Monday, December 24, 2012

Rebuttal of Guardian's "Egypt: building on sand"

One of the few instances where I took the time to write a point by point rebuttal of a very flawed editorial published in the the Guardian. Lately their editorials have been terribly flawed and have ignored the reporting published in their own paper which is far more accurate and on point.

Egypt: building on sand

The irony of having won this particular constitutional battle is that Morsi has emerged from it with weaker powers

Not all founding fathers are as fondly remembered as America's. The three men who carved up the Soviet Union in Stalin's hunting lodge in Belovezhskaya forest are not today revered as scions of a new order.Egypt's constitution, which appeared to have been passed on Sunday by 64%, has also had a turbulent birth. The result itself came from a low turnout and there were claims of election fraud. The crisis started when Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, awarded himself the power to push through a draft that had not been agreed, prompting a stream of resignations.
That's not where the problem started, that's when it became evident. The problem started with the very important promises which Morsi made and broke, such as a new representative constituent assembly and a consensus constitution. He also sidelined all other political forces as well as a great many of his presidential team.
He said it was to stop the constitutional court from declaring the whole exercise null and void, but the judiciary revolted as a result. 
Is what he said enough to do away with very legitimate concerns about the decree? Furthermore it is not only the constituent assembly that he protected but Shura Council as well. He also appointed a biased General Prosecutor.  What did he have to say about all of this? 
Clashes between rival armed groups ensued :  
very inaccurate to describe it that way, but more importantly misleading 
up to 2 million Christians voted against the referendum and some leaders called for the president's removal. If this is a victory, it has been a costly one. 
Now if I knew nothing about Egypt, this would be a very strange way to express what happened after, for starters, which leaders asked for his removal? It was the people on the streets but 'leaders' had only asked him to rescind his declaration before negotiations. If there's something I'm missing about leadership and their calls let me know. Not to mention the 2 million votes from Christians implies that this constitution angered Christians. It could have been to indicate the split in that department but it is ambiguous, paints an incomplete picture and it's shallow. 
The revolutionary unity seen fleetingly in Tahrir Square has been shattered. 
How about the new unity found? What unity in Tahrir had been shattered? It was not a result of this declaration but two long years of splits between islamists and all other forces, if anything there was a new unity with people who hardly left their 'couch'.
Mr Morsi was accused of behaving like a military dictator, 
He was accused of behaving like a dictator, not particularly of the military sort, but having legislative  and executive powers and putting himself above judiciary oversight is just an accusation? Particularly that he would not back down and hadn't rescinded his decrees but only the 'declaration?
but the irony of having won this particular constitutional battle is that he has emerged from it with weaker powers. 
Morsi the poor martyr, the constitution gives him less powers, leaves him all alone without a vice president and without powers. Sarcasm aside, how is that an honest statement? The problem with Morsi is the control of a group over the country not just particularly himself, where in this editorial does it point to that real problem of the MB guidance council ruling instead of even just Morsi? It is also naive to think that appointments where he signs his name detracts power considering how much pressure he can apply through other powers he has through the constitution
Under the terms of the new constitution, he cannot interfere with any judicial appointment but only sign the names offered to him by the supreme judicial council. His legislative powers revert to the upper house of parliament, the Shura council, pending the elections of the lower house. This is loaded in favour of the Islamists and Mr Morsi will struggle to make it more representative even by nominating more members of the Coptic orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches to it, as he did on Sunday. But he has promised to put amendments to the controversial articles of the constitution to the first session of parliament, if agreement can be reached between the major political parties.
See previous statement about Shura council, the word struggle is true but not in the sense implied by this writer. The statement sounds as though he were not responsible for the situation we're all in. We've seen all the promises of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, they mean nothing. Also ignored is the fact  he could have called off the referendum but was more interested in getting passed in any way, breaking the promise of not putting it up for a public referendum without consensus, clearly there wasn't. People didn't even make it to 67% agreement which was the minimum for the constituent assembly, meaning that it wasn't representative, an important point while trying to make it out that Morsi is trying reach an agreement.
In his wish to speedily install a new order, Mr Morsi cut corners, at times dangerously. His emergency decree overriding all judicial oversight was cast much too wide. Verbal violence soon became physical after a tent encampment outside the presidential palace was broken up violently.  The opposition claimed they were beaten, detained and tortured. The Muslim Brotherhood insist they were shot at hours later. These scenes were a disaster for a president who has vowed to represent not just Islamist Egypt but all Egypt.
Who broke it up? Not mentioned, also the opposition claim and the MB insist, fine if you're going to take sides, but at least make it clear that Morsi's MB men called for this break up and their supporters actually executed it, meaning the president and his group were directly responsible, this article makes it out like these events just happened spontaneously. The scenes were prompted by political action, not just an accident like the train hitting the Assuit. This is an important distinction as it is affects the picture painted by this editorial. It's an opinion, but making the facts ambiguous to drive a point is either ignorant or dishonest.
The polarisation is not likely to lessen with these results.
To be fair that's the one thing in the entire piece that may not be misleading. 
Despite the low turnout, the Brotherhood will claim 64% as a decisive victory. Mr Morsi has seen his vote go up in some areas of the country that voted for his rival Mr Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential election. For the secularist and liberal opposition, and many outside observers, the most telling statistic was the low turnout. It means the grand foundational text of the new Egypt is only actively supported by about one in five of the electorate. The decision of Egypt's Coptic church to call for a no vote, 
The church asks their constituency to participate, unsure when they called for no, but even if they did, why is it not mentioned that they were not involved in writing the constitution pulling out after their input was ignored? It's not the duty of the writer to write all the facts, but those that are relevant an help. That aside, it doesn't make sense to single them out as calling for that no vote, even Abdel Monem Abol Fottouh called for it, along with numerous other forces in the country. This in relationship to the next line also seems to push forward the idea put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood that Christians are the main actors behind the opposition.
at a time when the imams held back, 
Factually not true, see Alexandria Mosque one week prior and see Imam who was transferred from his post because he refused to support the constitution, this is not just a biased opinion, it's a lie.
is a sign of deep tensions. After such a decision, it becomes easier to characterise the polarisation as a religious one. 
If the facts are untrue, the conclusion is flawed.
Such a result might add weight to the view that the conflict was not about an Islamist constitution, but about two very different visions of society: a defined identity-based project to see a more Islamised Egypt; and a more pluralist vision of a democracy, with multiple identities. But the problem is also a practical one. No one behaved as if they wanted to build a pluralist society. 
Add weight to the view, so flawed information which leads to a flawed conclusion is all to add weight to this idea? Also no one behaved as if they wanted a pluralist society? Liberals have long accepted Article 2 of the constitution? Saying 'no one' is a very weak argument.  When you say both sides are wrong, you're covering up for one of them, usually the stronger side. Other sides weren't given a chance. Also remember that El Baradie was inclusive about including the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian Association for change despite everything.
The art of compromise was not much in evidence. Mr Morsi started out with the intention of creating a broad tent involving minorities – but that approach also depended on the ability to keep everyone inside that tent. The last few months have made that increasingly difficult. The one hope is that this result encourages both side to fight the parliamentary elections.
What is he driving at? Honestly I just don't understand the reasoning, how does polarisation turn into hope through fighting for parliamentary elections. Why is there a message to move on about the constitution despite fraud  which the writer himself mentioned and more importantly no consensus? How can a society split up moved past a non consensus constitution with a low turn out and low percentage in favor at that?
President Morsi's task is now clear. 
Clear to who?
It is not to entrench the divide but to reach across it to all Egyptians, Christian or Muslim, secular or religious, liberal or conservative. 
The entire piece ignores Morsi's role in all this.He took measures to divide in the first place as if it were his task, so how is it clear that his task has now changed?
 Mr Morsi's will have only established a constitution worthy of the name when that happens. 
Has the writer even read the constitution? The constitution itself helps widen the gap, the Christians he wishes to bring closer were not consulted, the MB have issued statements accusing them of being at the protests and being behind all opposition and the No votes. This is on their official site. The writer can pretend that the constitution articles have nothing to do with it, this is something I can only disagree with and it would be unfair of me to put it in the category of inaccurate facts but rather laziness or poor reasoning. Overall, aside from the factual inaccuracies, unreasonable conclusions and the generally poor quality, this editorial paints a very inaccurate simplistic picture, awfully close to propaganda.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Rigged Constitution

Opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi hold pamphlets urging a "no vote" on a constitutional referendum as cars burn during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt on Friday. (AP)

So the referendum is obviously rigged, not only are Misr 25 channels announcing the results 3 hours before the polls close, all day there has been consistent reports of violations in favour of the ‘Yes’ vote. Non stamped papers, no anti-fraud ink, people not finding their names, people not being admitted inside the voting stations, judges not present, ballot stuffing, you name it. I won’t.

It’s not a surprise at all that this referendum is rigged. The amount of rigging is proportionate to the ‘No’ bias. These many violations and this much rigging indicate that there is a strong effort on the part of the regime to falsify the will of the people. I’ve always said that a regime that does not respect your life will not respect your vote. On December 5, 2012, Morsi the supposed president of Egypt sent his Muslim Brotherhood militia to disperse a peaceful sit-in and then attack protesters using firearms, teargas and he had them set up a torture camp to force confessions.

In light of such atrocious measures, one can only conclude that the regime is adamant about getting its way. They see the constitution as a way of attaining their goals. Whatever their goals are, their means doesn’t indicate that it is anything good.

Many foreign observers have been devoid of logic, unable to comprehend the referendum or the actions of a vicious regime that sent in vicious brainwashed supporters to uphold an illegitimate decree of an autocratic party. It seems that almost two years of revolution have taught them nothing. They will still make their inaccurate predictions and then claim that Egypt is unpredictable.

The answer to the referendum is a resounding ‘No’. Not just because of rigging, and not just because a majority of people have been alienated by Ikhwan’s autocratic policies. It’s because the constitution was not written by Egyptians, it was monopolized by one faction.

A rigged constitution does not go a long way. It is as fragile as the parliament rigged by Mubarak’s regime. That’s why parliament was first to go in the revolution. The regime knew it had no legitimacy despite its legality. This constitution is the same, the more forceful they are, the harder they will break. It is impossible now for Ikhwan to rule with stability. There is no reason why people should accept them in power, no saving grace. They are counting on intimidation and pushing forward a false legitimacy, but even Mubarak knew that you need to throw the dog a bone. Egyptians are not dogs anymore though, they are becoming fierce predators who will find a way to take down whoever gets between them and what they think is theirs.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Protecting Morsi's Legitimacy

When a democratically elected president ignores the will of the people and quickly takes measures to become a dictator, his legitimacy is abrogated. He himself has rejected democracy and the will of the people that chose him. Therefore, if he insists on rejecting democracy, it is well within people's rights to insist that they be heard or have him removed. They would be protecting legitimacy and democracy not turning against it.

Imagine Ahmed Shafik had issued that constitutional declaration to clean up the country and uphold the values of the revolution. Imagine he had sent in his thugs to disperse a sit-in and assault women. Imagine he had them use teargas, shotguns, pistols and possibly automatic weapons to prevent protesters from returning to their sit-in. Imagine his goons had sexually assaulted a woman they placed under arrest and tortured men before handing them over to the police. Imagine he had written a horribly flawed constitution that infringes on freedoms and cements military privileges in Egypt. Imagine he had honored Tantawi, Anan and Ganzouri and promised the army and police immunity. Imagine 50 school children were killed during his presidency in a train accident. Imagine he had threatened the entire nation that if they do not vote yes, they will have to live with his dictatorship. Imagine in his speeches he accused opposition of wreaking chaos and of being part of a foreign agenda. Imagine he had broken every promise and made new promises you were certain he was not going to keep. Imagine he had been praised by the US and done everything they needed to appease Israel. Imagine he was a puppet controlled by Mubarak or some other force behind him. Imagine he had the right to label whoever disagreed with him a traitor.

Would you still give him a chance to be your dictator? Would you trust him just because you believe him to be a good person? Close your eyes and really imagine, and then talk to me about protecting 'legitimacy'.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Muslim Brotherhood's Militias in Action: A Firsthand Account

The recent clashes at the Itihadiyya presidential palace leave little room for confusion. A day prior to these events, people took to the streets in Egypt’s largest cities to denounce the manner in which the Muslim Brotherhood-controlled presidency has been running the country. On Wednesday 5 December, everything changed. The Muslim Brotherhood reacted by calling on supporters of President Mohamed Morsi to march to the Itihadiyya palace, where an anti-Morsi sit-in was ongoing. Morsi’s supporters forced protesters out and destroyed their tents. A little past mid-afternoon all the demonstrators were kicked out and replaced by Morsi’s supporters.


In response, anti-Morsi protesters began moving back to the palace area in order to reestablish their sit-in. They started gathering in small numbers at the corner of al-Khalifa al-Ma’moun and El-Merghany Streets. On El-Merghany and stationed around the palace were Morsi’s supporters. Chants were exchanged between the two groups as they faced-off with no barriers separating them. Around 7:00 pm the first clashes took place. As anti-Morsi protesters marched in an attempt to retake the space wherein the sit-in had been forced out earlier, they chanted loudly, “the people want to bring down the regime.” This is when the first clashes began. The protesters that were charging ahead of me turned around and started stampeding a great distance to the back.

The retreat was unusual. In other protests people would run for a few seconds and then stop. This retreat covered far more distance. The usual calls of “ithbat” (Arabic for “stay put”), which are often yelled when protests experience attacks, did not seem to work. As I recovered from the run, I realized that the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters were very close. I saw a young protester shaking his head and telling me, “they are using shotguns.” Then it registered that the big bangs I had been hearing were gunshots.

Protesters tried to charge back using what they can of rocks and chanting “Jika” (an activist who was recently killed by security forces in protests around the ministry of interior) and it worked for a few seconds. But then we heard more shotgun rounds fired, and they continued to echo for a great portion of the night. Protesters controlled the intersection for a while, but then the Brotherhood’s supporters pushed them out even farther than last time. It was when we first heard the sounds of an automatic firearm that we were pushed back farthest.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters were attacking using rocks, shotguns, blanks, live ammunition, and teargas. Their push split the crowd into three main fronts, one on each side of three intersections, namely al-Khalifa al-Ma’moun Street, Mansheyet El Bakry Street and Roxy Square. Clashes continued in various places. I moved toward al-Khalifa Al-Ma’moun Street. The clashes continued on all fronts with Brotherhood supporters outnumbering protesters, showing signs of strong organization in their attacks, and possession of superior fire power. The Molotov cocktails prepared by anti-Morsi protesters to counter the weaponry used by Muslim Brotherhood supporters were highly ineffective.

This is not the first time that Brotherhood supporters have clashed with protesters. One clash had taken place when the Muslim Brotherhood members blocked protesters from the parliament area on 31 January 2012. There was also the time when the MB attacked Popular Current activists in Tahrir Square on 12 October 2012 after they chanted against Morsi. However this is the first time we have seen the Muslim Brotherhood resorting to firearms to attack civilians in an organized fashion. This degree of organization, along with the use of arms, makes these supporters akin to a militia that comes to the aide of the president whenever he is threatened politically.

Many protesters were injured with birdshot pellets. Human rights activists who had talked to doctors at Mansheyet El-Bakry hospital told me that two people had died by live bullets.

Taking a long route around to Roxy I saw that Central Security Forces (CSF) had blocked access to the intersection. Muslim Brotherhood supporters fought protesters on a side street on the Roxy front. CSF seemed to have protected Brotherhood supporters as they fought protesters on al-Khalifa al-Ma’moun Street and Mansheyet El Bakry.

After a while, the clashes were limited exclusively to El-Merghany Street near the presidential palace. An eyewitness who had been on the other side explained to me that as Muslim Brotherhood supporters pulled back, the CSF formed a line to protect them from protesters. When they had fully retreated, the CSF then went behind them. According to the eyewitness, rumors were spreading among the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters that the church had sent in people to fight them.

Meanwhile, teargas was fired at anti-Morsi protesters from behind the Brotherhood’s lines. The police were present on the Brotherhood side of the clashes, but not the other.

The show of force, the disregard to opposition and the people, and the strong insistence on monopolizing power are strong indications that Muslim Brotherhood leaders do not intend to lend their ear to anyone but their own.

Throughout the night the sound of live bullets, shotguns and fireworks (by protesters) were heard. Clashes continued late into the night.

First published in Jadaliyya on 5 December 2012

Update, all weapons fired were from Muslim Brotherhood

More links here 

Marian documents.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Morsi Runs the Gauntlet

There’s a scene at the end of Braveheart when William Wallace was being tortured to death. At the height of torture the executioner paused and tried to convince Wallace to pledge allegiance to the king so that he may die a quick death. He said, “It can all end, right now. Peace. Bliss. Just say it. Cry out mercy.”

Magistrate asks Wallace to cry for morsy
In pre-recorded televised interview, President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, made an offer to Egyptians similar to the one presented to Willam Wallace by the executioner. Morsi expressed he was not a dictator and that his absolute powers were temporary, will not be abused and that people should trust him. All you need to do is vote ‘yes’ to the constitution, and this nightmare of a constitutional declaration will all be over.

The constitutional declaration, in which Morsi gives himself dictatorial powers and immunized the Constituent Assembly,  aims to blackmail Egyptians into accept a flawed constitution that infringes on personal rights and cements military control over Egypt.

Despite the two month extension in the declaration for the Constituent Assembly to complete its work, the Constituent Assembly was to finish drafting the constitution in two days. This came after mass protests which the Muslim Brotherhood downplayed a la Mubarak regime.

The recent moves by Morsi, the FJP and the Muslim Brotherhood do nothing but muddle the current situation. Speculations arise over why these measures were taken and what happens next.

The constitutional declaration stated, “No judicial authority can dissolve the Constituent Assembly or the Shura Council.” However this does not mean that the constitutional court cannot rule on the constitutionality of the Constituent Assembly. The verdict is expected on 2 December. Morsi may have overlooked this loophole much like he underestimated people’s reaction to granting himself all powers unquestioned. If a verdict against the Constituent Assembly is delivered before its work is done, it would mean that the Constituent Assembly is unconstitutional but cannot be dissolved.

This race against time could mean that Morsi will call for a referendum on the drafted constitution before 2 December 2012 to pre-empt the court ruling. Talks about protesting this Saturday in Tahrir or elsewhere may well be a diversion. Another reason to rush and call for a referendum is to hamper street movement. The ballot box has been successful in November of last year to end mounting protests against the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and a referendum may produce similar results.

Judges may be an obstacle because of their strong opposition against the recent constitutional declaration and lead to a partial strike. However one possibility is that Morsi will bargain with judges and make concessions to the judiciary and perhaps retract parts of the constitutional declaration in return for monitoring the referendum. If they do not accept, the referendum could very well not be monitored.

It is important to note that the president’s absolute powers may continue even after the referendum. Morsi may use his powers to target and eliminate major opponents of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Ideally this can be done in the days between voting on the referendum and announcing the results. Once opposition is weakened, FJP can run in ‘free and fair’ elections and once again find ourselves in a perpetually oppressive state. In the unlikely case that people vote ‘No’ for the constitution, Morsi will retain his dictatorial powers and run the gauntlet once again.

The question remains whether such a scenario can be achieved. The way the constitution has been written does not reflect the aspirations of the Egyptian people. Many integral forces that represent Egypt are absent including the churches. Sentiments of resentment to the Brotherhood rule are deepening as Morsi’s rule has alienated a broad spectrum of Egyptian society. Protests can escalate to violence and nationwide strikes. But even if the Brotherhood manage to pull off this stunt despite huge opposition, the one thing that is certain is that this constitution will be a stillborn.

First published in Counterpunch on 30 November 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

RT Crosstalk - Morsi's Gambit

Protesting Dictatorship

Today’s marches were special. I joined the Shubra march which was the biggest march I’ve ever been to. I could not see the beginning or the end of it.  Surpassing January 28th? Perhaps, but that’s not the main issue. It has been ages since the protests have been that unified. We all denounce the constitutional declaration set forth by Morsi which gives him dictatorial powers over the nation. We will not agree what should happen next but we’re in agreement on what shouldn’t happen next.

Tahrir square 27 November 2012
The constitutional declaration is an insult to people’s intelligence. Morsi underestimated how people may forgive for a while but not forget. They were not swayed by retrials of former regime members, we’ve lived through two years of that and it was not fruitful. They were not swayed by promise to help martyrs’ families, the police were creating new ones with their brutality as he spoke those words.

This is the first time we’ve had mass marches in the evening. The square was full on a work day and people went to march right after work on a Tuesday. This is the first time we’ve welcomed some of the former regime supporters.

Having former regime supporters seemed like a cop-out to some, but it’s truly a triumph for the revolution. The former regime supporters, referred to as felool, have chosen the one way of protest they’ve most criticized. We organized the protests. We chant in the protests, we chant against Mubarak’s regime, we chant against the police thugs and we chant against Mohamed Morsi. This is our revolution; the same demands for a different tyrant.

Supporters of the former regime are called felool but that is not an accurate description. They are felool supporters because they support the symbols of the old regime. The fact of the matter is that those who support injustices have been called felool and so by that rationale, Morsi supporters are the new felool.

We have called on justice for all Egyptians, the former regime supporters are part of the nation. We must lead with our ideals as we have always done. We must draw them nearer to us. They must understand that we do not deserve to be tortured in police stations, or killed during protests. They must understand that our way of protesting and clinging on to calls for justice is what they must embrace.

Their beloved army and police won’t help them with this. They need to learn how to stand up together with us for what’s right. Our numbers are great now and it’s no sin to change your mind. They have changed theirs. Even the bystanders on the sides of the street using their cell phones to record our protests, they are supporting us now instead of cursing us like they used to.

Things are turning around a little, we are uniting. The Brotherhood is lying frantically trying to spin things around, but we are not fooled. Protesters were overjoyed at finding one another, finding that many people who share their rejection or a fascist state.

Morsi’s attempts at destroying the revolution are not without resistance. The revolutionary demands have been bread, freedom and social justice. Prices are soaring, freedom is being constrained by the constitution being written and by his dictatorial power grab and at the same time social justice cannot be achieved with neo liberal policies that mirror his predecessor. The IMF loan conditions will not benefit the poor. The revolution called for democracy and power sharing. How can dictatorship be interpreted as democracy even if it is just temporary?

Part of the reason we protested against Mubarak was because of having too much power. Those supporting Morsi are the new felool .They are supporting the making of tyrant. Ikhwan members have no opinion of their own, they're brought up in a culture of blind obedience. They went out to support Morsi's decisions before they even knew what they were. We on the other hand are free.

A good portion of those protesting Morsi today gave him their votes and were willing to give him a chance provided he fulfilled his promises. He broke all of his promises and has shown no willingness to share power.  He hasn’t even considered backing down despite the overwhelming objections to his decrees.

Morsi is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood who takes all the decisions for him, with al-Shater's leadership. We don't have an independent president who can take a decision as to what's best for his people. He has called on the Brotherhood to support his decisions because he could not trust people to support such a dictatorial power grab.

We will continue to protest tyranny and dictatorship. We cannot trust the intentions or those unwilling to listen or compromise. A man who is willing to declare himself a temporary dictator will be willing to declare himself a permanent one.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Police Brutality Under Morsi

This is a strong drive from the police and once again they engage in brutality. I was present at the time on Sheikh Rihan, perpendicular to Kasr Al Ainy where the main attack took place. They fired a few tear gas canisters down that road in the direction of the church where a makeshift hospital has been set up.

The problem is that brutality has been so ingrained within police mentality and there is nothing being done to address this. We do not know why police charged. They persist to be brutal and that is the manner in which  Morsi wants them to remain. More and more evidence that the replacement of the general prosecutor was not reform but a move to help eliminate enemies of the state, Morsi's state or to be more accurate, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Attacks continue outside Omar Makram Mosque

Notice how one of theirs is in civilian clothes and has a gun

Egypt Independent reports on photo journalist being brutalized by police.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Morsi’s Decrees Leave No Room for Confusion

Morsi's decrees are not confusing at all. It's a power grab and any suggestion they’re to fix corruption is ill informed. Here's why. With all these powers, Morsi could have stopped police brutality on Mohmamed Mahmoud instantly and yet continues to push the rhetoric that the protesters there are hired thugs. Even if he believed that to be true, police needs reform and that is the one thing everyone is certain of. The absence of police reform indicates taking over the police in its current form which serves corrupt political leadership irrespective of the law.

The same holds true for judiciary reform, because even with the general prosecutor changed, it does not guarantee that judiciary will be fair or independent. Many of the verdicts will continue to be politically driven but more likely to benefit the current regime. Bear in mind that the new public prosecutor is related to Ahmed Mekky, the minister of justice who has already shown bias towards the Brotherhood’s plans of maintaining the status quo.

The general prosecutor himself being hired by the president will be loyal to the president, and if he is not, he can face charges as soon as the president replaces him. Removing the corrupt Abdel Meguid Mahmoud removed a corrupt man and entrenched a corrupt system.

Reality is that the fixing corruption is an excuse for those who do not want to believe that Morsi granting himself absolute powers is the first step of a complete takeover of the state. The most evident sign will be never putting Tantawi or Anan on real trial.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Injustice Prevails: Why the Mohamed Mahmoud Clashes Continue

Two days ago, protesters took to the street commemorating the anniversary of the 2011 Mohamed Mahmoud Clashes, one of the bloodiest confrontations with the police in Egypt’s transitional phase, leaving over 50 dead. Today, Mohamed Mahmoud Street looks almost the same as it did exactly one year ago, with similar altercations taking place. Protesters are clashing again with police in downtown Cairo due to a long history of injustice. The police are thugs in uniform and nothing has been done to reform the police, despite claims to the contrary.
The Central Security Forces (CSF) uniform is associated with criminal activities. At the same time, the president and the prime minister are sending clear messages to the police, the military and to us that those in uniform can act with impunity and they won't be brought to justice. This is a monumental confession from those responsible for upholding the law, and that's why it makes no bit of difference if we wait for parliament, the constitution or Godot, because those who are supposed to uphold the law have promised criminals they won't be brought to justice. At a time when injustice prevails, everything turns upside down. Islamists who once sounded like revolutionaries sound like feloul1  today, and feloul who were once reactionary sound like revolutionaries. Not only do Islamists sound like Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), they say the exact same things with the exact same reasoning.
One example is someone who protested against Mubarak but had this to say about the clashes in Mohamed Mahmoud: “Frankly, I won't be sympathetic with anyone who is killed while attacking police forces around the Ministry of Interior.”
Other than not being sympathetic to victims of needless police violence, one need only look at a map of downtown Cairo to understand that the clashes are not in the vicinity of the Ministry of Interior. But it is pointless explaining because that’s exactly what we told Mubarak’s supporters when they accused protesters of trying to storm the Ministry of Interior.
Others argue what is the point? What is there to be achieved from these clashes? There are no clear demands. Simply put, the clashes are a response to injustice and a way for people to deal with loss. That aside, the argument fails on another level. There was little point in reaching Tahrir on 25 January other than exercising our freedom. There was little point in taking down the police on 28 January other than protesting their brutality. People have expressed their sentiments without particular goals. That Mubarak stepped down is all well and good, but it wasn’t a result of planning, strategy or clear demands. The revolution never found justice and never found leadership. The arm chair pundits criticizing the clashes and people’s reactions don’t have a plan, not one that people want to follow anyway.
Clashes with the police must always be put into context. The Egyptian army killed Egyptians and betrayed their pledge to protect them and the constitution. The police betrayed their oath to uphold the law. Even with their uniforms, the police can be considered a criminal organization because they do not adhere to  the rule of law.
There is an argument that not all cops have broken the law and so they can’t all be held accountable for the mistakes of their fellow officers,  but it is senseless because they have not done their duty of bringing their criminal colleagues to justice. The same goes for the army. Those who have done nothing to prevent their fellow officers from killing Egyptians also broke their pledge. The argument of innocence does not hold particularly for the police and the army.
Understanding that the police and the army are complicit either through direct criminal offenses or inaction and dereliction of duties, the clashes make sense. In light of clear message by officials that they have no intention to reform the security sector, but rather are calling for a return to draconian laws, protesters  are vindicated when they conclude that an attack on them is justified.
Perhaps that sounds extreme. Perhaps what I’ve witnessed of injustices has lead me to this conclusion, but if you examine the situation closely without the dogmatic notions about the police and government, you’ll realize that we’re in a situation akin to occupation. The police falls far off the mark from what it should be and so does the government. Our situation is extreme, not this conclusion.  We are treated as expendable because we are not in uniform, because we don’t possess the guns, because we cannot give orders to those with the uniforms and the guns.
Is it at all logical to respect lawless tyrants just because they are in uniform? Just because an oppressive government tells you to? To me it isn’t logical and yet people do it every day.  Some are unable to accept that the world is a jungle and that they’re imprisoned. Some are unable to accept they’re worth nothing to their rulers. Some are unable to accept that those they support would allow this to happen.
The most important fact in all of this is that injustice prevails. Uniformed men are constantly promised impunity. We’ve seen reconciliations with thieves, while revolutionaries thrown in prison. We’ve seen friends fall and die, and their murderers promoted. We’ve seen the dead called thugs by opportunistic political forces as they honor the military commanders who ordered the massacres. I cannot blame someone who lost a friend, a brother, a father, for going up against them. I cannot blame someone who is moved by these injustices.  We’ve been patient long enough to know that justice in Egypt does not come through the courts or judiciary. We still don’t know what it takes to bring about justice and that’s why protesters clash, and that’s why they’ll continue to clash.
First published on EgyptSource on November 21, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Lawless Night

On the way home late at at night, we saw a man being brutally beaten, tortured and humiliated in plain view by another. This was one night ago late Friday night or the early hours of Saturday. It was on  Tahrir street, right next to the Misr petrol station off Galaa square. It was right near the Sheraton and opposite Faisal Islamic Bank.

Regime Accessories - Graffiti in Zamalek
I was walking home with my friends from Zamalek to my house when we saw a man, his hands disproportionately larger than his body, with a knife in his hand corner another man against a wall and pound on him with the back of the knife, beat him and humiliate him. The scene was surreal, in the middle of a main street, right next to a busy gas station late at night, in plain view of the bank guards opposite the street.

My friends wanted to interfere. I didn’t know what it was about and so I thought I’d try finding some policemen. I knew that one of the ministers of interior that have served lived around the corner, so I went to the entrance. It wasn’t as full of police personnel, I think it’s because he was no longer serving, nevertheless, I saw a man with a machine gun at the gate and I asked him, “Isn’t this where the minister of interior lives?”

He said, “What is it?”

I said, “Two guys are fighting on the street around the corner, and one of them has a knife.”

He said, “So what, there are 90 million people in Egypt, so what if they’re fighting?”

I said, “So you won’t send someone round?”

He replied, “Dokki police station is right over there, you should go report it to them.”

I said, “I guess they’ll be just like you and probably won’t do anything.”

As I started to leave, I turned to him and said, “All that matters is that the pacha up there is doing okay and is well protected.”

We left back to the street and saw that the scene hadn’t changed. No police car had passed by, and people around the fighting men were sitting idly. I called 122, the police, knowing full well they would do nothing. I told them I had been to the house of the ex minister of interior and they told me they’d do nothing, and I told him I know them on the phone I knew they wouldn’t send anyone out but I reported the situation. He asked for my name and asked if this was my number, and I said yes.

We waited and watched and filmed a little and then I decided that the police station was just a minute’s walk away and that it would be better to tell someone than not at all.

I walked with my friends and explained the situation at the gate. “There are two men fighting on the street right next to the gas station, actually it’s one of them beating the other up and he’s armed.”

“Do you mean the two scruffy looking guys?” one of them said.

I said, “Yes.”

“You should go in take a left and then go down the stairs,” he said.

“What for? I know that no one will do anything about it,” I responded.

Another one laughed and said, “This man is being very honest, he knows what he’s talking about.”

I responded and said, “That’s right, if this was someone in government or someone who owned a factory you’d be moving to serve them. You only serve power.”

A third looked at me and said, “What you talking to me for?”

I pointed to his car and said, “Look, you have a patrol car.”

He said, “But this is not my block.”

I turned away frustrated and walked back to the main street. Still that man was beating the other, doing some kicks and pretty much humiliating him.

Just as I was about to forget about it, I thought I’d do all I can do and go in and report it inside the police station as advised. I walked in and found the young men in their white shiny uniforms. I said that I had reported this before and I explained the situation. They wanted to send me off but then decided that someone was already on their way.

Shami who was with me said, “The man could be dead by now.”

The officers smiled and said, “Don’t worry. Even if he dies, we’re the ones that will have to clean up after. We’ll get them.”

Shami, Tariq and I were surprised by the answer. But was I really? People meant nothing to them.

“But if one of you goes there, you’d be able to solve it straight away, it’s just outside the station.”

“Our duty is not to leave the station, don’t worry, someone is on his way already.”

So we left the police station. As we walked past we contemplated whether we should interfere or not. As we walked of Tarek said, “We should have told them that two people were kissing on the street, maybe then they would have moved.”

We laughed for a few seconds and then realized how sad it was he was right.

I was sickened, but I realized I wasn’t sickened by that one man beating down on the other. I was sickened by the other thugs in uniform who beat down on those that opposed the ruling gang but would not move to save an ordinary citizen’s life. We should have got rid of all those police thugs when we had the chance.

Video shot by Mohamed El Shami

Sunday, November 04, 2012

She Taught Me to Love the Moon

She taught me to love the moon. Every time I look up to the sky and admire its beauty I think of her. But how can I enjoy such beauty on my own? The moon was beautiful because of her. I urge myself not to contact her in attempts to share the beauty. What good will it do to try and share it with her if she doesn't want to anymore. No, I cannot share this happiness and beauty and in a way it ceases to be happiness and beauty.

The beautiful sky outside the city with beautiful formations in the morning clears up at night to paint the night sky with stars. I look up and see the moon shining upon the water and sand, I see each star and feel I’m in a painting. I want her to be here, but  that’s not possible and even if she were here, she wouldn't be. If only you could be here for this beauty, but would you find it beautiful too with me now? She has decided to share the beauty with someone else. I will not be the one she wants to point this too as she smiles and sighs.

I open my eyes wider to observe the scene around me. The simple huts and the hammocks around, all immersed in a dark blue color that I have not seen in any painting or photo. I want to capture it but I know others have tried and the paintings and photos do not do it justice. The sea and the sky melt into one dark blue color as soon as the distant land and ships disappear. I cannot capture this image with its deep colors flooding my eyes and that’s why I open them wide, to take the moment in, knowing it is fleeting, just like my time with her. On many nights I did not take it in, and that is what I regret, but I’m grateful that before it was over I enjoyed the moments and took them all in, knowing that they cannot be captured, only remembered.

The moon’s reflection on the surface of the water captivates me. This giant beacon of light overshadowing all other lights changes the color of the water making it look like a pathway to a magical land. The scene looks like a movie set. No. Better than a movie set, all the magic without anything false about it. The water looks as though one could walk on it.

Attempt to capture the moon's reflection on the water

She is the moon reflected on the surface of the water, but the part of the water upon which the moon’s rays are reflected shift depending on where you’re standing on the shore.

Still I cannot but look at nature and think of her. The beauty around me seems incomplete. But that person I want to share it with is not there anymore. There was something real about the whole thing, but it’s not there anymore. Just like a shooting star in the sky, momentary and passing yet beautiful for the brief seconds it may last. There’s no point running to where the shooting star fell or looking for it. It was just like the waves. She was the sea and our time together was like the waves that hit the shore to form a splendid sound, but then the waves were there no more even though the sea remained. She is still there but our waves are not, and I look upon my sea and remember my waves. The sea still moves me because for a brief moment the waves were mine.

Sometimes I want to send these thoughts and more to my waves, the moon’s reflection on the water, but I keep them to myself. I would be sending them to a place worse than nowhere. I would be sending them out to the sea, but they would never find her. It is a sea that I thought was mine but never really was.

The waves are gone and yet every time I look upon the sea I long for them. I must move on and come to terms that there will be no more waves for me, no more waves for me.

She taught me to love the moon; that I cannot unlearn. I have lost the waves, the shooting stars and even the sea, but I’ll always have the moon.  Sometimes I  long for her and sometimes I see her before my eyes but she’s not truly there. I close my eyes then search for the moon. I am comforted when I look upon it for that is the love I have left. But difficult are the days when the moon does not shine across the skies.

Listen to me in the background

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Felool Rhetoric Must End

On October 19, in a march entitled, “Egypt for all Egyptians” one of the men leading the calls interrupted his own chant saying, “We heard that some Felool are joining this day, we declare that they are not welcome and have no place among us.”

Felool is a term which was coined early on in the revolution, used in reference to the corrupt political remnants of the former regime, led by the National Democratic Party (NDP). It has since evolved to include sympathizers of public figures associated with the Mubarak era, including Ahmed Shafik and the military. Old regime figures have struggled to find their place after Mubarak stepped down, and for almost two years now, our fight has been to prevent them from reintegrating them into Egypt's politics.
But when I heard the announcement that they were not welcome at a mass protest, it struck me as off-target. Not only was it apologetic and unnecessary, but looking back at recent events, it wasn't ‘Felool’ who were working against the interests of the Egyptian people by promising to lift subsidies.It wasn’t Felool who sanctioned the arrests and imprisonment of numerous people for the preposterous charge of ‘defaming religion’ - including two children aged nine and ten . It wasn't Felool who responded to chants with violence just a week prior. In fact, many of them have been absent in every way except for the continued rhetoric of blame used in daily discourse, and more notably, in the news about attempts by the current regime to reintegrate them into political life or the ailing economy. That enemy no longer exists or rather has no clout. 
Later that day, reports emerged that Amr Moussa’s political party, al-Motamar, was attacked by protesters, among them members of the April 6 movement. This was an unnecessary attack, particularly since Amr Moussa’s run for presidency did not gain the support of the Felool, who could have used their finances to leverage his candidacy. From a revolutionary perspective, the Felool rhetoric should have ended as soon as Morsi came into office, or at the very latest when Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan were side-lined. 
Meanwhile, the current regime is determined to extend the offer to reconcile with corrupt figures, a move initiated by the interim Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF). Those who have committed crimes are granted amnesty with many of them honored. The same oppressive measures are still in place, if not arguably worse. People continue to be targeted and imprisoned for their opinions, and conditions for oligarchy and dictatorship are being entrenched in the new constitution currently being drafted. It therefore makes no sense to separate Felool from the current regime. After all, people rejected the old regime for the injustice it propagated rather than individuals who helped carry out the vision. 
That is not to say that what Felool stand for need not be fought vehemently. The police state continues to act with impunity and military personnel who have committed heinous crimes remain not only large, but are protected by Egypt’s current president Mohammed Morsi. Whether oppression is done in the n­ame of secular neoliberalism or under religious pretense, it should not detract us from the underlying reality.
True remnants of the old regime are still in existence in the form of an unreformed oppressive police force, a complicit army and numerous corrupt institutions. However, using a word like Felool to separate these institutions from the Muslim Brotherhood can be counter-productive, particularly that they are now in power.Felool may have been complicit in a corrupt system set up some time ago and have been working within its framework but today, those in power are constructing a new framework, eerily similar to its predecessor. This makes them more accountable and condemnable than their NDP counterparts particularly after people revolted against that form of rule. The Muslim Brotherhood's political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and its president seem to be attempting to take over the corrupt institutions set up by the former regime to their advantage rather than reform them. The most recent example is the attempt to replace the General Prosecutor rather than work on legislation to guarantee true judiciary reform.
The fundamental issue with the use of the word Felool is that it detracts from the real fight and the real enemy. The anger directed towards them is more emotional, and does nothing to address genuine risks. There’s a fictitious enemy called Felool that does not truly exist. This fictional existence serves only to protect those in power, just as it protected SCAF from being associated with the Mubarak regime of which they were a part . In continuing to use the term Felool we are deceiving ourselves as to who the real enemy is. Such a term can initiate a witch hunt but we’ll always end up fighting windmills.
First published in Atlantic Council on October 30 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Today?

Why today? Of all the days. My eyes are tearing up. I remembered, that's all. I watched the Kazeboon video about Maspero. But it's not the video, it's my memory. It's my realization of the injustice that surrounds me and my inability to overcome it. The only thing I have is to fight, and either prevail sometimes or go down fighting.

Mina Danial
Some tell me that I'll lose, but what choice do I have? Pretend that it's not happening? Pretend that giving a chance to traitors to our cause will bring about the justice we've been fighting for? What proof do I have that justice is attainable through the unjust. I won't put my fight on hold till they prove to be tyrants like the predecessors they pardoned and granted safe exit.

I am unable to fool myself, I know what happened and revisionists are unable to put my mind at ease. I have seen death, I have seen injustice. I have seen opportunists and I have seen those defaming their religion by preaching it. I have seen those insulting their religion by attacking those insulting it. I have seen those sworn to protect us kill us. I have seen the awakening of a people pacified by reformists who want to reform the system so that it serves them instead of its old masters.

How can I move on before we are ready to move on. How can I move on before I see a means to achieving justice. Why am I being told by the blind to follow the blind. I can see and so would they if they open their eyes. How can I accept this? How can I pretend?

Football fans murdered, copts run over, young protesters shot, innocent bystanders brutalized, sons and daughters disposed in the river, parents taken from their children and many more... and you ask me to accept and move on... I can't even if I want to.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Remembering the Maspero Massacre

They're not here anymore, those who marched peacefully a year ago towards Maspero to be murdered by their government and their people. Those who marched to bring their cause to national television are not with us anymore. The media they sought to make their plight turned against them and accused them of murder and incited citizens to kill them. They were shot by their government and trampled on by their military's APCs.  That’s how they died but that’s not what killed them.

Egyptian Christian woman mourns at the Coptic Hospital in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/ Reuters)

As a society we have failed them, every one of us collectively, even the innocent of us. We allowed our society’s illness to reach to the point of state sponsored mass murder. I know that many of those who belong to this society can look in the mirror and say it doesn’t apply to me because I never discriminated and I never murdered and I never hated. But failure is not condemnation or blame in this context, it is a result.

Whatever it was we had to do to prevent such a disaster, we did not do. We simply failed. Maybe we didn’t do enough, maybe we’re not strong enough, maybe we’re too blind and filled with the illness ourselves, maybe we’re the cold blooded murders sitting in their air conditioned offices giving the orders. Whatever we did or didn’t do, we bear a responsibility and we bear the failure.

Everyone has failed those who died. Everyone but those who went as far as they possibly could to protest this murder. It seems to me those who were killed have marched on that fatal day to protest not just the mistreatment of those before them but of their own murder. People marching against discrimination were trampled on by discrimination. They’re not here anymore.

I think they drove a point that day, too painful for many of us to confront at times. Was it just one point?

Was it just that hatred runs deep in our society or was it more? Was it that we're still ruled by a regime willing to run over its citizens and anyone who gets in their way. Was it that deep down inside a large cross-section of society truly despises the other, that we're not free to believe in whatever
unprovable ideas we choose? Was it that everyone must subscribe to one set of  improvable ideas approved by those who control us? That our sentiments are dangerous enough to kill?

Last year, I was away on business. In trying to find out what was happening I found that Copts were run over by the army's APCs and shot from an elevated position by cold metal bullets which have as ample feelings as those who issued the command. I went mad; mad from my own impotence, my distance. I collected all the links that reflect the events of the night, the facts, the truth, but none of the links had the most important truth- that it's our ideas and beliefs that can kill or get us killed. There were no links to displays the deep rooted hatred in the hearts of men and their primitive tribalism. There were no links to show that we are viewed as slaves who must toil and suffer so that presidents, generals and businessmen get richer. There were not enough links, not enough links.

This year, I ponder over last year's events from a distance. The truth still largely obscured as churches are destroyed and copts evicted from their homes. The reality of our decline ever more present as 9 year old children are arrested for insulting religion. Can they not see who is truly insulting religion?

The regime might be a tumor we can remove but our own biases and judgements are a cancer. I see today what I saw back then. The same biases and hatred run deep and we’re not doing enough to stop it. We are killing ourselves.

Most of us are responsible even though not everyone can be blamed.

Morsi released 1500 protesters not just because his 100 days are over and he has nothing to show for but to divert attention from the fatal failing of a regime he is supposed to lead. The failing is reflected in the one year memorial of a massacre. One year on and we have not altered our path. The real murders still free, some promoted and some retired honorably. Morsi pledged in his speeches that they wouldn't not be touched, but his supporters are too adamant to listen to what his words actually mean. They mean that the current state of affairs will be maintained. That hatred and impunity will rule, that soldiers and officers can be free to run us over and that injustices to minorities will prevail.

Those in positions of power have not only insulted religions but insulted our humanity. What justice has been served? What message have we been told? We will be trampled on if we ask for justice. But it is better to be trampled on  by this cruel world or to exist without doing anything to stop its injustice?