Battles for Bread Claim Deathes in Egypt as Popular Uprising Looms

Battles for Bread Claim Deathes in Egypt as Popular Uprising Looms

Egyptian opposition and state-run newspapers declared that five persons have been killed and dozens others were injured since the beginning of 2008, in the so called “daily battles” of Egyptians to buy the subsidized bread.


Political experts say that the biggest challenge facing the Egyptian government is to retain bread prices and curbing selling the government subsidized flour to the Egyptian merchants in the black market where the price of sack of flour reaches more than 100 Egyptian pounds ($20), while the price of this subsidized one is presumed to reach citizens at 15 pounds ($3).


A man-turned-woman for bread”s sake


In daily clashes while attempting to buy this local substandard bread, opposition and government newspapers report dozens daily incidents. In a jokingly incident, a man in the central Cairo neighbourhood of Abdin, wore a woman”s clothes and stood in queues allocated to women in a bakery to buy bread. After women identified him as a man and was sent to police, he told the police that he was obliged to do so to buy subsidized bread (5  piasters a loaf and every one is allowed to buy only as much as 100 piasters of bread). He resorted to this trick to avoid crowded queues of men, and said also he doesn”t see this as a crime because the unsubsidized bread costs 50 piasters a loaf, ten times more than the subsidized one. “This means that if I bought 20 loaves a day for my family, I will spend 300 pounds a month on bread only while my salary is only 400 pounds”, he said.


The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on March, 2nd, 2008, that 2 persons were killed and 7 were injured in a quarrel that erupted over disagreeing on who is the one to buy bread first in a state subsidized bakery, a battle in which firearms were used in this clash between two families in the southern Cairo region of Helwan.


Martyr in the battle for bread


On the same day, in the city of Mit Ghamr , Dakahlia, Delta of Egypt, Abd Al-Hamid, a 62 years bootblack, died while scaffolding in a queue of bread to buy bread for his family that consists of four children plus his wife.


The frail Abd Al-Hamid was used to going to the bakery 3 hours before it opens (it opens at 5.00AM), before stronger people”s scrambling prevent him from buying the subsidized bread. However, he fainted because his frail body was no longer able to bear this crowdedness and he kicked the bucket shortly after being moved to hospital, after this he was dubbed the “martyr of bread”, by Egyptian newspapers.


In Boulaq Al-Dakrour, on of the biggest slums in the capital Cairo , one person was killed in a clash among people struggling to buy bread from a bakery. They disagreed on who is the one to buy first, masking some one stab to death the one in front of him. The bakery owner shot fires in the air from his own pistol to disperse crowds who were trying to buy bread, and closed his bakery fearing people”s anger.


50% Consumption-Production Gap


Egyptian government fears that a popular anger may erupt due to the continuous conflicts over the local substandard bread. This made it retain the price of bread, 5 piasters a loaf, for fear of any remake of the 1977 uprising of breads.


It is worth mentioning that millions of people took to streets in 1977 protesting at late Egyptian President Muhammad Anwar As-Sadat”s decision of increasing the price of bread, at that time from 6 milliemes to one piaster, in protests that were then dubbed “bread uprising” by local and international media.


Government reports show that the monthly rate of consumption of wheat allocated for making subsidized bread reached 680 thousand tons, conflicting with the low production rate, as the overall wheat production rate in Egypt is up to 7.5 millions tons.


Egypt is considered the world”s biggest wheat importer to address the gap between consumption, up to 50 %, and size of local production.


In the same context, workers at the El-Mahalla El-Kubra Spinning and Weaving factory, north of Cairo , held signs during their latest demonstrations calling for improving their salaries. These signs included calling for improving the quality of the subsdized bread which, they said, isn”t sufficient to feed their babies.