EGYPTIAN STUDENTS CLASH WITH THE SECURITY FORCES – in anti-tyranny protests

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STUDENTS across Egypt took to the streets on Sunday in protest at the aggressive handling of student movements by security forces and university staff, as well as the gross neglect of students’ needs by universities.

Violent clashes were reported from several universities, including Ain Shams and Alexandria.

In Ain Shams, the protest turned violent after security forces arrived and tried to expel the students from the area. Alexandria also reported a crackdown on students protesting.

A statement published by Misr Al-Qawia, the party set up by ex-Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel Fatouh, on Sunday pointed to the recent poisoning of hundreds of Al-Azhar students, the death of a student at Mansoura University, and the attack on Ain Shams students during a protest as examples of ‘thuggery’, repression and neglect by academic institutions in the country.

The statement said: ‘History testifies that the Egyptian student movement carries the torch in addressing the external and internal tyranny and broadcasts the spirit of resistance and struggle within the Egyptian people.’

Misr Al-Qawia accused the Minister of Higher Education and university administrations of being silent on such matters when they should be objective, adding that universities do not realise the true value of students and do not make appropriate investments in their future.

As a result, Misr Al-Qawia said the students will no longer stand silent against those who are preventing them from fulfilling their potential.

‘The Misr Al-Qawia youth committee declares solidarity with the legitimate demands of the students for a better life and education,’ the statement read.

The students’ demands include the immediate release of all detained students, an end to security crackdowns on student demonstrations, and that students must be allowed to practice freedom of opinion and expression without compromising their freedom to protest and to strike.

Students are also demanding an end to the practice of preventing certain students from participating in university politics.

Meanwhile, the working class is driving forward.

The Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress (EDLC) was officially launched as an independent labour federation last Wednesday.

During a press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate in downtown Cairo, hundreds of workers from across the country, representatives of independent trade unions, political parties and NGOs gathered to announce the birth of the ‘long sought-after’ body.

The launch also saw a big turnout of international labour organisations, including representatives from the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – the world’s largest trade union federation, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), as well representatives of trade unions from across European and Arab countries.

Present at the conference was Kamal Abu-Ayta, president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU).

Abu-Ayta said: ‘Both unions (the EFITU and the EDLC) represent the democratic labour movement.

‘Our goal is to attain the freedom to form unions.’

He said that the fundamental demands of Egyptian workers are a ‘trade union freedom’ law, the reinstatement of thousands of laid-off workers, the renationalisation of privatised companies, and a minimum and maximum wage.

The EDLC, which brings together 300 independent trade unions from across Egypt, was originally established in October 2011 as a broad labour coalition that sought to build a democratic independent trade union federation.

Since the 2011 revolt that unseated autocratic president Husni Mubarak, the Egyptian labour movement has made headway in challenging the stranglehold of the state-sponsored Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) by forming independent unions and federations.

Independent of the ETUF, the Egyptian Democratic Labour Congress and the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) are the country’s largest autonomous labour organisations.

Jaap Wienen, deputy general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, said: ‘Workers want a government that respects them and creates jobs, respectful jobs.

‘Economies without respected workers cannot grow.’

Wienen expressed solidarity with Egyptian workers and offered the EDLC association with the world’s largest trade union confederation.

He added: ‘Your government still doesn’t understand that workers have the right to form their own trade unions.

‘We only see all these matters of not recognising independent bodies in dictatorships not democracies.’

Since the 2011 uprising, labour action has been on the rise with strikes and protests to demand better pay and the elimination of widespread corruption across state institutions.

President Mursi’s government has been accused of continuing the Mubarak regime’s policy of stifling labour dissidence and opposing trade union freedom.

Since Mursi assumed office, an increasing number of attacks on trade union activists have occurred, either through smear campaigns, the sacking of trade union leaders or even jail sentences for strike leaders.

In September 2012, union leaders at the Alexandria Port Containers Company were sentenced to three years in jail for leading a strike in October 2011.

l Four years after the birth of Egypt Independent, the management of Al-Masry Media Corporation has informed our editorial team that our print and online news operation is being shut down, its journalists announced last Friday.

They said: ‘Because we owe it to our readers, we decided to put together a closing edition, which would have been available on 25 April, to explain the conditions under which a strong voice of independent and progressive journalism in Egypt is being terminated.

‘The management, however, withheld the printing of this edition. While the print house received the final proofs on 23 April, management ordered a last-minute stoppage after scrutinising the issue’s content.

‘In keeping with our practice of critical journalism, we use our final issue to reflect on the political and economic challenges facing Egyptian media, including in our own institution.

‘Today, we share this final issue with our readers in digital form.’

An excerpt from EDITORIAL, 25 April 2013, The triumph of practice, by Lina Attala said: ‘Abdel Moneim Saeed, the new chairperson of the Al-Masry Media Corporation board, said closing Egypt Independent, which he argued had only constituted a financial burden on the institution, was a measure of his capacity as “a surgeon who has to conduct the fine operation of letting go of the child in order for the mother to survive.”

‘It is a fine operation indeed, if only Al-Masry was indeed our mother, and if only its survival was conditional on our closure, and not a much-needed reinvigorating and rigorous review of its institutional practice.

‘But it is also only a fine operation if closure is given its due attention, as much as openings are. In other words, a closure transcends a letter announcing it on hard copy left with the receptionist for the Egypt Independent team.

‘A closure entails the labour dimension of how an institution should deal with layoffs.

‘More importantly, a closure entails the key question of how we deal with the end of four years of content, two of them representing a live archive of revolutionary times marking deep changes in our contemporary history.

‘The archive transcends the legality of copyrights and follows the promise of the Internet as a democratic and open medium.

‘Not only it should stay online, it should be an active site of memory and production, constantly linked and relinked to new content.

‘We do not know as of yet what Al-Masry’s plan is as the legal proprietor of our name and our content, but its intention so far has been to retain everything, in yet another unfortunate instance of the commodification of knowledge and its subjection to the motions of corporate practice.

‘Our closure letter comes after a grace period of two months that Al-Masry’s board had given us to show that we could cut costs, raise revenues and identify potential investors who would take on the operation.

‘In these two months, the editorial team worked day and night to do the job a commercial team should do.

‘In the process, we learned, first hand, about the precariousness of our news operation depending on the annual paychecks of its businessmen, just like state-run media organisations depend on the paychecks of the government.

‘We also started innovating development models that could contribute to our sustainability. In the process, we started reaching our goals in all three areas, and submitted relevant documentation to the board of Al-Masry, represented by Saeed.

‘But it was ignored, and dismissed in the closure letter as “no serious effort” to salvage the paper.

‘We leave it to the masters to define the word “serious” as we fold, depart and look forward, because some conversations are doomed and others are more important.

‘The past matters, alongside its failures, as a formative experience.

‘But so does the future, on which we are now fixated. We strive to continue and reincarnate in a new configuration, mainly to continue championing the convoluted cause of narrative.

‘We leave you, dear readers, with this edition through which we try to transcend the issue of Egypt Independent and talk about more grand back stories of closures as points of departure rather than ends.

‘We leave you with the hope of coming back soon, stronger and unbeaten, ready to incessantly travel to uncharted territories of story-telling.

‘Please direct any comment or queries to egindependent@gmail.com.’