against Mubarak loyalists a few days before.

 

“Parliament is a great pressure point,” said Ahmed el-Droubi, a biologist. “What we need to do is unite this protest and Tahrir, and that is just the first step. Then we will expand further until Mr. Mubarak gets the point.”

 

Back in Tahrir Square, more members of the Egyptian elite continued to turn up in support of the protestors, including the pop star Shireen Abdel Wahab and the soccer goalkeeper Nader al-Sayed. Brigades of university employees and telephone company employees joined the protests, as did a column of legal scholars in formal black robes.

 

Many at the protests buttonholed Americans to express deep disappointment with President Obama, shaking their heads at his ambiguous messages about an orderly transition. They warned that the country risked incurring a resentment from the Egyptian people that could last long after Mr. Mubarak is gone. 

 

Leur presse (David D. Kirkpatrick,
New York Times), 9 février.

 

 

Extrême violence en province

 

Le Caire, 9 février 2011. Tous les yeux sont rivés sur le Caire, vitrine de la toute nouvelle «tolérance démocratique» du nouveau gouvernement de Omar Suleiman et de son premier ministre Ahmed Chafik. Loin des caméras de télévision et de l'attention internationale, la province, elle, connaît depuis deux jours une escalade de la barbarie.

 

Les «garanties» et la «bonne volonté» affichée du nouveau gouvernement n'ont aucune réalité.

 

Les forces de police, quasiment absentes du Caire, sont déployées en province à grande échelle, notamment à Mahallah — ville ouvrière, capitale de l'industrie textile.

 

Les baltageyyas (policiers en civils et hommes de main armés) sont à nouveau lancés contre la population dans plusieurs villes : Suez, Wadi el Guedid, Tanta

 

al-Wadi al-Jadid

 

Le CHU d'Assiout (Haute Égypte) rapporte que 61 personnes ont été blessées hier soir à l'arme automatique. 8 morts. Alexandrie connaît des affrontements et des violences du même ordre.

 

Ce qui frappe à Mahallah, c'est de voir réapparaître sur la scène les camions anti-émeute de la police, et que ceux-ci cohabitent avec les chars d'une armée passive.

 

Laissez-faire, donc, de la part de l'armée.

 

L'armée ne peut pas se permettre de tirer sur les manifestants. C'est tout simplement inconcevable. Elle peut en revanche se retirer de la partie ou ne pas prendre part aux confrontations sanglantes. C'est ce que l'on voit dans la vidéo fournie ci-dessous où un fourgon de la police fonce dans les manifestants en fauchant ceux qui se trouvent sur son passage. Par dizaines, des manifestants encerclent le fourgon et le renversent.

 

Il semblerait que tout soit fait pour que la population se retourne contre son armée et que, «légitimement», celle-ci réplique. C'est grave.

 

 

Cris d’Égypte, 9 février.

 

 

Grève des métalos et des dockers du canal à Suez

Steel and Canal shipyard workers strike in Suez continues

 

Wednesday was another day of industrial action in Suez.

 

 

In an escalation of industrial action in Suez, workers at the national and Egyptian Steel companies and the Suez Canal Port Authority shipyard were among those staging strikes and sit-ins for being deprived their material rights.

 

Aly Hussein, a shipyard worker, confirmed that the sit-in was in protest at the management's insistent refusal to support chronically ill workers, despite their poor health being on account of their work. 1500 workers took part in the sit-in.

 

In National Steel's plant, the 500 striking workers accused the head of the management of denying them their rights. “Here we have been under conditions for six years and we won't be silent,” said Mohammed Sayed, a worker.

 

Egyptian Steel workers, for their part, staged a sit-in after blocking the road. Workers stated that they receive the lowest wages despite the pollution they endure. 

 

Said Abdel Naby - Ahram Online, 9 février.

 

 

Grève dans cinq entreprises du canal de Suez

Five Suez Canal companies workers go on strike, no major disruptions witnessed yet

 

Workers from 5 service companies owned by Suez Canal Authority in the cities of Suez, Port-Said and Ismailia began an open-ended sit in today.

 

Over 6000 protesters have agreed that they will not go home today once their shift is over and will continue their sit-in in front of the company's headquarters until their demands are met. They are protesting against poor wages and deteriorating health and working conditions and demanded that their salaries and benefits meet the standard of those working for the Suez Canal Authority.

 

A senior official from the Suez Canal Authority told Ahram online that the Suez Canal didn't witness any disruptions today, and that disruptions are not expected in the days to come.

 

“The strike will not affect the operation of the Suez Canal and movement of ships. These companies work in areas far from the canal zone and movement of ships,”  a senior official told Reuters.

 

46 ships crossed the Canal today. 

 

Ahram Online, 8 février. 

 

 

 Égypte : le pouvoir brandit la menace de l'armée, la révolte s'étend

 

Le pouvoir contesté du président Hosni Moubarak a averti mercredi que l'armée pourrait intervenir en cas de «chaos» en Égypte, au 16e jour d'une mobilisation populaire tenace marqué par des manifestations hostiles au Parlement et au gouvernement.

 

La révolte a touché une ville à 400 km au sud du Caire, El Kharga, où cinq personnes blessées dans des heurts entre manifestants et policiers qui ont fait usage de balles réelles ont succombé, selon des sources médicales. Une centaine d'autres ont été blessées.

 

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À la contestation politique se sont ajoutés plusieurs mouvements sociaux portant sur les salaires ou les conditions de travail, dans les arsenaux de Port-Saïd (nord-est), dans plusieurs sociétés privées travaillant sur le canal de Suez (est) ou encore à l'aéroport du Caire.

 

Maintenant la pression, la Maison Blanche a estimé que la poursuite de la mobilisation populaire en Égypte montrait que les réformes politiques n'étaient encore pas suffisantes, alors que le département d'État a encouragé l'armée égyptienne à continuer à faire preuve de modération.

 

Durcissant le ton à l'égard des manifestants qui ont rejeté toutes les mesures d'apaisement du régime, le ministre égyptien des Affaires étrangères Ahmed Aboul Gheit a prévenu que «l'armée interviendrait en cas de chaos pour reprendre les choses en main».

 

«Si cela arrive (…), les forces armées se verront obligées de défendre la Constitution et la sécurité nationale de l'Égypte. Nous serons dans une situation très dangereuse», a-t-il dit, selon l'agence officielle Mena qui reprenait une interview accordée par le ministre à la chaîne Al-Arabiya.

 

Déjà mardi, le vice-président Omar Souleimane avait averti qu'une fin immédiate du régime «signifierait le chaos».

 

Mais les manifestants semblaient refuser de lâcher prise, exigeant rien de moins que le départ immédiat de M. Moubarak, 82 ans, qui a promis de s'effacer à la fin de son mandat en septembre et formé une commission pour amender des articles de la Constitution contestés par l'opposition et liés à la présidentielle.

 

Sur la place Tahrir, rond-point du Caire devenu symbole du mouvement déclenché le 25 janvier, des dizaines de milliers de manifestants ont encore réclamé le départ du chef de l'État, qui a gouverné l'Égypte d'une main de fer pendant près de 30 ans.

 

«Je n'ai pas peur, j'ai déjà vu la mort», a assuré Ahmad Talal, un étudiant de 25 ans, parmi une foule dense agitant des drapeaux égyptiens. «Je ne crains pas les paroles ou les menaces d'Omar Souleimane et de son gouvernement, parce que nous sommes là pour gagner notre liberté et celle de notre pays.»

 

Les propos de M. Souleimane ont été dénoncés par l'opposition, dont les Frères musulmans, bête noire du régime. «Il s'agit d'une menace inacceptable aux yeux du peuple égyptien», a affirmé Mohamed Moursi, un responsable de la confrérie. «Tout le monde est d'accord pour continuer (à manifester) quelles que soient les menaces.»

 

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Près de la place Tahrir, des centaines de personnes ont encerclé le Parlement et le siège du gouvernement, situés l'un en face de l'autre. Les deux bâtiments étaient protégés par des blindés et le Conseil des ministres a dû se tenir dans un autre lieu.

 

Les manifestants anti-gouvernementaux ont été galvanisés par la foule monstre rassemblée la veille place Tahrir, où, selon des photographes de l'AFP, le nombre des protestataires a été le plus important depuis le début de la contestation.

 

La révolte a aussi touché la ville d'Assiout, au sud du Caire, où des manifestants anti-Moubarak ont bloqué une voie de chemin de fer et coupé une autoroute reliant le nord et le sud du pays à l'aide de pneus brûlés.

 

Des manifestants ont également saccagé un bâtiment officiel dans la ville de Port Saïd (nord-est), à l'entrée méditerranéenne du canal de Suez, et incendié la voiture du gouverneur.

 

Parallèlement, la vie reprenait au Caire son cours dans la journée, la plupart des commerces ayant rouvert dans la capitale. Mais en soirée le couvre-feu reste en vigueur au Caire, à Alexandrie (nord) et Suez (est) de 20H00 (18H00 GMT) à 06H00 (04H00 GMT).

 

Entretemps, les Frères musulmans ont réaffirmé qu'ils ne recherchaient pas le pouvoir, alors que beaucoup, en particulier en Occident, redoutent l'émergence d'une Égypte islamiste.

 

Depuis le 3 février, les manifestations se déroulent le plus souvent dans le calme et l'armée n'est intervenue contre les protestataires. Des heurts entre policiers et manifestants les premiers jours, puis entre pro et anti Moubarak le 2 février, ont cependant fait près de 300 morts, selon l'ONU et Human Rights Watch, ainsi que des milliers de blessés.

 

Leur presse (Agence Faut Payer), 9 février.

 

 

 

Déferlante de grèves

Egypt: A new wave of workers strikes and sit-ins

 

Mass protests demanding change have triggered a fresh wave of mass strikes and workers’ sit-ins across the country Wednesday, spotlighting long-ignored economic demands.

 

Following the “Million Man” demonstrations and mass strikes that escalated across Egypt on Tuesday, a new wave of mass strikes and workers' sit-ins also spread on Wednesday.

 

 

Ahram Online has been receiving continuous reports of strikes breaking out in both public and private companies across the country, many of which are still being confirmed. At the time of publishing, the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) had confirmed the following:

 

More than 2000 workers started a strike in Helwan’s silk factories and circulated the office of the company’s chairman demanding his exclusion.

 

Thousands of workers have started a strike in Helwan’s coke factories demanding higher wages and full-time contracts.

 

In Mahala's Spinning and Weaving factory, hundreds started a sit-in in front of the administration building.

 

In Kafr El-Zaiat hospital, 1500 nurses started a sit-in demanding their late wages.

 

Four hundred workers in Suez’s Egypt National Steel Factory started an open strike demanding higher wages.

 

In Menoufeia, more than 750 of Schweppes factory workers started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

 

More than 800 of the spinning and weaving workers in Menoufeia started a sit-in demanding higher wages.

 

In Cairo, 200 workers from the General Committee for Drug Supervision started a sit-in demanding full time contracts and higher wages.

 

Apart from the demands calling for democratic reforms that have triggered Egypt’s mass protests, social and economic needs have been at the core of the country’s political unrest in recent years.

 

Although a 2010 court ruling demanded that a new minimum wage be set, the government promised to set a minimum of only LE400 per month (about $70), allowing tensions to soar. 

 

Ahram Online, 9 février.

 

 

La Haute Égypte rejoint la révolution

Upper Egypt joins the revolution

 

Local and foreign press coverage of Egypt’s pro-democracy protests has mainly focused on Tahrir Square at the heart of Egypt’s capital in Cairo. Little attention has been paid to Upper Egypt, however, where renewed protests and violence has unfolded over the past two days. Relatively calm since the beginning of the protests on 25 January, the Upper Egyptian region has now fully entered the nationwide protest movement.

 

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Violent clashes erupted Tuesday between policemen and demonstrators in al-Kharga, a city in the governorate of Wadi al-Gedid, 275km from Assiut.

 

A police officer cursed protesters standing by a local coffee shop, who replied by throwing stones at a police vehicle. The situation quickly degenerated when policemen opened fire with live ammunition at protesters, who replied by throwing Molotov cocktails at the police station. Protesters set fire to the nearby courthouse, the Traffic Regulation Authority building and the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters as violent clashes resulted in 69 injured and 3 deaths. Some victims were transported to the University Hospital in Assiut, which received orders not to disclose any information to journalists. Throughout the day, the police sent reinforcements and the clashes remained ongoing.

 

In Assiut, a small scale youth demonstration of 300 participants began on 25 January, and all of the demonstrators were immediately arrested by security forces. They were beaten by the police and detained for two days, despite a prosecutor’s order for their release. Since that time, protesters there have continued to organized city-wide demonstrations.

 

Samir Khachaba, former secretary of the Lawyers’ Syndicate, said that over 15,000 protesters demonstrated on Tuesday in downtown Assiut. They called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

 

Khachaba, who was involved in securing the release of jailed demonstrators during the past two weeks, explained that “people have been afraid for a very long time.” “The latest parliamentary elections have been particularly violent with state-hired thugs intimidating people,” he said. “But today, people have overcome their fear partly thanks to the inspiring demonstrations happening in Tahrir.”

 

Traditionally a rather depoliticized region, Upper Egypt’s protests are motivated by social and economic factors, according to Amr Choubaki, a researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. “The demonstrators in Upper Egypt are not activists. But the frustration caused by their economic and social situation is increasing, coupled with the feeling of being completely marginalized from the decision-making process,” he said.

 

Diaa Rachwane, an analyst from the Al-Ahram Center who originally hails from Upper Egypt, explained that people from this region, under the constant threat of repression, have rarely rebelled against the state. “Since the time of the pharaohs, the State has always maintained a strong presence in Upper Egypt, instilling both fear and respect among the population. Rachwane explained that escalating protests in Upper Egypt were spurred by economic problems such as a recent bread and flour shortage in local bakeries.

 

In the Beni Shouqeir village in the Manfalout district of Assiut, around 8000 people blocked roads on Wednesday with burning tree trunks. They attacked cars that attempt to pass, according to witnesses.

 

“What’s happening now is a spontaneous outburst,” said Rachwane. “People had a limited experience in conducting demonstrations; even those in Tahrir square required time to acquire it.”

 

The people in Assiut direct their anger at governmental buildings like the regional museum because “these buildings seem to represent local symbols of government injustice,” he added. In Luxor, the government appropriated farmers’ land belonging to farmers. Farmers now camp in these lands with the intention of staying.

 

Rachwane believes that the unrest will continue as long as the regime makes no real concessions. 

 

Mai El-Wakil, Louise Sarant, 
Al-Masry Al-Youm, 9 février.

 

 

Grève des chemins de fer, traffic interrompu

Trains disrupted as 1000s of railway employees strike

 

Some 3000 Egyptian National Railways (ENR) employees went on strike demanding that Transport Minister Atef Abdel Hamid reconsider their incentives. The protesters sat on railway lines, disrupting train services, and threatened not to move until their demands are met.

 

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Egyptian Railway Authority (ERA) head Mustafa Qenawi along with a number of ERA management held talks with the protesters in an attempt to break the strike and restore train services.

 

An official source at the Transport Ministry told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ENR had received instructions to respond to all of the demands and to resolve the strike peacefully.

 

Meanwhile, Public Transport Authority (PTA) drivers and employees said they will begin a strike on Thursday to demand that their incentives be reconsidered. One driver told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the strike will begin at the PTA’s Nasr City main branch and that bus services will be suspended until their demands are achieved.

 

Khair Ragheb - Al-Masry Al-Youm, 9 février.

 

 

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Publié dans Internationalisme

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