CAIRO - Hundreds of Egyptians demanding cheaper apartments rallied outside a government office on Monday, emboldened to press their case by mass demonstrations calling for the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.
Many stood for hours outside the downtown offices with their application forms. Some shouted that they would join the protest camp in nearby Tahrir Square if officials did not give way: "If you don't let us in, we will head to Tahrir."
Sohir and Amr, a married couple in their late 30s who were looking for an apartment they could afford, said they would not leave the governorate office area until they got what they saw as their right.
"How come they tell us to come on a certain day and then tell us to go away, saying there is nothing here for you? Aren't they aware of what is going on in Tahrir and that people will no longer surrender and will continue to pursue their demands?" said Amr, who declined to give his family name.
The governorate eventually opened its doors and let the home-seekers in, but officials refused to answer a reporter's questions.
The government has long promised to provide cheaper homes for Egyptians on low incomes as well better living conditions and more jobs across the board, but citizens had been largely resigned to the fact that it may never happen.
Egypt's population of around 79 million is growing by 2 percent a year and housing has not kept pace.
Two-thirds of the population is under 30, and that age group accounts for 90 percent of the jobless. About 40 percent live on less than $2 a day.
Before the eruption of the anti-government demonstrations on Jan. 25, a protest of even a few hundred people was a rarity and seen as a challenge to the state.
However as the movement to topple Mubarak enters its 14th day, even Egyptians who have not joined the demonstrations are beginning to try to assert their rights.
"The Jan. 25 protest restored the human rights of all Egyptians, restored their dignity and ended the humiliations practised against them by the state's different establishments," said political analyst Nabil Abdel Fattah, a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
"The main achievement of this protest is that it put an end to the fear Egyptians felt against the state's political regime since the military came to power (after it overthrew the king) in 1952," he added.
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