“The struggle of `Izbit Khayrallah is an epic tale,” says one of the inhabitants who is a member of a legal group called the Khayrallah Lawyers League for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (KLLDRF). The struggle for land ownership in `Izbit Khayrallah began almost 40 years ago by the now-elderly inhabitants of the area. The young lawyers of the KLLDRF are determined to continue the struggle until they obtain full ownership rights to their land.
During the past 40 years, the `Izbit Khayrallah inhabitants have managed to create a full-fledged society out of nothing. They struggled to obtain state recognition of their ownership rights, without which they were denied basic, indispensable services such as water, electricity, and sewage. The elderly, youth, women, men, intellectuals, artisans, and professionals have worked together and have improved their community through their impressive cooperation.
This rich experience poses significant questions regarding the “public interest” and who has the right to define it. It reveals the inherent conflict between current laws and regulations, state interests, private interests, and the legitimate right of millions of people to acquire title to the land that they have lived on and developed for decades. All too often, state plans and policies ignore the adequate right to housing of citizens living in informal areas and disregard their right for equal treatment on par with the rest of society. Finally, this case study shows how ill-conceived urban planning and policies add to the suffering of citizens.
The Struggle Begins
In the early 1970s, president Anwar al-Sādāt signed an executive decree1 allocating the area now known as `Izbit Khayrallah to the Maʿādī Company for Development and Reconstruction (MCDR) after which the latter became entitled to build new housing units on it.2 However, the MCDR did not launch any housing development projects. Instead, it left the land unused for years, either for lack resources needed to develop it, or because they hoped the value of the land would rise over time, and they could profit from this speculation.
Around the mid-1970s, with `Izbit Khayrallah still devoid of any development activities, newly-arrived migrants from Upper Egypt and the Delta cities seeking work in Cairo and in need of housing for their families, settled on it. The area was nothing but a desert plateau, inhabited by poisonous insects and reptiles. The families built basic shelter from rubble and stones they found in the area. There were few basic amenities: no water, electricity, sewage, or transportation. Despite that, the inhabitants endured these hardships in order to live and work in Cairo.
From the mid-1970s until the early 1980s, many conflicts arose between the community and the government. The Governorate of Cairo (GOC) issued executive decrees to remove all building violations on the state-owned land in `Izbit Khayrallah. It would, from time to time, demolish the houses and rooms built by the inhabitants on the pretext that they were built on state-owned land allocated to the MCDR.
Unable to find affordable housing elsewhere, the inhabitants rebuilt their destroyed homes. On the other hand, the government made no effort to provide them with alternative housing.
How `Izbit Khayrallah residents took legal action to defend their rights
In 1982, security forces arrived in ‘Izbit Khayrallah to implement a demolition order. Inhabitants of the area confronted them. Women of the area formed a human shield obstructing the advance of the security forces and prevented the arrest of the men. The resistance prevented security forces from implementing the order and they left. The inhabitants recall Um Nādyah with pride, who encouraged all the other women to resist the security forces. She became a legend. To this day, inhabitants refer to the area where she used to live as Um Nādyah’s area.
After this confrontation, the inhabitants decided to take legal action. The man who encouraged them was one of the area’s natural leaders: Sheikh Aḥmad Muḥammad Ghānim. He started the lawsuit and soon other residents added their names, turning it into a class action suit.
Everyone who lived in the area, especially the educated, took part in communicating their case to the media and shifting public opinion in their favor. Residents raised money to file a lawsuit demanding that first, the GOC rescind their decision to destroy their homes. Secondly, they also demanded ownership of the land on which they had built their houses. The residents were partly successful. In 1984, an expedited court ruling stayed the demolition order and therefore no houses were destroyed after that part of the court ruling. Meanwhile the court continued to consider further the issue of the land ownership raised by the lawsuit.
Up to this point, the area was still deprived of all basic amenities. The state perceived the area’s residents as illegal squatters on publicly owned land and had no desire to provide them with such amenities. Consequently, the residents began to collect money and managed to bring in water, electricity, and sewage services through self-help efforts. They bought water pipes and electric cables and connected them (illegally) to the main city networks. Afterwards, they negotiated with the utility companies to settle the outstanding fines for their illegal utility connections amicably. This process legalizes their utility connections, which is a common practice in informal areas where the government has not provided infrastructure.
The residents of `Izbit Khayrallah filed several petitions with the GOC, demanding to purchase their land after the court order halting the demolition in 1984, but these petitions were all rejected. In 1986, they decided to file another lawsuit at the Administrative Court (Maḥkamat al-Qaḍā’ al-Idārī) contesting the GOC’s reluctance to allow them to buy the land. The residents of `Izbit Khayrallah pursued this case for years, hoping that the court would rule in their favor and establish their right to own the land. Such a ruling would also allow them engage in formal economic activities, such as obtaining permits and licenses for shops or obtaining regular public services from the state.
In 1993, a court issued a preliminary ruling rejecting the case. The court said that selling state-owned land was an executive decision to be made at the discretion of the competent administrative authority (which is the same GOC which had refused to sell them the land in the first place). The inhabitants appealed this ruling.
Finally, in 1999, the Supreme Administrative Court (al-Maḥkama al-Idariyya al-`Ulyā) ruled in favor of the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah, rescinding the GOC’s decision to refrain from selling them the land. The decision was final and not subject to further appeal. It has irreversibly established the inhabitants’ right to own the land, giving them the right to buy it from the GOC according to the conditions and regulations governing the sale of such land.
The ruling cited the provisions of law No. 31 of 1984 on the disposal of state property, which permits the sale of such land to adverse possessors (those who the state argues have taken over land illegally or irregularly for an undisputed and uninterrupted period of time). The ruling also mentioned Article No.1 of the Prime Minister’s Executive Decree No. 857 of 1985, which describes the criteria under which state-owned land can be sold to adverse possessors. The decree argued that people may gain title to their land plot if “the adverse possessor had built on the same land structures or buildings whose removal would cause considerable, irreversible damage” or if they had created “a group of houses” or “a stable human community.”
In the words of one of the KLLDRF lawyers it was a “historic” ruling and is now being taught in Cairo University’s Law School because of the judge’s rationale for this ruling.
In this ruling, the court focused not on the letter of the law, but its spirit which is to promote social justice and avoid the damage caused by the dislocation of tens of thousands of citizens. The ruling also cited previous cases in which the GOC agreed to sell land to adverse possessors.3 It also made a reference to the explanatory memorandum for the 1984 court ruling, which ordered the cessation of demolition orders in `Izbit Khayrallah because of “their violation to the principles and foundations on which the society is based, without an overpowering need to do so… especially that the housing settlement which the implementation of the decision would destroy, existed in a stable condition on state-owned land, designated for MCDR, for about 18 years.”
The court ruling added that the settlement in question:
has not emerged suddenly or stealthily or in a surprising manner to the state and its authorities, or to the company to which the land is allocated. Its destruction is something the administration must not do, but moreover it will cause a major breach of (the state’s) responsibilities to maintain citizens’ safety and security. Therefore, there is no doubt that these ends [maintaining the safety and security of citizens] serve a more immediate and critical interest worthy of state protection than the mere removal of building violations on state-owned land.
Following the 1999 Supreme Administrative Court ruling, residents of `Izbit Khayrallah petitioned the GOC again to begin the procedures for land ownership. The GOC said that such action cannot be conducted until a detailed urban plan is made for the entire area, after which the assignment of property can start. Since 1999 until now (2013) the GOC has not undertaken a detailed urban plan and the ruling authorizing the sale of land to the residents has not been implemented.
The inhabitants did not give up and continued their legal battle. In March 2012, one of the KLLDRF lawyers obtained a court ruling in favor of one of the residents, sentencing the governor of Cairo to six months in prison and a fine of EGP 200 (which was never implemented) for failing to act on a previous court order issued on April 2011 which instructed the GOC to sell the land to this particular inhabitant. The ruling also considered the money that the citizen in question had paid to the GOC in usufruct as part of the final price of the land.4
Another obstacle faced the implementation of this court ruling. Since the price of the land was not determined by the court, it was left to the administrative authorities to determine the price. Accordingly, the GOC Property Department in charge of this neighborhood calculated its price at current market prices, which are unaffordable for the inhabitants. Therefore, a lawyer filed an appeal demanding that the value of the land be estimated in accordance of the prices that existed when the act of adverse possession took place.5 The appeal is still pending in court which is typical of the slow-moving Egyptian judiciary system.
The inhabitants now have one more step to go in this long-running battle, which is for the Supreme Administrative Court to issue a final verdict setting a fair price for the land. If this is done, every owner of a property in `Izbit Khayrallah would be able to go to the GOC, equipped with land surveillance maps showing the size of his or her estate and the documents showing possession of the estate, and file for ownership of the land. The GOC will then be obliged to implement the sale.
Resources and sustainability
Self-help and solidarity are the secrets to the sustainability of the efforts of `Izbit Khayrallah’s residents, who have managed to develop and sustain their neighborhood for nearly 40 years despite the government’s eviction attempts. All of the dedicated activists and the lawyers who have filed these cases and pursued the `Izbit Khayrallah lawsuit over the past four decades are inhabitants of the area. The younger generation is now assuming responsibility for the case and they are continuing the struggle which their ancestors started.
During this long effort, residents organized themselves in smaller groups to support certain aspects of the struggle, such as collecting money door to door until the required sums were raised. Other groups pursued legal procedures or met repeatedly with officials or other important groups to defend their case and move it forward to the next stage.
The presence of influential community members was essential. These include people such as Sheikh Aḥmad Muḥammad Ghānim who was not only a textile merchant in the area but also a mosque preacher. Ghānim would work in the mosque during the day and hold meetings with community members at night. Due to his rhetorical skills, he was often chosen by the inhabitants as their spokesman at meetings with government officials, where he articulated their case with admirable eloquence.
The self-help approach did not stop at efforts to acquire title deeds for land. It also included efforts to bring amenities, including water, electricity, and sanitation systems to the neighborhood. While some civil society organizations have provided services to the area, it is still short of the full range of public services. For example, there is only one school (a primary school) that serves all of `Izbit Khayrallah. This forces the residents to send their children to nearby schools in other neighborhoods.
In March 2011, after the enthusiastic moment created by the Revolution, the young lawyers living in the area founded the KLLDRF as a professional league registered with the Lawyers Association. The lawyers took this step in order to consolidate their legal work and guarantee its sustainability.
Hurdles and Impediments
There are precedents in which the GOC sold state-owned land to adverse possessors paid in installments, in accordance with the laws legalizing the adverse possession of government property.6 However, the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah have an explanation for the government’s refusal to sell them the land. Some of the residents have pointed out that the real obstacle is the outstanding location of their neighborhood.
`Izbit Khayrallah’s location makes it a sought after piece of real estate. It is on a plateau overlooking the Fusṭāṭ area. From the rooftops of their houses, residents can see the Citadel and the Pyramids, which are miles away. It is also adjacent to historic Coptic Cairo, which has many religious sites, museums, monuments, and tourist attractions. `Izbit Khayrallah itself has several monuments including Muhammad Ali’s cemetery, Sabaʿ Banāt Tombs, Khadra al-Sharīfa Mosque, Ibn Ṭūlūn Aqueduct, and al-Ṭaḥūna (Windmill) Church. It is also close to major transportation arteries, such as the Ring Road, the Autostrad, and Salah Salem Road.
Some of the residents say that offering them title deeds now would contradict a government plan which, they believe, aims to destroy their houses to make room for other projects. Their fears stem from various official plans and documents which all aim at developing Miṣr al-Qadīma and the Fusṭāṭ area and turning it into a tourist development.
Several documents clarify the government’s plans for the development of the Fusṭāṭ area, including `Izbit Khayrallah, neglecting the fact that by some estimates that 650,000 people live in these areas For example, the Ministry of Investment (MOI) website contains a proposed project for the area, titled: The Fusṭāṭ Area Development.7 The Cairo 2050 plan8 was the impetus for another design for the Fusṭāṭ area, one that involves demolishing sections of `Izbit Khayrallah among other areas, to make room for tourist and investment projects (Link to the Plan of Fusṭaṭ Area Development Project). In 2012, the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP) and GOC sponsored a new plan (which has not been made public yet) to develop the Fusṭāṭ area. This most recent intervention, would create the “Fusṭāṭ Open Museum” and demolish major parts of `Izbit Khayrallah to create tourist facilities like “hotels and resorts for the Fusṭāṭ Park” and a “spa resort” while “renovating, replacing, replanning, and rebuilding” the rest of `Izbit Khayrallah.
Although a final court ruling has been issued in favor of the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah, giving them the right to own the land, the implementation of this ruling is subject to decisions of administrative authorities. However, these authorities invariably prioritize the profits of investors and elites over the needs of the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah and other similar areas, all in the name of economic development – as the most recent government initiative, the Fusṭāṭ Open Museum plan, demonstrates.
Outcomes and Impact
The 1999 ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court unequivocally established the rights of the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah to own the land on which their houses are built. The ruling forced the GOC to legalize their status in accordance with existing laws and procedures. It has also rescinded the demolition orders once and for all. This helped stabilize the resident’s status and they now feel safer knowing that the government cannot try again to expel them from their neighborhood.
Because the ruling returned ownership of the land to the state, the state is obliged to provide services to those living there. The ruling also took the MCDR out of the picture. Earlier, when the residents used to submit requests to the administrative authorities to connect them to public amenities, their requests were turned down based on the MCDR’s ownership of the land. In 2007, the government actually started providing sewerage services to the area.
It took nearly fifteen years for the final ruling to be issued. It may take many more years for the price of the land to be determined at which point residents will be able to pay for their land and secure ownership of it. Only then will this ruling be fulfilled.
The experience of `Izbit Khayrallah: A model to replicate?
The experience of `Izbit Khayrallah is a model for communities and collective efforts by residents behind one goal: the right to stay on their land.
This experience is an important example not only for `Izbit Khayrallah, but for hundreds of similar areas (such as Manshiyyit Nāṣir and `Izbit al-Haggānah, etc.) which share similar circumstances and histories and have been similarly threatened. Some of these threats are due to new urban development plans, such as the Cairo 2050 plan, which, if realized, would displace thousands of Cairo’s inhabitants.
The level of threat varies from one community to another according to the nature of the residential community, its legal status, and the importance of its location and value from the perspective of real-estate developers.
In some cases, the government and well-connected investors set their eyes on some areas because of their excellent location, after they had grown into established neighborhoods over several decades. Typically, people in these areas had struggled to make a living and the government may have eventually acknowledged their presence by providing basic amenities, either due to community pressure, or in an attempt to win their electoral votes, or even in recognition of the status quo. Yet, either as a result of government development plans such as Cairo 2050 or the Fustāt Open Museum Plan, or the commercial plans of real estate developers, residents in informal areas would be threatened again with resettlement or forced relocation in distant desert areas that are devoid of jobs and other amenities necessary to ensure a similar quality of life. In this case, they would be required to start from scratch and build communities in a new and inhospitable environment.
The `Izbit Khayrallah’s legal case and mobilization suggests a wide spectrum of action for the inhabitants of other areas that are subject to the same conditions. It also can inform and encourage activists interested in housing rights to pursue various avenues of redress and types of mobilization as they engage with communities to secure their rights.
The legal rulings that the inhabitants won, both in 1984 and 1999, and the explanatory memoranda that went with them, should be considered a foundation for helping other communities obtain a right to their land. This experience can encourage the inhabitants of other areas to seek the same rights in court, knowing that a legal precedent has been established in the Administrative Courts (Maglis al-Dawlah). This means that the rulings passed in connection with the `Izbit Khayrallah case can be used as a “precedent” for other communities seeking similar treatment under the law.
The experience of `Izbit Khayrallah raises questions that touch on a number of current urban policies in Egypt. In particular, three basic aspects of this experience are worthy of discussion in detail:
I. What is the public interest and who should define it?
Examining the three rulings concerning `Izbit Khayrallah, issued in 1984, 1993, and 1999, one has to conclude that the question at the heart of this case is how to define the “public interest.” Does the state define the public interest? Do citizens define it? Or is it a balance between the two?
The ruling issued in 1984 acknowledges the right of the state to remove any unauthorized buildings on state-owned land. On the other hand, it also notes that the main function of the state is to promote the public good, fulfill the needs of the population, and act in the public interest. Therefore, we have a dilemma. Is it more harmful to accept unauthorized construction on state-owned land or to displace a large number of people from their homes?
In 1984, the court opted to sacrifice one aspect of the public interest: the protection of state property. It did so in defense of a public interest that is more crucial and has a wider impact; promoting social peace and protecting thousands of citizens from losing their homes. The court also concluded that the state was a silent partner in the creation of that community, for it failed to act at an early stage of its formation. The court mentioned that ‘Izbit Khayrallah did not arise all of a sudden without the knowledge of the state authorities and that the state’s attempt to remove this community after it had stabilized was unacceptable, for it was a breach of the state’s responsibility toward its citizens and of its obligation to satisfy their public needs. By contrast, the 1993 ruling repudiated the 1984 ruling because it considered protecting these property “violators” as part of the public interest.
However, the final ruling of 1999 sided with the 1984 ruling, arguing that the destruction of those houses represents “a major breach of (the state’s) responsibilities to maintain citizens’ safety and security. Therefore, there is no doubt that these ends [maintaining the safety and security of citizens] serve a more immediate and critical interest worthy of state protection than the mere removal of building violations on state-owned land.”
The contradiction inherent in these rulings illustrates two opposing points of view. The first view supports the right of citizens to acquire title to the land on which they built their homes and where they lived for decades and struggled to build a thriving community with no help from the authorities. The second view shows concern for the loss of state’s rights and aversion to creating a precedent that could be used to legalize illicit gains in the future.
Between the two views, a balance must be found where the law protects the “spirit” of the public interest and preserves the principles of social justice. In this way, the law can safeguard the rights of citizens who were forced by circumstances to seek a dwelling which the state failed to provide for them without opening the door for corruption or creating loopholes for illicit gain that is harmful to the rest of society.
II. Housing rights and the priorities of the local community
Article No.11 of the 1966 International Covenant on Cultural, Social, and Economic Rights establishes “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.” The Covenant calls on its signatories to take necessary steps to implement this right. Although Egypt signed the Covenant, the commitment to adequate housing has not influenced its urban policies. What is meant by adequate housing here is not just a residential unit with walls and a ceiling that may be located in a remote area or that cannot offer its residents the dignity they deserve. Adequate housing has to go beyond the narrow boundaries of a “housing unit” to embrace the concept of an “adequate home” in a vibrant community. Such a residence should have a modicum of privacy, adequate space, security, proper airing and lighting, suitable amenities and infrastructure, an appropriate location in relation to work and public services, and it should be affordable.
Based on the above principles, “security of tenure” must be considered an essential aspect of adequate housing. This security goes beyond the concepts of safety and related precautions concerning, for example, natural disasters. What is more important is for citizens to be safe from arbitrary eviction and demolition of their homes by the state or anyone else, either because of restrictions on land ownership or inconsiderate and elitist urban planning.
Unfortunately, in Egypt and other countries, the inhabitants of informal areas, cannot achieve this security. They are often vulnerable to forced eviction and demolition and they are routinely denied access to public services and amenities. Their housing security depends on government recognition and obtaining official title documents.
In the absence of this official proof of ownership, which only the state can grant, these citizens can live for decades threatened by the State and denied their rights to housing and basic public services. Meanwhile, inhabitants of these areas sell their property to each other through a complex variety of formal and informal means even though they do not have title to their land. According to the local lawyers involved in this land dispute the first priority for the residents of `Izbit Khayrallah was to stop the forced evictions and demolitions. Their second priority was to obtain the state’s recognition of their existence on the land so that they could gain access to public services. Their last priority was to obtain title deeds.
One must ask: Is it fair for the inhabitants of informal areas to endure decades of litigation just to obtain formal recognition of their ownership status? Is it fair to force them to fight a protracted legal battle in order to protect themselves from eviction and obtain their basic rights for services and amenities? The answer, no doubt, is no.
Both the international definition of the right to adequate housing and the final court ruling of the ‘Izbit Khayrallah case confirms that the priorities of the residents were logical and that citizen access to adequate housing is a right that should be not be linked to the state’s official recognition of the legal status of their land tenure.
Globally, there are other types of tenure that are not recognized by states (such as customary tenure, squatters’ rights, and some other types of adverse possession) but are recognized by various societies and cultures. Therefore, non-recognition by the state must not be used as a justification to force a community to live in dire conditions (without basic public services) or under the threat of eviction.
III. Legality versus the legitimacy of tenure
In 1957, the state amended Article No. 970 of the Egyptian Civil Code in a way that denied citizens the right to acquire state-owned property through adverse possession. The same article gave the state the right to remove encroachments through its administrative apparatus.9 According to this article, millions of citizens who lived for decades on state-owned land, and who invested and financed these areas after the state totally ignored them and treated them irresponsibly, have no legal right to own their land through adverse possession.
While the state may believe that depriving these citizens of the right to own this land which they developed is “legal” the citizens believe that their possession is “legitimate” by virtue of their efforts to develop these areas themselves. The inhabitants of areas such as `Izbit Khayrallah, Manshiyyit Nāṣir, and `Izbit al-Haggāna spent decades building their communities while the state ignored their right to housing, shirked its responsibility toward them, and failed to provide them with transportation and public services, all of which the citizens had to obtain at their own expense. Moreover, the citizens provided job opportunities for themselves and created a thriving informal economy that employs millions of people.
In short, the citizens believe that the “legitimacy” of their existence in these areas supersedes the “legality” of the arguments the state makes when it wants to evict them from homes in which they lived for decades.
Since 1957, several laws and decisions were passed to rectify this situation and address cases of adverse possession or encroachments on state-owned land, the most important of these were in 2006.10 These decisions and laws offer no recognition of adverse possession on state-owned land, but instead leave it to state agencies (executive entities such as provincial governorates and national ministries) to decide whether to sell the land to residents or not.
While these laws and decisions could have helped in recognizing the status of millions of inhabitants of informal settlements built on state-owned land, this did not happen. What happened, instead, was that the state used these laws and decrees, especially since 2006, to legalize the situation of major investors who also had encroached on state owned land. In the end, because of the wealth and political connections of these large investors, the state sold them the land at much reduced prices. The `Izbit Khayrallah case illustrates the contradiction in the state’s attitude, since the state only shows remarkable tolerance in matters of tenure rights towards big investors.
And finally, one must ask: Who has the right to displace a community like `Izbit Khayrallah in order to replace it with tourist sites or large real estate developments, just to help the rich get richer? How can state agencies come up with plans such as Cairo 2050 and spend public resources without deigning to consult with the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected by these plans, either through forced eviction or through the loss of their jobs?
Why is the state behaving as if millions of people inhabiting areas like `Izbit Khayrallah do not exist? While the state continues to engage in unfair urban practices, millions of citizens living in informal areas continue their struggle, not only for their daily bread or housing, but to be treated as full “citizens” with social, economic, and civil rights.
Their battle is far from over.
1. Two Republican Decrees No. 1187 of 1972 and 1420 of 1974. Executive decrees can be issued by a range of high ranking officials such as the President, Cabinet Ministers or the Governors of provinces, to implement legislation and regulations according to the law. Republican decrees are issued by the President.↩
2. Maʿādī Company for Development and Construction is a public sector company owned by the state, and is liable to the Ministry of Investment. ↩
3. The ruling, issued on 21 March 1999 notes that in 1970 the GOC had issued several executive decisions selling some state-owned land to adverse possessors in `Izbit Dissūqī in Basātīn, which is adjacent to `Izbit Khayrallah. The ruling also cited the decision No. 295 on 20 August 1989, determining the land prices in development areas in Ḥilwān, and decision No. 229 on 12 July 1994, concerning informal areas that were part of the GOC’s development plan. ↩
4. The incident dates back to 1995, when a citizen – with others – approached the GOC Property Department (Idarit al-Amlāk) to buy the plot of land on which his building stands – in accordance with the GOC’s declaration that it would grant contracts to anyone wishing to legalize his conditions among the adverse possessors on state-owned land. He paid five pounds for every meter as a down payment. The GOC refused to proceed with the land sale and argued that the money that the citizen had paid would be interpreted as a usufruct payment rather than a down payment for purchase, which conflicts with earlier statements it made in a prior announcement. The GOC asked the citizen to pay arrears for the usufruct amounting to LE 116,000 pounds (the Department calculated this sum according to its estimation that the price of a square meter of land was LE 200 pounds, and estimated the annual usufruct to be 7 percent of the value of the land. Then it demanded the whole amount, effective retroactively). The Department threatened to confiscate the property unless the citizen in question paid the sum. He filed a lawsuit in 2003 to prove his right to own the land and prove that the administrative authority received a down payment to purchase the land. The citizen won the case in 2011, but the ruling did not state the price of the land. So he filed an appeal demanding a fair estimation of the land price, to finalize his purchase of the land – which the courts had already agreed, was his right. ↩
5. In his request, the plaintiff cited administrative decisions issued earlier by the GOC, including decision No. 892 for 1970 and decision No. 53 for 1973, which involved the selling of land owned by the state for seven pounds a square meter. ↩
6. Such as law No. 31 in 1984 and its executive memoranda. ↩
7. The MOI website refers to a project called the Fusṭāṭ Area Development, calling it one of the touristic investment opportunities available in the GOC. The project aims to create a central park for Greater Cairo and build 10,000 housing units. It also envisions the development of natural lakes for spa tourism. A new major thoroughfare is planned to link east and south Cairo with southern Gīza. The website notes that the areas dedicated to the project are the Basātīn Cemetery, `Izbit Khayrallah, Baṭn al-Baqara, `Izbit Abu Qarn, and the Madābigh areas, all of which, with the exception of the Basātīn Cemetery, are high density residential areas. The project’s total area is 1,400 feddans, including 114 feddans in `Izbit Khayrallah and Istabl `Antar alone, which is about one-fourth of their total area. Roughly speaking, we estimate that up to 160,000 residents may be displaced in order to implement that project ↩
8. Cairo 2050 is a visionary plan for the Greater Cairo Metropolitan area. It was drafted with the support of the former political regime and backed with the support of the National Democratic Party as well as the support of Gamāl Mubārak, the son of the former president. This plan favored big investors and real-estate developers at the expense of the right to adequate housing for poor and marginalized communities and if applied would have caused more injustice in the urban, social, and economic situation of Cairo. ↩
9. Article No. 970 of the Egyptian Civil Code, as stated in law No. 147 for 1957 and law No.55 for 1970 was amended to read, “in all cases, inheritance rights are not to be gained through adverse possession unless possession lasts for 33 years. And the ownership of assets belonging to the state or to public legal persons, as well as assets of the economic units affiliated with public organisations and agencies and companies of the public sector not run by either, and the assets of charity endowment cannot be acquired through the passage of time. Such assets must not be subject to encroachment in accordance to the preceding paragraph and in the case of encroachment, the competent minister will have the right to remove the encroachment through administrative means.” ↩
10. These laws and decisions include law No. 148 for 2006 concerning the amendment of some of the provisions of the law on tenders and auctions No. 89 for 1998, and the prime minister’s decision No. 2041 for 2006. ↩
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