I received alarming news from veteran labor activist Kamal Abbas, the director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services. The government has cracked down on the center’s branch in Naga’ Hammadi, Qena, on Thursday. Read the statement below…
Serious Escalation in the Relationship Between the Government and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Decision to Shut Down CTUWS’ Branch in Naji Hamadi
In an unjustifiable and unexplainable governmental escalation, General Al Sherbeeny Hasheesh Chairman of the City of Naj Hamadi (Governorate of Qena in Southern Egypt) issued this morning Thursday 29 March 2007 the Administrative Decision No. 44 of the year 2007 to shut down the branch of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services “CTUWS” in City of Naj Hamadi. This decision completes the series of administrative provocations which the CTUWS had witnessed last week after a discussion the Governorates Local Council hold a discussion about CTUWS according to the Director of the Labour Relations Office of the Ministry of Manpower and the Director of the Social Solidarity Regional Office of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Each of these two directors summoned the CTUWS’ branch staff to investigate CTUWS’ conditions and the nature of its activities. They claimed that enquiries are made in order to complete a report which they are asked to submit to General Magdy Ayoub the Governor of Qena.
On Thursday morning the staff of CTUWS’ branch in Naj Hamadi were surprised by a call from the Chief Police Officer this morning (Thursday) who informed them with the issuance of the Administrative Decision No. 44 of the year 2007 to shut down the branch. The Chief Officer told them that according to his mandate, he is responsible to implement this decision regardless to the validity or the legality of the decision.
During the last two months (January and February 2007) the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services “CTUWS” was subject to a fierce aggressive campaign from the Egyptian Trade Union Federation “ETUF” which blamed the CTUWS for the workers’ strikes and protests that took place in some industrial sites before the end of last year and at the beginning of this year. ETUF’s aggressive attack included different kinds of defamation and unfair accusations together with relentless endeavors to turn the state authorities against CTUWS and repeated calls to take every possible measure against it.
Being a member of the National Civil Society Alliance to Monitor the Elections, the CTUWS monitored and followed up the results of the referendum which was made lately on the amendments to the constitution. The monitoring process included constituencies of Qena Governorate. It was natural that some of CTUWS activists who were formerly trained on elections monitoring and supervision took place in that process. Further, the CTUWS issued a report on the results of the referendum including the infringements and the interventions that took place in all the monitored constituencies.
It is worthy mentioning that the CTUWS branch in Naj Hamadi was opened May 1st 2005 and acted since then regularly and publicly to introduce consultations, training courses and other services for the workers and people of Southern Egypt. However, regardless to the direct reasons for taking the decision to shut down the branch of CTUWS at the present time and to the parties behind taking such a decision, it represents a serious trend and a distressing indication to what may be considered a governmental stand towards the civil society organizations and non governmental organizations, particularly those engaged in human rights and social defence spheres.
The civil society organizations as well as all the alive and democratic powers in our society aspired for salient democratic reforms to expand the space for civil society, not to be subject to the power of the state bodies or to the accusations plotted for them. We were surprised by this administrative decision which represents a direct violation of the right of expression and the right to peaceful democratic organization. The decision jeopardizes the relationship between the state bodies and the civil society organizations at a time when the move to political reform in our country has become questionable after the amendments to the constitution were approved.
The decision of the Local Council of Naj Hamadi to shut down the CTUWS Branch and the collaboration from the police to enforce the decision which they consider as an enforceable administrative decision even though it was issued by an incompetent body mean that the civil society organizations are besieged by administrative interventions which threaten them from each and every direction. These interventions render the civil society organizations unable to play their role particularly in social defence, monitoring and lobbying against the government bodies.
While the CTUWS announces that it upholds its Naj Hamadi branch and emphasizes that it will continue to extend its services and activities to Southern Egypt where the workers suffer from the wide gap between them and all the social institutions which are centered in the Capital and the Delta region, the CTUWS confirms its right to use all sorts of lobbying and struggle in defending its right to exercise its activities in Egypt as a whole. The CTUWS calls upon all the alive powers, the democratic activities, the civil society organizations and institutions and the political parties to:
• Announce their solidarity with it vis-à-vis this severe attack which continued throughout the last four months,
• Call upon the Governor of Qena and the Minister for Local Government to cancel the decision issued to shut down the branch of the Center for Trade Union and Workers Services “CTUWS” in Naj Hamadi City, and
• Call upon all the executive government bodies to respect the fundamental human rights stipulated by international conventions ratified by the Government of Egypt and to give the civil society organizations the opportunity to perform its role which is essential for maintaining social stability.
Please send your solidarity messages to:
H.E. President of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The Minister for Local Government Fax No. 002 (0) 96 349 6795
The Governor of Qena Fax No. 002 (0) 96 533 2640
The People’s Assembly Fax No. 002 (0) 2 794 2435
The Council of Ministers Fax No. 002 (0) 2 795 8048
Click on Kamal Abbas photo below to dowload the statement in Arabic…
[Above: Photo I took of Kamal Abbas, in the Press Syndicate on 7 Feb 2007]