28 December, 2009

Egyptian police arrest local journalists during Gaza protest

Hossam el-Hamalawy reports that three journalists working for Al-Masry Al-Youm was arrested today while covering a pro-Palestine protest in front of the french embassy in Cairo. Follow Hossam on twitter for updates. 

21 December, 2009

Free union celebrate anniversary, State unions withdraws from international federation

Two days ago, members of the independent URETA-union for real estate tax collectors gathered to celebrate the opening of their headquarter and the one year anniversary of the founding of the first free union in Egypt since 1957. The celebration was attended by the regional secretary of the Public Services International, which accepted URETA as a member last spring and has criticized interference in the work of URETA by state-controlled union officials. 

Apparently, this visit has now provoked three state-controlled unions in Egypt to withdraw from PSI in protest against recognition of the "illegal" URETA union. State union officials explain that they are not against the right of free association (of course) but only against "interference in the internal affairs of Egypt," something every "honorable Egyptian would reject." 

Also, on December 26 the new general union for employees of tax- and customs authorities will be officially included in the Egyptian Trade Union Federation as the 24th general union in Egypt; a move that should be understood as part of the ongoing attempts by the ETUF to marginalize the free URETA union. 

18 December, 2009

Egypt drowning? Yawn...

A UN analysis shows that emission cuts on the table in Copenhagen could raise the global average temperature by 3 degrees. Meanwhile, new studies show that even a more moderate warming could lead to a much bigger increase in sea levels than previously thought, drowning the Nile delta. Even so, the voice of Egypt can hardly be heard on this issue - tiny island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives are making a lot more noise. Is it because they are not busy building walls protecting against the dreaded palestinians in Gaza and cracking down on opposition movements ahead of coming elections? Or is it because Egypt's ruling elite believe they will be safe behind the walls of their luxury compounds with the consolation aid offered by Hillary Clinton when the flood hits? I just wonder.

16 December, 2009

Copenhagen Mass Climate Protest in Pictures

Click the photo above for a set on flickr from the massive "planet first, people first" demonstration in Copenhagen this Saturday. Around 100.000 people took part in the march, demanding "climate justice" and "system change, not climate change." The march was peaceful, but Danish police intervened and detained almost 1000 people on the pretext of arresting a few masked "black block" activists who threw one or two stones against a bank and the Danish foreign ministry. Stupid, but hardly "a riot", as Naomi Klein points out.

Tomorrow, protesters plans to 'reclaim power.' (Note that Tadzio Müller, one of the organizers of Wednesdays march, which have been authorized by Danish police, was arrested shortly after the press conference.)

14 December, 2009

Mahalla labour activist fired

Tadamon reports that Mahalla Spinning and Weaving labour activist Mustapha Fouda has been fired following attempts by workers at the factory to organize a strike last Monday (January 6). Workers had presented five demands, including raising the minimum wage and improved housing and transports.

Pic above: Mustapha Fouda on someone's shoulders during an anti-privatization protest in Mahalla on October 30, 2008.

04 December, 2009

Latvian students and unions protest budget cuts

I haven't been blogging much lately, mostly because I've been traveling and didn't have time to follow events in Egypt as closely as I would have liked to. A couple of days ago I came back from Latvia, the one country in the European Union that have been hardest hit by the global economic crisis. In one year Latvia has lost a around 18 percent of it's GDP and unemployment has more than tripled to 20 percent. 

This week, hundreds of trade unionists (unions are very weak in Latvia and organize only around 15 percent of the workforce, mostly in the public sector) and thousands of students gathered outside Saeima, the Latvian parliament, to protest the new state budget which contains huge cuts on higher education and other public spending and a raise of the personal income tax from 23% to 26%. (Needless to say, these actions will reinforce the economic downturn, and are motivated largely by the decision of the Latvian government, strongly backed by the European Union and the Swedish government, to avoid a devaluation the local currency - a huge mistake according to many economists)

Latvians students shouted slogans like "put parliament in school and students in parliament" and "no education means no future" and jeered the education minister as she appeared on the stairs of the parliament briefly. I have to say that after three years in Egypt this was quite a refreshing experience; in the beginning I half expected police officers to try and confiscate my camera or start beating up protesters, which never happened of course... (Actually I can't imagine a crowd of demonstrators getting this close to a government building even in Sweden...)