Egyptians want justice, better living conditions

Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:15pm EDT

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* Many Egyptians want better living conditions

* Government says time is needed to meet demands

By Sami Aboudi

CAIRO, July 15 (Reuters) - Holding a portrait of a young man, Hamed Fikri's eyes welled with tears as he listened to a speaker in Cairo's Tahrir Square demand justice for those killed in the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in February.

"I came here to get some solace," said the 58-year-old Fikri, a local government employee whose 34-year-old son, Ahmed, was shot dead by police on the first day of the uprising on Jan. 25 while returning home from work.

His son left behind two young daughters, whom Fikri must now find a way to support.

"We have filed documents (for compensation), and they have yet to give us a reply," he said on Friday.

While demands for political change are the main force driving thousands of Egyptians to Tahrir Square, the quest for better living better conditions, including jobs and housing, also weighs on people's minds.

"The people are crushed. They have suffered injustice under Mubarak for 30 years, and the uprising has not yet brought people justice," said Zakariya Eid, 55, a retired army officer.

"There are people who earn as little (a month) as 200 Egyptian pounds ($33)," he added, only to be interrupted by another person who said he was actually making 120 pounds.

The interim government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf says it recognises all the grievances of the Egyptian people but insists it needs time to fix things.

But many Egyptians say they cannot wait.

Ahmed Abdel-Fattah Abdel-Tawab, 45, travelled 150 km (93 miles) from his hometown, Al Fashen, in central Egypt, to Cairo to join demonstrators demanding "real change."

"We have seen no benefits from the revolution," Abdel-Tawab said. "The military council has done nothing to show they are serious about improving our lives," he said, pulling out two government letters, one from before Mubarak was forced to step down on Feb. 11 and one after his departure.

"They sent me an employment letter, and it turned out to be a farce, like the one I received before under Mubarak," he said.

"Nothing has changed. Things are the same as they were under Mubarak," he added.

HOUSING

Mostafa Mansour Mahmoud, a 33-year-old day labourer who had been camping for more than a month outside the state television station on the Nile, said he joined the protesters at Tahrir Square to press the government for housing for those in need.

He said his family, like thousands of poor Egyptians, had been renting houses under a new law that gave landlords the right to evict tenants when contracts expired.

"The landlord did throw me and my family out. We staged a sit-in outside Sharaf's office, who arranged a temporary accommodation for us at a camp while authorities looked into our application for public housing," he said.

He said that social workers who had studied his case, decided he was not eligible for public housing because they found his wife and daughter staying at his parents' two-bed flat in Cairo.

"I had signed a pledge saying that I will go to jail if I was found to be lying. That flat belongs to my father, and now we are crowded into two small rooms."

"All I want is four walls and a roof for me and my family," he said. (Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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