Archive for November, 2013

According to what has leaked during his trial, Mursi insinuated that “the assassinations didn’t start yet,” and a few days later a new murder was committed, targeting the person who was considered a main witness against Mohammad Mursi at the escape event, and participated in capturing their strong man Khairat al-Shater. I read the news on one of the websites, it reads: An officer from the National Security was murdered by gunshots from unknown armed persons on his way to work, called Colonel Mohammad Mabrouk.images1 I looked twice at the sentence and couldn’t believe it. I read it over and over, and cross checked the information on numerous news sites, yes it’s Mabrouk, not “called” Mohammad Mabrouk. He is the noble man who loved life, full of enthusiasm and patriotism. He was one of the close men to the General Ahmad Raafat, the head of State Security who died while working in his office, he was a man of rare breed, and will never be duplicated. General Raafat gathered around him a group of his own, who were considered as one of his many reasons of success. These men were in charge of following the activities of religious extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood group, and he led the initiatives to contain the violence initiated by the Islamic Jamaa first, then the Jihadist groups.

I developed a strong personal bond with him and his team for many years when I was following and analyzing the Islamic groups, we prepared a set of ads that were not broadcast, and maybe they would have changed things if they were. I used to meet General Raafat every now and then, and Colonel Mabrouk was one of his men, and was part of the team that follows the activities of the Muslim brotherhood. The group remained almost united after the death of Ahmad Raafat, and my relationship continued with them, Mabrouk was always keen to keep communicating with me during the past years after the incidents of January and the dissolution of the State Security, and he was transferred out of the apparatus after most of its members were discharged. I believe what one his relatives quoted him saying after the Brotherhood assumed power: “The traitors are governing.” He used to remind me in his phone calls of what “al-hajj” – the nickname of General Ahmad Raafat – used to say, as he was always threatening of the danger of the Muslim Brotherhood and he complained about the mistake of the regime in dealing with them. His will to communicate and exchange ideas and remind me of previous situations, and all the talk we did, was one of the bright moments in the darkness that dominated Egypt in the past two years. So Mohammad Mabrouk isn’t to me a person “Called” Mohammad Mabrouk but he represents a glorious chapter of our glorious history, rich in patriotic stances. It is hard and particularly painful to pay farewell to someone of his caliber, especially when he was killed in cold blood.

Who is responsible?

While some voices attempted to defend the Muslim Brotherhood and deny their responsibility in the assassination of Mabrouk, the history of the group and the threats of their man, Mursi, proved the opposite. Since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood everybody was expecting them to go this low in the confrontation; they have always committed assassination and scores of terror crimes. These acts have been confirmed and they have never denied them, although they tried to embellish and claim committing them out of patriotism. They are famous for two types of assassination; the assassination to stop someone and the assassination of revenge, as the notorious writer Tharwat Al-Kharbawi describes it, he who was a member of the group. For instance, the assassination of Nakrashi was out of revenge, as he had dissolved the group and confiscated their assets, but the assassination of Colonel Mohammad Mabrouk aimed at putting an end to his activities against them, because he was going to witness how Mursi escaped from the Natroun Valley prison, he was the only witness to Mursi’s contacts with foreign intelligence services and with Hamas movement, so they deemed it to be necessary to kill Mabrouk to stop him from delivering his testimony.

He wasn’t killed by accident, especially as he was in his private car, in civilian clothes, and nothing indicated who he was or where he works

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

The assassination of Mohammad Mabrouk was performed with extreme professionalism as the assassins didn’t leave any trace in the crime scene, and it is clear that the assassin wasn’t a first timer and that he was well trained. There was a similarity between the assassination of Mohammad Abou Chacra and Mohammad Mabrouk, they were both unknown, using nicknames, and they were completely ignored by the Muslim Brotherhood, except by their leaders, and those who managed to fetch classified documents of the State Security Apparatus when the Muslim Brotherhood was governing. Also, it is worth remembering what was said then that the main mission of al-Beltagy during Mursi’s rule was to control the State Security and the Ministry of Interior, without neglecting the fact that some officers fell in the Brotherhood trap and decided to sell their souls to the Brotherhood for the sake of power.

The assassination of Mabrouk proves that he was under supervision for a long time, especially as he was assassinated at 10:30 pm, which is when he leaves home to go to work. He wasn’t killed by accident, especially as he was in his private car, in civilian clothes, and nothing indicated who he was or where he works. Actually, that is part of his job; don’t let your neighbor know who you are.

On the same day of Mabrouk’s assassination, I published my column about the so called dialogue invitation of the Brotherhood, calling it their new trick. The assassination proved what I said: that the aim is to change the status quo and distract attention.

While I am concluding my column, I see on TV that a hand grenade targeted the police in Boulaq, in the center of Cairo, and that a suicide attack claims the lives of ten soldiers who were taking the bus near the border with Gaza, and I can imagine the feeling of gloating among the Brotherhood and their supporters.

May Allah have mercy on Mabrouk and all the martyrs, wishing that their blood will strengthen the hearts of those in power positions, and empower them so their hands stop shaking.

I hope the issue of reconciliation with Hamas isn’t one of the subjects which Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who is in Cairo tomorrow, carries in his pocket. It’s been proven that the interests of this reconciliation are not deposited in the Palestinian people’s account but are deposited in different accounts ever since Hamas hijacked power and imposed its control on the Gaza Strip and killed and expelled whoever belongs to the Fatah movement.Abdul-Latif-Al-Minawi

During the following phase, Egypt made sincere efforts to overcome all obstacles hindering reconciliation between the two major factions in Palestine. Egypt did so despite its awareness that both parties are clearly stalling since they are benefitting from the situation the way it is. The Egyptians however resumed making these efforts because they thought the alternative would be fighting and weakening the Palestinian stance in general and this harms the Palestinians who want a real reconciliation. Ties between Egypt and the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, whether before or after the collapse of Hosni Mubarak, cannot be considered warm. They could only be considered warm earlier during the year when the Brotherhood ruled. The Egyptians were aware at all times that Hamas isn’t a likeable neighbor as long as it controls Gaza. But the Egyptian strategy back then was working on containing Hamas to guarantee Palestinian reconciliation and Egyptian national security. The exception was made during Mohammad Mursi’s reign which lasted for one year – since he was assigned president on June 30, 2012 and until he was ousted on July 3, 2013. Smuggling tunnels were used with a unique competence to smuggle Egyptian goods and stolen car parts to the Gaza Strip. Jihadi takfiris come to Egypt through the tunnels which are also used to smuggle weapons of all kinds into Egypt. The sacked Hamas government which controls Gaza collects money levied on goods smuggled from Egypt. It also takes money to allow digging and operating a tunnel. The government thus gains around $400 million a year. Hamas losing sympathy Hamas began to lose the Egyptian people’s sympathy after it was revealed that it was clearly involved in the January revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Hamas lost support particularly after people learnt that it played a role in attacking a number of Egyptian prisons on January 28 and 29, 2011. The result of these attacks was releasing a number of Brotherhood leaders, in addition to releasing thousands of other dangerous prisoners and killing police officers and soldiers. It further lost support as details of its involvement during the Brotherhood rule surfaced and as people became aware that the movement is an original part of the Muslim Brotherhood group or that it’s rather the latter’s military wing. In brief, it became very clear how dangerous Hamas is to Egyptian national security. The reconciliation between Abbas and Dahlan is important on the level of reuniting efforts before the next phase of the struggle with Hamas in Gaza begins. Abdel Latif el-Menawy With all these givens, it’s clear that Abu Mazen’s continuous insistence to move forward with achieving a reconciliation which will not be fulfilled with a faction like Hamas is in fact a waste of time. It also raises suspicions on the reasons of insisting to make efforts over a lost case. Who’s benefiting here? Recent reports said that there were several attempts to reconcile Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammad Dahlan, the Fatah official whom the former sacked. Such attempts indicate that there is awareness of the threats which the Palestinians and their case are subject to amidst Hamas control and Fatah’s rift. However these attempts failed for reasons that appear extremely personal in the relation between the two men. One of the weird reasons these attempts failed is Abu Mazen’s insistence that the agreement between him and Dahlan be through the “president’s” son. The reconciliation between Abbas and Dahlan is important on the level of reuniting efforts before the next phase of the struggle with Hamas in Gaza begins. It will not be strange if we expect Arab pressure towards speeding up an internal consensus between the central committee and Dahlan for regional and domestic reasons. Dahlan had announced in a statement that he’s willing to head to Ramallah and to stand before a national investigation committee of all factions to investigate the accusations made against him on condition that the commission be neutral and that Abu Mazen does not interfere in its work. Some see that Abbas feels Dahlan represents a threat to him so they don’t think there will be a reconciliation soon since Abu Mazen fears that he himself may be a price for this reconciliation. But will such fears be reason behind harming the national interest of the Palestinians? Will Egypt and neighboring countries stand idle without pushing to replace the concept of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas with the concept of reconciliation within Fatah?

This article was first published in al-Jarida on Nov. 9, 2013.

As we all expected, I think, Mohammad Mursi disappointed us. We were hoping that the trial of Mursi and his gang would be an opportunity for them to rethink their position and start taking real steps towards admitting guilt for what they committed for many years, mainly for stealing the presidency. There was hope that they would start their healing journey from the epidemic disease that became a clear trait of their personality, in their policies and their behavior, which is denial. They are really good at denying over and over, firmly and stubbornly.Abdul-Latif-Al-Minawi

Mursi appeared and it was clear that he was at an advanced stage of this disease, a stage that can be easily described as hopeless. What was published and broadcast about the details of the trial, before it and after is, demonstrates this fact very clearly. Mursi looked close to being really sick. Since the very first moment, and until after the conclusion of the session, he was surprised that nobody was calling him Mr. President, and he asked repeatedly that those who were around him call him as such. He kept on repeating before, during and after the trial, that he is the legitimate president. He repeated it in a comic and hysterical way. This legitimacy hysteria started with Mursi since the early demonstrations against him and his group during his presidency, and it remained with him after the popular revolution against him until he was ousted. Time has not healed his hysteria and its symptoms.

They don’t know that legitimacy – the word he repeated over and over – isn’t an eternal pardon document

Abdel Latif el Menawy

Mursi’s case is akin to a black comedy, mixing the emotions of fun and pain. When a nation and its people pay the heavy price of the blood of its own children and its daily bread because of this stupidity and ridiculous behavior, this will cause anger even if the situation is comical.

Mursi looked happy in the suit he insisted on wearing, refusing to wear the prisoners’ white uniform. He was walking proudly, repeating that he is the legitimate president, which was a reminder of the classical comical play “the singer of emotions” when the late Mohammad Awad kept walking on stage, yelling all the time, until the end of the play: “I am Atef al-Ashmouny the author of the miserable heaven.” This comic scene will most likely continue for a long time.

Legitimacy

What Mursi and his group don’t know is that the legitimacy he’s shouting about isn’t a fortress to use for hiding from the real source of any legitimacy, the people whose role was always denied and neglected. They don’t know that legitimacy – the word he repeated over and over – isn’t an eternal pardon document, but it is rather a contract for fulfilling a function, and is likely to be dissolved in case of underperformance.

The shouts of Mursi supporters in the villages and cities, defending what they called “the president’s legitimacy,” couldn’t be considered as proof or a counterbalance against the overwhelming majority. These demonstrations reflect the status of brain drainage, which leads to raising the question: “How do people ask for their own slavery?” This calls for the legitimate questions: What legitimacy and which sovereignty do the supporters of Mursi talk about when he is ousted by the mother of all authorities, the public will?! Aren’t the people the source of legitimacy, or does legitimacy emanate from the government represented by Mursi himself! The questions were answered a long time ago in civilized societies, but it seems that Mursi and his supporters have a long way to go before they get there.

Desperate attempts

What we witnessed during Mursi’s era in political power were his desperate attempts to impose himself as one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood through his project of the “akhwanization” of the Egyptian society, rich with cultural, political and religious diversity. All this caused chaos and political instability and had bad consequences on the economy. It destroyed Egypt’s foreign relations through the hardline policy of the Brotherhood, and cost the Egyptians many lives in the name of legitimacy. Facing all this, is there a necessity to overthrow Mursi after the heroic acts of the Egyptian people who thought that they were reaching the heaven of democracy with its full set of values, including liberties and a new constitution that’s the fruit of a national consensus? But the biggest disappointment was when we realized all of these sacrifices were in vain, when a dictator assumed power in the name of the elections’ legitimacy.

Mursi worked to destroy the pillars of the Egyptian society, he manipulated the constitution, the corruption spread, and he used radical methods to manage the state. He would have succeeded in destroying national unity and it became clear that the Brotherhood had their own agenda for Egypt which obliged the military apparatus, one of the institutions that represent the popular will – if not the only one nowadays, strong by its constitutional mandate, to stand with the people against Mursi – to take a historic stance against the devastating Brotherhood agenda. And as the late American President James Madison said: “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” and the ambition we’re talking about is the ambition of the people supported by his protective army, facing the dark ambitions of Mursi and his group.

And as I said, it seems that we will witness for a long time the repetition of Mursi’s ridiculous yell: “I am the legitimate president, I am the legitimacy, I am ready to put my life down for the legitimacy, protect legitimacy, take on the streets and the squares for the sake of legitimacy, the legitimacy defends legitimacy, legitimacy to preserve legitimacy, every citizen should protect legitimacy, and in the shadow of legitimacy, Mursi is firmly supporting legitimacy.” This hysteric yelling, and continuous repetition, creates the need for a legitimacy counter. Also, we must face what we are facing with a mixture of laughter and pain.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Nov. 7, 2013.

The beloved puppet character “Aragoz” has always been a part of Egyptian culture, a national weapon to detect lies and symbol for the people against the authorities. I wanted to make this statement before anything else, to prove that the Aragoz was never looked down upon in the minds of the Egyptians, even if he was a source of laughter, and he was always loved even if when he was highlighting their shortcomings. He has always been with them and has never abandoned them.Abdul-Latif-Al-Minawi

The term Aragoz has been used a lot recently, some used it to describe the satirist Bassem Youssef as a way to humiliate him. Meanwhile, he used it to describe himself with the aim of protecting himself against criticism and attacks, stating that “nobody takes what the Aragoz says seriously.” Today I am writing about the Aragoz as it is downtrodden by both parties; those who used the term for humiliation and those who try to hide behind it.
The orientalists of the French Campaign in Egypt described it as follows: “We saw in the streets of Cairo many times, men who were delivering puppet shows, attracting crowds. The audience of the show is extremely small, to an extent that one person is able to easily hold it. The actor will stand in the wooden cube from which he can secretly see the viewers from special windows, while he introduces puppets from side doors.”

The puppet show wasn’t a tool for entertainment and leisure, it was a direct platform to criticize the social situation and showcase current issues. Egyptians saw their daily life presented in a nice comic show featuring wooden puppets, this eased their pain and helped them see their mistakes with a small twist of criticism. So the Aragoz was an authentic component of Egyptian cultural heritage, carrying for decades the message of rejecting and criticizing society and all forms of authority.

Nurturing a culture of opposition

Throughout the years, the Aragoz contributed to nurturing a culture of opposition. The Aragoz always concluded the show by striking his opponents and kicking them out of the community by saying “go out,” which was always the last sentence he would use at the end of the show.

The Aragoz is one of the components of the collective memory of Egyptians; he was seeking change for the best while encouraging others to peacefully seek change by alienating the bad elements of society.

There are many theories about the source of the word, while some refer to a Pharaohnic source of the word “oro goz,” which means the story maker, others refer it to the Turkish “karagoz,” which means black eye. Others say that it refers to “Karakoush, Baha’addine Karakoush,” an Egyptian ruler during the Ottoman era. They say that the Egyptians created this character to express their attitude towards Karakoush. No matter which of these sources is right, and no matter how inaccurate they might be, Aragoz has always been seen positively by Egyptians.

Welcome to the show

A typical show consists of 14 puppets of different forms, with the Aragoz character at the center of every show. The show is presented by a puppet mover, hidden from the eyes of the public, moving a number of puppets. He is assisted by “malagy” who stands in front of the public and plays the role of facilitator. He is in charge of playing music, talking to the puppets and engaging the audience. The show is presented live, without any written text, relying on his strong memory. The Aragoz has a remarkable voice thanks to a special instrument he puts in his mouth. It has a strange name “al-amana,” which might be considered a pledge of faithfulness and a sign for commitment and preserving the values of his community, even when he’s criticizing them ruthlessly.

Aragoz has always been a weapon in the hands of the people, not a dagger in their backs

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

The Aragoz has always been a weapon in the hands of the people, not a dagger in their backs. He painted their dreams while criticizing their negative aspects, he faced with them the tyranny of the rules and mocked them, he did all this without using bad words or being impolite, his style didn’t include any sexual connotations or immoral jokes. He respected the values of the community and their dreams.

There are many stories about the reactions of the people – or the public opinion as we call it today – when the Aragoz said a bad word or ridiculed the dreams of the people, or went against the public mood. The reactions ranged from refusing him to hitting him. This is the sanction for those who challenge the people’s culture and dreams.

I believe that he who aspires to be like Aragoz should think seriously about it so he will not be banned, or discarded, if he challenges the people’s will or offends their dreams.

 

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Yawm on Oct. 31, 2013.