European Union ‘gravely concerned’ over Twitter ban in Turkey


I reblogged this good post by Yavuz Baydar on the ban of Twitter in Turkey.

Originally posted on TEMPORAL:

Access to Twitter was blocked in Turkey on Thusday night, drawing harsh reactions around the world, especially from Europe which deems the move as an obvious blow to the freedom of expression.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said on Friday he was “gravely concerned” by a block imposed on Twitter in Turkey as the government battles a corruption scandal days ahead of elections.

“Being free to communicate and freely choose the means to do it is (a) fundamental EU value,” Füle wrote on his Twitter account.

The vice-chairman of the Liberal Group in the European Parliament, German MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, called for the suspension of accession talks following a Twitter ban in Turkey. Lambsdorff, who is also his group’s shadow rapporteur on Turkey, said that negotiation with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no longer necessary.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, the German Liberal said: “I am asking for…

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Egyptian Aak 2014 – Week 11 (Mar 10-16)

Main Headlines








 Good Report

 Good Read


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

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ReBlog- Option Three: To Hell in A Handbasket

In here blog Kamil PashaJenny White aptly explains the polarizing situation in Turkey, and a potential nightmare scenario..   

Things are going to hell in a handbasket. So much has happened in the past month, much of it reported in detail by the foreign press and the few independent Turkish media outlets still operating. I’m relying more and more on my Twitter feed for information about what is happening on the ground. Let me recap:

Over the past few months, the AKP has pushed through parliament bills that have essentially erased important elements of the separation of powers in Turkey. The AKP government (by which is meant the singular involvement of PM Erdogan) has laid hands on the educational system, including the Academy of Sciences, the appointment of judges and prosecutors, the police, and other formerly independent institutions. It has nearly eradicated legitimate avenues of free speech (bought and bullied newspapers and television into submission, banned social media and legalized nearly unlimited spying on its citizens). I’m probably forgetting something, there have been so many wounds to the national body in such a short time. (See my prior posts for some of these.) The essential driver behind these is not, as some might believe, the Islamicization of society and the state. What do any of these have to do with Islam? No, it is for the PM and his circle to remain in power and to retain the immense profit of those positions.

PM Erdogan wishes to stay in power. And he wishes to continue as is, with the Turkish economy functioning as a profitability machine, churning out vast amounts of money for his massive infrastructural projects, which churn out vast amounts of money for his followers. Some of that money — many millions of dollars in cash, have been recently found in shoeboxes under a bank official’s bed and located, based on a conversation allegedly  wiretapped from the PM’s phone, in a safe in his son’s house. A 14-month long investigation into corruption high and low (netting a mayor in Fatih as well as the sons of ministers and the bank official) led prosecutors to issue arrest warrants and the police to bring them in to testify. Several ministers were forced to resign. One of them, on his way out the door, said on live television that the PM knew all about this, so HE should be the one to resign. Wiretapped conversations have been leaked through social media almost nightly. The “Daddy” tape is most insightful. In it, the PM apparently wakes up his son on the morning of the arrests and tells him to “zero out” what’s in his house. “But Daddy,” says the sleepy son, “there’s nothing in the house that would interest them except your money in the safe…” This is followed by an exasperated conversation, leading to a creative explosion of satire on social media about a father’s advice on which hunk of money should be delivered where.

The PM responded to the arrests by transferring or removing from their posts hundreds of prosecutors and thousands of police, then pushing through the bill that henceforth allows a government official to appoint judges and to require government notification before a case like this can be investigated.

He also set up a new villain — the familiar ‘inside enemy’ working at the behest of ‘outside enemy powers’ that had been the bugaboo of generations of Kemalist schoolchildren. This time, instead of the non-Muslim minorities, the blame was placed on AKP’s former ally, Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet movement, ostensibly working at the behest of the CIA. The government has even looked favorably on a retrial of  the military officers jailed, some for life, in the Ergenekon trials, convicted of fomenting coups against the AKP government. Ah, it was all a misunderstanding. In fact, they claim, it was the Gulenists, not the AKP as everyone thought (and who took credit for pushing the army back into the barracks), that was behind the trial. Indeed, it was widely known that some of the evidence was faulty and even rigged against the generals. Now history is rewritten to show that the Gulenists were at fault for that. Some senior officers have just been released from jail (along with unsavory characters like Veli Kucuk, who is alleged to be behind numerous assassinations and has vowed to continue his “patriotic activities”). Perhaps the PM has decided he needs some friends in the army and others with special skills.

As a result, there is less and less “rule of law” in Turkey. The police don’t obey the prosecutors; prosecutors can be pulled off their jobs for unpopular investigations. The effect of this will trickle down into society. Already a whole series of people convicted of a variety of crimes have asked for a retrial, since clearly their trial procedure must have been tainted by the Gulenists. If the generals were victimized, why not them? Police act with impunity, with no fear of repercussions if they shoot teargas canisters directly at people (protesters, but also passers-by and in one recent photo a cameraman) just a few feet away.

Yesterday the funeral of a young boy killed by a blow to the head by a tear-gas canister that left him in a coma for months brought tens of thousands of people into the streets in solidarity. The boy, Berkin Elvan, was out buying bread during the Gezi protests almost a year ago. He had told his mother he would go to the grocery store because he didn’t want her to get hurt. A loaf of bread is a powerful symbol in Turkish society and many of the demonstrators at his funeral and at memorials across the country cried and clutched loaves bound in black or tied loaves to their front doors.

Another young man, Burak Can Karamanoglu, nephew of an AKP mayoral candidate, was killed yesterday during the protests surrounding Berkin Elvan’s death in a fight between demonstrators and a group of local AKP supporters carrying clubs and shouting religious slogans. Some in the media called it a fight between gangs of an outlawed far-left splinter group and “civil fascists”. While the PM has remained completely silent on Berkin Elvan’s death, he immediately blamed the “murder of our our brother” Burak  on CHP head Kilicdaroglu”s “illegal soldiers” (a play on “Ataturk’s soldiers”, a trope used by Kemalists).  Worse, Egemen Bagis, AKP’s former minister for EU affairs, said of the thousands of people in the streets mourning Berkin Elvan at his funeral that he couldn’t understand these “necrophiliacs”. The lack of respect and civility, much less humanity, is stunning. This has nothing to do with Islamic or any other kind of ethics. It is power and impunity run amok.

If everything can be put down to a conspiracy, then people can act with impunity. There is no need to fear repercussions from individual police brutality or blatant expressions of sectarian hatred. In a previous post, I described the new regulations banning hate speech — they appear limited to things like refusing someone a job because of their religious preference. Insulting Alevis, as the PM has done in public, seems to be allowed, just as “Armenian” is not infrequently used as an insult. But then, the regulations at this point mean nothing. There are no prosecutors to prosecute and no police to arrest anyone, except those on the wrong side of the newly blooded divide.

The PM’s “us versus them” discourse has been honed to a needle point, shearing open the only recently healed social wounds that divided Alevi  (Berkin and Kilicdaroglu) from Sunni (Burak), Kurd from non-Kurd, Muslim from Jew and Christian, and secular liberal from conservative pious. He is ripping apart the fabric of society and fanning the blood-lust that has so many times dragged Turkey down the path of sectarian violence.

It is such a shame for a Turkey that truly was on a remarkable path to peace and prosperity, most recently under AKP leadership. This is the part no one can understand — that the PM would undermine his own accomplishments over the past ten years, the legacy that he would have left to Turkey and to the world as a remarkable and astute, if pugnacious, leader. He is also creating problems within his own party, it is said,  physically beating his ministers if they displease him.

A feeble, corrupt and outmoded opposition with no new ideas is unable — just weeks before a crucial election — to capitalize on the fact that AKP is on the defensive by putting on display a better economic plan or showing themselves to be  less corrupt. As one working-class friend in Istanbul told me, AKP is the party of ‘Do it’, and CHP is the party of ‘Don’t do it’. Those who wish to jump the AKP ship, either as voters or politicians, have nowhere to jump to.

For the first time in my memory, people are worrying about whether or not the upcoming elections will be fair, given the new technologically advanced voting booths they expect to be employed and the huge stakes in the outcome. How easy is it to rig an election electronically? Are the continual wiretap leaks an attempt to illegally influence the election? People are asking whether foreign observers are needed. What happens afterwards if a substantial part of the population, on one side or the other, believes that the election results were rigged? It will add fuel to the vortex of rage already distending society, like lava rising beneath the soil of the nation.

Recently I have been talking to old friends about their experiences in the incredibly polarized and violent 1970s, a period of brutal street-violence that embraced the entire Turkish nation in its decade-long death-grip (and which I witnessed first-hand), but that has essentially been wiped from Turkish memory. It is as if history began in 1980 with the coup, which is now often rewritten as a plot by outsiders to weaken Turkey, not as a response to a failed government and economy and a society exhausted by continual death and destruction. Not a few of my friends anxiously noted parallels with the present situation.

It is said that PM Erdogan has on several occasions suggested that the answer to situations like Gezi and the protests has three steps. First you employ the police, then the army, then, if that doesn’t work, you put your own people on the street. It is questionable whether the weakened army in Turkey would step in against its own citizens on the street. So we go straight to Option Three, to hell in a handbasket. When PM Erdogan returned from a trade trip to Morocco during the Gezi riots, he was received at 2 AM at the Istanbul airport by an enormous crowd that chanted things like, “Just give us the word, we’ll take care of those Taksim people” and “Minority, beware.” He didn’t encourage “his people” to go out and take care of business, but after that there were disturbing incidents of gangs of men roving the streets with clubs and knives, some chanting Allahu Akbar, others chanting military marches, and others simply hailing insults along with blows on any demonstrator that came their way. What if PM Erdogan decides it’s time for Option Three and unleashes his supporters? This time, people will take out their guns and go after the relatively politically innocent young demonstrators. The parents of the Gezi youth, though, themselves survivors of the 1970s, will know what to do. And there we have a scenario of hell and an illustration of the adage that history that is unexamined is destined to repeat itself.

Let us hope that PM Erdogan has enough self-control not to go to Option Three, with which he will destroy all that his party has accomplished and possibly destroy the nation as well. Valdimir Putin reportedly once warned never to corner a rat because then it becomes the most dangerous animal on earth. It will do anything to survive, anything.

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The three phases of Egypt’s popular protests

The trends of Egypt’s crowd politics since Tahrir Square can also be seen in Ukraine, Syria and Libya. Published in  Al-Monitor

Behind every uprising are chronic frustrations from citizens betrayed by corrupt leaders, their repression, poor governance and a loss of hope in any political process that fulfills their aspiration for democracy, freedom and prosperity. Such events are always associated with frustration and cumulative anger that ultimately explode in the streets. The nature of street protests and their long-term impacts can vary depending on various dynamics in each country, and there are some alarming trends that were associated with the Arab uprisings that have resurfaced again with popular movements in other parts of the world.

First, romanticism:

Perhaps it is no surprise that the Egyptian Oscar-nominated film “The Square” was shown in Kiev. The ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak after years of tyranny has inspired many around the globe. It is doubtful, however, that the Ukrainian organizers have told their enthusiastic crowd about how the Egyptian uprising was struggling to fulfill its promises to the youth who congregated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Like many protest leaders, Ukrainian opposition figures were seemingly more preoccupied with toppling the corrupt Ukrainian president than with the day after his ouster. The film has done the job: Many were seemingly delighted to break with the past, but the Russian invasion of the Crimean region of the Ukraine was a rude awakening to many optimistic Ukrainians. Just as the Egyptians realized after their January 2011 revolution within a different context that the baggage of the past may continue to haunt them. Continue reading here

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Qatar and the GCC rift

Here are three interesting pieces about the recent crisis in the Gulf, which I like to share with you. 

First: Bilal Saab, Foreign Affairs

 “The dispute between GCC members had been simmering for a while, and it was only a matter of time before it boiled over. In December, during a GCC Summit in Kuwait, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi had been close to singling out Qatar for its alleged financing of terrorism in Syria and elsewhere. But, at the last minute, the Saudis pulled the plug to avoid embarrassing their Kuwaiti hosts. They opted instead to give Doha a stern private warning. A couple of weeks before that, Saudi leaders scolded new Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim during a meeting in Riyadh that was arranged by Kuwaiti leader Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad.” 

Second by Michael Young, NOW.

“That sense of renewed confidence, coupled with recognition that the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will be arduous, may have prompted the diplomatic isolation of Qatar. With a new emir in Doha, the Saudis are flexing their muscles to push their own preferences in the region. Only time will tell whether the Qataris comply.”

Third by Abdulmajeed al-Buluwi, Al-Monitor

“It is illogical to think Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE can remain part of the same security organization when they have such divergent views about where their common danger lie. “

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Egyptian Aak 2014. week 10: ( Mar3-9)

Main Headlines








 Report on sit-ins dispersal

 Photo Gallery


 Good report

Good read

Finally, here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt


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The AKP’s Election Strategy: Controlling the Corruption Narrative


Great read to understand the current crisis in Turkey

Originally posted on Turkey Wonk: Nuclear and Political Musings in Turkey and Beyond:

I am breaking my silence. I am still committed to finishing my dissertation before the end of this academic year, so I don’t expect to post many more blog posts before June. However, the recent corruption allegations have prompted me to take a break from my dissertation.

On 3 February 2014, Jeffrey Lewis, Melissa Hanham and Amber Lee published an article detailing how they used open source information to locate the primary facilities for North Korea’s ballistic missile transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) assembly. The availability  of open source information now allows for analysts to identify North Korean missile facilities, Iranian nuclear sites, Turkish nuclear weapon storage facilities, and to track the construction of villas in a remote bay on Turkey’s Aegean coast.

Hakan Fidan, the director of Turkey’s intelligence agency, wrote his PhD dissertation on the subject. He also happens to be one of the Prime Minister’s closest advisors. Thus, like in the case of Ahmet…

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Egypt and Gaza

This piece is published in Daily News Egypt

Last Friday, a small group of Palestinians protested near the Egyptian border demanding the opening of the Rafah border. Their congregation ended uneventfully, however, it highlights a brewing crisis between post-Morsi Egypt and the Hamas government in Gaza that can easily explode at any time soon. Moreover, Tony Blair, the special envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East arrived in Cairo on Monday in his second visit in 2014. The two events may not be directly related, but it is plausible that Gaza will be on the agenda of his meeting with the Egyptian officials.

In 2008, a group of Palestinians blew up the wall separating the Egyptian Rafah side from the Palestinian side in protest of the isolation of the Gaza strip. Thousands of Palestinians streamed into Sinai, and stayed for several days before the Egyptian authorities took control and closed the border again. The incident was embarrassing to the Mubarak regime. It highlighted the Egyptian contribution to the siege of Gaza following Hamas’s takeover of the strip, and also exposed the vulnerability of Sinai to any trouble from the other side of the border.

Mubarak had to back off and ease the siege “a bit,” and turned a blind eye to the growing network of tunnels underneath the border. He wanted Hamas to be confined within certain red lines, in return for some viable breathing space. His policy worked, but at a hefty price of chronic deterioration of the security situation in Sinai.

The countless tunnels underneath the border have also changed the culture and the mindset of the local residents after years of earning easy money from the illegal tunnel trade. Many of tribal leaders and homeowners near the Gaza border have vehemently rejected an offer from the government to relocate and accept compensation. According to Hossam Sweilam, a retired army general, Rafah’s homeowners earn at least 20 thousand Egyptian pounds daily. Whether his estimation is true or not, it is clear that the tunnel owners have created a rentier-microstate that struggles to comply with the roles of the parent Egyptian state.

Despite the rejection, the Egyptian army seems determined to create a buffer zone along the border with Gaza in Rafah that would extend 300 meters in populated areas and 500 meters in open areas. General Sweilam has even stated that the construction of the buffer zone may take three stages and cover areas up to 1.5 kilometers from the border. He also asserted that there is another option, with the creation of a water barrier from the sea along the entire border between Gaza and Sinai.

Will the Islamic movement sit idly by while watching the Egyptian authorities slowly suffocating its lifeline? Of course not, but what can Hamas do to force the Egyptian authorities to change their minds?

Option one: Appeasement

There are some reports of possible rapprochement between Hamas and its archenemy Mohamed Dahlan. In January, Hamas allowed three Fatah leaders loyal to Dahlan to return to Gaza. The Fatah returnees and Hamas officials allegedly formed a committee to oversee construction of a new Gaza town to be funded by the UAE. Hamas indeed, needs this Gulf support, but it also needs a Palestinian figure with a good relationship with Egypt’s army chief Sisi, and Dahlan could be that person.

If Dahlan is definitely back into the complex Gaza scene, then his goal will be to find a solution that stops the suffocation of Gaza, while satisfying the Egyptian authorities’ security interests. This task is not impossible; nonetheless it would be costly to the Palestinian militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2007. It remains to be seen if Hamas and their dance with Dahlan will be enough to appease the Egyptians, or will the old hostility ruin this ambitious move.

Option two: Provocation

Last Friday’s demonstration by the Egyptian border was small and peaceful. Hamas has the ability to orchestrate a bigger, and possibly violent, protest in the hope of forcing the Egyptian authorities to suspend the buffer zone project. In any future protests, any casualties among the Gazans or their supporters from the Sinai tribes would be the worst possible nightmare for the Egyptian army, and can force the Egyptian authorities to put their ambitious plan for a buffer zone on a hold.

However, it is a risky move, as the casualties from any confrontation will probably be on both sides. The death of Egyptian soldiers can turn the already hostile Egyptian public opinion further against Hamas. There is already a court case filed in Egypt to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization, and any clashes at the border will almost certainly make a yes verdict certain. This would close the door for any possible behind-the-door negotiations.

Furthermore, there are calls in Egypt, from generals like Swaleim, to go further and target radical groups inside Gaza. Swaleim does acknowledge, however, that the Egyptian army has no plan for such a hawkish move. Any deterioration at the border may backfire on Hamas and deepen the Egyptian army’s involvement in Gaza.

Hamas may also try a dual policy of appeasement and provocation in a cat-and-mouse game with the military-led authority in Egypt. The militant group understands its vulnerability, but will try its best to use all the cards available in its quest for self–preservation.

Regardless of Tony Blair’s input (if any) to the entire Gaza conundrum, it is interesting, and frankly alarming, that many in the corridors of power in Cairo seem to think that Egypt can get rid of Hamas at some minimal cost. Rather than crushing Hamas, Egypt can take some measures on its side of the border that eases the tension with Gaza. Egypt can work on two fronts: On one hand, to increase the opening hours of the formal border crossing between Egypt and Gaza and help with exporting more vital goods to the impoverished strip. And on the other hand, they can de-escalate and renegotiate with Sinai tribal leaders, to create a cohesive plan that includes damage compensation and a long-term supportive plan.

The years-old dystopian dynamics between Gaza and Sinai, with its corruption, radicalism, and rentier economy will not be reversed easily. Further, drastic security measures alone will not solve these chronic problems. There are other measures that Egypt can adopt to win the support of the communities on both sides of the border; hostility against Hamas, and/or relying on Dahlan is not one of them. Egypt needs to resist the temptation to become involved in Gaza’s political swamp.

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Egyptian Aak 2014. Week 9 ( Feb 24- Mar2)

Main Headlines








Good report

Good read

Photo Gallery


Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt 

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

Egypt’s new buffer government

Ibrahim Mehlib

(Photo of Egypt’s new PM by Khaled Kandil / Associated Press / November 24, 2013)

The culture of rumors and speculations in Egypt can tempt us to abandon our logical thinking. Take, for example, the resignation of Beblawi’s government—this was a move that took many by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. The government resignation was inevitable; the timing may be intriguing, but the decision was not. Clarity and transparency are lacking commodities when it comes to Egypt’s political scene. We cannot know for sure why the government resigned (or forced to resign), nonetheless, there are contributing factors behind the departure of Beblawi’s government.

 Post-Morsi era

The Beblawi government appeared post-Morsi. It will always be associated with July 3 and the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. Whether the army chief, Marshal Sisi, intends to run for election or not, the Egyptian leadership needs a new government with fresh faces, commissioned with the crucial task of preparing for the future. The subsidence of the intense protests on the streets, together with the relative order that is now associated with Morsi’s trial, has seemingly convinced the authorities in Egypt that it has sufficiently weakened the Brotherhood and is now focusing on other goals and missions.

On the other hand, Egyptian Journalist Abdullah Kamal has explained through his Facebook account that many of Beblawi’s ministers have openly backed Sisi. While this is indeed true, it is probably a source of embarrassment for the Egyptian leadership. Sisi may be after power, but formal grooming is not ideal for the alleged democratic façade the leadership is trying to maintain. Moreover, the performance of most of Beblawi’s ministers was disappointing, even by local standards, and the calls for their departure came from several sources, including many of Sisi’s fans.

Business executive needed

In eras of uncertainty, digging for cash can help. Housing Minister Mehlib is a well-known technocrat and a career executive; his experience with the Arab Contractors Company is ideal for this role. In his first press interview, Mehlib declared his priorities to be encouraging investments and reviving tourism; in short, he is after money. Contractors are not just motivated to construct new projects, but also to recycle old stuff that is deemed a source of much-needed cash. I expect Mehlib to try to play the BBC’s program, “Cash in the Attic,” with the hopes of forging as many business deals as possible before the new president enters the Ittahdyia presidential palace. How is he going to do that is still unclear? Mehlib has probably learned a trick or two from his years of service with Mubarak. Selling lands, or commission deals with Arab businessmen is probably the way forward for a government that is desperate for cash.

Ending the various public sector strikes is another task the new government faces. Beblawi has failed to fulfill his pledge to set a minimum wage for workers, which has stirred up a wave of strikes. However, we must understand that workers are also smart; they know that their opportunity to get good deals from the government come before and not after the presidential election; therefore, they exert maximum pressure on the government. The workers’ mindset does not need a political scientist like Beblawi, but a business dealer like Mehleb, who spent most of his life negotiating and clinching deals.

The third task for Mehlib is to establish security and counter the growing wave of terrorist attacks in egypt, but again that is probably the only task that he may not be directly involved in. Again in his press conference, Mehlib hinted that individuals to fill the top ministerial jobs would be chosen by the interim leadership (and not him). The appointment of a new interior minister might be tricky. Dismissing the current Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim can be the most dignified way for the current interim leadership to wash their hands of all the bloodshed and violence of the last few months. However, Ibrahim is not the weak man that would happily assume all the post-July 3 sins. Ibrahim survived the ousting of Morsi and may survive the departure of Beblawi, but it is still unclear whether the hawks in the interior ministry would decide the fate of the current interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim or whether the army chief would override and pick a new face suitable for a new era. Securing Egypt is not an easy task; Mehlib will be powerless in saving the economy if the wave of terrorist attack continues with the current pace.

Much has been said to describe the army chief Sisi, but even his enemies agree about his shrewdness. He clearly likes to take his time and avoid rushing into a hasty decision. The Marshal’s understanding of his relative inexperience is probably behind the appointment of Mehlib’s government; a buffer government between the past and the future can allow Sisi to position himself at the centre of the political dynamics without owning to its mistakes and decisions. The army’s men can be rough, but Sisi likes to fashion his future career slowly, like a carpet weaver; he will not declare his plan until he has made the final touches, dots all the i’s and crosses the t’s. It remains to be seen whether Mehlib will help him in this task or if Mubrak’s man will create a greater mess for the Marshal.

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