Thousands forcibly evicted from Cairo's Maspero Triangle after years of resistance

Thousands forcibly evicted from Cairo's Maspero Triangle after years of resistance
Following years of resisting forced evictions, thousands of Egyptians are being removed from their homes in central Cairo.
3 min read
12 March, 2018
The area up for redevelopment is home to thousands of people [Getty]
The Egyptian government started to evacuate scores of properties in the Maspero Triangle area in central Cairo on Saturday as part of an extensive campaign to remove the entire neighbourhood by the end of the this week. 

Around 4070 families have been forcibly evicted so far, leaving around 200 families, according to the deputy Governor of Cairo, Major Gerneral Mohammed Abdel Tawab.

The Egyptian governement, headed by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, is trying to force ordinary Egyptians to vacate their homes in a number of areas in prime real estate, especially the Maspiro Triangle, on the grounds that they are illegal settlements.

Residents of the area have long been opposed to eviction.

"Since childhood, we've been told this place will be demolished.  So we haven't been allowed to make any repairs or renovate our houses.  It is the government," Muataz Jamal, a shop owner, told The New Arab last year. 

"We will not negotiate with anyone over leaving our homes in this area," said another resident, Fathi Saber. 

"More than 70 percent of the area is in good condition, but the government wants to demolish the whole place.  It is a great injustice," said Sayed Shaalan, founder of the Maspero Youth League, which has been campaigning against the forced evictions.  

Tawab added the governorate paid cash compensation to 2880 families, and transferred 437 families to al-Asmarat neighbourhood, indicating that 750 families wanted to stay and return to the area after its development. 

However, those moving to al-Asmarat - a new development on the outskirts of Moqattam, an upper class suburb of Cairo - must pay towards their new housing units.  There have also been concerns that the area is lacking in transport and infrastructure, and is located far from Maspero residants' jobs.  

"Although we face difficult circumstances, we will not leave our homes, because we will not be in the places of our birth, and this will disrupt our businesses," said Shaki Mohammed, owner of a car workshop. 

Those living in the "shacks" - make-shift houses on the top of buildings - will recieve no compensation or reclocation options at all, as the government does not recognise these units as legally-owned homes.  

Cairo Governorate has evacuated 350 out of 900 communities, home to some 20,000 impoverished Egyptians, who live parallel to Cornishe el-Nil between the foreign ministry building, and the state television centre.  The area totals some 51 acres. 

The Egyptian government is providing compensation at less than half the value of residential units.

The Sisi government has selected nine companies for the Maspero Mapping and Urban Planning Project, which includes international offices and alliances from Jordan, the United States, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and South Korea.

The eviction follows years of dispute between local housing rights activists and the Egyptian government. 

Due to the lack of transparency in urban development plans in Cairo, there has often been confusion concerning the state of Maspiro - which was originally included in the plans for "Cairo 2050", a massive urban development project dating from pre-revolution Egypt, aiming to turn the city into a new Dubai.

These plans were put on hold following the tumultuous years that followed the revolution, ostensibly due to concerns voiced by residents and housing rights groups - but more likely due to the withdrawal of Gulf investors during Morsi's tenure.

Yet, as Egypt received billions in foreign investment, the plan re-emerged as the 'Greater Cairo Urban Development Strategy'.

The mass forced eviction plans have been condemned by housing rights groups and NGOs, including the Egyptian Foundation for the Right to Development.