Egyptian Chronicles: Warraq Island : There is some island curse in Egypt nowadays

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Warraq Island : There is some island curse in Egypt nowadays

Location Jazirat Warraq al Hadar، جزيرة وراق الحضر، الوراق، الجيزة، Egypt
For nearly three weeks I have been away from the blog as I had technical problems with my laptop.
Thank God, I fixed those problems by a clean Windows 10 install and you can imagine how things have been.
In all those days, I had one thing I wanted to blog about as soon as I am back online: The Egyptian Tiran and Sanafir islands.
Yes, I was planning to write about Tiran and Sanafir islands and share the documents I have been gathering online to prove that the islands are 100% Egyptian.
Now, I am back and I am going to write on the blog about an island but not about Tiran or Sanafir. I am going to write about Warraq island because it seems that there is something is wrong with islands nowadays in this country.
First of all, here are very quick information about Warraq island.
It is the biggest Nile island in Egypt, yes it is bigger than Zamalek and El-Manial Nile islands
It is the most populated island in Egypt as there are some estimations speaking about 100 thousand people living there.
Its recorded history as well past Egypt’s census shows that it was inhabited in the 19th century and it has been commonly known as Warraq Al-Khader.
Warraq island on Google map 
Officially, it has been considered part of Giza governorate since the 20th century but it is over looking two other governorates: Cairo and Qalyubia. This gives you an idea of its size.
It was the first place in Giza to cultivate potatoes and it was the main potato supplier to the British occupation camps. Yes, the Nile used to flood it before the construction of Aswan High Dam but it has been there the whole time.
I had to say this introduction because of the lies spread by Pro-regime media in the past few days as well by the officials themselves in Egypt.
From a week ago, we woke up one Sunday morning to find that there were clashes between the residents of Warraq island and the security forces from Egypt’s police and armed forces.
Sooner, the clashes resulted in the death of one of the locals and we found out that the angry islanders cut roads in Imbaba district, the mainland. The Islanders returned back to the island to hold a very big funeral for that 20-years old man. Video clips of the angry islanders began to emerge to say another story than the government’s.

Officially, the government and the ministry of interior issued statements claiming that a campaign went the island in order to restore the State-owned land to remove illegal structures and encroachments on state property on the banks of the Nile.
They were speaking about 700 evacuations orders to be executed in the island, only 9 houses were evacuated and demolished them.
After demolishing her home in Egypt's Warraq island
A mother of four sitting in front of what once was her house.
The statements also said that the residents of Warraq island attacked the security forces with birdshot and automatic guns injuring not less than 30 police personnel including a police general.
At night, the usual Pro-regime TV night talk shows slammed and attacked the residents of the Warraq island for hijacking the state-owned land and resisting the authorities.
The usual set of accusations like being an agent of Qatar and Muslim Brotherhood stronghold were repeated boringly.
Early Monday 17 July, news came from the island that Water bodies police stopped the ferries on the island and it was technically under siege. At the same time, Egypt’s interior ministry announced that it arrested about 13 people from the island for riots and incitement of violence.

At 12 PM or 1 PM on the same day, news came that ferries returned to operate.
As soon as I heard the news, I took my camera and headed to the island for work and to see what is happening.
Things were normal in Imbaba but when you could see the entrance of Warraq mainland a Central security forces “CSF" vehicle ready for anything. At the ferry dock, there were couple low ranking police officers setting away from the public, from island residents.

The Islanders were angry and sad but quiet. They were all whispering about how the island was besieged for hours and only then they were able to go to the mainland to bring food.
In the way to the island, you could see very well how the Water bodies police speed boats were circulating the island. You can also see that huge bridge under construction connecting Cairo and Giza passing through the island.
Egyptian police speed boat outside the island
Egypt's water bodies circulating the island on Monday 
At the Ferry’s dock, I found one of the island elderly speaking to the media surrounded by angry residents. I met with that old man and he explained to me everything.

 A former head of Warraq island local council for 17 years, Mr. Yahia El-Maghraby was angry from the TV channels and State-owned newspapers yet he was and is still keen to explain to anyone about what was happening.
According to him, what happened 24 hours earlier was an escalation for something being prepared a month earlier.

Things began to accelerate more and more in June as President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi spoke about the island indirectly claiming that the people there lived and built their homes illegally and their sewage was directed into the Nile in one of his conferences.
He also stated in his word that he had a plan to turn Nile islands into financial centers.



In the same month, PM Sherif Ismail issued his decree to exclude 17 Nile islands from a-1998 decree recognizing them as natural reserves.
The decree
The decree to exclude the islands
To refute the claims of the government, two MPs representing Warraq presented to the House of Representatives copies of documents that prove the land ownership of the locals there.
They also arranged a meeting between the locals and officials in Ramadan.

In the early morning of July 17th, the islanders found them in front of huge security force made of the central security force and army units. The governorate workers came as well to evacuate and demolish houses on the island.
Only 9 buildings were demolished as the locals began to stand in front of the bulldozers to stop the demolishment of more buildings.
One of the demolished buildings
One of the demolished buildings in the island 
According to Maghraby, the clashes started as a verbal altercation between the locals and the security then the security fired birdshot as well tear gases at the locals who hurled rocks in return.
The Warraq elderly as well other locals are still denying the government’s accusations that the islanders started attacking security forces with firearms.
Following the death of a young local man, the security forces withdrew from the island whereas the locals went to the mainland to transfer their injured.

They transferred 13 injured to 3 hospitals in Giza, Qalyubia and Cairo but next day they found out that the security forces arrested those men from the hospital accusing them of riots the day before.
The locals did not know where those 13 injured men were till one of those detainees managed to call them and told them that they were detained at some Central security forces camp far away.
Later, the prosecution ordered the detention of 9 detainees 15 days pending and the release of the rest.

They also found out that Water bodies police stopped the ferries from working.
Warraq is connected to the outside world through ferries, middle size old ferries.
One family operates the ferry business on the island with 5 ferries only. They have got 2 ferries to Cairo, 2 ferries to Giza and one ferry to Qalyubia.
The locals also got fishing boats. Originally, we are speaking about farmers and fishermen in Warraq despite the poor modernization that entered.
The ferries are the only route to the mainland where the islanders can get every thing from food, medicine and fuel.

Only means of connecting to the Mainland in Giza
Currently, the ferries are the only connection between the island and the mainland
Mr. Yahia El-Mahgraby recounted how the students could not go to their resit exams and how employees and workers could not get to their jobs because of that “Siege”.
The “Siege” was ended at 12 PM on the same day when El-Mahgraby called TV morning shows criticizing the security’s action.

Sadness, anger and fear were the common factors when you speak to anyone living in the island then whether an elderly or a child.
They feel angry from the mainstream media attacking them as well the government that neglected them for years and now wants to kick them out of their home.
Warraq island is a very poor village. It has no real public service.
They got two schools and a small police station. They also got a very small clinic that cannot help anyone. The water is undrinkable there.
Aside from agriculture and fishing, its youth suffer from unemployment inside the island and has to find work in the mainland.

Showing the house's ruins in Warraq island
The underage citizens of Warraq at one of the demolished houses
Nevertheless, I felt some sort of pride while talking to the locals there whether the kids or women or even those who lost their houses.
Here are a couple of interviews I recorded in the island. It can give a glimpse of the suffering of the people there. Please, spread it.


Mr. Yahia El-Mahgraby explained to me that old fight between the government and the Islanders over the island that goes back at least two decades ago.

In 1998, PM Atif Ebeid issued a decree recognizing Warraq island as well a number of Nile islands as Natural Reserves despite according to the islanders, they do not have any rare plants or rare animals or anything.
In 2001, Ebeid’s cabinet issued decree number no.542 which stipulated that the land of the two Nile islands “Warraq” and “Dahab” to be expropriated for public use.
The cabinet then claimed the two islands newly emerged from the Nile following the construction of Aswan high dam in the 1960s, which is untrue.
Ebeid’s decree was met by huge anger in both islands and they protested it day and night.
Then in June 2001, Late Atif Ebeid stated in front of the People’s Assembly that the people in both islands who got ownership contracts would not be kicked from their land or homes.

Once a bedroom
Once a bedroom in Warraq island for a farmer to rest in 
Nevertheless, the locals in both islands feared of a setup, especially that during then just like now rumors spread that the government would turn both islands into gated upscale resorts and compounds. They sued the government in front of the Administrative Court with the help of not less than 52 lawyers.
The civil society and political activists during Mubarak had much louder voice ironically.
In 2002, the administrative court ruled in favor of the islanders of Warraq and Dahab.

Standings of what was once a house
The demolished house with its door and small batheroom
Now, the menace is back.
“Why did they bring up this project again? “ Mahgraby asked me.
El-Mahgraby also revealed that Egyptian state got only 60 acres, a thing which the locals confirmed to me over and over in the island.
Those 60 acres are divided into 30 acres owned by the endowment authority and 30 acres owned by the agricultural development authority. The agricultural development authority leased 25 acres of its land in the island to farmers with officially registered contracts.
There are 2500 families living in the rest 5 acres also with official contracts registered at the Notary office.
“If the state wants those 60 acres, it can take them but it must provide a compensation to those families living on those 5 acres.” Yahia El-Mahgraby told me.

The man was also insisting that the rest of the people in the island own their land and houses with officially registered contracts.
“The president himself must pay respect to those contract according to the law and the Constitution,” said the elderly who is highly respected in the island.
A grandmother of 4
Shourkia, a grilled corn seller and a grandmother shows the contracts of owning the land of her son's
house 
Interestingly, Yahia El-Mahgraby told me how the State-owned Arab Contractors Company compensated the people in the island for building the huge Rod El-Farg axis bridge in their land. The company took about 14 acres.
People who lost their homes last week are wondering why the government or the state did not even compensate them like Arab contractors Company. It is a fair question.
The Under-construction bridge on the Nile
The Rod Farg axis under construction bridge. 
On Tuesday, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi revealed his plan to Warraq island to be a second Zamalek island saying that the upscale island was better than Warraq because it had better planning !!

In my interview with Mr. Yahia El-Mahgraby , the 73-years old man told me that the president was given wrong information. I agree, not only president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is given wrong information but also not all the information.

Zamalek has been upscale because simply Khedive Ismail wanted it to be upscale.

So far the people of Warraq are still glued to their land and refuse to leave despite the President and the government’s statements.
Unlike in 2002, I would say that the Nile Islanders are fighting alone. They are just standing in front of Goliath as much as they can waiting for David or a miracle to help them.

“Do you know what happens to the fish when it leaves the water? it dies, the same thing will happen to us, we can not leave it.” He told me and only time will tell. 
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4 comments :

  1. The distribution of islands will be as follows:
    - Saudi Arabia will get Tiran and Sanafir
    - UAE will get Warraq al hadar
    - Egypt will get Khaled Ali patented symbol

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good job on the youtube Video. Enjoyed very much.

    ReplyDelete

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