Egypt’s Damietta port reopened its gates on Friday morning following negotiations between protesters, the government and factory management.
Hundreds of protesters had forced the Mediterranean port’s closure for eleven days in protest at environmentally damaging petrochemical “death factories.”
Omar Abdel-Salam, a leading protester against MOPCO, the company that owns the factories, told Ahram Online that following negotiations protesters had agreed to remove roadblocks leading to the port and this would be officially announced in the city’s mosques at Friday prayers.
Prominent architect and political activist Mamdouh Hamza who played a major role in mediating the deal, said further negotiations are expected concerning the factory’s future and he would demand the formation of an international committee to study its environmental impact.
The ruling military council announced early this week that MOPCO would close the factory, but this did not satisfy the protesters who demanded the factory be dismantled immediately because they don’t trust the government’s promises.
Conflicts between local people and the authorities have been ongoing since 2008, when Agrium, a Canadian company, began constructing a petrochemical plant near the Damietta seaport in a deal signed with the government in 2006. Despite suggestions that it would be shut down and the company compensated, the factory has continued to operate after being sold to MOPCO.
”Reopening the port and unblocking the road does not mean our protests is over,” protester Ahmed Omar told Ahram Online. “This is merely a goodwill gesture to prove we are not thugs or a mob, just people fighting for their right to live.”
Last Sunday one person was killed and at least 11 wounded in clashes between the army and protesters outside the factory, jointly owned by the state-owned Misr Oil Processing Company (MOPCO) and Canada’s Agrium, which retained a 26 per cent stake in the company.
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