There will probably never be a more suitable day to launch the blog, so after months of procrastination - here it goes...
In a chaotic but festive meeting at the Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo today, the real estate tax collectors celebrated the launch of their new union - Egypt's first independent trade union since the 50's.
When I arrived the central security trucks were lined up outside as usual. As soon as I entered the lobby I could hear the cheering from the conference hall on the 4th flour. I've been to a few conferences and meetings at the press syndicate before, but never seen it so full of people. The fourth floor was completely jammed and the heat was almost unbearable. The AC wasn't turned on untill after an hour or so, and participants claimed that security had in fact turned on extra heating in an attempt to sabotage the meeting.
I talked to several tax collectors who travelled from Beni Suef or the delta provinces to attend this celebration. In fact, most of the people I talked to came from outside Cairo. They expressed happiness and confidence in the union, praising Kamal abu Eita (the "Godfather" of their movement as one of them said) while at the same time taking pride in the democratic manner in which the union has been built, with the organizors seeking the consent of the rank and file before every new step they've taken.
Last week, the organizers put out a call for international solidarity in their struggle to gain official recognition of their union.
Click on the pics to watch sets of photos from todays event (above) and and the 11-day sit-in in december 2007 (below).