Booming city of Suez microcosm of Egypt's anger
SUEZ, Egypt – Orderly blocks of factory workers' apartments rose along wide, well-maintained roads over the last decade as Egypt's growing economy boosted the fortunes of this flourishing port city.
People migrated to Suez from poor, rural areas to participate in the type of prosperity cited by the country's longtime ruling party as evidence of its success.
But even in a city known for its growing middle class, people say improvements have benefited only a small and well-connected elite, leaving the majority struggling to find money for food and housing. Anger over that imbalance has erupted on the streets more violently in Suez than virtually anywhere else in Egypt, leaving at least three people dead and dozens injured.
About 1000 people gathered in front of the morgue Wednesday night chanting anti-government slogans and calling "God is Great" as they waited for the release of Gharib Abdelaziz, a 45-year-old baker who became the third person killed by police here when he was shot in the stomach during a protest.
His sister, Wafaa Abdelaziz, paced through the crowd, her arms held by female family members, moaning "You traitors! You killed my brother!"
Elsewhere in the crowd, Mostafa Khaled, 21, said he wasn't looking forward to graduating from school this year, even in a city where 100 factories produce everything from steel to fabrics, generating $5 billion a year in tax revenue for the national government.
"Suez brings in the highest profit of all the cities in Egypt to the country and yet look at us - we are close to begging. We have no jobs, we scrounge to feed our families," Khaled said. "We don't want Mubarak, we don't want this government, we want our basic human rights."
As the sky darkened, a shower of rocks rained over the protesters heads and into the morgue and at riot police, and within minutes tear gas filled the air, flaming Molotov cocktails flew through the sky and smashed against armored vehicles. Police shot rubber bullets into the crowd and men vomited in the street.
Women shrieked from their balconies and doorsteps for their sons and husbands to make it back home.
In the one shabby bedroom of her two-room home in front of the Suez morgue, Karima Thabet said she didn't want to be the next mother lining up at the morgue.
"My kids are good children, they just want to find work so they can support their families," she said.
She said none of her five sons were able to find employment and she had to bake bread in an outdoor oven and sell it to her relatives to supplement the rationed loaves she bought as well as selling it to her family members.
For three Egyptian pounds (50 US cents) a month she can buy a membership card that allows her to buy 20 rationed loaves of government-supplied bread. The subsidization of bread in Egypt has been for decades one of the many unwritten "understandings" between the government and the country's poor majority, even though food subsidies cost the country $3 billion per year.
"We eat whatever we can for that day — some cheese, lentils. We only see red meat once a year," Thabet said.