Egyptians with Disabilities Fight for the Right to Employment in the Face of Police Violence

As some of you might know, I spend my non-BlazeSports time as a PhD student in communications at Columbia University. This side of my life has landed me at a conference in Cairo, and thanks to the magic of the internet, I am updating the blog from just east of the Nile River. I tell you this because during my travels, I stumbled across a copy of Caravan, the American University in Cairo’s campus news paper. Its pages contain a compelling story about Egyptians with disabilities asserting their right to work.

According to a labor by-law called the “five-percent rule,” Egyptian employers are required to allocate 5% of their positions to people with disabilities. Even though this rule has been on the books for 36 years, there is no reliable mechanism to enforce it. Even if there was, the punishment for breaking it is only E£100, or less than $17. Egyptians with disabilities are choosing not to stand for this any longer. Perhaps inspired by the country’s recent revolutionary fervor, they are fighting back with protests.

On February 26th, a contingent of Egyptians with disabilities protested in Assiut Governorate in Upper Egypt. The police responded with force. Protesters were beaten and 16 were arrested on charges of inciting riots, violence against police, and blocking railroad traffic. The determination of the protesters suggest that this isn’t over, however. They want to work, and they won’t settle for the stipends that some companies offer them to stay home and to fraudulently claim five-percent compliance. Mohammed Abdel Ghaffar, for example, says, “I want to feel alive and productive. I want to go to work in the morning and return home in the afternoon as any other person.”

Keep up the fight, Mohammed. And kudos to Ahmed Fayez for his reporting of the story for Caravan.

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