Egypt: Regime tries to whip up religion tensions with anti-Copt violence

October 15, 2011

The statement below was released by Socialist Alliance in Australia on October 14.

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The Socialist Alliance condemns the wave of repression that has been unleashed in Egypt in recent days. This repression has included the massacre of Coptic protesters by the armed forces on October 9 that left at least 26 dead, the crackdown on union activity among workers of the Mega Textiles Company in Sadat City, and the use of military trials against civilians involved in organising protests and strikes, at a critical time of struggle for Egypt's revolutionary youth, the poor and workers.

The workers of the Mega Textiles Company factory, who are demanding a basic rise in wages and annual holidays, came under attack on October 9 when a group of workers ― including members of the factory's independent union ― were locked out. Others were threatened by armed thugs.

Workers report that groups of armed men have been threatening them for more than a week to try to silence them.

When more than 300 workers travelled to Shebin El-Kom to visit Menoufiya's governor to negotiate a settlement with the factory's Turkish management, they were attacked by a group of thugs carrying police batons, chains and pipes who came out of the government building.

Six workers were arrested and four injured in the ensuing chaos.

Over the past three weeks, Egypt's revolutionary struggle has brought tens of thousands to the streets again and again. Workplaces across the country have been shut down, with more than half a million workers staging strike actions in all sections of the economy.

In response, there has been an increase in repression of revolutionary activities in Egypt by the state. This has included the forceful break-up of Tahrir Square protests on September 30 and the massacre of Coptic Christian protesters by armed thugs, the army and police on October 9.

State TV was used to inflame sectarian tensions, reporting that Christians were stealing weapons from the military in order to attack Muslim soldiers. This is a clear attempt by Egypt's regime to incite religious violence and divide Egypt's masses in order to distract from the lack of real reforms made by the interim government.

In all of these incidents, baltageya ― groups of plain-clothed thugs loyal to the interior ministry ― have been used against protesters.

The Socialist Alliance supports those resisting this bold-faced return to the tools of repression used under Hosni Mubarak, and declare our support for the ongoing movement against Egypt's military regime. We also note the many statements of support for the Coptic Christians that have been made by Muslims ― a sign of solidarity that is an essential component of Egypt's revolutionary movement.

The Socialist Alliance supports the workers' resisting Mega Textiles Company management's policy of threats, abuse and violence. We declare our support for the struggle of the workers ― all of whom went on strike in response to the violence of October 9-11.

We also note that military trials are being increasingly used against civilians involved in organising protests and union activity. More than 12,000 people have been arrested since Mubarak's ousting, leading to more than 8000 convictions ― more than the total number of civilians who faced such trials under Mubarak's whole regime.

This huge spate of arrests is a clear attempt to intimidate and silence those who revolted against Mubarak's regime and continue to struggle for democracy and basic rights. These trials do not respect basic rights of due process ― and worse, female activists arrested by the military have been routinely subjected to "virginity tests" by the military as an extra measure of intimidation.

The Socialist Alliance supports those struggling for the right to free expression, to protest, demonstrate and strike. We express our solidarity with those struggling to repeal the undemocratic anti-strike and anti-protest laws introduced in March; end the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1967 and bans all non-government political activity; and end military trials for civilian protesters, which violate basic human rights; and to announce a schedule for return to a civilian government.

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