Friday, June 30, 2006

Alaá and Human Rights First campaigns for Sharqawi, ash Shaér and all the others imprisoned activists

Human Rights First, who highlighted Alaá´s case, has made common cause in campaigning for Sharqawi, ash Shaér and the other activists still imprisoned. They have a defender alert on their case. More on bloggers and democracy activists, Sharqawi and ash Shaer can be found here or here

I was mowed, while reading Alaá´s account on his meeting in the courtroom, with the young Muslim brothers, who were detained while on summer holiday in Marsa Matrouh. Their sincere happiness on hearing the news of Aláa´s release, and he´s likevise reciprocal show of solidarity with them in their ordeal, knowing exactly what they could excpect for the next 15 days-6 months, shows that regardless of your different views on politics, society e.t.c you still have so much more in common, than what separates you.

Just as Alaá is pointing out, it´s not only Sharqawi and ash Sháer, it´s the remaining 600 or so activists, all in prison for the same reason. This is our challenge.

Please take a minute and sign the letter from Human Rights first!

I will leave you with a part of what Aláa wrote:

¨while I was waiting to hear the prosecutor's verdict in the cell they let in around 35 young men who where in a very good mood, they made alot of noise, they joked about the bags of munchies and sweets they have with them, turned out they where a group of ikhwan from Alexandria who went for a summer trip in Marsa Matrouh, a perfectly harmless social activity full of singing and dancing and football, but state security decided it was a training camp and arrested them all.

try to imagine being arrested and facing anything between 15 days and 6 months of detention because you went to the seaside with 30 of your best friends.

they where from this new breed of islamists that reads blogs, watches al jazeera, sings sha3by songs, talks about intense love stories and chants "down Mubarak". and being young most of them did not have any experience with prison before. waiting to know whether they'll get 15 or 45 days detention for starters, waiting to know whether they'll be sent to one of the just horrible prisons or of the too horrible prisons, and in the middle of it all we got the news that I would be released the next day.

and all of sudden they transformed from just ikhwanis into comrades! they hugged me, they clapped, they shook my hands, they laughed and they were genuinely happy for my release. they felt and expressed solidarity and they gave me the one happy memory that would help me live through 14 hours of hell.

but the only thing I could give them was to chant "ألف تحية للأخوان ... ألف تحية للأخوان" and shed a happy tear.¨

Friday, June 23, 2006

Times article on democracy backtracking in Egypt

The Times has an article today called:Arab democracy hopes dashed as Cairo ditches reforms While overstating the initial intentions of the goverment on democratization, as well as the American seriousness on democracy promotion, it has it´s merits. The article comes at the same time as President Mubarak has promised that 2007 will be the year of unprecedented reform..

Yes, just like 2005 was meant too be the year of change, we will once again be taken for a ride on the bridge to the future.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Enough of Tora

All of the Kifaya and al Ghad activists are out, and free, except for Muhammed ash Sharqawi and Karim ash Sháer. They were taken from Tora prison to Gaber Ibn Hayyan, the Giza security premise were they were released. Hossam has the rest of the story here.

One could ask why Alaá had to go through the ordeal of an extra night with the compliments and hospitality of the Omraniyya police station chief? But who could blame him for wanting to throw a farewell party for Alaa, just as several high security prisons has reception, or welcome parties for new inmates.

Mabrouk and welcome back!

Alaá is free!!!

Alaá is free!!!!!

According to the bureaucratic order, Alaa was tossed between different police facilities before ending up at the Omraniyya police station, were he was forced to spend the night in a cell togheter with criminals, some high on drugs and other armed with knives. He was beaten up, but now he´s free and on his way home.


al Jazeera

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All kifaya and Ghad activists except Sharqawi and ash Shaér is to be released

More good news! 24 activists from Kifaya and al Ghad was orderd released by the state prosecutor today. 21 from Kifaya and three from al Ghad. The only two who got an additional 15 days period were high profiled activists/bloggers Muhammed al Sharqawi and Karim ash Shaáer. Both were subjected to severe beatings and Sharqawi was sexually abused.

Among those waiting to be released are Kamal Khalil, Wael Khalil, Ibrahim al Sahary and Gamal Abd al Fattah. This was veteran activist Kamal Khalil 16th time in prison in 38 years.

In what seems like a twisted mathematical equation, only logical to state security prosecutors, 31 Muslim brotherhood members was arrested, 31 was ordered to be released and 134 were to be held for an additional 15 days on Tuesday, these were but a few of the 700 MB members arrested since March according to AP reporter Nadia Abou el Magd.

In a related development, the wifes and mothers of some of the hundreds arrested during the last three months(most likely a MB manifestation) gathered outside the National Council for Human Rights, and a delegation of wifes meet with NCHR chairman , the former UN Secretary General Boutrous Boutrous Ghali. The council promised to take the complaints of the delegation to the press!!, stating that the council had an advisory role and lacked authority.It reminds of former NDP minister of parliamt affairs, Kamal ash Shazlis words about the council“It is merely a consultative council with no power to draw up any plans.”

So this is really a time of joy! But lets remember that Sharqawi and ash Shaér is still in prison togheter with the Muslim brotherhood top brass and ordinary MB members in their hundreds, i just hope that people are as eager too campaign for MB spokesperson Issam al Aryan, former leader of the MB parliament bloc, Muhammed al Morsy, and current MP, Mohsen Radi, Helmi al Ghazzar, Adel Yahiya , Rashad al Bayoumi and the rest of the MB members detained as for Aláa, Ahmed al Droubi and Kamal Khalil. This will be one of the tests ahead for the Egyptian blogosphere, and indeed the promising, but fragile coalition for democracy.

There seems to be some stalling of the release, but looking back at prior experiences , this is just part and parcel of the ongoing war of attrition between the authorities and the democracy movement, when they are out, a collective Mabrouk to all released activists is the first that comes to my mind.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Alaá is free and will be released in a day or two!

Great news! Alaá is free, and will be released in a a day or two, as i wrote yesterday he´s case was up for review today,the outcome proved positive, altough the charges against him has not been dropped, according to his family.

Due to bureacracy, paperwork and stuff he will not be released today, perhaps tomorrow, or the next day for sure! Here is a few voices from the Egyptian blogosphere on his release.

A big thank you, is due to everybody who has helped during this 45 days, in Egypt and around the world! Let´s be happy today!

So finally Alaá is returning to Manal! Alf Mabrouk ya Alaá wa Manal!

31 Muslim brothers detained in Marsa Matrouh while on vacation

According to the BBC, 31 members of the Muslim brotherhood Alexandria branch was detained by the police in the seaside city of Marsa Matrouh, close to the Libyan border. The police claimed that the men arrested, were distributing leaflets and books for the group. MB Officials on the other hand,stated that the men were on holiday. They claimed that the number of detained was slightly higher, 37.

This comes after two months with hundreds of MB members arrested after protests on the continuation of the emergency laws, and in solidarity with demands for a free judiciary. Among the arrested during the two months is the MB spokesperson Issam al Ariyyan and former groupleader in parliament, Muhammed Morsy. Last week around 110 members were arrested in Zagazig.

I can´t help wondering, at which beach the arrests took place, Rommel, Buzid, perhaps Agiba or Shatt al Gharam? I wonder what Leila Mourad and Anwar Wagdy would have said about that?

Is the US through with Arab democracy?

This is the rhetorical question posed by Carnegie scholar Amr Hamzawy, in an op-ed in the Daily star yesterday.

He continues like this: ¨In sharp contrast to its rhetoric, the administration recently adopted several policy measures that suggest a lukewarm commitment to democracy promotion, if not a reversal of the trajectory altogether.¨

And ends by : ¨It may be understandable that the Bush administration has grown fearful of the possible outcomes of promoting Arab democracy. Yet placing hopes in soft diplomacy when dealing with autocrats and punishing Arab citizens for their electoral choices by retreating from democracy promotion are not the right answer. The Arab world is a ticking bomb and only real democratic openings can slow down the timer.¨

I couldn´t agree more!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday telegraph article on Manal & Aláa

The telegraph had an article on Manal and Aláa on sunday , you can find it here. Alaá has been at Tora prison since being arrested on the 7th of May, that is 44 days. He´s case will be up for review tomorrow. The seven activists, arrested with him has all been released, hopefully Alaá will join them today.

A case that really needs as much attention as possible is the horrible treatment of Muhammed Sharqawi who was rearrested togheter with Karim al Shaer on the aniversary of black referendum day the 25th of May and subjected to severe beatings, including sexual assault at the Qasr al Nil police station before returning to prison , just days after they were released. Sharqawi has not received the proper medical treatment for his injuries during the latest round at Tora. Altough not the worst case by far, if put in a wider context in recent history, this particular development is alarming.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Business today profile on Hisham Kassem

Amira Salah-Ahmed has a profile on Hisham Kassem in his role as vice chairman and CEO of Masry al Youm. I have been writing about Kassem and Masry al youm before, you can find it here.

Here´s a soundbite:
¨On the whole, says Kassem, “the nation’s media has gotten louder and more critical over the past two years,” and he’s convinced there is room for other dailies such as Al-Masry Al-Youm (despite the similarity in the names when translated from Arabic, Al-Masry Al-Youm is of no relation to Egypt Today, bt’s sister publication). “If you have ten dailies like Al-Masry Al-Youm and they need LE 8-9 million to float, with an advertising market that is estimated to be LE 600 million, you can have ten [successful] independent dailies.” This kind of competition also “increases a culture of readership, i.e. expanding the readership market, which is what we need.”

There is also another less positive trend as Kassem points out, the fact that Egypt is one of only 12 countries to impose prison sentences to journalists for libel charges, with several cases the last months.

A third negative trend is the attacks on among others journalist during the last six weeks, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information just released it´s report, called Police men scored it out of the dictionary
Freedom of Expression is not desired in Egypt
April-May 2006
yesterday. Read it!

Muslim Brotherhood wants national referendum on Camp David peace treaty

The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Mahdi Akef, said on sunday in a tv interview on the private egyptian tv-station Dream, owned by buissness tycoon Ahmed Bahgat, that he wanted a referendum, and a cancelation of the treaty, if the Egyptian people say´s no.

He said: "I respect all the international treaties signed by Egypt, but regarding the treaty with Israel, I hope it will be put up for a popular referendum," Akef said.

"As such, we don't recognize the Camp David treaty and if the people vote for cancellation, then let's cancel it,"

This is first time the Muslim brotherhood has opted for a referendum on the 1979 peace treaty. Calling referendums has in the past been an almost exclusive perogative for the President, a method introduced by Nasser for the people to approve thenew constitution, and himself as President of the republic. Sadat used it as a way to sidestep the opposition in parliament, Mubarak has been more reluctant to use the referendum, except for comfirming the parliament´s choice for President.

This is a lapse back to the MB symbolic politics of the past. The current session of parliament has so far indicated a change toward a more pragmatic and responsible line of politics. This is not an issue that can be won during this parliament, it will only serve the NDP, to furter prove their point to Washington and Brussels on how dangerous the MB will be if they come to power, the same argument as Israel with Hamas, they will not recognise Israel, and will not be a partner for peace.

They should back away from symbolic politics all togheter and focus on being a strong voice for the opposition, for democratization, human rights, and social issues.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Alterman on aid and democratization in Egypt

John Alterman has an op-ed in WaPo today. In it he argues that the debate on linking american aid to Egypt to democratization is the wrong choice, and that it´s debated on the wrong assumptions. I will try to comment on it later today, but for now, go read the piece! It begins like this:

¨There are many in Washington who think that Egyptian politics turned around last spring because of President Bush's demonstrated resolve to promote political change in that country. They further believe that the leadership in Cairo reverted to its bad old ways when Bush's attention strayed.

They are wrong on both counts. Profound change was never in the air in Egypt. Some Americans may have been ebullient about changes afoot there, but Egyptians' level of political participation told a different story: Fewer than 5 percent of the electorate bothered to vote in last May's referendum on allowing multi-candidate elections for president, and perhaps 20 percent voted in the presidential election itself.¨

Saturday, June 10, 2006

King football rules in Egypt

The World Cup in Germany started yesterday, with the hosts winning according to plans, and Ecuador upset the Poles by an unexpected 2-0 win.

Apart from the ART versus national TV broadcasting rights, everybody seems to look forward to a month of fotball frenzy. I wouldn´t like to be a sanawiyya amma(final high school exams which ruins your year and is the make or break for your future life, deciding on what faculty and university you can enter, your parents paying louds of money to your private tutor(if they are fortunate enough to have the money, in short making life hell for the family for a whole year) student this year. This is the view of one of those students on missing out on the group stage:

¨Ayman Mahmoud, who is preparing to sit for his final year high school exams, says that by the time he finishes, the World Cup will still be going on. "I might not be able to watch the group matches because I'll be busy with my exams but I'll try to adjust my schedule so that one match will be considered a break for me. But I hope I won't have to fight with my parents over it.

"But after I finish my examinations, I'll be free and I won't miss a game." ¨

I still recall Magdi abd al Ghani´s penalty goal in that fantastic first group match against the holding European champions, the second generation total football, with the amazing trio of Reikard, Gullit and Van Basten. The Egyptian team made a extraordinary match and everything looked so promising for the rest of the Italia 90 campaign, and we were actually only a goal away from going trough the group stage in the city of Cagliari on the beutiful island of Sardinia. In the end, we lost 0-1 to England and they went on winning the bronze.

Since then i have hoped for Egypt to be part of the world Cup, but all in vain. This time Ivory coast was to hard to beat. But this dosen´t mean that there is no Egyptian connection. In fact there are at least three connections, first of course, the egyptian referee Essam Abd al Fattah

The tournament also has two players, with backrounds in the two rival clubs , al Ahli and Zamalek. Flavio the Ahli striker is more than likely going to be in the starting line up for Angola on sunday against former colonial ruler, Portugal, the most famous portugesse player ever, happens to be from Angola, Eusebio, probably the best African player ever, and dominant player in the 1966 world Cup.

The other player is Rami Shaában , former Zamalek keeper(reserves), cosmopolitan , born in Stockholm Sweden, Egyptian father, Finnish mother and currently playing his football in Fredrikstad, Norway. He made his first mark in the best team in Sweden, Djurgarden, where he was the Nr two choice, behind the young and talented Andreas Isaksson. When Isaksson was injured , Rami was playing fantastic football, leading to a contract with Arsenal. David Seaman, the famous England goalkeeper was yet again the number one, and as history has a habit of repeating itself, Seaman was injured, and Rami played a couple of champions league games, before history struck in reverse and Rami broke his leg. The end of his short spell at highbury. And then he got called to the world championship squad! And what happens? Andreas Isaksson, now probably one of the best goalkeepers get´s injured. The single most talked about topic concerning the team right now is, who will replace him Rami Shaában or Johan Alvbåge, the coach has decided, but dosen´t release the team until one hour before the game. If it´s up to the Swedish media to decide it will be Rami! Hopefully he will make his debut in Dortmund against Trinidad/Tobago tomorrow, if so - Alf Mabrouk ya Rami!

The best of luck to all three of them!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Freedom and justice party formed, aiming for legalization

Usamah Ghazali Harb, and about 60 people met today in one of Cairo´s hotel´s to form the Freedom and justice party, according to Masry al youm. The main aim of the party will be to further democratization, to modernize the policital system and strengthening of egalitarianism in the society. Other important issues will include the living conditions of women, reforming the education system and promote social awareness. Tfurtherer underline the importance of democratization, Ghazali Harb says that ¨democratization is a question of life and death for the Egyptian society¨

Among the 60 foundig members were Yahya al Gamal, Salah Fadel, Mustafa Kamel Tolba and Ali al Selmi.

Usamah Ghazali Harb, former NDP member of Majlis ash Shura(The upper house),left the NDP in March after ten months of political wilderness with in the NDP. Ghazali Harb was the only NDP member in both chambers to vote against the proposed change of article 76, openining up for multi-candidate elections, while further restricting the possibilities for any real competion, among candidates, due to caveats, effectively prohibiting any other party than the NDP from fielding candidates in future presidential elections. He is the chief editor of Siyassa ad Dawliyya, and was invited to join the NDP by Gamal Mubarak, three years ago, and was a member of the the NDP policies committee, headed by Gamal Mubarak.

Let´s hope that the party will get the approval for the party as soon as possible, something that has been proven a veritable¨mission impossible¨ in the past, with the recent experiences of al Wasat, and al Ghad in our fresh memories. But recently the 24th party got it´s approval, the conservative party, perhaps that is a reverseal of the trend(has anybody heard of any partyrelated activities from the conservatives since their approval??). Maybe Safwat ash Sharif will wake up in a good and shiny mood someday, let´s hope that this day will coincide with the Freedom and justice party application approval by the Shura Council's Parties Affairs Committee.

Dan Morrison article on

Dan Morrrison has written a piece on Ghada Shahbandar and

A little more than a year after organizing the white ribbon campaign, launched in the wake of, and as a response to the violence and sexual harassment towards female activists and journalists by NDP thugs on black referendum day, the 25th of May 2005,, has been involved in election and human rights monitoring, and the campaign for a free judiciary, among other things. Based on ordinary people´s participation and commitment towards having the rights to express their own voice and choice, in a free polity and society.

As every modern democratic movement today, they also have their own soundrack, this is perhaps the Egyptian equivalent to the Ukraine orange revolution anthem, Razom nas bahato!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Photo Journal on Magda Amer, a woman preacher in Cairo

Abu Musab az Zarqawi dead

I don´t usually write about things not Egyptian on this blog, but i make an exception for this news.
Iraqi PM Nouri al Maliki has announced that Abu Musab az Zarqawi was killed on wednesday according to the BBC

June Issue of Arab Reform Bulletin

This month´s Arab Reform Bulletin includes Arab States: Security Services and the Crisis of Democratic Change. Written by Carnegie´s Amr Hamzawy, here are some soundbites:

¨in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen the same phenomenon can be explained by the relative weakness of the ruling parties in the face of the organizational efficiency of the police and intelligence agencies. Moreover, the proliferation of emergency laws and special tribunals frees the hand of the security apparatus from judicial restraints in dealing with domestic political matters. Recent experiences in Egypt—the regime's reliance on security brutality against voters in order to salvage the 2005 elections in the face of Muslim Brotherhood gains, and the vicious manner in which the security services dealt with liberal opposition figure Ayman Nour—illustrate the phenomenon. Because Arab regimes lack effective political tools for exerting influence over society, even when claiming reformist intentions they often resort to their most effective weapon, oppression by security forces.¨


¨The mentality of the security apparatus fears nothing on this earth more than the call for change. The security veto, which represents a fundamental block to movement and renewal within the Arab elite, leaves Arab regimes either with a fragile band of true reformers with no real power, or with larger groups of phony reformers who advance in proportion to their adherence to the security mentality. Understanding this phenomenon can explain in large measure the schizophrenia of the Moroccan, Egyptian, and Jordanian political elites in recent years.¨

Another interesting piece by Georgetown´s currently Cairobased scholar, Samer Shehata, who writes about Egypt: The Gamal Mubarak Paradox:

¨Independent newspapers have had a field day, for example, with Gamal's allegedly secret trip to Washington in May. The headline of the leftist Al Ahali's newspaper read, “Mubarak gives America a choice: Gamal or the (Muslim) Brotherhood.” Banner headlines in Al Usbuu (nominally independent but closely linked to security services) declared “The Secret of Gamal Mubarak's Mysterious Visit,” reflecting popular suspicion about Gamal Mubarak's meetings with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley¨ My take on this particular visit can be found here.

And this is how Shehata ends his piece:

¨Despite the ongoing controversy, if Gamal Mubarak were nominated as the ruling party's candidate and stood in controlled presidential elections, he would undoubtedly win. The process would be legal as per the amended Article 76 of the Egyptian constitution. Considering the weakness of the opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood's reluctance to challenge the regime directly, it is unlikely that the inevitable protests would result in anything more than temporary but surmountable turbulence for the regime.

The larger issue is that significant segments of the public would not welcome Gamal's installation and would consider his assumption of the presidency illegitimate. It is difficult to predict the precise problems that might arise from such a legitimacy deficit, for example, whether opponents to Gamal in the military or security services would take advantage of such a situation. The potential for trouble will be increased if Gamal Mubarak becomes president under currently anticipated conditions—with no term limits, no clear plan for political reform, and few economic deliverables for the general population.

Also in the news and views section is a report on the election of a new Secretary General in the Wafd party, the former party leader in parliament, Munir Fakhri Abd al Nour .It´s viewed to be a surprise choice for the number two spot in the party, but in my view this is the obvious choice, both because he is close to the current leadership who ousted Nouman Gouma earlier this year, he himself being thrown out of the party by Gouma, and also going back to a Wafd tradition of having a coptic Secrtary General, something started after the death of Saád Zaghloul in August 1927, when the Secretary General Nahass was elected leader of the party. Makram Ebeid arguably the most important coptic politician(perhaps with the exeption of Prime Minister Boutros Ghali,PM 1910-12)until today. From 1927 throughout the years this has been the case, with Ibrahim Faraj being the SG under the leadership of Fuad Seragedin, and when he died Munir Fakhri Abd al Nour took over, but for some reason Nouman Gouma changed that.

So this is a renewal of tradition, and hopefully a new symbolic begining for a great party with liberal traditions and perhaps, a democratic future.

The other articles in this issue is:

Kurdistan-Iraq: Can the Unified Regional Government Work?
Gareth Stansfield

Kuwait: Struggle over Parliament
Ghanim Al Najjar

Syria: Conflict with West Spurs Economic, not Political, Reform
Joshua Landis