Thursday, March 31, 2011

Repost: The Revolution's Honeymoon is Over


With the apparent momentum of the January 25th Revolution slowing down, April 6 youth again rally calls to march on Tahrir tomorrow, April 1st, to remind the army that their intial demands still stand. Many youth of the revolution feel that their demands have been brushed aside; corrupt members of the old regime remain key figure heads in the government. Some even claim that a "counter revolution" has been spawned within the government ranks itself in an attempt to undermine the goals achieved. 

Below is a feature analysis from al-Ahram online on the march tomorrow, what it is meant to entail, and how the youth have come to this point again.

The revolution's honeymoon is over
With the revolution losing its momentum and other forces gaining the upperhand, activists open up new avenues with which to push through their demands
Yasmine Fathi , Thursday 31 Mar 2011




“Do not give up, Do not get bored, Do not stop,” screamed the title of a motivational video on the Facebook page of the April 6 Youth Movement.

The movement, which emerged as one of the main players in the Egyptian revolution, accompanied the video with an invitation to the “Save the Revolution Friday” million man march on 1 April. The purpose of the event, they say, is to press on with the rest of the revolution’s demands, rid Egypt of the “institution of corruption” with all its figures and symbols and to challenge the counter-revolution initiated by the old regime which, they say, is playing behind the scenes to end the Egyptian revolution.
“The Egyptian people will not accept the laundering of the old regime and presenting it back to them in a new form,” wrote the group in the invitation, explaining that they insist on the complete removal of the remnants of Mubarak’s regime from every institution in the country.

No one can deny that the Egyptian revolution inspired the world. To peacefully topple a dictator like Mubarak who ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years in just 18 days was seen as a miraculous achievement, one that stunned the whole world.

And the Egyptians basked in the praise, reminding themselves that they did the impossible. “We were even faster than the Tunisians who needed a whole month to topple their regime,” they said as they nudged each other. But it seems that while the revolution was successful at first, it has begun to burn out.

Following the fall of Mubarak, the prosecutor-general announced that Egypt’s former untouchables including Ahmed Ezz, a close confidant of Gamal Mubarak who monopolized the steel industry for years and the detested Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly, would face trial. Assets of former ministers and corrupt businessmen were frozen, the Parliament and Upper House were dissolved as was the state security apparatus and many of its officers were put on trial.

But then the situation turned sour. Many of the revolutionary demands were not met, without any satisfactory explanations from either the Armed Forces or the “revolutionary government” of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

Mubarak has not been put on trial. The National Democratic Party (NDP) is still alive and kicking despite the revolutionaries insisting that it has to be dissolved. The local councils and governors appointed by the old regime have not been replaced; editors of all the national papers, associated and hired by the old regime, remain in their positions; members of the old regime still dominate most workers’ unions and public companies; the emergency law has not been lifted and most political detainees remain in captivity.

The shame list does not end there. Members of the old regime, including those the April 6 movement dub the “axis of evil” – Safwat El-Sherif, Zakaria Azmy and Fathi Sorour – have neither been arrested, nor investigated.

Reports and eye witness accounts have emerged that the army detained, tortured and even performed virginity tests on protesters seized in Tahrir Square on 9 March. Many of the protesters were then put on trial in military courts and handed prison sentences.

Two weeks after Tahrir was cleared by the army, the government approved an anti-strike law banning protests, strikes and sit-ins that “damage the economy” and slamming a one year sentence and fines of up to half a million pounds on protesters. This was followed by a new political parties law, which stipulated that any new political party must have at least 5000 members across ten governorates to be registered, which means that many political parties, still under construction will not be able to recruit enough members in time for the parliamentary elections in September. This, say analysts, means that the next parliament will be dominated by those who are ready, namely the NDP and Muslim Brotherhood, who not only have the numbers but also the presence in the streets and towns of Egypt.

The starkest reminder is Tahrir Square; the symbol of the revolution is now empty save for the normal traffic after being filled with millions of protesters. All this has made people ask, has the Egyptian revolution lost steam? Did it speed like a train only to now be stuck in the same stop, unable to move?
“I don’t understand,” fumes Ahmed Bahaa El-Din Shaaban, an activist and one of the founders of the Kefaya movement “During the Sadat and Mubarak eras, political parties needed only 1000 members and now in the revolution they need 5000? In the Mubarak era you could protest and now in the revolution there is an anti-protest law? Does this make sense? The honeymoon phase is over and obviously if we want to save the revolution, we have to work hard because something sinister is going on.”

A counter- revolution, says Aida Seif El-Dawla, a human rights campaigner and political activist, is what's going on. “All this is evidence that there is a very strong counter-revolution at work here,” she says. “The old regime wants the revolution to end here, because any more changes will harm them greatly. But the revolution has not ended, not at all.”

But, she adds, the revolution is under threat, which is why many activists have put together “Popular Committees to Protect the Revolution” across the nation. Each committee is comprised of the residents from a neighbourhood and works on raising political awareness of the revolution and its goals to galvanise grassroots support. There are currently 40 committees working throughout Egypt and, says Seif El-Dawla, they are organizing a general conference for 22 April to discuss how to maintain the momentum of change.

Ahmed Ezzat, a young lawyer who coordinates 25 of those committees, says that the committee has also begun releasing a newspaper called Revolutionary Egypt, with a print run of 50,000 copies per week.

“This publication helps us raise awareness of the fact that the revolution is far from over and explain to people how the counter-revolution functions and how they are misled by the state media every day,” says Ezzat.

But it’s not just awareness that they want, says Ezzat, but also the support of the people. The idea to create this committee came to him while he was still in Tahrir Square during the revolution.

“I met people from different suburbs, cities and workers unions and thought that we need to recruit these people so that when they go back home, they can spread the message of the revolution to their families, neighbours and friends,” explains Ezzat.

In fact, it is these people who will keep the revolution alive and kicking, he says.

“Some people say that the problem with this revolution is that it doesn’t have a leader,” says Ezzat. “But for me the problem is that it doesn’t have a body, it needs support and people, lots of people to keep the pressure on.”

But, says Ezzat, it’s hard enough when the state media is telling the people to back off.

“They keep telling people that we should be patient and give the Armed Forces time and they play the stability tune,” says Ezzat. “But no, if we give them a chance, they will use it to regroup and repress us again. Besides why do they need time to put Mubarak on trial, aren’t all the corruption files there? How about the emergency law, why do they need time to lift it?”

The writer and historian Saad Zahran says that one of the problems with the Egyptian revolution is that it is not “owned by anyone.” It was not triggered by a political party, a secret organization, or pushed forward towards a specific political ideology. It was, as most Egyptians will proudly tell you, a mass uprising that did not leave out any political factions.

“This was glorified and hailed by the media,” explains Zahran. “The best thing about our revolution is that it doesn’t belong to anyone, that’s what the media sang for days. But this is not a good thing. It means that nobody prepared for it and there is no unified vision; it means that everyone right now is confused, trying to think of ways to move the country forward, which leaves the arena empty for anyone to hijack the revolution and use it to benefit their own interests.”

Indeed, while Egyptians made a show of unity to the world during the revolution, now everyone is at loggerheads about what to do next. The 19 March referendum on constitutional amendments laid these differences out in the open.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which actively participated in the protests in January, campaigned heavily for a “Yes” vote during the referendum, while the rest of the political parties and groups were against the proposed amendments. The referendum also opened up sectarian divides; many Christians hoped for a “No” vote, in opposition to Salafists and supporters of the Brotherhood.

Political scientist Emad Gad says that the military council rejected a plan presented by the country’s intellectuals to slowly ease the country towards democracy by creating a presidential council made up of two military officials and a civilian, and appoint a constituent assembly to write a new constitution before holding parliamentary and presidential elections.

“But no they insisted on holding a referendum extremely fast which they held in an undemocratic environment,” he says. “They saw the use of religion to manipulate the public to vote yes, they witnessed the Salafists terrorizing anyone who wanted to say ‘no’ and they did nothing about it.”
All this, adds Gad, coincided with a public relations campaign, aimed at scaring the public into following the council’s plans without objecting. The release of the Islamic Jihad member Aboud El-Zomour, who was convicted for the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat, from prison and his subsequent appearances on television, the video of Sheikh Hussein Yaqoub, a famous Salafist cleric, who described the ballot boxes as “ghazwa” (a term used during the era of Prophet Mohamed to describe a battle) and calling anyone who voted “No” a kafir (infidel), were all in sync with the plans of the military council, says Gad.

“Why did they let El-Zomour say on national TV that he wants to cut people’s hands and legs off, why did the video of Yaqoub go viral on the internet?” asks Gad.

Another suspicious issue is the sudden appearances of Salafists and reports of them attacking Christians which began spreading shortly after the revolution, a big blow to the protesters who claimed that national unity was one of the main values of January 25. Last week, it was reported that Ayman Mitri, a Coptic school teacher in Qena,had his ears cut off by Salafists who accused him of running a prostitution ring. On Monday, a text message was sent to women across the country, warning them that the next day, “Salafists will hold protests in streets and squares and have said that they will kidnap any woman who is not wearing a veil,” and went on to warn women to stay home.

“This is all so suspicious. The military council has opened the door for all the Salafists and other extremists to scare the people. To make them feel that they need their protection from those crazies and to agree to the transitional plan they have.”

Shaaban is clear on what Egyptians and their revolution are now up against. “The military council and the Brotherhood are kidnapping the revolution, stealing it from under the noses of Egyptian,” says the activist. “The council was given the duty of fulfilling the demands of the revolution after Mubarak left, but there is a conflict of interest here because they were part of the Mubarak regime.”

Though worrying, according to analysts, there is no need to fret. The supporters of the revolution may have lost some battles, but the war is far from over.

Amr El-Shoubaki, a senior analyst at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says that the battle has simply changed its form and moved from Tahrir Square to other arenas.

“People are now forming new political parties, independent syndicates, and preparing for the parliamentary and presidential elections,” says El-Shoubaki. “I believe that the next battle will be in the social and political arena rather than on the streets.”

Egyptian workers, forbidden from creating independent unions since 1952, are now organizing unions to speak in their name to demand their rights. But, says Kamal Abbas, the general co-ordinator for the Centre for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), the workers themselves are facing their own counter-revolution.

After Mubarak stepped down, workers across Egypt held strike after strike, often curtailing the production of their factories and companies.

“But when we investigated the matter, we found that they are often striking because their company is provoking them so that they can strike,” explains Abbas. “For example, you can have an electricity company who refuses to give its workers their benefits, and then tell them to go and protest in front of the ministry of electricity, why?”

The proliferation of independent unions, even among previously unsyndicated professions such as barbers and salesmen, proves to Abbas that things are changing.

“No revolution continues in the same momentum; it usually ebbs and flows,” he says. “But in my opinion it is important for workers and Egyptians in general to organize themselves, so that they can have the tools to fight the next war. And that doesn't mean that the revolution is over but that it has morphed into something different, but with the same goals.”

Last Friday, activists and political groups called for a million man march in Cairo to protest the anti-strike law, but only a few thousand turned up in front of the Radio and TV headquarters in Maspero. As several army officers monitored the protests, one protester began chanting the popular slogan during the revolution of "the people and the army are one hand." This time, however, he was booed and people screamed "not anymore." Now on Friday, it will become clear if the Egyptian revolution is still on or not. Activists are calling for millions to join in and if they do, it will be the first official face-off between the people and the army.

Monday, March 28, 2011

ESMA Feeding Update

I've been really busy this past week, hence the hiatus! Have much to blog about.

ESMA has continued with the campaign to feed the horses, heading to Nazlat al-Samaan around the pyramids every week to hand out feed rations for one week. 

The most recent feeding from this past weekend saw ESMA volunteers hand out feed for 504 horses, alongside feeding some of the skinniest animals. Each feeding session sees more and more horses appear that have not been to the ESMA feeds before. Donations are crucial; ESMA is doing all they can to stay afloat but already have many cats and dogs in their shelters to take care of! Watch for a blog posting in the next few days on ESMA's adoption campaigns and what you can do to help. 

Some animals had never been to the ESMA feeds before

With more animals showing up that have previously never been seen at these feeds, two things become increasingly evident. Firstly, word of the feeding campaigns and the hard work ESMA volunteers are putting into everything have spread far and wide. Secondly, there is much yet to work on and many mouths to feed. Mona Khalil, co-founder of ESMA, estimates that it could take another six months of work to see any real change take effect in the pyramids area. Tourist are still scarce; although there are some locals who have returned to riding around the pyramids, the numbers are no where near enough to sustain the stable owners and their animals. 

Some of these thin animals showed up to the feeds with saddles on their backs. Without even enough strength to hold their heads up, these poor horses are expected to cart around their owners. Once the feeding campaigns have slowed down, ESMA faces the daunting challenge to increase education for stable owners. Only through education will these owners understand how to treat their animals, and that by treating them properly they will live longer and more industrious lives. 



ESMA is still in need of volunteers to help with the feeding programs. For more information, check out their facebook page here. Don't forget if you haven't already done so...Cat Bless You has pledged 25,000 $ to ESMA if they are able to reach 25,000 fans on their facebook. Check here to see what you can do!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Egyptian Women Protesters Forced to Take "Virginity Tests"

I...just don't know what to say! Makes me sick to my stomach.

EGYPTIAN WOMEN PROTESTERS FORCED TO TAKE ‘VIRGINITY TESTS’

Women were often at the forefront of the recent demonstrations in Egypt
Women were often at the forefront of the recent demonstrations in Egypt
© Demotix
23 March 2011
Amnesty International has today called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate serious allegations of torture, including forced ‘virginity tests’, inflicted by the army on women protesters arrested in Tahrir Square earlier this month.

After army officers violently cleared the square of protesters on 9 March, at least 18 women were held in military detention. Amnesty International has been told by women protesters that they were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to ‘virginity checks’ and threatened with prostitution charges.

‘Virginity tests’ are a form of torture when they are forced or coerced.

"Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women," said Amnesty International. "All members of the medical profession must refuse to take part in such so-called 'tests'."

20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window.  During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.

The women were then subjected to ‘virginity tests’ in a different room by a man in a white coat. They were threatened that “those not found to be virgins” would be charged with prostitution.

According to information received by Amnesty International, one woman who said she was a virgin but whose test supposedly proved otherwise was beaten and given electric shocks.

“Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment,” said Amnesty International.

“The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public.”

Journalist Rasha Azeb was also detained in Tahrir Square and told Amnesty International that she was handcuffed, beaten and insulted.

Following their arrest, the 18 women were initially taken to a Cairo Museum annex where they were reportedly handcuffed, beaten with sticks and hoses, given electric shocks in the chest and legs, and called “prostitutes”.

Rasha Azeb could see and hear the other detained women being tortured by being given electric shocks throughout their detention at the museum. She was released several hours later with four other men who were also journalists, but 17 other women were transferred to the military prison in Heikstep

Testimonies of other women detained at the same time collected by the El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence are consistent with Rasha Azeb and Salwa Hosseini’s accounts of beatings, electrocution and ‘virginity tests’.

“The Egyptian authorities must halt the shocking and degrading treatment of women protesters. Women fully participated in bringing change in Egypt and should not be punished for their activism,” said Amnesty International.

“All security and army forces must be clearly instructed that torture and other ill-treatment, including forced ‘virginity tests’, will no longer be tolerated, and will be fully investigated. Those found responsible for such acts must be brought to justice and the courageous women who denounced such abuses be protected from reprisals.”

All 17 women detained in the military prison were brought before a military court on 11 March and released on 13 March. Several received one-year suspended prison sentences. 

Salwa Hosseini was convicted of disorderly conduct, destroying private and public property, obstructing traffic and carrying weapons.

Amnesty International opposes the trial of civilians before military courts in Egypt, which have a track record of unfair trials and where the right to appeal is severely restricted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Repost: Controversial outcome to Saturday's Elections

Controversial Outcome to Saturday’s Elections

One of the latest murals cropping up throughout Egypt showing support for a secular Egypt, Christians and Muslims: One Hope, One Pain
Saturday was the first “democratically-held” elections that Egypt has seen in a long time, if ever. Egyptians, at least 16 years of age with identification cards, went to local high schools to vote on constitutional referendums which included a quick presidential election to be held within six months.

Many voters said “no” to this proposal as it does not give enough time for opposition parties to organize their campaigns. However, Referendum Chairman Mohamed Attiya said that Egyptians voted more than three to one in favor of the amendments with 41% of eligible voters turning out.

I suppose the three-to-one ration includes a majority of people whom I do not know since everyone I spoke to voted no. My own poll: three-to-zero in favor of postponing presidential elections. In fact, I only heard of a friend of a friend that actually said yes. And now everyone is in a frenzy.

This video is one of many that went viral inspiring computer-savvy Egyptians to vote no while giving background as to why, and I think that there should be stock in the use of multi-media since that was proven to be the main backbone of the revolution.

And yet, the outcome came to a resounding "yes" followed by concerns of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Egypt's best organized political forces, the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the former ruling party, campaigned for passage,” according to NPR. So ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to get your panties in a wad and get geared for another al-Qaeda/Hamas faction…

No. Not really.

For the 1000th time, why is so much stock being placed in the Muslim Brotherhood? The Muslim Brotherhood constitutes a very small percentage of Egypt. They had nothing to do with the revolution, only took part after it gained speed. The younger Egyptians called on the revolution and the younger Egyptians will NEVER support the Muslim Brotherhood.

NPR continued: “The Brotherhood, which has strongly campaigned for the adoption of the changes, advocates the installment of an Islamic government in Egypt. The ambivalence of its position on what role women and minority Christians play under their hoped-for Islamic government — like whether they could run for president or be judges — worry large segments of society.”

Oh for the love of God, STOP THE PRESS ON THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ALREADY!!! CAN’T YOU SEE IT ONLY SERVES AS A RECRUITMENT TOOL (as I blog about this – pot, kettle, black).

If the election outcome was rigged, it isn’t to back the Muslim Brotherhood. It is only to put the military at a greater advantage to install yet another military ruler. Don’t believe me, look at the history in Egypt and throughout Africa.

I was getting my hair done a few weeks ago and my hairdresser, Ahmed, began discussing the most viable presidential options as he saw it. He discussed the Muslim Brotherhood and said, “We will never let them control our country.” Ahmed is not a young Egyptian, but rather a mid-40 year-old from a poor area outside of Maadi.

Were the elections “free and fair”? I’m sure that isn’t the case, but it is an uneducated fool that would think such progress could be made overnight. However, it is hoped that with each new election, it will get better.

Who are most Egyptians gunning for? Ahmed said, “I don’t know who will be our president. I can’t say. I just hope that he leads with a good heart.”

Another message painted on a school wall with the Christian symbol (cross) and Muslim symbol (moon)

Source.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Egyptian Revolution - An overview

video

The most moving video compilation I've seen of the Revolution.

Pita Bread Recipe

It's been a heavy few weeks, and I've somewhat taken a break from posting any form of recipes. It's a sign of things returning to some sense of normalcy that I'll post a recipe for Pita Bread. I was nervous to try this; I know baking bread for the first time can end up a disaster, but it turned out really well!!

Let me say first, my oven doesn't retain heat too well, so is not ideal for baking bread. I ended up having to cook the pita about 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for :p.


Ingredients: 

3 cups Bread Flour 
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons Active Dry Yeast (or 2 packages)
2 Tablespoons of Butter - Melted
1 1/4 Cups Water - MAKE SURE this water is room temperature!!

Preparations:

  1. Combine in a large bowl the Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast. Mix together.
  2. Add the Butter and Water. I did this in partitions to make sure I had the right consistency (as I've had disastrous results with dough before lol...that could have been used as superglue or cement...).
  3. Mix by hand or on low speed in a mixer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic. If needed, add little bits of flour/water to obtain necessary consistency. It should not be sticky!!
  5. Transfer dough to a bowl with oil around the inside, rotate dough to cover the surface with the oil.
  6. Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise for 1 hr to 1 1/2 hrs. The dough should double in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, 232 degrees Celsius. Let your oven heat up fully, if you put the dough in before it's hot...your bread won't cook properly!
  8. Place a Pizza or Baking stone inside your oven while it's pre-heating. (**I did not have a pizza stone...so I used a regular baking tray turned upside down - just don't let it sit in the oven while it's pre-heating!!**)


While your oven is preheating: 
  1. Take your dough, and punch it down. Split into 8 equal pieces, and roll into balls.
  2. Cover the dough and let rest for an additional 20 minutes. 


When ready to bake: 
  1. On a lightly floured surface roll your dough balls out into "thin rounds." They should be about 20 cm around, and 2 cm thick (roughly).
  2. The recipe here called to mist your baking tray with water, and add the dough rounds - as many as will fit on your tray without touching. My first use with water ended up with the bread sticking to the base and ruined it. For the next round I lightly buttered the base to avoid sticking. Oil will also work well if your baking pan will cause the bread to stick!

  3. Bake until the bread puffs up. The recipe called for about 3 minutes, but like I said I had to cook a little longer b/c of my oven.
    Bake away!
  4. Remove bread promptly, and transfer to rack to cool. 


Enjoy! :)  

Dinner! Fresh Bread, Fresh Salad, and Chicken with an Alfredo Dill Sauce. Yummy!

Irregularities in Egyptian vote?

So far, everyone that I have spoken to in the streets have told me they either plan to vote "no," or already have voted "no." I heard reports yesterday that local mosques in and around Hurghada have been handing out pamphlets telling people that voting "yes" is a religious obligation. Which, of course, it is not. But it rings of tactics of the Mubarak regime; using faith as a means of furthering political aims.

With this in mind, I was not surprised to read this on al-Jazeera today. It will be interesting what results come out of the vote throughout the country today! Make sure if you haven't already that you check out my post from yesterday, featuring the voice of a Revolutionary Youth and his impressions of what the voting today may bring about!

Irregularities in Egyptian vote?

By Gregg Carlstrom


Three hours into Egypt's constitutional referendum, we're hearing reports of high turnout - and potential irregularities.
Voters have reported long lines (see the photos below), with some predicting an hours-long wait to cast their votes. That's mostly been viewed as a positive development, a sign of high voter enthusiasm - a major change from last year's fraudulent parliamentary election, which saw turnout as low as 10 per cent in some parts of the country.
But some voters are reporting a more serious problem: unstamped ballot papers.
Each ballot needs an official stamp on the back, or it can be thrown out as illegitimate. What we're hearing is that some polling centres in Cairo and its suburbs are distributing unstamped papers. In some cases, election judges will (when asked) provide stamped papers; in other cases, they refuse, offering instead to sign the ballots - which does not legitimize them.
Here's a photo of how the stamp should look: The green heading says "stamp of the committee," and underneath is an ink stamp from the local election committee.
File 16171
We've heard these reports of unstamped ballots in Giza, Mohandiseen, 6th of October City, as well as several polling centres in Alexandria.
Here are a couple of photos of queues that have been posted online; the first is from Giza, the second from Cairo:
File 16211File 16191

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Voice of the Revolutionary Youth

This is a re-post from a friend of mine, Amr Bassiouny, who has been passionately involved in the Egyptian Revolution from beginning to present. He presents an interesting viewpoint on the voting, scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a big day for anyone involved in the Revolution. Voting "NO" on the amendments will enable the formation of an entirely new Constitution, unprecedented in this country's recent history. Voting "yes" will allow ammendments to the present Constitution; it's a very hot debate indeed.

Here's a pic from what I've started seeing here in Hurghada, just one of many cars I saw with posters and flyers proclaiming "La2a" or "No" in Arabic.



And without further adieu, here is the posting from Amr Bassiony.

Will the real counter-revolution please stand up?

I have recently avoided offering my opinion in writing on the matrix of political and conspiracy theories that have been flooding the airwaves, Internet and offline conversations since January 25 — partly due to frustration but also because I found it rather difficult to form of a clear picture what was going on. But right now, a certain sense of clarity has hit me and some pieces of the puzzle are coming together. So I’d like to share with you what I regard as a plausible scenario.

Bear with me, it may be a little complicated and confusing at first, though I’m hoping my point will become clearer as your read your way to the end of this post.

The Plan

The National Democratic Party (NDP) has always kept the sheep in line using fear.  There were only two options for us: either we have a “secular” government that will create stability and safety for us all, or we will have to accept the Muslim Brotherhood (or the “Brother Muslimhood” as our former number one intelligence man Suleiman liked to call them) and live under an Islamic government.

Now that the president is ousted, and people have woken up to more options, more freedom and a desire to create their fate, someone (and his entourage) are not happy. If I were the head of the NDP, and I wanted to prove all those “bastards from Jan25” that broke my back that they were wrong and I was right, what would I do? I’d stick to my word and fulfill the prophesy that I had once predicted.

Prophecy #1: Instability & Insecurity

On January 28, what was the first thing that this government did? Rewind back a few weeks. Remember when club-wielding vigilantes set up cordons on streets, and teary-eyed house wives called in to State TVs wailing about thugs and people breaking into their homes. Remember that horror movie? That was our government fulfilling their promise, and they did; they created widespread chaos, insecurity and instability.
And mind you, this was not a burst of instability, it’s part of a long-term plan that is meant to sustain a level insecurity that can remain for months if not years, and the following events point to that:
  • Before the Military Council came in power (i.e. events left to happen by the NDP)
    • Large number of prisoners released.
    • Looting, widespread crime and terrorizing neighbourhoods.
    • Stolen police and military uniforms and weapons.
    • Destroyed economy (financial/economic security).
    • Chaos within the ranks of the Interior Ministry.
  • After the Military Council came in power (i.e. events that happened as the Military Council watched, possibly with their blessings)
    • Shenanigan of State Security Investigations (Amn El Dawla) immediately after the resignation of Ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik.
    • Sectarian violence (in the presence of the military).
    • The torching of Atfeeh Church by thugs causing the Christians to come out on the streets in protest.
    • Christians attacked by “thugs” immediately after chanting “Allah Akbar!” (warming us up for the Bogey Monster — the Islamists?)
    • Women’s march attacked by thugs.
    • Thugs and military holding a joint operation to attack and arrest protesters in Tahrir and evacuate the square.
    • Military attacking Coptic Christian protesters in Maspiro when their numbers dwindled.
To conclude that point, the NDP said that without them there would be instability and now there is instability (because of them). The military only continued to fulfil this prophesy by working with thugs to instigate the sectarian violence and eliminate legitimate demonstrations.

Prophesy #2: The Bogey Monster/ “El Bo3Bo3”

The second thing we were reminded of, in a manner of speaking, through recent event was the so-called political strength and “organizational might” of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), they were the Bogey Monster, or “El Bo3bo3” if you prefer it in Arabic.  The second part of the prophecy had to be fulfilled; the Islamists would take over just because they were so powerful as the NDP has always warned … or are they?

This is a much more complicated and much less obvious unfolding of events happening at the moment, so let’s collect those dots then connect the dots together.

The dots:
  • Top NDP officials are not targeted. Those who were handed down travel bans, asset freeze, or were put under investigation are almost only businessmen ministers, which by comparison to some big wigs, were probably the least corrupt (if at all) of all those who were involved in government. The most powerful and corrupt (Safwat El Sherif, Fathy Sorour, Mofid Shihab, Zakareya Azmy & the Mubaraks) were excluded.
  • The US officially says that it does not mind having the MB in the political scene (note that the US heavily funds our military).
  • The MB becomes a legal entity and is allowed to run for major elections.
  • One MB member was on the constitutional amendments committee from day 1.
  • The NDP states that it will not disband, and will run in the upcoming elections.
  • Aboud El Zomor is released from prison (one of the main figures in the assassination of our late president, Anwar El Sadat)
  • Note that the following entities/persons are pushing to vote “NO” to the constitutional amendments & want a new constitution:
    • Amr Mousa
    • Ayman Nour
    • Mohamed El Baradei
    • Judge Hisham El Bastawisy
    • Constitutional law professor Dr. Tharwat Badawy
    • The Judges Club
    • The Revolution Youth Coalition
    • El Wafd Party
    • El Ghad Party
    • Your mother
    • Your father
    • Jesus
    • … and Bhudda
  • The following entities are pushing to vote “YES” on the amendments:
    • The NDP
    • The MB
    • The Salafi Movement
  • The MB officially saying they will not run for presidency, but plan on taking 30-40% of the seats in Parliament.
  • If the constitutional changes are passed, then the elected parliament is entrusted in making the new constitution, and the president has no choice but to enforce it.
Add all the givens regarding instability section plus the actions of the military, that only aid the NDP in going forward with their plan.

Connecting the dots

There is a strong connection or shared interest between the military, the NDP and the MB, who seem to be on one side, while the whole moderate and non-religious political spectrum seems to be on the other.  The NDP and MB have the same common goal of voting “Yes” in the referendum (they’re both strong, have deep pockets and can mobilize supporters), and the military is either working with them or pushing them in that direction (in either case, there is “tawato2”).

On the other hand, we must face the fact that the military is helping in creating an environment where the MB have an upper hand through pushing for early parliamentary elections and refusing a presidential council.
From a political perspective, the MB is looking to control the political landscape through the parliament, not through the presidency.  This is almost a disguise so they can appear to be a lesser threat that is not after taking over the country.  But the fact is that it is in the best interest of the MB to have one of its own as the speaker of parliament, as that position will be equally if not more powerful than the upcoming president (in the more probable case of a parliamentary model of government). If the MB hold a relative majority in parliament (as they openly plan to do), that means that they will be entrusted with making a new constitution, giving them unprecedented control.

Also, there is seems to be a sort of acceptance towards the MB, from the US to the Military and NDP (in that order). Perhaps a deal was cut?

The NDP’s ability to control the parliament in the upcoming elections is questionable, although considering their confidence and refusal to disband, they most probably have a plan to stay in the game one way or another.  I don’t want to speculate too much on this point though as it is not yet clear to me how that may happen.

On the other side of the spectrum, the opposition parties and figures are too busy trying to be president because it’s fancy, while forgetting that the next government may very well be parliamentary in nature and thus the power will lie with the entity that can control the parliament, not the president’s office. This is a major political blunder that they seem to be oblivious to at this point.

The Military: What gives?

The question remains: what does the military have to gain from this? I can argue that it’s clear and obvious. Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawy has been Mubarak’s man for decades, and there’s no reason why he should not continue to be so.  If anything, he is the only reason why Mubarak can lead a quiet life in the red sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh now while we all swim in the turmoil that he has thrust us into.

The fact of the situation is that the Military is clearly not working in the favor of this revolution, and they are not listening to us so intently and responding to our demands as some have claimed. They have shown that they will torture innocent protesters (including artists) inside the Egyptian Museum, and that can’t be good, let alone those that they falsely label arrested protesters as “thugs,” and are currently facing the threat of execution alongside murderers and highway robbers.

So, if the Military isn’t working with us, does that mean they’re actively working against us? Are they perhaps working with either the MB or the NDP?  Which one it is? I personally don’t have the answer … I doubt anyone does. There remains as a big question mark.

Conclusion/Speculation

Following the previous train of thought, it is rather plausible that the MB are being pushed into controlling our next government, possibly in conjunction with the NDP — with the backing of the highest ranking political officer in the military, if our fears and doubts are true.

From there, the NDP (or whoever is representing their interests at that point) can come out and tell us “we told you so” about the MB taking over, and “we are your only saviour.”  We will then be expected to bow down to their command once again in order to rid ourselves from the Islamic government that we revolted and fell into. Iran, anyone?

When that happens (and the people will be fed up by then) the thugs will come back out to the ballots and the rigging will happen all over again in favor of the NDP. But this time, the people will accept it, in fact they will probably welcome it, because they have seen what the country might turn into after Mubarak and his entourage were removed, putting us straight back into the hands of the one political gang that we revolted to rid ourselves of.

Now, this is what a true counter-revolution looks like in a country like Egypt is corrupt down to the bone. We the people are on our own against all odds, against all forces working against us. Against a counter-revolution that is powerful and that is strong, manipulative and with many faces. Though the one thing that they do not understand yet, is that they cannot stand against the will of a nation.

The only way to foil this plot is to vote “NO” to the constitutional amendments.  Even if the argument is not clear to you or you cannot explain the intricate details of the amendments, you can put it in this simple argument:

Dear Sir,

Here are the people who are for the amendments: the NDP, the MBs, and Salafis … and here are those who are against it: Everybody who’s for freedom and who has the country’s interests in mind.  Which side do you want to be on here?

Thank you and have a good day.



Follow Amr on his Twitter @AmrBassiouny

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Post-Revolutionary Artwork

The revolution in Egypt has had a long reaching impact on many individuals. But for me, one of the more profound aspects of the revolution has been the artwork that can be seen everywhere. From graffiti, to murals covering an entire wall, no matter where you travel in Egypt you are bound to see remnants of the past few months.

Below are a select few that I've seen.




Mr. Mubarak?





New "License Plates" being seen and sold around Egypt.
In case it's not clear, that does in fact say "January 25"


Everyone has to have their pic taken with the army at least once!


**All images copyright Susan Richards-Benson**


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Obama does not get it

This is a re-post from an Al-Jazeera editorial. It's about time that someone actually pointed out the obvious. That even if democracy takes hold in the Middle East, it is not an assured fact that these democracies will then in turn support the US imperialistic mentality, let alone the Zionist agenda. To be fair, many youth that you speak with these days are more concerned about rebuilding their own countries from the bottom up to really focus on foreign relations. The impending elections dominate political chatter, and the fear that the old regime will somehow win out through its tricks of bribery and general disinformation.

An important point in this article comments on the "lip service" paid to the US agenda, when in fact many Arab leaders are fully aware of the resentment their public holds towards Israel and the treatment of Palestinians. Egypt has long been a source of weapons and other supplies smuggled through the Gaza Strip; in fact just today Israel claims to have apprehended a ship, bound for Egypt, with the Gaza Strip as its penultimate destination.

However, I digress. So here it is, the post from Al-Jazeera.


Obama does not get it
If independent, democratic, governments are formed in the Middle East, they won't follow Washington's orders.

Obama seems to believe that new governments in the region will be Israel's 'natural' allies [GALLO/GETTY]


Barack Obama, the US president, has still not fully grasped the essence of the revolutions underway in the Arab world. He genuinely seems to believe that the people rallying for democracy in the region are making a pro-Western, if not pro-Israeli, statement.

"All the forces that we're seeing at work in Egypt are forces that naturally should be aligned with us, should be aligned with Israel - if we make good decisions now and we understand sort of the sweep of history," Obama recently told a group of Democrats in Florida.

I am not sure how Obama drew this conclusion, but he is either terribly misinformed or engaged in a serious bout of wishful thinking.

His statements, however, echo the assessments of many American pundits, some of whom have been celebrating the fact that anti-Israeli or American slogans have not dominated the recent and ongoing uprisings.
It is true that the protesters are not focusing on Israel.

But to say that these forces could be natural allies of Israel and the West is to take a huge leap into a highly inaccurate assessment of the situation. The US president is misreading the message of the protesting Arab masses.

Rewriting history

From Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain, and in many places in between, protesters have been calling for free and accountable governments. Decades of bitter experience have shown them that unrepresentative governments are often willing to accept - or at the very least are unable to resist - subordination to Western, and particularly American, political and economic diktats.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, for example, was not signed by a democratic Arab government but was reached in spite of the strong opposition – that persists until today – within the Arab world’s largest country. Likewise, it is unlikely that the 1978 Camp David Accords would have been signed if it were up to the Egyptian people who, undeterred by the alliance of consecutive Egyptian governments with Washington and their close ties to Tel Aviv, continued to resist all attempts to impose normalised relations with Israel.

Over the years, the Egyptian people have repeatedly shown – through demonstrations, their media and even their cinema – that they oppose US policies in the region and Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians.

But now some American analysts, officials and former officials are seeking to rewrite history - and possibly to convince themselves in the process - by claiming that popular animosity towards Israel was simply a product of the Mubarak regime’s efforts to deflect attention from its own vices.

Jackson Diehl, a Washington Post columnist, has even blamed the former Egyptian regime for deliberately keeping the peace with Israel cold and for sometimes challenging the US. "Imagine an Egypt that consistently opposes the West in international forums while relentlessly campaigning against Israel. A government that seeds its media with vile anti-Semitism, locks relations with Israel in a cold freeze and makes a habit of publicly rejecting "interference" in its affairs by the United States. A regime that allows Hamas to import tonnes of munitions and Iranian rockets into the Gaza Strip," Diehl wrote of the Mubarak regime in an article published on February 14.

Diehl seems to think that a democratic Egypt will be friendlier to the US and Israel than what he deemed to be an insufficiently cooperative dictatorship. The same idea has been presented by Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state, who argued that Mubarak’s fear of the "Arab street" prevented him from fully endorsing US policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But what Rice and others seem not to realise – despite the fact that their statements implicitly acknowledge it – is that Mubarak’s supposed shortcomings reflected his realisation that he could go no further in his support of US policies without provoking popular anger.

Arab regimes have always sought to appease the opposition by paying lip service to the Palestinian cause, because they understand the place it holds in the Arab psyche. And while the revolutions have revealed that this tactic is no longer sufficient to keep the forces of opposition at bay, it is wrong to assume that the new Arab mood is somehow consistent with a friendlier posture towards a country that continues to occupy Palestinian land and to dispossess Palestinian people.

Defining democracy

This kind of misreading of the situation derives not from facts but from an Orientalist attitude that has long dominated American thinking and large sections of the American media.

In the prevailing US political culture, supporting Washington’s policies is considered synonymous with democratic thinking and behaviour, while opposing the American outlook and Israel is judged to derive from the backwardness of 'captive minds'. According to this perspective, a mentality of imagined victimhood feeds ‘hatred’ of and resistance towards Israel.

But, it is, in fact, this thinking that is utterly undemocratic. If we assume that democratic values are universal values and move away from a Western ethno-centric interpretation, we will find that the rejection of occupation is totally consistent with ideas of freedom and human dignity – two supposedly integral components of democratic thought.

Just as rejecting racial discrimination asserts a belief in freedom, so does the refusal to simply accept the Israeli and American occupations of Arab lands and subordination of Arab people.

So unless Obama is talking about ending the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine, why would he imagine that the Arab revolutionaries who rose against their oppressors would be natural allies of the US?

But some American officials and pundits are searching for any kind of interpretation that will enable them to divorce US support for the Israeli occupation from America’s relations with the Arab world. By claiming that the Palestinian issue is no longer central to Arab thinking, they imagine that the US can simply impose a 'solution' that ensures Israeli hegemony in the region and falls short of accepting the Palestinian people’s right to exercise self-determination.

Those in Washington and Tel Aviv who have sought to minimise the role of the Palestinian cause in Arab politics, would be well advised to read an article by the famous Egyptian blogger and activist Hossam el-Hamalawy in theGuardian, in which he argues that it was the demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinian intifada in 2000 and the 2003 protests against the US war in Iraq that served as the precursors of the Egyptian revolution.

The delusion that movements against the injustice of dictatorship and the injustice of occupation will somehow contradict each other reflects a grave misinterpretation of the sentiments of the Arab masses - unless, of course, Obama is simply hoping to use this flawed reasoning to justify the continuation of equally flawed policies in the region.

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.

Foreign troops in Bahrain

Shocked! For once Iran may actually have it right! This is an internal issue, let the people of Bahrain deal with these issues themselves!



Iran has denounced the use of troops from neighbouring Gulf states in Bahrain as "unacceptable".
Some 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and a further 500 from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Bahrain on Monday at the invitation of the government.
The US state department has urged its citizens to avoid travelling to the country due to the ongoing unrest.
Protesters have blocked all roads leading to the capital's financial centre, the scene of clashes on Sunday.
Iran - the main Shia power in the Gulf - has said that the arrival of the foreign troops is an "interference".
"The presence of foreign forces and interference in Bahrain's internal affairs is unacceptable and will further complicate the issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
"The people of Bahrain have demands, which are legitimate and are being expressed peacefully," he said.
"Any violence in response to these legitimate demands should be stopped."
Barricades
The BBC's Caroline Hawley, in Manama, said that in the financial district demonstrators have built barricades from upturned rubbish bins, and many are wearing masks to protect themselves from tear gas.
The protesters are demanding widespread political reforms in the kingdom. The Shia Muslim majority has long complained of discrimination and dominance by the Sunni minority, including the ruling royal family.
The Shia-led opposition has said that the arrival of Gulf states troops - the first time that any Arab government has called for outside military help during the current wave of protests sweeping the region - is tantamount to a declaration of war.
The troops are part of a deployment by the Gulf Co-operation Council, a six-nation regional grouping which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
It is believed they are intended to guard key facilities such as oil and gas installations and financial institutions.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just one click to help ESMA!

I've blogged many times about the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals. Many of you are sadly familiar with the situation of the animals in Egypt.


Cat Bless You is a non-profit organization based in Santa Monica. As they say on their facebook page, they are "dedicated to celebrating cats and the joy that they bring to our lives. To all the cat lovers out there - click 'like' and join our page!"

Cat Bless You has pledged that if their page reaches 25,000 fans by May 15th, they will donate 25,000 U.S. Dollars to ESMA in Egypt. This is of course tremendous news, all it takes is liking their page.

Together, we can easily reach 25,000. All it takes is sharing and liking. As they say in Egypt, "Yalla Bina!"
Just to make sure, here again is the link to their facebook page!! 


Friday, March 11, 2011

Domino Effect continues

Aside from the horrific story of the earthquake to rattle Japan and the ensuing Tsunami's, we can witness the unrest spreading throughout the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia sees police open fire on protesters.

Below is the story from the BBC. It should be interesting to watch the developments in this country in particular over the next few days. I can only wonder if women will head out and join the protests too...or if that is where the Saudi men will draw the line.

Police in Saudi Arabia have opened fire to disperse protesters in the eastern city of Qatif, a day before planned countrywide anti-government protests.
Witnesses said police also beat demonstrators with batons injuring at least three people.
The protesters, from the Shia minority, were demanding the release of prisoners they say have been held without charge.
Protests are illegal in Saudi Arabia, which has had an absolute monarchy since its unification in the 1930s.
But last month the arrest of Shia cleric Sheikh Tawfiq al-Amer, detained reportedly for calling for a constitutional monarchy, sparked outrage and drew crowds on to the streets.
He was released last weekend, but relatively small-scale protests have continued in the Eastern Region, where much of the country's crude oil is sourced.
The protesters have been demanding the release of nine Shia prisoners who they say have been held without trial for more than 14 years.
A witness in Qatif told AFP news agency the crowds had once again been demanding the prisoners' release.
"As the procession in the heart of the city was about to finish, soldiers started shooting at the protesters, and three of them were wounded," the witness said.
Other accounts said the police had also used stun grenades and had beaten the protesters with batons, injuring many more than three.
Rights groups have accused the police of beating protesters during previous rallies in Qatif.
An interior ministry spokesman told reporters that police had fired over the heads of protesters on Thursday.
The spokesman added that three people, including a policeman, had been injured.
The unrest comes amid calls over the internet for a so-called "day of rage" protest in cities throughout the country after Friday prayers.
Analysts say it is unclear whether anyone will heed the calls, as Saudi Arabia has so far not seen protests on the same scale as other nations in the Middle East and North Africa.
Shias, who are mainly concentrated in the east of the country, make up about 10% of the population in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
The region borders Bahrain, a Shia-majority kingdom ruled by a Sunni government that has been rocked by anti-government protests since mid-February.
Amid signs of growing unrest in the region, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah recently unveiled $37bn (£22.7bn) in benefits for citizens, including a 15% pay rise for state employees.