Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Warraq islanders vs. government : Once again in front of courts

The island of Warraq in Giza is back to the spotlight and it is not in a good way as much the Egyptian government wants or hopes.

A group of Warraq islanders began to sue the government in front of the administrative court to stop the execution of a ministerial decree to expropriate their land and houses issued in November.
This is the newest legal confrontation between the Islanders and government over the 1,400 feddans island that goes back to 2001.

On 22 November 2018 , Egypt’s Prime minister Mostafa Madbouly issued a decree to expropriate effective immediately  100 metres of land along both sides of the Rod Al-Farrag Axis – which crosses 200 metres of the island – as well as 30 metres from the shoreline inland around the island to construct a cornice (waterside road) in total of 230 metres.

According to locals, there are not less than 5,000 people living and working on those 230 metres.
The government says that this is part of urbanizing the Nile island while the locals fear that this is just an attempt to empty the island from the people to re-sell its land for millions to millions as it was the plan since 2001. “They have not forgotten those days

The government says that the citizens will be compensated and offered alternative houses like the residents of Maspero triangle but the locals say they do not believe the government will compensate them fairly as it wants to expropriate their land first before compensation.
The locals do not want to leave the island in nutshell. They do not reject urbanization but want to stay while the island is being urbanized.

On Tuesday, I have read also that there is another collective lawsuit representing all those people affected by the decree against the government at the administrative court according to the Warraq Families council that has been representing the islanders publicly in their fight against the government.
Warraq protest
A photo from the angry protest by locals at the ferry dock on Tuesday
"Warraq island News FB page"
It is worth to mention that on 19 January 2019 the administrative court will look into the appeal presented by the islanders against the government’s decree in June to establish a new “urban community” on the majority of the island.

On Tuesday also, things were going to escalate badly when local Facebook pages covering the island’s news above the “ Families of Warraq council”  said that the government allegedly decided to stop one of the local ferries connecting the island with the mainland replacing it with a ferry owned and run by the River Transport authority.
Through Google search News, I found one that the new ferry was inaugurated yesterday and it is connecting the island and the mainland in Qalyubia governorate only. It was re-designed by the army’s engineering corps not owned by the army as some Facebook pages have claimed.

The local ferries which were mainly four as far as I remember during my visit to the island last year, are owned and operated by one or two families for decades.

As soon as the news about suspending a local ferry from work and replacing it with a single ferry, I found out FB pages called the Islanders to mobilize calling the public to protest the decision at the deck

Later, I found photos of both masses of angry islanders later along with photos of anti-riot forces on the islands hours later.
After 4 hours, I read the news that the head of Qalyubia security directorate came and calmed the people down that the local ferry will continue to work and the anti-riot forces withdrew.
This little incident shows that there are huge tension and fear from the locals’ side when it comes to the government or the state itself.

Another important remark I can’t ignore recently is that I have not any seen decent coverage over the Islanders’ reactions regarding that ministerial decree issued on November or even that decision issued to found a so-called “New urban community” in the island that has been inhabited by an active society in the past two centuries !!

The last decent coverage I have seen for that struggle in the island was only in July 2017 when clashes erupted between the Islanders and the security forces and one islander was killed.
During then an islander was killed and dozens were injured when security forces stormed the island to implement for demolishment orders for houses allegedly built on state-owned-land.

The islanders deny this till date and I filmed interviews with people who actually owned land with legal contracts and got their houses demolished in that raid.
There are still 20 something islanders who are standing trial for allegedly attacking the security forces during that clash.

Only Ahram Online, Ahram Weekly and Mada Masr have published news reports about recent updates and they are all Egyptian-speaking-publications. “Mada Masr got Arabic version but it is blocked in Egypt.”

Even independent newspapers like Al-Masry Al-Youm Daily and Al-Shorouk Daily stopped their unbiased coverage to the issue and have been publishing the statements of the government only.
The mainstream must do its job for real as much it can for real.

Presenting both sides whether the government or the locals actually is the only best way for Egypt as well for sustainable urbanizations and I feel I am speaking once about crystal clear facts.

FYI Warraq island’s struggle with the government is noted by the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing Leilani Farha who said in a press conference in October that she could not visit the island herself because of “lack of security according to government officials”

There is a clear mention of Warraq island in her end mission statement about the visit on the official website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Farha’s later statements concerning the situation in Egypt made the foreign ministry issued a strong angry statement slamming her in a move that never happened before to UN official

The Warraq Families Council: Or how the Egyptian people are truly ready for democracy and political civil rights in rural rights

When the Warraq islanders fought the government’s decree to confiscate their land to build a resort in the Nile river in 2005, the civil society and the opposition parties rallied behind them giving them huge support. But in 2017 and then in 2018, they have been on their own.
There is no civil society nor there are opposition parties to support them.
I think the Warraq islanders learned those harsh facts in summer 2017 and thus in October of the same year, they decided to form a high council to represent the island officially in the media as well in negotiations with the officials.
From the general conference of the locals and the council
earlier November at the island "Warraq Families council FB page"
In late October 2017, the Warraq families council was formed by 234 members representing 85 families in the island and within the council committees like engineering and Medias committee were formed to help the Islanders.

There is youth representation in that council according to what I have read.

Tuesday night I read a silly statement for former political sciences professor and current media figure Moataz Abdel Fattah claiming that Egypt was not ready for democracy.

I guess the people of rural Warraq island who mostly are farmers beg to differ.

I look to this council in that huge David-Goliath situation to find a silver lining.

A non-politicalized rural society with no ideologies or different ideologies took a step and began to organize themselves as much as I can see.

The upscale citizens of Zamalek and Heliopolis could not do this.

To be honest, I do not know if the Islanders are going to win this legal fight against the government just like in the 2000s.

Updated: The Warraq Families Council issued a very strong and balanced statement that started with that opening paragraph. 
" We are the people of Al-Warraq island have and will never be against the state or any urbanization built upon enhancing the health, ecological and educational services in the island because this is the true investment our beloved Egypt needs"
In the statement which is only published on the council's Facebook page and ignored by the mainstream media in Egypt, the Council representing the Islanders said "that all their rights according to the Egyptian Constitutions and laws are reserved when it comes to private properties” and that “they did not approve any urbanization plan” because “no one showed them the plan” .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank You for your comment
Please keep it civilized here, racist and hateful comments are not accepted
The Comments in this blog with exclusion of the blog's owner does not represent the views of the blog's owner.