Saturday, May 27, 2006

¨We have had enough of corruption¨

I found this cover from the September 8th 1952 Time Magazine edition, it´s a story about ¨Egypt´s¨strongman¨ Muhammed Naguib, the figurehead of the 1952 revolution, and at that time newly appointed Prime Minister(on September 7th), and later, the newborn Egyptian Republic´s first President. I really like the montage with the Giza pyramids, Aboulhol, and the citadel in the foreground and Naguib watching over his country, but what really caught my eye was the quote, apparently from the cover story:

¨We have had enough of corruption¨(at the bottom oof the picture, it dosen´t show that good on the picture here, due to problems with resolution, but go the original and have a look, follow the link above).

It made me wonder if Naguib, or any of the free officers would have had enough, and been among those joining in the demonstrations in support for a free judiciary, and for the release of the approximately 700 arrested in a little over a month. Although in due time it became clear that neither Naguib nor the other free officers proved to be much inclined towards democracy. If they would have been just that, this could have been an excellent poster for Kefaya, but then again, if so, it would not have been necessary with the kefaya movement, or the judges, or demonstrations in the first place.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Diana Mukkaled in Sharq al Awsat on Aláa and the importance of the blog

Diana Mukkaled wrote an op-ed about Alaa, his and Manals blog and the importance of the blog on the english website of Sharq al awsat on the 22th, among other things, this is how she concluded:

¨The detention of Egyptian bloggers created an electronic turmoil that is no less important than the demonstrations in the streets of Cairo. Egyptian bloggers have received numerous messages of support but have also been mocked and derided.

Alaa and other Egyptian blogger’s popularity reflect the inability of government to control or restrict communication between individuals and the exchange of ideas and opinions. In these circumstances, one has to feel grateful for modern technologies as well as the sheer determination of activists and young people in using these technologies to overcome surveillance, arrest and detention.

While the police did not hesitate to use force and beat Egytpian protestors and bloggers, this has only made them more determined and re-affirmed the importance of weblogs.¨

Also, Mark Glaser has a nice piece on the campaign for Alaa, and the other arrested, in Mediashift.

Amr brings us the good news that four of the six arrested bloggers are out, Malek , Shrqawi, Adel and AsShaer, while Alaá and Asmaá(one of four women) is stil inside.

May 25th Demos

Today one year has lapsed since black referendum day, the day that could have been the start of a new Egypt, en route towards more democratization, instead it became one of the first major indications, that the game of opening up the Egyptian society , was a charade and the stalled society with democracy in portions was still on, this was but, one of the first field days for thugs and police alike, beating up demonstrators, specifically targeting women activists and journalists, in a pattern familiar from before(March 03) and after (14 days ago) ,by sexually assaulting them.

For those of you not yet familiar with the events of that day, read never forget, compiled by Alaá and Manal, Alaá was one of those who got beaten up that day, and today, as you all probably know, he´s in Torah prison, one of about 700 arrested during the last month for protesting against the extended emergency law, and in support of a free judiciary.

I myself wrote this about what happend five days later, it ends like this:

¨The significance of the day of the referendum on the 25th of May is yet to be decided. The way the regime opted to crush down on two small demonstrations is not. The projected image of Egypt as a country on the way towards democratization was dealt a blow in international political circles last wednesday. For the Egyptian People, the reality of Egypt´s stalled society and the democratic facade has been there for to long - kifayya¨

A week after the black referendum, i made a follow up on the mourning demonstrations

Join peaceful demonstrations around the globe to remember May
25th and to support the Egyptian judges in their quest for a free judiciary.

There is something you can do in support of those injured, sexually
assaulted and arrested by Egyptian security forces on May 25th, 2005
(black referendum day), and in solidarity with the hundreds of
Egyptian citizens currently under arrest:

Cairo, Thursday 25th of May

11.30 a. m.

Protest of university professors in front of main hall of Cairo
University calling for the release of detained faculty and students.

1.30 p.m.

Protest rally in front of JUDGES CLUB in solidarity with the
honorable judges of Egypt

3 p.m.

Protest rally in front of PRESS SYNDICATE where Egyptian security
forces committed their crimes on the 25th of May 2005.

The world demonstrates with us on the 24th, 25th and 26th of May

Wednesday 24 May:

Paris: Demo in front of Egyptian embassy

Thursday 25 May

Athens: Demo, 7 p.m. in front of Egyptian embassy.

Chicago: Demo, 12 noon in front of Egyptian consulate

New York: Demo in front of Egyptian consulate

London: Demo, 5.30 p.m. in front of Egyptian embassy.

Montreal: Demo, 12 noon in front of Egyptian consulate.

Toronto: Demo, in front of Egypt Air Office.


Friday 26 May

Seoul: Demo in front of Egyptian embassy

More 25 May demos in Beirut and the Hague

Cairo - London - Paris - Athens - Seol - New York - Chicago - Toronto - Montreal

Hands off our Judges!
Release our Detainees!!
Democracy & Justice Now!!!

All the info about the demos comes from Issandr at the Arabist., for additional info,visit him or you could look at this map of the different demos around the world at Toman Bey.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Eight convicted for negligence in Beni Sueif Cultural Palace fire

Eight cultural bureaucrats was convicted for negligence, in the case of the Beni Suef cultural Palace fire, killing almost 50 people last September. they all received a 10 year prison sentence.

The fire was caused by the lethal combination of candles on stage, a decor largely made out of paper, twice as many spectators as allowed, and a less than lax enforcing of security and emergency regulations. Most people died in the following stampede, when people tried to evacuate the theatre. Only one exit door was open.

The fire caused a storm in the Egyptian cultural community , and calls for the resignation of the controversial Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, led him to hand in his resignation, later revoked by President Mubarak.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Vision, Old Spectacles - Cairo May 18th 2006


Global Voices has set up a page, helping tracking bloggers at risk, and a GV advocacy wiki where activists can brainstorm over actions. Of course GV has been at the forefront in the the current campaign to free AlaÃ. Rebecca McKinnon , Rachel Rawlins and GV Middle East editor Haitham Sabbah being involved with Amr, Mostafa, Sandmonkey, Elijah,Mustapha and Demoblog in launching the free alaa blog. Thanks guys!

Considering that currently six bloggers is sitting in Torah prison, this is particularly important for Egyptian bloggers , so put up the badge and be a blogtivist!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ayman Nour appeal rejected

The court of cassation rejected the appeal of Ayman Nour and decided to uphold the five-year prison sentence on forgery from December last year. The al Ghad party leader, and distant runner up in the Egyptian Presidential elections, last September, was not present in court himself.

Judge Mahmoud Mekky acquitted and Bastawissi reprimanded

Judge Mahmoud Mekky was acquitted and Judge Hesham Bastawissi reprimanded, and warned to face dismissal if commiting another offence. The reprimand means that he will not get his next promotion. For me this seems odd, they where brought before the disciplinary panel on roughly the same charges, as far as i know. To come to two different conclusions in this case, can only be politically motivated in my mind. Seing Hesham Bastawissi as the stronger of the two, and also trying to split the judges club. I doubt if this will do anything to quell the resilience amongst the judges club.

Issam al Aryan and Muhammed Morsy among 500 from the MB detained this morning

According to the Muslim Brotherhood member Hamdi Hassan on al Arabiyya TV station, and additional MB sources, more than 500 MB supporters where detained al around Cairo this morning. Senior Muslim Brotherhood member Abd al Moneim Aboul Futouh claimed the number of Ikhwan sympatisers detained to be 210 Reuters put the number of detained at about 260, and Interior Ministry sources confirms that it detained 100 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, among them, Issam al Aryyan This comes after 52 arrestes in Menoufiyya yesterday, when police used teargas against demonstrators in support of the judges, and arrests in Alexandria. Central Cairo seem to be under siege by the Central security forces this morning.

Judge Hisham al Bastawissi suffered a heart attack yesterday morning. He is under medical care at the Cleopatra hospital in Heliopolis, Masr al Gedida, his case seem to be postponened. The delegation of judges following Mahmoud Mekky on his way to the hearing was greeted by supporters throwing roses at the delegation on the stairs of the journalist syndicate, a focal point in the pro-reform demonstrations today, as well as during the last year. Judge Mekky insested on several demands to attend. The first one being the security forces leaving the area. He reiterated the demand for the release evereyone arrested for protesting, Finally he stated that the president of the court of cassation, Fathi Khalifa should be removed from the disciplinary committee.

In another development the appeal of Ayman Nour is supposed to begin today. And his laywer Amir Salem sounds upbeat for a positive outcome.

Fustat celebrates it´s first birthday!

New May issue of Arab Reform Bulletin

The May issue of The Arab Reform Bulletin is out. Among the articles, is one on the judges club by Amy Hawthorne and Hesham Nasr, Judges win Public support but not Government concessions. There is also a link to a paper by Hala Mustafa, A Policy for Promoting Liberal Democracy in Egypt(PDF), written for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The other main articles this month:

Yemen: Trying to Restore Reform Credentials Gregory D. Johnsen
President Saleh takes steps to get back into the U.S.'s good books.

Syria: Media Reform and its Limitations Marwan M. Kraidy
Can Syria unfetter its news broadcasts?

Gulf States: Educational Reform's Real Goals Ebtisam Al Kitbi
Initiatives to increase the use of English may have unforeseen consequences.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gamal Mubarak handing out wedding invitations to friends at the White house?

Gamal Mubarak decided to pop by, for a chat with National Security Advisor Steve Hadley at the White house,while in Washington to renew his pilot licence last friday.

Considering the crowd that crashed the party, he must have had something special too tell, soon Condi, Dick and Mr President himself joined in.

Perhaps he wanted them all to attend the coming wedding between Gamal and his bride Khadija, what a nice gesture, but then again, why should one be surprised, this was the least that could be expected from this very fine young man, wanting to stick to tradition in handing out the invitations in person. The very same man, who is struggling to avoid being the next President of the land of the Pharaohs, while trying to reinvent his fathers party, whith new ideas, making it the bridge to the future.

The President made a point of showing up to meet and greet the assistant Secretary General of the NDP, and ask him to convey his greetings to President Mubarak and to Mrs Suzanne Mubarak for taking such good care of Laura, when she was in Cairo ,last May.

Perhaps the gang of four, began discussing what would be a suitable wedding present as soon as Gamal left the building. Maybe my humble self could be so bold, as to suggest a gift?

I would go for a copy of the finest American speech ever given, by Martin Luther King JR, in front of the Lincoln memorial on August 28th 1963, combined with his letter from Birmingham jail and the speech given by Birminigham native, Condi Rice at Gamal and Khadija´s old school in June last year. This would be supplemented with two other prison writers, namely Saad Eddin Ibrahim´s epilogue of his Egypt: Islam and Democracy and lastly the jailhouse blogger, Alaá Ahmed Seif al Islam(Alaá Ahmed Abd al Fattah), both written while at Torah under the auspieces of the state.

UPDATE 7 May 2007

Here are a couple of articles on the wedding, all written after the celebration in Sharm al Sheikh. First an AP piece by Lee Keath with assistance of the two talented journalists Nadia Abou el Magd and Maggie Michael. The most interesting theme is of course the question of To have, or not to have Gamal for President, and the natural question then, who can challenge him? All the articles mention only one potential opponent, Omar Sulaiman - Military intelligence chief. In the two folowing pieces, the two independent media superstars , Ibrahim Eissa and Hisham Qassem comes to different conclusions on Gamal´s path to the Presidency or not. I can merely conclude by saying that Omar Soliman as the wedding witness makes me thinking of Gamal and Omar as a dynamic duo, who could be as successful as the tandem duo of the President and Safwat Sherif in shaping the future.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Oum ad Dunya - Cairo 11th of May 2006

Sandmokey has more photos and a long personal account from a friend. Issandr El Amrani has some excellent photos on his flickr account, and apparently the same friend.

More will follow.


For those of you who haven´t seen Misr Digital yet, please do for more photos of yesterday´s demos and police brutality.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Human Rights Watch statement on Alaá

I usally don´t like to publish statements in full, but i´m making an exception to that rule now, this is important enough for an exception but also because of me, not being able to reach the HRW website at this moment. I hope Joe, Sarah and Fadi don´t mind. But before giving you the whole statement in it´s entirety, i would like to start with a quote by Joe Stork:

"These new arrests indicate that President Mubarak intends to silence
peaceful opposition,"

This is the direct link to the HRW statement, thanks to Freedom for Egyptians!

Egypt: Award-Winning Blogger Among New Arrests
More Than 100 Now Held in Political Protests

(New York, May 10, 2006) – Egyptian security officials arrested 11 more
political reform activists, including an award-winning blogger, Alaa
Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Human Rights Watch said today. This brings to
more than 100 the number of people detained over the past two weeks for
exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

Approximately half of those arrested are members of the Muslim
Brotherhood who were putting up posters and distributing leaflets
protesting the April 30 extension of emergency rule for another two
The Emergency Law has been in effect since President Hosni Mubarak
came to power in October 1981. The others were detained for
demonstrating in support of a group of judges campaigning for greater
judicial independence.

"These new arrests indicate that President Mubarak intends to silence
peaceful opposition," said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights
Watch's Middle East and North Africa division.

The latest arrests occurred on May 7 near the South Cairo Court where
activists arrested on April 24 were scheduled to appear before a judge.
Police released three of the 11 new detainees, but transferred the
remaining eight to the Heliopolis state security prosecutor, who
their detention for 15 days. The eight detained are: Ahmed `Abd al-
Gawad, Ahmed `Abd al-Ghaffar, Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Asma'a `Ali,
Fadi Iskandar, Karim al-Sha`ir, Nada al-Qassas and Rasha Azab.

On May 8, authorities extended for another 15 days the detention of a
dozen activists arrested on April 24. They initially faced charges of
blocking traffic, but the authorities later transferred their cases to
security prosecutors. Yesterday, authorities extended the detention of
activists arrested on April 26 and 27 for another 15 days. All those
arrested between April 24 and May 7 for demonstrating now face charges
of "insulting the president," "spreading false rumors," and "disturbing
public order" under the parallel state security legal system set up
under the
Emergency Law.

According to a statement published on an activist Web site, activists
detained between April 24 and 27 have begun a hunger strike to protest
prison conditions, including threats of torture and ill-treatment.

"The activists detained over the past two weeks should be released
immediately, unharmed," Stork said. "The Egyptian government is
responsible under international law for their safety."

The campaign of judges for greater judicial independence has become a
rallying point for political reform activists. The Judges' Club, the
official professional organization for members of the judiciary,
refused to
certify the results of last year's parliamentary elections after more
100 of the judges reported irregularities at polling stations. In
the government-controlled Supreme Judicial Council stripped four of the
most vocal judges of their judicial immunity.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A new blog has been started to campaign for the release of Alaá and the other 47. Good initiative by some of the best bloggers in the Egyptian and Arab blogosphere, go and check out who they are, and more importantly help in anyway you can to FREE ALAÁ AND THE OTHERS!

DEVELOPING STORY: Meanwhile in al Arish

Nasser Khamis al Mallahi, the alleged ring leader of the Dahab bombings was killed in a shoot-out with the security forces in al Arish today. The security forces got a tip, that Mallahi and an accomplice, Mohammed Abdullah Abu Grair, was in the Karama district, south of al Arish. The accomplice was not wounded in the shoot-out, and was taken into custody. Al Mallahi is the alleged leader of Monotheism and Jihad(same name as the group of the notorious Abu Musab az Zarqawi, before he decided to put up shop with al Qaida, allthough not related). Monotheism and Jihad claimed responsibility for the Taba bombings, and apperently al Mallahi was interrogated at that time(and confessed to the bombings, so why was he not on trial and in prison?)

¨Three leading members of the group that carried out the earlier bombings, namely, Nasser Khamis Al-Milahi, Id Salamah Al-Tarawi, and Muhammad Abdallah Jarjar operated within the organization. During interrogation, they confessed that they targeted tourist areas in southern Sinai.¨

The Michael Slackman piece, from the other day, happens to be focused on Mr Mallahi among other things. He the student of law in the delta town of Zagazig, maybe inspired by militant islamism, while on campus as so many before him. The most interesting fact of that article was in my view the eight percent full time employment rate for people between 20-30 years. And the fact that the only alternative seems to be season based farm work that pay´s as little as 2 USD/day. The situation in the Sinai seem to resemble middle Egypt at the height of the Gaámat al Islamiyya mini-insurgency 1992-1997. Years of government neglect, high unemployment rate , stigmatisation,uncalled for police brutality, due to lack of understanding of local conditions, and what have you.

So this will probably be portrayed as a major victory for the government. If he really is what they claimed him to be,it would be the equivelent of the U.S capturing UBL, Ayman az Zawahiri or Abu Mussab az Zarqawi, or indeed the capture of Saddam Hussein or the killings of Uday and Qusay. The government has claimed during the last 18 month since Taba via Sharm ash Shaikh and now Dahab that this is the work of the local group, that Mallahi was the alleged leader of. The operations has a lot in common with the ¨pattern¨ of vintage al Qaida, and the government claims that the group could be inspired by al Qaida, but that it has no links to the group. My sense is that this is to big to be made by a local group on it´s own. Some kind of co-operation is my guess. The fact that all three bombings was higly professional, coordinated in time etc , contrasted by the the two suicide bombings against the multinational monitoring force in al Gourah and the police stations, two days after,as well as another attack on the MNF a year earlier, and the attacks on tourists in the Khan al Khalili area in Cairo.

This is , in my view two different trends. But they are both fed by the same pool of socioeconomic, cultural and political-religous disenfrenchisement that so many young people feel, and indeed have felt for generations. The generation of the first lumpen inteligensia was young thirty years ago, unfortunately their problems, is the same problems that their sons and daughters are facing today, allthough accentuated. Until this is addressed the problem with decent young people, many times overachievers who want´s to try to climb the ladder of social mobility via a good university education, only to discover that that particular avenue is closed, and have been closed for years. The gap between expectation of a good life and the grim reality of ¨facts on the ground¨ is growing by the hour , that a very tiny portion of people choose the dreadful path, to the point that they are willing to die and kill, is a symptom of how bad things are in our society. We can listen to our leaders claiming that these people are crazy lunatics, but they where not born into militant islamism, terrorism and what have you, they where products of the society they live in, and it could have been any one of us. Terrorism, and militant islamism is not going away, until the gap is closed. The government will claim that this is a major development, but the gap is growing, and until we reverse that, we will have to live with this. If these questions where properly addressed, then people would be quite satisfied with going on living their normal, happy and fullfilling lives.

For additional information on the Dahab bombings and the attack on the MNF in Sinai


Alaá and the group spent the night in the Khalifa police station, before the three women was taken to the Qanater Women´s prison and the men was taken to Tora prison, to join the other group arrested on the 24th of April.(reminiscent of another case of innocent men and women being sent there in May 2001, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and three of his employee´s, sent to those exaxt locations. Alaá´s group got 15 days of administrative detention, and the earlier group was given a renewed 15 days period, ending on the 23rd of May. Apparently ,in the last days, the treatment has been rough, and Ahmed al Droubi has for instance not been able to take his medication for diabetes.

“The detained people are charged with disrupting traffic, obstructing the state from carrying out its duties and insulting the president,” one of the security officials said. While veteran Human Rights activist Aida Seif ad Dawla of the Nadeem Centre claimed that the assistant to the Min of Interior Sami Sidhoum said:

“You bitches. You sons of bitches. This is how it is going to be from now on if you do not behave and know your limits. If you do not behave you’ll have the bottom of my old shoes all over you.”

In my view, this further proves the fact, that contrary to what high officials have stated time and time again, that the minister of Interior, Habib al Adly does not condone of tough tactics, and the officers on the ground are to blame for the harsh treatment at times. In my view this proves that it´s on the direct order from Habib al Adly, the minister hailed in the past for wanting to use scientific and sophisticated methods to work in his field, that Sami Sidhoum uses brute force on a demo, that surely don´t pose a security threat in the wildest of al Adly´s fantasies.

It´s somewhat ironic that the prisons have been emptied on some rehabilitated high security prisoners lately, some of them sitting in administrative detention for years, without trial, only to be filled again in part, with pro-democracy activists from all ideological backgrounds ,in administrative detention, but none of them militant.

Lastly, but probably the most practical and important thing. In Washington, New York, Chicago and San Francisco there will be demos outside the Egyptian Embassy, and Consulates.

For further info see my last post, or go to Manal & Alaa and Free Ahmed al Dourobi

href="" rel="tag">Alaá,Alaa abd al Fattah, Alaa Ahmed Seif al Islam,, Judges club, arrests, Kifayya, Emergency law, arrested bloggers , political activism, Hesham Bastawissi, Mahmoud Mekky, Egypt

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Alaá Ahmed Seif al Islam and 7 others detained, 3 let go

Alaa Ahmed Seif al Islam(also known as Alaá Abd al Fattah), were among the 8 detained earlier today during the demonstrations at Bab El-Khalq Square, in front of the South Cairo Court, in support of Hesham Bastawissi, Mahmoud Mekky and the 40 arrested during last week´s sit in and demonstrations.

Here are the statement of the major Human Rights organisations(via the Cairo Institute for Human Rights studies.

Here is a Washington Post article by Nadia Abou el Magd and the Daily Star´s Pakinam Amer

Here are some accounts of what happend by bloggers starting with Ursula Lindsay at the arabist, ,the sandmonkey , Freedom, Mostafa and UPDATED by Issandr

Global Voices has a new post about Alaá , written by Socrates, and translated by Haitham Sabbah .

The eight detained are being held at the Sayyeda Zeinab police station

They are:

1. Alaa Ahmed Seif El Islam(Youth for Change)
2. Asmaa Ali(Youth for Change)
3. Nada El Qassas(Kifayya)
4. Rasha Azzab(Youth for Change)
5. Karim El Shaer(Youth for Change)
6. Fady Iskander(Youth for Change)
7. Ahmed Abdel Gawad(Youth for Change)
8. Ahmed Abdel Ghafour(Youth for Change)

All of them are in administrative detention with no charge, up for renewal every 15 days.

And the released are:

1. Sara Abdel Geleel
2. Mohammed Awaad
3. Yasser Abbas Mohammed

Alaá is a blogger/activist/community builder, provider of a aggregator who togheter with his wife Manal, won the Deutsche Welle BOB award 2005.

For background on Alaa, look at this open democracy article and this Cairo Magazine article .

For background on Youth for Change, go here

This makes the number of arrests the last ten days raising to 57 in the sit ins, and protests in support of the judges.

An Additional 72 arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood activists roughly during the same time frame, and ,mostly while putting up posters in the NFC campaign against the extension of the emergency law. The arrests have been in Alexandria(5), Giza(18), Kafr ash Shaikh(4), Sharqiyya(25), and Cairo(at least 20)

Among the 40 previously detained activists are the well-known blogger Malek Mostafa who togheter with Aláa among others were instrumental in working for the release of fellow blogger Abd al Karim. A good source for information about the 40, go here.

For the best updates, go to Manal & Alaa and to Kifayya.

My thoughts are with all arrested and their families.

Egyptian MP of the month

The prize for best Egyptian member of Parliament of the month of April, must surely be awarded the NDP deputy, Taher Hozayen, from Esna in Upper Egypt, who was the only MP from the leading party to vote against an extension of the Emergency law for two years.

Khuum, Menhyt and Neith should be proud of their fellow Esnaian.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Dan Morrison on the Judges Club

Dan Morrison has a fine piece in today´s San Francisco Chronichle . He speaks to Hesham Bestawissi and Josh Stacher. The article paints a grim but correct view of things in the recent past and things yet to come. Read it!

Friday, May 05, 2006

5th human death of bird flu in Egypt

Yesterday, the 4th of May, the fifth fatal death of bird flu was announced. The 27 years old Samah Abdel-Aziz Mohamed was admitted to a Cairo hospital on monday, after she was being exposed to sick fowl during a visit to relatives in Menoufiyya, upon arrival at her home in Sharabiyyah, Cairo, she fell ill with symptoms of fever, severe coughing and dyspnea.

A ban on keeping domestic poultry was issued in early March, but apparently it has been hard to implement it adequately, keeping domestic poultry is common, and enforcing the ban totally is probably, almost a mission impossible. All fatal cases, has been women, due to the simple fact that mostly women deal with the poultry.

The first case of infected poultry was discovered on the 17th of February, and 20 out of 26 governates has reported cases. The first of a total of 13 human cases until today was reported on the 18th of March.

206 people has been infected with the virus worldvide since the first case of bird flu in South Asia in 2003. 113 has died.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Mr President

The Washington Post editorial staff sends their personal birthday greetings to President Hosni Mubarak, who turns 78. Their gift is a fiery editorial.The question they ask is why the U.S continues to give 2 billion USD annualy, while letting the Egyptian President get away with making a mockery out of the Bush democracy initiative.

This is of course the WaPo take on the renewal of the Emergency law, it´s preety much the usual stuff. I think they give too much of an influence, to him when stating that he´s commentary on the shiíte communities in the Arab world being loyal to Iran, rather than their native countries undermined the political process in Iraq, although insensitive, careless and out of line for a political leader of his stature, but that is yet another sign of Mubarak´s former trade mark, cautiousness, patience and moderation, being a thing of the past.
The reference to the judges club is interesting, but unfortunately wrong, they critizised the Presidential elections, but the disciplinary hearings is based on them falsely accusing their fellow judge for complicity in election fraud in the parliamentary elections(yes this is the charge).

Finally the editorial raise the 2 billion USD Question again, and sends a suggestion to the White house and congress, why not sending the money to the civil society instead of the government? Well it sounds like a good idea, considering that money going to NGO´s today is subject to restrictions, and must be approved by the state( of course the state is the single largest benefiecery of foreign aid), but judging from past experience this is not an easy issue. To start, the government have done everything in it´s power in the past to control the civil society by imposing new legislation, tightening the grip further. The state spare no effort in fighting every attempt on direct funding of the civil society, the Manama meeting of the Forum for the Future in November 2005,being only the latest case in point. Lastly the state having the Prerogative of banning an NGO, or withholding the legality permit or in the worst case prosecute for obtaining illegal money from foreign bodies, like Hafez Abu Sáada of the Egyptian Human Rights Organisation or the case aginst Saad Eddin Ibrahim and the Ibn Khaldoun Center for development studies, of course followed by the usual character assassination in the state controlled media.

This makes the question of giving the 2 billion USD aid package directly to the civil society, a whole lot more complicated than at first glance, but if the Bush administration democracy initiative is still on (was it ever?), then this could be an avenue worth exploring.

Happy birtday Mr President! hope you will have a nice day with your family in charming Sharm!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Emergency exit?

So, now it´s done, once again, quick, without any prior notice, but still expected, in fact the President has prepared the people for the extension, prior to Dahab. And the reasons given was excpected. To curb terror and to safeguard national unity. Well the terrorism situation is neither better, nor worse now, than prior to the elections. And one could ask oneself if Egypt of 2006, is a better society, has a better economy, a better security situation and so on , than in 1967 or in 1981, if the answer is yes, then maybe one could argue that the emergency law has made a differnce. If no, then why is it still with us. The people sitting in prison year in and year out without any trial, they are the faces of the emergency law. Keeping them in prison under harsh conditions , without pressing charges against them is likely to produce more trouble, remember that Sayyid Qutb was radicalized in prison, writing signposts, where he classified Nassers Egypt as Jahiliyya, just 10 years after co-operating with the regime,in the early days after the revolution 1952.

For my part, the answer is , no, Egypt is not safer, not a better society , and so on.

The issue of safeguarding the national unity is also a question where the problem has become worse during the 37.5 years of emergency law. And even if it might feel, as the problem is worse now, this is not the case. And the solution, is absolutely not in draconian measures.

Well i didn´t intend to write this much, i was just going to give you a few suggestions of what you could read, about the emergency law, the Boston Globe had a very good editorial this morning.

Here´s a soundbite:
¨Sadly, it now appears that intervening events have cooled Bush's ardor for liberalization in Arab countries governed by clients of Washington. The relative success of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood in last winter's tightly controlled parliamentary election and the outright victory of the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, in balloting for the Palestinian Authority legislature seemed to shock Bush and his advisers. Suddenly they noticed that years of autocratic rule in much of the Arab world have emptied the political playing field of all serious competitors save the established elites and their Islamist foes.

Mubarak was able to go back on his pledge to begin opening up Egypt's political system because Bush ceased hectoring the government of the largest Arab country to end its repressive ways. Bush's course correction reflects an incoherent policy rooted in a superficial, highly ideological notion of political reality in Egypt and other Arab societies.

Last fall, Bush and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood both demanded that cancellation of the emergency laws must be the necessary first step for democratic reform. Although Bush and the Muslim brothers had disparate reasons for opposing the emergency laws, they were both right to view them as the single greatest obstacle to reform of a system that allows Mubarak and his inner circle to retain their monopoly on power.¨

UPDATE It was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune on the 3rd of May, with another title, and a slightly changed article(a bit confusing).I´ve been on this road a couple of times before, the American reluctance to see anything more in democratization, than elections, their chronic reluctance to stand up for human right abuses, when commited by the Egyptian regime towards islamists. The long months in prison for Issam al Iryan, with complete silence from the Bush administration being the clearest case in point, while the case of Ayman Nour has been highly profiled. The utter lack of understanding, when Condi Eice give´s the advice to the few¨good guys¨ whom she actually meton her last trip to Cairo, to go ahead and create parties... In the words of Ahmad Nazif, ¨we already have 24 parties¨ The problem is not the parties, the problem is a legislation, who gives the government the right to pick and choose, having Safwat Sharif as the prosecutor and judge of whom can form a party or not, is absurd. That the Bush administration shows so little knowledge, that it is unable to criticize the goverment for the change of art 76 of the constitution, opening up for multicandidate presidential elections, but failing in the most fundamental of ways, to make it a fair ammendment, beneficial only to the NDP, curtailing every possible contender in the future. That Dr Rice tells the secular opposition to go ahead and create parties, and prove that they are worthy of the administration´s support is to qoute Sean McCormacks words below, dissapointing.

The abolishment of the emergency law, in place for far to long, has been one of the few things that the political opposition and the civil society has agreed upon for years now. That should have been the first step on the train of democratization, and it should have come in May 2003, and should not be replaced, by a terrorism law that infringes the Human rights and the political rights that the constitution gives the Egyptian Citizen.

The State Department take on the emergency law extension.

Mr. Gollust.

QUESTION: I'm a day late with this one, but I wonder if you have any reflections on the extension of emergency rule essentially in Egypt, which has been going on for a quarter century now?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a disappointment. It's a disappointment. We understand that Egypt has certainly facing its own issues related to terrorism, but President Mubarak during the presidential campaign had talked about the fact that he was going to seek a new emergency law, but one that would be targeted specifically at fighting terrorism, counterterrorism, and that would take into account respect for freedom of speech as well as human rights. Certainly we would like to see President Mubarak and his government follow through on that pledge. So with respect to this particular action, I can only say that we're disappointed.
QUESTION: Does the structure of this legislation sort of conform to what you were looking for, do you know?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have the particulars of it at this point and I think that it is, at this point, prospective -- is at some point out in the future and we would have hoped that the Egyptian government would have used this time between the elections that they have had to do a lot of different things, but to also work on this legislation. But it appears that it is now going to extend -- this emergency law is going to extend far out into the future, at least for a couple of years, and I think that -- I would characterize that as a real disappointment to us.

And finally Baheyya´s piece , asking if this is the end of the Mubarak regime?

13th case of human bird flu in Egypt

On tuesday the 13th case of human infection of bird flu was found, this time a 27 year old woman who had visited relatives in Menoufiyya. The relatives appearently keep´s domestic poultry. She fell ill, after she had returned home to her Cairo suburb. She was admitted to hospital, and given tamilflu.

This comes after rather good news earlier in the week, when the 12th case, a 18 year old woman from the Kafr ash Shaikh governate was discharged from hospital in Cairo, she had been infected after comming into contact with sick fowl.

According to Mona Yassin, WHO technical assistant for media and communications:

“Compared with other countries where H5N1 infections among humans have been found, the recovery rate in Egypt has been very good,” said Mona Yassin, WHO technical assistant for media and communications. “However, the fact that there are still infections among birds means that the danger still exists.”

Four women has died from bird flu in Egypt over the last month and a half.

Just when you hoped it was over.

Here is my earlier posts on bird flu
First cases of bird flu in Egypt

First human death of H5N1 bird flu in Egypt

Going to the Zoo on Sham an Nessim?

Ehsan Masood article on the Noor school for blind children in Alexandria

Ehsan Masood´s article at Open Democracy, on the Noor public School for blind children in Alexandria. The kids comes from low income homes. But contrary to what is usually the case, the school is able to provide an excellent education, due to having a dedicated staff and a likewise dedicated and voluntary group of fundraisers, who scans Alexandria, Egypt and beyond for donors who wants to donate and commit to a specific item. What´s called ¨a quick win or a best buy¨ in the terminology of international development.

Ehsan Masood also wrote a piece on the new landmark, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina and it´s director Ismail Serageddin, you can find it here.