“Secession is the solution” is the banner raised by people of Sarw city in Damietta Governorate, who have decided to secede from the governorate in protest of inhumane living conditions and gross inaction by local government.

“Secession is the solution” is the banner raised by people of Sarw city in Damietta Governorate, who have decided to secede from the governorate in protest of inhumane living conditions and gross inaction by local government.


Sarw city

Sarw city is a very small town by the Nile, 40 kilometers east of Damietta (150 km northern Cairo), with a population of only fifty thousand. Since the city is very calm and rarely witnesses a significant event, its people have surprised all by protesting against bureaucracy and the negligence with which their simple and legitimate demands are received by officials of both Damietta Governorate and the government.


The Sarw Popular Committee

The Popular Committee formed during the revolution from people of various currents to protect the city has decided to secede from Damietta Government administratively and declare it an autonomous governorate.

Popular rage and absent services

The situation of Sarw City reflects a significant lack of basic services.  Many quarters, especially the poor ones, do not have access to wastewater systems and the medical services provided by Sarw Central Hospital are scarce, so people sometimes transport patients to other hospitals, even with life threatening critical cases.


Sarw Central Hospital 

Talat Ghowar, vice-principal of Martyr Muhammad Erbano primary school, drew a gloomy picture of the city hospital. “It lacks all services and is in a deplorable state. Garbage is everywhere and street animals feed on the hospital waste and patients share their rooms, not to mention a severe shortage of medicines and medical services; we need materials including syringes, medical gloves and surgical threads are not available. Additionally, no emergency service is available, so people have to transport patients in their critical cases like poisoning and accidents to the hospitals of Damietta, Az Zarqa or Faraskur, which may result in the death of the patient before arriving in these far away hospitals,” Ghowar said.

A clean glass of water

Officer Hani Muhammad Qumsani refers to another tragedy.


Officer Hani Muhammad Qumsani in front of the Sarw water station

He says that the key demand of Sarw’s residents is a clean glass of water. The city is only 40 kilometers away from the Nile estuary – Damietta branch – where water is polluted by heavy elements and dyes coming from all governorates; the area’s drinking water treatment plant is unfit to treat such significantly polluted water.

He adds that the water coming out of this plant is unfit for human use. The plant was established early 1980s. It was intended to operate for only five years and be replaced by a new station that could treat water polluted with sewage, industry wastes, dyes and fats. But that did not happen and the station has been operating for more than 30 years, treating water with chlorine and alum only. The government has yet to respond to the people’s demand.

The first popular governor and a new vision 

What benefits may the city gain of the administrative autonomy?


Ammar Fouad, governor of Sarw

Ammar Fouad, the first consensual governor of United Sarw Governorate, said in his program, that he will do his best to let their voice be heard by the president and solve the city’s problems, stressing that “secession, even if symbolic, is a significant indicator that we will never waive our rights and will keep demanding our human rights by all legitimate means.”

The new governorate members are volunteers, not officers. Fouad says there is a whole team from Sarw young men who were involved in the revolution, and then formed the Popular Committee for Defending the Rights of Sarw, which submitted the secession proposal. This team helps the new governor prepare files of the city’s problems.   

The newly-born governorate, however, faces some opposition. “We are facing harassments by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, which went to the point of making verbal assaults against me and the committee members since the Muslim Brotherhood strives to abort our experience, and rumor that we are agents seeking to disintegrate the country. The people however have denounced that, requiring them to solve Sarw problems instead, since they are the rulers of Egypt,” said Fouad.

Federalism and state disintegration worries

The secession idea is objected not only by the Muslim Brotherhood, but also by neutral observers, like political activist Muhammad Nabih who expressed his worries about the experience of Sarw and that of Attahsein village in Dakahlia Governorate. He stressed that despite the many problems overwhelming the city and consequently the legitimate demands of its people, secession threatens the unity of the county.

Nabih explained that these cases of secession were mere ways of expressing protest and had no clear visions or programs to support and sustain the secession and provide people with basic services. However, they, according to him, represent a serious indicator that must be taken into consideration by decision makers who have to respond to the people’s legitimate demands and solve their problems in order to maintain the unity of the country.

This pressure put on officials may be the tool the secession supporters are using to have their demands answered, since all that the governor can do, he says, is address and pressure the government through the symbolic secession procedure in order to solve the problems of the city.