Egypt evicts low-income island squatters for Gulf-funded megaproject
Authorities in Egypt are attempting to evict low-income residents of an island in Cairo to make way for a mega-project funded by investments from Gulf states, a government source and an official have said.
One person was killed and 56 people were injured in clashes on Sunday as security forces tried to evict squatters from the Nile island of al-Warraq, which the government intends to use for a tourism project.
"There are serious steps towards investment on the Nile islands in Cairo and Giza governorates up until the city of al-Qanater al-Khaireya, where the river splits into its two branches," the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The New Arab on Monday.
An official report obtained by The New Arab revealed that the islands of al-Warraq, al-Dahab, al-Qarsaya, Mohammad and Bien al-Bahrain will be sold to Gulf investors after their residents are forcefully evicted by security forces.
"There was a behind the scenes struggle over the islands between the military and businessmen close to deposed President Hosni Mubarak with both sides attempting to capitalise on the vacuum of power after the 2011 uprising," the source said.
The deputy governor of Giza Governorate confirmed on Monday that al-Warraq island has been slated for a tourism project by authorities as a part of a wider plan to develop islands along the Nile.
Egyptian police on Sunday fired tear gas to disperse a rock-pelting crowd of residents defending their homes on al-Warraq against bulldozers sent by the government to demolish their illegally-built dwellings.
The clashes left one person dead and 56 others injured.
The violence on the island on the fringes of Cairo is likely to stain a nationwide campaign launched this summer by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's general-turned-president, to restore government control over state-owned land.
Sisi has vowed in televised comments to show no leniency to anyone taking illegal advantage of state-owned property, saying the law would prevail regardless of how powerful or wealthy the offenders were.
Illegal use of state land is widespread in Egypt, as well as building on agrarian land in violation of the law.
Since Sisi launched his campaign earlier in the summer, local media has been showing images of police and army troops demolishing buildings illegally built or operating without a license, attempting to project an image of a government keen on protecting what is being billed as "people's property."
In al-Warraq, a mostly agricultural island with shoddily built apartment blocks, residents maintain that their homes are legal, citing the government's supply of drinking water and electricity.
One of the Nile's largest islands in Egypt, it is home to nearly 200,000 people and is linked to the mainland by six ferries.
In 2013, the Dubai-based RSP architecture firm drew up a plan to develop al-Warraq island into an "ideal urban environment".