Workers played a pivotal role in the mass uprising that led to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. Now, two years on, the same labour movement that helped topple the Arab dictator is locked in a stalemate with the government and employers over long-denied labour rights and untenable working conditions.
Egyptians love to have a good laugh. At every opportunity they rattle off jokes and take jabs at themselves, their society, and – where they dare – their ruler.
Hospitalised for impaired kidney function, Eman El-Behery needed three medicines to bring her diabetes under control. Her daughter, 16-year-old Reham, found two of the medications at a pharmacy across the road from the hospital, but after hours of searching was unable to find the third, a drug that dilates blood vessels in the kidneys to prevent damage.
As Egyptians debate how deeply Sharia should influence the new constitution, and in the face of clashes that left five dead on Wednesday, some extremists have taken to the streets to enforce their own interpretation of "God’s law". In recent months, these self-appointed guardians of public probity have accosted Muslims and minority Christians they accuse of violating the provisions of Islamic law.
Brandishing flags and carrying banners denouncing “the new pharaoh”, thousands of protesters thronged to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday to voice their opposition to President Mohamed Morsi’s attempt to expand his powers.
When Mohamed Mursi was sworn in as president in June there were concerns that the first democratically elected president in Egyptian history would be subservient to the military council that had ruled the country since dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled in early 2011.
An ultraconservative Salafi cleric recently sparked outrage among Egypt’s liberal circles when he attempted to justify his opposition to a proposed constitutional article that would outlaw the trafficking of women for sex.
During the uprising that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak women stood shoulder to shoulder with men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, pressing the revolution’s demands for freedom, justice and dignity. But those who hoped the revolution would make them equal partners in Egypt’s future claim they may be worse off now than under Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
Ahmed Hassanein works in a modern factory in an industrial enclave west of Cairo. He wears a neatly pressed uniform and operates precision calibrated machinery on a line that produces components for foreign-brand passenger vehicles.
When Egypt's army was deployed to restore order in the streets during the uprising that ended president Hosni Mubarak's rule, Egyptians greeted the troops as saviours. But by the time the generals handed the country over to a civilian president in June this year, many Egyptians regarded the 16 months of transitional military rule as more oppressive than the 29 years under Mubarak.
The emergency room of Mansoura International Hospital is closed, a lock and chain securing its entrance. Ambulances carrying stroke and burn victims are ordered to go elsewhere.
The former regime of Hosni Mubarak tightly controlled the press and intimidated journalists who dared to criticise it. Now it appears the Muslim Brotherhood has adopted similar tactics to stifle dissent.
During the uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year rule, Egyptian protesters stormed state security headquarters in Cairo. Inside they discovered a trove of documents – including surveillance reports on activists, transcripts of telephone conversations, and intercepted emails – that revealed the meticulous records the state kept on the activities of its citizens.
The independent trade unions that have sprung up across Egypt over the last 17 months face an uncertain future, caught between Islamists and the military and operating under labour laws that have not changed since Hosni Mubarak was in power.
Candidates competing in Egypt's first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak was ousted are vying for a prestigious position whose job description – oddly enough – has not yet been written. An unresolved dispute over who will write a new constitution for post-Mubarak Egypt has put the country in the unusual position of voting for a president with undefined authority.