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Protests in Egypt spread

At least five people were killed in firing and 100 wounded in two days of clashes between the police and protesters in southern Egypt's Al-Wadi Al-Gadeed province.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2011 01:18 IST
Amitava Sanyal

At least five people were killed in firing and 100 wounded in two days of clashes between the police and protesters in southern Egypt's Al-Wadi Al-Gadeed province. A belligerent crowd in the provincial capital El Kharga responded on Thursday by torching two police stations, a court house and the local headquarters of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

Alaa El Aswany, novelist and a co-founder of the popular Kefaya (literally, enough) opposition movement in 2004, told HT: "This proves the government is still playing games and are not really in a mood to make real changes."

Though Tahrir Square in Cairo remained the symbolic heart of the revolution, the shockwaves spread out further across Egypt's regions and economic sectors on Thursday. More workers' unions went on strike across the country, demanding better pay and regularisation of temporary contracts. Members of the Independent Syndicate for Real Estate Tax Workers, Telecom Egypt, General Authority for Medical Insurance and General Authority for Pharmaceutical Monitoring protested in different parts of the capital. They were joined by several thousands among the 62,000 public transport workers. Most offices, however, were open and roads remained busy.

The labour unrest follows the government's announcement two days ago that the (basic) salaries of 6 million central government employees would be raised 15%. On average, a 15% raise on the basic salary works out to less than 8% on the total pay. This, obviously, isn't enough in these inflationary times. Official figures haven't been updated but former professor of economics Abdulhameed Al Ghazaly put the current rate of inflation in retail prices above 12%; the food price inflation is almost double.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/11_02_11_metro-19.jpg

Fuelled such concerns, workers at various private sector factories in the cities of Giza, Helwan, Sadat City, Mahalla, Suez and Ismailia, too, demonstrated in front of their offices.

The protests against government, meanwhile, moved a step ahead. For the second day, thousands of people gathered for a sit-in in front of the houses of parliament. Sobhy Saleh, senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria and a former member of parliament, told HT: "We will not let this government function till it moves aside."