Monday, April 28, 2008

Emergency Law have to end says NCHR´s Abu al Magd

Vice President of the the government affiliated National Council for Human Rights,Ahmed Kamel Abu al Magd urges the government not to backtrack on it´s intensions to end the Emergency Law(EL) , after the two year grace period, supposed to end on May 31st and that was ment to produce a ¨modern¨ counter-terrorism law in it´s place.

"I don't expect an extension of that law, as the government is trying to pass the new Counterterrorism Act. People want to see reasonable restrictions and not confiscation of liberties, which is difficult but not impossible."

He also said that the new law was supposed to be debated in public prior to parliament submission, something that didn´t materialize. He also cautioned against carbon copying the current EL into the counter-terrorism law, and in that way embody both the spirit and letter of the supposedly exceptional Emergency Law, that has been a permanent feauture of Egyptian daily life since June 1967, with the exception of sixteen months during May 1980-October 1981,and in that way making the EL permanent. Other Human Rights organizations has also cautioned against this in the past. The NDP members of parliament on the other hand dosen´t seem to be that keen on it´s abolishment. When the renewal of the EL was hurriedly voted through parliament in May 2006 , the only brave NDP member of parliament to vote against it was Taher Hozayen from Esna. Of course Abu al Magd himself, and indeed an overwhelming majority of the NCHR was against the abolishment of the EL in the not so distant past.

The problem in my view, is that the state has no intention of giving up it´s most potent weapon in it´s arsenal against any security or political threat in the forseeable future, especially not while in the middle of a succesion process. The evidence of that has been proven correct time and time again, the latest being the military trial of Khairat al Shater and his fellow Muslim Brothers, as well as the Interior Ministry decision to rearrest Esraá abd al Fattah and others in the wake of April 6th according to the Emergency Law, when court orders for their release were issued.

The end of the Emergency Law , could have been a symbolic gesture of great importance. The 2005 election promise didn´t materialize ,at one point that could really have signalled change. Unfortunately, as things stands today, the ending of the Emergency Law, will only be used by the NDP spinndoctors, while providing no change in substance whatsoever, to the people of Egypt, in terms of their basic human and political rights.

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drug abuse, urfi marriages and Aláa al Aswany

A couple of weeks ago, i had a blogpost on social taboos and the new project against drugs by Amr Khaled, with Shaábola joining in as poster boy for the project. Now al Jazeera english, everywomen had a programme on the 25th of April on another aspect of drug abuse. The number of drug abusing men is increasing in Egyptian society according to the show, one reason being the dire economic situattion. The show looks into the effect this has on the women living with these men, who becomes the de facto sole breadowners for the entire family.

The second is about the practice of Urfi marriages, the current attempt on stopping it, the spread of the practice among young couples, as a substitute for ¨real marriages¨, which has decreased. The effects it can have on the women when the relationships fails, it´s written by Carolynne Wheeler for the Daily Telegraph.

Last, but in no way the least, the New York Times Magazine has a six page feature on dentist/author Aláa al Aswany, who became famous for his bestselling novel the Yaqoubian building, and right now his new novel, Chicago is available in english(AUC Press), french and german translations. I practically read Yaqoubian from cover to cover, only stopping for meals and sleep, my terrible flu that kept me in bed at the time helped, but i have to agree with the readers who made it the most read book in the Arab world on this side of the 21 Century, so far.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Happy Easter to all Copts and Happy Sham al Nessim

Happy Easter to all Copts and a happy Sham al Nessim, get out, go to the zoo, or a park eat some fesikh and enjoy the breeze! And go easy on the meat and fesikh.

Apparently someone mistakenly took Coptic Easter and Sham al Nessim for April fools day...


A tragic aspect of this year´s Sham al Nessim celebrations hit the towns of Luxor and Sohag as well as the Governate of Menoufiyya, when a total of 11 children drowned in three different accidents.

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Fouad al Farhan is released

The Saudi blogger Fouad al Farhan has been released, and is now at his home, according to a message that was sent to members of the Free Fouad facebook group:

Fouad Al-Farhan is free now after released from jail and he is at home with his family. Here is his friend and prominent Saudi blogger, Saudi jeans reaction to the news.

تم اليوم إطلاق سراح فؤاد الفرحان وهو الآن في بيته مع أهله

Fouad was arrested on December 10th and his been in custody for 138 days. Hecalled his time in custody ¨a unique experience and stated that he would return to blogging soon in a telephone interview with the Washington Post following his release.

Overall it´s been quite a good week for bloggers in the Arab World this week, in Egypt, Muhammed al Sharqawi was released from al Marg prison, although before he was released he was questioned in another case regarding his publishisng house Malameh , and the publication of the graphic novel, Metro, written by Magdi al Shafi.
Nadia Mabrouk and Esra Abd al Fattah was also released from al Qanater´s women´s prison. In Esra´s case after she had been ordered released, something totaly ignored by the interior ministry , whom stopped the release and issued orders for her to remain in jail according to the Emergency laws. Only after her mother pleaded to President Hosni Mubarak, the First Lady and Minister of Interior Habib al Adly in the press ,she was released.

In a related matter, Cairo University student Bilal Diab was held by the university security for some hours, after he asked Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to release Esra and the other¨internet-activists¨ of April 6th, while Nazif was holding a speech at the University. You can watch an interview with Bilal made by Mona al Shazly on 10 mazaán here. The interview with Bilal begins about 8 minutes into the show. Before that Minister of commerce Rashid Muhammed Rashid speaks to Mona on a common Arab Market.And Mona looks really interested about the topic...

While i´m happy truly happy by the above mentioned releases, let´s not forget those who are still not freed , like Kareem al Beheiri and Ahmed Badawi for instance, as well as others.

This post will cross-posted at Diwan of democracy.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Marcel Khalife in Cairo

Marcel Khalife did a concert at the Cairo Operahouse on Tuesday, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the launching of al Ahaly, the tagamoú party newspaper. In a press conference before the concert, he paid tribute to Mahalla and Gaza. I have had the pleasure of being to two concerts with him before and my favourite is Rita, but i will give you a clip of oummi instead. If you want to hear Rita , you can find it in an earlier posting by me on my other blog,Diwan of democracy that i recently relaunched after a long break.

UPDATE: Here are two reviews of the concert, Amnesiac´s is really funny and especially when read with the previous entry of Mozza Marcel in mind. I also have trouble understanding ,why they couldn´t sell tickets for a somewhat smaller sum and fill the Opera. The other one is written by Nida Mariam and i would like to quote her:

¨To me, a novice to the mastery of Khalife, the music was magnificent. Coming from the cacophony of Cairo, my sensibilities were susceptible to the magic of Arabic melody while my ears were eager for the impulse of Jazz improvisation. Carrying no aficionado antics in my purse that night, I easy one to please.¨

His latest album Taqasim that seem to have been the bulk of first set is perhaps not an instant and easy listening experience, but his music has never been that way. Marcel Khalife has been travelling around the globe for the past years, playing his first set like this, instrumental Oudo-jazz fusion and then giving the audience what they want(and what they came for in the first place..) in the second. The first time i saw him live, my initial impresion was pretty much?????? What is thiiiis... but it only took 15 minutes or so to come over that, close my eyes and concentrate on the music, and suddenly i was somewhere else. The music is beautiful and then hearing Rita live for the first time with the audience singing along was beyond words.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shoubra´s noise, is like music to my ears

This blog and it´s name started of as a dual tribute to the City and Country of my heart, Cairo and Egypt alike. I stumbled upon Michael Slackman´s article on the noisy city of Cairo, and yes it´s noisy, but all through the article all i could think of is the fact that the noice is what makes the city into this fantastic metropolis - This last months most western media has been writing reports about the bread crisis and in every article you read, you cant miss the part about bread meaning aish meaning life. But the noice of Cairo is also life to me - Cairo never leaves anyone without a distinct mark of rememberence. You can never be lukewarm to Cairo, either you hate it, or you love it and embrace it.

The people in Michael Slackman´s article live in Rod al Farag(Shoubra) one of my neighboorhoods, and i love to strawl down Sharia Shoubra or al Terrah at night, one of my small corners in the world is geographically pinpointed between Cairo´s railway station at Ramses, through what used to be the Ahmed Helmy bus station for Upper Egypt and down al terrrah, until you reach Cinema Shoubra Palace , and see the badly painted Mare Girguis icon copy on the opposite side, that used to be the landmark to find Sharia al busta, when i was a kid. This is one of the places i call home, i have my barber on Shokolani to cut whatever is left of my hair these days, (Ahmed Badeir is not my relative). I buy my newspapers at the newspaper stand next to the Rod al Farag subway station and my makwagi will always be Amo Abdu on Tussun. And i miss my substitute grandmother dearly who passed away three years ago, she used to live on the very same street. This is my corner of the world.

I´ll leave you with a clip of a great song, a tribute to all the girls in Cairo from the songwriter, what made me post it is the line about Shoubra wa banat Shoubra, for me it´s more a tribute to the people of Cairo. I was very happy to notice when i watched the Lebanese film ¨Caramel¨ or Sukar banat in Arabic(Youtube clip) recently that the song was part of the soundtrack. The film is directed by Nadine Labaki, and a very good one by the way Enjoy Adi Fi´al Maadi!

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Khaled Hamza ordered to be released by State Security prosecution

The New Cairo State Security prosecution has ordered journalist and editor in Chief of the English language website to be released. This hopefully means that both Khaled Hamza and Abdul-Jalil al Sharnouby, who holds the same position with the Arabic language website and was freed on bail four days ago , could resume their respective work soon.

Khaled Hamza was arrested on February 20th this year.

This comes just hours after the harsh verdicts of 25 leading Muslim Brothers, at the end of a yearlong military trial at Hikestep.

UPDATE: Khaled Hamza has been released.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Khairat al Shater and Hassan Malek receives seven years prison sentences

The military trial at Hikestep has been a Kafkaesque nightmare that´s been going on for 12 months finally came to an end today.Unfortunately with an outcome that couldn´t have been a complete surprise to anyone who has been following this trial, whose final session had already been postponed twice.

25 of the 40 Muslim Brotherhood members got prison terms of between 10 years and three years. The number three in rank in the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al Shater, and Hassan Malek received seven years prison terms. The two of them also got their property confiscated. Seven others got 10 years terms in absentia and 16 others was handed down terms of 18 months to five years. 15 were acquitted. Reuters have slightly different numbers in this report. The details of the verdicts was not clear at this point in time.

According to MB defense lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud, the judge made a hit and run appearence when issuing the rulling, not bothering to brief the MB lawyers who were waiting outside the courtroom, just like the families, human rights organizations and journalists, they were not allowed to be present in the court room during the final session, continuing the same pattern that has been the rule during this yearlong trial.
There were 34 arrests in connection to today´s verdict at Hikestep. Three journalists were briefly detained and then released, as were two sons of MB businessman Hassan Malek, their sister Khadigha was beaten by security personell according to her own account. The security measures taken to stop any manifestation in support of the detainess in connection to the final session.

The rulling is likely to be appealed by the defense, as a 2007 change in the judicial system open up for appeals on procedurial matters regarding military courts.

Human Rights organizations has repeatedly critized military trials of civilians, and today was no exception to that rule. Amnesty International called the verdicts ¨a perversion of justice¨

A presentation of the convicted can be found here.

More to follow Tomorrow.

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Hamzawy/Herzallah paper on local elections

The Carnegie endowment has a new policy outlook paper out on the recent local elections in Egypt, written by AmrHamzawy and Mohammed Herzallah. It´s called Egypt’s Local Elections Farce: Causes and Consequences. I want to provide you with the link now, and hopefully comment on it later. The paper can be found here(10 pages pdf).

There is much to say about the elections, not the result in itself, but the way the election process was obstructed prior to election day. The significance of this election compared to previous elections of the 52600 seats on local councils that was up for grabs last Tuesday was in the neccesity after the constitutional amendments in March 2007 for any independent presidential candidate to be able to compete in the future presidential elections( the next one in 2011) to have the endorsement from , both the upper(majlis ash Shura) and lower(majlis ash Shaáb) houses of parliament as well as support from at least 10 members of local councils in 14 of 26 different Governates.

This backdoor to the Precidency is today the only chance for an organization like the Muslim Brotherhood to be able to field a candidate in the presidential elections for the forseeable future. For that reason it was in my view the wrong decision by the Ikhwan to boycott the elections. Yes it´s true that they wouldn´t have a chance to achieve that goal with the 20 candidates they would have been allowed to field in the end, compared to the 7000-10000 that they were planning to participate with in the first place, or the 500 or so that actually managed to register their names, but was overruled by the authourities anyway. but to boycott and to openly ask people to boycott the elections , in a election with somewhere in between 5-10 percent voter turnout does not constitute an effective approach to the problem. Furthermore they are letting their constituency of voters who proved so loyal to them in 2005, down. People who climbed ladders and qued for hours , despite the prescence of security forces whom tried it´s best to obstruct likely ikhwan woters from casting their wote, images very vividly remembered in our collective memory, but for some reason that is beyond my comprehension overlooked or not comnsidered important enough to reconnect with by the Muslim Brotherhood itself.

The weapon of electoral boycott should only be used as a last resort , and could only be useful as a concerted effort by the opposition in it´s entirety in my view. It´s something that the opposition has used much too often in the past, to the point of it being counterproductive. In this case it´s even impossible to meassure the effect of the boycott. You don´t stand a chance of using the moral card of democracy if you are giving up on whatever limited avenues to participate that is open to you.

The approach should have been to compete in thoce electoral precincts that was opened to Ikhwan candidates, and hope for MB mobilization to work it´s magic, while after the election fight the legal battle as to whether the election was free and fare or as Hamzawy/Herzallah argues on the contrary a farce.

These are the key points in the paper:

Key points:

• Current social and political unrest in Egypt is not the consequence of reform driven activism like that of 2004 and 2005, but a reaction to worsening economic conditions by independent and discordant activists. The regime’s repressive response—using security forces and various coercive methods to preempt or smother strikes—has failed to stabilize the street. The decentralized nature of these protests makes it more difficult for the regime to contain them, but also prevents the formation of a cohesive opposition movement with clear objectives.
• The regime has consistently failed to resolve the problems of relentless inflation, high unemployment, and crippled welfare system in the country. Minor steps taken by the government continue to fall short of the comprehensive social and economic reform needed.
• The Egyptian regime’s return to authoritarian methods impairs organized political opposition in the country, which in turn erodes the prospects of sustainable national and political recovery. But opposition forces are also partly responsible for their present condition. Their lack of credibility and discipline has undermined their ability to establish a reliable opposition front.
• The Brotherhood’s last-minute boycott of the local elections revealed the movement’s lack of consistency in its strategic thinking. The Brotherhood’s decision to boycott these elections conspicuously contradicts its previous commitment to advancing reform through political participation at all costs.

Reflecting on the Brotherhood’s boycott, the authors strike a cautionary note on the consequences.

“To the degree that the movement intended to retaliate for the regime’s flagrant actions, its decision may not pay off. After all, keeping the Muslim Brotherhood out of the local councils was the intention of the ruling establishment in the first place. What’s more, the movement is setting a dangerous precedent that the regime will certainly keep in mind: through sufficient political persecution and repression, the authorities can count on the Brotherhood to take itself voluntarily out the political equation,” they conclude

Khairat al Shater military trial verdict tomorrow?

On another related matter, another chapter in the hikestep nightmare will be written today. The military trial of Khairat al Shater and his 39 co-defandats will supposedly recieve their verdict today. Lets hope for the best. In a couple of hours we will hopefully know. For the time being one could perhaps find a small , but very limited joy in the fact that Abdul-Jaleel al-Sharnoubi, the editor in Chief of the Arabic language Ikwhanonline website was freed on bail four days ago.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

631 detainees in Mahalla, 18 ordered released

631 detainees in Mahalla

According to a security source 631 detainees is being held in Mahalla. Out of the 631, 331 is being investigated and the remaining 300 is still in detention.

18 were ordered released in yesterday´s court hearing about the events of 6-7 by the Public Prosecutor.

Could somebody please explain what the additional 300 that are facing any charges are doing in custody still?

Nine photojournalists released and the ¨Caravan of Solidarity

Nasser Nouri, a photographer from Reuters is released together with Ahmed Hamed, a photographer with the independent Egyptian newspaper al Fajr , and camera men from Dream TV and Orbit. All of them Egyptian. They were detained while covering the ¨Caravan of Solidarity¨ made up of 25 professors, doctors and activists going to Mahalla last Friday, with food and medicine , trying to meet with the families of the detainee´s. The caravan was stopped by police 30 Km´s outside of Mahalla, not allowed to enter the town and later escorted back to Cairo, in a reverse ¨Caravan of Police¨.

Dr Aida Seif al Dawla one of the members of the ¨Caravan of solidarity¨ on trying to go there again:

¨Activists, like Aida Seif Al-Dawla, are vowing that they will eventually get to Mahalla despite the government's efforts to limit access to the area. "Oh yes, we'll go back. We'll go back and we'll get those testimonies, and we'll visit those hospitals. We are going back. This is definite¨

And Dr Seif al Dawla´s comment on the situation:

"We are ruled by a government which thinks it is degrading that they respond to the demands and rights of their people - the people that should be governing. And eventually this can only end in things like Mahalla… so it tells me that the situation is very tense, that we have a terrified government, that we have pathetic political parties and that people are taking initiative in their hands,"

James Buck is released and has boarded a plane, en route to the States. His Egyptian translator/friend, Mohammed Salah Ahmed Marei is seemingly still in police custody. Read James statement on his friend here

George Ishaq relased on bail

As stated on this blog earlier George Ishaq was released on a 10 000 E.P bail, pending trial that could render up to a 10 year sentence. One other faces the usual 15 days of detention ( probably Sami Farnasis and the third awaits the medical comittee´s opinion on weather he´s capable of facing detention(probably Fathi Hafnawi).

Human Rights Watch raised severe critique toward the way the police has handled the situation in Mahalla. Amnesty International does the same, and both shows concern about the arrests of the Kefaya leaders.

Reporters without Borders calls for release of bloggers

Reporters without Borders calls for the release of bloggers Muhammed al Sharqawi, Esraá abd al Fattah and Karim al Beheiri. Esraa was of course the one who started the 6th of April group on Facebook, which managed to attract 65 000 members in the two weeks prior to the manifestation.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

GV Special Coverage Page - Egypt

Global Voices have launched a Special Coverage page for Egypt , the General Strike and it´s aftermath as to follow events as they develop. Thanks Amira, Solana, Ethan, Rebecka and everybody else at GV. You can find it here. Right now a piece by Lasto Adri is featured(originally by Ahmed in Arabic). It´s about the American student at the AUC , Sounilla who got caught up in the 6th of April demonstration on his way to the University, and snatched into a car , arrested and interogated.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Second fatal victim in Mahalla and George Ishak arrested

Masry al youm reports this morning of a 20-year-old man who died of bullet shots to his brain and chest. He was taken to hospital on Sunday evening were he died last night after having recieved intensive care since his admition according to the doctor who treated him at the hospital.

Ahmed al Sayed Abdel Kader was a tailor and was closing his shop when the demonstrations started on Sunday and he was caught up in the riots. This is to my knowledge yet to be confirmed by the authorities.

Is the victim the same person as the 20-year old that has circulated around blogs together with a nine year old the last couple of days?

According to the same news story 2000 people participated in a demonstration in front of the police station, the demonstrators were demanding that the detained should be released, the bulk of the protesters were relatives of the arrested.

(Sloppy reporting by me - i happened to state that there were 2000 arrested earlier, when in fact 2000 people participated in the demonstration outside the Mahalla Police Station, demanding the release of the detained). There is a slight difference in meaning between the English translation of the al Masry al Youm piece and the Arabic original.

Many of those that took part in the demonstrations on April 6-7 as well as those arrested seem to be youngsters, judging from photos here and here and reports

George Ishaq arrested

In another related development George Ishaq, the former Co-ordinator of Kefaya, was arrested yesterday morning.

Hossam al Hamalawy(you´re doing a terrific job) has translated the original arabic HMLC statement:

George Ishaaq, leading Kefaya activist had just returned home in El Bostan street, Cairo after a long day of preparation for a Kefaya conference to reply to the allegation of the Egyptian government regarding the recent Mahalla demonstrations on the 6th and 7th of April, when state security officers broke into his house searching all his papers and books. Ishaaq was alone. They confiscated papers and books from his library and seemed especially interested in “The Butterfly’s Flutter” by political activist Ahmed Bahaa Shabaan, a book which describes the evolution, nature and future of the Kefaya movement. SSI also took Ishaaq’s mobile phone and prevented him from contacting anybody. After about an hour of search his wife arrived and found them all over her house. For a moment she thought she must be in the wrong place. Irritated by the heavy police presence in her house and their rude manners she asked them to leave the house. They refused. When they tried to take the computer of her son Shady, she refused and insisted that the computer belongs to her son and not his father. They demanded to see her mobile. She denied using a mobile, upon which SSI arrested George Ishaaq and took him to a place, that remains unknown until now.

Hisham Mubarak Law Center has more on the charges on George Ishaq:

The Charges brought against George Isaac

The leading Kefaya member George Isaac was charged with plotting popular assembly in complicity with others with the purpose of assaulting people, public properties as well as using force and violence with the purpose of influencing public authority. So, according to the aforementioned charge, the Public Prosecution Office accused Isaac of the following charges:
The premeditated subversion of buildings and public properties with the purpose of enforcing chaos and resisting authorities, disrupting and jeopardizing the safety of public traffic, setting fire to residential buildings and shops, looting, and assaulting others.

Really ridiclious and pathetic allegations.

It´s not really that common that senior leaders of Kefaya faces arrest, but the authorities have other ways of making there prescence felt. Just about a month before the historic first Kefaya demonstration in November 2004 Abdel Halim Qandil was snatched on a Cairo street in broad daylight, driven to a location in the desert outside of Cairo and told in no uncertain terms to mind his own business, then finally stripped of his clothes and left on his own. This January, the new co-ordinator Abdel Wahab al Messiri faced the same ordeal when he, his wife and other activists was taken from a Kefaya demonstration in January 2008 protesting high prices, and in what could have been a re-run of what happend to Qandil, they were also driven out in the desert outside of Cairo, and left on their own. The only difference being that he was not threatened with a knife as well as verbaly, beaten up and stripped naked.

Here is an AP newswire by Pakinam Amer on the story and another one with a personal touch by CNN´s Ben Wedeman.

According to Kefaya, 61 of their members have been aerrested since the 4th of April.

UPDATE - George Ishaq is relaesed after paying 10 000 E.P for bail, pending his trial. He is not allowed to travel during that time according to a security official. - One of his associates got the usual 15 days of detention , while the other was awaiting the opinion of the medical comittee, to see if his health was good enough to face detention. The charges against all three men - inciting unrest and violence could give up to 10 years long prison sentences. More on this soon.

Also some disturbing news about photographer James Buck in Mahalla. Whose photos i have linked to in my previous post.

Friday noon

Another very gifted photographer, Nasser Nouri that have been providing us with images from day one in Mahalla has also been arrested according to Hossam´s twitter account just two hours ago, and is being held at Police Station I.

I have limited time right now, but would like to include a translate booklet about the wawe of strikes that has been translated into English. Hossam provided the link once again (Thanks!). It´s written by two journalists from al Doustor and al Badeel, Mostafa Bassiouni and Omar Said and is : on the “Egyptian new workers’ movement: the strike wave of 2007“… you can find the English translation here .

I also want give you the link to an al Jazeera inside story on the day of the General Strike, April 6th, it´s in two parts here (part 1) and part 2. Discusssing the matter is Dr Maged Reda Boutrous, Dr Rabab al Mahdi and Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim. I can´t help to think that Dr Maged is a blessing in disguise for everybody who wants democracy in Egypt. Every time he´s on international media, he makes anyone look like a super star, when matched against him.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

When pictures speaks louder than words - Mahalla

In solidarity with the people and textile workers of Mahalla and activists, including bloggers arrested before, during and after the General strike. I want to point to Per Bjorklund´s photos from Mahalla. James Buck´s photos are also well worth a look.

Police using tear gas and rubber bullets on it´s citizens, is an ample description of the state´s attitude towards it´s people. To them Egyptians are only subjects that are supposed to do what they are told. We are still very far from an inclusive understanding of citizenry, where people have both rights and obligations, and not the other way around, that is the state have every right to do whatever it deems necessary to protect it´s interest, but no obligations what so ever. The social contract is broken over and over again. A basic right is the right to strike, of course due to the ever present Emergency laws, those righs are infringed upon. It will be interesting to see if that will change, when the EL is supposed to be replaced by the new anti-terrorism law this coming May. I´m quite sure that all of us can figure out the answer to that question..

UPDATE: Authorities confirmed today that 15-year-old Ahmed Hamada died in the clashes, presumably Monday. He is the only confirmed fatal casualty by the authorities. More on Ahmed Hamada can be found here, as well as coverage of state security hampering an al Jazeera crew from doing there job when P.M Ahmed Nazif came to town on Tuesday. the same happend to a reporter from the local as Saa.

In an attempt to solve the crisis in Mahalla , PM Ahmed Nazif traveled to the delta City on Tuesday, to speak with workers and managment. He promised to provide them with the bonuses, Maggie Michael from A.P provides us with reactions from the PM´s day in Mahalla :

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif hurried to Mahalla al-Kobra on Tuesday with several top economic ministers to meet with workers at the 50-year-old, state-owned Misr Spinning and Weaving factory complex that employs 25,000 people.

"We know Mahalla is suffering and you have passed through many crises," Nazif told them. "But it is through crises that men prove their mettle."

He announced they would receive a bonus of 30 days' pay and promised to address their demands for better health care and higher wages.

Workers in the hall cheered. But afterward, many were skeptical.

"What Nazif has said, we've heard it all before — what's new? They really have no idea how we suffer here," said Rashad Fathi, a factory worker who said his monthly wage of $34 was not enough to feed his four children.

Rashad Fathi´s salary of 34 USD/month means that he lives far below the UN poverty line of 2 USD/day, just like 20 per cent of Egypt´s population. Twenty per cent more lives slightly abowe that. On top of that food prices has hiked 50 percent since January 1st.

Here is an al Jazeera English report from Sunday.

Global Voices has good coverrage in two important posts. The first by Amira al Husseini about the arrest of blogger/activist Malek and Mustafa Khalil from Kifeya a day prior to the general strike. and the second by Eman AbdELRahman, Including a clip, originally posted by Ghariba

UPDATE: Amira al Husseini has a third installment of Global Voices coverage, and it makes me asking myself, did i do enough? The Egyptian blogospere collectively did certainly do much more than enough! As always, one is very proud and fortunate enough to be a small part of this.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

I have a dream

Today it´s 40 years since Martin Luther King was shot dead in Memphis Tenessee. In my view he was the most important person in America after World War II. In hounor of him HAMSA has reproduced a popular comic from the fifties that describes the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama(available to download in Arabic and English) were Rosa Parks pioneered when on December 1st 1955, she refused to stand up on the buss when a white man wanted to sit. She was arrested and a buss boycott by the black community was organized and continued for 385 days.Martin Luther King was one of the leaders of this boycott and he was arrested, but ultimately the law segregating white and blacks on Montgomery busses was abolished.

His now legendary speech as a culmination of the March on Washington - I have a dream in 1963 (shown above) rendered him the Nobel Peace prize in 1964, as the youngest ever.

He was ahead of his time and was against the Vietnam war as early as 1967. The paralels between the turbulent and divided America of the sixties and America today is also something to think of, one can only speculate on what stand Dr King would have taken on Iraq if he would have lived. He achieved so much more in only 13 years than almost any american during his century, the only other historic figure in America that i can come to think of is Franklin D Roosevelt. His memory will live on as a reminder to all those who have a dream.

Here is an article and some photos.

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Issam al Aryan op-ed on the Local Elections

The Muslim Brotherhood´s leading middle generation leader and head of the Political Bureau, Issam al Aryan has an op-ed in Forward on the Local Elections on Tuesday, April 8th.

We get to follow a MB candidate who is trying to run for a seat in the village Qawekeyya in the Delta. Muhamamed Shawkat al Malt, a 50 year old lawyer and blogger is one of several thousand candidates who tried to register their candidacy, but were ignored or turned down by the authorities, and like many he has filed a court appeal to make it on the ballot. An endeaouvor likely to be ignored and be in vain when the local elections is held on Tuesday. Read the full article by Fleishman/el Hennawy in today´s LA Times here.

In another development the Muslim Brotherhood decided on Thursday to give their moral support to the organizers of the General strike called for Sunday, 6th of April.

"We are with the strike as a means of expression and peaceful protest in the face of the despotic and suppressive actions of the executive authority,"

The 24 000 workers of Mahalla al Kubra´Misr Spinning and Weaving Company is striking on Sunday in protest of low wages.This has been a focal point of labour strikes for well over a year.

Kifayya is also organizing a demonstration in support of the workers in Giza on the same day.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prosecutor asks for longer sentence in Eissa´s case

According to this AP newswire(originally the official newsagency MENA), Prosecutor Hesham Badawi yesterday pushed for an appeal of the recent six-months verdict against al Doustor editor in chief, Ibrahim Eissa, on grounds that the sentence was too light. Eissa was convicted of spreading false information on President Mubarak´s health, roumours that was said to have caused a financial outflux of investments from Egypt of 350 million USD during the two days in late August 2007,when the story was run according to witnesses from the Egyptian central Bank during the trial.

Badawi argued that the court had failed to take into consideration an article in the penal code that opens up for a longer sentence than the six months, Eissa recieved. Eissa is freed on bail pending an appeal by his defence, questioning the sentence.

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April issue of Arab Reform Bulletin

The new April issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin is out. It contains an article by Khalil al Anani on the upcoming Local Elections in Egypt, set for April 8th. The article is a well worth read and is called - Egypt: Local Elections…the End of the Democratic Spring.

I have only one argument with the article, and that is it´s title, the Democratic spring has been over for quite a while. For me it ended on the day of the referendum to open up for multi-candidate Presidential elections. When NDP payed thugs attacked women on the stairs of the Journalists union.. For both the NDP and the Americans everything´s was over by February 06 when first the Muslim Brotherhood made such a strong showing in the Parliamentary elections, even though the interior ministry used all resources possible after the first part of the elections. When Hamas won the elections in Palestine, the game was over, and now we are back to Authocratic winter, with the latest chapter being the prelude to the local elections on Tuesday 8th. Last Tuesday´s demonstrations by the brotherhood in Tanta , Zagazig, Damanhour and Alexandria is just another page. What is sad, is to see that so little co-ordinating is made by the opposition. But luckily the boycott´s that seemed to be an integral part of almost every Egyptian election cycle seems to be a thing of the past. Examples from around the world has been positive. The latest examples of the power an electorate can have is of course Kenya and Zimbabwe, but that means that people will have to be much more active politically and register and cast their vote. How to break the political and electoral apathy is a question that is still far away from being answered.

The other topics in this issue:

Women’s Political Participation in the Gulf: A Conversation with Activists Fatin Bundagji (Saudi Arabia), Rola Dashti (Kuwait), and Munira Fakhro (Bahrain)

United States: The Bush Administration’s Budget and Democracy in the Arab World
Stephen McInerney

Europe/Arab States: Whither Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union?
George Joffé

Morocco: Is the Electoral System Unfair?
Michael Meyer-Resende

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