El-Hurriah Dwellers go on a Hunger Strike to defend their Housing Rights

The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights has formed a fact-finding committe. In its report, it is stated that within the framework of Port Said governorate’s development plan, the governorate decided to remove El-Hurriah area in stages while providing alternative units.
The removal process has actually been on-going since last January, and only in the first stages of removal, few complaints have emerged. However, in the demolition stage, which took place this March, the following events occurred:

  • A large number of citizens whose houses have been demolished, did not get alternative housing (23 families have been inventoried so far)
  • The citizens have been in a sit-in and hunger strike since last Thursday 23/3/2006. So far 13 individuals have been transferred to Port Said general hospital suffering from severe fatigue – among them two women suffered from the high acetone blood ratio.
  • Citizens were kicked out of the hospital. Consequently, members of the Egyptian Center reported the incident to the Port Said Persecution. In response, the people have been returned to the hospital.
  • Citizens were under siege by the security forces that threatened to arrest them if the sit-in was not abolished.- One person died during the demolition (Zakaria Atout) where he was hit by a mass of reinforced concrete and an iron skew pierced through his abdomen. There is a discrepancy about the causes of death.

Port Said governorate still insists on not providing alternative housing for those families.
It is worthy to mention that this situation got a strong attention from some political powers as Kefaya movement and Youth for change movement who are coordinate with the Egyptian Center for Housing Rights now to defend the right of those people as there is a branch of the Center in Port Said City.

It is worth noting that the minister of housing Dr. Mohamed El-Maghreby has issued a resolution for providing alternative housing in El-Hurrriah area regardless of the housing rules in the governorate.

This resolution was issued by the minister at the request of the minister’s legal adviser Mr. Essam El-Din Abd El-Aziz, vice-president of the state’s council stating:” moving-out is mandatory, and there should be an alternative housing for those who quitted their houses regardless whether they had previously got one of the state’s dwellings … This shall not be looked at as a violation to the rules that prohibit such procedure … the prohibited procedure is when one makes a willing action and then ask for an alternative dwelling. The governorate of Port Said wishes to move people out. Therefore it is obligated to provide alternative housing”

Even though this resolution is in conformity with the international charters, which secure the housing rights, the governor stated that “this resolution is not a valid one because no one runs Port Said governorates but the governor himself, and the legal adviser to the minister of housing acts in the capacity as the minister’s adviser not an adviser of the city of Port Said of which the jurisdiction is only in the hands of its governor”.

In underlining this fact, the governor of Port Said has thrown the laws and resolutions up against the wall, and gives no heed to the life of citizens who are on the verge of death being in a hunger strike advocating their right to housing preferring to die than to continue living out in the streets.

The governor deals with the Port Said governorate as being a state inside the state: a situation where the center frequently alerted about in its statements regarding the housing problems in Port Said.

The fact-finding committee has approached the governorate and met with housing officer in charge, who affirmed that the petitions from the afflicted people would be reviewed. A meeting had been fixed on Wednesday between the center’s manager in Port Said and the governorate’s housing director to look into the situation of the afflicted families, which would specify the following steps the center is going to take about this situation.

The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights underlines that the resolution of the minister of housing is based on a legal grounding and it conforms to the international charters. The resolution should take effect and be applied to the similar cases across the country. The center continues to support in every possible way the afflicted families, and calls upon all concerned parties and right-based activists to collaborate with them and make endeavors to save them from death.

The center also calls the human rights organizations to provide every possible support to the family who have come into a sit-in and a hunger strike since Thursday demanding the governor of Port Said to house the afflicted citizens as soon as possible.

Manal Tibe
Address: 33 Kasr El- Nile St., Ninth FloorCairo, Egypt
Phone no.: + 202 3922194
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