Discourses in Contemporary Egypt: Politics and Social Issues by Enid Hill

By Enid Hill

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The government regarded extending the lease even for a few more months as a solution to a tenant's problem, despite the temporary and insecure nature of this arrangement. It is also worth mentioning here that the eviction deadline of October 1st was biased against the sugar cane growers in the south of Egypt, as the cane harvest does not start before December and lasts until May. Therefore all tenants in sugar cane areas had to leave their crop behind or, more commonly, to extend the lease for a few months, at very high prices, until the harvest.

Long before the law was issued in 1992 and until well after the full implementation in 1997, the press played a vital role in directing public opinion, and thus shaping the course of events. Analysis of the press material provided the main source for investigating the wider public political discourse that surrounded the tenancy crisis. As with the Agrarian Reform act, the implications of the tenancy law far exceed the agricultural sector, reflecting the general political orientation of particular regimes and the interplay of wider political and economic forces.

Most incidents were not reported in the official media, and when major incidents occurred they were slotted into the inner pages. The Land Center for Human Rights reported and documented incidents involving 32 fatalities, 751 injuries, and 2410 arrests for the period 31 December 1996 to 1 May 1998 (Ismail 1988:182-185). It merits mention also that there was a police presence accompanied by intimidation in villages during the time where land was changing hands. In some cases, police were present supporting owners in the reconciliation committees and tenants where forced to sign evacuation forms under threat of torture.

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