Egyptian democracy campaigners have called for a “day of popular anger” to coincide with a textile workers’ strike on 6 April.
The protest comes as rampant inflation fuels a new round of strikes and protests against the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally in the Middle East.
Prices for staples such as rice and bread have doubled in the last year. The cost of cooking oil has risen fourfold, while chicken has risen 40 percent in three months.
Many of Egypt’s poor now have to queue for hours to receive their rations of subsidised bread. Several people died recently during a stampede at a bakery.
The protests have forced Mubarak to open up army bakeries to the poor, while his government has released some of its international currency reserves to buy more wheat.
Now the wave of militancy is spreading up into Egypt’s middle classes, with university lecturers and doctors staging strikes and protests over their treatment.
Lecturers went on a strike last Sunday demanding better pay and working conditions.On the eve of the walkout, riot police surrounded universities. The government promised consessions – but they were not enough.
Despite intimidation from the riot police over 800 university professors walked out of the lessons on Sunday. Some 200 professors protested at Cairo University’s main campus. Students at Helwan University, south of the capital, marched in solidarity with them. The lecturers are led by a new generation of activists radicalised by the anti-war movement.
“Some 95 percent of professors in the arts, engineering and science faculties went on strike,” said Dr Mohammed Abul Ghar of the University Autonomy Group. “Even professors who had no lectures scheduled today came to join the strike.”
The lecturers’ group is known as the March 9 Movement since it was formed during the massive anti-war demonstrations that took place in Cairo in March 2003.
Now doctors have joined the protests. The doctors’ syndicate called for a two-hour strike last week, but it was ruled illegal by the government.
In protest doctors staged a seven-day sit-in at their syndicate headquarters. They are demanding more pay and investment in the crumbling health service.
Recently civil servants won their demands for higher wages. Now steel workers have warned they will strike at the end of this month if their demands for higher wages are ignored.
A walkout by the powerful steel workers would mark a significant deepening of the popular strike movement.
This strike wave is taking place as anti-war activists from around the world meet this weekend at the Cairo Conference to discuss the growing resistance to imperialism and neoliberalism in the Middle East
For more information on Egypt’s strike wave go to » www.arabist.net/arabawy