Egypt: Dozens arrested in Alexandria after protesting forced evacuations
Dozens were arrested in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria on Friday and Saturday after hundreds took to the streets in the working-class Nadi Al-Seed area to protest the planned forced evacuations of their houses.
The residents of the poor neighbourhood protested after Friday prayers when they found themselves face to face with hundreds of riot police who accompanied several demolition crews. The demolitions have been halted due to the protests, but the residents who spoke to Middle East Eye remain on edge and accuse the government of not having a clear compensation plan.
One protester, a school teacher in his 40s, told MEE that the government wants to kick them out like they previously did with working-class areas in Maspero Triangle in Downtown Cairo, the Warraq Island in Giza and the Fustat area in old Cairo. All these places were demolished and the land was sold to local and foreign investors to build skyscrapers, shopping centres and entertainment complexes.
'They want to kick us out in order to build hotels and shopping malls'
- Sister of a detained Alexandria protester
Protesters chanted “we will not leave” and called on others to join their demonstration and to show solidarity. The protests were met by tear gas and rubber bullets from the police who later chased demonstrators in smaller streets.
MEE has witnessed the arrest of at least 10 young people who were snatched by police officers and soldiers in plain-clothed uniforms from the demonstrations and escorted to a police van.
According to Mahmoud Azmy, a lawyer who followed up on the case and attended the interrogations, 13 of the residents were sent to the prosecution on accusations of "endangering societal peace, protesting and resisting the police". He said that there are an unknown number of other detainees who are still yet to be interrogated.
“The prosecution tried to push the accusations of joining an illegal group but the arrested men are known to have no affiliations with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Azmy told MEE.
He added that an unknown number of the residents are held in the nearby police camp which is located near the residential area.
The family of one of the detained men, Abdel Aziz Srorur, told MEE that their son was peacefully protesting, demanding that the government hold a discussion with the residents in order to negotiate the compensation.
“This is our only home, and all our jobs are nearby, as well as our grocery shop,” Srour’s sister told MEE.
Srour’s family has been living in the Nadi Al-Seed area for 30 years. “They want to kick us out in order to build hotels and shopping malls,” she said.
The family is going to be offered compensation for the shop they own, while they will not get anything in exchange for their house.
The Egyptian government describes the area as a “slum neighbourhood” and says it will demolish all of its houses in order to build new business and entertainment compounds. The government also said that it will not evacuate any occupied building before giving the residents an alternative unit in the newly constructed social housing units.
Mohamed Awad, 40, a plumber who lives in a flat with his wife, five children, and his mother, attended the protests and said that they were surprised that the committee came to start numbering the houses and start the demolitions.
Awad said that the government has already started developing the neighbourhood since June 2020, and spent millions of pounds on water, electricity and gas infrastructure. “Now they want to demolish it all and sell it to the investors,” he said.
Several residents told MEE that they do not have contracts for the houses they live in as they have settled in these houses years ago, and the government has already legalised their status by granting them water and electricity. The Nadi Al-Seed area extends to 51 feddans (214,000 square metres) and accommodates around 26,000 people, according to the Alexandria Governor Mohamed al-Sharif.
The area is located in the middle between the several residential neighbourhoods, which were recently evacuated from their residents.
Another resident who is an engineering student told MEE: “We are facing two states, one of which is working in the construction, maintenance and development of the Nadi Al-Seed, and another one which wants to demolish it and sell it to investors.”
While no Egyptian media outlets covered the protests, pro-state and military-owned newspapers such as Youm7 blamed the residents for wanting to continue living in the slums and refusing the state’s solutions.
The governor told the Saudi-owned channel MBC Misr that the area was an “unsuitable environment where people lived in slums and which was not an appropriate scene to see in Egypt."
Al-Sharif confirmed that some residents of the area felt that their relocation would affect their livelihood, but asserted that 6,044 families and 1,008 shops and workshops will be relocated in order to “provide a decent life for all the residents”.