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Posts Tagged ‘Aswat Masriya

Looming poverty line: Struggle of Egyptians for a living, for a piece of bread

 

SPECIAL COVERAGE | Looming poverty line: The struggle for bread

                                Sunday, December 15, 2013 6:51 PM

Looming poverty line: The struggle for bread

 

Aswat Masriya presents a special coverage on the struggle of Egyptians for a living in light of the country’s deteriorating economy.

–  FEATURE | Family struggles reflect Egypt economic deterioration 

–  Expert: Govt mechanisms to tackle poverty not enough – INTERVIEW

–  FEATURE l To feed my children or take the bus 

–  FACTBOX | Living costs and income of Egyptians in 2012-2013 

                    Aswat Masriya is a free website.
Everyone is encouraged to use the content produced by Aswat Masriya journalists, as long as the website is credited and a link back  to the website is included.
Content from our content partners or Reuters cannot be republished without permission

Worse than During Morsi? Students and minors detained

As Egypt prepares for a brand new presidential election and amends its suspended constitution, hundreds are being rounded up and detained, including many students.

Twelve students were sentenced to 17 years last week on charges of possessing light weapons and raiding and vandalizing Al-Azhar, the most prestigious Islamic institution.

Arwa Gaballa posted on Aswat Masriya this Nov. 18, 22013

Students and minors detained in post-Mursi Egypt

CAIRO, Nov 17 (Aswat Masriya)

Hundreds were arrested last month on the 40th anniversary of the October Six War, where thousands rallied to celebrate the army’s victory while others marched to denounce what they view as a “military coup”.

Abdullah Hamdy, 20, is one of 46 students who were arrested on October 6, where some of the detainees were as young as 12 and 14 years old and over 10 of them were under 18.

According to Hamdy’s detention records, supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi and Muslim Brotherhood members tried to raid Tahrir Square but were stopped by civilian volunteers who then clashed with them.

The records say that the detainees fired shots and rubber bullets on the residents as well as the police and army forces who were securing the area.

They add that police and army forces intervened to disperse the confrontations between the rivals and arrested the 164 defendants.

Hamdy has denied that he was armed and said that civilian volunteers handed him over to the authorities around midday “for no apparent reason” and “not from clashes”, his older brother, Ahmed, told Aswat Masriya.

Hamdy, a Mechanical Engineering student at the AUC (The American University in Cairo), said he was in the vicinity of the university’s downtown campus when he was captured.

The 164 detainees mentioned in Hamdy’s records were arrested in different areas and at different times but all charged with the same allegations.

Other records of this nature were created at different police stations across the capital on the same day.

Associate Professor Lamyaa El-Gabry, who taught Hamdy Applied Thermodynamics, described him as a mature student who took responsibility for his actions.

“In class, Abdullah was polite, punctual, attentive, and engaged. He was honest and candid and never tried to negotiate his way to a higher grade or an extension or any of those things that are not uncommon among students,” she said.

El-Gabry is also the faculty advisor of the Mechanical Engineering Association where Abdullah was the head of the Academics Committee.

“Abdullah always struck me as a very quiet and humble young man but under that apparently timid smile was someone who has depth and a commendable sense of service to his community,” Professor El-Gabry said.

Hamdy, like many Egyptians, voted for Mursi and although, according to his brother, he does not belong to the Brotherhood, he is critical of the “coup”.

Egypt’s army ousted Mursi in July in response to mass demonstrations across the country and the collection of millions of petitions asking him to resign.

Since Mursi’s ouster, his supporters and Muslim Brotherhood members have been staging demonstrations to denounce the army and call for his reinstatement.

Some of those who join these demonstrations did not support Mursi and do not belong to the Brotherhood but are against military rule.

Security forces violently dispersed two pro-Mursi sit-ins in August, killing at least a thousand people, and hundreds of Brotherhood supporters have been arrested in the past three months.

The Brotherhood’s Mursi became Egypt’s first democratically elected president exactly a year before his ouster upon defeating Ahmed Shafiq, who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister.

Mursi and his top aides are now standing trial on charges of inciting violence during the past year.

Hamdy and the others were first kept in military detention of very poor conditions where they had to take turns to sleep, as at least 50 people were crammed in one room, until they were sent to prison where each now has their own bed.

Those who are under 18 were then released for not meeting the legal age of detention.

Now detained in a room of 70 beds at the Marg Prison, Hamdy, who is in his 3rd year of studying Mechanical Engineering at AUC, is visited by his family every week.

Professor Lotfi K. Gaafar, who taught Hamdy Engineering and Project Management in the spring semester of 2013 and Production and Inventory Control this fall semester until his arrest, said, “The charges levied against Abdullah were even more shocking. They are totally out of sync with Abdullah’s low profile, humble, and peaceful personality.”

Professor Gaafar added that Hamdy would often visit him in his office to discuss his future plans to sell souvenir items engraved with messages of peace and hope.

“Egypt needs people like Abdullah in the forefront not in captivity,” he said.

A prosecutor adjourned Hamdy’s case to December 7 last week.

According to a Facebook page created by his family and friends, the 20-year-old is staying strong and says, “Fear is defeat and despair is betrayal.”

Ahmed Ezzat from Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression said that many students are being put on trial on charges of political nature.

He added that the judiciary must be neutral and not involve students in the current political struggle as not to hurt their futures.

The lawyer and rights activist described the 17-year sentence that the 12 Azhar students received last week as “very harsh”, explaining that it violates the criminal code.

Note: This November 2013, Egypt banned peaceful demonstrations, altogether.

As Egypt’s economy deteriorates: Female breadwinners struggle…

Women are the main breadwinners in as many as 30% of Egyptian households, a role frowned on by conservative Egyptian society, but increasingly important in a country plunged into dire economic straits by the turbulent politics of the post-Mubarak era.

Many of them are poor, illiterate and lacking experience of formal employment, and are forced into menial work in the informal economy, doing jobs that are poorly paid, with no insurance or pension and involving exposure to the public gaze that attracts the disapproval of neighbours.

Arwa Gaballa posted this Nov. 12, 2013 in Aswat Masriya:

A woman sells vegetables in downtown  – Aswat Masriya

“Things were difficult before the uprising too, with those in power robbing us, but at least the little we had was enough to live on,” said Zeinab Abdel Fattah, 64. “Now we have nothing. Life has become unbearable.”

Abdel Fattah, who has a family of 8, leaves her home every morning at 6 a.m. for the city centre. Sitting cross-legged on a platform in the heart of Cairo, she sells eggs, eggplants and cottage cheese to passersby, but often returns empty-handed.

“No one buys anything anymore,” she said.

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll of gender experts found Egypt to be the worst country in the Arab world to be a woman, due to endemic sexual harassment, a surge in trafficking, high rates of female genital mutilation and a rollback of freedoms since the revolution.

Egypt scored badly on work-related issues, too. Gender-based discrimination affects many women in the workplace and is rarely punished, respondents said.

While many Egyptian women have to work because their husbands died or divorced or abandoned them, others, like Abdel Fattah, support their family because their husband’s pension is small or his work is irregular or unstable.

“My husband was only a worker before he retired; he can’t read, you see. Now his pension is  500 Egyptian pounds ($72.57), which is not enough to feed us.”

Mona Ezzat of the New Woman Foundation, an advocacy group, said that while official data estimate 16 percent of Egyptian breadwinners are women, independent sources put the figure as high as 30 percent.

“Because the majority of these women are impoverished and thus are mostly illiterate and have no skills or experience, they resort to the informal economy, cleaning houses, street vending and so on,” she said.

The problem with working in the informal economy is that these women are not entitled to pensions or health or social insurance, and they are often exposed to physical and psychological violence that they cannot challenge, as they have no legal protection.

Even if Abdel Fattah’s thin grey hair weren’t showing beneath her worn-out headscarf, the wrinkles on her tired face, her missing teeth and rough, dirty hands were evidence of the difficult life she leads.

Like her husband, Abdel Fattah cannot read or write, but all her children can.

My 6 children can read. Some of my children even went to university!” she said proudly with a big smile. “That was when things were easier, before they got this bad.”

The New Woman Foundation’s Ezzat said: “The struggles of breadwinners have worsened as Egypt’s economy deteriorated.” She added that there is no real plan for economic growth, as can be seen from the increase in the number of street vendors struggling to scrape a living.

The economy grew by 7% a year in the period leading to the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 — part of the Arab Spring that swept North Africa — but has since slowed sharply because of the collapse of tourism and the fall in foreign investment.

GDP growth last year was only 2.1 percent, down from 2.2 percent in 2011, the state news agency reported earlier this month — worryingly low for a country whose population of 85 million suffers from high unemployment and is expected to reach 100 million by 2030.

Price rises have put many goods beyond the reach of average households, and this has led the government to draw up a plan to distribute basic supplies at subsidized prices.

SOCIAL PRESSURE

In Abdel Fattah’s case, her already grinding burden is made worse by her neighbours’ criticism of her for working at her age, “as if it was by choice”.

They think there is a lot of money in what I do,” she laughed, adding that her neighbours mock her for having to work when she has six grown-up children.

Ezzat explains that the way female breadwinners are viewed and treated in Egypt is a psychological burden, especially as many of them live in poor areas which tend to be more conservative and more critical.

Female breadwinners are often criticised for spending too much time outside their home without a male figure around, a cultural judgment that is not limited to poor neighbourhoods, Ezzat said.

Neighbourly criticism and social pressure often force these women either to take their sons out of school and send them off to work in their place, or to marry off their daughters quickly to shift the responsibility for earning the family income to their husbands.

“The sons are deprived of getting an education and the daughters are married off before their time,” Ezzat said.

ANA HUNNA CAMPAIGN

Rights activists and women’s rights organizations in the Middle East posted their thoughts on female breadwinners in a Twitter campaign on Saturday.

Hundreds of activists around the Middle East joined the online debate, using the hashtags “#Loqmet3ish” and “#anahunna”. The first hashtag, Loqmet3ish, means “a piece of bread”, an Arabic phrase used widely to describe making a living.

The campaign, organized by Ana Hunna (I Am Here), said that women are the main supporters of 33% of Egyptian households and families.

“Despite the fact that norms (are) transforming in Egypt, women are still generally defined as dependants and subordinate to men,” Ana Hunna posted on its account.

Ana Hunna started out in 2011 as an online campaign to empower working women, but gradually expanded and now aspires to become an actual initiative, one of the organizers, Esraa Saleh, told Aswat Masriya.

The campaign used to depend on making films to raise awareness of the need for gender equality in employment, but it is now looking for more activities that could have a greater impact on the ground, Saleh said.

“If we (female breadwinners) decide to not work for just one week, this society will be paralyzed,” Rana Allam wrote on Twitter.

It’s time we recognized Arab women; the real heroes of our generation,” said Hebbah Hussein, another participant in the campaign. “Mothers and breadwinners will shape Egypt’s future.”

Egypt casualties matching Iraq score this month?

The UN and international communities are trying hard to forget that Iraq still exist. The monthly casualties in Iraq due to daily dozen terrorist attacks on civilians have climbed to over 3,000.

Iraq, this once most highly literate State and the wealthiest among the “Arab” States has been reduced to suffer the ignominies of the most ignorant and Takfiri terrorist movements implanted by Saudi Arabia Wahhabi regime.

And Egypt restored ex-generals’ role in provinces before the latest mass bloody crackdown on the peaceful sit-in of the Moslem Brotherhood movement. The casualties are climbing quickly: Over 560 killed and 4,000 injured withing a day, and every day scores are being harvested since the bloody crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

Tom Perry posted in Aswat Masriya (Egyptian Voices) this August 13, 2013

CAIRO, Aug 13 (Reuters) – Egypt’s interim president named at least 18 new provincial governors on Tuesday, half of them retired generals, in a shake-up that restored the influence of men from army and police backgrounds and flushed out Muslim Brotherhood members.

Deposed President Mohamed Mursi had appointed a number of civilians as provincial governors during his one year in office. Many of them were members of the Brotherhood. That marked a break with the Hosni Mubarak era, when the posts typically went to retired army and police officers.

The new appointees were sworn in by interim President Adli Mansour, head of the army-backed government which replaced the Mursi administration that was removed from power last month after mass protests against Brotherhood rule.

                            Minister of Defence and Military Production Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inspects an air defence formation on March 28, 2013 – photo from the Facebook page of the military spokesman

Critics said the line-up announced on Tuesday was a step backwards.

“It is Mubarak’s days,” prominent blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah wrote on his Twitter feed. “Down down with every Mubarak. Sisi is Mubarak,” he added, referring to General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who deposed Mursi.

Mursi’s final days in office were marked by controversy fuelled by his decision to appoint a member of the Gamaa Islamiya, a once-armed Islamist group, as governor of Luxor, where members of the movement killed 58 tourists in 1997.

Mursi’s appointment of Brotherhood members as provincial governors fuelled accusations that his movement was staging a power grab – a charge the Brotherhood always denied but which added fuel the uprising against his rule.

Strong Egypt party, a party led by former Brotherhood politician Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, described the shake up as “a step towards the militarization of the state that copied the approach of the Brotherhood“, Al-Ahram reported, quoting its spokesman.

In a meeting at the presidential palace, Mansour told the governors their priority was to improve public services, “provide essential commodities at appropriate prices, and bring about security in the Egyptian street”.

Writing on his Facebook page, Mohamed Abu Hamed, a former MP, said it was “a very positive step” towards implementing the army-backed roadmap that envisions parliamentary elections within about five months. (Additional reporting by Omar Fahmyl; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Morsi amends Egypt constitution to shrink voters turnout? Are you voting NO?

An amendment to Egypt’s referendum laws on Monday is banning voters from casting their ballots except in constituencies where they are registered confirmed President Mohammed Morsi. And Morsi is going ahead with the controversial referendum.

Why this amendment?

Mohannad Sabry posted from Cairo on Dec 11. 2012:

The decision to amend Egypt’s referendum law to prohibit absentee balloting seems designed to ensure passage of the controversial draft constitution supported by President Mohammed Morsi

The abrupt amendment of the referendum laws that were drawn by the interim military government in 2011 meant that the number of citizens voting on Egypt’s postrevolution constitution — the first to be written since the 1971 constitution that consolidated Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years of dictatorship — will significantly shrink.

Only 4 days before voters cast their ballots, questions were raised about the intent behind the amendments, as millions of Egyptians are forced to leave their hometowns in search of jobs and better living standards.

The southern coast of the Sinai Peninsula is Egypt’s main example of those who will be excluded from the referendum by the new law.

Some 300,000 workers, who come from every governorate across the country, are employed by hundreds of hotels, resorts and other tourist facilities in the towns of Sharm El-Sheikh, Taba, Dahab and Newiba.

Shortly before the 2012 presidential elections that brought Morsi to power, Sinai’s tourism sector workers threatened to strike if they weren’t allowed to cast absentee ballots in polling stations close to their work places.

Judge Ahmed Sallam, official spokesman of the Ministry of Justice, said that “such measurements were applied to guarantee fairness and transparency throughout the December 15 referendum.”

Monday’s amendment was an addition to the significant legal, administrative and executive failure in planning the constitutional referendum.

The election and referendum laws applied in the March 2011 referendum, November 2011 parliament elections and the June 2012 presidential elections failed to set a minimum voters turnout that if not met the electoral process becomes invalid.

Under such laws, the results of an election process are accepted even if the turnout is only one million voters, a semi-blind process that only sees numerical figures but fails to reflect national will.

President Morsi was elected with about 12.3 million votes in a country of around 90 million citizens and more than 50 million registered voters.

Abdelsattar El-Balshi, a prominent lawyer who filed a lawsuit appealing the candidacy of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat El-Shater before the June 2012 presidential elections, told Al-Monitor:

“It is not a matter of 51% wins, Morsi and his government apparently don’t understand that Egyptians are seeking a constitution that will satisfy the hopes of decades to come. The minimum turnout should match what is applied in parliament when voting on laws.

“If passing or amending a law requires the votes of two thirds of parliament then you should as well grant that to the public who originally elected members of the legislative authority,” El-Balshi continued.

Meanwhile, the judiciary’s capability to administrate a nationwide referendum remains uncertain amid spreading boycott calls by judges and prosecutors who viewed Morsi’s Nov. 22 decree that granted him immunity as an unprecedented violation on the judiciary.

Morsi’s decision on Dec. 9 to annul his controversial decree after massive opposition protests and bloody clashes across the country failed to absorb the judiciary’s anger.

Judge Ahmed El-Zend, head of the independent Judges Club, announced in a news conference Tuesday morning: “90% of Egypt’s judges refuse to take part in administrating the constitutional referendum.”

Judge Zakaria Abdelaziz, former head of the Judges Club, told the local Al-Jazeera Live Egypt Tuesday:

“If the number of judges participating does not reach the 11,000 needed to cover the nationwide polling stations, then the referendum could be held in two phases or polling stations could be combined.”

Abdelaziz denied El-Zend’s claims and called on judges to refrain from boycotting.

No official statements regarding the number of participating judges were made by either the Ministry of Justice or the Elections Committee overseeing the referendum.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands demonstrated in Cairo to either support President Morsi’s insistence on holding the constitutional referendum on Saturday Dec. 15 or to condemn him for turning a blind eye on demands of millions of opposition members across the country.

The opposition’s front included dozens of leftist, liberal and democratic parties that did not endorse Morsi in the first round of elections in June 2012.

In the second round, he managed to garner 7 million of the 17 million votes that originally went to his competitors.

Tarek Hosni, a political analyst, told Al-Monitor:

“All those votes that didn’t go directly to Morsi in the first round of presidential elections will be against the constitution, except for an estimated 1 million Salafists who voted for Abdelmonem Abolfotoh but returned and continue to support Morsi. Those are all indicators that national consensus was never reached over this constitution and that Morsi is turning a blind eye on the opposition, he is struggling for 51% of the voters to pass the constitution, regardless what they represent or which sect of the community they come from.”

Hosni believes that rushing to end a political crisis he instigated, Morsi left no time for dialogue, consensus, or even preparation of laws and practical measures to guarantee a fair referendum that reflects the public’s will.

Hosni said: “And if this crippled document they call constitution passes, it will barely represent less than a quarter of Egypt”” end of article

On another note:

Khaled Abdullah published on De. 15:

Soldiers stand guard as people wait outside a polling center to vote in referendum on tge new constitution of Egypt in Cairo

The National Salvation Front – Egypt’s main opposition coalition – said on Saturday that the number and intensity of violations in the constitutional referendum suggest that there is an intention to rig the vote.

Reports produced by the Front’s operation room suggested that the violations were occurring all over the country.

The opposition group accused the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to “pass the Brotherhood constitution,” calling on all authorities to bear full responsibility to guarantee the transparency of the vote.

It called on the people to vote “no” in the referendum on the controversial charter and prevent rigging attempts.

This content is from :Aswat Masriya Note 1: Aswat Masriya is a free website. Everyone is encouraged to use the content produced by Aswat Masriya journalists, as long as the website is credited and a link back to the website is included. Content from our content partners or Reuters cannot be republished without permission

Note 2: Mohannad Sabry is an Egyptian journalist based in Cairo. He has written for McClatchy Newspapers and The Washington Times, served as managing editor of Global Post’s reporting fellowship “Covering the Revolution” in Cairo as well as a contributor to its special reports “Tahrir Square” and “Egypt: the military, the people.”

Sabry was nominated to the 2011 Livingston Award for International Reporting. Born in Saudi Arabia and raised around the world, Sabry returned to Cairo in 2001 and has been covering Egypt since 2005. Follow him on Twitter: @mmsabry.


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