Egyptians queue this week for long-awaited Iraqi reparations (Photo: Ahram file)
Thousands of Egyptian have been queuing in front of the country's banks this week in the hope of finally receiving compensation for assets they lost in Iraq during the Gulf War over two decades ago.
In tense scenes, reminiscent of the protests that have gripped Egypt over the last year, citizens have blocked the entrances of branches, confronting bank staff to demand information about the long-awaited monies.
Widely known as "yellow transfers", these funds are being returned to Egyptians after a deal was finally brokered earlier in the year with the Iraqi government.
The Central Bank of Egypt says around 620,000 Egyptian citizens are to be granted compensation for property, businesses and other assets they held in Iraq during the Gulf War, which lasted from May 1989 until June 1990.
The bank gave no details on the overall sum, but a previous report in Al-Ahram newspaper estimated the combined value of yellow transfers at $804 million, with the possibility of an additional $295 million in interest.
Claimants can collect their compensation at the branches of major banks, including the Arab African International Bank (AAIB), Bank of Alexandria (BA), National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and Banque Misr (BM).
The central bank has provided details of the staggered 12-week payment process on their website. Running from 25 March until 10 June, Egyptians will collect their money during a window corresponding to the date they left Iraq, a series of statements show.
This information, however, has failed to reach many would-be recipients. On Tuesday morning, around 1,500 people were thronging the pavements and disrupting the traffic in front of AAIB’s headquarters in downtown Cairo.
“We need to know how and where we will get our money," said one furious older man from Upper Egypt who was clad, like many in the queue, in a flowing robe. "I don't know anything about websites."
He told Ahram Online that the majority of people there came from the governorates of Upper Egypt to demand their money, and knew nothing of scheduled payments. They had also found numerous mistakes in the bank's list of names and properties, he said.
Speaking to Ahram Online by phone, an official from AAIB said the claimants were to blame for the disruptions. The bank's management had informed citizens the time for payment would be between 4 and 8pm, he said, but they had disregarded the instructions and come early.
"Some have been queuing since Sunday," he said.