Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1126, 13 - 19 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

Dormant city

Ahmed Morsy asks if Mahalla, which once acted as a catalyst for the 2011 revolution, still has enough lava

Al-Ahram Weekly

When workers took to the streets of Mahalla Al-Kobra, Egypt’s largest industrial city, on 6 April 2008, demanding the right to a dignified life, it never crossed their minds that their strike would pave the way for a revolution that would topple Hosni Mubarak’s regime three years later.
When it was reported late last week that several revolutionary movements stormed into Mahalla’s local council and announced the city’s self-rule, many started to wonder if history would repeat itself. According to a statement posted via several social networks, it was also reported that a “revolutionary council” was founded to rule the industrial city away from any affiliation to the Gharbiya governorate.
Topping the revolutionary movements that issued the statement was 6 April. However, in a statement released on Saturday, 6 April denied reports in the media about the independence of the city, stressing that it was not true. The movement explained that the revolutionary council was founded as an entity parallel to the city local council with the aim of overseeing it and evaluating its performance.
“All what happened was the issuance of a statement by some revolutionary forces and political movements, including the 6 April youth movement, which announced the establishment of a parallel local council to protest against the current catastrophic management of the president,” said the statement. Mahmoud Saad, a member of the media committee of the movement, stated that 6 April denounces the exploitation of the statement’s wording in a way that would mislead citizens about an illusional split within the city of Mahalla.
Likewise, officials of the Mahalla City Council also denied the claims. “It is merely a rumour and the city council was not stormed,” Said Mustafa, secretary-general of the city council, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“There was only a demonstration that attracted around 3,000 protesters,” Mustafa said, noting that it was a peaceful one, chanting against the regime after staging a sit-in at Al-Shoun Square, about one kilometre away from the city council.
It all happened at the weekend, when dozens of anonymous young boys who do not belong to any political or revolutionary parties blocked Al-Shoun railway crossing which links Tanta with Mansoura cities and set fire to rubber tires to protest against the bloody riots which erupted in front of Al-Ittihadiya presidential palace last week, leaving eight dead and hundreds injured.
Moreover, Mahalla, dubbed the cradle of the Egyptian revolution, witnessed violent clashes last week between Morsi’s supporters and opponents in light of the recently cancelled constitutional declaration. Street battles followed attempts to storm the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Mahalla.
“The FJP headquarters is now closed after last week’s clashes and attempts by protesters to storm it,” the gatekeeper of the building in which the headquarters is located in Mahalla told the Weekly.
“Those protesters pulled down the banner which was hanging over the building after throwing stones that smashed some windows. They tried to climb the first floor balcony of the headquarters, however, the residents confronted them to defend themselves and their children’s lives,” the gatekeeper added.
Earlier last month, members of youth and political groups in Mahalla raided a police station, chanting slogans denouncing the Interior Ministry and the Muslim Brotherhood and demanding the overthrow of President Morsi. They also asked during a rally marking the first anniversary of the deadly events at Mohamed Mahmoud Street for retribution for the victims.
The dismissal of Hisham Kandil’s cabinet and a trial of all those responsible for the Assiut train collision that killed over 50 children last month were among their demands. They said they would continue to demonstrate until their demands are met, and warned President Morsi of a second revolution that would topple him.
Historically, the January 25 Revolution has roots dating back to 2008, when workers at Mahalla city, a centre for Egypt’s labour movements and a major textile production hub, staged a general strike, challenging Mubarak’s regime. The Mahalla strike led to the birth of the 6 April youth movement, which made its name then as a group calling for the strike and supporting it.
The 2008 strike was not the first protest staged by Mahalla residents. In 2006, over 15,000 protesters clashed with riot police in Mahalla, following the publication in Denmark of cartoons mocking Islam. Later in 2006, textile workers demonstrated to protest against market reforms, demanding better living conditions.
The movement of 6 April followed the path of Kifaya by constructing solid opposition to Mubarak, paving the way for last year’s revolution.
“There is no intention to launch a strike for the time being,” Sayed Selim, a textile worker in the state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving Company, told the Weekly. “We are aware of the current political split in the country. Besides, we don’t have any political interest as we only focus on our own interests.”
Tamer Fawzi, 32, a security employee in Mahalla states that every now and then “we see demonstrations protesting against the Muslim Brotherhood at Al-Shoun Square.”
Asked whether there is any pro-Morsi protests that would face down such demonstrations, Fawzi replied: “There are only opponent protests and each one does not last more than hours, even the one organised last weekend.”
“Morsi should calm people down and reassure them in addition to keeping commodity prices stable,” he said.

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