Thursday, August 31, 2006

Abeer al Askary recieves Canadian press freedom award

The gifted egyptian journalist Abeer al Askary, working for al Doustur will be recieving the International Press Freedom Award from the Canadian organisation, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression(CJFE). She will share the prize with a pakistani journalist Hayat Ullah who will recieve the award posthumously after being abducted and killed while working. The third award winner is the columbian journalist Hollman Morris. The award cermony will held on November 1st in Toronto.

This was the collective motivation:

"This year's winners come from some of the toughest regions in which to practice journalism," said Carol Off, chairperson of CJFE's awards committee. "They are truly remarkable people, committed to speaking out, and telling the stories of the world's most vulnerable citizens."

And this is how Abeer is presented on the International Press Freedom site:

"Abeer Al-Askary is a young Egyptian journalist who has published several investigative reports on controversial and threatening issues. Among her writings are reports on state security officers within the Ministry of Interior who have supervised torture against activists and prisoners. She has also written on corruption and lack of transparency in the educational system in Egypt. Additionally, her writings have contributed to revealing fraud during the Egyptian elections, especially concerning the President's son and the issue of bequeathing the presidency to him. Another example of the sensitive nature of her work are articles focused on the rights of the oppressed Egyptian Bahais in Egypt at a time when extremist Islamic thought is widespread. Because of her writings, she has fallen victim to a series of attacks by the Egyptian state security authorities. For example, Al-Askary was one of the victims of the assault on May 25, 2005, that targeted activists and journalists covering demonstrations against the referendum on constitutional amendments in Egypt. Female journalists were not only physically assaulted, but also sexually harassed in an attempt to break their will."

Please let´s not forget that Aber al Askary´s boss, al dostour editor Ibrahim Eissa and her collegue Sahar Zaki was sentenced to one year in prison in June 2006.

Alf mabrouk Abeer!

300 Egyptians seek asylum in the Chech Republic

During July and August, the Czech republic has recieved 300 egyptian asylym seekers, this is in sharp contrast to January when they recieved one.

The authorities thinks it´s the neighbour Italy that they wan´t to reach. The asylum laws in the Czech republic is somewhat milder than in Italy. Most of the Egyptians claim to be economic refugees, and that is not a reason for asylum in the Czech republic, or in any other country in the European Union. Some 90 egyptians left three different reception camps near Prague en massé last week, in what authorities think was an organized attempt to go to other countries. 19 of those where spotted by the police, and returned to the reception camps.

First: who can blame them for wanting to go to Europe, to leave Egypt is a dream for many young egyptians, and only to achieve the goal of getting a visa to Amrika, Canada, Australia or the EU is tough post 9/11 and with festung Europa showing it´s nicest smile towards any potential refugeeseeker, before sending him back with the first available flight if possible.

Second: Who the hell advised them to claim economic refugee status? It´s a non starter, it´s such a waste with money and time preparing for the trip, if you end up, being sent back home, before it even started.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz dies

Egypt´s most world famous author, Naguib Mahfouz,the first arab writer to recieve the Nobel Prize for litterature in 1988 died this morning.

Born on December 11th 1911, he lived in the district of Gamaliyya in Cairo during his childhood, and went to King Fuad university, where he studied english and philosophy. Being a civil servant all his life, first in the ministry of religious endovements and later on in the ministry of culture, and working in journalism for al Ahram writing a column until the day he died(after the murder attempt on his life in October 1994, he wasn´t able to write anymore, but he used to dictate he´s colums).

He´s books portrays the city of Cairo and it´s people of all walks of life. Prefering the environment that´s he´s intrinsicly familliar with, and a part of, he´s stories from his old neigbourhood of al Gamaliyya and Khan al Khalili, as well as Abasiyya later on paint´s fantastic characters, that will live on long after as a legacy, and document of time over Cairo and Egypt´s past century.

Hovever, his first years as an author was dedicated to the Pharaonic times, publishing his first novel in 1939. It was not until 6 years later with Khan al Khalili, that he started the journey of exploring the mix of tradition and modernity among the people in urban Cairo, that came to be his trademark from then on. Always intunned and connected to the people and millieu´s that he described.

He is probably more known in Egypt and the arab world, through the numerous films that is based on his novels, indeed the portrait of Sayyid abd al Gawwad in the Cairo trilogy, has become the archtype for the family patriarh in Egyptian film. We all remember the scene when he comes home from a buisness trip, and finds his wife, Amina in bed with a broken leg, caused by a car accident while having been to visit the Husseini mosque next door for the first time, although having lived in the neighbourhood for tventy or so years. This is the first time she leaves the house without permission from her husband, something that simply wasn´t done 85 years ago.The highly religious Nena opted to do this after partly being persuaded by her children, and partly by her desire to finaly be able to visit the shrine. The consequenes are dire, she´s being sent back to her fathers house. My favourite however is the son, Yassin.

Other famous novels are Zuqqaq al Midaq(Midaq Alley), Haderet al Muhtaram(Respected sir),Thartara fawq al nil(adrift on the Nile), came in 1966, and many belive that the author predicted the utter failure of the Egyptian army in the war of 1967 in that novel. Miramar is one of only book about modern Egypt that is not about Cairo. It´s set in Alexandria, and is seen as the Egyptian answer to Lawrence Durells famous Alexandria Quartet.

Awlad haretna(Children of Gabalawi) from 1959, who like many of he´s books first came out in serialized form in newspapers caused an uproar within the highest authority in Sunni Islam, the al Alzar university, with demonstrations outside al Ahram, with the subseqent result of banning the book. It was not published in full until 2006 in Egypt. The novel should come back to haunt him later on in his life, when this book was used by the militant islamist cleric, Umar abd al Rahman to issue a fatwa on Mahfouz, accusing him for blasphemy. The attempt on his life in 1994, was probably made with this in mind, although the culprit was not familliar with any of Mahfouz writings.

One of his most political books was written in 1983,Amam al'arsh (Before the Throne), where he puts all the historic leaders of Egypt since Mena(Narmer) unified the country to the present day, ending with Sadat before the throne of Osiris where the will be judged for their deeds.

The circle was perhaps closed when his two last books Akhnaten(1992) and Seventh heaven(2004), dealt with subjects that he wrote a great deal about early on, going back to the historical setting and the eternal question of afterlife, something that has intrigued people in Egypt and caused lot of soulsearching and thought trueout it´s history from pharaonic times till today.

May god rest his soul and Ba on his way to the seventh heaven.

A good summary of his work can be found here

Mido back at White Hart Lane

Mido is back with Tottenham, after Roma and Tottenham managed to agree on a pricetag of 5 M british pounds. This is the perfect opportunity for him, comming back to talented and young squad and a coach that understands how to get the best out of him. Let´s hope that he can make just as much of an impact as last year when he scored 11 goals in the premiership.

And on saturday he will make a comeback with the Pharaos against Burundi!

Monday, August 28, 2006

At least eight dead in two different building collapses

AFP reports that at least three people died in two different building collapses today.

The first occured in the governate of Qalyubiyya, were a three-storey building collapsed,claiming three lives and three injured. The second was in the Hadeyiq al Qubba district in Cairo, were a four-storey building collapsed, leaving five dead, four from the same family. Rescue workers managed to save 10 people from the rubble. The building had a demolition order, and this seems to be a parallel case to the collapse of a building in Madinet Nasr in January 2004,causing 16 deaths, which also had a demolition order since 1992, while the building permit was only for four stores.

This is unfortunately an ongoing theme in recent times in Egypt, and it comes at a time when Egypt has just experienced a major train chrash, several big traffic incidents and the boat catastrophe not so long ago.

It once again shows the government innabillity to take something that resembles adequate measures to deal with day to day basic security issues concerning housing, transport and what have you. How many times must this happen?

It now seems that eight people died in two incidents according to this reuters report. Also note how unfortunate for the city of Qalyoub to be at the center of another dissaster, only days after the train crash that killed 58 people.

For pictures of the Hadeiq al Qubba incident, go to Hossams post on the same issue at arabist.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book review on Yacoubian building

Lorraine Adams reviews Alaa al Aswany´s book, Yacoubiyan building in the New York Times today. The most talked about novel in Egypt in recent years, have been made into a movie, with the largest budget ever in the history of egyptian film. Just as the book, the film caused a lot of controversy,when it hit the screens in Cairo earlier this summer, for instance a heated debate in parliament with some MP´s wanted to censor some scenes, that they thought tarnished Egypt´s reputation. Overall the film has been saved from much of the censorship, although there is one thing missing in the film, the reference to the "big man" by party big shot, Kamal al Fouli.

The New York Times treats it´s readers to the first chapter in the novel, you can find it here.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Does this sound like an army implementing cease fire?

"If our fighters deep in Lebanese territory are left without food our water, I believe they can break into local Lebanese stores to solve that problem,"

This is the words of Brigadier General Avi Mizrahi, the head of the Israel Defense Forces logistics branch, today, in response to soldiers complaining of lack of food on the front line. Mizrahi goes on, saying that they are preparing for the soldiers to have to stay during the winter.

This is not the the usual IDF, if what they wanted to achieve, was crushing the hizbullah and trying to reestablish the level of deterence, then this war has been a failure. Hizbullah barraged Israel with 250 rockets yesterday, the highest amount during the entire campaign, this after a month of fighting. The visable evidence of anything that remotely resembles the crushing of hizbullah´s abbility to launch rocket attacks on northern Israel is all but missing, and rather than to deter Hizbullah, the Israeli decision to go to war, has elevated Hizbullah and their leader, Nassrallah to a political status, that no other Arab country, organisation or leader has held since 1967, Israel has succeded in bringing about what no one has been able to galvanize since then, the much overused and concept of an Arab street.

The Israeli citizens living in northern Israel is probably less secure today, than before July 12th. That is a shame, their safety is paramount to the Israeli government, and that was the stated aim for going to war. But instead of creating more safety, they have created another humanitarian dissaster, more than 1100 dead on both sides , the bulk of them civilians, at least 900 000 displaced persons, or people living in shelters and collateral damage beyond repair.

The question is, Mr Olmert and Mr Bush, was it worth it? And Mr Nasrallah don´t say that this was not what Hizbullah excpected, this was the expected outcome, after the kidnapping of Corpral Shallit in Gaza, you calculated this, and were willing to give your enemy the excuse to go to war. That was not a patriotic act for Lebanon, an act of solidarity with Palestine, or for the Arab or Islamic umma, that was a deliberate , calculated way of gaining more legitimacy and strength for Hizbullah at the dire expense of your country.

Thank you al Ahram!

It gives me great pleasure to know that al Ahram journalists can read fustat again. Just a week after the largest newspaper in the Arab world decided to block their journalists from viewing blogs from google, blogger,the award winning egyptian aggregator/blog and Baheyya to name but a few. This amount´s to almost 80 percent of egyptian blogs.

they reversed their policy, perhaps opting for a fresh start, trying to implement the new "fantastic" press law into their organisation, so as to give the al Ahram highly talented journaists a chance of blossoming along the new guidelines, and new winds of change.

Thank you!

Reemerging heavy metal scene in Egypt

More than nine years after being on every yellow press cover, portrayed along the lines of the myth of real rock stars, sex, drugs and rock´n roll(for those of you who have forgotten read James Napoli´s account from 1997.)The Egyptian heavy metal scene is making a comeback

Their concerts having been banned ever since(and apparently that´s still the case). It seems like heavy metal fans has come out of their imposed den, alive and kicking. Let´s hope society and authorities alike can see them in a new, and more relaxed light this time around.

I have yet to hear about an Egyptian heavy metal band singing in arabic, that would be interesting, does anybody know something about it?

I would love to see Iron Maiden or Ozzy Osbourne on the footsteps of the pyramids, in much the same way as the millenium concert with J M Jarre or The Aida Opera, they would surely put up a fantastic sound and light show, that would make Abolhoul rock as newer before.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

America, Israels proxy?

“Far from Israel being the American proxy in a war against Iran, we’ve become Israel’s proxy in its war against Hezbollah,” he said. “Israel’s miscalculations have been so serious that its only hope for victory is to have the United States and the international community do for Israel what it can’t do militarily, which is defeat Hezbollah, assemble an international force in Lebanon and bring some sort of endgame to all this.”

Anthony H Cordesman, Center for International and Strategic Studies in today´s NYT

Another day in Lebanon, another day in the Bush-Blair Disneyland of democratization

At least 26 syrian farmers died in the village of Qaa situateted in the Bekaa Valley. This was the second highest death toll in a single air strike during the three weeks of war.The first being Qana II.

Seven died in Taibeh in southern Lebanon, and an additional four when bridges were bombed. Katyusharockets lands closer and closer to Tel Aviv, today 45 km from Tel Aviv in Hadera. Three dead from katyusha rockets today ,making the total of 11 deadly casualties from Katyushas in two days. Beirut is bombed back to 1986 routinely every other night and Lebanon get´s even more isolated, when you thought it impossible to be more isolated.

Rami Khouri gives us the broader picture, by focusing on the state of democracy promotion in the region on a single day this week, as a sample of how imploded this policy, once called the broader Middle East plan has become. It´s a bleak reality check , and should serve as a wake up call to their fantasy project, the New Middle East, but it will not.
Here is a qoute from Khouri´s piece.
"Instead of promoting free and democratic societies that are peace-loving and prosperous, Bush and Blair are midwives to the birth of new failed states, narco-states, militia-based statelets, and terror havens."

and here is the full article in today´s Daily star.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sorry for not posting

I haven´t been able to post anything for the last five days, I´ve been without internet access since sunday, but at last, that problem is solved. There is plenty to post on of course, Lebanon for sure.