Khaled Ali

Nada El-Kouny, Monday 2 Apr 2012

Khaled Ali
Khaled Ali (Photo: Mai Shaheen)


A renowned lawyer and activist, Khaled Ali made a name for himself promoting social justice and defending the rights of workers, peasants and students over the course of the last two decades.

Born in 1972 in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya, Ali graduated from Zagazig University’s law faculty in 1995.

Along with two siblings, Ali attended state schools, while four other siblings received an Islamic education at Al-Azhar-affiliated schools. Ali had to help provide for the family from an early age, taking a series of jobs alongside his schooling, including work at a rice-milling factory and a chocolate factory.

Ali is married to Naglaa Hashem, a fellow human rights activist who works for the Cairo-based Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims. They are the parents of an eight-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl.

Before the Revolution

Following graduation, Ali volunteered at a number of offices before he started work in 1996 at Cairo’s Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), which provides free legal aid.

In 1999, along with Ahmed Seif El-Islam, the prominent human rights lawyer and former LAC partner, he founded the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre (HMLC), a law firm that has since become a major player in the country’s human rights scene. Ali served as HMLC executive director from 2007 to 2009.

In 2001, Ali helped launch the Coordinating Committee, a grassroots labour organisation that advocates for workers’ rights. The committee worked on eliminating violations in state-run trade union elections.

Ali was also a founding member of the Front for Defending Egypt's Protesters, an initiative set up in 2008 by activists and volunteers to provide legal support for Egypt’s labour movement in the industrial city of Mahalla, an epicentre of labour struggle.

In 2009, Ali founded the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR), a prominent human and labour rights advocacy group of which he was director until February of this year. He resigned his post at the ECESR upon announcing his intention to run for Egypt’s presidency.

Ali has achieved a number of notable victories as a lawyer. Most famously, in March 2010, he obtained a landmark ruling in a class-action lawsuit that mandated a LE1,200 minimum wage for public-sector workers.

In collaboration with the Africa and Middle East Refugee Association (AMERA), Ali has also championed the cause of Sudanese refugees and immigrants. He was involved in a May 2010 court case that led to the first judicial ruling in Egypt prohibiting the state from deporting refugees.

The Revolution and Beyond

On 24 January 2011, the day before the eruption of Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising, Ali gave a lecture at the ECESR examining similarities and differences between Tunisia and Egypt, asserting that Egypt “needs a revolution.”

During the 18 days of mass protests that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Ali attended numerous street protests. From 29 January, he used a friend’s car to transport the injured to makeshift hospitals. ECESR, meanwhile, provided medical assistance to anti-regime protesters, prompting security forces to raid its offices on 3 February and detain Ali for several hours.

Since Mubarak’s ouster, Ali's legal work has focused on defending civilians against military trials, the first of which took place in April in coordination with the ‘No to Military Trials’ campaign. Ali has also represented the families of slain and injured protesters in cases where police officers were accused of using live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators.

Ali has also continued to represent workers fighting to reverse Mubarak-era laws that have negatively impacted their daily lives. In a major victory in September of last year, three public-sector companies privatised under Mubarak were re-nationalised: the Shebin El-Kom Textiles Company, Tanta for Flax and Oil, and the Nasr Steam Boilers Company. This allowed over 700 workers – who would have been made redundant – to be re-instated with their annual bonuses.

In March 2012, Ali announced his intention to run for president on a programme calling for the realisation of revolutionary objectives. His presidential campaign emphasises social equity, wealth redistribution, civil liberties and the revolutionary cause as a continuing struggle. He has also called for Egypt’s military establishment to disengage from all economic activity, vowing to dismiss Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, if elected.

His campaign has attracted a number of leftist and liberal intellectuals, as well as young revolutionaries.

Winning cards

* Ali has been dubbed “the common man” due to his modest background and his years of struggling for the rights of ordinary people. Ali has a devoted – albeit small – support base and enjoys the backing of several human rights activists and revolutionary groups, as well as a number of leftist intellectuals.

* His strong positions against the ruling military council and his focus on social justice and workers’ rights are broadly popular among revolutionary forces.

Odds against

* Social groups who form Ali's core base – including workers, middle class intellectuals and students – are expected to vote for other leftist candidates, such as Abul-Ezz El-Hariri, Nasserist contender Hamdeen Sabbahi or Bothaina Kamel. Many may also vote for liberal Islamist candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh.

* His relatively short career in politics, which has focused largely on domestic policy, has led some critics to argue that he lacks the experience necessary to manage the local and international affairs of a country of Egypt’s size and importance.A renowned lawyer and activist, Khaled Ali made a name for himself promoting social justice and defending the rights of workers, peasants and students over the course of the last two decades.


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