|Posted on November 11, 2012 at 6:35 AM||comments (361)|
OPERATION SINAI: Facts & Figures you have to know...
This blog post attempts to shed light on how Operation Sinai came to be and the history of the "Sinai Insurgency" since Egypt's January 25th Revolution. Much of the information is in brief paragraphs and bullet form, for the sake of simplicity and clarity. The information is entirely gathered from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/sinai_insurgency). It is my utmost conviction that Egyptians need to know and to become fully aware of the magnitude of insurgent activities in Sinai. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an open-ended war with no end in near sight.
The Sinai Insurgency: is a radical Islamist militant activity in the Sinai peninsula, initiated in early 2011, following the January 25th Revolution. Radical Islamic elements in Sinai exploited the opportunity and used the unique environment of the largely demilitarized Sinai to launch several waves of attacks upon the Egyptian military and commercial facilities.
Kindly share this blog post and help spread awareness. Sinai is part and parcel of Egypt. Sinai has to remain that way. Thank you for reading.
|Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM||comments (9)|
Eid al-Adha in Egypt, a time previously known for children rejoicing in the streets in newly purchased colorful outfits, outdoor family outings, and entertaining TV shows, has slowly but most certainly metamorphosed into a time of fear and apprehension for Egyptian females. Yes, sexual harassment, an old, yet increasingly pressing issue, is now at the forefront of newspapers, social media networks, and TV talk shows. Finally, this social phenomenon is now in the limelight, thanks to the Egyptian media, civil society organizations and human / women's rights groups in Egypt who have long called for the government to amend the Penal Code and to punish harassers.
Suffice it to say that two-thirds of Egyptian women experience sexual harassment on a daily basis, according to 2008 statistics published by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights. Moreover, the National Council for Women (NCW) reported that women in Egypt are harassed seven times every 200 meters! (Al Arabiya news). It is figures such as these that have prompted a number of Egyptian volunteers, men and women, to organize an initiative "Eid without Harassment" campaign, mainly targeting Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo, as well as the "Seen Harassment" activist initiative which accuses Prime Minister Hesham Qandil of failing to take necessary security measures to prevent such violations.
Such volunteer groups / initiatives have openly criticized (and for good reason) the manner in which the Egyptian police deals with harassment complaints, claiming that they are improper and typically allowing for the offenders to get away with the abuse. Activists hold the Interior Ministry responsible for protecting citizens. After all, isn't protecting citizens and reprimanding criminals the main tenet of the Interior Ministry? And when women comprise 51% of Egyptian society, then in effect, half the population is being impeded on a daily basis from exercising their right to freedom of movement, a right which is stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Yet, despite such initiatives, this week's Eid al-Adha holidays, saw 727 cases of verbal and sexual harassment reported cases across Egypt, typically taking place in public gathering places such as malls, cinemas and beaches (Al Masrayalyoum, Monday, October 29, 2012), finally bringing Prime Minister Qandil to condemn sexual harassment on his facebook page, calling it a "catastrophe" that threatens society. Qandil acknowledged that the Cabinet is preparing a law to impose harsher penalties for sexual harassment. Moreover, President Morsy himself finally addressed the escalating problem, ordering his Interior Minister to investigate a rash of assaults that have taken place this Eid.
I am grateful for the men and women who took to the streets of Cairo and other governorates, in order to protect women from sexual harassment and to bring harassers to justice (by either spraying them with paint or by handing them over to the police). But then, an uneasy feeling sweeps over me as I ponder the ramifications of such initiatives and how they may splinter and interact with other aspects of Egyptian society. Can such initiatives metamorphose into some sort of "vigilante justice"?
"Vigilante justice" is rationalized by the idea that adequate legal mechanisms for criminal punishment are either nonexistent or insufficient. Vigilantes typically see government as ineffective in enforcing the law; and such individuals often presume to justify their actions as fulfillment of the wishes of the community" (Wikipedia). Is this not the case here with such anti-sexual-harassment initiatives? And why wouldn't other "volunteers" and initiatives start to use the very same rationale? Could a group of hardline salafis who call themselves "Al Amr b al-maarouf w al nahy aan al monkar" , loosely translated into "Giving righteous advice and prohibiting sinful behavior" begin to roam the streets of Egypt and apply what they believe is best for the Egyptian society in lieu of lax police presence?
Will such "activist initiatives" disappear once the police puts its foot down and laws are enforced? Will the Egyptian police accept "help" from volunteers in manning Egypt's streets? And if such voluntary presence on our streets is acceptable by the Interior Ministry, could it not open the door for future turmoil?
I am of the opinion that the anti-sexual-harassment initiatives are to be commended for pressuring the government and Interior Ministry into enforcing the law and slapping harsher sentences on harassers, but by the same token I am wary of citizens taking it upon themselves to enforce "the law" in an effort to protect "the people". It is here that the rule of law must reign supreme or else volunteer militias will spring up all over Egypt, each taking it upon itself to fulfill the wishes of "their community".
|Posted on January 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM||comments (13)|
A question keeps hounding me these days as the first anniversary of our January 25th Revolution draws ever so close..namely, "who's going to write about January 25th and its aftermath in our history textbooks?" How will this revolution go down in history and how will the next generations perceive the "facts"? What are the "facts" and who can claim to have a neutral take on what happened in Egypt, not only during the 18 days till the fall of Hosny Mubarak on February 11, 2011, but on the events of Mohamed Mahmoud street, Maspero and on People's Assembly clashes?
But, before I begin to panic that our history will be colored according to various political hues, or that whichever political party that is allotted the Ministry of Education will skew events according to its advantage, I am reminded of the fact that social media has become a de facto "big brother" breathing down everyone's neck..history is no longer recorded in newspapers and magazines, but has become an amalgamation of YouTube sound bites, Tweets, Blog posts and citizen journalism first-hand accounts, often accompanied with high resolution photography! So, who again, will write our history? And if we have several conflicting accounts of a particular event, who commands the one version that will go down in our students' history textbooks, as the most accurate, "unbiased" one?
And how does a people's Revolution get accurately and objectively depicted between differing forces of the Revolutionary Youth (not a homogeneous group by the way), who sparked the flames of January 25th and the Islamists who managed to garner 70% of parliamentary seats? The majority party, was won by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), securing a whopping 47% of seats all on its own! So, who will write our history? According to Wikipedia, history is "a field of research which uses a narrative to examine and analyze the sequence of events, sometimes attempts to investigate objectively the patterns of cause and effect that determine events". But is there such a thing as "objective history"?
When it comes to a Revolution like January 25th, a true people's Revolution, one without a leader to claim it as his own doing, could there not be more than one "valid" vantage point? What if the Muslim Brotherhood has one account of the events leading to January 25th, and its aftermath, whereas the Revolutionary Youth have another story to tell? And what if activists and citizen journalists recorded yet different accounts? Which vantage point is the neutral, objective one that will be presented to Egypt's students in schools?
At a delicate point in our modern history, there are opposing forces, some seeking to complete the January 25th Revolution whereas other forces are calling for "stability" and the reinstatement of the state's very essence, functions and aims. Oscillating within such a volatile time-frame, one which is characterized by a deep mistrust of authority, where institutionalized power is believed to be invariably exercised in the interest of those who wield it to exploit others, the question of ensuring factual recorded history becomes paramount...
So, who will write our history?
|Posted on October 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM||comments (12)|
Countless blog posts and articles have been written and pundits have analyzed the events that took place on Sunday evening as Copts marched from Shubra to Maspero on October 9th, 2011. But this march wasn't like the others that were held by Copts in Maspero since January 25th. This "Bloody Sunday" brought out all that has been lurking beneath the "Egyptian fabric", which is in my opinion, in desperate need for alterations. And it was about time that this fabric ripped itself apart in order to mend itself back again...only if we, as Egyptians, recognize the faults and diligently work to remedy them.
How many times since January 25th did we hear the famous chants of Tahrir Square "Muslim and Christian are one hand"??...and why do we so fiercely want to demonstrate that Muslims and Copts are living together happily ever after? Is it because in our "collective conscience" we recognize that there is a deep rift between them? When and how did this rift begin? I don't wish to delve into a historical analysis of events nor do I intend to recount figures and data. I prefer to speak of these changes from a purely socio-political point of view.
We must admit to the fact that the events of Maspero have revealed the ugly face of sectarianism in Egypt. Muslims and Copts are not "one hand". Muslims make up 90% of the Egyptian population and our personal ID's provide hard evidence of our religious affiliation. I personally believe that your religion is a personal and private matter, one that should not be made public so as not to deprive any individual of an equal opportunity or chance in life. Isn't that the essence of equality? Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian-born political theorist wrote in his "constitution of liberty" that equality of opportunity demands that "there are no artificial obstacles, such as birth, race or gender, standing in the way of people making the most of their natural gifts and achieving their full potential". Therefore, equality demands a level playing field.
When our personal ID's display our religious affiliation, that exemplifies a contravention in the essence of "equal opportunity" and "level playing field". Not only is religious affiliation mandatory as a required field in Egyptian personal ID's, but I recall stating my religion in my resume whenever I applied for a job! Why does my religion have to figure in my resume? Here I was thinking that getting a job was merely based on merits and job experience! Would my religion affect my salary? More importantly, would my religion affect my chances of being interviewed for the job in the first place? And the answer is "yes", whether we care to admit or not. In Egypt, your religious affiliation "matters".
This fact was blatantly evident on "Black Sunday"...after watching several Talk Shows and reels of video footage, I got the sense that some Muslim Egyptians felt offended that Copts would dare take to the streets and "demand their rights". How could a minority of 10% brazenly stop traffic and demand to be heard? But, it is their right, assuming that things will change after January 25th and that our "mentality" will evolve as well! Ladies and gentlemen, the most persistent anxiety that concerns me is the "tyranny of the majority"..."whereby the majority would abuse their position of power to trample underfoot the rights of minorities, vindicated by a system that seemed to legitimize the realization of their desires and aspirations" (Ben Dupre).
And if we are steadfast in our efforts to build a "new Egypt", one that is founded on equal opportunity, respect for human rights, and the empowerment of women, then we must come to terms with the fundamental term, "equality". It is a long road ahead...but there's no turning back now. Reversing decades of repression and contention will not be swift, but we also cannot afford to have cosmetic, rudimentary alterations to our "social fabric". The January 25th revolution demanded, "freedom and social justice". Martyrs died during January 25th Revolution... and others died on October 9th. They were all EQUALLY martyrs...they were all EGYPTIANS.
|Posted on June 7, 2011 at 5:33 AM||comments (10)|
When women are fearful of walking in Egypt's streets because of increasing rates of sexual harassment, physical assault and rape, then we have a very serious social and behavioral problem. I am not talking about a novel phenomenon that's taking shape post-revolution Egypt, nor am I speaking of increasing incidents that are due to lack of police forces. I am speaking about a fact of life that has existed way before the revolution, specifically around the mid-1980s, when I personally began to feel the weight of harassment and the limitations that it puts on freedom of movement....a basic tenet of The Declaration of Human Right, Article 13-(1).
Sexual harassment on the streets of Egypt is where I chose to begin my wider topic of "gender inequality" in Egypt. When women are judged by their clothes and appearance instead of being valued for their true moral and intellectual value, this gives me great cause for concern and disdain. In patriarchal societies, such as that plaguing Egypt and perhaps the entire MENA region, women are generally considered to be means of human reproduction where their primary, if not sole "raison d'etre", is to produce babies and to nurture their offspring. This is an extremely admirable objective. But, I am totally against this being the sole goal of a young girl's upbringing and her "cultural socialization" in Egypt.
UNICEF defines gender equality as "leveling the playing field for girls and women by ensuring that all children have equal opportunity to develop their talents". Do girls and boys have equal opportunities in developing their talents and skills? To illustrate my point, I ask you to listen to this personal account of a rural woman from Fayyoum: "Reading doesn't make a woman socially acceptable or useful", Nesma said. "Here, in the villages, we women grow up to marry and have children. That is our role in life. Anything else is a luxury". (Cairo, March 8, 2006, IRIN). IRIN, is a Service of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
What is even more noteworthy is the fact that according to the HDR (Human Development Report) for Egypt, 85% of female rural household heads are illiterate! This is a fact which has further social and health-related implications for these women and for the Egyptian rural social fabric. The fact that women in rural areas don't get the compulsory primary school education stipulated by Egyptian Law, allows parents to ignore even issuing the girls a Birth Certificate, which in turn means that the girls become invisible, i.e. "off the population and hence human rights radar". What does this mean for post-revolution Egypt? It means that a huge portion of eligible female voters will be essentially "kept in the dark" and denied their Constitutional and Human Right to vote. Moreover, even if females get registered for a National Identity Card, they will be easily manipulated for their votes. Therefore, the right to education is my first and foremost concern as it is the foundation for social progress on all levels.
Without proper education, women in Egypt will not become aware of their immensely vital and critical role in society post-January 25th. This new role for women is the real stimulus for pushing the wheel of economic, social and scientific progress forward and to bringing Egypt into the 21st century as a hub of economic development for the MENA region. An educated mother makes for a more controlled birth rate, lower prenatal death rates, better health indicators for mother and child, and an educated male and female population. In short, once a mother knows the path to self-determination that education brings, she will not obstruct or prevent her children from attaining the same rights...
Ladies and gentlemen, the path to gender equality is a long one...but once we conquer the stumbling block of denying girls their right to education, then we are over the hill and on our way...
|Posted on May 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM||comments (0)|
Egypt is definitely in a state of fluidity, fluctuation, exhaustion, unemployment, inflation...you name it, we have it. And yet, I get this feeling that keeps tugging at my heart that there is a sleeping tiger out there waiting to sprint to the finish line. That tiger will use everything and every means to win the trophy and be crowned "King". For the time being, that tiger is not striped with dense black lines, but is rather camouflaged, inconspicuous and laying low, wanting desperately to blend in as much as possible, until the opportune moment, when it will show its real colors....
You may have guessed the true identity of "the sleeping tiger". I would have much preferred the tale of "sleeping beauty", but I'll keep that notion in mind for another blogpost!! Yes, I am talking about the Muslim Brotherhood and their seeming nonchalance towards current controversial "hot-spots" in the political landscape in Egypt. Their every move is meticulously calculated, so as not to draw much public scrutiny or antagonism. When revolutionary youth went to protest in front of the Israeli embassy in Giza, the MB were mostly absent from the scene, claiming that trying to break into an embassy is against the law and is against Egypt's interests (of course breaking into an embassy is against the law). When youth decide to march on Gaza in a show of solidarity with their Palestinian brethren, the MB makes a disappearing act and claims that marching onto Gaza should not be a priority now as it could jeopardize Egypt's collective efforts to move forward on our own political and economic development. Tomorrow"s May 27th (Day of Rage") will also be boycotted by the MB. Is this a calculated break with the "revolutionary youth"?? Is the MB trying to take the moral high-ground and refraining from any act that would jeopardize its honeymoon with mainstream public opinion, not to mention the MB's appeasing stance with SCAF??
I am not saying that the MB's position is flawed or hypocritical, it is free to carve out its own position on matters, I am just saying that it is desperately trying not to "step on SCAF's toes"...because if the MB is my "sleeping tiger", then SCAF could be considered either my "wicked witch of the forest" or perhaps, as some surmise, SCAF may turn out to be "Little Red Riding Hood" who's completely naive and lost in the wilderness, but desperately trying to get to save the ailing grandmother who's on her death bed?? You take your pick depending on which side you're on and who you are really rooting for in this story of epic proportions... One thing is for sure now though, the Muslim Brotherhood will no longer be viewed as Robin Hood, who is fighting off the king and his men in order to give to the poor, justifying his means for his end....the MB has just inaugurated their first "overt headquarters" in Mokattum, boasting grandeur and "handsome interiors"....if anything, the MB is now flaunting its wealth whereas other new arrivals on the political scene are scrambling to make the cut...
If you ask me, I am still of the opinion that the largest and most powerful political party out there is the so-called "Sofa Party", or in twitter terminology, the #kanaba party...despite the number of leftist, liberal and Islamist parties that have colored our political landscape as of late, the vast majority of Egyptians have not yet joined a political party nor are they clear as to whether or not they even want to join a political party at all. And I am certain that as the parliamentary elections draw nearer, come September, this mighty "sleeping beauty" will wake up and have a decisive hand to deal in our parliamentary elections outcome. Which way will the wind blow?? Could the MB garner enough support to win 30-40% of parliamentary seats? In my opinion, that will depend on many factors:
1) How the media will portray the different political game-players; mainstream media will have a huge role to play here;
2) How the different political parties will campaign in governorates and rural areas; what do these parties have to offer to the disenfranchised and destitute workers, with the number of unemployed on the increase (700,000 unemployed in the last three months - Al-Ahram Daily, May 25th/2011)? i.e. what's their economic program?;
3) The potential success of newly formed parties in bringing the voices of their constituents to the those in executive and legislative positions...how much power do these newly formed parties "really" have vis-a-vis the MB's clout?
4) Could these new parties "displace" or even compete on the grassroots level with the MB in terms of providing services to the needy?? Civil society will have a mighty role to play here.
As the MB boycotts tomorrow's "Day of Rage", the latter may be a decisive day and a public "litmus test" in terms of the real popularity or support that the "revolutionary youth" have on the ground. Egypt and the entire world will be watching and listening to what the "revolutionary youth" will have to say out there. Who will listen? Who will heed the message coming out of Tahrir?? It's a big day for political pundits.....
|Posted on April 18, 2011 at 12:45 PM||comments (0)|
Yes! Egypt's January 25th Revolution was a dream that had to be realized after 30 years of Mubarak's corrupt, stifling and repressive regime!! Protesters in Tahrir Square as well as in many other governorates, notably Alexandria and Suez, came out in huge numbers and stood their ground, determined beyond a shadow of a doubt, that toppling the former president was both a necessity and an act of patriotism.
The Revolution was deemed "clean" and heroic by the international community, and we all felt proud of what the martyrs and "freedom fighters" in Tahrir and elsewhere all over Egypt had achieved for Egypt. We felt like one homogeneous entity, Muslim embracing Christian, the old feeling proud of the tech-savvy young, and men and women standing shoulder-to-shoulder in street protests. Slowly but surely, that homogeneous entity began to show cracks as different political factions and movements strode off in different directions, each striving to reap their own political gains. This didn't come as a surprise, it was expected. But, what I personally expect now from the coming government and president is a "Comprehensive Vision for Egypt". In this blog post, I want to discuss my aspirations and hopes for a new and democratic Egypt. This list is by no measure exhaustive, but it contains the areas that I find most pressing at this stage.
First, I want to see an extensive and intensive overhaul of the educational system, where curricula in both the public and private schools give students classes/courses in Human Rights Law, Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities as well as to increase the level of cultural exchanges with other countries. These countries need not only be Western cultures, but also Asian and Latin American cultures. The aim is to reinforce the importance of cultural, ethnic and religious tolerance. I also want to stress the importance of vocational training which is essential for economic development, sustainability, growth, and investment in Egypt. A well-trained and skilled labor force will make Egypt's industries capable of facing global competition. Needless to say, the Ministry of Education along with civil society NGO's and organizations et al must work relentlessly to reduce the percentage of illiteracy in the country.
Second, I want to see a complete overhaul of the health system in Egypt, with an increase in the number of hospitals, particularly in areas with high population density. Doctors need to get paid higher salaries and hospitals need skilled nursing/staff capabilities. I want to pay particular concern to Drug Rehabilitation facilities, where it is stated by Egypt's National Council for Fighting & Treating Addiction (NCFTA) that there are 6 million addicts in Egypt i.e. 8.5% of the Egyptian population, many of whom are between the ages of 15-25. The Egyptian media needs to have "Drug Awareness" campaigns, and to step up anti-smoking campaigns. By the same token, attention needs to be given to mentally-disabled children, adolescents and adults. The World Health Organization Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems (WHO-AIMS), reports that 5% of the training for medical doctors is devoted to Mental health in comparison to 10% for nurses.
Third, I want to see humane living conditions for the millions of Egyptians who are currently stacked like sardines in Cairo's slums!! It is reported that half of the entire Cairo population lives in slum locations i.e. approximately 10 million Egyptians!! It is out of this extreme poverty coupled with illiteracy and a poor educational system, that religious fanaticism is finding fertile breeding grounds. These slum-dwelling Cairenes as well as all the Egyptians dwelling in slum areas must be relocated to decent housing, with connections to the transportation grid, bus routes and metro subways. The government has to focus on housing as one of the main pillars of social and economic stability in Egypt, along with reforming the education system, and of course, raising the per capita income.
Last, but not least, I turn to Egypt's notorious transportation/traffic problem! Egypt's traffic congestion is killing us all slowly but surely, if not by pollution, then by frustration and rising blood pressure levels! The traffic routes will need to be re-designed, if Cairo is ever to attract foreign investment. I truly believe that no matter how many fly-overs or bridges there are in Cairo and in other congested governorates, the problem will persist if we do not branch out into uninhabited desert areas. Driving rules and regulations need to be completely overhauled, and these new strict rules must be adhered to, any contravention of these rules must be punishable in a court of law. Moreover, in a recent survey, Egypt was found to be the number one out of 35 countries, in terms of road accident deaths, with 156 deaths for each 100,000 vehicles!
There is so much more I could write about, but I think these areas of concern will suffice for this piece. The list is endless and the resources are indeed limited. Egypt needs its citizens to unite now more than ever to wipe clean the foundation of this country and to re-build it on fertile, solid ground. Re-building will not succeed unless Egyptians feel and believe that they now have a stake in making Egypt not only a success in its own right, but a role model for the entire Middle East. After decades of subservient foreign policies and a wishy-washy stand on many foreign policy issues, it is Egypt's chance to re-write its own chapter in modern history. No Egyptian is to be left out of this "New Middle East Order". After decades of living under a Pharoah's tenure, finally the rule of Law must reign supreme, and each and every one of us, must be equally held accountable under this Law...
|Posted on April 13, 2011 at 6:45 AM||comments (9)|
We all woke up to the news that former president Mubarak and his two sons were being detained for 15 days pending further investigations. Some people celebrated while others continue to question whether or not Mubarak will actually be given a prison sentence...such conflicting sentiments will continue and poliarization within the Egyptian community is bound to intensify as parliamentary elections loom closer...
What the Egyptian people should be focusing on now is how to ensure that the masses are educated enough to vote in September and I urge Egyptians to make thier views known by acting on them and joining a political party that best reflects their beliefs and convictions. I truly understand what 30 years of poltiical apathy has done to the Egyptian people, but I also know that the January 25th Revolution has done so much to reverse and jump-start our "electoral engines".
Many of us still live under an intangible fear that political activism could put us in trouble, but I believe that Egypt has indeed changed...it may not be the complete change yet that we all dream of, but for sure what Egypt has achieved in the past two months is a "freedom tsunami" that has shaken the very foundation of Egyptian contemporary politics. We may not yet realize it, but the fact that Mubarak and his sons are being put on trial is another earthquake that is sweeping across the entire region, let alone Egypt.
The fact that we have a "former president" who is facing trial is testament to the world that former presidents need not be killed or exiled anymore. Former presidents will be held accountable by their people in a court of law...that's the route to a democratic, civil state....
|Posted on April 12, 2011 at 12:40 PM||comments (0)|
News is circulating that former President, Hosni Mubarak, has been admitted into a Sharm El Sheikh hospital today??!! It is no news that Mubarak's health is in peril and that he is scrambling to find an exit from the political dilemma that he's in now. If it is proven that his health cannot withstand a criminal prosecution trial, then he will not stand one...
The only way Egypt is to move forward is for it to become a civilian state, whereby citizens are given EQUAL rights to defend themselves infront of a court of law. Even if Mubarak has committed heinous crimes against his own people, he has to be given the right to defend himself in court. Egyptian lawyers have shunned him, like he was a pariah (which he now is), and he is asking British lawyers to defend his case.
Egypt has a long time to go before it heals from Mubarak's crimes against humanity, where his cronies robbed Egypt of all its wealth and dignity, all the while stripping the people of their wealth and dignity. After all this is said, I still want to see him get a fair trial, so that the Law is upheld regardless of the defendant. So that the Law is supreme.