A Few Words on the Mahalla Declaration of Autonomy

From MEI Editor's Blog Tue Dec 11 2012, 21:35:00

Last Friday, as most attention was focused on the demonstrations in Cairo, workers in the big Egyptian textile city of al-Mahallat al-Kubra (Mahalla for short) took over the City Council offices, ousted the council, declared themselves a Revolutionary Committee, and declared that Mahalla was announcing its autonomy from the "Ikhwani (Brotherhood) State."

There were predictable jokes on Twitter about Mahalla joining the United Nations and laments that it was just one more item making Egypt look ridiculous in foreign eyes.

Of course Mahalla is not about to become an independent republic, but I suspect this incident deserves more attention, and I suspect less giggling, than it has received. If you haven't heard about it, that's because all the Western reporters are in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Most Westerners have probably never heard of Mahalla, or al-Mahallat al-Kubra, but it's of the most important industrial cities in Egypt, the center of the country's huge textile industry. You probably own some shirts or sheets or bathrobes made in Egypt; odds are,they were made in Mahalla.

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