Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 35 ( Aug 24 -30)

Top Headlines

  • El-Sisi visits Russia (Tuesday)
  • Arab League postpones issuance of “unified military force” protocol (Wednesday)
  • Egypt sentences Al-Jazeera English journalists to 3 years in prison (Saturday)
  • Egypt summons UK ambassador over criticism of Al-Jazeera trial (Sunday)
  • Egypt to hold parliamentary election in autumn (Sunday)
  • Italian energy giant ENI announced the discovery of the “largest ever” natural gas field in the Mediterranean off the shores of Egypt (Sunday)

Al-Jazeera verdict

 (Photo of al-Jazeera trial, Amal Clooney with ex-Al-Jazeera Journal Mohamed Fahmy – via Twitter)

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good reports

Good Read

Timeline:

 Video

 From Twitter

Plus

Photo Gallery

Obituary:

  • Egyptian “Disney” artist Hany El-Masri dies at 64

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

What Egypt can learn from Lebanon’s “You Stink” campaign

Lebanese young women take pictures as they hold placards before the start of an anti-government protest organised by a civil society frustrated with a political class they see as corrupt and incapable of providing basic services on August 29, 2015 at Beirut's iconic Martyrs Square. "Today, we're expecting more than 50,000 protesters," said Assaad Thebian of the "You Stink" which is stressing the non-partisan nature of the demonstration. The placards read "Akkar is not for sale (C and R) and "Game over you government of political trash"(L). AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO

Lebanese young women take pictures as they hold placards before the start of an anti-government protest organised by a civil society frustrated with a political class they see as corrupt and incapable of providing basic services on August 29, 2015 at Beirut’s iconic Martyrs Square. “Today, we’re expecting more than 50,000 protesters,” said Assaad Thebian of the “You Stink” which is stressing the non-partisan nature of the demonstration. The placards read “Akkar is not for sale (C and R) and “Game over you government of political trash”(L). AFP PHOTO / ANWAR AMRO

 

As the Lebanese people poured onto the streets of Beirut protesting against their dysfunctional political scene, and their government’s continued inability to provide basic services such as garbage collection, media coverage of the protests in Egypt focused mainly on the beauty of Lebanese female protestors, and their “revealing” clothes. Other Egyptian observers on social media have trivialized the problem, suggesting it is nothing more than just some scattered garbage on the streets of Beirut. However, such reckless remarks reflect much deeper problems in Egypt.

Sexism and Sexual assaults

Esmat Samira Faour, one of the protesters in Lebanon, hit the nail on the head when she posted a video responding to such disgusting Egyptian comments, which were quoted in a report by Mada Masr. She said the narrow focus of Arab, and especially Egyptian, observers reflects their current political condition after facing difficulties in their own revolts. The Lebanese are proud that their protests lacked mass sexual assaults, Samira said, and that women have the freedom to wear what they want and not fear harassment.

Indeed, Lebanese women, regardless of their dress code, have felt safe protesting day or night on the streets of Beirut. This is in stark contrast to the malignant wave of sexual assaults in Egypt during and after the January 25 revolution. Assaults on women by men reflect the latter’s deep rejection of women’s right to equality and freedom, and their shallow assumption that dress codes portray women’s intellectual and religious status.

Political shallowness

 Some political commentators in Egypt are not just lazy and ignorant, they are happy to spread ignorance in their society. Only a few have done their homework and researched the backgrounds and motivations that triggered Lebanon’s “You Stink” campaign. Others, however, in a display of crass stupidity, opted to focus on the beautiful Lebanese women, clearly displaying their inability to cover the real story, and to fulfill the basic demands of their jobs as commentators: Knowledge, depth, insight, and objectivity.

Cynicism

Egypt’s failure to produce a liberal democratic transformation has created a cynical attitude in the society towards revolutionary activities in the rest of the Arab world. Subconsciously, many Egyptians think others cannot produce a better outcome than Egypt. There is indeed a lot to be learned from Egypt’s turbulence since Mubarak was ousted, but a prevailing element of snobbery and condescension among some Egyptians seems to pervade that society.

 Shallowness, and sexism have become endemic in Egypt since the Mubarak era. Rather than mocking Lebanese women, Egyptians should learn from Lebanon how to respect the freedom of their women. Prejudice, stereotypes, and lack of respect for women are ugly cancers in Egypt – one that are terminally afflicting the country’s quest for freedom. Moreover, shallowness, and cynicism have clearly impeded Egypt’s search for progress in the future. In 2011, Egypt inspired the rest of the Arab world; in 2015, Egypt may have to watch the “You Stink” campaign in Lebanon ___ regardless of its outcome, and learn a lesson or two about how to produce positive changes in the society. Importantly, Egypt has to understand that medieval gender attitudes and sexism towards women are inspired by narrow mindedness, and ignorance.

Posted in Egypt, Lebanon, Short Comments | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 34 ( Aug 17- 23) clear

Top Headlines

  • Islamic State claims Cairo’s courthouse bombing. (Thursday)
  • Four Palestinian Hamas militants were abducted in Sinai. (Thursday)
  • Egypt sentences Brotherhood leader to life imprisonment. (Saturday)
  • Egyptian security forces fire tear gas at striking police officers. (Sunday)

ISIS shubra kheima

A bombing in Cairo that wounded dozens. Islamic State claimed responsibility. (Amr Nabil / Associated Press)

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday 

 Saturday

 Sunday

Good Reports

And worth reading

Good Read

Interview

From Twitter

Plus

 Photo Gallery

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt.

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

How we learn about bombs in Cairo

nervana111:

Good blog by my friend Basil el-Dabh on how terror attack was reported in Egypt following the restrictive anti-terrorism law

Originally posted on endless transition:

Late last night, people across Cairo woke up to the sound of a boom. It was heard across the capital by people in various neighborhoods spread across the city. This is nothing new (although the volume of the explosion was notable).

Confusion ensued among Twitter users as people awaited initial reports of the source and location of the sound.

Translation: “The explosion heard in Maadi, Imbaba, Garden City, and Zamalek reminds me of the explosion at the Cairo Security Directorate– a muffled sound and light jolt.” 

Youm7 was one of the first outlets to publish a brief report about the blast.

View original 1,101 more words

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Children Should Not Wear Hijab in Egypt’s Schools


Early on Sunday, a report appeared in Egypt’s Youm 7 newspaper that Egypt’s Ministry of Education would ban children from wearing the Islamic headscarf  (hijab)  at school. The report was based on an interview with the Minister of Education Moheb El-Rafei on the Egyptian television show, Ten in the Evening. During the interview, hosted by Wael El-Ebrashy, the Minister said Islam does not call upon girls to wear the hijab until they reach puberty. “Imposing the Islamic headscarf on primary-level students by some people is unacceptable,” he said.

Later the same day, after vociferous debate around the topic on social media, Hany Kamal, the Education Ministry’s spokesperson, “clarified” the minister’s statements. Mr. Kamal said the minister’s comments on TV about the hijab were taken out of context, and any news of a hijab ban is unfounded. “There’s no such thing as a hijab ban; wearing the hijab or taking it off is a personal freedom,” Mr. Kamal told Ahram Online.

The debate around the hijab is not new in Egypt. It has been a hot topic, particularly since the rise of political Islam in the Seventies. The debate was reignited recently, however, as part of Egypt’s soul searching for its “moderate Islam,” particularly after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi in 2013. The anti-Morsi coalition comprises unharmonious sub-groups, with various social and religious attitudes. For example, Egypt’s Al-Azhar scholar and ex-grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, who raised many eyebrows when he asserted, “whoever obeys President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi obeys the Prophet, and whoever disobeys him disobeys the Prophet,” also has very harsh views towards non-hijabi women. In one TV interview, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said women who reject the hijab are “stupid, naive, and ignorant.” Later, in another interview, he asserted that women who do not wear the hijab have dropped their right not to be looked at by men, a comment that was widely interpreted as a subtle justification for harassment.

Others among Sisi’s supporters have more liberal views. Sheikh Mohamed Tantawi, head of Al-Azhar University, told a student to remove her niqab when he spotted her during a tour of an Al-Azhar affiliated school, the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported this week. His remarks have triggered angry responses, even a demand for his resignation.

I have written before that women with or without Islamic headscarves should be accepted and respected in Egypt. This freedom of choice is for adult women (or at least girls post puberty); however, imposing hijab on children is not freedom, but the despicable robbery of children’s rights to enjoy their childhood. It is already tough to be a girl in Egypt. Many girls are denied their basic rights to play and enjoy life.

If Egypt under Sisi is serious about finding middle ground in Islam, then it should not backtrack on wise decisions such as banning the hijab in primary school. The Egyptian leadership cannot ban political Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood while simultaneously allows semi-official salafism to flourish in society. If the government continues to do so, its war against extremism will be doomed to failure.

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt, Short Comments | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Short Comments: Terrorism in Egypt

 In August, security was on very high alert in Egypt . Two events were particularly important: the inauguration of the Suez Canal on August 6, and the second anniversary of the forced dispersal of the sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square on August 14. Fortunately, both events were peaceful. The inauguration of the Suez Canal was full of hyper nationalism, but was uneventful from the security perspective. Moreover, on Rabaa’s anniversary, there were reports of a few small marches in Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria, but no large protests or associated security crackdowns took place. Does this mean Egypt has “succeeded” in fighting terrorism, as some local commentators have suggested? The answer is definitely no. Egypt may still face significant violence and terror attacks in the near future.

Despite the fact that the major events of the past two weeks took place without any major security threats, there were still sporadic incidents involving small-scale bombing and attacks against policemen around Egypt. I have covered these all in my weekly summary of news from Egypt here and from last week. The drop in the incidence of violence may be related to other factors – including the weather. Some Egyptians jokingly attributed the relative calm to the scorching heat, which “put everyone off, even the terrorists. The most alarming sign, in my opinion, was last week, when the Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai province has circulated an image online that purports to show the beheaded body of a Croatian man abducted in the desert hinterland of Cairo in July. Without delving into this incident in detail, the idea of targeting foreigners in Egypt is scary. 

On August 13, a military aircraft crashed near the border with Libya because of a technical failure while on a counter-terrorism mission. The spokesman of Egypt’s armed forces has later added that the Egyptian military has been carrying out more operations near the Libyan border. Today, Egyptian forces near the border with Libya issued a high-level alert after Libyan security forces based at the Musaid border crossing disappeared a few days ago

 Moreover, an online statement attributed to a group calling itself the Tahrir Brigade, whose members are said to be defected officers, has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Hisham Barakat last month. However, as researcher Mokhtar Awad has stated on Twitter, this kind of statement is unconfirmed and there is no solid evidence that this “Tahrir Brigade” exists.

 Furthermore, BBC Arabic reported on Sunday, August 16, that a military court in Egypt has sent 26 military officers and four retired colonels to prison for planning a coup. Some Egyptians on Twitter have suggested the case is not new, but happened in 2013.  BuzzFeed News has published a detailed English report about the case. Interestingly,Al Bawabah News quotes military source denying the case.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s President Sisi has passed an anti-terrorism law, which imposes hefty fines of between LE200,000 to LE500,000 (approximately $26,000 to $66,000) for “false” reporting on terrorism or counter terrorism. In future, we may not see reports, like the mentioned above, after the implementation of the new law. 

 To sum up, the “coup against the coup,” as some Islamists like to put it, may or may not be true, but even if it happened, the small “rebellion” was squashed at it’s early stage and had no impact on the unity of the Egyptian army. Nonetheless, Egyptians should remember that the Islamic State’s affiliates, and Al-Murabitoon group are alarming reality that cannot be ignored. The new anti-terrorism law, may deter reporters, but will not deter those who are firmly focused on sowing death and destruction.

Posted in Egypt, Short Comments | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 33 ( August 10 – 16)

Top Headlines

  • President Sisi establishes economic zone around the Suez Canal. (Tuesday)
  • Islamic State’s Egyptian ally says it beheads a Croatian hostage. (Wednesday)
  • Egyptian military aircraft crashed near the border with Libya. (Thursday)
  • Minimal protests to mark Rabaa anniversary. (Friday)
  • Egyptian military sources deny BBC report on trial of 26 officers plotting a coup. (Sunday)

Main Headlines

 Monday

 Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

 Plus

  • Has the tomb of Queen Nefertiti finally been found?
  • Iconic Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif leaves legacy spanning 4 decades
  • Egypt’s scorching heat wave kills orangutan at Giza’s Zoo
  • Egyptian swimmer Farida Osman eyes 100m butterfly glory at Rio Olympics
  • Guided tour of Al-Manial Palace and the Andalusian Garden in Cairo
  • Nahla El-Qodsy, wife of Egypt’s late iconic musician Mohamed Abdel-Wahab dies

From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Video

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Anti-Suez Canal campaign: A belated exercise in popcorn politics

Initially published in Egypt’s Ahram

The New Suez Canal has been inaugurated amidst controversial scenes, ranging from the expression of public joy, to mocking, skepticism, and endless articles questioning its economic worth.

However, at the heart of the controversy is not whether the project is a “gift to the world” or a pointless waste of money. The real question is why did the opponents of the Suez Canal project wait until its completion to air their views? The fact that this opposition, vocalized loudly by some Egyptians and foreign observers, came only after the completion of the New Canal, and not before, is testimony to what is wrong in the handling of Egypt’s affairs.

The right time to voice concerns about the canal should have been August 2014. Exactly a year ago, Egyptian authorities announced that Egyptian pound-denominated Suez Canal certificates would be available locally and abroad.

If the project’s skeptics were not convinced about the feasibility of the government-projected gains from the certificates at the end of their five-year maturity period, why did they not step up their campaign to stop the fundraising through the six million certificates issued by Egypt’s central bank?

Some may assume that the lack of opposition was a result of the fear of oppression by the Egyptian authorities. However, opponents had an array of possibilities to explore if they were serious about trying to stop the project. A Facebook page against the project or even a Twitter hashtag may not be huge, but it would certainly have raised awareness among the weary, not-so-rich Egyptian public.

The only vocal opponents of the project were the Muslim Brotherhood, but it was part of their hyped approach to post-Morsi’s Egypt and not a rational stand that would attract Egypt’s apolitical public. Before the inauguration of the New Canal few people bothered to review the project’s advantages/disadvantages, a trend that was reversed only after completion of the project, when a huge number of opinion pieces saturated the media, questioning the project’s alleged benefits.

There are a few possible reasons that could explain the baffling initial apathy toward the project and the late fervor. Either those opposed to the project were not truly serious about stopping it, or they assumed the project would not be completed; hence, in their view, it was pointless to waste energy opposing it.

That is likely the real reason; it is a kind of popcorn approach to politics, a quiet wait-and-see initial phase, followed by an over-excited rant against the project, once finalized. Such an approach is fundamentally flawed as it indicates how the anti-Al-Sisi elite are politically lazy and incapable of forward thinking.

Regardless, the whole matter reflects why the Egyptian public does not take opponents of Al-Sisi’s leadership seriously. It is unfortunate that opponents of the project have mistimed their moves, and opted for a late show of discontent.

It is no good for an average Egyptian who invested his or her savings in the Suez Canal project to hear skepticism about the project, a year down the line. The idea of the public turning against Al-Sisi after the inauguration of the canal is ludicrous. Would the public ignore the visual impact of the new two-way canal, and consider instead belated articles drumming doom and gloom? Unlikely.

The campaign against the Suez Canal may have raised good questions about the project, and whether it will double revenues in five years as projected. However, its mistiming is its biggest failure. A late alarm button is a failed alarm system. A change in Egypt’s political and economic discourse needs a proactive opposition, not a few late, sarcastic voices on social media.

If chess is a good metaphor to describe political scenes, Egypt’s dynamics can be described as two simultaneous games. One is a serious chess game by Al-Sisi, initiating various gambits to achieve some incremental gain.

The other, however, is a parody chess game played by his opponents; full of noise, rants, and dubious gambits that aim only to attract attention, but fail to change anything. The Egyptian president got his canal, his legacy, and a crucial nod of approval from his Gulf allies, in addition to the potential economic gain.

The publicity accorded to the project, even if negative, is not necessarily bad news for him; he cemented the perception of the reliability of his leadership. His opponents, on the other hand, got nothing.

The problem in Egypt is not Al-Sisi and his potentially “dubious” grandiose projects, but in his opponents’ spectacular mediocrity that consistently fails to convince Egyptians that they are a better alternative.

Post Script

I would like to thank those who re-blogged my piece. I am also grateful to everyone who commented on it, whether positively or negatively; your feedback is important to me. Here are few extra thoughts on the topic:

  • In my opinion, the Suez Canal project was a missed opportunity by Egyptian opposition and activists to resurrect Egypt’s current frozen politics, particularly in terms of its political economy. In Egypt, business awareness simply does not exist. Egyptians would benefit from a campaign to raise awareness about the commercial feasibility of any mega project. it would also help to establish a pattern; to set a policy that must be followed in future cases.
  • Some commenters accused me of being lazy and not doing enough research about early articles doubting the benefits of the New Suez Canal. I did in fact review many of these articles and acknowledged in the original piece how few had raised concerns about the project. Nonetheless, most of those reports were produced by journalists or academics, but  failed to garner wider circulation among Egyptian activists and observers. Only a few activists, for whom I have tremendous respect for their courage, spoke out against the project in its early days. Meanwhile, articles published after the inauguration of the Suez Canal went viral on social media. Such a discrepancy is unfortunate.
  • It is important to differentiate between political campaigning against Sisi’s regime and questioning his business plans. The average Egyptian who bought the Suez Canal certificate may (or may not) love Sisi, but think would twice before investing in an allegedly a dodgy project—assuming Egyptians had the opportunity to read about the project’s commercial feasibility. Sadly, they did not.
  • Other critics shifted the argument and claimed that any campaign against the canal would fail. However, in my view, an orchestrated campaign against the canal’s project, if backed by testimonies from economic experts from inside and outside Egypt, could have a good chance to succeed. If the Egyptian leadership would allow it, it might have a chance to reach ordinary Egyptians, but if not, then the opposition would have their smoking gun that the government is indeed hiding something. Comparing such a calm business style campaign with protests for political demands and arrest of activists is a non sequitur.
  • Even if all those efforts failed to achieve anything, I would have rather seen a campaign to raise business awareness among Egyptians while the regime was still in a vulnerable phase in 2014, only a year after the ousting of Morsi, than a belated criticism in 2015, after the regime has cemented its success and legacy.

All my critics have painted a picture in which nothing could have been done against Sisi. Such total capitulation is deeply sad and disturbing. With all due respect, Egypt’s coup is not the end of the world. Turkey had had a long history of coups, from which it has emerged stronger. Such defeatism is shocking. Finally, I wish a fraction of the energy spent on attacking my article would have been channeled Loudly in 2014 against the project itself; if indeed its opponents believed that it was a bad choice for Egypt, maybe such efforts would have saved many Egyptians a lot of money.

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Egyptian Aak 2015 – Week 32 ( Aug 3 – 9) and

Top Headline

  • Egypt inaugurates a New Suez Canal. (Thursday)
  • Deadline passes for Croatian hostage held by ISIS militants. (Friday)
  • Ousted former president Morsi complains about prison food (Saturday)

 

image

( Photo and comment from Twitter)

Main Headlines  

Monday

Tuesday

 Wednesday

 Thursday

 Friday

 Saturday

 Sunday

 Good Reports/ Analyses

 On Egypt’s New Suez Canal

Other Good Reports

Other Good Read

Plus

 From Twitter

Photo Gallery

Tahrir Canal

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

Posted in Diary of Aak, Egypt | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Short Comments: On Egypt and Saudi Arabia

Saudi Ambassador

Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Egypt Ahmad Qattan  (Al Arabiya)

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt, Ahmed Qattan, has played down media reports suggesting ties between both countries are strained, adding that bilateral relations are “at their best.” The Saudi Ambassador has also reaffirmed his comments in a telephone conversation with Al-Hayat TV, and added two interesting remarks. The first is that Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, known for his leniency toward political Islam and his antipathy toward the Sisi leadership in Egypt, “does not represent the Saudis’ official stance toward Egypt.” Qattan’s second remark, directed at Egyptian writer Hassanein Heikal, who is known for his antipathy toward the Saudi leadership, said bluntly that Saudi Arabia would last, despite Heikal. Ambassador Qattan’s remarks came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Saudi Defence Minister Mohammed Bin Salman issued what they named the “Cairo Declaration,” outlining six facets of cooperation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, including “enhancing joint cooperation and investment between the two countries in the fields of energy, electricity, and transportation.” The ambassador’s comments also came after many Islamist figures visited the Kingdom in recent weeks. On top of the list is Hamas’s leader, Khalid Meshaal, Tunisia’s Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the Islah movement of Yemen’s Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, and Jordan’s Hammam Saeed, of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hussein Ibish attributed those visits to the change of the strategic landscape in the Middle East, following the Iran nuclear deal. In my opinion, this is only partly true. However, there are other aspects that may explain the Saudis’ behavior, particularly King Salman’s leadership style. Saudi Arabia under King Salman is keen to maintain a strong partnership with the Egyptian leadership; however, the King does not want this partnership to limit his diplomatic maneuvering in the region, which includes engagement with other groups Egypt considers hostile. In short, King Salman is aiming to build a strategic relationship that keeps his friends, allies, and enemies guessing about his intentions, goals, and tactics. That would help him stop his allies from taking Saudi Arabia for granted and would force his enemies to accept the Kingdom as a challenging opponent.

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