CAIRO: A development plan was initiated under the auspices of the First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak to relocate the inhabitants of 300 apartment buildings consumed by a fire last March in Qalet Al Kabsh. That number has now doubled after another group of residents were forcefully evacuated from their homes Tuesday, before government forces began to demolish their buildings.
Divided by a number of street blocks, Qalet Al Kabsh is one of many neighborhoods situated in the poor Cairo suburb of Sayyeda Zeinab. Block 29 suffered from March s fire but the Ministry of Housing claims that the majority of families were relocated.
But the residents of Qalet Al Kabsh beg to differ.
“Less than 100 families were given housing from last month s fire, and most of them paid there way for faster service, said Omar Youssef, 33.
But I don t even have that kind of money, and right now, I don t even have a home to call my own, said Aly El Rageb, 32, married and with two children. We ve been using the bathrooms at the local mosque since we have nowhere else to go.
Now, over 60 families from blocks 1, 2 and 3 are homeless with no promise from the government for relocation. The new housing units are in Nahda, an area outside Egypt s capital along the Cairo-Ismailia highway.
Reda Abdel Aziz, 68, lived in block 1 for 35 years. All he managed to do was retrieved a mattress and some bed sheets before his two-bedroom flat was reduced to shambles. I wrote a letter to Suzanne Mubarak asking her for compensation.
In his appeal, Abdel Aziz explained how security forces mistreated the people of Qalet Al Kabsh. As they demolished our homes, women, children and fathers waited on the street to watch the horror. Uniform men told us we would be relocated if we showed our ID at the police station, but a security officer had confiscated my ID. I have nothing to claim, not even my own name, he cried.
Abdel Aziz told The Daily Star Egypt, I don t want more than four walls to live in. To recover my peace of mind after what these men have done is the only thing important to me.
Some residents reacted angrily and threw stones at the security officers to stop mayhem.
I didn’t understand what they were doing here, it was an absolute embarrassment. So I threw heavy chunks of rock at them. I wanted to physically hurt them. After shooting several rounds, they arrested a woman – me, said Karima Abou El-Aal, 73. Grandmother of eight children, Abou El-Aal was released from prison Wednesday morning.
The Egyptian Center for Housing Rights (ECHR) reported in a recent press release that 5,000 central security soldiers arrived Tuesday morning to complete the demolition phase of the development project.
Echoing residents’ complaints, ECHR stated that, There was no adequate time given to the people of Qalet Al Kabsh to leave their homes. Families were brought together as security forces informed them that their houses would be taken away from them. Moments later, a demolition team smashed into their homes of concrete with brute force.
Walking around with minor scraps and bruises caused by the security forces was Ahsan Sayid, 20.
I just got married last week, she said.
During the demolition, ECHR reported the arrests of several residents who responded violently to the security force s arrival, like Yassir Mostafa Kamel who suffered serious injuries after allegedly being beaten by security men on the head.
Journalists, lawyers and civil service workers were also banned from entering the sight as demolition carried on through sun down, said Samir Abdel Shahet, 18.
Hanim El Sayed pointed to the pile of rubble that was once his two-bedroom apartment.
33 Akshak Al Kabsh was my address, but no more, he lamented.
Recalling the events of Tuesday morning, he asked, Were they bringing help or hell upon us? They threw my daughter down the stairs and on her way down, she cut her stomach open. She needed 14 stitches. I had to pay LE 65 at the hospital. I don t have insurance. I didn t have money to give them so I borrowed from friends and family.
Injured residents were rushed to Aboul Reesh Hospital in Mounira, including six- month-old Ragab Karim Shaaban who is still in intensive care.
What transpired was A blatant breach of national law, particularly those laws put in to place by the Ministry of Housing. We condemn the actions of the central security forces and demand that Qalet Al Kabsh citizens be relocated, said Manal El Tibi, head of EHCR. But the suffering residents of Qalet Al Kabsh simply do not know who to turn to.
Soheir Mostafa Imam, 45, lived with her 64-year-old mother, Laila and her two daughters in block 3. I am divorced so I m at a great disadvantage. I have no source of income, she said.
Like many others, Imam filed a complaint at the Sayyeda Zeinab police station, but officers refused her right to be relocated.
They told me ‘your bother has been relocated to an apartment in Nahda, stay with him.’ But my brother already has a family of his own and there is only one bedroom in his apartment, she said.
The next day, Imam returned to the police station with the same appeal, hoping to see different faces. But they threatened to arrest me if I went back again. And when I did, they arrested me. The prosecutor asked me why I wanted another apartment if I already had one. ‘Are you that greedy?’ he said.
Imam was only released on the note that her new address was in Nahda, her brother’s apartment. But there s no space, so my mother and I sleep on the streets.
On Wednesday, more than 100 homless residents staged a sit-in in front of the public prosecutor s office in Ramses. They protested for the government to fulfill promises that Mrs. Mubarak made about compensation and alternative housing. All to no avail.
Sherein Hassan Ismail, 29, told The Daily Star Egypt, When we ask for our rights, they hit us and call us terrorists. I just want some pride back. Emptying his pockets was Kamal Ahmed Hashem. I m married and I have four kids. I only have LE 18 in my pocket, and now, no shelter for my family. Something isn t right.