Today, local communities and organizations across Egypt commemorated “Egyptian Housing Day.” Egyptians keep this date as commemoration of the 2008 rockslide on the East Cairo community of Duwiqa that killed hundreds of residents. That September day remains emblematic of the inadequate housing conditions of millions of Egyptians.
The all-day Egyptian Housing Day commemoration convened under the slogan “Partners, Not Victims. No Forced Evictions.” The principle organizer of the event, Egyptian Center for Civil and Legislative Reform, opened the program with a panel of presenters, including a statement of international solidarity by Habitat International Coalition’s Housing and Land Rights Network coordinator. Other organizations made contributions, including Witness, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Amnesty International and the Shadow Ministry of Housing.
This year, activists, civic organizations and communities gathered at Cairo, in the context of the ongoing revolution and its current process of revising the Egyptian Constitution. Participants considered a proposed amendment to the Constitution that includes a definition of adequate housing that includes effective participation in urban planning as indispensable. The proposed text sets out conditions for public purpose acquisitions consistent with the principle of free, prior and informed consent, as well as reparations. The draft constitutional provision included a ban on forced eviction and arbitrary displacement, and sets conditions on resettlement. Notably also, the raft recognized Egyptians right to land, particularly protecting the land and natural resource rights of indigenous peoples.
Representatives of evicted and threatened communities around the country gave witness to their struggles against displacement and dispossession. From Cairo, these included testimonies from Maspero, Hilwan, Wadi Qamr, Duwiqa and the Pyramid City resettlement site. Traditional land rights, dispossession and housing rights violations were the subjects of interventions from Sinai and the Nubian community. The gathering benefitted from the active participation of a representative of the government’s Slum Development Fund, who pledged to fill the gap in local consultation with target communities.
The program also featured video documentaries produced by the Shadow Housing Ministry Witness, Amnesty International and the Social Cinema Center, as well as a photo exhibit of forced evictions in Africa, provided by Amnesty International.
Photos: On home page News: Scene from the Egyptian Land Day session. This page: View of collapsed structures at the remote Pyramid City resettlement site for displaced people from Duwiqa.