Late President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Minister of Industry Aziz Sedky had opened a new Steel Rolling Plant two days before celebrating Workers Day in 1969. The plant became a part of the Iron and Steel Complex and the first of its kind in the Middle East.
The tragedy of ‘Iron and Steel’ in Helwan
Friday ,13 December 2013
The complex is located on a space of 1,700 acres. The first steps of its establishment began in 1954 and production in 1961, according to a plan to produce 1.2 million tons of iron and steel annually, according to local and global standards.
Ten thousand Egyptian workers contributed in building the plant, which was a big challenge for Egyptians after the Six-Day War in 1967.
In his speech in Helwan to the laborers during their day of celebration, Nasser said, “Two days ago, we opened the new factory of steel rolling, a landmark of Iron and Steel Industry and considered the foundation for heavy industry. We still have a long road ahead of us; more efforts and sacrifices are required. We are facing an enemy that will not leave our country if we do not drive them out.”
Thirty-three years later, I was having a long discussion with the father of Egyptian industry Aziz Sedky and he told me, “After one day of the inauguration, Nasser asked for a 30-minute meeting with me. He asked me about the workers and the new jobs provided by the factory. At the end of the meeting, Nasser said, ‘We must build as many factories as we can, we do not what the next leader will do.’”
Sedky remembered Nasser’s words with tears in his eyes because Nasser had predicted of what was to come later.
Two weeks ago, 12,000 workers organized a sit-in in the complex with banners that read, “We want a great leader like Nasser.”
These words express Egypt’s tragedy during former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which ended the dream of industry development that would benefit poorer people.
The privatization policy destroyed the dream of building factories; instead of making Egypt a productive industrial country, it became a consuming one.
World leaders of Iron and Steel said, “The complex is one of the biggest plants in the Middle East for Giant Motors maintenance, which served many countries.” But Egypt’s enemies saw this plant as a tool of Egypt’s dominance in the region, so they were keen to ruin this industry in the 1980s.
The cause will not only end with meeting the rights of the workers but also by hanging through and towards the dream of national industry and the return of the castle of iron and steel.