Hundreds of Egyptian taxi drivers on Tuesday began an open ended strike in Giza's Mostafa Mahmoud Square until the government responds to their demand to shut down foreign ride sharing applications Uber and Careem.
"We won't leave until the applications are shut down completely," Hazem Abo Steit told Ahram Online, a taxi driver and one of the protest's organisers.
Deemed “The Last Call,” the protesters called on Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to interfere.
"Save us, our president," the taxi drivers chanted.
The protest led to a complete closure of roads around the square – a vital thoroughfare in the Giza’s Mohandiseen neighbourhood, a few kilometres outside central Cairo.
According to Abo Steit, the police allegedly fired tear gas at the protesters shortly after the protest started.
Ahram Online tried to reach the interior ministry, but they were not available for comment.
The decision to stage an open ended sit in came after drivers told Ahram Online that they felt that their demands were being ignored on purpose by officials.
"We will leave when an official comes to talk to us," Abo Steit said.
Another taxi protest also took place near Almaza in Heliopolis, where police also allegedly fired teargas, leading the protesters to join the strike at Mostafa Mahmoud Square.
In earlier protests, taxi drivers have argued that “illegally operating” companies were stealing their livelihood and creating strife between taxi drivers and passengers.
White taxi drivers’ key argument is that Uber and Careem must be suspended in Egypt because they function illegally, as they use private cars whose drivers do not have taxi licenses and do not have the financial and legal obligations imposed on taxis.
Speaking to Ahram Online in an earlier interview, Uber’s Cairo Operation Manager Abdellatif Waked said they are not against taxi drivers and that they understand the fact that they might be upset about some aspects of their operations.
“Cairo has about 20 million people, the market is large, so it is possible that it can accommodate taxi drivers, Uber, and other competitors,” Waked said.
Waked also argued that they’re trying to encourage taxi drivers to join the “Uber platform,” and added that the service is open for negotiations and discussions with taxi drivers to include them in the system.
This is the first step of escalation that taxi drivers have taken following continuous stands in the past weeks.
In the past two weeks, Cairo taxi drivers began protesting against the taxi service operators Uber and Careem, arguing that the companies are putting traditional metre taxis out of business.