- 2008 Egyptian general strike
The 2008 Egyptian general strike was a strike which occurred on
6 April, 2008, by Egyptian workers, primarily in the state-run textile industry, in response to low wages and rising food costs. Strikes are illegal in Egypt and authorities have been given orders to break demonstrations forcefully in the past. [http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E8503C3E-FD14-43D9-8C88-995264267DF6.htm Egypt issues strike warning] Al Jazeera English, 5 April 2008.] The strike took place just two days before key municipal elections.
El-Mahalla El-Kubrabut was picked up, promoted and expanded by activists using the Internet and cell phones. A group on the social networking site Facebook attracted more than 64,000 members. Although the banned Islamistorganization the Muslim Brotherhooddid not officially support the strike, it did not prevent its members from participating, and several Muslim Brotherhood activists and bloggers supported the strike. [ [http://arab-media.blogspot.com/2008/04/using-facebook-blogs-sms-independent.html "April 6th General Strike in Egypt Draws Together Diverse Groups Using Newest Technologies." "Arab Media Blogspot," April 2, 2008.] ] . The night before, Malek [ [http://malek-x.net/ Malek-X Web site.] ] an Egyptian blogger, and three activists from the Islamic Labour Partywere arrested for posting fliers about the strike.
The text of the call for strike read:
All national forces in Egypt have agreed upon the 6th of April to be a public strike. On the 6th of April, stay home, do not go out; Don’t go to work, don’t go to the university, don’t go to school, don’t open your shop, don’t open your pharmacy, don’t go to the police station, don’t go to the camp; We need salaries allowing us to live, we need to work, we want our children to get education, we need human transportation means, we want hospitals to get treatment, we want medicines for our children, we need just judiciary, we want security, we want freedom and dignity, we want apartments for youth; We don’t want prices increase, we don’t want favoritism, we don’t want police in plain clothes, we don’t want torture in police stations, we don’t want corruption, we don’t want bribes, we don’t want detentions. Tell your friends not to go to work and ask them to join the strike. [ [http://news-lab.net/blog/2008/03/23/egyptian-intifada/ "Egyptian Intifada," "News Lab," March 23, 2008.] ]
April 6: day of the strike
The strike at Mahalla was to have begun at 7 a.m. but plain clothes security personnel and police infiltrated the factory and allegedly intimidated workers from striking. [ [http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=12933 Sarah Carr, "Two allegedly killed during violent clashes in Mahalla," "Daily News Egypt," 6 April 2008.] ] Hundreds of plainclothes security men took control of the Mahalla textile factories before work began, seizing workers and forcing them to work. At the end of the day, police escorts led small groups of workers out of the factories in an attempt to discourage mass protests. [http://africa.reuters.com/world/news/usnL06488125.html Nasser Nouri, "Clashes in Nile Delta After Strike Aborted," "Reuters," 6 April 2008.] ] This led some in the press to call the strike a failure and many left the region (about an hour outside Cairo) before any violence started. [ [http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=12918 Rania Al Malky, "Reflections: Bread or freedom?", "Daily News Egypt," 6 April 2008.] ] . Two people, including a 15-year-old-boy, were killed by Egyptian police, who used tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition against the striking workers and other protesters. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/middle_east/7332929.stm Clashes in Egypt strike stand-off]
BBC News, 7 April 2008; [http://africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL11177911.html "Egypt Police Hold Academics on Way to Troubled Town," "Reuters," April 11, 2008] ; [http://www.voanews.com/english/2008-04-11-voa56.cfm Challiss McDonough, "Egypt Security Forces Block Activists, Doctors from Reaching Strike Town," "Voice of America," 11 April 2008] ; [http://www.afriquenligne.fr/news/africa-news/tension-remains-high-in-egypt-over-clashes,-election-200804091563.html "Tension Remains High in Egypt Over Clashes, Election," "Panapress," 9 April 2008] ; [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/04/11/egypt18517_txt.htm "Egypt: Investigate Police Use of Force at Protests," press release, "Human Rights Watch," April 11, 2008] ; [http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7010578245 "Boy Dies In Clashes In Northern Egyptian Town," "All Headline News," April 8, 2008] ; [http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL08810639 Wael Gamal, "Police Shoot Boy Dead in Troubled Nile Delta Town," "Retuers," 8 April 2008] ; [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/04/08/africa/ME-GEN-Egypt-Protest-Death.php "Egyptian Boy Dies From Wounds Sustained in Mahalla Food Riots," "Associated Press," April 8, 2008] .] . Several leaders of opposition parties have been detained, including the Kifayacoordinator Mohamed el-Ashqar, Freedom Commission Rapporteur of the Labor Party Mohamed Abdel Kodous, prominent activist and Kifaya member Magdy Qarqar, and blogger Sharkawy [ [http://sharkawy.wordpress.com/ Sharkawy Web site.] ] (who was sodomized and tortured by Egyptian police in 2006), [ [http://www.slate.com/id/2166146 Wael Abbas, "Big Brothers: In Egypt, Blogging Can Get You Arrested—Or Worse," "Slate," May 14, 2007.] ] and others. [ [http://africa.reuters.com/top/news/usnBAN024488.html Will Rasmussen, "Egypt Detains Opposition Figure After Strike Attempt," "Reuters," 10 April 2008.] ]
Official media channels controlled by the Egyptian government discouraged citizens from participating in the strike, and law enforcement officials warned that protesters could be punished with three months to one year in jail.fact|date=April 2008 Thousands of police lined the streets in downtown
Caironear the universities and in Mahalla in attempt to initimidate people and prevent them from participating. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/07/world/middleeast/07egypt.html Michael Slackman, "In Egypt, Technology Helps Spread Discontent of Workers," "New York Times," April 7, 2008.] ] There were no protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square (most likely due to strong police presence; at least some protesters were chased from the square by police), [http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2008/04/egypt-too-poor.html Jeffrey Fleishman and Noha El-Hennawy, "Egypt: Too Poor to Strike?", "Los Angeles Times," April 6, 2008.] ] though students at Ain Shams, Helwan and Cairo universities held demonstrations.fact|date=April 2008 Many people did stay home in solidarity with the protesters and out of fear of possible violence, with the streets of Cairo noticeably quiet and more stores than usual shuttered for the day.
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