Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ibrahim Eissa´s sentence reduced to two months

The Bulaq Abu al-Ella Misdemeanor Appeals Court issued a two months prison sentence to al Doustor´s editor in Chief , Ibrahim Eissa today. The verdict was an appeal of a six months prison sentence from March 26th 2008, and concerns articles published in August 2007 on the health of President Hosni Mubarak. He was brought to trial on charges of spreading false information, damaging public interest national stability. He could have been sentenced to a maximum of three years. Eissa was not in court today.

This story, as well as a number of other court cases featuring Ibrahim Eissa and virtually every other high profile editor of the free and opposition press, the Creme de´la creme of Egyptian journalism if you like.This has been like a real life Ramadan-tv series for the last year or so.

On February 23rd 2004, President Mubarak gave a promise of changing legislation, to safeguard journalists from facing the possibility of being sentenced to jail for what they write. This was later incorporated into the Presidential election platform in 2005. Today some 1675 days later, this promise is yet to be fulfilled.

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National theater fire photos

Just before iftar yesterday, the National Theather (al Masrah al Qaumi) was hit by fire, due to a circuit problem. The National Theater is situated in Ataba, downtown Cairo and was originally inaugurated in 1935. It had just recently been renovated. There were no activities in the building at the time. The main hall was destroyed and three firefighters were hospitalized after taking part in the rescue operation.

Here are some pictures that i want to share, it´s one from Muhammed Ghafari´s flickr account and a whole photostream that caught my eye wia Ahmed Abd al Fattah , It can be found here, and viewed preferebly as a slideshow(51 photos).

More later.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Umm ad Dunya

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Jailhouse Donkey

It´s not everyday you find a news item with a soundtrack, but that happened yesterday when a Delta judge decided to put a donkey in jail for a day for stealing corn on the cob from a local research institute, the donkey was caught almost readheanded with the stolen cob at a police checkpoint set up only for that purpose. The owner of the donkey got a 50 E.P fine (9 USD).

One can only congratulate the local police for their effective method of work in this matter, perhaps this could be a model for preemtive police work for the whole nation. Minister of Interior, Habib al Adly will surely be proud of you.

You also have to commend the donkey on the good taste, i wonder if he´s fed grilled Corn on Cob on a regular basis, if that´s the case i would like to be in his shoes. Then the donkey is better of than most of the 40 percent of the Egyptian people living below or slightly over the margin of poverty( 2 USD/day - UN definition).

As for the Judge, you might wonder if that´s not the real ass in this story, at least if the real reason behind this odd story is not to help the poor farmer and reduce his fine, while ¨jailing¨ his animal for a symbolic period.

The soundtrack, well there is only one song to go with this story, behabak ya Houmar with Saad al Sagheer from the film Aleyya al Tarab bl talatha. I´ve always thought that the donkey looked kind of lost and Sad , but who could blame him, sentenced to be in the midst of Saad and Dina.

Enjoy the clip.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

First International Day of Democrracy

Today marks the first UN International day of Democray, the decision was taken on Nov 8th 2007. It´s about time i would say.... Better late than never! I´m celebrating!

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Happy Nayrouz - Coptic new year 1725

Yesterday September 11th was the Coptic new year - Nayrouz and the first day of the month of Tout, the coptic calender has 13 months, 12 of them are 30 days each and the last being five or six days long, dependinding on if it´s a leap year or not.

I would like to wish my Coptic readers(a late) happy Nayrouz 1725!

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Egypt Rocks & Rules at Paralympics Powerlifting

Medals seems to be like magnets to the Egyptian Powerlifting team in the current paralympics in Beijing. Egypt just collected it´s second gold in the men´s 56 Kg category by Sherif Osman, who broke the world record three times along the way to the Podium, settling for an end result of 202.5 Kg. This was an early birthday gift, Sherif´s 26th birthday is on Monday. You can find more photos on a jubilant gold medalist here.

This was the second gold after Fatma Omar´s gold yesterday,her third consecutive paralympics GOLD, after having won in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens four years later.

I´m not going to say in which category she won, because as a gentlemen i´ve been taught not to ask a women´s weight, but i´m thrilled for her, it´s extra special when a women wins, because it signals that we as a nation should take women sports seriously and it creates role models for girls who sees that it´s possible to sport and win medals.

i´m actually very pleased to hear about another female participant in the powerlifting still waiting for her hour of glory(tomorrow hopefully), Rania Alaa Eldin Morshedi has a five-year old son , but still continues to compete on international level. This is something unusual for women in sports in Egypt, they usualy drop their career as soon as they graduated and got married, in my view they give up their career before having reached their peak, and in fact some times not being able to collect the fruit of their hard labour for years and years.

In total this was the fifth medal in powerlifting, two golds, one silver and two bronze! We also won a bronze medal in the Men's Javelin Throw, you can see who the rest of the medalists are here.

I´m quite sure this means that neither President Mubarak, nor the Muslim Brotherhood will call for an investigation as to the bad results this time around, though one should learn from success, just as much as take leasons from the mistakes.

1000 Mabrouk to all the medalists and the whole Egyptian team at the Paralympics!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Living in Washington?

If i was living in Washington, this is what i would be doing today!

The Project on Middle East Democracy(POMED) is hosting an event with the headline - Egypt Today: The State of Human Rights and Rule of Law

It´s a panel made out of Michele Dunne - Editor of Arab Reform Bulletin, at Carnegie Endovment, Neil Hicks from Human Rights first, Marc Lynch(A.K.A Abu Aardvark) and Ambassador Nicholas Veliotes, among other things a former Ambassodor to Egypt.The whole event is moderated by Stephen McInerney, Director of Advocacy, Project on Middle East Democracy.

For me , the star without a shadow of a doubt is Michele Dunne, her knowledge of Egypt is profound,on a level few western scholars can compete with. Marc Lynch, for me is more of a specialist on Islamic political movements than Human Rights and Rule of Law, being a very able blogger, he has found a niche for himself in describing blogging in a political context and perhaps especially so when writing about the Ikhwhan bloggers. In terms of Egypt his field has been Ikhwan,modernity and democratization. He´s been focusing more on Iraq lately, the Awakenings and other Sunni political movements, correct me if i am wrong. To end my presentation of Abu Aardwark, i must say that i miss the times when he used to spend plenty of time disecting the relationship between popdivas, the Arabic pop equivalent of the three Tenors, except for the fact that hate each other, or so goes the myth - Nancy, Haife and Ruby used to be the hottest topic over at Abu Aardvark, nowadays, one has to make due with the occasional hip-hop lyric namedropping.... please ya Marc, write about the Divas once in a while...

To set you in the right frame of mood for this serious topic, after me losing my way, humming ¨Ana Haifa ana¨ you should read Michele Dunne´s newly penned piece in the American Interest - A Post-Pharaonic Egypt You could also read something from the other aisle of Think tank Washington, Jeffrey Azarwa from the American Enterprize Institute and judge for yourself, his piece is called - The Autumn of Mubarak , the article was just published in the Weekly Standard. Least but not last i throw in an article by Scott Carpenter on the highly politisized queston on the future of U.S Aid to Egypt, the Military part of it was something current U.S Ambassador Margaret Scobey to Egypt commented on only yesterday.

It begins at 14:00 eastern time(in about an hour) - i´m sure there will be a transcript as well.

UPDATE: Here is Marc Lynch´s part of the opening discussion, focusing on describing the political scene in Egypt.

UPDATE II: Here is a link to the full discussion, unfortunately Neil Hicks couldn´t take part in it.

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I´m temporarily changing the name of this blog to Fustat/Duweiqa as a tribute and a symbolic act of solidarity and respect with the victims, families and the people of Duweiqa and the whole area of Manshiyyet Nasser, when they enter a period of mourning and at the same time have to face a life, so dramatically different from what they had only four short days ago.

These last days, i have felt completely numnb, angry, frustrated , all shades of feelings, but most of all the fact that flashes through my mind constantly, that a life is the cheapest commodity in this country it´s totally without value, and exchangeble. The assembly line in Charlie Chaplin´s 1936 classic, Modern Times has been in my head during the last days, letting people work until they can´t anymore and then just throw them away. In the case of Duweiqa, life is as harsh as it gets, but nobody pays attention, until it´s to late, our Prime Minister seemed to somewhat pride himself and his governments´s achievements last February, when he stated in Parliament:

that the new law regulates slums and said that, while slums all over the world are made of tin shanties, in Egypt they are made of reinforced concrete

The have´s in our country plays Russian roulette with the have not´s every single day, and the only time the life of ordinary, but economically less fortunate Egyptians are valued is if they die in some kind of catasthrope that catches the media eye, if Mufti Ali Gouma deems your death important enough to be a martyr, then your life has a prize tag - (5000 E.P).

On Monday night some people tried to organize a vigil for the victims of Duweiqa at Talat Harb in downtown Cairo, they were not alowed to express the most hounorable , and decent feeling of solidarity, compassion and common sorrow. That incident made me write this. The victims of Duweiqa deserves to be remembered, the survivors and the people deserveres better living conditions, unfortunately after the 40 days mourning period is over, the public eye will move elsewhere and most likely the daily life of those who most need our support and respect, will continue as it did prior to last Saturday until it happens again, the promises given, most likely broken and the lives lost in vain, only left in the loving memories of their families.

Lastly i would like to follow the example of my fellow bloggers Marwa Rahkka and Zeinobia and ask for people to help in whatever way they can, this is through a facebook group created by Zed Magazine, but any way and any help and prayers is more than good enough.

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Mahalla trial resumes today

The trial involving the remaining 49 defendants from the April 6th strike resumes today. It was originally reffered by the Public Prosecutor to the State Security Court in Tanta on June 6th and the trial began on Aug 9th, when the defence managed to postpone the trial in order to be able to read the prosecution material. They didn´t manage to get the defendants out on bail though.

I´m much too tired to write anything half decent right now, crawing for bed, but i want to give you some reading material about the trial and then i will follow events more thouroghly as they develop.

Amnesty International issued a statement just prior to the second session was about to begin on Sept 6th, were the charges are stated, and includes:

Assembly of more than five people with the aim of disturbing public order and security; deliberate destruction of public and private property; ransacking and theft; violent resistance and assault on police officers during the exercise of their duties; and illegal possession of firearms.

If convicted they face up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

AI calls upon the proper authourities to end the processs in the Supreme State Security Court, which is a emergency court, without the normal legal safeguards for the defendants. AI calls on the authourities to hold the trial in a normal court of law that offers the defendants the opportunity of a fair trial.

Amnesty International is urging the Egyptian authorities to:

* rescind the decision to refer the defendants to the emergency court and order a retrial before an ordinary court and ensure they receive a fair trial.
* release immediately and unconditionally those protestors found not to have used violence; the others must be given a fair trial in accordance with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law and standards.
* open a full, independent and impartial investigation into the killings of the three people in Mahalla. In particular the investigation should focus on the circumstances in which police used lethal fire and ensure that any officers or other officials responsible for using or ordering excessive force should be brought to justice.

Arabawy gives us an eyewittness account from the first court session in Tanta on Aug 9th here

Sarah Carr gives us an equally important account from the opening of the second session on Sep 6th here.

Sorry for the poor quality of blogging, but it´s more important that you have the tools, than me packaging it neatly right now.

You can also use the fustat search and look for the words April 6th, General Strike Mahalla and Burg al Arab and you will find more material.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

15 years prison sentence for ringleader in "thanawiya amma" case, 7 years for torturing a man to death

The verdict in the ¨Thanawyya amma¨ case in Minya vas issued today. The head of Minya's Examinations Committee,Ezzat Khalil Mansour got a 15 year prison sentence and he also loses his work.

I am in no way inclined to think that this is something that authourities should look lightly upon, but bare in mind that a case were a man was tortured to death inside the police precinct, by the very people who is supposed to uphold the law, and defend the public, rendered a seven years prison term for the policemen involved. That the case that all off us are all to familiar with, the Imad al Kabir torture case rendered three years in prison , not to speak about the sentences in al Salam Boccacio 98 case, still fresh on our minds and still staining the reputation of the judicial system.

With this in mind i can´t say that this is a fair sentence. Killing someone gives you seven years, being involved in 1000 people´s death, and you are acquitted, so forgive for thinking that 15 years seems a bit too much....

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Rockslide in Manshiyyet Nasser claims at least 103 lives

A rockslide in the shanty town of Manshiyyet Nasser at the foot of the Muqattam Hills, Cairo has taken at least 18 lives,and at least 22 injured. The death toll is expected to rise sharply.

UPDATE: At least 20 dead according to the BBC. Footage from the BBC Arabic can be found here.

UPDATE II: 1:00 PM Sep 7th - 31 bodies has been confirmed dead after being pulled from under the rubble according to Egyptian authorities and 46 people has been treated in hospitals so far.

UPDATE III: 48 hours after the rockslide the death toll has risen to 38 and 57 wounded according to Health Ministry figures released on Monday morning. Meanwhile this AFP news wire put the number of recovered bodies at 43, quoting an unnamed security official.

UPATE IV: By midday Monday(51 hours after the rocklside), a security official talking to the Associated Press claimed the number of recovered bodies to be 47, the number of injured is at 57. The BBC have the same number of recovered bodies. It seems the equipmment is finally in place, meaning that the work on recovering bodies is moving faster, which means that the death toll will probably climb faster all through Monday. I am not going to be able to blog more, until tonight, when i will try to update and also put this in perspective, but what is clear alraedy is that this is the worst disaster that the area of Manshiyyet Nasr has lived through since the 70´s , although the community has been tested time and time again.

UPDATE V: 16:45 - Reuters puts the death toll at 51.

UPDATE VI: 22:00 Tuesday September 9th(85 hours after the Rockslide)- According to Dr Adel Azouz, in charge of Cairo´s Emergency services, 54 bodies have now been recovered. 64 are counted as wounded, as well as 13 of the emergency workers that has been involved in the rescue effort.

During a tour of the area yesterday(Tuesday) by members of parliament and The Governor of Cairo, Abdel Azim Wazir , the Governor promised 2000 houses for those affected by the rockslide, the houses will be given to the families on Friday and a vision of 10 000 units more to help improve the communities was introduced, but this seems to part of the Suzanne Mubarak project in Manshiyyet Nasser. Some of the young men of Duweiqa greeted the V.I.P´s with rocks.

UPDATE VII: Abdel Rahman Hussein of Daily News Egypt puts the recovered bodies at 57, and injured at 70. Appearently the police dispearsed people organizing a vigil for the victims at Talat Harb on Monday night, sometimes you just dont have the right words to express what you feel, this could easily count as one of those rare moments...

UPDATE VIII: Muhammed Sultan, head of the Emergewncy services at the Ministry of Health states that the number of recovered bodies has reached 62.

UPDATE IX: Thursday September 11th - Egyptian authorities comfirm that 72 bodies have been removed from underneath the rubble. This makes it the worst catastrophe in terms of lost lives in the Manshiyyet Nasser area,in 1993, 70 people lost their lives in a similar way, in the nearby neighbourhood of the garbage collectors, Zabaleen.

UPDATE X: Saturday, September 13th - A week after the Rockslide in Duweiqa, 82 bodies have been recovered from underneath the rubble. according to a security official, speaking to the Agence France Presse(AFP). The rescue effort is likely to continue for at least another week according to the same source.

UPDATE XI: Saturday 20th - Two weeks after the rockslide in Duweiqa, 103 bodies have been recovered from underneath the rubble. The rescue effort continues. No one has been found alive from start of the rescue effort.


At approximately 9 AM local time on Saturday September 6th, a rockslide with eight rocks fell on houses in the area, reducing a six-storey house to rubble, in total approximately 35 houses are destroyed and under the rocks, some of them 30 m high and weighing between 60-70 tonnes.

The Civil Defence, police with sniffer dogs and people from one the leading construction companies Osman Ahmed Osman Construction are at the sight, but people are callinhg for more to be done and for a quicker response and the involvement of the Army in the rescue efforts. Most of the rescue efforts until now has been done by hand and by the relatives and neigbours themselves according to newsreports. Eyewitness claim that screams and mobile phones could be heard from people under the rubble.

The initial figures of dead and injured are expected to rise sharply. According to some estimates as many as 350-500 could still be under the rubble, if the death tool goes that high, then this could be the second largest accident in recent history, only topped by the Salam Boccacio 98 disaster in February 2006, claiming over 1000 lives. A train disaster in February 2002 claimed 361 lives.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Ramadan Kareem

I would like to wish my readers from Matruh to Baris, and from Palestine, Texas to Cairo, Georgia(and of course readers all over the world) a happy Ramadan!

A special greeting goes to the good people of Kota Bharu, Kelantan, and to the special one of course - Ramadan Mubarak!

Here´s a cute cartoon about Ramadan!

This will be cross posted on Diwan of Democracy.

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