Approximately 5,000 farming families are at risk of having their homes demolished and converted into real estate investment projects by the Egyptian Endowments Authority.
The evictions are “tantamount to an illegal eviction order that will leave the legal occupants of the land homeless and deny them their livelihood”, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), said in a statement Sunday.
The roots of the dispute lie in the bureaucracy of the transition period between presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar El-Sadat. The former allocated land distribution to the General Authority for Agricultural Reform, whilst the latter transferred responsibility to the Egyptian Endowments Authority and its cooperatives.
The EIPR said documents submitted by the farmers proved that farmers had legal possession of the land, “and neither the Endowment Authority nor the governorate has any legal claim to it”.
The group said Law 3/1986 confirmed the land was in the possession of the Agricultural Reform Authority, which granted ownership of the land to the farmers.
The Agricultural Reform Authority conducted an investigation and found small farmers were given title to the land. The Endowment Authority disregarded the investigation’s findings as well as other legal judgments ruling against demolition orders, according to the rights group.
“The Endowment Authority has continued to transfer ownership of the disputed land to various cooperative housing associations, in violation of the law, which has subjected local residents to numerous abuses,” said the EIPR, who also mentioned the use of violence on residents and farmers in the area.
The farmers, living in Montaza on the outskirts of Alexandria, have also asked the government to provide basic utilities and social services. They say the authorities have failed to connect irrigation networks and that sewage has seemed into their water resources, the EIPR says.
Residents appealed the decisions by the Endowment Authority’s to seize their land.
Several judicial rulings have found that the Endowment Authority has no legal claim over the land, said Mahmoud Hamdi Al-Kabir, the attorney for the local residents.