Al Karama Public Libraries in the popular neighborhoods: Victim of corruption, tyranny and complicity “Balance Sheet and Summary Report”

30 May, 2017

Balance sheet & Summary Report

The idea

– The idea of establishing public libraries in poor neighborhoods came into the mind of human rights lawyer Gamal Eid in 2001, after he returned back to Egypt from New York, where he saw the importance of libraries and services provided to the public in every neighborhood. He rented a small shop and collected about 2000 books from his friends and established the first public library in “Dar al-Salam”, named “Al-Bedaya” (The beginning), which had been operating for almost two years. The library was then closed following a drilling of the sewage treatment plants in this poor district leading accumulated wastes to pile up in front of the library for six months, which made it hard for the rights lawyer to continue opening it. Consequently, Eid shut down Al-Bedaya library, after it had benefited about 40,000 male/ female children alongside households, but his dream to replicate such an experience was still looming large.

The origin

– In November 2011, rights lawyer Gamal Eid won the Roland Berger Foundation Human Dignity Award, along with the Tunisian rights activist Radhia Nasraoui and the Syrian activist Mazen Darwish. He announced he would establish free public libraries in Egypt’s slums and poor neighborhoods with the funds he received from the award, and would carry the name “Al-Karama Libraries” (Dignity Libraries). The first public library was indeed opened in May 2012 at Cairo’s Dar Al-Salam neighborhood.

Number of libraries and locations

– The opening of public libraries founded by rights lawyer Gamal Eid sequentially took place; due to the support of many intellectuals, publishing houses and citizens for this initiative. Instead of buying books, they donated a massive number of books to the libraries which saves a lot of money. The number of libraries amounted to 6 at the following districts: Dar al-Salam, Zagazig, Boulak Dakrour, Tora El Balad, El Khanka, and Ein El Sira, in cooperation with  the “Geel” (Generation) Center.

About Al-Karama Libraries

Dar al-Salam Library

– It is the first library established. It included about (3,000 books in various topics+ 14 tables + 11 bookshelves + 35 seats + 1 computer + 1 printer + 1 musical instrument+ stationary).

– The library is about 60 square meters in size. It opened from in 7 May 2012 to 1 December 2016. It was moved to another broader place (about 90 meters) in December 2015. It had provided its services for about 70,000 male/ female children, youth, households, and students.

Zagazig Library

It is the second library established. It included about (2700 books in various subjects+  4 large tables + 7 bookshelves + 25 seats + 1 computer +1 printer + 1 music instrument + chess+ stationary).

– Library size:about 35 square meters. It had been operating from November 2012 to 1 December 2016, during which it benefited approximately 35,000 children, young people, household and students.

Boulak El Dakrour Library

– The third library founded. It included about (2500 books of different subjects+ 4 large tables + 7 bookshelves + 25 seats + 1 computer + 1 printer + 1 music instrument + stationary).

– The size of the library is about 75 square meters. It was operated from March 2013 to 1 December 2016. It benefited about 55,000 people of different ages and occupations.

Tora Al-Bald Library

– It is the fourth library established. It had about (2300 diversified books+ 5 tables + 6 bookshelves + 30 seats + 1 computer + 1 printer + 1 music instrument + stationary).

– The size of the library is about 40 square meters. It was operated from April 2013 to 1 December 2016. It benefited about 44,000 people (children, youth, households, and students, both males and females).

El Khanka Library

– The fifth library. It involved about (3000 books in various subjects+  8 large tables + 12 bookshelves + 40 seats + 1 computer +1 printer + 1 music instrument+ stationary).

– The library is about 80 square meters in size. It had been opened from in 7 August 2013 to 1 December 2016. It provided services for about 60,0000 people of different ages and occupations.

Ein El Sira Library

– The sixth library established by Eid, in cooperation with Al-Geel (Generation) Center for Youth Studies. It included (1500 books in various subjects+  12 tables + 9 bookshelves + 30 seats + 1 computer +1 printer + 1 music instrument+ stationary).

The size of the library (partly affiliated to Al-Geel Center): 25 square meters. It had been operating from June 2016 to 1 December 2016, during which it had been providing almost 500,000 people (from different ages and professions) with services, although it had not been officially opened.

Following are names of some who donated books and stationary to Al-Karama Libraries:

Mr. Ibrahim Abdul Majeed

Mr. Bilal Fadl

Mr. Omar Taher

Poet/ Mureed Barghouthi

Ms. Naglaa Taher

Mr. Ahmed Ramzy

Dr. Emad Abu Ghazi

Dr. Ahdaf Sweif

Dr. Laila  Sweif.

Mr. Hani Jafar

Actor/ Mahmoud Hamidah

Ms. Marwa

Journalist/ Ahmed Zaki Osman

Poet/ Osama Farhat

Dar Al Shorouk (Al-Shorouk publishing house)

Al-Yasmeen Publishing House

Al-Fan El Sabea Magazine

Mr. Mohammed Abu Al-Saud

Ms. Dalia

Ms. Amani Ghonaim

Mr. Mahmoud Al Wardani

Dr. Hamdi Hassan

Ms. Randa Abu Bakr

Ms. Amira Abou El Magd

Dr. Hala Sarhan

Ms. Dalia El Hadary

Ms. Abeer Allam

Ms. Samar Al-Gamal

Mr. Hossam El-Hamalawy

Dr. Rasha Abdullah

Ms. Liliane Daoud

Mr. Haitham Al Wardani

Ms. Rania Geneina

Ms. Azza Halabi

Mr. Mohamed Ashour

Ms. Hala Hamdi

Dr. Marah Abdel Barr

Ms. Randa Abu Dahab

Engineer. Shaimaa Hassan

Ms. Abeeh Shawki El Bakri

Media worker/ Mona Al-Shazly

Mr. Sherif Salah Eddin Abdel Fattah;

Along with hundreds of children and citizens who donated books and magazines

 

How Al-Karama Libraries initiative came to an end?

– On Thursday 1 December 2016, the security forces simultaneously broke into three of Al-Karama libraries (Tora, Dar al-Salam and Zagazig). At that time, Tora and Zagazig libraries were closed, while Dar al Salam library was operating with about 25 children who were training the performance of a song.

– “There is no decision. This is the State Security’s directives!”, this was the response of the security forces which already closed and sealed the Dar al-Salam library by red wax, removed its banner and expelled the children who were sitting therein. Al-Zagazig library was not closed at this day however.

– After publishing the incident, and because there is no decision issued regarding the matter, the library administration warned the rest of the libraries after opening until things become clear; especially after Egypt’s nominee for UNESCO, whom journalists suggested to resort to, had claimed she would do her best to reopen the libraries.

– On 7 December, some unidentified eople went to the residents around Zagazig library and tried to instigate them against the library, under the pretext that it promotes religious views and asks people for money. The residents were about to clash with those people because they know their allegations are false, and they were taking good care of the library, which prompted those instigators to admit they are affiliated with the State Security Service! In the morning of the next day, on December 8, the residents were surprised that the library had been sealed by red wax on dawn.

– The UNESCO nominee continued, as well, to make false promises that she will seek to reopen the libraries, until some police attacks- similar to that of Zagazig- took place with El- Khanka and Bulaq Dakrour libraries. Consequently, the libraries administration was forced to announce the ultimate closure and the suspension of the activities of the three other libraries ( Ein Al-Sira, Boulaq and Khanka).

Police measures

Police officers and brigades went to close the libraries upon some directives from the State Security body, and without having any legal grounds or court order or an administrative decision. One of the police generals told the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI): “A decision will be issued in the coming days based on the directives issued by the State Security apparatus!”. When ANHRI’s lawyer told him: “How can you close the libraries first and then issue the decision?! This is illegal.” The officer laughed and said “You know this is how things are going!”

Administrative corruption

– There is sort of administrative corruption in Dar al-Salam and Tora neighborhoods, and in Al-Zagazig as well. The absence of a closure decision- in the beginning- gave some officials and police officers to unofficially extort money from the library’s administration under the guise that the “matter will be resolved”. Both Dar al-Salam and Tora libraries had been incurring a huge sums of money and many recurrent visits- for almost three weeks- in an attempt to retrieve the libraries’ books and portable assets. In Zagazig library case, it took them four months, during which they incurred 14 trips from Cairo to Zagazig in addition to thousands of money on account of “bribes- under the guise of “tea”-facilities, follow-up” so that books and properties could be regained.

UNESCO nominee’s complicity

– Since the first day of announcing the police attack on the libraries and after the hashtag “No_to_the_closure_of_AlKarama_libraries” went viral, some journalists referred to the stance taken by “Moshira Khattab”, Egypt’s nominee for director-general of the culture-based UNESCO.

– Ms. Moshira Khattab turned a blind eye to what happened despite the questions being directed at her, but because of the repeated pressure and questions she faced, she stated “I will do my best to reopen the libraries in order to ensure no child is deprived of the right to knowledge.” And while awaiting for her alleged efforts to reopen the libraries, the third library (which is Zagazig) was shut down, as if she was giving State Security officer the chance to close further libraries through procrastination.
– In early January 2017, and at the request of the rights activist and the libraries’ founder Gamal Eid, Moshira Khattab visited Dar al-Salam library, the same day he made his request to her. The visit appeared as a “sudden inspection”; as she headed to the Dar al-Salam library, which was shuttered at that time but was then opened in her presence, wandered through it, and skimmed through its books, to announce thereafter that it indeed includes valuable and useful books.

(Al-Masry Al-Youm news website: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1067038

Mada Masr: http://bit.ly/2qjqh0Q)

– Despite praising the library’s books and speaking with Dar al-Salam residents- who called on her to intervene to help children, Khattab chose to remain silent, disregard her role and to take no positive stance towards that matter. Not only this, but she deliberately alleged that the closure of the libraries is a case that is being reviewed by the judiciary. Whether this piece of lie is made by her or by others, for her part, it’s all over; after she already took pictures with the poor people of the slums, as if it was a sort of propaganda created over her.

Minister of Culture

The secular intellectual minister, who previously cooperated with ANHRI and its director preparing a research study for which he received a financial reward, preferred to remain silent and not to utter a single word with regard to voicing  his objection against the closure of public libraries that provide public services for poor people in Egypt’s slums! He seems that he is not caring about the issue.

President of the Republic

– In mid April 2017, Gamal Eid submitted a question to Egypt’s President of the Republic via “Ask the President” application. The question says: “I’m a human rights lawyer, and opposed to you, but I’m astonished that Egypt has been nominated to UNESCO’s seat whilst its State Security shuts down public libraries, built to serve poor districts, just for retaliation. Is this fair?

– The president responded during the National Youth Conference’s session that is is possible to resort to legal procedures or the judiciary to reopen the libraries upon a court order, and that we all have to comply with it. He also wondered “Do we have a State Security body?”, adding that any decision is carried out for the purpose of protecting the 90 million Egyptians.

– On his part, Gamal Eid replied by saying “If the judiciary is the one that will adjudicate over the matter, I wouldn’t had resorted to the President in the first place. I resorted to the President because it is a police decision that was made by the State Security Service, and yes it exists under the name “National Security” and is affiliated with the Ministry of the Interior which is in turn affiliated with the President. He added, “what kind of protection is it when you decide to close public libraries and deprive Egyptians from knowledge?!

Other information and initiatives thwarted

– In 2014, rights lawyer Gamal Eid announced that he would took the initiative to renew and renovate the destroyed and abandoned Al Bahr Al-Azm (Great Sea) Library turning it to a large public library, without letting the state to incur a single pound. He wanted to use his expertise in the establishment of public libraries to turn it into a huge cultural center “a library, a cinema, a meeting room, a music hall or an art workshop”, which would benefit Giza governorate’s residents. Unfortunately, the government didn’t even show any interest to respond, and the library is still devastated until today.

– In 2015, human rights lawyer Gamal Eid announced, once again, his willing to establish 10 libraries inside prisons in order to serve the prisoners and try to improve their conditions. Nevertheless, one of the aides/brigades of the former Interior Minister (Habib al-Adly) announced his full rejection to the initiative.

– According to Al-Watan newspaper,  Ambassador Abdul Raouf Al-Raidi, Chairman of Egypt’s Public Library, announced that Egypt is in the back of the public libraries ranks, and that it occupies a very deteriorating position in terms of the scientific research rank. ( http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/2088263)

Al Karama Libraries: Dates and numbers

May 2012 Start date of libraries’ activities
Six public libraries Number of libraries
Cairo: Dar al-Salam, Ain al-Seira, Tora al-BaldGiza: Boulaq DakrurQalibuya governorate: KhankaSharqyia governorate: Zagazig Place of libraries
15,000 books in 6 libraries How many books in the libraries
14 people working while receiving rewards and dozens of volunteers “Team”volunteers and those receiving reward
About  260,000 (male/female children, households, students) Number of people benefited from the libraries
http://elkarama.anhri.net/ Libraries’ website
December 2016 Date of closing the libraries
Those who shut down the libraries or had an accomplice in closing them – State Security Apparatus
– Major General Sabri Mohammed Abdo, head Dar al-Salam district
– Tariq al-Yemeni, head of Tura neighborhood
– Nabil Farouk, head of Zagazig City
– Moushira Khattab, Minister of State for Family and Population under Mubarak era, and Egypt’s current nominee for the post of UNESCO’s director
– Helmi Al-Namnem, Minister of Culture
Thousands of pounds, especially for employees and police officers heading the city of Zagazig. Amount of money paid to government officials for regaining books and movable assets “bribes- under the guise of “tea”, official stamps”

the reports pdf

the reports word

 

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