Egyptian forces on alert as cyber-activists incite to strike

April 7th, 2008 - 12:41 am ICT by admin  

Cairo, April 6 (DPA) Thousands of security forces were deployed around Egypt Sunday for fear of an outbreak of unrest after opposition activists launched a week-long cyber-campaign calling for civil disobedience and strikes in protest of rising food prices and poor wages. Egyptian opposition activists have launched a civil disobedience campaign they termed “Stay Home” using information technologies, such as the internet networking site FaceBook, blogs, mobile phones and emails.

Egyptians have been urged to take part in a general strike and protests Sunday to demand wage increases and a curb to food price rises.

Over 200 activists from the Kifaya opposition movement and other groups, including the leader of the opposition Labour party, Madgi Hussein, have been arrested on their way to stage demonstrations in Cairo and other cities, security and opposition sources said.

Seven activists who launched the campaign on FaceBook were also arrested.

“We are very happy with the outcome of the campaign. Many workers, students, and even schoolchildren stayed home,” an opposition member of parliament, Hamdin Sabahi, told DPA.

Several opposition campaigners were arrested in the town, Sabahi said.

In central Cairo, files of anti-riot policemen carrying shields and wearing helmets took their position on pavements and around squares in the area, which houses Egypt’s parliament, ministries, hotels, embassies and several syndicates.

Cameramen were banned from taking photos and filming in the centre of the city and journalists were harassed.

“Stay away. We are protecting the country,” shouted a police officer at photographers and journalists.

Outside buildings housing the unions of lawyers and doctors in the centre of the Egyptian capital, hundreds of armed policemen blocked the exits to avert any demonstrators from taking to the streets.

Scores of people were allowed, however, to stage protests and raise banners of the stay-home campaign on the stairs of union buildings.

Similar scenes were seen around university campuses in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. Student protests were allowed but only within the confines of their campuses.

In the northern Mahala town, the centre of the country’s textile industry, hundreds of anti-riot police were stationed, especially outside the main textile factory.

At least 10 activists were detained in Mahalla, the sources said.

The cyber campaign for civil disobedience has caused a stir in Egypt over the last week.

The government reacted nervously by issuing a warning that it would take firm action against anyone who would respond to the call to strike.

“Any attempt to incite unrest or disturb public order will be firmly met with legal action,” warned a statement by the ministry of interior.

Government departments have issued circulars warning their employees against participating in the planned strike.

Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have received a call to the Sunday strike by email, SMS, or word of mouth. The call has sparked fears among ordinary Egyptians, who remembered the bread riots of 1977.

The riots were sparked by rises in food prices and lifting of subsidies on bread, which led to mass arrests and human rights abuses by police.

The strike comes two days before key municipal elections, the first to be held after constitutional amendments in 2007.

The government has launched a crackdown on members of the popular opposition Muslim Brotherhood movement and their candidates ahead of election.

Paradoxically, the Muslim Brotherhood has distanced itself from the civil disobedience campaign.

“We have not taken part in the campaign for the general strike and will not take part,” Mohamed Habib, a senior member of the movement told DPA.

“The campaign of civil disobedience has been decided by a handful of political groups. This should have been discussed and decided by all opposition blocs,” Habib said.

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