First Published: 2005-06-06

Reformist groups mushroom in Egypt

Advocates of reform flexing muscles to shake off the grip of the state.


Middle East Online

By Mona Salem – CAIRO

‘Enough’ was just the beginning

In increasing numbers, advocates of reform are flexing their muscles in Egypt, setting up new movements for change and democracy with a common focus -- to shake off the grip of the state.

Judges and academics, journalists and writers, workers and politicians, have all announced embryonic groups.

The example was set by magistrates, who are demanding an end to executive tutelage of the judiciary, and by universities who want academic independance and an end to police interference.

At the weekend, politicians headed by Aziz Sedki, a former prime minister under president Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced the birth of a National Rally for Democratic Change, with the self-appointed task of drawing up a constitution to end what they called despotism and autocracy.

"We want to create a forum grouping all political forces to achieve reforms, because the bitter crisis Egypt is undergoing threatens catastrophy," Sedki told a news conference.

Another rally founder, former minister Yehya al-Gamal, added: "We want to promote democracy and change."

The same day, journalists meeting at their union headquarters formed their own body, Journalists For Change, to "lift the grip of the state and of its security services from public journals."

Karem Yehya, a journalist with Al-Ahram newspaper, said: "We want independence of the press and freedom of publication for newspapers, and the election of heads of public newspapers by their general assemblies."

He pointed out that editorial bosses of these newspapers are appointed by the government, with many continuing in their jobs beyond the legal retirement age of 65.

On Sunday, a group of intellectuals, including poet Ahmed Fouad Nejm and novelist Bahaa Taher, in turn announced the creation of a movement, writers for change.

Nejm said the group shared the same ideas as Kefaya (Enough) and would make public within days details of its aims.

Kefaya was behind a number of public street protests in the past few months. It opposes the election of President Hosni Mubarak, 77, for a fifth term in the September election, or the passing on of power to his 42-year-old son Gamal.

Gamal Mubarak himself has said he does not plan to stand in September although Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said recently that in principle, because of the May 25 referendum, there is nothing to stop Gamal doing so.

The referendum approved a constitutional amendment to allow for more than one candidate to stand in elections for president, under universal suffrage, for the first time in Egyptian history.

Opponents say it does not go far enough and that in practice restrictions will effectively prevent independent candidates from contesting the poll.

In the rolling reform demands, just weeks ago state officials and public sector workers set up another group, workers for change, which wants to establish independent trades unions.

"We are preparing a workers' conference to put in place alternative trades unions parallel to those which currently exist and which are part of the General Union of Egyptian Workers, dominated by the state and which do not look after our interests," said one of the founders, Kamal Abu Eita.

"We are part of the global movement for democracy in the country," he said.


Top US general visits airbase in fight for Mosul

No Russian air strikes on Aleppo in 7 days

Thousands of Yemenis await lifting of Coalition blockade

Iran calls for more Asian investment

Egypt rolls out austerity programme

Villages reclaimed, but return still distant for Iraqi Christians

25 travelling on inflatable dinghy found dead in Mediterannean

Turkey says will clear Kurdish fighters from Manbij

Russia cancels warship fuel stop after pressure on Spain to refuse permission

US, UK expect Raqa offensive within weeks

Sudan's Bashir to appoint PM for first time since coup

Israel army says soldier wounded by gunfire on Lebanese border

Students among 22 dead as raids hit Syria school

Israel charges 13 Jews with celebrating murder of Palestinians

Revolutionary Guards commander says Iranian firms should lead oil projects

Egyptian officer accidentally shoots dead Israeli teen

IS members ‘shave beards’ as Iraqi forces approach Mosul

US praises Qatar moves to deny jihadists funds

Clashes between protesters, police in Diyarbakir after Turkey arrests mayors

Saudi financial position strong despite oil prices says minister

Iran develops 'suicide drone'

UN envoy to Yemen presents peace proposal to Huthis

Turkey says US must extradite Gulen to avoid damaging ties

Mosul survivors recount fleeing IS 'caliphate'

Report finds Israeli forces could have avoided killings

NATO flies first surveillance mission backing anti-IS coalition

Russian FM says Mosul offensive equivalent to Moscow's Aleppo bombing

Saudi Arabia denies it imposed Yemen blockade

Syria Kurds say Turkey wants to prevent Raqa recapture

Anger at Israel national theatre show in occupied West Bank

UN receives reports of dozens of IS atrocities near Mosul

Hundreds protest against UN 'complicity' in rebel-held Yemen capital

Turkey FM says ground operation in Iraq a possibility

Iraqi forces retake town from IS

Iran nuclear negotiator cleared of spying charges

Al-Shabaab in suicide bomb attack on AU base in Somalia

Gunmen kill two policemen in eastern Saudi Arabia

Iraqi paramilitary to block IS from fleeing Mosul for Syria

Two imams arrested in Ibiza over 'Islamic State support'

US general raises Yemen concerns with Saudi officials

Iraqi forces advancing on Mosul face stiff resistance

At least 10 hurt in southern Turkey explosion

French FM annoys Turkey by contrasting states of emergency

UN planning for 150,000 displaced by Mosul battle

UAE jails Sudanese man for planning attacks on immigrants