MAHALLA AL-KOBRA: An aborted strike planned by workers at the Ghazl El-Mahalla textile factory gave way Sunday afternoon to violent clashes between protesters and security forces, eye-witnesses told the administrator of tadamon.blogspot.com, a website monitoring the April 6 movement.
Live ammunition was allegedly used to quell the massive protest, killing a 20-year-old male activist and a nine-year-old boy.
Eye-witnesses in Mahalla also said that the security forces used stun batons to electrocute protestors and paralyze them temporarily.
Other rights groups and activists reported that security bodies used violence and teargas to disperse the demonstration in the Delta town.
Security bodies had been mobilizing outside the factory in the week leading up to the strike. Yesterday evening, plainclothes policemen entered factory premises in order to prevent workers from initiating the strike.
Members of the media were allowed into the factory today under escort by individuals who said that they were members of the company’s industrial safety team.
While machines in sections of the factory Daily News Egypt was allowed to visit were operating, it was clearly apparent that members of the workforce were missing.
This was confirmed by one factory employee, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“About 80 percent of staff showed up for work today, but it’s normal to have a 20 percent or so rate of absence, he explained.
The employee told Daily News Egypt that news of the industrial action planned for Sunday was merely a rumor.
“We wanted the meal allowance to be increased and it was, to LE 90. There was no plan to strike, he said.
Divisions among workers had developed in the run-up to the strike.
Representatives of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (an NGO which was banned in April 2007) and the government-backed factory union distributed leaflets in an attempt to persuade workers not to strike.
Members of a league of factory workers formed in opposition to the official union agitated for industrial action.
Violence erupted in Mahalla Sunday afternoon when security forces forcibly dispersed some 15,000 residents and workers who had congregated in El-Showan Square, the town’s biggest square.
According to a message sent by activist Hamdy Hussein, the violence began at 4:30 pm.
“Clashes between security bodies and Ghazl El-Mahalla began when the workers refused directives by security bodies – who number some 50,000 – ordering them to return to their homes, the message reads.
At time of press the number of security forces mobilized in Mahallah could not be confirmed by any other sources.
According to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, security bodies used batons and teargas to break up the protest when protestors began chanting anti-government slogans, condemning price increases of basic foodstuffs.
According to a message sent by the Center, there are “tens of injuries.