After forcibly evicting them from their homes more than a week earlier, on 26 February security forces attacked residents living in the rubble of the collapsed Sheikh Mansour Bridge with tear gas and the butts of their rifles, according to a new Amnesty International report.
Eyewitnesses at the scene, in the Ezbet Al-Nakhl neighbourhood of Cairo’s El-Marg district, said security forces also fired live ammunition into the air to scare off the residents.
“At least five men who tried to object to the security forces’ actions were arrested and released a few hours later. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the security forces beat women and children,” read the report. “They witnessed at least two women beaten on their heads by gun butts, which led to bleeding, and at least four women beaten by batons.”
An earlier Amnesty International report said at least 1,200 families were forced to leave their homes so authorities could reconstruct the bridge and improve infrastructure. Because of census data described as inaccurate by activists and rights lawyers, only around 400 families were offered replacement housing, but not before spending two nights on the street.
Several of the families who did receive housing were forced to share units with other families. The housing authority did not offer the families deeds to their new homes, according to the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.
“Hassan Sabry, a resident of Ezbet Al-Nakhl, told Amnesty International that the government did not register him to receive alternative housing although he has been living in Ezbet Al-Nakhl for at least 10 years, has been paying bills there since 2003, and has this address on his National Identity card,” read the report. “He added that around 80 families remain on the streets opposite to the area affected by last week’s demolition of homes.”
The names of those who will receive homes will be announced on Monday, Amnesty International reported.
Amnesty International demanded that authorities “promptly provide emergency adequate housing to people rendered homeless by the forced eviction until permanent adequate housing solutions are implemented,” and conduct a thorough investigation into the events that led to violence.
The ECESR released a similar report condemning the violence, which was co-signed by the Habitat International Coalition and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Forced eviction is prohibited under international law, and the Egyptian constitution, approved last month by popular referendum, stipulates: “The state guarantees citizens the right to decent, safe and healthy housing, in a way that preserves human dignity and achieves social justice.”
The Shiekh Mansour Bridge collapsed in the early morning hours of 11 February after the explosion of gas cylinders stored underneath it. A rescue worker was killed and several other people were injured by the collapse.