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Demonstrations and strikes across Egypt
Ahram Online, Tuesday 8 Feb 2011
Workers, the unemployed and angry all took to the streets Tuesday demanding their rights and the removal of the country’s ruling regime
Thousands of Luxor’s unemployed and those affected by the impaired tourism sector gathered in front of the Labour Force Authority to register their names and seek compensation and financial aid as designated by the ministry of finance.
Head of the authority Abdraboh Hassan said that its employees have worked from eight in the morning receiving applications and registering them. He added that owners of small businesses, investors and businessmen have the right to apply for compensation as well, though not through the authority.
A large number sought unemployment benefit, many of whom graduates or diploma holders from the classes but were unable to find jobs. Others applicants do not hold regular jobs or have been afflicted by the suspension of tourism.
This comes at a time when most tourism companies and hotels started downsizing plans after suffering severe losses due to the complete absence of tourism in the city.
Labour protests escalated in Suez with textile workers joining in and demonstrating with 2000 others demanding their right to work. Ali Fuad, a worker at the station, said: “We are having a sit-in today to demand our rights, which are in the text of the workers’ law, our right to obtain the annual increase in salary which the management refuses to give us so we strike with all the laws that uphold the right of workers.”
Mohamed Abdel-Hakam factory, head of the factory syndicate, confirmed workers have continued their sit-in for a third day.
In the city of Suez itself, around 2000 youths demonstrated to demand the chance to work. Amid expectations of growing labour protests in Suez, officials from the local council have attempted to meet the protesters and end the crisis.
In Mahalla, more than 1500 workers of the Abu El-Subaa company in Mahalla demonstrated this morning, cutting the road, demanding their salaries and stating that it is not the first time. The workers have staged repeated sit-ins for two years as they demand their rights and mediation between the workers and the company’s owner, Ismail Abu El-Subaa.
More than 2000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the city of Quesna have gone on strike demanding higher wages and benefits that have been suspended for years. The workers are also calling for the dismissal of managers who have ill-treated workers.
Around 5000 unemployed youths demonstrated this morning in front of Aswan governorate building, which they tried to storm. The protesters chanted their demand that the governor be dismissed.
In Kom Ombo, around 1000 protesters called for the president, Hosni Mubarak, as security remained absent.
Dozens of liver patients gathered in the governorate of Menoufeya at noon today over the lateness of their vaccinations. They were due to receive their treatment from the Hilal hospital three days ago. Dr. Murhaf El-Mougy, Menoufeya’s general director of medical insurance, stated that the governorate was late in receiving the vaccination from its manufacturer. He attributed the delay to the curfew imposed during the demonstrations in Egypt.
In Cairo, more than 1500 public authority for cleaning and beauty workers in demonstrated in front of the authority’s head quarters in Dokki. According to a statement by the head of the authority on Egyptian television, their demands include an increase in their monthly wages, to LE1200, and a daily lunch meal. The workers are also demanding for permanent contracts and the dismissal of the authority’s president.
And in Menya, thousands demanded the removal of the ruling regime in Egypt and Mubarak’s resignation. Amid heavy security, the demonstrators marched towards the governorate building.
In recent days, Menya has witnessed several demonstartions, most of them opposed to the regime. However, demonstrations in favour of Mubarak have been staged.Violence as a result of these protests has lead to 72 people being injured, demonstrators and security personnel, according to Dr Adel Abu Ziad, deputy of the ministry of health in Menya.
Donal Mac Fhearraigh
Ministers’ pensions are valued at €26.7m
06 February 2011 By Richard Curran
Six ministers who decided to retire from the Dáil will walk away with such good pensions that it would require a total of €26.7 million in a pension fund to provide them.
Separately, pension experts have valued former taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s pension at €7.6 million.
The ministers will not face an immediate tax bill on retirement because their pensions will not be covered by new rules introduced last month in the Finance Act.
According to Independent Trustee Company managing director Aidan McLoughlin, ministers can ratchet up a pension fund benefit of €5 million in just ten years.
McLoughlin used the Pensions Board’s own calculator as the basis for working out that retiring transport minister Noel Dempsey’s pension is effectively worth €5.5 million.
Mary Harney’s is worth €5.8 million. Dermot Ahern’s is worth €5.9 million. Tony Killeen’s is worth €2.8 million. Batt O’Keeffe’s is worth €4.1 million and retiring junior minister Noel Ahern’s is worth €2.7 million.
These and future ministers will not have to worry about a tax bill arising from the value of the fund when they retire. ‘‘The Revenue Commissioners have kindly decided to use a discredited and inaccurate calculation that assumes an annuity rate of 5 per cent.
‘‘This leaves Mr Dempsey’s pension with an undervalued official capital value of €2.3 million, thus keeping his and future ministers’ pension funds under or close to this new limit,” McLoughlin said.
The change in the way of calculating the capital value of the pension was inserted into a small paragraph in the recent Finance Act.
According to the pension trustees, the assumed annuity rate of 5 per cent for this generous pension benefit isn’t available anywhere else in the world.
‘‘If the newly introduced pension fund limit of €2.3 million was applied, each minister would have a tax bill of approximately €1.5 million on the day they retired.”
This would have reduced the amount available in their fund by that amount. The new calculation method will bring significant tax benefits to TDs, ministers, senior civil servants and private sector executives whose pension pots are likely to fall between the new tax threshold of €2.3 million and the old one of €5.4 million.
Donal Mac Fhearraigh
WikiLeaks: Israel’s secret hotline to the man tipped to replace Mubarak
By Tim Ross, Christopher Hope, Steven Swinford and Adrian Blomfield 9:25PM GMT 07 Feb 2011
The new vice-president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman, is a long-standing favourite of Israel’s who spoke daily to the Tel Aviv government via a secret “hotline” to Cairo, leaked documents disclose.
Omar Suleiman, left, was Israel’s preferred candidate to replace President Mubarak according to secret cables released to The Daily Telegraph by WikiLeaks
Mr Suleiman, who is widely tipped to take over from Hosni Mubarak as president, was named as Israel’s preferred candidate for the job after discussions with American officials in 2008.
The details, which emerged in secret files obtained by WikiLeaks and passed to The Daily Telegraph, come after Mr Suleiman began talks with opposition groups on the future for Egypt’s government.
On Saturday, Mr Suleiman won the backing of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, to lead the “transition” to democracy after two weeks of demonstrations calling for President Mubarak to resign.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, spoke to Mr Suleiman yesterday and urged him to take “bold and credible steps” to show the world that Egypt is embarking on an “irreversible, urgent and real” transition.
Leaked cables from American embassies in Cairo and Tel Aviv disclose the close co-operation between Mr Suleiman and the US and Israeli governments as well as diplomats’ intense interest in likely successors to the ageing President Mubarak, 83.
The documents highlight the delicate position which the Egyptian government seeks to maintain in Middle East politics, as a leading Arab nation with a strong relationship with the US and Israel. By 2008, Mr Suleiman, who was head of the foreign intelligence service, had become Israel’s main point of contact in the Egyptian government.
David Hacham, a senior adviser from the Israeli Ministry of Defence, told the American embassy in Tel Aviv that a delegation led by Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak had been impressed by Mr Suleiman, whose name is spelled “Soliman” in some cables.
But Mr Hacham was “shocked” by President Mubarak’s “aged appearance and slurred speech”.
The cable, from August 2008, said: “Hacham was full of praise for Soliman, however, and noted that a ‘hot line’ set up between the MOD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use.
“Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim President if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated.” The Tel Aviv diplomats added: “We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman.”
Elsewhere the documents disclose that Mr Suleiman was stung by Israeli criticism of Egypt’s inability to stop arms smugglers transporting weapons to Palestinian militants in Gaza. At one point he suggested that Israel send troops into the Egyptian border region of Philadelphi to “stop the smuggling”.
“In their moments of greatest frustration, [Egyptian Defence Minister] Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] would be ‘welcome’ to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling,” the cable said.
The files suggest that Mr Suleiman wanted Hamas “isolated”, and thought Gaza should “go hungry but not starve”.
“We have a short time to reach peace,” he told US diplomats. “We need to wake up in the morning with no news of terrorism, no explosions, and no news of more deaths.”
Yesterday, Hosni Mubarak’s control of Egypt’s state media, a vital lynchpin of his 30-year presidency, started to slip as the country’s largest-circulation newspaper declared its support for the uprising.
Hoping to sap the momentum from street protests demanding his overthrow, the president has instructed his deputy to launch potentially protracted negotiations with secular and Islamist opposition parties. The talks continued for a second day yesterday without yielding a significant breakthrough.
But Mr Mubarak was dealt a significant setback as the state-controlled Al-Ahram, Egypt’s second oldest newspaper and one of the most famous publications in the Middle East, abandoned its long-standing slavish support for the regime.
In a front-page leading article, the newspaper hailed the “nobility” of the “revolution” and demanded the government embark on irreversible constitutional and legislative changes.
Donal Mac Fhearraigh
Statement of the Revolution Socialists, Egypt
Glory to the martyrs! Victory to the revolution!
What is happening today is the largest popular revolution in the history of our country… and of the entire Arab world. The sacrifice of our martyrs has built our revolution and we have broken through all the barriers of fear. We will not bac…k down until the criminal ‘leaders’ and their criminal system is destroyed.
Call to Egyptian workers. Statement from the Revolution Socialists, Egypt:
The demonstrations and protests have played a key role in igniting and continuing our revolution. Now we need the workers. They can seal the fate of the regime. Not only by participating in the demonstrations, but by organising a general strike in all the vital …industries and large corporations…
The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon. Strike on the railways, on public transport, the airports and large industrial companies…! Egyptian Workers! On behalf of the rebellious youth, and on behalf of the blood of our martyrs, join the ranks of the revolution, use your power and victory will be ours!
Form revolutionary councils urgently.
This revolution has surpassed our greatest expectations. Nobody expected to see these numbers. Nobody expected that Egyptians would be this brave in the face of the police. Nobody can say that we did not force the dictator to retreat. No…body can say that a transformation did not happen in Middan el Tahrir.
What we need right now is to push for the socio-economic demands as part of our demands, so that the person sitting in his home knows that we fighting for their rights… We need to organize ourselves into popular committees which elects its higher councils democratically, and from below. These councils must form a higher council which includes delegates of all the tendencies. We must elect a higher council of people who represent us, and in whom we trust. We call for the formation of popular councils in Middan Tahrir, and in all the cities of Egypt.
Statement of the Revolution Socialists, Egypt on the role of the army:
Everyone asks: Is the Army with the people or against them?
The army is not a single block. The interests of soldiers and junior officers are the same as the interests of the masses. But the senior officers are Mubarak’s men, chosen carefully to protect his regime of… corruption, wealth and tyranny. It is an integral part of the system…
This army is no longer the people’s army. This army is not the one which defeated the Zionist enemy in October 73. This army is closely associated with America and Israel. It’s role is to protect Israel, not the people… Yes we want to win the soldiers of the revolution. But we must not be fooled by slogans that ‘the army on our side’. The army will either suppress the demonstrations directly, or by restructuring the police to play this role.
Form revolutionary councils urgently
This revolution has surpassed our greatest expectations. Nobody expected to see these numbers. Nobody expected that Egyptians would be this brave in the face of the police. Nobody can say that we did not force the dictator to retreat. Nobody can say that a transformation did not happen in Middan el Tahrir.
What we need right now is to push for the socioeconomic demands as part of our demands, so that the person sitting in his home knows that we are fighting for their rights. We need to organise ourselves into popular committees which elects its higher councils democratically, and from below. These councils must form a higher council which includes delegates of all the tendencies. We must elect a higher council of people who represent us, and in whom we trust. We call for the formation of popular councils in Middan Tahrir, and in all the cities of Egypt.
Call to Egyptian workers to join the ranks of the revolution
The demonstrations and protests have played a key role in igniting and continuing our revolution. Now we need the workers. They can seal the fate of the regime. Not only by participating in the demonstrations, but by organising a general strike in all the vital industries and large corporations.
The regime can afford to wait out the sit-ins and demonstrations for days and weeks, but it cannot last beyond a few hours if workers use strikes as a weapon. Strike on the railways, on public transport, the airports and large industrial companies! Egyptian workers! On behalf of the rebellious youth, and on behalf of the blood of our martyrs, join the ranks of the revolution, use your power and victory will be ours!
Glory to the martyrs!
Down with the system!
All power to the people!
Emergency Motion passed at Dublin City Council 8th February, 2011
– Councillor Brid Smith, People Before Profit Alliance
This Council declares its total solidarity with the heroic democracy protesters of Egypt, and especially with those currently occupying Tahrir (Liberation) Square. It strongly supports their demands: for the immediate removal of the dictator, Hosni Mubarak, from his office as President; for the repeal of the anti-democratic Emergency Law (which since 1981 has given the notorious State Security Forces the right to detain people without charge or trial); for the dismantling of the whole Mubarak regime of murder torture and corruption; for full freedom of the press and genuine democratic elections. This Council resolves to refuse all collaboration with the illegitimate Mubarak Government or its agents .
This Council also calls upon the Irish Government to; a) end all diplomatic relations with the Mubarak/Suleiman regime until such time as a new democratically elected government is established; b) to make a public statement of its support for the democracy movement; c)to vote accordingly at the United Nations and in the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament; d) to call publicly for Mubarak to be put on trial at the International Court of Human Rights at the Hague.
The Mubarak Regime
Mubarak – formerly VP – became President in 1981.Since then he has been “re-elected” four times. In 1987, 1993, and 1999 noone was allowed to run against him. In 2005 (following the Iraq War for ‘democracy’) he came under pressure to allow a contested election . There was one opposition candidate Ayman Nour and the election was blatantly rigged by means of intimidation, bribery and stuffed ballot boxes, plus Nour was then charged with forgery and sentenced to 5 years hard labour.
Inequality and Poverty.
Egypt is a society of severe poverty and growing inequality. The World Bank report of 2007 showed that the Percent of Egyptians officially living in poverty (defined as less than $2 per day) increased from 16.7% to 19.6% (15 million people) between 2000 and 2005. Many millions more survive on only slightly more. Meanwhile Mubarak has acquired an estimated personal fortune of $20 billion and the Sawiris Brothers (owners of Egypt’s lead company Ostracom) official wealthaccording to Forbes Arabia stands at $19 billion. In 2007-8 there were Bread riots in which 15 people died in fights for bread, and demonstrations in the Nile Delta for water called ‘the revolution of the thirsty’.
Torture as State Policy
There is an endemic culture of Torture in Egypt’s jails and police stations. The most horrific abuse and torture is habitually practiced not just against political opponents of the regime but against any Egyptian who is arrested or detained (and under the Emergency Law anyone can be detained without trial or charge). This includes petty criminals – pick pockets, shoplifters etc. Methods of torture that are widespread include beating, sleep deprivation, electric shocks, sexual abuse and humiliation and rape. Many political prisoners have been held for years, in some cases decades, in unspeakable conditions, without trial.
Omar Suleiman whom the USA looks to to ‘manage the transition’ has been, as Head of Intelligence, Mubarak’s right hand man and torturer – in – chief and the key overseer of ‘extraordinary rendition’ for the US(See Donal’s doc). He is completely unacceptable to the democracy movement. One of the main slogans of the movement has been The People Want to Change the Regime– there is a vast banner to this effect in English in Tahrir Sq. Sulieman is a key part of the old regime.
The Muslim Brotherhood
Some Western Governments and commentators are justifying Mubarak hanging on, or qualified support for his regime by reference to the ‘threat’ from the Muslim Brotherhood. It is important to understand therefore that the Brotherhood is not Al Qaeda or any kind of terrorist organisation. It practices a moderate version of Islamism similar to the moderation of western social democracy. It advocates political democracy, free elections and free speech and has participated in the democracy movement. But it is cautious and moderate, not radical. Hence it did not back the original 25 Jan protests which began the Revolution, but was drawn into the movement by pressure from the masses. Hence its negotiation with the government now. The US fears the Brotherhood because it does not support US foreign policy in the region ie the War on Iraq and unconditional support for Israel. – unlike the Mubarak regime.
Published on Sunday, January 30, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program
by Stephen Soldz
In response to the mass protests of recent days, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed his first Vice President in his over 30 years rule, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. When Suleiman was first announced, Aljazeera commentators were describing him as a “distinguished” and “respected ” man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition to torture program. Further, he is “respected” by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives.
Katherine Hawkins, an expert on the US’s rendition to torture program, in an email, has sent some critical texts where Suleiman pops up. Thus, Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, pointed to Suleiman’s role in the rendition program:
Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).
Stephen Grey, in Ghost Plane, his investigative work on the rendition program also points to Suleiman as central in the rendition program:
To negotiate these assurances [that the Egyptians wouldn’t “torture” the
prisoner delivered for torture] the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime — the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security.
Suleiman’s role, was also highlighted in a Wikileaks cable:
In the context of the close and sustained cooperation between the USG and GOE on counterterrorism, Post believes that the written GOE assurances regarding the return of three Egyptians detained at Guantanamo (reftel) represent the firm commitment of the GOE to adhere to the requested principles. These assurances were passed directly from Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) Chief Soliman through liaison channels — the most effective communication path on this issue. General Soliman’s word is the GOE’s guarantee, and the GOE’s track record of cooperation on CT issues lends further support to this assessment. End summary.
However, Suleiman wasn’t just the go-to bureaucrat for when the Americans wanted to arrange a little torture. This “urbane and sophisticated man” apparently enjoyed a little rough stuff himself.
Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, torture by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:
Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.
That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:
To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick.
After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.
The Washington Post’s intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein reported some additional details regarding Suleiman and his important role in the old Egypt the demonstrators are trying to leave behind:
“Suleiman is seen by some analysts as a possible successor to the president,” the Voice of American said Friday. “He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.”
An editorialist at Pakistan’s “International News” predicted Thursday that “Suleiman will probably scupper his boss’s plans [to
install his son], even if the aspiring intelligence guru himself is as young as 75.”
Suleiman graduated from Egypt’s prestigious Military Academy but also received training in the Soviet Union. Under his guidance, Egyptian intelligence has worked hand-in-glove with the CIA’s counterterrorism programs, most notably in the 2003 rendition from Italy of an al-Qaeda suspect known as Abu Omar.
In an observation that may turn out to be ironic, the magazine wrote, “More than from any other single factor, Suleiman’s influence stems from his unswerving loyalty to Mubarak.”
If Suleiman succeeds Mubarak and retains power, we will likely be treated to plaudits for his distinguished credentials from government officials and US pundits. We should remember that what they really mean is his ability to brutalize and torture. As Stephen Grey puts it:
But in secret, men like Omar Suleiman, the country’s most powerful spy and secret politician, did our work, the sort of work that Western countries have no appetite to do ourselves.
If Suleiman receives praise in the US, it will be because our leaders know that he’s the sort of leader who can be counted on to do what it takes to restore order and ensure that Egypt remains friendly to US interests.
There are some signs, however, that the Obama administration may not accept Suleiman’s appointment. Today they criticized the rearrangement of the chairs in Egypt’s government. If so, that will be a welcome sign that the Obama administration may have some limits beyond which it is hesitant to go in aligning with our most brutal “friends.”
We sure hope that the Egyptian demonstrators reject the farce of Suleiman’s appointment and push on to a complete change of regime. Otherwise the Egyptian torture chamber will undoubtedly return, as a new regime reestablishes “stability” and serves US interests.
Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He edits the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. Soldz is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations working to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations; he served as a psychological consultant on several Gutanamo trials. Currently Soldz is President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility [PsySR] and a Consultant to Physicians for Human Rights.
Donal Mac Fhearraigh