An online campaign calling for a general strike across Egypt on Sunday has been gaining momentum, with thousands promising to stop work for the day in protest against low salaries and increasing prices. This prompted the government to issue a stern warning against those planning to take part in the event. Arrests have been reported in Cairo, with one blogger already detained Saturday, for his alleged role in calling for the strike.
Calls for the strike were mass circulated via text messages and emails as well as the social networking platform, Facebook, where a group calling itself 6 April – The Day of Anger, managed to attract more than 65,000 members since it was set up last week.
Blogger Baheyya sheds light on the strike saying:
A broad coalition of blue- and white-collar national forces has called a general strike for tomorrow 6 April to demand decent living conditions and protest all the man-made ills afflicting our society: corruption, nepotism, inflation, torture, poverty, police brutality. The plan is to stay home and not report to work or school, or alternatively to join others in street processions converging on main city squares.
The general strike is the brainchild of the Ghazl a-Mahalla workers, later joined by Kafr al-Dawwar labourers. Kifaya, al-Wasat, al-Karama, the 9 March Movement for University Autonomy and a slew of other collectives have also signed on.
Of course, the government and all its institutions have been mobilising for days to obstruct and ridicule the very notion of a strike. Today, the ever-informative Al-Ahram quoted a judge who reminded citizens that Article 124 of the Penal Code punishes all those who shirk their work obligations with a prison sentence of 3 months to one year, and double that for all those who incite others to strike. Civil servants, teachers, police officers and many others have been given strict instructions to report for work tomorrow, and amn al-dawla has been busy alternately threatening and cajoling workers to abandon or abort the strike effort.
Malek, the first on the blogger casualty list, has been arrested, allegedly for encouraging the public to take part in the strike. His arrest was first reported by bloggers via Twitter, with veteran blogger Ala'a Abdelfattah breaking the story with this message:
MaLek arrested and is now in masr el qadima police station.
Minutes later a post appeared on Malek's blog, confirming the arrest. The post (Ar) said:
مالك دا الوقت في قسم مصر القديمة. كانوا بيوزعوا ورق و بيكلموا الناس عن إضراب بكرة. المحامين حاليا مع مالك في القسم
Malek is at the Masr Kadima (Old Cairo) Police station. He was distributing leaflets and talking to people about tomorrow's strike. The lawyers are currently with Malek at the police station.
Human rights activist Hossam El Hamalawy adds:
A number of Labor Party activists are also held in the same station (Ar) … Several bloggers and activists are on the run, after they were chased by the pigs in the streets of downtown Cairo today while distributing leaflets in solidarity with the strike…
قامت قوات الامن بإختطاف مصطفى خليل الناشط بحركة كفايه بالمنصورة ، مصطفى تم اختطافه من محل لبيع الاقمشة بتهمة انه “ينوى كتابه لافتات لاضراب يوم 6 ابريل على هذا القماش !!
حركة كفايه تحذر اعضاءها ومحبيها وكافة المواطنين المصريين من شراء اى قماش او ملابس حتى تزول هذه الايام السوداء !!
The security forces have kidnapped Kifaya activist Mustafa Khalil in Al Mansoura. Mustafa was kidnapped from a fabrics shop and charged with wanting to purchase fabric to write banners for the April 6 strike. Kefaya warns it members, supporters and all Egyptians to refrain from purchasing fabrics and all clothes until those black days are over!!
Meanwhile, Wa7da Masriya (An Egyptian Girl) has issued the following guidelines for Egyptians to follow on the day of the strike. Among them are:
تعليق علم مصر فى البلكونات
2- ارتداء ملابس سوداء و يفضل مطبوع عليها اى شعار للإضراب لوامكن مع حمل شاره او اى اعلان عن “إنى مضرب إحتجاجا على الأسعار
3- الإضراب عن شراء أى سلعه لتمثل وسيلة تهديد للحكومه التى لا تعيرنا اى انتباه و لا تحترم وجودنا ولا تحس بمعاناتنا و كذلك الاضراب عن شراء السلع يعتبر تهديد لاى تاجر يرفع الاسعار اننا يمكن ان نتحد لمواجهتهعند حدوث حالة شلل فى هذا اليوم سيفكر الجشعون الاف المرات امام هذا الشعب الواعى
1. Hang the Egyptian flag from your balconies
2. Wear black clothes, with any of the strike slogans printed on them if possible, such as the strike's logo or statement saying “I am on strike in protest against the increase in prices”
3. Stop buying any products which will threaten the government which doesn't pay any attention to us, or respect us, of feel our suffering. Also stop buying any product which will threaten merchants to stop increasing prices. We can unite against them and create a paralysis in the country on this say so that those greedy people think thousands of times when they deal with our conscious people.
And because Egyptians are renowned for their sense of humour, Jar Al Qamar shares with us the following story:
عم واحد صاحبي بيروح شغله كموظف كبير في الحكومة كل يوم بتاكسي مخصوص .. النهاردة الراجل نازل الشغل فسواق التاكسي اللي اسمه عم علاء و قليل الكلام في العادة بلغه ان بكره مش حايقدر يجي ياخده من البيت , عشان الإضراب بتاع بكره .. و بمزيد من الاستفسار ( مع حبة شك في وطنية و انتماء و معرفة عم علاء اصلا بموضوع الإضراب ) تبين ان عم علاء سمع ان الحكومه حاتنظم اضراب بكره , احتجاجا على الفيلم بتاع هولندا اللي بيشتموا فيه الرسول .. و ان الداخليه وزعت بيان تحذر فيه الناس من الشغل او النزول للشارع زي يوم كسوف الشمس كده.. و ان العساكر حاتنزل بكره تكسر المحلات و تلم العربيات اللي شغاله , و الناس اللي ماشية في الشارع عشان اللي يشتغل اليوم ده يبقى متضامن مع الكفرة بتوع هولندا
One of my friend's uncles does to work as a top official everyday in a private taxi. Today, as he was on his way to work, the taxi driver, whose name is Uncle Alaa, and who usually doesn't talk much, informed him that he will not be able to give him a ride tomorrow, because of the strike. After some questioning, with a little suspicion in Uncle Alaa's sense of loyalty and belonging to the nation and his knowledge about the strike to begin with, it became evident that Uncle Alaa had heard that the government would organise a strike tomorrow, against the Dutch film, in which they curse the Prophet, and that the Ministry of Interior, issued a statement warning people against going to work, or leaving their homes, just like on the days there is a solar eclipse… and that guards will be set lose on the streets, breaking the shutters of shops and impounding any cars on the streets.. and that all those who will leave their homes on that day would do so in solidarity with the infidels of Holland.
For more on the strike, Amnesiac will be in the eye of the storm. She writes:
I will be in Mahalla tomorrow covering the strike in the Ghazl el-Mahalla textiles factory, the 3rd strike since December 2006. I’m super excited about going, mostly because it will mean meeting workers who not only won two previous strikes, but succeeded in getting rid of the company chairman and board of directors, i.e. heroes. In addition I find the atmosphere at even small scale sit-ins and protests electrifying so 20,000 men and women standing up to their management, the government, the state security army and their own bloody union (!) should be amazing.
Stay tuned to Global Voices Online for more updates.
Photo credit: Hossam El Hamalawy