Monday, February 28, 2011

Unrest in Egypt Leaves Many Dogs and Cats Homeless

My article as published in The Bark.

Unrest in Egypt Leaves Many Dogs and Cats Homeless
Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals needs help
Stray dog in Egypt taken in by ESMA during the revolution; no one has claimed him.
Headlines around the world have tracked the recent upheaval in many parts of the Middle East. What started in Tunisia spread like wildfire; demonstrations and protests have crippled many countries in the region.

When demonstrations and clashes erupted in Egypt, chaos and disorder ensued. Looting, theft, violence marred the country, effectively putting an end to the tourism industry, damaging an already fragile economy, and pushing many expatriates to evacuate the country.

When faced with the decision of leaving or staying in the country at potential risk to their own safety, many expats were forced to evacuate, leaving behind their homes and, sometimes, their family pets. Dogs and cats were abandoned on the streets or euthanized as worried owners struggled with the burden of what to do next. Cairo is notorious for the numbers of stray cats and dogs that run the streets, but these animals stood out. Healthier and evidently well-fed, volunteers at the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) were seeing many cats and dogs that had been abandoned.

ESMA is a non-profit animal rescue shelter based in the heart of Egypt, the capital city Cairo. It was founded by a few dedicated Egyptians and expatriates in response to mass shootings of dogs and cats in 2007 and has been fighting for the rights of animals in Egypt ever since.

These three weeks of unrest had a devastating impact on organizations, such as ESMA, which is in urgent need of help to provide food and shelter to an increasing number of stray cats and dogs. In the beginning of this year, ESMA’s shelter provided refuge for more than 600 cats and dogs. Run entirely on donations and volunteers, the rescue society relies on the generosity of others. This need today is greater than it has ever been.

During the period of unrest, ESMA volunteers picked up more than 26 abandoned cats and dogs left in the streets to fend for themselves. As the country works toward rebuilding its future, the future of these animals remains uncertain. To this day, nobody has stepped forward to claim the animals taken in by the rescue shelter, and ESMA struggles with the burden of feeding more than 600 cats and dogs on a daily basis.

“We are continually struggling to locate/buy food, medicines, pay the rent and the workers’ salaries, and even find detergents and disinfectants,” says Susie Nasser, a founding member of ESMA. “We are only able to offer our animals one meal, instead of the usual two meals per day.”

Animal lovers worldwide have banded together to help ESMA during their times of dire need. Donations from pet owners throughout the world have helped in keeping the rescue shelter afloat, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still far away. ESMA is sending out a plea for help from every dog, cat or animal owner throughout the world. Even a small donation can help to feed an animal for a few days.

For more information or to find out how you can help, please visit ESMA’s website at In addition to general donations, ESMA offers sponsorships for specific animals. When you sponsor an animal, you will receive pictures of your furry friend and updates as they increase in strength and health.

From all of us at ESMA—both two-legged and four-legged—thank you for your consideration. We hope to welcome you all back to a better and brighter Egypt!

Missing dog in Cairo

Having personally experienced the pain of losing an animal, my heart goes out to my dear friend Alaa who just last night lost his baby Peanut. The door to his garden was left open, and Peanut decided to walk himself, and hasn't been seen since!

If you see this dog near the El Rawda compound in the 6th of October in Cairo, please contact me ASAP. Dead or Alive, Alaa just wants to know!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

ESMA work animal update

 Below is the most recent update from ESMA on the status of the work animals in Egypt.

Today at Nazelt El Seman, we had the largest turn up of horses and horse owners since we started the feed program. We had what seemed to be approximately 600-700 horses lined up infront of Sondos stables, where we usually distribute the feed from.

As this number is much larger than what we were used to in the past feeds (usually 300 horses on average), things were a little harder to control, but we managed eventually to distribute all the feed with no incidents thanks to the help of our local contacts.

We managed to feed a total of 404 horses for 4 days (the largest amount of feed distributed since we started distribution). We had many new horses and locals come for the first time, as the word is starting to spread that we are committed to coming in regularly and providing the feed.

We have made a modification to one of our methods of distribution in order to become more efficient. Instead of allowing horse owners that have previously received from us to receive feed with just their ID's, we are now insisting that all horse owners come with their horses. We are marking the horses that have received feed, and by doing this, we are avoiding that a horse owner receiving feed with an ID, is having another person receiving more feed with his horses that the food was intended for.

Our coming feed will be on the 25th of February, starting 11 AM at Sondos stables. Pictures and updates to come soon.

Alaa Sharshar
Deputy Volunteer Coordinator - ESMA 

Army passes draft amendments to the constitution

This article comes from the BBC on the Egyptian Army's decisions to amend the constitution. What I find most interesting however, is that the violence employed against the demonstrators in Tahrir on Friday was no more than a caption underneath their inset photo. After speaking to people who themselves were in Tahrir on Friday, it is becoming increasingly clear that the "honeymoon" period is gradually coming to a close. Instead, the youth feel that the resignation of Mubarak was not enough; the old dogs are still in the cabinet. In essence, the leadership in the country has changed very little. 

Are the people in Tahrir to this day the original protesters that rocked a country? Perhaps not entirely so, but there is still a large presence of youth who have said their fight is not over until the entire regime has been changed. 

Egypt's army passes draft constitutional amendments

The army in Egypt has passed a draft of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a national referendum.
Under the proposed changes, the president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods.
Deposed President Hosni Mubarak was serving his fifth six-year term when he was toppled by a mass uprising earlier this month.
The amendments would also reinstate judicial oversight of elections.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that now controls Egypt asked a panel of experts to suggest constitutional amendments that produce democratic reforms.
It has promised to put them to a national referendum ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections to be held within six months.
The changes are long-standing demands of the Egyptian opposition, some of whom have also wanted to limit presidential powers.
But the committee that drafted the changes said it had decided to postpone that issue until after the elections.
A future president would also be obliged to appoint a deputy, something Mr Mubarak avoided until the last days of his rule.
Other changes would make it easier for individuals to qualify to run as a presidential candidate.
Elections would be subject to judicial supervision and it would harder for any leader to maintain the state of emergency.
Earlier the Supreme Council apologised after military police surrounded a crowd of protesters overnight, beating them with batons and using tasers to drive them out of Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
The demonstrators had been calling for a faster pace of reform and the replacement of the interim government of Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq.
Even after a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday, several Mubarak-era ministers remain, including the key portfolios of defence, interior, foreign affairs, and justice.
Mr Mubarak resigned on 11 February, forced out by 18 days of street protests.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ESMA Press Release

Headlines throughout the world have tracked the recent upheaval in many parts of the Middle East. What started in Tunisia spread like wildfire; demonstrations and protests have crippled many countries in the region.

Egypt was one of these countries. Egypt, the land known for its ancient history which bore the roots for modern civilization has long been a hot destination for tourists. Tourism is one of the primary means of income for the Egyptian economy. The unrest put an abrupt end to this form of income, which even to this day is struggling to recuperate.

The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) is a non-profit animal rescue shelter based in the heart of Egypt, the capital city Cairo. ESMA began its work in response to mass shootings of dogs and cats in 2007. Founded by a few dedicated Egyptians and expatriates, ESMA has been fighting for the rights of animals in Egypt ever since.

When demonstrations and clashes erupted in Egypt, chaos and disorder ensued. Looting, theft, violence marred the country, effectively putting an end to the tourism industry, damaging an already fragile economy, and pushing many expatriates to evacuate the country. These three weeks of unrest had a devastating impact on organizations such as ESMA, who to this day are doing all they can to stay afloat. ESMA is in urgent need of help to provide food and shelter to an increasing number of stray cats and dogs.

In the beginning of this year, ESMA's shelter provide refuge for over 600 cats and dogs. Run entirely on donations and volunteers, the rescue society relied on the generosity of others. This need today is greater than it has ever been.

When faced with the decision of leaving or staying in the country at potential risk to your own safety, many expats were forced to evacuate, leaving behind not only their homes, but their family pets also. Dogs and cats were left abandoned on the streets or euthanized as worried owners struggled with the burden of what to do next. The Egyptian city Cairo is notorious for the numbers of stray cats and dogs that run the streets, but these animals stood out. Healthier, evidently well fed, ESMA volunteers were seeing many cats and dogs that had been abandoned.

During the period of unrest, ESMA volunteers picked up over 26 cats and dogs that were abandoned by their owners and left in the streets to fend for themselves. As the country works towards rebuilding its future, the future of these animals remains uncertain. To this day, nobody has stepped forward to claim the animals taken in by the rescue shelter. To this day, ESMA struggles with the burden of feeding over 600 cats and dogs on a daily basis. When asked how bad the situation really is, Susie Nasser, a founding member of ESMA, said

"We are continually struggling to locate/buy food, medicines, pay the rent and the workers’ salaries, and even find detergents and disinfectants. We are only able to offer our animals one meal, instead of the usual 2 meals per day."

Animal lovers worldwide have banded together to help ESMA during their times of dire need. Donations from pet owners throughout the world have helped in keeping the rescue shelter afloat, but the light at the end of the tunnel is still far away. ESMA is sending out a plea for help from every dog, cat, or animal owner throughout the world. Even a small donation can help to feed an animal for a few days.

For more information or to find out how you can help ensure that these animals can live to see another day, please visit ESMA's website at Alongside donations, ESMA also offers sponsorships for specific animals. By sponsoring an animal, you are sent pictures of your furry friend, and updates on their situation as they increase in strength and health.

ESMA has already helped hundreds of animals struggling in Egypt. Now, they need your help. Please take a moment out of your time to do what you can.

From all of us at ESMA, both two legged and four legged, thank you for your consideration. We hope to welcome you all back to a better and brighter Egypt!

About the author:

Susan Richards-Benson is a journalist who has been living and working in Egypt for the past 5 years. An avid animal lover, Susan owns one rescue dog herself, and has actively campaigned for the rights of animals in Egypt. Susan has been volunteering with ESMA since 2010.

Journalistic Freedoms Observatory attacked in Baghdad

The Iraqi JFO is never really far from the headlines. Either they are breaking news in the country, sending reporters out to the frontlines, or rallying cries for freedom of expression. For those of us who have grown up in societies that value and respect the freedom of expression, it's not surprising that it is difficult to imagine not being able to speak your mind.

The JFO played their part in the establishment of a new Iraq in an uncertain post-Saddam era. Having worked with the Voices of Iraq for many years now, I greatly respect the sacrifices that the JFO has had to make over the years to spread the story of every-day Iraqis. When I read of the attack on their central hub, which resulted in the loss of years of work, I was speechless. Such egregious violations of freedom of expression and attempts to hinder its use should be stopped in their tracks. I stand alongside all the employees and beneficiaries of the JFO in saying that I hope the criminals responsible for this are caught swiftly.

Armed raid on "Reporters Without Borders" partner organization in Iraq

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned an armed raid on Wednesday on the Baghdad headquarters of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), its partner organization in Iraq, in which all of the JFO’s computers and archives were stolen.

“A dozen gunmen belonging to private security forces burst into our office near Al-Fardous Square in central Baghdad on Wednesday morning,” JFO Director Ziyad Al-Ajili said.

“They broke down doors and took all the equipment – four laptops, three hard disks, two cameras, two video cameras, walkie-talkies and 10 bulletproof jackets marked Press,” he added.

“They also took all of the JFO’s archives. All of our work since 2004 has disappeared. And before leaving, they vandalized the entire office. The government is behind this attack. The JFO is fighting for media freedom to become a reality in Iraq and, as such, clearly poses a threat to the authorities,” he noted.

Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General, Jean-François Julliard, said “the aim of this criminal raid was to silence an NGO that has been fighting for years for the right of Iraqi journalists to work freely and independently. It has not hesitated to condemn the abuses of the security forces and has often reminded the authorities of their responsibilities.
“We call for an independent investigation into this attack so that those behind it can be arrested and brought to justice. Impunity must no longer be the rule in Iraq, which is a country that aspires to be a democracy.”
"This (Wednesday) morning’s raid came 48 hours before Iraqi journalists are due to hold a big demonstration to press the authorities to fulfil their constitutional obligations to respect free speech and media freedom."
Since its creation in 2004, the JFO has played a key role in defending freedom of expression in Iraq.

Read online here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interior Ministry set on Fire

Many "hmms" arise when I read this article from Al Masry al-Youm.

A group of police officers, who are protesting after being fired Wednesday, set the Interior Ministry’s personnel building in downtown Cairo aflame, eye witnesses said.

A thick cloud of smoke is hanging over the area of Lazoghli where the ministry is located.

Around five fire engines, including four from the army, are trying to put out out the fire. Meanwhile, no reports have yet been received about any casualties.

Eye witnesses also said the raging fires engulfed four ministry vehicles and a Central Security vehicle.

Military police cordoned off the ministry while protesters chanted slogans calling for their jobs back. One of the police officers said he had been dismissed from service.

Police officers have over the past few days staged protests in front of the ministry to call for higher pay, and some complained they were arbitrarily dismissed from work.

Minister of Interior Mahmoud Wagdi pledged two days ago to examine the complaints of the protesting officers and to double police bonuses.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Egyptians Rally To Help Libyans

Egyptians are all watching the events unfolding in Libya with great anticipation. The stories leaking out from the country appear to point to a massacre being carried out at the hand of Libyan leader Gaddafi. The complete media black-out means that any reporters giving us updates are either in Cairo, or along the border. Libyans themselves are managing to leak out a few videos, but with so much hearsay, rumours, and alleged massacres, the truth is hard to discern.

This must have been the general feeling for the outside world when our connections in Egypt were shut off. An inability to get real-time details on what was going on at ground level. What is becoming increasingly more evident however, is that Gaddafi has no intention of lessening his grip over his country, and will not hesitate to authorise lethal and excessive force.

In what is rapidly becoming a new youth movement within Egypt, people are rallying to bring supplies directly to the border with Libya. Calls for doctors, donations, medical supplies, and those willing to drive are organizing their movements presently. There is obviously great pressure to arrange everything as soon as possible; Libyans and those fleeing the violence do not have days to hang around and wait.

I have a few friends who plan to head to the border. Their willingness to throw everything down and rush to the aid of people who are fighting for their freedom is inspiring. I will be getting updates throughout the week on what they are witnessing at the moment. In the meantime, here's what one of the groups on Facebook are calling out for. (See page here) Scroll down for English and French. For security purposes, I have removed the contact information. Should you want to contribute, please message me and I will provide you with further details.

سلام عليكم يا شباب

طبعا كلنا عارفين الوضع في ليبيا اليومين دول، وازاي الحالة بايظة هناك..علشان كده انا ومجموعة من اصحابي هانروح انشاء الله يوم الخميس اللي جاي الصبح علي الحدود..هانشتري كمية دوا كبيرة انشاء الله وهانحاول نوصل الدوا ده لليبيا باي حال من الاحوال..

لو ماقدرناش ندخل الدوا هانحاول نكون هناك علشان نساعد علي قد مانقدر..

تخيلوا ان فيه مليون ونص مصري هايكونوا راجعين من هناك..فاكيد المستشفيتين بتوع الجيش مش هايكفوا..واي مساعده ممكنة هاتكون مطلوبة انشاء الله..

احنا محتاجين ايه:

1-      اطباء من مختلف التخصصات يكونوا مستعدين يكونوا معانا لمدة علي الاقل يومين.

2-      ممرضين علي استعداد للمشاركة لمدة يومين

3-      كميات مختلفة من الادوية (مرفق انواع الادوية المطلوبة)

4-      مساعدات مادية لشراء الادوية والمستلزمات خاصة وسائل الاتصال لطمئنة اسر العائدين او الليبين الموجودين علي الحدود.

5-      ناس تساعدنا في جمع الاموال خلال المظاهرة المليونية غدا انشاء الله...


Greetings friends,

We are all aware of the situation in Libya and how difficult it is right now. So a group of friends and I are heading to the border this Thursday morning. We will purchase a large amount of medical supplies and hopefully be able to send it to Libya. In any case, if we are unable to do so we will remain at the border to try and help as much as we can.

1.5 million Egyptians will be making their way to the border, so I am sure you can appreciate that the two field hospitals set up by the army will not be enough to treat the injured. Any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated. We will be needing the following:

1- Doctors of different specialties willing to stay with us for at least 2 days;

2- Nurses prepared to participate for 2 days; 3- Different types of medicine (list attached);

3- Financial assistance to buy medicine, basic food and water, supplies and communication devices to communicate with the families of Egyptians returnees or Libyans at the border;

4- Volunteers to help with collecting donations during tomorrows march in Tahrir.

Thank you

Salut tout le monde,

Bien-sur on connait tous la situation en

Libye et c'est pour cela que je vais aller avec un groupe d' amis jeudi

matin a la frontière. On va acheter une grande quantité de médicament

et on va essayer par tout moyen de les faire passer au Libye.

Au cas ou on ne pourra pas faire passer les médicaments, on va essayer d’être présent pour aider le mieux possible.


qu'il y aurait 1.5 milions d’égyptiens qui rentrent a travers la

frontière, et certainement les 2 hôpitaux de l’armée ne seront pas

suffisants, donc n'importe quelle aide est demandée.

Ce que dont on a besoin:

1- Des docteurs dans toutes les spécialités qui seront prêts a être présents pour au moins deux jours.

2- Des infirmiers prêts a participer pour au moins deux jours.

3- Des différents types de médicaments (une liste des types de médicaments demandés est attachée).

4-  Des aides financières afin d'acheter les médicaments et les outils nécessaire, surtout des moyens de ommunication pour rassurer les familles des égyptiens qui retournent ou des libyens présents sur la frontière.    

5- Des gens pour nous aider a collecter de l'argent durant la manifestation de demain (mardi)

Supplies being requested are: 

Egyptian Democracy 101

With Egypt acclimatizing to its new found freedom and democracy, people are increasingly becoming active within their own communities. If Tahrir had one vital message, it was that the power of the people had the ability to change an entire regime.

I was able to witness the new form of democracy taking hold in Egypt first hand. Grass roots level. Community building and delegation of duties. The best way to describe it would be as a homeowner's associations meeting for the residents of Mubarak 6, a suburb here in Hurghada.

Roughly 40 residents from the area gathered together to elect themselves a new president, vice president, treasurer (or as the title was given "accountant"), and member. For anyone who has lived in Egypt, you will understand the chaos that involved bringing together this many people, who all had something to say. For those unfamiliar with business meetings in Egypt, allow me to paint a picture.

  • Manners are not key. If someone is speaking, and you just don't care what they have to say, don't listen. Turn around to your buddies, and engage in a loud and boisterous conversation. 
  • Phones do not need to be silenced. We all want to hear your conversations. Truly we do. 
  • Children, particularly loud children, are welcomed with open arms. 
  • Make sure that you always get the last word. People will only ever pay attention to the last word, or at least that is the prevailing mentality it seems when it comes to meetings here. 

So, you've got the picture in your mind. Chaos. Does order come from chaos? Not in this case, but what did emerge was something entirely different.

Work brought me to this meeting. I was there, to launch a new community driven project. My thoughts on that aside, it gave me the opportunity to watch these new democratic ideals in action.

First on the agenda, the election of the president. First guy up, Mr. M. Now, Mr. M speaks no English, and many of the home-owners do not speak Arabic. That in itself was a clusterfuck; Egyptians unable to understand the English speakers were just left looking baffled, while translations from Arabic to English were haphazardly thrown out there in bits and pieces. Mr. M pronounces himself as a police officer. This in turn pissed off a group of Egyptians in attendance, who were asking what kind of a joke this was, and announcing that they would leave. Mr. M finished his speech by proclaiming his qualifications entail his "connections in the government." Europeans in the room responded "there is no government, so your connections don't mean much now!" Mr. M was followed by a second candidate for president, equally long-winded, equally stressing his amazing connections with the government as primary qualifications. He left people with a gemstone of a quote though... "Important one is the one to do his best, with which budget. A president without resources, the result will not be anything." (hmm. fluff my pockets and I'll get you what you need.)

The remaining speeches basically re-iterated the same items again and again. Connecting with one's audience was not a strong suit. Perhaps it's a lack of knowledge when it comes to effective debate, but the same points were raised again and again.

My favourite quote from the night came from a local Mubarak 6 resident. "Can we change the name? We don't want to hear the name Mubarak anymore! How about Freedom 6?"

There were unfortunately a few elements that demonstrated that real democracy in Egypt will really take time to come into effect. I was told a few days before the meeting that "Mr. M and his VP would be the president and VP." This, before the vote even happened. In addition, came the accountant's speech, who assured people that it was illegal for a non-Egyptian to hold this position. This caused mass uproar, while laughter at the same time. You see, the treasurer for Mubarak 7 was sitting in the room; a lovely woman from Germany, who was very staunch in announcing that she was treasurer, and obviously foreign. Not surprisingly, this man was elected treasurer (and believe me, if you'd been in the room, you'd be surprised too!).

Overall an enlightening experience. Off to more meetings and "elections" later this week. Should be interesting to see what comes next!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Israel fears New Egypt

Here's a great report from Al Jazeera English, on Israel's evolving stance towards the emerging new democracy in Egypt.

Israeli media 'fears' the new Egypt
Israel's media presents Egyptian democracy as a threat, with one commentator lamenting the end of colonialism.

Israeli media changed its tone, first arguing that Hosni Mubarak's government would not fall, and later worrying about the implications for Israel [GALLO/GETTY]

Over the past three weeks the Israeli media has been extremely interested in Egypt.

During the climatic days of the unprecedented demonstrations, television news programmes spent most of their airtime covering the protests, while the daily papers dedicated half the news and opinion pages to the unfolding events.

Rather than excitement at watching history in the making, however, the dominant attitude here, particularly on television, was of anxiety-- a sense that the developments in Egypt were inimical to Israel's interests. Egypt's revolution, in other words, was bad news.

It took a while for Israel's experts on "Arab Affairs" to get a grip on what was happening. During the early days of unrest, the recurrent refrain was that "Egypt is not Tunis".

Commentators assured the public that the security apparatuses in Egypt are loyal to the regime and that consequently there was little if any chance that President Hosni Mubarak's government would fall.

Media switch

Once it became clear that this line of analysis was erroneous, most commentators followed Prime Minister Binyamin  Netanyahu's lead and criticised President Barack Obama's Administration for not supporting Mubarak. The Foreign News editor of one channel noted that: "The fact that the White House is permitting the protests is reason for worry;" while the prominent political analyst Ben Kaspit expressed his longing for President George W. Bush.

"We remember 2003 when George Bush invaded and took over Iraq with a sense of yearning", Ben Kaspit wrote. "Libya immediately changed course and allied itself with the West. Iran suspended its military nuclear program. Arafat was harnessed. Syria shook with fear. Not that the invasion of Iraq was a wise move (not at all, Iran is the real problem, not Iraq), but in the Middle East whoever does not walk around with a big bat in his hand receives the bat on his head."

Israeli commentators are equivocal on the issue of Egyptian democracy.  One columnist explained that it takes years for democratic institutions to be established and for people to internalise the practices appropriate for democracy, while Amir Hazroni from NRG went so far as to write an ode to colonialism:

"When we try to think how and why the United States and the West lost Egypt, Tunis, Yemen and perhaps other countries in the Middle East, people forget that. The original sin began right after WWII, when a wonderful form of government that protected security and peace in the Middle East (and in other parts of the Third Word) departed from this world following pressure from the United States and Soviet Union... More than sixty years have passed since the Arab states and the countries of Africa were liberated from the 'colonial yoke,' but there still isn't an Arab university, an African scientist or a Middle Eastern consumer product that has made a mark on our world."

Fear and the brotherhood

While only a few commentators are as reactionary as Hazroni, an Orientalist perspective permeated most of the discussion about Egypt, thus helping to bolster the already existing Jewish citizenry's fear of Islam. Political Islam is constantly presented and conceived as an ominous force that is antithetical to democracy.

Thus, in the eyes of Israeli analysts, the protestors- that Facebook and Twitter generation- are deserving of empathy but also extremely naïve. There is a shared sense that their fate will end up being identical to that of the Iranian intellectuals who led the protests against the Shah.

Channel Two's expert on "Arab Affairs" explained that: "The fact that you do not see the Muslim Brotherhood does not mean they are not there," and another expert warned his viewers not to "be misled by ElBaradei's Viennese spirit, behind him is the Muslim Brotherhood."

According to these pundits, the Muslim Brotherhood made a tactical decision not to distribute Islamists banners or to take an active part in leading the protests. One commentator declared that if the Muslim Brotherhood wins, then "elections are the end of the [democratic] process, not its beginning," while an anchorman for Channel Ten asked former Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer whether "the person who says to himself: 'How wonderful, at last the state of Egypt is a democracy,' is naïve?"

The Minister responded: "Allow me even to laugh. We wanted a democracy in Iran and in Gaza. The person who talks like this is ignoring the fact that for over a decade there has been a struggle of giants between the Sunni and Shia with tons of blood spilled. The person who talks about democracy does not live in the reality we live in."

Democratic threat

Ben-Eliezer's response is telling, not least because it is well known that Israel supported the Shah regime in Iran and has not proven itself to be a particularly staunch supporter of Palestinian democracy. Democracy in the Middle East is, after all, conceived by this and prior Israeli governments as a threat to Israel's interests.
Dan Margalit, a well-known commentator, made this point clear when he explained that Israel does not disapprove of a democracy in the largest Arab country but simply privileges Israel's peace agreement with Egypt over internal Arab affairs.

Israel, one should note, is not alone in this self-serving approach; most western countries constantly lament the absence of democracy in the Arab world, while supporting the dictators and helping them remain in office. In English this kind of approach has a very clear name - it is called hypocrisy.
Neve Gordon is the author of Israel's Occupation and can be reached through his website.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

ESMA update II

Below is the most recent report from ESMA on the situation of the horses, donkeys and camels in and around Cairo.

Although we are helping the situation greatly, there is still so much that needs to be done. For further information on how to donate, check here.

From everyone at ESMA, and our team of dedicated volunteers who are working tirelessly everyday to better the situation, thank you for your contributions thus far. We would not be able to do this without you!

**Note** This report details the visit of Dr. Luke Gamble. Upon returning home, Dr. Gamble arranged for two more vets from the World Veterinary Service to help out with the plight of animals in Egypt. They will head for the pyramids area tomorrow, after which I shall post updates with their visit here.**

Today ESMA was honored and very fortunate to have Dr. Luke Gamble of the World Veterinary Service (WVS) and host of Animal Planets "World Wide Vets", with us on site. Dr. Luke administered treatment for many horses, and gave advice on how to avoid certain injuries and medical conditions to the locals. Unfortunately Dr. Luke could not stay longer as he was flying out of Egypt, but it was an absolute privilege to see him at work.

While Dr. Luke and Beth Sartain were checking the animals and administering the treatment, we were also handing out rations from Mr. Hassan's stables (IEC) by the ring road. Later on we moved to Sondos stables in Nazlet El Seman, where hundreds of horses lined up to receive rations. We were able to hand out food for 2 days for approximately 300 horses, and still had to turn down many more waiting as we simply did not have enough!

Many of the horses are still emaciated, and it is more evident now that the rations are merely sustaining the horses and not helping them put weight back on. As we continued to hand out rations, we noticed 3 foals with their mothers, as well as several pregnant horses. These were given extra rations to ensure that they stay as healthy as possible.

Once more we were greeted very warmly by the locals, and received a lot of help from the stable and horse owners in the area, who collected ID cards for record, handed out the rations, and kept the crowd as organized as possible. Without their great contributions these feedings would be a lot more work and near impossible to handle. ESMA is greatful for all the help it has received from everyone to help the animals in crisis.

Our coming feed will be on the 20th of February 2011, thanks to a very generous donation from one ESMA supporter, who has provided us with enough food to sustain the animals for atleast 3 days. Everything will be documented and prepared for our coming report.

Thank you all for your support and god bless you.

Alaa Sharshar

Deputy Volunteer Coordinator - ESMA

Dr. Luke Gamble came out to assess the situation and lend a hand
Again many stable owners showed up
Horses marked with numbers to denote stables
Words cannot describe

Let's Clean Hurghada

My last blog posting about Let's Clean Hurghada included a video of Sheraton Street while people were in full swing cleaning.

Today, I'll provide some more pictures I've captured throughout this campaign. Tomorrow, I hope to get back out there in the afternoon, numbers dwindle and rise with people's various working schedules. Truly an amazing sight however, are the number of people that have now taken it upon themselves to head out every day to clean up the city. It's no longer an every other day occurrence, it's become a campaign that almost every resident will at some point participate in, or benefit from.

The overall feeling that I've had throughout this period of Revolution has been one of uncertainty. I wasn't ever really sure at what point my opinion came into effect. After all, I am not Egyptian. Yes Egypt is my present home, and I know that anyone who has ever lived here holds a soft spot for the country, but where does that leave me? I contented myself with blogging about it and simply being there to record history in progress. But these campaigns to clean up the country and further awareness of causes within Egypt are things that anyone can participate in. I finally feel that I am positively contributing to the country and it's future path, without overstepping the boundaries that being a foreigner entails. 

Tomorrow the Let's Clean Hurghada team will be meeting at the Aqua Fun Hotel. I hope to head out there after work and further play out my role as someone changing Egypt for the better.

Surprisingly enough to me, the days that I have gone out, you see a lot more Egyptians than foreigners. This is just unbelievable, coming from people who didn't really care about the natural environment as a whole, who are now out there cleaning up the streets to build a better country. There is belief here again that an individual really can effect change. I hope that more foreigners pick up on these important lessons and lend a hand in these campaigns throughout the country.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some pictures of other people who are also making a difference!

I think this picture speaks for itself!

Amazing. It became a family day out. These kids were as busy as anyone!

Group effort to clean the streets

Where there was once rubbish, we left behind only bags...Picked up throughout the day!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Army's Role in the Overthrow

As details surrounding what exactly happened on the 11th of February are still hazy, speculations run amok on just how much of a role the Army played. Below is an interesting article from the BBC and the Army pressures urging Mubarak to "step down."

Egypt army's 'helped oust' President Mubarak

The full picture of the exact role played by the Egyptian army in forcing President Hosni Mubarak to step down has yet to emerge. 

The moment the president deployed the army on 28 January to deal with the growing protest movement, it became obvious to everyone that the soldiers would hold the key to his survival.

A source close to the president's office told the BBC that, at some points in the protests, the army showed signs of impatience with the president's handling of the crisis.

"Mr Mubarak was in a very bad shape for the last three or four days of his rule. He was losing his command of things, he was not meeting many of his advisers and the military were getting very uncomfortable," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the BBC.

"They were suggesting to him in a very polite way that it was in everyone's interest he step down."

Escalation game
The military may have been "suggesting politely" to Mr Mubarak that he should step down. But on the ground in Tahrir Square, the centre of the protest movement, the military, or at least parts of it, appear to have been telling the young protesters something else.

Shady al-Ghazali Harb, a young surgeon and one of the organisers of the protests, said they were getting messages from sources within the army that Mr Mubarak was on the brink.
"Mr Mubarak wanted to be remembered as the man who brought stability to his country in a turbulent region ”
"We had some sources from within the army saying that it was close," Dr Harb told the BBC. And the protesters saw this as a sign that if they were to escalate their action further, Mr Mubarak would be forced out. 

The protest movement did escalate - demonstrators proceeded to surround the state television headquarters, and march on the presidential palace.
The pressure was too great.

And my source, who has contacts within the presidency, told me that it was the man at the very top of the army, Defence Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who delivered the final blow.

"My understanding is that Tantawi went and met with the president. He told him: 'Mr President, I think the time has come for you to make a patriotic decision. You've served this country for 30 years and the time has come for you to ask the vice-president to announce that you are stepping down.'"

After nearly three weeks of relentless street protests, he had lost the support of the army, which had been the backbone of government in Egypt for decades.

Mr Mubarak wanted to be remembered as the man who brought stability to his country in a turbulent region.
Now he will be remembered as the first head of state to be ousted by his people in Egypt's exceptionally long history.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lets Clean up Hurghada!

Today marks one week since Mubarak stepped down. All over the country, Egyptians are out en-masse to show their spirit and pride. In Cairo, thousands, if not millions, gathered in Tahrir square in celebration.

In Hurghada, locals gathered to help clean up the streets. In what has become a week-long campaign, day one saw volunteers from all walks of life taking to the main touristic strip, Sheraton Road. I'll post a blog detailing my experiences later, but for now, I wanted to leave you with a video of what I saw today. Absolutely amazing to watch people really come together. Finally, Hurghada came out to show that we do care about making a difference!

Look the next few days for my post with details on today's clean up job, and when the next outing will be. Come on Hurghada, let's show the world that we can all make a difference, and Egypt today is a happier and brighter Egypt than anyone has ever previously seen!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ESMA update

ESMA has continued to head out every day to the worst afflicted areas surrounding the pyramids. The load is not getting any easier, and it is crucial that we spread the word to as many people as possible to encourage donations.

The text below is copied directly from ESMA's assessment report on what exactly is needed per animal. As there are approximately 3000 animals in the direct area around the pyramids only, ESMA cannot afford to fund this of their own accord. This is not including the hundreds of animals abandoned by their owners who were forced to evacuate the country. (I shall post further information on these animals in a later blog).

Facts on feeding according to Beth/Stable owner's recommendations :

An average working horse needs the following in normal conditions, but can
survive on much less if not working.

Per day :

6kg of 'hard' food - consists of a mixture of maize/bran/chaff
In addition (for healthy horses only) 25kg per day of Barseem (local clover)

Current market prices from wholesalers (feed prices have tripled since the
crisis began) :

One ton of Barseem (clover) = LE250 (43 US $)

One ton of chaff = LE1000 (170 US $)
140kg of maize = LE 310

Hay and barley are expensive so people do not usually buy them.

 When you consider how much it can cost to keep a horse happy and fed in the US for example, these costs are minimal. We are asking for anyone who can afford even a 10 dollar donation. Every penny counts for these horses.

ESMA volunteers who hit the streets today administered Veterinary care to some of the very ill horses, as well as feeding many more. Every day that passes the situation worsens, and ESMA is relying on the help of individual donations.

Please if you can, visit ESMA's site for more details on how to donate.

Stable Owners wait for Feed

Female Reporter Attacked In Cairo

As a female living in Egypt I am appalled and shocked to read the story of Lara Logan, a foreign journalist who was attacked on Friday the 11th. A day that has been marked as one that will forever change the course of Egyptian history. Marred by a story that is only just coming to light.

Egypt is trumped continuously as being a safe country to live in (past few weeks unrest aside). This is overall true. Particularly as a woman. There isn't a huge rate of rape in comparison to many countries in the West, and walking in the streets at night is relatively secure. Or at least, that's what people will tell you.

Generally speaking, I have felt safe in Egypt as a woman. That being said, I know not to take taxis on my own at night, I know to avoid certain areas in the country as a white woman on my own. I know not to engage strange men on the streets, particularly if they try to speak to me first. This is safety 101 when it comes to being an expat in Egypt. (**NOTE** Take an Egyptian man with you...and you'll never have problems!**)

I have spoken to many expat women who have lived in Egypt, who will mention the verbal harassment as being the highest form of threat they ever feel. I am truly happy for these women, as having to deal with any form of an attack is a frightening experience in itself.

Throughout my period in Egypt, I have experienced three circumstances when I truly felt fear. First, with my sister in the Friday Market when we were surrounded by men who were reaching and groping any area they could possibly reach. We were actually saved by three Egyptian men who then escorted us out of the area. Now, to be fair, we probably shouldn't have been in the Friday Market in the first place as foreign women, but, that does not excuse the behaviour.

My second experience was by far the most frightening. Walking in Maadi with a friend, and a car with two guys driving by and throwing petrol all over me. Thank God they did not light a match to follow. The two guys ended up stopping, I was punched twice, my friend had his nose broken. Completely unprovoked, police could do nothing.

Third experience was in a taxi, while the driver tried to take me into a secluded area in Cairo. Unfortunately for him, I knew where we were going, fortunately for me we stopped right outside a police station and the driver was promptly arrested.

Moral of the story, Egypt has been dealing with problems of sexual harassment for years. Directed both at foreigners and Egyptian women. The story of Lara Logan is horrifying, and serves as a reminder to Egyptians that the power to change your country does not lie solely within the hands of the government or the voices of the masses. The power to change your country lies with individuals. If you cannot change a person's way of thinking, corruption will never end, harassment will continue, bribes will continue to pass through unseen hands. Use your voice not just to express your discontent, but to stand up for those around you. If you see a woman being harassed, don't jump on the bandwagon or turn a blind eye, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Without attempting to change yourselves as individuals, don't expect society to change at all.

For those interested, here is Lara's story.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Egypt's animals need your help

My previous blog posting brought attention to the very dire situation facing many animals in Egypt at the moment.

Since I have posted, I have gotten more updates on the situation as it is at the moment.

I have always been a horse lover. I have always felt that there is a gentle intelligence behind a horse's eye. It is a true partnership to experience a bond with a horse; knowing that an animal much stronger, much heavier than you can respond to your own body language is a truly indescribable moment. There is a reason that horses are used in many rehabilitation programs; they are known for being so in-tune with human emotions. Our history would not follow the path it has done were it not for our close relationship with horses.

But horses in Egypt are suffering.

Horses in Egypt are falling victims everyday to the changing tide that has swept the country. As I previously mentioned, the impact to the tourism industry has trickled down to the average stable owner around the pyramids. I did not, however, grasp the scale of the problem.

The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA) sent out a team of volunteers to scope the damage themselves. A small group spread the word that ESMA would be in the area to provide feed for grossly malnourished horses. Using one stable as a base from which to work, ESMA volunteers were unable to anticipate the volume of people that began showing up.

ESMA had brought with them a combination of grain, bran, maize and chaff for the horses. All the food was carefully overseen by a veterinary nurse with many years of experience dealing with equines, as grossly malnourished horses have exceptionally sensitive stomachs. The rule was one bucket of food for the horses most in need. The horse's condition was first assessed by the volunteers; there was simply not enough to feed all the animals that showed up. Feed was given to extreme cases to keep their horses alive for another two days. ESMA hopes to raise enough in donations to be able to return and bring more horses food. They are struggling greatly at the moment.

Throughout the day yesterday, volunteers fed approximately 450 horses. Hundreds more had to be turned away; even hours after the ESMA team had left stable owners were arriving in the hopes of garnering some food for their animals. Estimates put the total number of horses in the area directly around the pyramids at 3000 alone - this is not including other areas in Cairo that are also witnessing mass starvation of their animals.

Along with having no food for the animals, veterinary care was also absent. Stable owners brought horses to ESMA with open wounds on their back, obviously infected. When asked why they had not had these wounds treated by the government appointed vet assigned to each district in Cairo, their response was simple. The vet is meant to give subsidized medication for stable owners in Giza; vet checks are meant to be free of charge. Instead, the vet charges extortionate prices on medicine and veterinary check-ups, so much so that many of the stable owners are simple unable to cover the costs of getting their horses checked out.

I feel it is important to point out here that for many of the families who run the stables around the pyramids - as most are family owned business handed down through the generations - horse and camel rides are their only source of income. Many are under educated, still more have never left the confines of the city itself. These animals are their primary bread winners. Their very livelihood depends on them, and many still live in poverty. A great number of horses around the pyramids were already underweight before the revolution began; their time is truly running out.

One stable owner told his story, commenting on the loss of his animals. He said that this week alone, he "has lost five horses." His horses are normally fed three times a day; yet he has been unable to feed his animals for many days now. An ESMA volunteer commented on the horse "graveyard" they witnessed: "There were at least 50 carcasses, most of them in 'the bloated stage' and Beth informed me those were the ones that had died most recently.  We also found the carcasses of 3 camels, which we knew later from the owners had 'starved to death'.  The most distressing of all the dead animals were the dead foals lying next to their mothers..."

This terrible situation that stable owners are facing is not likely to end until the tourism market in Egypt picks up again. This could take months. These animals do not have that kind of time.

This is a call for help. This is our chance to help save the life of an animal, at least to ensure that it will be fed for one more day.

For information on where to send donations for ESMA, please contact me here. If you cannot donate financially, please donate your time and share this blog with as many people as you can. Please get the word out there for these animals - they need you.

Below find some more pictures from ESMA's day around the pyramids yesterday. Volunteers will continue to hit the streets every day this week, please act now to help save these animals.


Many horses were no more than skin and bone 

Stable's sent many starving horses

Stable owners lining up to get food for their animals

Dead mother and foal - victims of starvation 

Carcasses litter the streets

ESMA volunteers witnessed many horses being carted off