Piles of smoldering trash, stretches of land overtaken by sewage, and squalid housing are an inescapable reality for many Egyptians living in Cairo. It is not uncommon for residents in this city of nearly 11 million to share toilets, seek out expensive gas canisters in order to cook, and have their access to water cut off.
The Right to Housing, the first in a series of videos covering post-election issues in Egypt from independent media collective Mosireen documents overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in homes across Cairo, critiquing the government for its negligence as well as its readiness to call in the military police to make forced evictions. Mosireen—a nonprofit emerging from the January 25 revolution, whose name evokes the Arabic word for Egyptians (“masireen”) and means “the people who insist”—focuses its cameras on collapsed buildings with their inhabitants left stranded in the rubble, waiting for government response, alongside people whose homes have allegedly been taken away without warning.
“They broke all our things, demolished them, beat us and abused us, and then left us. …They didn’t even let anyone take any of their personal things,” one man attests of an eviction, adding, “As if we’re in Gaza.”
But the report is also strikingly positive about community efforts to self-organize in the face of institutional neglect. “We clean… we do the job of the Ministry of Environment. We take on protection and security… the jobs of the police and the Interior Ministry.” Where citizens feel the government has failed, this neighborhood has turned to direct governance instead.