CAIRO: Families made homeless by the Duweiqa rockslide who had set up camp at a public garden in central Cairo opposite the Cairo Governor’s Abdeen office, were forcibly removed by the police on Tuesday.
The roughly 20 families, including a large number of children, moved to the garden on Sunday and spent two nights sleeping on blankets and surviving on NGO donations of food and medicine.
On Tuesday morning around 30 of these homeless Duweiqa residents, mostly women, took part in a protest which lasted no longer than 15 minutes. But approximately an hour after it ended, security forces removed the families.
“The police rounded them up and put them in microbuses; we don’t know where they have been taken, Mohamed El Helw, a lawyer with the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights, told Daily News Egypt.
“A criminal investigations officer told me that they would not be subject to any criminal charges, he continued.
Four civil society activists were also reportedly detained. Two of them were released an hour later, according to other activists.
Unconfirmed reports by activists say that the Duweiqa residents removed in the microbuses were taken to various parts of Cairo and left there.
This is the second time in a week that residents have been forcibly removed.
On Saturday they were forced out of tents erected in a youth center in the Manshiyet Nasser area to house those who lost their homes in the rockslide earlier this month which claimed the lives of over 85 people who were confirmed dead.
“They swore at us, hit us with sticks and used dogs against us, resident Hala Ismail, who is pregnant, told Daily News Egypt.
“After they forced us out of the tents they took apart the camp, she continued.
Ismail, who already has two children, showed Daily News Egypt an injury to her neck she sustained during the events.
She says that city council officials are denying the families housing on the pretext that they lack sufficient evidence that they are Duweiqa residents.
“I took all my papers – my son’s school certificate, my marriage certificate, everything – to the officials but they said it wasn’t enough and that I need to bring them a letter proving that my son goes to school there, Ismail explained.
“I don’t want clothes, I don’t want money, I just want four walls to shelter my children, Ismail said.
Madiha Ibrahim related a similar experience.
“I took out a loan to build a room in Duweiqa. It cost LE 3,000 and was 12 square meters. My daughter and I lived in it. I go out to work as a cleaner everyday at 6:30 am and come back at 8 pm, my daughter comes with me to work. I came back on Saturday to find that my room had been destroyed in the rockslide.
Ibrahim, who is divorced, supports her four-year-old daughter without any contribution from her ex-husband who agreed to divorce her on condition that she renounce all alimony claims.
“I have lots of papers proving that I am a resident of Duweiqa but they are refusing to give me a flat. I don’t want clothes, I don’t want money, I just want four walls to shelter my children, Ibrahim said.
Other Duweiqa residents told Daily News Egypt that a housing committee formed to examine residents’ housing applications destroyed letters stating that they would be given housing “after producing the documents establishing their legal claim to it.
“We got the letters on Friday and were over the moon, May Mahmoud told Daily News Egypt.
“But then they took the original letters and left us with a photocopy. They then came back and asked us for the original copy of the letter and said that we couldn’t receive housing without the original, Mahmoud continued.
On Monday evening activists from the Kefaya movement were arrested outside the council building in Manshiyet Nasser, where homeless Duweiqa residents are also camping out.
El Helw told Daily News Egypt that activists Karima El Hefnawy and Ahmed Abou Shetayt were detained during a protest in front of the building which began at around 8 pm.
El Helw says that both El Hefnawy and Abou Shetayt – who could not be reached by Daily News Egypt for comment – were released in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The exact death toll of the Duweiqa crisis remains unknown, since the heavily-criticized rescue operation failed to reach people trapped underneath the huge boulders.