Shooting workers with live bullets and birdshot
Security forces escalate violence after months of blatant attacks
The ECESR strongly condemns the security forces’ brutal attack on the workers of Alexandria-based Spinning and Weaving Company (Abboud) in an attempt to break up their protest by force. The protest was held in front of the factory building next to Alexandria Muharram Bik publishing presses, when one of the officers fired a gun bullet wounding one of the workers in the foot. Then, the police forces reportedly fired birdshots injuring workers, while others were arrested. It reminds us of the police practices during the era of the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak when police forces stormed the Iron and Steel Company in Tibeen to break up the August 1989 sit-in. They then shot dead the worker Abdul Hai and arrested many workers and accused them with trumped-up charges.
Demands in deaf ears
Abboud Workers have desperately submitted many complaints to the Bureau of Labor, which fixed a bargaining session that the Board Chairman failed to attend. They have used all the possible ways to deliver their demands to the officials, including the payment of overdue salaries, July allowance, and the feast, school and Ramadan grants, but to no avail. After knocking all doors, they gathered in front of the company’s gate. ECESR strongly condemns the continuation of police brutality and the policy of heavily cracking down the workers’ sit-ins and strikes by using violence and oppression against the labor peaceful protests. Instead of meeting the demands of “Abboud” workers, the police dealt with them violently, injuring seven workers, including Mohamed Kamal Mahmoud, who was shot and broke his leg. Furthermore, eight workers were arrested, including five injured with birdshot in different parts of their body. To make things worse, after being hospitalized to Nasser Hospital to receive treatment and first aid, they were transferred again to the Sidi Gaber police station without access to the necessary medical care.
Against the pro-business policy and using law in order to give priority to the interests of the Company’s management at the expense of workers’ interests, the ECESR lawyers based in Alexandria said that the public prosecutor’s office investigated workers at dawn yesterday, September 15. The investigations were initiated in the absence of lawyers, which is a violation of the right of workers to defend themselves in the presence of their lawyers.
Further, the workers were put under pressure to prevent them from filing official reports with the injuries inflicted on them in exchange for discharging them from custody. Nine workers have been charged with the practice of bullying, terrorizing citizens, illegal assembly, cutting the main road, and the disruption of public and private transportation. After that they were released against their place of residence.
Escalation of repression
This is not the first incident in dealing with workers as if they were slaves governed by police iron fist. While Sisi was celebrating his inauguration in the Conference Hall with the state-affiliated Egyptian Trade Union Federation, army and police troops surrounded about 200 workers of the Labor Supply Company (Platinum) based in Ain Sokhna port, Suez. They were held in workplace and prevented from food and water, while the other workers, more than 700 workers, were kept from entering to join their colleagues inside the port. The outside workers were threatened by the military commanders to be arrested if they brought any food to their colleagues trapped inside. To make the picture bleaker, many workers in similar protests were brought before military courts. This incident was also preceded by the brutal assault on Portland Cement Company workers based in Alexandria last February.
ECESR confirms that the notorious Protest Act, which allows arresting protesters and provides for prison sentences and even death penalty, as happened in the Qalioub demonstrations, does not allow firing live bullets and birdshot on the protesters. Therefore, what happened is considered a kind of organized and systematic violence by security forces against workers who must be silenced in order to meet the demands of business owners with all means, even with a license to kill beside the license of exploitation.
ECESR condemns once more the incident of “Abboud” workers in particular and this brutal act in general, which led to a serious development in the way the state treated labor protests. It has used oppression and mass violence against those who protested for the right to a dignified life and good working conditions after participating in a revolution that was supposed to make officials treat them fairly.