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DUNK: New campaign protests against poverty raises controversy

Social media campaign calls for street protests on Tuesday to denounce what it says are the government's failures to provide a 'dignified life' for Egyptians

Mariam Rizk , Tuesday 9 Sep 2014
Snapshot of a YouTube video of the new movement calling itself "Dank", Arabic for extreme poverty

A new Egyptian movement that first kicked off on social media has called for protests on Tuesday against the increasingly high cost of life in the country and deteriorating public services, according to the movement's Facebook page.

The movement, calling itself Dunk, which means extreme poverty in Arabic, called on people to hold demonstrations on 9 September in front of subsidised supermarkets, public hospitals and transportation facilities to protest the country's deteriorating services and high food prices.

"Go down and tell the government it must either provide a dignified life or leave," the description of the event said.

The group's spokesman Marwa El-Adl told Ahram Online that the protest should continue throughout the day – but she expects the largest gathering to be at 2:00pm local time at metro stations.

"If security cracks down us, then they are proving that this is regime is a failure ... and they will push people until they blow up," she said.

The group started publishing videos on YouTube a month ago. There have been no reports of their protests on the ground, though.

El-Adl said the campaign has also taken to the streets to get the word out, writing slogans on walls, passing out fliers and speaking with people who might not have television or internet access.

"People want someone to tackle the social problems they suffer from but do not know how to express them," El-Adl said.

Some critics have claimed the movement as being in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group, who have been protesting for over a year since the Islamist leader's toppling last summer.

El-Adl said that the Brotherhood accusations are "an attempt to abort the movement even before it starts."

"People say we are Brotherhood because the media tells them so," she said, while agreeing that the campaign contains people of different political affiliations, "because we cannot tell someone not to join us."

In a phone interview on private TV channel Dream, the movement's coordinator Islam El-Moslmani said he does not believe 30 June – the protests which led to Morsi's ouster – was a revolution.

The host then accused him of being a Brotherhood member for not recognising 30 June. El-Moslmani insisted the movement only spoke for the poor and the voices of crushed Egyptians.

The Brotherhood-led National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, which has spearheaded resistance efforts against the government, has lately focused on the country's social and economic demands in recent statements.

Dunk posted a video of people chanting in a train station on Tuesday, saying "Oh government of humility and shame, the prices are soaring like fire," and called it the movement's second protest. The first was a march on Tuesday in Alexandria with no more than 30 people present, according to a video posted online.

"Military men ruled and life became hard, there's no light or water or fuel in the tank," one song on their YouTube channel said. "There are no services, only prisons."

In another visual post, five men in black shirts and white masks stated the reasons why people should demonstrate.

"The people will not stay captive to failed governments who are competing to sell the country," one of them said.

The men's attire in the video has caused for some to associate them with a newly self-proclaimed anti-government militia called the Helwan Brigades which has appeared in online videos lately also wearing masks – but threatening attacks against security forces in Cairo's southern districts.

Other Dunk videos have showed people fighting over bread, the staple of Egyptian meals, as well as footage of messy hospital rooms and long queues in front of a public pharmacy.

Egypt has been battered by three years of political turmoil and is now reeling to cope with the economic demands of its nearly 90 million people, half of whom exist under the poverty line.

In July the government took a much-dreaded and delayed decision to lift subsidies on fuel products by up to 80 percent and to increase the price of electricity by 20 percent.

The increasing energy prices did not halt the recurring blackouts that Egypt has witnessed this summer, as low production levels only cover 80 percent of the needed consumption at peak hours.

The government has partially blamed the power cuts on alleged Brotherhood supporters who it claims are attacking power plants and electricity pylons as part of a plan to destabilise the country and stir anger against the current authorities.

Morsi's supporters and Islamist sympathisers have protested against the government since last summer, with many of the protests leading to clashes with security forces. The government has launched a prolonged government crackdown against the Brotherhood and their supporters, leaving hundreds killed and thousands in jail.

Other non-Islamist opponents and activists have also been detained and tried for breaching a controversial protest law passed late last year which bans all demonstrations not pre-approved by the police.

Even before the country's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi took office in June, he warned of a battered economy and regularly asked Egyptians to have patience and to work hard for a better living.

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