Demonstrations against the government’s demolition of residential buildings in the Giza neighborhood of Nazlet al-Semman broke out on Monday, according to eyewitnesses, five days into work that was being carried out by bulldozers flanked by security forces.
Protesters, who told Mada Masr that they feared that their homes — which overlook the Giza pyramids and therefore sit on prime real estate — would be next in line to be demolished, were quickly met by approximately two dozen Central Security Forces (CSF) vehicles and police vans deployed to the area to disperse the demonstrations.
According to eyewitness, clashes broke out between security forces and protesters after a protester threw a rock at security personnel. Security forces responded by firing tear gas and assaulting protesters with batons in order to disperse the demonstrations.
Two eyewitnesses stressed to Mada Masr that there were no injuries among the protesters. However, at least 22 residents and workers from the area were arrested following the clashes, according to residents.
On Tuesday, 17 of those who had been arrested were interrogated by the Haram Prosecution on charges of resisting authorities, illegal assembly and injuring a police officer, according to Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights lawyer Mostafa Sayed.
Sayed told Mada Masr that the prosecution has issued arrest warrants for four other residents.
Demolition work in Nazlet al-Semman began on Thursday, when more than 10 police and CSF vehicles, three municipality vehicles, as well as a number of bulldozers, arrived in the area, an eyewitness told Mada Masr. The Giza Governorate issued a statement on Friday announcing that four buildings in the area were being demolished, asserting that the buildings did not have licenses.
The accusation that the buildings are not properly licensed was first broached days before the demolitions in a media campaign led by state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper and TV presenter Ahmed Moussa.
According to Sameh al-Gabry, the deputy head of the local civil association to develop Nazlet al-Semman, who participated in Monday’s protest, two of the buildings referred to in the governorate’s statement were being used as hotels.
The area’s residents have been in communication with the Housing Ministry, several security bodies and the Giza Governorate over the past year, according to Gabry, who said that they had requested clarification on the development plan of the area, amid fears of eviction. They have not received a response, he stated.
“We support the development plan, but we are against the demolition of our houses,” Gabry said.
In February 2017, the government announced that it was close to finishing its development plan for the area surrounding the pyramids, a plan that began in 2008. While development should have concluded by May 2018, it remains ongoing. The plan also comes amid preparations for the 2020 opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located two kilometers from the pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza.
Tensions have repeatedly surfaced between the government and the residents of different areas in Cairo — including the Maspero Triangle, Manshiyet Nasser and Warraq island — as a result of government attempts to demolish buildings, evict residents or confiscate lands. Residents of these areas have expressed their anger at the government for carrying out these plans without conducting proper dialogue with or providing adequate compensation for the communities affected.