The list of blocked websites in Egypt keeps growing, as the
government widens what some say is an unprecedented crackdown on both
local and international digital outlets. So far, 114 websites have been blocked
in the north African nation since May 24, according to the latest
figures from the non-governmental organization Association for Freedom
of Thought and Expression.
A majority of these are news websites, but also included are
platforms that can be used to access blocked sites or that allow for
anonymous browsing and communication.
The affected websites include sites like Mada Masr, the financial newspaper Al Borsa,
and Huffington Post Arabic. Twelve websites linked to Al Jazeera were
also been blocked. Medium, the online publishing platform, was also
The outage also affected
Tor, the free software that provides users with online anonymity, and
Tor bridges, which helps users circumvent the blocking of Tor itself.
The website of the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), an
international network that monitors internship censorship and
surveillance, was also blocked.
The growing censorship comes as the government says it’s cracking down on websites that are “publishing false information” and “supporting terrorism.”
(Link in Arabic) Egypt is currently in the midst of a three-month state
emergency, following twin attacks on churches that killed almost 50
people in April.
The country is also part of a Saudi-led coalition that has put a blockade on Qatar, demanding, among other things,
the closure of the Doha-based Al Jazeera media network which it
considers to a be a propaganda tool for Islamists. The government of
president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is also embroiled in a maritime
demarcation agreement over its decision to vote on the transfer of two islands in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia—a move that has angered many Egyptians.
However, journalists and activists say the campaign is suppressing
free expression and voices critical of the government. Some are accusing
the regime of failing to disclose any judicial or administrative decision to block the sites—or whether emergency law provisions were applied.
“Even in the darkest days of the repressive Mubarak era, the
authorities didn’t cut off access to all independent news sites,” Najia
Bounaim, Amnesty International’s north Africa campaigns director, said.
In a June 19 report, OONI stated that deep packet inspection technology was being used to monitor and block these websites. Mada Masr, one of the blocked sites, also reported
that the decision to block the sites was carried through a “centralized
decision” by the government rather than by the country’s telecoms or
internet service providers.
Since going offline, sites like Mada have been publishing articles on
Facebook. Lina Attallah, the editor of the site, said the strategy of
blocking the sites works to the government’s advantage for now.
did something more grave like arresting team members or me it would
make big noise, whereas blocking the website is the best way to paralyze
us without paying a high price for it,” Attallah told Reuters.
*Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany, courtesy of Reuters
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified the maritime border demarcation agreement
that cedes sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia
on Saturday, according to a Cabinet statement.
The Tiran and Sanafir agreement was passed with a majority in Parliament on June 14, with only 119 MPs voting against it.
Sisi was able to seal the deal with Saudi Arabia after the Supreme
Constitutional Court temporarily froze two contradictory rulings, one
issued by the State Council in January and the other by the Court of
Urgent Matters in April, on Wednesday.
In June 2016 the State
Council’s Court of Administrative Justice (CAJ) annulled the agreement
signed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail in April of the same year. This
was followed by two Court of Urgent Matters rulings on September 29 and
December 31 to overturn the CAJ’s decision.
However, on January 16, the
State Council’s Supreme Administrative Court upheld the initial June
ruling, stating that the deal was a concession of territory, an act that
is prohibited per Article 151 of the Constitution. On April 2, the
Court of Urgent Matters overturned the CAJ’s decision.
political parties and prominent politicians held a press conference on
June 12, ahead of Parliament’s discussion of the deal, to announce a
series of sit-ins protesting the agreement which many members of Egypt’s
opposition hailed as unconstitutional.
The presser was attended by
dozens of activists and members of several political parties, as well as
former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Khaled Ali. Also in
attendance were ousted chief of the Central Auditing Authority Hesham
Geneina, expelled member of Parliament Mohamed Anwar Sadat, critical
journalist Khaled al-Balshy, National Council for Human Rights member
George Ishaq and former Ambassador Masoum Marzouk.
Parliament’s approval, hundreds of members of professional syndicates signed statements in opposition to the Tiran and Sanafir agreement,
including 850 journalists, 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s
general assembly and more than 600 members of the Cinema Syndicate,
Since the June press conference security forces
have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across several
governorates, apprehending more than 120 activists and protesters seen
to oppose the deal.
three-year prison sentences handed to 32 Tourah Cement Company security
workers earlier this month were reduced on Sunday to two months in a
ruling by the Maadi Appeals Court.
Maadi Criminal Court announced
the initial prison terms on June 4 on charges that asserted the workers
had assaulted a police captain, obstructed justice and used violence to
According to the findings of the Maadi
Appeals Court published by the Arabic Network for Human Rights
Information (ANRHI), the court dismissed all criminal charges leveled
against the 32 workers in its Sunday ruling, except the charge of
resisting authorities, as it found them guilty of obstructing police
efforts to apprehend a wanted worker by collectively assisting in his
Lawyer Gamal Eid, the director of the ANRHI, stated that
the appeals court’s Sunday ruling represented a move “from grave
injustice, to lesser injustice.”
The appeals court’s Sunday
ruling was based on Article 375 of Egypt’s Penal Code. “Anyone who uses
force, violence, terrorism, threats or illegal measures to attack or
attempt to attack authorities is liable to imprisonment for a period not
exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding LE 100,” the article
The workers are currently being held in the 15th of May prison, located on the outskirts of Cairo.
Those implicate in the case were among the 75 full-time security
personnel that initiated a sit-in in March, demanding full-time
contracts and retroactive payment of wages, as some had worked full time
at the company for up to 10 to 15 years on temporary or part-time
Police arrested 32 workers of the workers on the
Tourah Cement Company’s grounds on May 22. The prosecutor referred them
to trial the following day, and the court proceedings commenced on May
The Tourah Cement Company – which had requested the
deployment of police forces to disperse the workers’ sit-in protest –
has not stated whether it will meet workers’ demands for full-time
employment and benefits and reinstate those that have been arrested.
Lawyer Haiytham Mohamadein expressed skepticism that those who had been
involved in the sit-in would be allowed back into the company, let
alone be reinstated to their former jobs with full-time contracts and
benefits. Mohamadein said that the Tourah Cement Company is seeking to
employ new security workers through a private contracting company.
A host of organizations and individuals, both in Egypt and abroad, have
expressed solidarity with the imprisoned Tourah Cement Company workers
in a petition calling for the release of the 32 detainees.
Messages of international solidarity also have poured in from dozens of
trade unionists and labor activists from Australia, Austria, Canada,
Spain, UK, USA, among other countries.
The Tourah Cement Company
workers are the latest labor group to be arrested and referred to trial
for industrial action. In April, police arrested 16 protesting Telecom
Egypt Company workers in Cairo, while in January police forces
forcefully dispersed a sit-in at the IFFCO Oils Company in the Suez
Governorate, briefly arresting scores of workers.
2016, police were deployed to disperse two sit-ins at the privately
owned Egyptian Fertilizers Company (EFC) and the Egyptian Basic
Industries Corporation (EBIC), both of which are owned by the
billionaire Nassif Sawiris.
In September 2016, police conducted
dawn raids at the apartments of bus drivers from the Public Transport
Authority who had been planning a partial strike, detaining six drivers,
two of whom may still face trial. In May 2016, military police
surrounded a sit-in led by Alexandria Shipyard Company workers and
imposed a lockout on the company. Twenty-six civilian workers were
referred to military trial.
of members of professional syndicates have signed statements in
opposition to Parliament’s recent approval of the Tiran and Sanafir
agreement, brokered by Egypt and Saudi Arabia in April 2016.
Eight hundred and fifty journalists issued a statement on Sunday
announcing that they reject the agreement, which concedes sovereignty
over the two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, describing it as invalid
and “demanding that state institutions respect the Constitution and the
law, and the blood of martyrs who defended Egyptian land.”
Journalists Syndicate announced that it would launch an investigation
into the sit-in held in its headquarters on Wednesday, protesting the
Hatem Zakareya, a member of the syndicate’s board, told Mada
Masr that no request was submitted before the protest, in violation of
the syndicate’s bylaws. He added that investigations will also be
launched into footage aired on Al Jazeera and other pro-Muslim
Brotherhood channels from inside the building and its entrance showing
non-syndicate members attending the protest.
Gamal Abdel Rehim,
one of four syndicate board members who signed a statement rejecting the
agreement, told Mada Masr that allegations that Muslim
Brotherhood-affiliated channels entered the syndicate are untrue,
arguing that it is not necessary to submit a request before initiating
sit-ins at the syndicate.
“Never in the history of the syndicate
has any group submitted a request to start a sit-in,” he said, adding
that it is common for non-syndicate members to join political action
taking place within the syndicate.
A statement was also signed
by 620 members of the Engineers Syndicate’s general assembly denouncing
the deal, labeling it unconstitutional. The statement criticized
“attempts to pressure opposition and the blocking of websites that
attempt to reveal the truth of the matter.”
The statement mirrors
that issued by the Journalists Syndicate, calling on citizens to
exercise their constitutional right to express their opinions peacefully
“in defense of the blood of the martyrs who died to defend the unity of
Head of the Engineers Syndicate Tarek
al-Nabarawy said last Friday that in his personal opinion the islands
are Egyptian, adding that the syndicate should not be involved in
Akram Ismail, member of the Engineers Syndicate and the
Bread and Freedom Party told Mada Masr: “Major national causes cannot
be separated from syndicate work,” adding that syndicates, parties and
social media are the only remaining platforms for political action
following the crackdown on the street movement and blocking of websites.
Ismail said that the fact that three leading figures in the syndicate
expressed their opposition to the agreement on their personal Facebook
pages indicates the syndicate’s position, even if no official statement
Members of the Cinema Syndicate also released a
statement inviting people to protest the transfer of the islands “using
all peaceful and legal means.”
They called for a protest at their
headquarters on Saturday to oppose the agreement, however the protest
was canceled due to the heavy security presence in the area.
members of the Doctors Syndicate board also announced their opposition
to the agreement in a statement. However Mona Mina, the syndicate’s
secretary general, wrote on her Facebook page: “As a vocational
institution, the syndicate has nothing to do with this important
political and national cause.”
Members of the Lawyers Syndicate also held a protest inside syndicate headquarters on Tuesday to express their objection.
Since discussions of the maritime border agreement reached Parliament,
security forces have carried out an extensive arrest campaign across
several governorates, targeting activists and protesters opposing the
(ANSA) - Rome - Egyptian authorities have turned
down a request from Rome prosecutors probing the Cairo torture
and murder of Giulio Regeni to be present at the questioning of
Egyptian police officers who carried out investigations into the
Friuli-born Cambridge University researcher.
They said Egyptian law forbids the presence of foreign
magistrates during judicial activity.
Regeni's parents Claudio and Paola were informed of the
refusal during a meeting Friday with Rome chief prosecutor
Giuseppe Pignatone and his assistant Sergio Colaiocco.
Cairo prosecutors have, however, sent their Italian
counterparts a second report on testimony from the seven
policemen who probed Regeni, who disappeared on January 25 2016
and whose mutilated body was found on the road to Alexandria
eight days later.
The testimony is a summary of what the agents said and not
their testimony in full, judicial sources said.
Italian magistrates are hoping for a third tranche of
documents, starting with questioning of the national security
chief who investigated Regeni a few days before his
disappearance, as well as testimony given in March 2016 by the
agent who searched the home of the alleged head of a kidnapping
gang suspected of abducting and robbing foreigners.
Regeni, 28, went missing in the Egyptian capital on January
25, 2016, on the heavily policed fifth anniversary of the
uprising that ousted former strongman and president Hosni
His severely tortured, mutilated body was found on February
3 in a ditch on the city's outskirts.
Egypt has denied speculation its security forces, who are
frequently accused of brutally repressing opposition, were
involved in the death of the Cambridge doctoral student.
Regeni was researching street vendors' trade unions, a
Egyptian and Italian prosecutors have been working on the
case but Rome has yet to send a new ambassador to Cairo in
protest at the lack of progress.
"Italy has mourned the killing of one of its studious young
people, Giulio Regeni, without full light being shed on this
tragic case for a year and despite the intense efforts of our
judiciary and our diplomacy," President Sergio Mattarella said
on the first anniversary of Regeni's disappearance.
"We call for broader and more effective cooperation so that
the culprits are brought to justice".
Premier Paolo Gentiloni expressed his support for Regeni's
family and said his government was determined to get to the
Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano echoed his words and said
that the young man's death "deprives all of us of a generous
heart that could have done a great deal for others".
The message on the foreign ministry website said that "the
tragic death of Giulio Regeni is still an open wound not only
for his family, who remain in our thoughts, but for our entire
A video recently surfaced in which the head of the Cairo
street traders' union, Mohammed Abdallah, secretly filmed
Regeni asking him questions about the union using a police
Abdallah said he was doing his patriotic duty because Regeni,
he said, was a spy.
Egypt has furnished several explanations for Regeni's death
ranging from a car accident to a gay fight to a kidnapping, all
of which have been dismissed by Italy.
Suspicion has fallen on seven members of the Egyptian police
and intelligence services who used Abdallah as an informant and
who later were responsible for wiping out the alleged kidnapping gang.
Regeni's personal documents were allegedly found in the house
of the sister of one of the alleged gang's members.
There seem to have been signs of Egyptian cooperation on
Giulio Regeni's death thanks to the work of Rome prosecutors but
there is absolutely no evidence of true cooperation from
Egyptian authorities, Regeni's parents said recently.
Paola and Claudio Regeni urged that Italy's ambassador to
Cairo not return to Egypt, since this "would give a signal of
detente that must not be given", and stressed the importance of
not sending Egypt spare parts for F35 fighter jets until justice
has been served.
have arrested a total of 60 people connected to political action
against the agreement to concede sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir
islands to Saudi Arabia, according to the Freedom for the Brave
The nationwide arrests commenced after Parliament
approved the agreement on Wednesday night, with police moving to detain
political activists and party members in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta,
Sharqiya, Beni Suef, Fayoum, Luxor, Port Said and Suez.
Mohamed Abdel Aziz told Mada Masr that those arrested come from several
political parties, including the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the
Constitution Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, the Popular Current
Party and the Karama Party, as well as from Egypt’s independent activist
community, all of whom voiced their opposition to the agreement.
According to Abdel Aziz, security forces arrested many of the activists
and party members from their homes, including Hassan Ahwany who is
being questioned by the Dokki prosecution in Cairo and is being
represented by Abdel Aziz.
Many of those arrested will be
questioned by prosecutors on Friday, including six people who were
arrested in Port Said and Tanta, according to the Front to Defend
The FDEP has added that activists Mahmoud
Nagib and Israa Fahid face charges of incitement to protest and
obstructing public transportation, and that three people arrested in
Luxor on Thursday are in the National Security Agency’s custody. In
Ismailia, Constitution Party member Ahmed Santos was questioned by the
prosecutor, who has issued Santos a 15-day detention order pending an
According to lawyer Abdel Aziz Yousef, the prosecutor
issued Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Islam Marei a 15-day
detention order pending investigation into charges of incitement against
the regime; insulting state institutions, including the Armed Forces,
police and the judiciary; distributing anti-government flyers; and using
social networks for incitement against state institutions.
Aziz described the arrests as “ferocious,” saying security forces are
attempting to prevent any mobilization against the Tiran and Sanafir
agreement. The scope of the arrests, he asserted, is disproportionate to
the protests that have taken place in reaction to the agreement.
Police arrested eight people in the proximity of the Journalists
Syndicate’s headquarters in downtown Cairo on Wednesday night, which was
the site of a protest against the Tiran and Sanafir agreement. All
eight were released yesterday on LE10,000 bail.
dispersed a demonstration on Wednesday in front of the Egyptian Social
Democratic Party’s headquarters in downtown Cairo, barricading the
protesters inside the building, according party member Ziad al-Eleimi.
CAIRO – The hashtag “Al-Sisi is a traitor,”
referring to the Egyptian president, topped on Wednesday the trending
hashtags on Twitter in Egypt.
This comes amid controversy over
the transfer of ownership of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia,
discussed by parliament since Sunday and approved on Wednesday.
to official rhetoric, dismissed by many Egyptians, the islands of Tiran
and Sanafir, located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba, have always
belonged to Saudi Arabia, and Egypt only administered them at the
request of the kingdom.
Based on this, both countries signed an
agreement in April 2016 for the “return” of both islands to Saudi
Arabia, sparking huge protests in the country.
which ended in court with a ruling against the treaty issued by the
Supreme Administrative Court, has resurfaced after parliament began on
Sunday discussions prior to the ratification of the agreement.
parliamentary committee gave validity on Tuesday to the pact and sent
it to the Legislative Assembly which, in turn, sent it to the national
defense and security commission, which should review it before it is
voted on in general session by all legislators, who have approved the
agreement with a two-thirds majority.
from political parties gathered on Tuesday at the Journalists Syndicate
to object the decision taken by the commission as part of a campaign of
protest called by activists and minority parties on social networks.
and activist Khaled Balshi denounced on Wednesday to EFE the arrest on
Tuesday night of eight people from the Syndicate building, although he
confirmed they were released hours later.
The hashtag “Al-Sisi is
a traitor” climbed to the top after two days when the hashtag “Tiran and Sanafir are Egyptian” occupied the same place, and is now in second
is back on the blacklist of the UN-affiliated International Labor
Organization (ILO) over the nation’s failure to issue a new trade union
law in keeping with ILO Convention 87 concerning the right to organize.
The list includes 25 states, among which are Algeria, Libya, Sudan, and
Mauritania, and was determined at the 106th Session of the
International Labor Conference in the Swiss city of Geneva between June 5
Egyptian authorities were warned about the blacklist
when an ILO delegation visited Cairo in May and issued a statement
regarding a 2011 draft law on trade liberties that protects the rights
of independent unions away from the monopoly of the state-controlled
Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), and has not been passed into
The ETUF has maintained its hold over Egypt’s trade unions
since its establishment in 1957.
Egypt was previously on the ILO’s blacklist
between 2008 and 2010, but was removed from the list when the draft law
on Trade Union Liberties was finalized in 2011 under former Minister of
Manpower Ahmed Hassan al-Borai.
The subsequent shelving of this draft by
consecutive governments has left the outdated Trade Union Law 35/1976
in effect, which only recognizes the ETUF, and controls the Manpower
Committee in parliament, as well as all trade union legislation and the
Ministry of Manpower.
The ETUF board has remained un-elected
since 2011, with members appointed by the Manpower Ministry. President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and parliament have both extended the ETUF’s term a
number of times.
Wahballah released a statement on the ETUF’s official
website on Tuesday, criticizing the ILO’s blacklist and asserting that
Egypt believes in union freedoms. On Wednesday he published another
statement, asserting that Egypt has not violated international labor
standards, and accusing the ILO of having “other political objectives.”
“Egyptian national security is a red line that cannot be crossed for
the purpose of imaginary external agendas that are not in the interests
of the common good and stability of this precious country,” Wahballah
said on his return from Geneva.
ETUF has tarnished Egypt’s reputation both domestically and
internationally,” member of the Independent Union of Pensioners Talal
Shokr told Mada Masr, adding that several ministries, including the
Interior Ministry and Ministry of Manpower have refused paperwork for
the establishment of independent unions.
In April 2016, ILO
Director General Guy Rider called on Egyptian authorities to revoke a
ban that restricts independent unions from publishing official
documents, prohibits collective bargaining and exposes union leaders to
dismissal and arrest.
The ILO was formed in 1919, more than two decades before the
establishment of the UN. Egypt joined in 1936, ratifying a host of ILO laws - including Convention
87 and Convention 98 in the 1950s, but has largely failed to uphold its provisions.
Thirty two Tourah Cement Company workers were sentenced to three
years in prison by the Maadi Misdemeanors Court on Sunday. They were
arrested after security forces broke up a sit-in at the company in May.
The workers faced charges of assaulting a police captain, obstructing
justice and using violence to resist authorities. All defendants are
currently being held in at the 15th of May prison.
According to lawyer Haitham Mohamedein the defense team will appeal against Sunday’s verdict within 10 days of the verdict.
He told Mada Masr that although the trial was held before justices
from the Maadi Misdemeanors Court, they convened at the Tourah Police
Academy. The trial, which took place over two sessions was initially
scheduled for May 28, however it was adjourned until Saturday after police personnel failed to transport the defendants to the trial.
“The workers’ families and friends were not allowed to attend these
trial, and there were no journalists present during,” he added.
They were arrested after staging a sit-in in March that lasted several weeks before it was forcefully dispersed
by security forces on May 22. Seventy five security personnel initiated
the protest to demand full-time contracts and the retroactive payment
of wages as some have worked full-time at the company for up to 15 years
on temporary or part-time contracts.
Mohamedein criticized the court for issuing the harshest penalties against the protesting workers. He told Mada Masr last week
that the charges are trumped-up and baseless, adding that “the Interior
Ministry appears to have decided that it wants to extend the legal
The workers’ defense team and media reports
claim that the judge presiding over this trial condemned them for
initiating the sit-in, even before the conclusion of the court’s
hearings. “A judge should only express their decision while issuing a
verdict,” Mohamedein told Mada Masr.
The judge is also reported to have claimed that labor strikes are
criminal, despite the fact the none of the charges were related to
striking as there had been no work stoppages or slowdowns, and even
though Article 15 of the Constitution safeguards the right to strike.
A petition protesting
the workers arrests has been endorsed by 12 labor unions, political
parties and groups and over 250 individuals. It claims that the
detainees were physically abused, treated in a degrading manner and had
their personal belongings stolen while in custody.
A worker who had been protesting at the company told Mada Masr last
week, on condition of anonymity, that four of the detained workers had
been hospitalized. They could not confirm the exact reasons for this,
“as we have not been able to speak directly with our detained coworkers
since their arrests, and because they were not brought to their court
Mohamedein said that the workers had been “entirely peaceful and
nonviolent” and, responding to accusations that they assaulted an
officer, he explained that no medical report had been filed or evidence
The protest followed the company’s refusal to compensate the family
of a security guard who was killed during an altercation with people
thought to be stealing property from company grounds. The company board
claimed the deceased security guard was not entitled to any compensation
or insurance because he was a part-time employee.
The board’s claim flouted a previous court verdict. In May last year,
the workers filed a lawsuit against the company before the Appeals
Court, which ruled that they were entitled to the company’s
profit-sharing scheme, healthcare and other employment rights.
The recent crackdown on labor-related protests in Egypt has seen
security forces break up several sit-ins and protesting workers stand
trial. In April police arrested 16 protesting Telecom Egypt workers and
December 2016 saw security break up sit-ins at two of billionaire Nassif
In an ongoing case 26 Alexandria Shipyard Company
workers are currently standing military trial, accused of inciting
workers to strike. The military trial of these civilian workers has been adjourned 12 times, and is
currently scheduled to take place on June 20.
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah
al-Sisi was quick to launch air strikes on militants in Libya in
response to a deadly attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt - but the
attacks do not seem to be targeting those responsible.
response was popular with many Egyptians. The country's state-owned and
private news media celebrated it as swift justice, but the president
has been vague about exactly who he is attacking.
strikes have been directed at Islamist groups other than Islamic State,
which claimed responsibility for Friday's massacre of dozens in the
southern province of Minya, and seem to be intended to shore up Sisi's
allies in eastern Libya.
"The attacks in Minya
were claimed by Islamic State, and there are Islamic State elements
active in Libya, but the reports coming indicate Cairo is targeting
other groups," said H.A. Hellyer, senior nonresident fellow at the
In any case, analysts say
the strikes will not do much against Islamists in Cairo, Sinai and Upper
Egypt, where they have had a stronghold since the 1990s and have been
attacking tourists, Copts and government officials.
Bombing the camps in Libya is seen as a diversion for a failure to defeat Islamists inside Egypt.
easier to strike a terrorist camp in Libya by air than it is to clean
up serious problems inside Egypt; sectarianism, radicalization, that led
to this and other attacks," said Michele Dunne, director of Carnegie's
Middle East program.
"All the horrific
terrorism that is happening inside Egypt has purely domestic drivers and
probably would be happening if Islamic State did not exist. It is not
all that different from the home-grown terrorism Egypt experienced in
the 1990s, before Al Qaeda or Islamic State even existed," she said.
and Libyan officials said strikes had been launched on camps and
ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council
(DMSC). Areas targeted include the western entrance to Derna, Dahr
al-Hamar in the south, and al-Fatayeh, a hilly area about 20 km (12
miles) from the city.
Yet the DMSC has never
been involved in attacks outside Libya and in fact mostly limits its
activities to Derna, rarely fighting in larger conflicts within Libya,
according to Mohamed Eljarh, an Atlantic Council political analyst in
The group has denied taking part in attacks inside Egypt.
fact, many suggest the air strikes had been planned in advance to shore
up support for Sisi's main Libyan ally, Khalifa Haftar and his
self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), and that the Minya massacre was
used as a pretext to launch them.
to Haftar, a military strongman like Sisi, have long been fighting the
DMSC, cutting off supply routes to the city and hitting it with
occasional air strikes. Despite the LNA's siege, the military situation
in Derna has been in stalemate for months.
has also carried out strikes in Jufra, where the LNA has been fighting
Islamists who fled Benghazi as well as forces linked to the U.N.-backed
government in Tripoli.
The LNA lost dozens of men there in a surprise attack on an air base earlier in May, but has since consolidated control.
Minya attack was a catalyst for those inside the Egyptian government
and military who are in favor of military intervention in Libya, said
Mokhtar Awad, who researches extremism at George Washington University.
is Egypt taking action not because of the Minya attack but ... to drive
out as many extremists as possible from the east," he said.
'They Are All Terrorists'
says it does not target specific groups but that it goes after all
militants who could be a threat to its security. A military spokesman
told state media on Monday that all the groups targeted have the same
ideology as those who carried out the Minya massacre, which is reason
enough to bomb them.
"Names are not important
for us, they are all terrorists. Those who carried out the Minya
operation do not necessarily have to be in these camps but their
followers are," an Egyptian intelligence source told Reuters.
also said it was likely the air strikes has been planned in advance and
that the Minya attack was an opportunity to carry them out, as part of a
larger policy towards supporting Haftar, with Egypt bombing groups that
constitute the strongest opposition to him.
sees any militant activity in eastern Libya, which is near its border,
as a threat to its national security. One of the reasons Sisi has
supported Haftar since 2014 is to ensure that all Islamists are driven
out of eastern Libya.
Sisi is getting more
involved now because of improved relations with Washington, Eljarh said.
He believes U.S President Donald Trump has given him the green light to
fight jihadists in Libya and elsewhere.
When Sisi announced the first round of air strikes on television on Friday, he implored Trump to support him.
Trump, who has made a point of improving relations with Cairo, said his country stood with Sisi and the Egyptian people.
Derna is well known as an Islamist hub, with a lot of small factions
starting up there. Indeed, the ISIS affiliate in Libya was located there
at one time, though that was years ago. If ISIS indeed did the bus
attack, and signs are that they probably did, it was likely Egypt’s own
ISIS affiliate, not Libya’s, and either way, they had nothing to do with
the Derna camps being hit.
Egypt has had long-standing problems with Islamist militant groups
attacking their Christian minority, and those attacks have almost
exclusively been homegrown. Reacting by attacking something in Libya was
a convenient distraction for the junta, and when the Egyptian public
started cheering their firm response, they just kept doing it.
At this point, however, Egyptian officials are freely admitting that
they are “not targeting specific groups” with their airstrikes in Derna,
and that they’re hitting random camps on the assumption that “all the
groups targeted have the same ideology” as the bus attackers, which is
good enough for them.
Indeed some analysts believe that Egypt’s junta, long keen on
exporting their style of government to Libya by backing Gen. Khalifa
Hafter, had been drawing up plans for attacks around Derna and other
Islamist hotbeds in eastern Libya long before the bus attack happened,
and this just served as a useful pretext to go ahead with them.
Egypt has banned
21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera
television and prominent local independent news site Mada Masr, accusing
them of supporting terrorism and spreading false news.
blockade is notable in scope and for being the first publicly
recognized by the government. It was heavily criticized by journalists
and rights groups.
The state news
agency announced it late on Wednesday. Individual websites had been
inaccessible in the past but there was never any official admission.
Reuters found the websites named by local media and were inaccessible.
move follows similar actions taken on Wednesday by Egypt's Gulf allies
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which blocked Al Jazeera and
other websites after a dispute with Qatar.
said hackers had posted fake remarks by its emir criticizing U.S.
foreign policy but Saudi and UAE state-run media reported the comments
An official from Egypt's
National Telecom Regulatory Authority would not confirm or deny the
blockage, but said: "So what if it is true? It should not be a problem."
security sources told Reuters the 21 websites were blocked for being
affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or for being funded by
accuses Qatar of supporting the Brotherhood, which was ousted from
power in Egypt in 2013 when the military removed elected Islamist
President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against him.
between Qatar and Egypt were badly damaged after Mursi's fall. Doha
welcomed a number of senior Brotherhood figures, although since then
Qatar has asked several to leave.
Masr, an Egyptian news website based in the country which describes
itself as progressive and has no Islamist or Qatari affiliations, was
Mada Masr said the website was publishing articles on Facebook for now.
It remains accessible outside Egypt or via proxy.
explains this blockade more than a very clear intention from the
authorities to crack down on critical media in ways that bypass the
law," Mada Masr Editor in Chief Lina Attalah told Reuters on Thursday.
website is registered in Egypt and its journalists are based in the
country, she said. No one from the government contacted the management
before or after the 21 websites went down. CLIMATE OF FEAR
Two other local websites,
including that of a print newspaper registered with the authorities,
were also down, as were several Brotherhood-affiliated websites and
Egypt-focused ones that publish from abroad. The Huffington Post's Arabic website also was inaccessible, although the international version could be accessed.
news agency MENA cited a senior security source as saying the websites
were blocked because they supported terrorism and that the government
would take legal action.
security source said 21 websites have been blocked inside Egypt for
having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well as
publishing lies," MENA said.
Mahmoud Kamel, who sits on the board of Egypt's official press union, said was a clear attack on freedom of speech.
move is unacceptable. We oppose all blocking of news websites but this
is unfortunately part of the general climate of fear we are experiencing
in Egypt," he told Reuters.
authorities have cracked down on the Islamist, secular and liberal
opposition alike since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then the military
chief, toppled Mursi.
then, hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested, including
journalists. Sisi told CNN in 2015 that Egypt has "unprecedented freedom
*Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty,
Eric Knecht and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alison
Security forces dispersed a sit-in held by workers demanding
full-time contracts, as per a previous court ruling, at the privately
owned Tourah Cement Company in southern Cairo on Monday. They detained
22 workers during the dispersal, arresting 10 more that evening and
issuing warrants for an additional three.
Lawyer Haitham Mohamedein told Mada Masr that the 32 arrested workers
were detained overnight, and are currently being held at the Maadi and
Dar al-Salam police stations. They have been referred to trial, set for
May 28, on charges of assaulting a police captain, obstructing justice
and using violence to resist authorities.
The workers did not resist arrest or assault police, nor was the
sit-in dispersed violently, Mohamedein explained, adding that they
should not have been detained for peacefully demonstrating.
Dozens of police personnel, including Central Security forces, were
deployed to raid the sit-in on company grounds at 2 am Monday morning.
Mohamadein said they were deployed following allegations that the
protesting workers assaulted an officer. The lawyer asserted that the
sit-in was entirely peaceful and did not obstruct work at the company.
According to local news outlets
defense lawyers attending interrogations have also questioned the
allegations that the officer was collectively assaulted by the workers
as he allegedly showed no signs of bruising.
“There was no medical
report indicating that the officer had been assaulted, nor was there
even evidence presented to show that his clothes had been torn apart, or
anything of the sort,” Mohamadein added.
Several workers went to the prosecutor’s office after the arrests to express solidarity with their colleagues.
One of the protesting workers told
the privately owned Al-Mal newspaper on Monday that despite the arrests
the sit-in was ongoing. However, according to Mohamadein it was called
off after the second round of arrests as there aren’t enough staff to
stage protests between shifts.
A total of 75 full-time employees, all employed as security
personnel, have been protesting for 55 days demanding full-time
contracts, and the retroactive payment of wages. Some have worked full
time at the company for up to 10-15 years on temporary or part-time
contracts, which don’t carry the same benefits or employment rights as
full-time contracts, with wages calculated on a different basis.
The sit-in was initiated following the murder of a security guard at
the company earlier this year. He died during an altercation with
thieves on company grounds, however the board declined to provide his
family with compensation or insurance, claiming he was a part-time
It also follows the company administration’s refusal to uphold a
previous court verdict. The workers filed a lawsuit against the Tourah
Cement Company’s administration, and, in May 2016, a Cairo Appeals Court
ruled in their favor, determining that they were entitled to the
company’s profit-sharing scheme, healthcare and other employment rights.
There is a local workplace labor union for Tourah Cement Company
employees, affiliated to the state-run Egyptian Trade Union Federation
(ETUF), however without full-time contracts the protesting workers are
not eligible to join, Mohamedein said. He added that no local or ETUF
union members have expressed support of the workers.
A number of labor-related protests nationwide have been dispersed by security forces in the last few months.
In January, security forces forcefully dispersed a sit-in at the IFFCO Oils Company in Suez, and in April police arrested
16 protesting Telecom Egypt workers. In December 2016, police were
deployed to disperse two sit-ins at billionaire Nassif Sawiris’ companies — the Egyptian Fertilizers Company and the Egyptian Basic Industries Corporation.
In September 2016, police forces conducted dawn raids on the apartments of bus drivers who had been planning a partial strike, detaining six of
them. In May 2016, military police surrounded a sit-in led by workers
at Alexandria Shipyard Company, and imposed a lockout on the company.
Twenty-six of the civilian workers were subsequently referred to military trial.
Amnesty International issued a statement
in April denouncing Egypt’s “relentless assault on rights of worker and
trade unionists,” adding, “Demanding your labor rights and expressing
your grievances should not be a criminal offense.” The right to strike
and peaceful assembly are enshrined in both Article 15 of the Constitution and international human rights conventions that Egypt is party to.
In February, Human Rights Watch also issued a statement
criticizing security forces’ heavy handed response to non violent labor
protests, calling on Egyptian authorities to either drop charges
against detained workers, or change domestic laws restricting the right
to organize and strike.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (CNN) - Moments
after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi complimented President
Donald Trump on his "unique personality that is capable of doing the
impossible," Trump exchanged pleasantries back, praising el Sisi's
"Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man ... ," Trump said, as reporters were being escorted out of the room.
unclear the exact shoe the Egyptian President was wearing, but appeared
to be black boots, similar to those Trump was wearing, but shinier.
The exchange wasn't observed by video cameras in the room, but was captured in an audio recording.
held meetings with several Arab world leaders Sunday morning, ahead of a
planned speech on confronting Islamist extremism and later a forum on
*Photos by Evan Vucci, courtesy of Associated Press
The move comes after a fisherman was killed by Israeli gunfire
GAZA CITY, Palestine
fishermen in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday staged a one-day strike to
protest the killing of a fellow fisherman by Israeli gunfire.
“The step aims to protest Israeli practices,” Nizar Ayyash, the head of the Gaza-based fishermen’s union, told Anadolu Agency.
On Monday, a Palestinian fisherman died of wounds sustained by Israeli gunfire off the Gaza coast.
Ayyash called on the UN to intervene to stop Israeli assaults against Gaza fishermen.
There was no comment from the Israeli military on the fisherman’s death.
According to the Gaza-based fishermen’s union, roughly 50,000 Gazans earn their living from fishing.
Israel’s devastating military onslaught against Hamas-run Gaza in
mid-2014, in which some 2,150 Palestinians were killed, Israel began
allowing Palestinian fishermen to ply their trade up to six nautical
miles off the coast of the strip, as opposed to three nautical miles
A few days ago, Israeli authorities increased the fishing area for Gaza fishermen to nine nautical miles.
2007, Gaza’s roughly 2 million inhabitants have groaned under a
crippling Israeli blockade that has deprived them of many basic
commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and building materials.
*Photo by Mustafa Hassona, courtesy of Anadolu Agency
Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Monday that
heavy-handed security measures by Egypt were fostering the very
radicalisation it was looking to curb.
last month was shaken by one of the bloodiest attacks in years when
Islamic State suicide bombers targeted two Christian churches, killing
45 people. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state
of emergency hours later.
condemned the church attacks at a news conference in Geneva but said
that Egypt's approach to combating Islamist militants was exacerbating
"...a state of
emergency, the massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture, and
continued arbitrary arrests - all of this we believe facilitates
radicalisation in prisons," Zeid said.
She said "the crackdown on civil society" was "not the way to fight terror."
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid called the remarks an
"irresponsible" and "unbalanced" reading of the situation in Egypt,
where society is targeted by "terrorist operations," according to a
statement from the ministry.
Zeid defended the emergency law as passed by an elected parliament
subject to "rules and restrictions" set out by the constitution.
don't see the High Commissioner criticizing other states implementing
states of emergency that are dealing with similar conditions," the
Sisi, elected in 2014 in part on a pledge to
restore stability to a country hit by years of turmoil since its 2011
uprising, has sought to present himself as an indispensable bulwark
against terrorism in the Middle East.
Rights groups, however, say they face the worst crackdown in their history.
"National security yes, must be a priority for every country, but again not at the expense of human rights,” said Zeid.
*Photo by Pierre Albouycourtesy of REUTERS **Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Writing by Eric Knecht; Editing by Robin Pomeroy
What does the cooperation Sisi called for in his Labor Day address mean amid a marked deterioration in labor rights and freedoms?
May 1, 2017
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presided over the state’s official Labor Day
commemoration on Sunday, organized by the state-controlled Egyptian
Trade Union Federation, delivering a 10-minute televised address from the luxurious Al-Massa Hotel in Cairo.
still expects much from its workers,” the president said, in one of
several statements emphasizing workers’ cooperation with the state.
Sisi did promise centered on increased foreign investment — a central
tenet of the government’s economic structural adjustment whose efficacy is contested —
saying that it would translate into increased employment opportunities
for Egypt’s youth and decent living standards for the country’s workers.
This is in addition to promising to recommence operations at hundreds of factories that have remained closed since 2011,
by allocating resources from the Tahya Masr Fund and to push a spate of
labor-related legislation — including the unified labor law, trade
union law, health insurance law, and social insurance law — through
Nonetheless, there is a more stark reality for Egypt’s workers. Parliament is stacked against labor interests and
the legislative body’s manpower committee is virtually controlled by
the ETUF, whose leadership has not been elected since 2011 and is
instead appointed by Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan. Sisi and Parliament have extended the ETUF executive board’s terms of office several times, with the latest occurring in January 2017.
have also been severe crackdowns against labor movements, with police
and the Armed Forces jailing dozens of workers who participated in
industrial action, and the prosecution referring them to trial.
Simultaneously, the number of industrial protests has decreased to its lowest level in several years, falling from 1,117 strikes between May 2015 and April 2016, to 744 in the same period the following year.
To mark Labor Day, Amnesty International issued a statement on Sunday calling on the Egyptian state to end its “Relentless assault on rights of workers and trade unionists.” Human Rights Watch adopted a similar tone in a February statement, calling on Egyptian authorities to “Drop charges, change laws that restrict rights to organize and strike.”
The independent Egyptian initiative Democracy Meter issued its latest figures on
Sunday regarding the number, location and causes of labor strikes and
professional protests that occurred between May 2016 and April 2017.
to the institute’s tally, at least 151 workers, unionists and
professionals have been arrested, prosecuted or referred to trial over
the course of the past 11 months. During this same period, 2,691 workers
and professionals were dismissed from their jobs “for exercising their
right to protest.”
Cairo was the site of the most labor action in
Egypt over the past year, according to Democracy Meter’s figures,
tallying 151 initiatives. After Cairo comes the Nile Delta governorates
of Kafr al-Sheikh, with 68 initiatives, and Sharqiya, with 65.
the state’s austerity measures have worsened labor and living
conditions, workers efforts to push back have been curtailed, according
to Mohamed Awwad, the lawyer for the 26 Alexandria Shipyard Company
“Any worker who attempts to publicly demand their rights
these days usually thinks twice before doing so, as the state will
likely respond to peaceful protest actions with forceful and oppressive
measures,” he says.
Awwad says that 19 of the 26 shipyard workers
who are standing military trial have been persuaded to tender their
resignations in exchange for assurances that they would not be jailed
pending their military trial. Since the forced dispersal of the labor
protest at the Defense Ministry-owned shipyard in May 2016, some 1,000
workers of a 2,300-person workforce have not been allowed back to work
and are earning only half of their basic wages, according to the lawyer.
string of police crackdowns on labor strikes in the Suez Governorate is
symbolic, according to Ahmed Bakr, the secretary general of the
Independent Union of Workers at the IFFCO Oils Company. “[The crackdown]
aims to send a message to workers, that your protests or strikes will
be deemed illegal and the state will only uphold the rights of big
businessmen and investors.”
Bakr and all eight other members of
the Independent Union of Workers at the IFFCO Oils Company, in addition
to 12 other workers, stood trial in the Suez Governorate in January 2017.
They have since been acquitted of charges of instigating a strike and
obstructing production. However, the prosecution appealed the court’s
decision, a second trial was held March before the Suez Appeals Court,
which also opted for an acquittal.
“These labor rights (right to strike, and organize) are supposed to be safeguarded in the Egyptian Constitution.
However, the reality in Egypt is quite different,” says Seif, the son
of jailed PTA bus driver and independent unionist Mohamed Abdel Khaleq.
Khaleq and his coworker Ayman Abdel Tawwab were held in Tora for nearly
seven months for planning a strike in September 2016, before being granted conditional release in March.
Per the terms of his release, Abdel Khaleq must submit himself to
Cairo’s Sharabiya Police Station two days a week, for nearly four hours
at a time. The PTA workers still face the possibility of trial.
independent trade unions are organizing their own Labor Day conference,
which is scheduled for the evening of May 1 at the headquarters of the
Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS) in Cairo. The event
is being held under the title “Social Justice and Union Freedoms.”
Since July 2013, there have not been any Labor Day rallies, marches or public protests in Egypt.