CAIRO: Following four days of protest in front of Cairo’s Journalists’ Syndicate, approximately 40 families from Qalet Al-Kabsh were forcibly removed from the steps of the building by Cairo police forces.
The families began protesting in front of the Syndicate after the Egyptian government failed to fulfill its promise of providing the families with housing, Mohamed Abdel Azeem, a lawyer from the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR), told The Daily Star Egypt.
In March, a fire in Qalet Al Kabsh, a neighborhood in the poor Cairo suburb of El Sayeda Zeinab, demolished about 300 homes and displaced hundreds of families, only some of which were given housing by the government.
According to Abdel Azeem, the government promised 130 of the displaced families that they would be provided with housing, but four months later, 50 of those families are still living on the streets.
On Sunday, 40 of these families showed up on the steps of the Journalists’ Syndicate in an attempt to persuade the agency to adopt their cause and help them apply additional pressure on the government.
But rather than being received with sympathy and support, the journalists at the Syndicate derided and harassed the protesters, a press release from the ECHR stated.
On the second day of protests, security officials from the Syndicate started spraying the families with water hoses and soap in an attempt to drive them away. They verbally and physically abused them, the report from the ECHR stated, and then finally called in the police to remove them.
The report also said that the Board of the Journalists’ Syndicate had rejected the requests of the families to endorse their position and petition the government.
Yehia Kallash, the secretary general of the Journalists’ Syndicate, confirmed that the syndicate had not taken an official position regarding the protestors’ demands, claiming that it was not their place to do so. “It’s not our job to solve the problems of all these people, he told The Daily Star Egypt.
Kallash denied that Syndicate’s security officials had abused any of the protesters, saying that the agency “doesn’t treat people in this way.
The protests stemmed from a four-month long dispute between the citizens of Qalet Al-Kabsh and the government. When a fire destroyed several blocks of the neighborhood, the Ministry of Housing promised the displaced families that they would be given new housing in Nahda, an area outside Egypt s capital along the Cairo-Ismailia highway.
Although the Ministry of Housing stated that all the families had been relocated, these claims were denied by numerous accounts from the displaced citizens in the months following the fire.
“Less than 100 families were given housing from last month s fire, and most of them paid there way for faster service, Omar Youssef, a resident of Qalet Al-Kabsh, told The Daily Star Egypt in June.
According to ECHR’s Abdel Azeem, the 50 families “had been staying in the streets for months. A huge number of them have still not been given the promised housing.
“They went to the Journalists’ Syndicate because they consider it a powerful national syndicate that could advocate for their rights. But the security men of the syndicate have been very abusive in their dealing with the situation.
One of the protestors, Ashraf Ibrahim, 33, who has a wife and two children, told The Daily Star Egypt that he is fed up with the situation.
“We have been sleeping in the streets and we have not been given a flat. We decided to protest and we persisted for three days, but the abuse was too heavy, he said.
“There are other families who have been requesting flats from the government office and have been physically abused by the authorities there as well, he continued. He claimed that the government had given away his and other flats to individuals who had offered to pay bribes.
The Ministry of Interior was unavailable to comment on the matter.
The National Council for Human Rights claimed that it didn’t have enough information about the situation to comment specifically. The Councils’ Secretary General Mokhles Qotb did tell The Daily Star Egypt that “each Egyptian citizen has a right to housing.
Abdel Azeem said that the fate of the families following the end of the protest is unclear.
There is a list of their names that has been prepared by the government and the ECHR is trying to persuade the government to present those lists to the courts. He hopes that this move will help to speed along the process of finally getting the families their promised housing.