Cablegate: Second Night of Violent Clashes in Nile Delta Town
DE RUEHEG #0715 0991757
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 081757Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8854
INFO RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
UNCLAS CAIRO 000715
STATE FOR NEA/ELA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB PGOV PHUM ECON EG
SUBJECT: SECOND NIGHT OF VIOLENT CLASHES IN NILE DELTA TOWN
REF: CAIRO 697
Sensitive but unclassified. Please protect accordingly.
1. (SBU) Violent clashes between police and protestors
reignited April 7 on the streets of the Nile Delta textile
mill town of Mehalla el Kubra. The flashpoint of the
protests centered on the Mehalla police station, where
protesters gathered to demand the release of those detained
the previous day (reftel). Police used batons, tear gas, and
plastic-coated bullets in an attempt to control the crowds.
Prominent leftist bloggers have flooded their internet sites
with photographs and YouTube videos of the violence,
including of visibly injured protesters, rioters wielding
rocks and Molotov cocktails, and mobs stomping on a
billboard-sized portrait of President Mubarak while chanting
expletive-laden denunciations of Mubarak and son Gamal. Four
people have reportedly died as a result of the police
crackdown, while a human rights NGO reported to us on
Tuesday, April 8 that a 6-month-old baby girl had also died
that morning due to exposure to police tear gas fired during
Monday's clashes. The number of detainees remains unclear,
although one activist reports that more than 150 are in
police custody. As of early evening April 8, Mehalla
remained tense but quiet.
2. (SBU) Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Minister of Manpower
Aisha Abdel Hady, traveling under heavy security, both paid
separate visits to the Ghazl el Mehalla textile factory in
Mehalla el Kubra on April 8 to hold talks with the factory's
informal labor leadership over long-held grievances over pay
and incentives. (Comment: The Mehalla labor leaders are not
part of the official, GOE-sanctioned labor union structure,
but are viewed by workers as their "legitimate"
representatives. End comment.) In an official press release
following the meetings, the PM hailed the workers' decision
to abort the planned April 6 strike, and thanked them for
"taking a firm stand against sabotage" and "foreign parties."
Abdel Hady announced that she was also going to pay the
workers a 15-day bonus as a sign of appreciation for
abandoning their strike plans.
3. (SBU) State media have raised the specter of "outside
forces" or the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) as catalysts for the
violence. We have been assured by high levels within
Egyptian State Security among others that the MB had no
involvement in the planned strikes for Mehalla. Although a
rift apparently formed among Ghazl el Mehalla workers in the
run-up to April 6 when the more-seasoned leaders of strikes
past opted to abort the strike in favor of more negotiation
while a more militant grouping sought greater confrontation,
our information indicates that the majority of those engaged
in the burning, looting and violent clashes with police were
teenagers or unemployed males from the surrounding area.
Police have nonetheless arrested several leaders of the more
confrontational wing of the textile workers.