Updates from Mahalla

by , under Blog

The Textile Workers’ League activists Kamal el-Fayoumi and Kareem el-Beheiri, as well as a number of the Mahalla detainees, are currently undergoing interrogation at the Tanta Prosecutor’s Office. I have a report from an activist, which I couldn’t confirm yet, that Kareem el-Beheiri was subject to severe beatings in police custody. The activist I spoke with said he heard this from one of the recently released detainees. We should know soon whether Kareem and the others were abused in custody or not when the lawyers who are attending the interrogation come out.

Journalist Per Björklund witnessed the second day of the Mahalla Intifada:

The scenes outside the police station was incredible. I was almost like the ending of Youssef Chahine’s “Heyya Fawda“, except in real life the battle was won by the police… This was the point at which the mostly peaceful protest turned into a battle in the streets. Before the crowd reached the police station the police was standing back, even hiding behind their cars, as they knew they wouldn’t be able to control the crowds… the most important reason i could be there and take these photos was the residents of mahalla (not just demonstrators, but citizens who were just watching the events), who intervened several times when police or security agents approached me and tried to prevent me from taking pictures or confiscating my equipment as happened before..

Click below to watch a collection of photos of yesterday’s events in Mahalla, taken by Per:

Down with Mubarak

Labor journalist Omar Said was also present in Mahalla on Monday and sent me some pix:

For continuous updates on the detainees, please follow Tadamon, April 6th Strike, Abna2Masr and the HMLC blogs, especially as reports are coming out that those ordered by the prosecutor to be released in Alexandria and Mansoura, remain in police custody. Shehab Ismail also called me from NYC yesterday to say his sister Sarah who had been detained earlier in Cairo was still in police custody despite a release order.

Videos of the riots, caught on cellular phones, keep surfacing on the net. Check out some of them here, here, here, and here… Videos of the Cairo U protests could be found here… Also Keep an eye whenever you can on my bookmarks for more links and resources on the current fight against the Mubarak’s dictatorship…

The Egyptian Workers and Trade Unions Watch issued a report on Mahalla’s Monday riots, which you can download here.

Solidarity statements are flocking in from local and international activists. I’ll be posting them soon.

UPDATE (1:30pm): The HMLC blog is reporting that Ghazl el-Mahalla blogger Kareem el-Beheiri said he was taken blindfolded to an unknown place by the police, where he was beaten up and subjected to electric shocks. Shehab‘s sister Sarah was finally released around two hours ago..

UPDATE (9pm): James has been twittering from Mahalla .. The most touching SMS was that of a Mahalla man quoted saying “give me my son from prison and i will stop revolt“. Check out the photos he uploaded to flickr.

Earlier in the day, Mubarak’s PM Nazif accompanied by Labor Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi and the Minister of investments Mahmoud MohieEddin visited Ghazl el-Mahalla factory, in an attempt “to contain an explosive situation in a northern industrial city rocked by two days of deadly riots over high prices and low wages, some of the worst economic unrest here in 30 years. The worker bonuses and other concessions promised to workers by the prime minister show the government’s worry that economic angst could boil over..” I spoke with an activist in Mahalla.. He says Nazif promised all workers in the textile sector a 15-day bonus, and the workers in Mahalla specifically will get a one month bonus. The ministers also promised injecting LE400 millions into the Ghazl el-Mahalla company to modernize it, together with the transportation services for the workers, opening up outlets for Consumer Cooperatives in the company compound (where subsidized food would be sold), increase the number of doctors at the General Mahalla Hospital, increase the supply of flour aimed at the Mahalla bakeries. The workers who attended the ministerial meeting amounted to 2000 (out of a total labor force 27,000). But those “workers” who attended were from the management, as well as the govt-backed trade unionists, State Security agents in plainclothes, NDP members in Mahalla, and a selected number of workers in the factory whom the management “trusts are not gonna assault the ministers.” Members of the CTUWS faction and their circle of sympathizers who sabotaged the planned 6th of April strike reportedly met with the ministerial delegation too… Nazif, Aisha and MohieEddin gave very inspiring promises and sincere speeches to the workers, which you can see for yourself below:

The town in general was calmer on Tuesday than it was the past couple of days, but police troops continued their deployment around the city and in public squares, and there were reports of clashes in the afternoon. Moreover, the funeral of the 15-year-old who was killed in his balcony yesterday by the police, was banned by the authorities fearing the event could trigger once more a full scale anti-govt riot.

The brave photographer and friend Nasser Nouri sent me a big dispatch of photos depicting the protests and clashes on the 6th and the 7th of April in Mahalla, some of which have already been posted:

Nasser was hit with a rubber bullet in his right leg, which turned all blue. Despite that he kept limping around in Mahalla over the past three days snapping photos. Nasser was today in Mahalla also, and reports a wide scale intimidation by the uniformed police and plainclothes thugs against journalists and photographers in the streets.

UPDATE: Wael Abbas confirms the PR nature of the ministerial delegation’s visit (which was not previously announced, and came more or less in secret) to Mahalla, and says the “workers” they met were “collaborators with the security.” Wael moreover says the regime has instructed newspapers and TV channels NOT to report on Mahalla.

I received also a new set of photos from Mahalla on Tuesday, taken by James Buck.

“The demonstrations were not that big today. The city returned to a strange kind of quiet.” James told me, “The police were in control with troops lining every major street and armored vans with snipers on top patrolling the streets. Many shops were closed but there were people out and about, if kind of subdued. But still there were people protesting the prices of food, however the main focus now is ‘Where is my son?‘ I met many people today who were scared for their children. They said they were taken by the police. They didn’t know anything about them. The police was denying also they had them. I’m talking about minors, teenagers and young men. They disappeared. The demonstrations today were mainly targeting the detention center [Mahalla’s First Police Station], where they believed their kids were held. Around nightfall a crowd gathered near the police station where apparently police had said they could bring food to those in jail, but many still didn’t know where their brothers, sons, fathers were. I was told by many that when they asked where is so and so, the police said ‘I don’t know.’ Mothers were wailing and crying in the streets. By night a large crowd was outside the prison barricade awaiting the release of prisoners. By 10pm only three had been released, all young boys aged around 10. When I interviewed people about the ministers’ decisions today they didn’t know about it and seemed not to care much about the benefits for factory workers. They still complain about the rising prices of food. I was told cooking oil used to be 5 pounds, now it is 11 pounds. a man yelled ‘I make 300 LE a month, and 10 pounds goes to oil!?'”

Regarding the shops that the media has sensationally depicted their burning in Mahalla, James followed up on our phone conversation, by an email where he wrote: “That restaurant al-Baghl — not *that* important, but learned tonight the owner of al-Baghl is a prominent supporter of NDP, and refused to close his shop on 6 April for the strike, as many other surrounding businesses had, to show his support for the state, nothing is wrong, etc — a statement inferred, anyway, by protesters who ravaged the restaurant to protest NDP. In other words, not random looting.”

UPDATE: Children as young as eight-year-old were among those rounded up, and tortured at the Mahalla 1st Police Station. Also, an El-Badeel journalist managed to get inside El-Mansoura Emergency Hospital (where many of the Mahalla injured were taken to) disguised as a doctor and saw protesters who were injured by live ammunition and rubber bullets.

Injured protester chained to hospital bed. Photo courtesy of El-Badeel newspaper.

  1. Shehab Ismail

    Hoss, thanks for the updates. You’re doing a great job. Do you even sleep?

  2. Monica

    You are really brave writting this!
    Thanks a lot for all these information!!!
    Well done, egyptian people!