Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Plot to kill ministers and high NDP officials

In a London court, the case against the renowned London-based Egyptian engineer Mamdouh Hamza is tried for allegdly having made an attempt to hire a professsional hitman. In the contacts with the would be assassins, whom turned out to be brittish undercover police , Hamza stated that he wanted Egyptian minister of housing and development, Muhammad Ibrahim Solaiman killed. Hamza saw him as his arch-rival, blocking his way to the primeministership, his Egyptian projects and his possibilities to get Egyptian awards for his work. He wanted the killing to look as one in a series of assassinations on political figures and for that purpose, three other NDP heavyweights should also be killed. those where the speaker of the Egyptian parliament, Fathi Souror the minister for parliamentary affairs ,and assistant Secretary General of the NDP Kamal al Shazli and Zakaria Azmi, head of the President´s office.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dr Usama al Baz in Stockholm

I attended this lecture at the Swedish Institute of Foreign Affairs this morning. It´s interesting that Stephen Brown is focusing on domestic politics in his article, while Dr Usama al Baz focused mainly on different theater´s of conflict in the middle east. He started out telling us that he attended the 10th anniversary of the murder on the late prime minister Rabin in Tel Aviv. He said that the Israeli political scene had changed totally , and that everybody, both Israeli politicians and their palestian counterparts was optimistic in the short term. al Baz himself was extremly optimistic in terms of a peace agreement. He stated that in two years time we will have peace.
Then he spoke about Iraq, also in very optimistic words. But it was clear that the Egyptian govenment have a strong ambivalence towards the shiíte religious political groups, and in particular the Iranian influence in this regard. Egypt is not alone in this respect. King Abdullah of Jordan for instance, has spoken of a Shiíte crescent in the region.
Syrian-lebanesse relations was also touched upon. Dr al Baz claimed that the relationship between Syria and Lebanon was very close, and that a few Syrian elements may had oversteped their limits in the Hariri case. A soundbite worth mentionining is ¨France is like Mecca for the Lebanesse¨

Then he spoke about Iran, praising the former Iranian President Khatami as a philosopher and truly enlighgtened man, al Baz was making a comparison to Spain(Andalus) in regard to Khatami. Contrasting the words on Khatami was the sentence about the newly elected president Ahmedinejad ,who in Dr Usamas eloquent way of putting it, was ¨a man from the masses, he will give al Baradei and his team in Vienna a hard time¨.
He was not particularly fond of the neocons, especially not vice-president Richard Cheney who he claimed ¨is running the show¨ answering a question from the chairman of the seminar, Mr Anders Hellner, if the USA´s aim in Iraq was regime change, and indeed regime change in a number of countries to introduce democracy? Dr al Baz answered that ¨the arab people didn´t want democracy from outside¨

And that we are(Egyptian goverment) ¨more responsive to our people, more democratization¨ The next sententence was interesting. ¨Egypt was not a dictatorship(before) , but a strong bureaucracy and then he actually made a reference to the famous statue of the scribe at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

On the ongoing parliamentary elections ¨The government can not rigg the elections, because of the jugdes¨ and ¨Some people of the Muslim Brotherhood won seats¨(i love the way he used ¨some¨)

We don´t want to mix religion with politics(Wintage Sadat) because of the special situation in Egypt, with 9 million christians(I never heard any official in Egypt claiming such a high figure).

One of the interesting comments was that the Muslim Brotherhood will never be ¨The Muslim Brotherhood party, because the constitution do not permit parties to be created and based on religion, while this is the standard response of every government official , it is the opposite of what Dr Issam al Iryan has stated during the elections, that if the MB gets more than 70 seats, they will apply for a party licence . To my knowledge the Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef has not commited himself to this idea as of yet, but if this will be the official policy of the MB, then there is bound to be more trouble down the road ,between the Ikhwan and the state.

This is just a little bit of what Dr Usamah al Baz talked about, read the reuters article, it´s focused more on domestic politis, than his lecture was. Which in my view was disappointing.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Don´t bomb us

Some journalists at the al Jazeera headquarters in Doha started a new blogg the other day. It´s in response to the daily mirror article about Bush allegdly wanted to bomb the flagship of the arab satelite revolution. I doubt this story, first of all because, the daily mirror is not known for it´s superb quaility journalism and second because every sane person working within the administration could easily see the ramifications of such an act, so it would never have come up at the summit, if this was a topic up for discussion at any level within the white house or at the pentagon or state department, then it would not have gone any further. But i´m dying to see the memo anyhow!

I´ve added the blog in my links section.

Go check out the blog!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hakim in concert

Last saturday night , the king of Shaábi music came to Stockholm for a concert. I missed him the first time he was in Stockholm(i was in Egypt), so naturally i wanted to be there. He had a concert in Oslo the night before, and was not feeling well, so my expectations were not high. The concert venue was not sold out, another discouraging factor. Then the band entred the stage casually late, or right on time according to rock tradition, and suddenly he sneaked in on us, and bang Salamu Aleikum! One of the strongest openings of a concert that i´ve ever experienced. When the intro to Ifred masalan begins as song number three, Hakim starts directing the crowd, hé´ says ¨Make them feel it´s an arabic party¨ The crowd responds and it´s one of the most intense sequences during the night. I myself was very confused by his choice of playing, what´s in my view is his best song so early. I was hoping for a crescendo of extras at the end. But my caution was proven to be unfounded. Hakim had managed to connect with the crowd. He and his band of 14 musicians gave them exactly what they was longing for, a Aíd party with so much energy and happiness. The crowd reached an all time high when Hakim´s famous duet with Olga(no she was not there) , aah ya Alby was played, perhaps due to some local affinity for the suburb south of Stockholm with the same name. And then Salamu aleikum once again , one hour and fourty minutes after the first tune. This was going to be the final song of course, no extras, but it really didn´t matter that much because of the sheer warmth and happiness that the 15 people on stage created toghether with an enthusiastic crowd ,this was in sharp contrast to the weather outside, the first snow had just arrived , cold but nice, and an entirely different story altogheter.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy thanksgiving to my american readers!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

CNN documentary on democracy in Egypt today

CNN will send a documentary on democracy in Egypt today,it seems some portion of the programe will focus on Kifeyya. It´s part of CNN´s Eye on the Middle East coverage throughout this week.


Noura Younis is participating in the debate with young arab democracy activists in CNN connects, right after the documentary
Egypt:Testcase for democracy


Egypt:Testcase for democracy
The documntary was interesting , nothing new, but all my feelings of anthipathy toward the political system in Egypt that reached its peak on black wednesday, came back when the now al to familiar images reapeared on the tv-screen. Of course what happend on 25th of May, was nothing unique, the scenario has happend both before and after,but to hear and see one of the women bear witness of what happend to her , is something else than reading about it. To see that the regime had no boundaires in it´s approach towards Kifayya on that particular day, when they knew that the whole world was watching, something that was also manifested in this programe by PM Ahmed Nazif, an approach of indifference, while at the same time heralding Egypt´s efforts towards ¨more democracy¨ echoing the state of the union speech of Mr Bush, and also Laura Bush´s words ,while wisiting Egypt just days before the presidential elections.

As usual i was disapointed in the sterotype ,first time protodemocratic elections, while the presidential elections was indeed the first time the egyptians had a multiple choice of candidates to vote for, this was not the first opportunity for democratic elections, the scene where Mr Mann grab a handful of sand in his palm and talk about how youré going to make the land of the desert fertile to democracy reminded me of the poetic words of Safwat Sharif on the eve of the maglis ash Shura vote on art 76. And the notion that democracy is a novelty to Egypt and indeed the region is just dead wrong, altough respected media outlets like CNN and the BBC tend to forget.

For those of you who didn´t have the opportunity to watch it, you will get a another chance on saturday the 26 November.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Abdolkarim freed

After 18 days in custody, six in al Farana state security office, and 12 in Tora Prison(not the nicest place to be) Abdolkarim was released yesterday morning.

What strikes me as interesting, is the fact that his detention stired a heated debate , within the egyptian bloggosphere, about what he said, and whether or not it was right to defend him ? Was this a case of free speech or indeed the complete opposite, hate speech ?

While causing such a stir, by being taken into custody, his release dosen´t seem to catch that much attention within the egyptian bloggcommunity. 147 people signed the committee to protect bloggerspetiton for his release, i have no way of knowing if this is much, normal or less than usual in similar cases.

My conclussion is this , if Abdolkarim had not been taken into custody, not many people would have read what he wrote, and his words would have been long forgotten. Instead most people seems to be more upset about what he wrote, than the fact that he was taken in to custody.

To read more about the original debate, go here

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Judges Club report and Ikhwan helps UNFC

The Judges club issued a critical report on the presidential elections in September, the day before elections to parliament is due to begin. The report was critical of the results, the percentage of the turnout, 23 % and some irregularities, as the busing of voters to the polling stations.

On another election related issue, the Muslim Brotherhood announced , that they are going to pull back 23 or 24 of their 150 candidates, in a coordinated effort together with the United national forces for change, an alliance made up of the wafd party, tagamáu, the arab Nassserists, al Wasat, Karama and Kefayya among others. The MB are going to encourage their voters to vote for the UNFC candidates in constituencies without a MB prescence. This dosen´t seem to apply in the first round of three starting today though, judging from their website, announcing 51 Ikhwan candidates runing for office today.

Release of leaders and members of Jihad and al Gamáa al Islamiyya

The Egyptian authorities has released four leaders and 150 members of the two militant groups Jihad , and al Gamáa al Islamiyya. All the released has renounced violence. Among the four leaders are Foud al Doulaby(Amir of al Minya) and Nageh Ibrahim(Amir of Asyut), both ¨historic leaders¨ of the Jihad, and part of the team, killing the late Ptresident Anwar Sadat on Oct 6 1981. Nageh Ibrahim has been one of the leaders behind the unilateral ceasefire of the Gamáa al Islamiyya, after the Luxor masacare in 1997.
Among the other leaders , Safwat abd al Ghani, a onetime leader of the Gamáa al Islamiyya, and convicted for the murder on speaker of Parliament, Refaát Mahgoub.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Candidate running for parliament released

Issam Mokhtar, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate running for parliament in the Nasr City constituency, Cairo has been released after appering before the Prosecutor General on thursday evening. He was accused of using religious alms from the abd al Fath mosque for his personal campaign. The complaint was filed by the Imam of the mosque according to police sources The brothers staged a protest outside the Prosecutor General´s office

Democracy more than elections

Hala Mustafa has an interesting piece in today´s WaPo. She´s pessimistic about the upcoming parliamntary elections leading to further reforms, predicting that the outcome will be preety much the same as before, with the likely scenario from 2000 repeating itself, with the official NDP candidates only gaining 37 % of the electoral vote, and the renegade NDP candidates being the victors of that election, soon reemerged to the fatherhouse as official NDP parliamentarians, rising the NDP stake in parliament to well over 80 % in one fell swoop. This time around party cheif Safwat Sharif, and party whip Kamal al Shazli has treatend the renegade NDP´s that they are not welcomed, after the elections, well it´s probably easier to be pragmatic after the elections.

As for the opposition , Mustafa notes that a hetrogenious bloc, the national front, including parties and organisations from left to right will be competing in 222 constituencies(half of the 444 seats). Party loyalties is likely to split the front in the long run. The Ikhwan is supporting the front, while competing as independents with 163 candidates. The runner up in the presidential elections Ayman Nour and his Ghad party is not taking part in the front, partly because of bickering between the spokesperson for the national front,and Wafd party leader ,Nouman Gouma and Nour and partly because of the ongoing, and neverending legal battles of the Ghad party, and their party leader. Facing an orchestrated split within the party(the usual way of government wanting to froze party activity), and the legal case of fabricating signatures ,when trying to establish the party.

Mustafa also notes the significantly low proportion of women(6) and copts(1) competing for the NDP. Arguing that Egypt needs more of civil freedoms.

go read it !

Friday, November 04, 2005

UPDATE Abdolkarim

This AP wire explains a bit more

Islam, huwa al hal ?

Since the establising of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, the slogan Islam,huwa al hal(Islam is the solution) has been synonymus with them. Now all of a sudden it´s dangerous, it´s mixing religion and politics - No kidding, and who reintroduced the islamists on the political arena ? President Anwar Sadat, allowed the islamists , to counter the Nasserists in the early seventies. They got 2 seats in the 1976 parlimentary elections and where able to reestablish their mouthpiece ad Daáwah.

And now they don´t want them to use their slogan ? In the past the Muslim Brotherhood has used the term ¨the Islamic trend¨ during election campaigns, in order to strike a balance between their illegal status and their de facto political entity. This year they have taken the decision to use their name openly, they are fielding 150 candidates , and in a bold move they staged a rally outside the Presidential palace in Korba.

In a Financial Times article, the other day. The Ikhwan sounded rather optimistic, Issam al Ariyyan, a leading brother, recently freed from prison stated that this was the first election campaign were the Ikhwan didn´t have any member in prison, a well known practice to disrupt election coordination for the MB, as usual and expected as the olympic games every four years. Now reports tells as that the Ikhwan candidate for the affluent middle clas area of Madinet Nasr(Nasr City), Issam al Mokhtar has been arrested. The brothers also complained about NDP thugs tearing down Issams banners, something that also happend to the secular Kefaya leader Kamal Khalil campaigning for a seat in the Imbaba constituency, during the last days of Ramadan.

During the NDP election campaign kick off for Cairo,in front of the Abdeen presidential Palace ,the NDP secretary general Safwat Sharif stated that the Muslim Brotherhood was to blame for the recent outburst of secterian violence, in the Muharram Beq area of Alexandria. A political consequense of the sectarian violence was that the coptic NDP candidate(one of two, from the NDP pool of 444 candidates) droped out of the race, instead of encouraging him to stay on, the NDP choose the blame game strategy, and indeed mixing religion and politics, just as one NDP candidate inthe 2000 parliamentary elections choose to use the religious card on his coptic advisary.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Abdolkarim, Muharam beq

Egyptian Blogger taken in Detention

Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman is a 21 year-old Egyptian student of law at the Azhar University, Damanhour Campus, a women's-rights activist and a correspondent for Copts United.

In addition to writing at Civic Dialogue, he also publishes at a blog he maintains.

On Wednesday 26 October 2005, Egyptian State Security took Abdolkarim from his home, and confiscated hard copies of his writings. He is now on his way to an unknown detention. Three Egyptian bloggers visited Abdolkarim's family. The family attributed the state security raid to his writings, although it was not clear if his blogging is directly related. According to his brother, Abdolkarim's relations with Islamist Fundamentalists in his neighborhood of Moharram Bek, Alexandria, are tense. It is possible that the fundamentalists have filed a security complaint that led to his detention.

So what do you say about it, at first it seemed a clear cut case, the man has a right to express his view.

And then i thought, but what is almost always the cause of a spark to sectarian issues in Egypt, a roumour of copts building a church without permission or Muslims abducting a christian girl and trying to convert her. Something defaming or ridicule the other religion like the pictures of the monk, some years ago. pretty much as the case with Abdolkarim, could this lead to more violence, yes but the only one at risk as i see it, is Abolkarim. And perhaps it´s time to break the taboo. Al things relating to religious issues, and especially issues concerning the Muslim-Coptic interrelationship has been taboo, or as long as you are talking about the unbrakeable fabric of the Egyptian society, the Crescent and the cross and Egypt the land of national unity and social peace, where Christians and Muslims live togheter side by side, quoting Lord Cromer , saying that the only difference between Muslim and Christian in Egypt is that one goes to the mosque and the other to the church, and that there is no problem between the groups , because it´s impossible to have a problem between brothers etc. All this rhetoric , that actually where for real in 1919, has for long only been the official rhetoric of the government who only pay lipservice to it. The Muharam beq incident follows everything i said , almost to the letter.

I don´t agree with alot of Abolkarims words, but if he was not allowed to say it, is this what we want ? this is actually what we have now, a society of fear, if we say something it might be interpreted like.... dont say it, etc.

Words can be dangerous, but they are invaluable and to censor someone , is to take away his basic human rights

Follow the ongoing debate in the Egyptian blogsphere here and here

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Aid Mubarak

Aid Mubarak to all Muslims in the world !!

UPDATE: This is my entry on Aid al Fitr this year , 1428.

Changing climate for the Muslim Brotherhood ?

Heba Saleh has an interesting article in today´s Financial Times, about the Ikhwan. It sounds like a new page in the relationship between the government and the brothers has been turned. To me, it´s way to early to draw any hastened conclusions. The MB has been having a turbulent year , The Brothers suffered the normal election year massroundup early this year. Issam al Ariyan in prison for five month. No clearcut endorsement for any candidate in the Presidential race, and then , to be or not to be part of the national forces for change ? The answer is yes, but on our terms, they have their own candidates, and will be fielding approximately 160 candidates, more than ever before, there is some coordination but doubtful how effective. The 17 seats that they had in the outgoing parliament could be doubled in a fair election. The Ikhwan is still the best organized political opposition force in Egypt.

Amnesty urges all parties to put Human Rights in the center of election campaign

Amnesty International issued a statement yesterday, so far the issue of human Rights has been a prominent issue in politics 2005, in the massarrests of the Muslim Brotherhood, the protests against torture by Kefaya, the beatings and ... by NDP thugs on the 25 of May, and in July, Issam al Arian has just come out of prison after more than five months. And we witnessed the Iftar , at the ministry of justice last week , by the families of the forgotten prisoners, the 10 000 militant islamists sitting there , some of them without trial. So indeed the human rights issue has been prominent so far in politics this year, and it´s likely to stay that way, regardless of the NDP candidates mentioning it or not. Just as likely as the fact that the emergency law has been in place almost continuously in different shapes from al Naqsa 1967, and is likely to stay that way, past the February house session in some shape or form.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Famous islamist lawyer runs for Parliament

Montassar az Zayyat, once the informal spokesperson for al Gaáma al Islamiyya, now one of 5414 hopefulls for a seat in maglis ash Shaáb.

Az Zayyat, belonging to the trend one of two militant islamist groups who waged a low intensity insurgency upon the Egyptian government between 1992-97, killing approximately 1100 the bulk of them being military, police and militants, but also Copts, intelectuals and tourists where targeted.

Montassar Az Zayyat of today seems a somewhat changed man, while condoning resistance against ocupation in Chechnya, Iraq and Palestine, he takes a clear stand against 9/11 and the recent incidents in Taba, Sharm al Sheikh and Cairo.

Having spent several years in prison in the 80´s and six months in detention in 1994 after protesting the death of fellow laywer and Muslim Brother who died in custody, Abdel Harith Madani.

The prefered lawyer for every militant, choses to run in an area of greater Cairo,Bulaq Daqrour, once known to be a recruiting ground for the militants. He is runing as an independent, facing among others, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. This is a place where no one in their right state of mind would vote for NDP.

His election program centers around fighting government corruption, ending the emergency laws and establishing an islamic state, he has no problem in working with seculars, and points out that one of his campaign suporters happens to be a copt, on the other hand he states"But Copts should stop asking for minority rights and to build more churches than they need. They are full-fledged partners in the state,"

The former militants called for a unilateral cease fire in the summer of 1997, since then, they have been trying to enter the political arena, one atempt at creating a party, ended before it came to anything. The latest push for political recognition was Aboud al Zoumr´s presidential candidacy.