The Arab audience that claps with one hand for Erdogan

 

Erdogan

 

You have a big heart, you shower us with your blessing and kindness. In your wisdom we are in awe, as you mirror our civilization.

I could not help but remember these lines from the classic Egyptian adaptation of the British musical play “My Fair Lady” whenever I read amusingly passionate praise from Arab fans for Turkish President Recep Erdogan. To them, he has been like a prophet, a unique leader, and a good father. They prayed relentlessly for his victory, saw him in their dreams and always celebrated his political victories. Ironically, the story of Erdogan and his Arabs fits well with the old Egyptian play, which was not just a romantic adaptation of a Western story, but a satire against Ottoman rule and our “Efandina the Khedive).”

Initially, the fascination with Turkey was understandable, particularly at the peak of the Arab Spring, when Turkey, as a modern Muslim nation, led by the charismatic and successful Erdogan, looked like the ideal “model.” Many Arabs, regardless of their ideological and political affiliation, were appropriately impressed by Erdogan’s political and economic achievements.

Later, however, many non-Islamist Arabs became less impressed with Erdogan’s wild and overt support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and his limited understanding of the dynamics in Arab countries, particularly Egypt. Islamist Arabs, on the other hand, have become increasingly dogmatic and loyal to the Turkish leader, as that country has become a mecca for them. They have romanticised Turkey, despite their beloved leader’s clear drift towards authoritarianism.

Since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, hundreds of thousandsof people have been jailed, intimidated, and sacked, labelled as traitors, and declared enemies of the state. Turkey now has the unenviable reputation of being the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Even the judiciary has become politicised, and jailed pro-Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas has pointed out that fair trial is impossiblein Erdogan’s Turkey. In 2017, Human Rights Watchdescribed the constitutional changes in Turkey towards the executive presidency as “a huge threat to human rights, the rule of law and the country’s democratic future.”

Moreover, Erdogan’s foreign policy in the Arab world, particularly in Syria and Iraq has been troubling to say the least. In Syria, following an initial ultimatum to Assad, Erdogan softened his approach, and signed the Aleppo dealwith the Russians that paved the way for the Assad regime to regain control of the city. President Erdogan also sanctioned the invasion of the Syrian city of Afrin, where armed groups working with Turkish forces looted and destroyed properties,quietly orchestrating a demographic shiftthat aimed to change the balance of Afrin’s population from predominantly Kurdish to majority Arab. On a different front, Turkey started filling its Ilisu Dam earlier than promised, threatening Iraq with a water shortage.

All the above, should be logical enough to convince Erdogan’s Arab fans that he is not the Messiah they have been dreaming about. But logic alone has proven to be futile against ideological emotionalism. To understand the reasons, it is important to distinguish two types of Erdogan’s Arab supporters:

First, is the Hard-core Islamists: In Kuwait, for example, some celebrated his victory with a giant cake, adorned with the Turkish flag and that of the original Ottoman Kayi tribe. This a group that seeks an Islamist caliphate, regardless of its democratic values, and see Erdogan as the only available leader with the power, intention, and the ability to transform the region into an Islamic State. The rest, for them, is gibberish. They believe a bad caliph is better than any non-Islamist leader. Erdogan’s quasi-totalitarian behaviour does not bother them, and they are willing to repeat his propaganda, describing his opponents as traitors. They are also content to frame all Kurds as terrorists and cheer Erdogan’s Syrian adventures as a nucleus for a future caliphate.

The soft-core Islamists, on the other hand, consider themselves “revolutionary”, and feel the need to be perceived as pro-democracy. They are happy to blur the differences between imperfect democracy and an autocracy delivered through ballot boxes, such as Erdogan’s Turkey, in order to justify their farcical moral high ground. They insist Erdogan’s rule is much better than Arab regimes. Such a claim may have had a grain of truth a few years ago, but now, after Erdogan’s new executive presidency, in which he controls every pillar of the Turkish state, it is just a farce.

Arab Islamists, regardless of their shades and differences, have never been democrats. Their relationship with Erdogan is based on mutual exploitation. Erdogan needs them to prove his popularity in the Arab world, while they need his success as proof of the soundness of their political stances. That is why even if Erdogan is not perfect; they will portray him as perfect.

This is an English version of my original Arabic piece published in Al-Hurra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 28-2018 ( July 9-15)

Top Headlines 

  • Egypt denounces reports that 2016 Paris-Cairo Egypt Air crash was due to cockpit fire
  • Hamas said it had reached a ceasefire with Israel brokered by Egypt
  • Italian company Eni reveals second oil discovery in Egypt’s Western desert
  • Egyptian hospitals are ordered to play the national anthem daily
  • Senior US lawmaker urges US Congress to designate the Muslim Brotherhood group as a terrorist organization

Main Headlines

 Monday 

Tuesday

  • Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation surged to 14.4 percent in June
  • Egypt’s foreign minister heads to Belgium for the ‘mini-summit’ on Syria
  • Egypt in talks with World Bank for additional $500 million fund for social housing projects
  • Head of Egypt’s customs authority is detained for 4 days on corruption charges
  • Three children found slaughtered and wrapped in garbage bags in Giza
  • Egypt to receive 500,000 Thomas Cook tourists in 2018 in 2018

 Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday 

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

https://twitter.com/miskelayla/status/1017133659516698625?s=21

Sport

 Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 27-2018 ( July 2-8)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt Air flight MS804 crash “caused by cockpit fire”, French investigators find
  • Lebanese tourist sentenced to over 8 years in prison for insulting Egypt in a viral video
  • Egypt opens Rafah border with Gaza, allowing passage in both directions
  • Egypt Supreme Administrative Court issued a verdict supporting a number of police officers fired from duty for having beards
  • Egypt’s football star Abu Treika has terrorist list verdict overturned but remains on list due to second ruling in similar case
  • Coptic Pope Tawadros heads to Italy for ecumenical prayer for Mideast peace with Pope Francis

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Plus

Petition

 

  • A petition against Coptic discrimination in Egypt
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Egypt’s Football “Naksa”

 

Here is an English version of my latest piece in Al-Hurra, you can read the Arabic on here

Egypt's Naksa photo

 

One cannot grow up in Egypt and not love football. The smiles of kids playing in the streets, their joy and passion, and their wild cheers after winning are all part of my childhood memories. But such scenes were not always upbeat and cheerful; I also remember the ugly bickering, yelling, and fights following defeat. Football in Egypt has always mirrored our society, with all its blessing and flaws. During the country’s World Cup journey, Egypt swung wildly between exuberant joy and equally ugly anger and depression. Every society has its own flaws, but in Egypt, our flows are toxic and destructive, enough to doom us to defeat even when we are desperate to win. Egypt’s football “Naksa” is cruel and painful, but it should be an opportunity for reflection and learning.

A popular Egyptian idiom says “an inch of good luck is better than an acre of hard work.” This very destructive idiom has created a collective backgammon mentality in Egypt, which makes us systematically rely on (or blame) luck for our successes (or failures). Luck may help once, but smart hard work is what leads to and, more importantly, maintains success.

Let’s go back to our October qualification match. Anyone with basic football knowledge can recognize that Egypt did not play well in that match. Without the last-minute penalty and Mohamed Salah’s beautiful goal, the team’s chance for qualification would be different.. It is baffling how anyone can believe that Egypt’s shaky performance against Congo could have so miraculously improved in just a few months—enough to beat stronger teams such as Russia and Uruguay.

Instead of acknowledging the modest standard of our team, we Egyptians were carried away with joy and wrongly assumed that our inch of luck would be enough to continue to secure us victory, as long as we had the talented Mohamed Salah.

A Story of Two Penalties

After our crushing defeat in Russia, many looked with nostalgia to Egypt’s last performance twenty-eight years ago in the 1990 World Cup, as if that Egyptian team was so much better. Such nostalgia is misplaced. The 1990s Egypt was no different except for its lack of a high-expectation mentality. Our expectations back then were not high, because we knew that our team’s modest skills. The result was a more relaxed performance—albeit modest, but not poor.

The difference between the two World Cup performances was in the timing of our penalties. In 1990, Egypt scored in the first match of the competition, giving us a moral boost. However, in 2018, our crucial penalty was in the last match of the qualifying stage, which only created misplaced high expectations and arguably complacency.

A One-Man Show

The focus on Salah’s qualifying goal, which coincided with his amazing performance in the English football Premier League, inappropriately skyrocketed our confidence and, more dangerously, created a Salah-dependent mentality. The rest of the team came to rely on Salah’s presence and performance. Although other football teams rely on one star (e.g., Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar), the gap between those stars and other players on their respective teams is not usually as wide as what exists on the Egyptian team. This wide gap may have knocked down the confidence and the standard of other players, leading them to rely completely on Salah. Such dangerous reliance on Salah was rattled following his injury in the Championship League. Despite his recovery, the other players failed to regain their confidence.

Mental Preparation

I could not help but notice how Senegal and Nigeria players looked chilled, relaxed, and happy whereas our Egyptian players were tense, stiff, and almost miserable. The Egyptian team had almost no mental coaching. It arrived stressed and preoccupied with the uncertainty of Salah’s readiness for play after his injury. There is nothing more destructive for any player than distrusting his own ability.

Our collective enchantment with Salah was unhealthy and unproductive. Football is a group game and cannot be won by relying on one star. We have unnecessarily piled pressure on Salah and managed to turn the blessing of having a gifted player to a curse that ruined our collective ability to fight and win. That is certainly notSalah’s fault; it is ours—and ours alone—to rectify.

We can blame everyone from the coach and the football association to the overall climate of corruption and nepotism, but let’s be honest: We lost the World Cup long before our team played any match in Russia. Egypt can do better, but first we have to learn how to work as a team. We do not need luck, but we need acres of hard teamwork. Let’s try to enjoy football again.

 

 

 

 

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This Week in Egypt: Week 26-2018 ( June 25-July 1)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt’s President Al-Sisi appoints Abbas Kamel as the country’s new chief of General Intelligence Service
  • Egypt’s Sisi, facing online backlash, says country is on “the right track”
  • Egypt’s national football coachis fired following disappointing World Cup campaign
  • Egypt refuses EU call for migrant reception centres
  • Egyptian police kill four member of Hasm terrorist group

 Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Egypt, Greece and Cyprus kick off joint military drills in the Mediterranean
  • Saudis add to Salah’s misery, beat Egypt 2-1 inin World Cup farewell
  • It was very difficult for us, but the future will be better, says Mohamed Salahafter Egypt’s World Cup defeat
  • Egypt’s goalkeeper El-Hadary makes history with World Cup record
  • Egypt’s interior minister says ‘good progress’ made in the country’s war on terrorism
  • Egypt’s total public debtreached EGP 3.4 trillion by end of 2017: Central bank
  • Egypt repaid$30 billion in due bonds, foreign debt during 2017: Ministry of Finance
  • President Sisi ratifies law regulating Uber, Careem, and other ride-hailing services

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

  • Egypt to start building a nuclear plantin the next two years
  • Egyptian security service prevented the Sudanese opposition National Umma Party (NUP) leader Sadiq al-Mahdi from entering Cairo
  • Egypt refusesEU call for migrant reception centers

 Good Reports

Good Read 

 From Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

Plus

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This Week in Egypt: Week 25-2018 (June 18-23)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt appoints new Air Force commander
  • Egypt extends state of emergency for another 3 months
  • Egypt strongly condemns assassination attempt on Ethiopian PM
  • Egypt’s Sisi discusses peace process with White House advisor Jared Kushner
  • Army kills 32 militants in a sweeping operation inside North Sinai
  • Students to return to Arish University for first time since February
  • Sources: Salah considering is retiring from national team

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

Good Read

  • Over a decade ago I made legal history in Egypt,but to fight for women’s rights we need to change the culture, not just the laws.’ Hind El-Hinnawy
  • The new media and press law in Egypt: The end of social media by law. Zeinobia
  • Will the comprehensive pperation achieve it’s target to eliminate terrorism in Sinai? Mahmoud Gamal

From Twitter

Sports

  • Swimmer Farida Osmanwins new silver medal for Egypt in Mediterranean Games, after winning Gold one

Plus

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This week in Egypt: Week 24-2018 ( June 11-17)

Top Headlines

  • Egypt replaces Minsters of Interior and Defence in a surprise move
  • Fuel, cooking gas prices, and public transport surge In Egypt
  • Sisi calls on Egyptians to endure challenges on back of fresh subsidy cuts 
  • Suez canal reports record high $5.585 billion annual revenue
  • Brave Egypt concede late goal to lose to Uruguay in World Cup opener
  • Poll: Egypt is safer than US and UK

Egypt's New Defense Minister

Egypt’s New Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Zaki,

Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

  • Egypt’s minister of electricity announces rateshikes in electricity billsfor fiscal year 2018/2019
  • Sisi calls on Egyptians to endure challengeson back of fresh subsidy cuts
  • Sisi says Egypt will continue its efforts to halt deteriorating situation in Syria
  • Censorship Boardrevokes decision to ban film hours after announcing it
  • Thanaweya Amma English exam leaker is identifiedby student’s digital bar code: Egypt’s education ministry

Wednesday

  • U.S. Homeland Security Secretary inspects Israel’s border with Egypt for Mexico wall ideas
  • An Egyptian court says it has no jurisdiction to shut down BBC’s Cairo officeover controversial report
  • Mohamed Salah joins the Egyptian team training session
  • Archaeologists unearth 3,500-year-old rock art depicting bulls, donkeys and sheep in Egypt

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Good Reports

From Twitter

 

Sport

Poll

Plus

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The myth of “the deal of the century”

Here is an English version of my latest Arabic piece in Al-Hurra on how imaginative plots have been weaponised and used to demonise certain Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

 

Jordan protests

Photo from latest protests in Jordan- via Al-Hurra

 

In July 2017, columnist Abdul Al-Hamid Al-Majjali wrote in the Jordanian daily Al-Dustourthat the Arabs believe in conspiracymore than any other people in the world. He highlighted how many in the Arab world see events as foreign plots hatched in dark chambers in the West. Almost a year later, protests erupted in Jordan against IMF-backed austerity measures. Like all crises in the Arab world, Jordan’s protests attracted another conspiracy theory –the deal of the century.” But unlike previous conspiracies, the new one does not only blame the West, but also certain Arab countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and its allies. Precisely why, is dangerous and destructive.

The term “deal of the century” was circulated more than a year ago, when American President Donald Trump expressed his desire to achieve a comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump’s good relationship with Israel’s government and with key Arab states have raised hopes of reviving 2002’s Arab Peace Initiativeof recognising Israel in return for a Palestinian State with borders such as those that existed before the 1967 war.

Trump’s interest has ignited a vociferous debate about whether such a deal is feasible, even in the absence of any specific details about Trump’s initiative, specifically when he met the Palestinian president in Bethlehem in May 2017.

But the American president did not need to say anything; many Arabs have decided to articulate their own versions of the “deal of the century.” Over the past 12 months, I have heard head-spinning scenarios being projected around this elusive deal, on both social and mainstream media. Ordinary Arabs, revolutionary activists, and even analysts and journalists have postulated about the details of such a dubious deal. Outlandish scenarios, such as Jordan as the new Palestine or Sinai as an extension of Gaza, were circulated.

The latest wave of protests in Jordan came as a gift to advocates of this alleged plot. “They want to destroy Jordan, because it refused to fulfil their deal of the century,” was a mantra that became almost synonymous with news of the protests in the streets of Jordanian cities. What has been consistent in all the various scenarios is the implication of certain Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egyptin such plots, and the portrayal of those states as traitors to the Palestinian cause.

Traditional enemies, such as America and Israel, and all the valid reasons that Al-Majjali rightly explained, are not the sole explanations. After decades of enshrining conspiracies in the Arab psyche, imaginative plots have been weaponised and used to demonise certain Arab countries. Welcome to stage II of the conspiracy, in which Arabs are the neo-traitors.

Unlike other conspiracies, the “deal of the century” is gaining traction and appeal among many, not just because of the century-old mistrust of Western motives or the Trump administration’s warm relations with Israel, but because it serves the interests of certain countries and alliances in the region.

Two events that indirectly helped rumours of the “deal of the century” plot flourish were the Qatar crisis and the US withdrawal from the Iran deal. In March 2002, there was hardly any criticism against the late Saudi King Abdullah when he unveiled the Arab Peace Initiative. But that was before the Arab Spring, and Saudi Arabia was almost immune from criticism.

In the post-Arab Spring era, however, the political map of the region has been re-drawn. Three camps have emerged, two Islamists, the Iranian camp and the Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood ones; a new Saudi-quartet coalition that divorced Islamism and is seen as more pragmatic towards Israel.  The so-called “deal of the century” has become a convenient tool in the hands of those whose mission it is to discredit the Saudi camp. In the alleged plot, Egypt’s buffer zone in North Sinai is portrayed, not as a counter-terrorism measure as Egypt has asserted, but as a preparation for the future relocation of Palestinians. Jordan’s dwindling aid is also portrayed as a deliberate tactic, particularly by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allegedly aimed to help Israel to create Palestine in Jordan, instead of the West Bank.

Here in Al-Hurra, Joyce Karam explained the reality in Jordan and how the protests had nothing to do with any foreign conspiracy or deal. I also wrote before countering the myth of Sisi’s Sinai proposal  But how can logic win when religion and national identiy are used to boost certain camps in the region?

Advocates of the ‘deal of the century” myth exploits two conflicting attitudes in the Middl East: The first is a dogmatic one that suggests Palestinians will be the ultimate losers from any peace deal with Israel. The second is a pragmatic attitude, driven by the fear that the status quo will ultimately harm the Palestinian cause, and that a deal with Israel is needed.

People are entitled to disagree with pragmatism, but they have no right to blur the differences between pragmatism and betrayal.

Posted in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sinai, UAE | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Week in Egypt: Week 23- 2018 (June 4-10)

Top Headlines

  • President Sisi appoints Mostafa Madbouly, former housing minister, as new prime minister
  • Egypt, Ethiopia agree to settle differences over Nile mega-dam
  • Libya’s army air raid kills Egyptian al-Qaeda leader in Derna
  • Egypt unveils pay rises ahead of fresh subsidy cut
  • Egypt’s annual urban consumer price inflation decreases to 11.4 percent in May

 

Sisi and Ethiopian PM

 Main Headlines

 Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

 Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 Good Reports

Good Read

From Twitter

Sport

  • Egypt’s ageless goalkeeperEssam El-Hadary aiming to pull out all stops in Russia
  • Egypt’s Salah makes fun of Ramos’ comment about continuing Champions League final with injury

Plus

  • Guide to Egyptian Parliament’s new feesfor mobile phone lines, passports and driving licenses
  • Egypt’s Nasser-era broadcaster Ahmed Said dies at 93
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This Week in Egypt: Week 22 ( May 28-June 3)

Top Headlines 

  • Egypt’s Sisi sworn in for second term with vow to fight terrorism
  • Egypt’s Sisi to visit Sudan in October amid tensions
  • Liverpool officially announces Salah’s participation in 2018 FIFA World Cup
  • Lebanese tourist is referred to criminal trial for insulting Egypt n Facebook
  • Egypt’s top court bans Social Solidarity Minister from dissolving NGOs

 

Sisi inaguration BBC 

Jets accompaning the presidential swearing-in cermony  in Cairo

Main Headlines

 Monday

  • Egypt police find body of Muslim Brotherhood fugitive after raid in Giza
  • Top prosecutor tasks antiquities ministry with confirming authenticity of artefacts that was seized in Italy
  • Egypt’s Mohamed Salah to continue treatment for injured shoulder in Spain
  • An Egyptian lawyer files $1.2 billion lawsuit against Sergio Ramos for injuring Mohamed Salah in Champions League final

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

  • Egypt’s Sisi: Attempts to sow strife between Egypt and Saudi Arabia will not succeed:
  • Egypt’s rejection of Russian wheat over ergot creates latest supply snag
  • Egyptsecurity arrests Lebanese woman for insulting Egyptians and political leadership in a Facebook video
  • Egypt hold Colombia to 0-0 draw in penultimate World Cup warm up

Saturday

Sunday 

Good Report

From Twitter

Plus

Finally here are Jayson Casper’s prayers for Egypt

 

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