Archive for August, 2012

Let’s take another look

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

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By Abdellatif Elmenawy

I don’t believe that the lesson is over yet.

The Islamic group has run the battle with those who still had the courage of confrontation and demonstration in the streets on the 24th of this month. This shows that the group has taken advantage from what it considered as the weakness point of the former regime. In fact, the group decided to abort the call for demonstration at an early stage and decided instead to attack and overthrow the former leaders of the military council who accepted their fate without any sign of resistance and with a suspicious surrender. In this context, the group has not only resolved the conflict over power but it has also achieved a preemptive strike against the project of demonstration because people felt that they have lost their supporter and defender as well as the guardian of the civil state.

Moreover, a true battle has started but it is a unilateral battle that could be viewed rather as an attack against media outlets. The attack on media took many shapes like toppling the editors of all national newspapers and magazines and replacing them with editors who are affiliated to the group without any due conditions and without taking into account the opinion of the journalistic community. Moreover the Islamic group has adopted the gulf employment agencies’ style in recruiting migrant employees. Thus, this front of the battle has been secured, they balanced and steered their ship, heading to a new, but expected, destination. As for private media, sacrificing one or two journalists was enough to terrorize and deter private media institutions. That is why the group has issued complaints, accusations, restraining orders and habeas corpus against journalists. They have even threatened or attempted to incarcerate and attack them. And indeed, some journalists were put in jail while channels have been closed and newspapers have been seized. All these practices managed to create an atmosphere of fear among observers. However, weirdly enough, the big boss comes out and declares that he backs the freedom of press and impels one of his followers to deny any link between the group and these practices. They claim that some honorable citizens have voluntarily resorted to these practices to discipline journalists.

It has been proven that “mobilization for intimidation” actually works. As elections draw near, there were calls to mobilize militias in the field and threats of attack that go in line with the fatwas calling for the murder of “those obscene infidels” who dare to disobey the will of God on earth”. Some called for the amputation of their limbs as a punishment for corrupters on earth. However we did not hear any severe and serious condemnation of these fatwas. All we heard from decision makers was a refusal that is more close to an approval.
Consequently, there were voices calling for the organization of demonstrations supporting the freedom of expression and refusing the dominant practices that aim at acquiring power and marginalizing the people, except members and allies of the Islamic group. Protests started in unfavorable, rather dissuasive, conditions. Some might have adopted the same political stance and slogan as the ones expressed by the callers to these protests, but they content with declaring their approval to the demonstrations while insisting that they will not participate in any of them. There were several rumors regarding the reasons that pushed some parties to refrain from participating in the protests. Some say they were under pressure or threat or are even trying to win the new governors’ trust; however the overall result was the suspicious retreat of the powers that seemed to truly believe in the importance of the struggle for the establishment of a civil state.

After demonstrators started flocking in the streets, they realized the presence of new security measures that were inspired from past experiences when the governors of today were the demonstrators of yesterday. They were masters in circling and impeding the protest. Organized militias affiliated to the Islamic group participated in the oppressive measures by resorting to terrorizing and intimidating practices. Under these prohibitive conditions, the protests happened as they happened, despite all the restrictions and some of the protesters were participating for the first time in a demonstration but were driven by their sense of danger to face all these challenges.

I know that Muhammad Abu Hamed, one of the main callers for these protests, is a controversial figure, but I do admire his persistent position despite the severe attack against him. He did not follow the steps of some political figures who decided to keep their historical role of adulation to maintain their position; and if the authority does not guarantee their interests, they would oppose it. Some claim to be liberals and had exerted pressure over decision makers to support the civil state but they soon stopped their support to civil state advocates at the request of “the people in power,” as they say.

As for the media coverage of the protests, it is a long devastating matter. I did not understand why some media insisted on broadcasting shootings of Tahrir square where there were no demonstrations taking place! Other media outlets made sure to deploy a reporter affiliated to the new regime to cover the protests. As for television channels that intended to play the role of a state television, they were stunted and transformed into channels that serve the Islamic group and mock other different Egyptian citizens.

I salute those few people who are putting their lives at stake to defend the civil state for he who derides them is messing with Egypt’s future.

(The writer is a columnist at Egypt-based al-Masry al-Youm, where this article was first published Aug. 27, 2012 and was translated by Alarabiya news)

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By Abdellatif Elmenawy

A state of anxiety is haunting many forces in the West regarding the overwhelming desire of the current rulers in Egypt for control and domination. Some have even begun to evoke the Iranian model after the United States helped topple the Shah, allowed Khomeini to lead the masses, and then was surprised by his autocracy and the termination of all his opponents. In Iran, the Shah’s regime suppressed all the civil voices. His regime killed, expelled, and silenced anyone who dared to criticize him. When his regime collapsed, the black turban folks and their supporters were unrivaled in the political scene and consequentially took over.

What is happening in Egypt reminds of the Iranian experience.

Today it is worthy asking whether Western leaders made mistakes in supporting political Islam after the ouster of previous regimes. It was generally acknowledged that that previous autocratic regimes no longer served Western interests they lack popular support at home. Islamists, as the most organized domestic political forces, were seen as the better qualified to serve Western interests by clamping down on Radical extremists and preventing terror attacks against Western and American interests in particular.

The West was counting on the moderate Islamists taking power in the Middle East to embrace hardliners, who are perceived as a threat to Western interests.

But what is actually happening on the ground has started to raise the concerns of Western politicians, who now see the ruling Islamists as providing shelters to their radical brethren.

This is what the British intelligence chief indicated after the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt.

The clear desire of the ruling group to silence the people has aggravated the concerns, and this is what led the former special assistant to U.S. President Barack Obama on the Middle East, Denis Ross, to express his concerns about the behavior of President Mursi and his group towards the media.

In a Washington Post article, Ross wrote: “It is probably no accident that the state media’s tone has changed markedly in the past week — and is far more favorable toward Morsi. None of this means that Egypt’s path of change is foreordained.”

“President Mohamed Mursi, and the Muslim Brotherhood are now firmly controlling the situation, especially after the president’s dismissal of prominent leaders in the army subsequently to the recent events in Sinai.

Ross added that President Mursi and the Brotherhood “will find it hard to escape responsibility for whatever happens in Egypt. The country faces daunting economic challenges; it will need significant outside assistance and private investment. Morsi and the Brotherhood are seeking outside support for their “renaissance plan” to revitalize the economy; after they resisted the conditions for an International Monetary Fund agreement when they were not in power.”

Ross wrote that Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood have to acknowledge the reality regarding their relation with Israel, pointing out to Mursi’ denial of having exchanged contact with Israel President Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Ross, who is currently a consultant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policies, indicated that the Brotherhood “insists on living in its own reality? If nothing else, it’s clear that the group the Brotherhood is wedded to its ideology and cannot admit anything that might call its basic philosophy into question.”

Ross raised the importance of Egypt’s respect for human rights and compliance with international regulations if the country wants the world’s help to revive its economy. But the Ross’ statements also reveal a sense of concern in the West about the new rulers in Cairo.

(This article originally appeared in Arab in al-Masry al-Youm and translated by Alarbia News)

By Abdellatif Elmenawy

This is the first Eid celebrated by Egypt under a new regime that has managed to extend its power to all aspects of Egyptian life. Every Egyptian has now harnessed the right to hold policymakers accountable without the fear of being referred to a prosecutor or attacked by a militia, whose leaders are no longer anonymous.

However, only the governing camp claims to ignore the identity of this militia and denies any tie or link with them. All Egyptians have the right to hold their governors accountable, the right to criticize and to expect from those who claim to serve the interests of Egypt; to show their alleged good intentions.

In this year’s Eid celebration, we are living in a condition that takes us back to the times younger generations have read about. But the current situation brings back the past and gives not one sign of the future. Even the existing signs of hope have started to lose color and fade away.

However, Eid is the occasion to search for some hope for the upcoming days, even if this hope does not exceed ambitious wishes. In this context, I would like to seize the occasion to greet all the Egyptian people, without any exception, and all those who govern and are governed in Egypt. But I would like to particularly congratulate our parents and people, the families of the martyrs of Rafah who paid the price of a mistake they did not commit but who gained the honor of martyrdom while performing the most sacred duty of protecting the borders of our nation, everybody’s nation. They were killed by the hands of treachery and greed. To the families of the martyrs who are no longer remembered amidst the crowded battles of empowerment, I pay a special tribute and tell them that the memory of their sons will stay alive in the hearts and souls of every Egyptian citizen who values the concept of a nation. I would also like to pay tribute to the families of the Egyptians who fell at the hands of terrorism during the past decades, those who were killed by the prisoners of extremism. I bestow high praise to those who commemorate their lost sons despite the amount of times they have watched the murderers of their sons released under presidential pardons, even if the killers are sentenced to death. To those families, I say: Your sons paid the price of the survival of the country; their blood was not shed in vain even if sometimes reality says otherwise.

There are many ways to greet people on Eid El-Fitr, however. I received a greeting card this year that has rooted deep concern and fear in my heart. I prefer not to mention my friend’s name although he is affluent and well-known. I felt that the bitterness of this greeting was dedicated to us all and that is why I decided to publish it:

My dear,

Although you are quite aware of the happenings here, I have some impressions from my last visit to Egypt and here are some of the facts that are happening lately in the country, which are not all stated by media:

The Brotherhood is now controlling everything, the executive and legislative powers, the Constitutional Reform Committee and now the armed forces.

The Brotherhood’s militias had surrounded the studios of two television stations last Saturday because presenters were criticizing the president.

The Brotherhood’s militias have attacked and beaten a group of liberal demonstrators and civil state advocates who were demonstrating in front of the presidential palace. The militias had beaten and chased them.

Three men and one woman were arrested and incarcerated for 15 days for insulting the president.

Around 25 thousands Egyptian citizens were banned from travelling without a court verdict.

Only the economy is alive, but the finance and business scenes are highly split and divided.

A large number of prisoners affiliated to the Brotherhood, the Jihad and Islamic groups were pardoned and released, one of them was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering a police officer.

In August, the Egyptian authorities, under the rule of President Mursi, have banned Ms. Afaf Ezz from travelling. She is a 25 year old women who graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, works at Morgan Stanley and who is now prohibited from leaving Egypt. Afaf is the daughter of detained businessmen Ahmed Ezz.

Daily power outages remind Egyptians of the 1973 war. There is no lack in food resources but we are expected to face a huge deficit in the state budget.

Egypt is in a state of uncertainty, the situation is very gloomy as liberals, civil state advocates, Muslim centrists and Copts are feeling defeated in the maneuver of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Happy Eid.

This is the end of my friend’s greeting for Eid El-Fitr.

Long live the Egyptian people and long live Egypt.

(This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on August 20, 2012 and translated by Alarabiya news.)

When journalists are in fear

Posted: August 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Abdallatif Elmenawy

In my last published article I raised the following question: “where is Egypt heading?” and it seems that the answer is progressively emerging in light of the two scenarios that are the most likely to happen on the political scene.

The first scenario is reflected by the full swing empowerment series in all institutions; while the second scenario is underlined by the attempt to impose a certain level of balance in political powers in order to preserve the civil state. However, it seems that the first scenario has gained ground by overthrowing the one and only power that was supposed to conserve the rest of the powers in the civil state. Therefore, the Islamic Group is now responsible of the whole country.

In my last report as well, I pointed and warned against the procedures that might target media by launching intimidation and silencing campaigns. Legal means and al Qaeda militias are likely to be used to impose this state of intimidation, which began to be the case in reality.

I remember what one of the most prominent opinion leaders in Egypt had told me lately; “I am afraid”. And I recall that when I condemned the shutdown of a channel, I said that I was expressing a fix stance to which I was committed under all sorts of conditions. I have always criticized these practices when implemented by the former regime that, despite all its flaws, used to welcome criticism.

The current incidents are causing a state of real concern regarding the future of the freedom of expression in Egypt and underline the serious fears that have been simmering over the last period. These fears were mainly linked to the concepts of public freedom and the freedom of expression in light of the current adopted procedures that hinder these freedoms. These fears are emerging despite the statements that we heard in the following period where the Islamic group confirms its commitment to the freedom of expression and its serious efforts to guarantee spaces for the expression of opinion and ideas. In this context, it is probably judicious to point to the report issued by the Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue in which the forum condemns the series of violations committed lately and that denies all international instruments and national legislations. The forum insists that these violations have reduced the value of the freedom of press and information as democratic standards in political systems and as an indicator that reveals serious fears from attacking public freedoms due to the arrival of Islamists to power in Egypt.

The report detected the main significant violations where a newspaper has been seized, two writers have been banned from publishing articles and a satellite channel has been closed. Moreover, a journalist has been attacked and the monitoring apparatus of the ministry of interior had visited the printing offices of “Al Joumhouriyya” newspaper and asked to review the pages of “Al Zankat” newspaper, few hours after its printing, after the apparatus had received information saying that the newspaper was about to publish journalistic material that dishonor the president of the republic, Dr. Muhammad Mursi. The report also states that “Al Ahram” newspaper has banned the publication of an article written by author and attorney Tharwat Al Kherbawi, tackling the civil state in Islam and entitled: “I wish our governors would understand”. The article was banned without any justification. In addition to these violations, the office of the former editor in chief of “Akhbar Al Adab” newspaper, Abla Al Rouwayni, has been stormed and her article was banned from publishing in Al Akhbar newspaper because she refused to omit the expression “the journalism brotherhoodation” from her article, in a reference to the changes imposed on journalism by Al Shura Council and that lead to her expulsion from her one and a half year position as editor in chief of “Akhbar Al Adab.”

Furthermore, “Al Farain” channel has been closed for 6 weeks and was advised to refrain from implementing its previous practices. Journalist Khaled Salah, was attacked at the forth gate in the media production city by a group of young men who claimed to be members of the brotherhood and were shouting against the “converted journalists” as they prevented him from entering the gate and totally smashed his car.

These are some of the incidents that happened over the last two weeks and that cause serious concerns over freedoms. We have always called for and believed in the establishment of a true civil state and hoped that the changes witnessed by the country would push towards laying the foundations of this state. It is true that some initiatives were doomed to fail, however there are always efforts aiming at the success of this state. Sadly, till now, it seems that winds do not blow as ships desire them to in order to sail towards the horizons of a true civil state. It seems that till now, the Egyptian ship is sailing adverse winds.

(The Arab version of this article was published by Egypt’s al-Masry al-Youm on Aug. 16, 2012 and translated by Alarabiya news)

By Abdellatif Elmenawy

What happened in Sinai was not surprising regardless of how tragic it was. All previously available information predicted a terrorist act. Such information was at first leaked by some American sources indicating that a limited act and a limited reaction were expected in Sinai.

A few days ago, Israel asked its nationals to leave Sinai immediately. Prior to all of this, security reports from various internal and exterior sources were pointing out that Sinai has become a fertile soil for various terrorist groups.

Several media reports also established links between the Sinai attacks and the release of a number of individuals who had been imprisoned for involvement in acts of violence and terrorism.

The new Egyptian approach in dealing with these individuals and others who had fled the country during the Mubarak era was considered as providing appropriate ground for such groups to act, especially that most operations that occurred in Sinai or through Sinai were somehow treated with negligence, or even the secret blessing of political currents close to the ruling regime.

The acts of violence referred to here are the blowing up of the Gas pipeline to Israel 17 times, the Ilat operation, and the shooting on an Israeli convoy last June. Prior to that there was what came to be known as the “Islamic identity Friday” demonstration by Islamist groups, including the Takfir wal Hijra Group established in the 1970s as well as the Salafist Jihadist Organization, Ansar Al Jihad Organization, Black Banners Organization and the most recent Mujahideen Shura Council.

In addition to all the previously mentioned elements, there is a certain dimension that appears to be positive, i.e. the support of our brothers and sisters in Gaza. Nevertheless, such dimension holds a great danger on the national security of Egypt. As many may know, pressures on some state institutions are escalating from parties within the ruling regime in order to open the frontiers with Gaza under the pretext of supporting the Palestinian brethren. Many suggestions have been forwarded in this context calling for establishing common markets, open free zones, or the right for movement and property without any restrictions whatsoever for the people of Gaza in Egypt. However, there are still some reasonable people in Egyptian institutions who completely realize the danger such suggestion has on the Egyptian national security, or even on the whole future of the Palestinian cause and Palestine as well.

As such, these ideas were never completely implemented, but such pressures resulted in certain mobility in Sinai, and as far as I am concerned, claiming that the Egyptian government has Sinai under control may be subject to numerous doubts. Furthermore, the presence of Jihadist groups and smuggler groups on both sides of the borders has become more significant these days. I indicated in many previous articles during the past years that Sinai had the potential of being a time bomb that would explode within the Egyptian body at any time, or of being an added strength to the nation.

Either way, it all depended on how Sinai dealt with its problems. Such problems were, in fact, part of the last crime inflicted upon the people of Sinai, and hadn’t the circumstances been in favor of such crime and others, they would have never ever happened. The Egyptian people bid farewell to the Martyrs of Egypt. At such times, tribal concepts should fade away instead of being an opportunity to prove that the Egyptian regime belongs to some Egyptians only. The people of Egypt paid the price hard…so may the souls of our Martyrs be in heaven!

(This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on August 9 , 2012 and translated by Alarabiya news)