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Archive for September, 2007

Mahalla Strike Falsehoods

I received this update from journalist Jano Charbel on the Mahalla textile strikes. Apparently there are falsehoods in the Reuters and government lines.

A Reply to the Blatant Falsehoods Announced by the Labor Ministry, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, and their Sensationalist Mouthpieces

Officials from the Labor Ministry and the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation have recently been announcing blatantly false statements regarding the nature of the strike being conducted by 26,000 workers at Egypt’s largest company – the Mahalla Textile Company.

The Labor Ministry and the ETUF have made bizarre assertions to the effect that the strike has been instigated and organized by opposition parties together with outlawed religious groupings – and even foreign powers; and that the strikers are threatening to destroy company property.

The truth is that such assertions are fabricated propaganda meant to be used against the highly exploited workers at Al Mahalla – for an untold number of workers at the Company are in fact members of the ruling National Democratic Party, while the overwhelming majority do not belong to any political or religious currents.

While visiting the Mahalla Company on Friday, I met a worker named Mohammad El Gohari Shaaban who denounced the statements made by the Ministry of Labor and the ETUF. Shaaban took out his NDP membership card and shouted “Opposition parties have nothing to do with this strike. I am a member of the National Democratic Party, I am for the NDP but I am also for this strike which is organized solely by the Mahalla workers.” Indeed the Mahalla workers take pride in the fact that their strike is independently organized – by the workers for the workers.

Other perverted and distorted assertions have been announced in official statements from the aforementioned NDP-dominated institutions and have been echoed in the state-owned media, and also by an independent wire agency. A couple of days ago the Reuters Arabic Service in Egypt ran a shocking wire report which was full of inaccuracies and intentional fallacies.

Echoing the fallacies of these institutions the Reuters report quoted an agent/”witness” who claimed that the workers at Mahalla are prepared to burn down their textile company if security forces attempt to put down their strike by force. This allegation was vehemently denied en masse by the workers.

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed a group of female workers. “Would we burn down our source of employment?” Others shouted “How would we earn our means of existence, how would we feed ourselves and our children if we destroy our place of employment?”

Further proving that the workers have no intention of destroying anything in their company – strikers have shown numerous visiting journalists (including myself) how they, despite of the strike, are safely storing and preserving the textiles which they had previously produced. Clearly visible around the company are numerous vigilant workers guarding their work stations – lest any infiltrators/saboteurs attempt to destroy any machinery or textiles.

Another more alarming assertion made by this “witness” quoted in the Reuters article was that the workers have brought their children to the strike – so as to “use them as human shields.”

Workers at Al Mahalla were outraged by this absurd assertion. Angry mothers screamed “These are lies!” A female worker at the strike (who wished to remain anonymous) declared – as any sane parent would – “This is unbelievable, I would never sacrifice my child for a strike or for any other end or purpose.”

Another (anonymous) mother at the strike screamed “Who in their sane mind would believe such lies?” She added “my children are here with me because I sleep-in here at the company. We break our Ramadan fasting here with our families; plus the company’s kindergarten, where I send my daughter during the day, has been shut down since the commencement of this strike.”

Indeed this “witness” quoted in the Reuters report seems to point to the possibility that that the storming of the company (resulting in the injury or death of workers and their children) and/or its sabotage by infiltrators may well be in the planning.

 

Reuters Arabic report after the jump

 

(more…)

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Aid’s bloomberg?

Sebastian Mallaby praises the Development Executive Group, that centers on a website designed to act as a clearing house for development and aid procurement and employment. He goes as far as to compare it to what bloomberg has done for finance. It’s a great idea that will hopefully go a good way towards solving some of development’s worst lack of competition-based problems. But there is still a long way to go. More from FT.

Indeed, i often experience the glaring hole online where development should be. It seems to me that people around the world could stand to benefit from project designs, best practices, reports and much more being uploaded and cataloged. It’s depressing how difficult this information is to come by, especially without a credit card. There are, of course, some great initiatives, but they tend to be geographically isolated at best and are often not updated. In an age of collaboration, it seems strange to me that the sector that is supposed to be the most concerned with cooperation and development is the one that’s taken the longest to jump onto the networked, knowledge sharing, folksonomied wiki world (or web 2.0, if you will).

Perhaps developmentex can eventually grow into such a resource. Or at least inspire some other initiative.

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Big Brother

You’d think with the number of dystopias i’ve read and the pervasive someone’s-watching-me feel of Cairo, this wouldnt creep me out so much.

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On CFR.

ummm.. duh

How bout these ideas: What if Americans toned down their grossly decadent consumption? What about canceling tax breaks for oil companies? And giving them to alternate energy research? Maybe slow down global warming while you’re at it? Give up your SUVs or stop complaining!!

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Since a much-removed relative that i’d met for the first time pointed me to Mona El Tahawy, i’ve periodically checked in on her writing. I just noted this small piece where she explains that despite distaste for their beliefs, she believes in the MBs right to participate.

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Apparently the US government seeks to establish a strategic command for Africa (AFRICOM) that would be the aid, policy, military and counterterrorism nerve-center for Africa. The idea is that this will help raise the profile of Africa and improve efforts through coordination and increased attention. Ultimately, more US government drivel:

The Pentagon says AFRICOM will bring its hearts-and-minds campaign closer to the people; critics say it represents the militarization of U.S. Africa policy. Already, the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there. Worried U.S. allies argue that AFRICOM will only strengthen America’s ties with unsavory regimes—including the Ethiopians, who have become U.S. proxies in an expanding civil war in Somalia—by prioritizing counterterror over development and diplomacy.

The command would serve to consolidate the efforts to date:

AFRICOM would take these piecemeal efforts and expand them substantially. The outlines are already visible. In Dire Dawa, a dozen American reservists and Army National Guardsmen on a yearlong tour live together in a four-story house that serves as both base and home. Each morning they raise two flags: Ethiopian and American. With a $1 million budget they hope to build enough schools and wells and bridges to wrestle key local leaders, clan elders and unemployed youth over to their vision of Ethiopia’s future. AFRICOM, with its cadre of officer corps and civilian expertise, could then integrate those smaller efforts with larger strategic objectives across the continent, sharing intelligence and speeding up communications. Amazingly, China now has more embassies and consulates—and thus more listening posts—in Africa than the United States.

Not really all that amazing. The comparative shrewdness of China’s Africa policy has been the subject of much discussion.

Perhaps the biggest source of concern is the recent U.S. track record in the Horn of Africa, where Washington has been pursuing an increasingly militarized policy for more than a year with disastrous results. Twice in the past year, the United States has intervened in Somalia—first by supporting local warlords, then by backing an Ethiopian invasion—to undermine the regime of the fundamentalist Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which Washington accuses of maintaining links with Al Qaeda. Fighting has raged across Mogadishu ever since, killing hundreds of innocent civilians and forcing some 400,000 from their homes, without decisively toppling the Islamists. U.S. and European attempts to create a government of national unity have failed spectacularly.

South Africa is leading a group of countries in opposition to US meddling.

Interestingly, Egypt would be the only non-island country excluded from AFRICOM. (See the map on the DoD site).

There‘s more from the EUCOM website to which AFRICOM will be initially subordinate.

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Premortem rumour legacies

Now that the worry has passed and we are all reassured of the health our dear Mr Mubarak, perhaps it is time for reflection on the consequences of the crisis. I wont dwell long where others already have. Here‘s an Arabist look at the recent jail verdicts against 4 newspaper editors supposedly for spreading the rumours. [CairoFreeze] The crackdown is just one more rights rollback since the end of 2005. And this is on the investor scare that was supposed to have resulted.

Everything’s peachy. Happy Ramadan!

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