Tag Archive | Egypt

Two Views of Egypt

Mahmoud Mohamed Boray in Qena wrote the following:

Was it a Coup or a Revolution?  It’s not really hard to answer the question. If you want to know just open the dictionary to find the definition of the coup; you will find (a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially : the violent overthrow alteration of an existing government by a small group). This is exactly what happened in Egypt when the army overthrew the first democratically elected president in the history of all Egypt. In the first of the essay I will try to give a small hint of the most populated electorate in Egypt that voted for Morsi during the presidential elections in 2012.

In the first round Morsi was defeated in the battle of ballots for example in (Cairo, Alexandria and Mounfia) but most of the upper citizens voted for Morsi (except Luxor, which depends on tourism).

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are against Morsi in Cairo, but many more are supporting him in the south (where the media is absent). Watch the videos of the upper Egypt massive marches in Qena, Aswan, and Menia.

You can find more cities and many marches from all upper cities and in Cairo, Alexandria almost all parts of Egypt, but those who protest against Morsi can be found in certain areas.

We all know that democracy is the rule of Majority and we can know who is the majority by elections not but mobilizing people in the street.

Why it is not a revolution?

Because it’s the first revolution that the army, police , the ex-members of Mubarak’s party and the thugs participated in and for the first time they were in Tahrir Square as revolutionaries.

El Baradi himself said that once on CNN “we made an ally with the ex members of Egypt Mubarak members to get ride of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Well people said there was no democracy during Morsi’s era and that’s why there were 30 million in Tahrir Square!

First, there weren’t 30 million. That is a lie made by the military council to cover the coup with the people’s will of 30th of June.  According to some calculations Tahrir Square is smaller than Macca the biggest square in the world. People that were in Tahrir couldn’t be a million according to the calculations of engineering.

Second , during Morsi erano channel that was against him was shut by the Islamic government.

Some went beyond Criticism like Basem Yousef in his show (El Barnameg). He called Morsi  the weak sheep, the idiot and sometimes the devil. After all Basem and many more like him were working freely under Morsi regime. Under Morsi regime (for the first time in the history of Egypt the constitution was written by members who were elected by the parliamentary members who were elected by thepeople of Egypt and 66 % of the Egyptian people voted for the constitution (around 20 Million). Under Morsi regime there was a demonstration almost every day and there were so many demonstrations near the presidential palace in Cairo.  Some protesters tried to burn the palace and the guards returned to use water and tear gasses to stop them from breaking in the palace.

In this video you will see the protesters trying to burn and break in the palace during the year of Morsi there were 600 marches and strikes against him yet the country kept going with building new factories and saving some jobs for youth.

Now in Egypt  there is not an elected president or parliament.

There is nothing called freedom of speech as they shut down 10 channels and 8 Journals.

During the Military rule there were 18000 detained with no crime (merely because they protested against the coup). There is nothing called an elected committee for the constitution. All its members were appointed by the army to mend the constitution or to write a new one. They appointed generals as ministers and governors (militarize Egypt) as people call it.

During the Military rule, 5000 were killed by the army , police and thugs.

In resolution of Rabaa Adawiya in Egypt as the army used the bullets to end a peaceful sit-in and they used snipers to kill the peaceful protesters, they burned the people who were there.

The same scene was repeated on Friday in Ramses Square, Mostafa Mahmoud Square, and every single square in all the governorates of  Egypt. In my city people were killed and many were injured by the police and the army.

If Morsi was a dictator, I have no idea what to call the current regime.

The Muslim brotherhood made mistakes, but in politics everyone makes mistakes and sometimes big ones, but what happened in Egypt was a conspiracy made by the army and Mubarak’s men (beginning with the blackout, lacking of petroleum products and gases ). These were all made by the army to mobilize people against the democratically elected system at the End and I’m sure of what will happen next.


revolution at night - Tahrir Square circa 2011

revolution at night – Tahrir Square circa 2011

Crystals Gray’s View:

Egypt is on my mind. It is a horrible situation, but it is also very complicated and if one just follows the mass media it is easy to think it is simple. Of course, the violent over-reaction of the military (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, special forces, militarized police) is wrong.

I feel the resignation of ElBaradei (Nobel Peace prize UN arms control inspector who stood up to the US over Iraq), who was Vice President of the new government is appropriate. But some Egyptian revolutionaries do not.

Why? The Brotherhood is:

1) not democratic, as their actions since they came to power prove;

2) the Brotherhood is not nonviolent. While hundreds of Brotherhood protesters have been gunned down, dozens of police have been killed as well. Brotherhood protesters have also attacked Coptic churches (30 or more), Coptic businesses, and even the Library in Alexandria.

In the election that brought Morsi to power, the revolutionaries got more votes (in the primary), but they were divided among  3 candidates. Since then, the Brotherhood has lost support, so while they have a strong organization they are now clearly in the minority.

Most Egyptians fear the Brotherhood more than the military. The bulk of the soldiers are two-year conscripts, which is why the first stage of the Revolution was a success… there were not enough elite “political” troops to overcome the protests….although several thousand people were killed. But, hardly any (if any, I cannot confirm any military, police, or thug deaths in the first stage of the revolution).

Compare that to the current situation, which clearly includes armed Brotherhood militants as well as sectarian attacks on Coptic and secular institutions. If the Brotherhood came to full power, Christians and Shia and other non-extreme Sunni would be directly persecuted. All women would lose most of their rights. Homosexuality and all other secular perversions, such as alcohol, would end and tourism would be drastically cut back.

Reprehensible as the military actions are, it is understandable that most of the revolutionaries (the majority of Egyptians these days) are supporting the military at this point, even though parts of that same military have killed several thousand revolutionaries. The other option is worse.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Blame America

Early on in the chilling and powerful Costa-Gavras film Z about the Greek military coup in 1963, there is a telling scene.  A political organizer has just given a rousing speech to a collection of Greek radicals.  His aid challenges him about what he has said; “You blamed the Americans for this problem, but the Americans had nothing to do with it.”  To which the organizer responds;  “Always blame the Americans, even when you’re wrong, you’re right.”
i felt a bit like the confused aid this morning while chatting with Gihan from Cairo when she told me that Obama was responsible for the violence happening in Egypt right now.  But knowing her as i do, i knew that this was not an effort to deflect national responsibility for her country’s problems.  She is a deeply fair and thoughtful person.  So i started digging.

What i knew already was that the Obama administration was in the middle of negotiations between the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Egyptian military when the election of president Morsi took place 2 years ago.  The extremely powerful and corrupt Egyptian military was afraid of losing power to the also corrupt, newly elected MB government.  US aid and recognition were critical factors in brokering this transition.  [Egypt is on of the largest recipient of US aid in the world]  But after a brief honeymoon of international praise for his having brokered a settlement in Gaza, Morsi’s stock both domestically and internationally started to tumble.  Morsi’s attempted power grab and failure to negotiate with any of the country’s opposition groups began his slide towards last weeks well-supported (by Egyptians) military coup.  It is rare that there is such wide-spread public support for a military coup.

The problem struck when the protesters were again returning to Tahrir Square in huge numbers and Obama said that Morsi was the elected leader of Egypt.  While this is true on it’s face, it gave the MB the false impression that the US would back them as they pushed back against the protests.  A push-back which included killing some of the non-violent protesters.  This type of response to civil unrest was central to unseating Mubarak almost 3 years ago now.
revoltion not a coup
This situation is unusually murky.  Is it a military coup, or a revolution?  While they say they are inspired by the huge protests, the military is clearly being opportunistic.  Will there be elections new in Egypt? It seems almost certain that there will.  But the arrival of multiparty elections in Egypt was a political gain from the revolution which overthrew Mubarak, not these recent giant street protests.  One of the things which came to light after the 2011 revolution was just how powerful the military was, with tremendous land holds and control of the government infrastructure.

Egypt is likely on the road to a more pluralistic and democratic government, my hope is the US does not continue to be a pothole in this road.

Revolutionary Experience > Cat Call Culture

I spoke with many revolutionaries in Egypt, and heard several fascinating tales. But the ones which haunt me I heard for Gihan. They were the tales of her experience in Tahrir square and afterward. Of the extraordinary temporary community which was created and how the act of revolution changed peoples lives. And very specifically hers.

Gihan in Tahrir Square - Dec 2012 (post revolution)

Gihan in Tahrir Square – Dec 2012 (post revolution)

She recalls when she was first in Tahrir Square she held up a sign so it was in front of her face, so she would not have to be seen. And with time she dropped the sign lower, chatted with the people passing by and the media, inviting them in – to be part of what was become more inevitably their revolution as well.

Gihan circa 2010

Gihan tells of her experience of cat calling [this is the verbal harassment many people – mostly women – get from men they dont know on the street. Frequently, but not exclusively about their appearance]. Before Tahrir Square she would just walk away from this type of harassment, feeling it was ubiquitous and hopeless to change.

After the revolution she found herself doing something else. When someone cat called her, she would turn and face them and ask “Were we together in Tahrir Square?” Millions of people from Cairo and other places participated in this popular revolution at least for part of it. Everyone she asks says “yes”

Tahrir square in it’s hayday

“What you just did hurt me and I know you would have never done that in Tahrir Square.” And then she turns to walk away – but every cat caller, asks her to stop and apologizes. And I think more importantly, they likely retire from this type of harassment.

The courage it takes to tear down a dictatorship not only changes the political landscape of the country, it empowers and emboldens the people who make it happen to take on other cultural injustices which surround them.

Legacy Bureaucrats

One of the most common problems with revolutions which overthrow dictatorships is that many corrupt officials from the previous regime are able to slip into new positions or maintain their previous posts. When the Czechoslovakia broke the yoke of communism, one of the first demands was to disband the despised and abusive secret police force. These agents were then immediately hired by the state run electricity monopoly for its own security. The activists who risked uncontrolled torture to overthrow the old totalitarian regime would face these same (now minimally controlled) state security agents when they protested the completion of nuclear power plants after the revolution.

Recently, Egypt my host and I faced a similar situation. Before the revolution, the head of the local police prevented westerners and other critics of the Mubarek regime from speaking at the university in Qena (Southern Valley University). After the revolution this corrupt bureaucrat was removed from his job, only to be hired by the president of the university (a strong Mubarek supporter) to run security for the school. So when I showed up at the gates, with my presentation having been approved in advance, we were informed I was not being permitted to speak. I have to admit I was flattered to be considered as a threat to these still corrupt elements of the state.

And just as the activists in Tahrir Square found dozens of ways to slip from the grasp of the corrupt security apparatus, my hosts nibble friends moved the talk out of the university and into a nearby off campus dorm. These dormitories were built by the Muslim Brotherhood for students who could not afford on campus housing. Unfortunately, because the dorms are single sexed, this move meant we lost all the female participants to my talk, which I did not discover until near the end of the talk.

The hope for Egypt (and me)

We spoke for three hours, both alternating translation and alternating questions. They wanted to know as much about me as I was curious about them. Before the talk my host encouraged me to ask the hardest questions I could image – “Ask them about jihad and killing infidels” he suggested, “ask them about Islamic law and the rights of women”, “Ask them everything you want”. The conversation was animated and revealing. I found myself repeatedly explaining and apologizing for US foreign policy. They kept surprising me with their commitment to social justice and equity, non-interventionist foreign policy, religious tolerance and the evolution of tribal customs towards fairness (and away from arranged marriages and revenge killings) because of increased education. [More on all of these topics in a pending blog post]. In the end, I had to leave to catch my train, our conversation was far from complete and they encouraged me to return. I have several new Facebook friends whose names I cant read.

In the last hour I brought up Twin Oaks and promptly lost my ability to ask them questions because of the flood of excitement and inquires that came from these young members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups. “This is just what we need to be doing!” One student exclaimed as I described our sharing systems. He had studied English for 4 years at SVU and ours was the first conversation he had ever had with a native speaker, in part because of the efforts of this corrupt bureaucrat. But things are changing in Egypt and I am quite sure this will not be his last.

Hope for Egypt

Just as you would be a fool to generalize about the US by spending a week exclusively in Manhattan, I was equally foolish thinking I understood much about life in Egypt after a week in Cairo/Giza. Coming to the small city of Qena opened my eyes to several other sides of this country on the Nile. My journey started at the Giza train station where I said good bye to my overly protective handlers that included my first driver in Cairo and my first tour guide.

Missing are the camels, children and horses which make it worse

And my train was an hour late in arriving, so unsurprisingly the locals started chatting me up. This does not happen much in my experience in the US, where someone from clearly a different race and culture is approached by friendly Americans who ask if they can help. In Egypt, it is common place and has happened to me repeatedly. A financial analyst and an Egyptian cop (just returning from a UN peacekeeping expedition to the Conga) were more than happy to talk about both the revolution and how I was going to get off at the right stop, which no doubt had no signs I could read. In the end the friendly cop rescued me from my train wagon and took me off the train in the lovely town of Qena.

The first thing which struck me while I was waiting for my host was the near riot going on in the train station. Perhaps 50 people were noisily gathered demanding tickets for what appeared a closed booth. What struck me is how this would never occur in the US.  If there were no tickets, you might complain to your friends or fire off an irate text message, but you would not think if protesting at the ticket booth.  My Qena friends explained it was because there is a black market in train tickets and these prospective passengers suspected the ticket agents might be holding back tickets to profit from reselling them.  Apparently, protests similar to the one i saw have resulted in tickets being released in the past.

The second thing which struck me was the streets. Unlike Cairo, they were quite clean and the traffic was fairly tame by international standards. Ahmed told me that the popular local mayor put a hefty fine on littering. And nearly overnight the behavior of the locals changed and the litter nearly vanished.

But more important that the traffic, litter and pocket riots is the way the local culture is changing. I am speaking of the tribes which dominate Upper Egypt. [Upper Egypt refers to the southern portion of the country I am now visiting, which is up river on the Nile.] When I asked about homelessness in Egypt, everyone said that only the street kids in Cairo were homeless, in the rest of the country and especially in the more tribal regions of the south, clans took in anyone who was part of their group who fell down on their luck and made sure there was a social safety net which included housing.

But other aspects of tribal culture have been more oppressive, and perhaps nowhere this is more true than the institution of marriage. For literally thousands of years it has been common practice for marriages to be arranged and for them to always be inside the tribe. Yet in the last years and especially since the revolution these cultural norms have been shifting. The personal freedom and responsibility granted by the successful revolution brought with it challenging of cultural institutions, including tribal behaviors, which stripped individuals of their free will. Arranged marriages are being stepped away from, without shaming the culture. Even more importantly, in my eyes, young members of tribes are choosing to marry outside the tribe and even outside their race without blow back from their families and clan. African neighbors and even westerns are moving into the extended family housing which is tradition in Upper Egypt.

When they tell you nothing changes under the sun, tell them that in the oldest cultures in the world, under the hot dessert sun, freedom and self determination are starting to blossom.