Disabled protesters suspend sit-in outside cabinet

A dozen people with special needs decided on Tuesday to suspend their sit-in in front of the cabinet, saying they will give the government three weeks to fulfill their demands.

A day earlier, the protesters threatened to set themselves on fire unless an official agreed to meet with them and hear their demands on rights and opportunities for Egypt’s special needs community. They threatened not to leave the gates outside the cabinet unless interim Prime Minister Essam Sharaf agreed to meet with them.

Ehab Ammar, a general coordinator of the Revolution Supreme Council, a pro-revolutionary group, heard about the protest from a friend and volunteered to help the disabled activists make their voices heard. He managed to arrange a 30-minute meeting on Tuesday with cabinet secretary Maher Shams to discuss their demands.

Shams had prepared a letter for Prime Minister Sharaf, stating all the demands of the activists, which included provision of job opportunities through government schemes and an increase in the quotas for hiring disabled people into government service from five percent to 10 percent.

But not everyone is ready to give up the protest. “We still have question marks haunting us,” said Mohamed Sayed, one of the organizers of the protest. “We hoped Chancellor Maher might have given us actual decisions, rather than promises.”

“The letter was prepared before we entered, and included our threat of mass suicide, and on the top it was marked as urgent,” said Khaled, one of the protesters who met with Shams.

Shams promised to have employment letters ready for the disabled people who had been protesting since last Wednesday. The letters should be ready within three weeks, according to Ammar.

“We gave them a three-week deadline, and if they don’t respond, I will be sitting-in in front of the cabinet myself with the members of the council,” Ammar said.

In a phone call with Maher during the meeting, Sharaf suggested establishing a High Council for the Disabled, which should manage their concerns, according to Ammar.

Although the government promised to fulfill all of the protesters' demands, they remain pessimistic.

"I have only 10 percent hope,” said Khaled.

“We will still commit mass suicide if the demands aren’t met,” he added.

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