Archive for October, 2014

Egypt’s roads are not leveled and many drivers are not disciplined. There are no signs of any security deterrence on roads and bridges. Even if there is, it’s a materialistic presence. Cars zoom past quickly, crossing paths and racing.000_0_443079782

A large vehicle could be on the right side of the road and its driver may suddenly decide to deviate to the left without prior warning because he/ she wants to win a “race” against a car ahead. A cocky police officer drives his car irresponsibly as a soldier sits next to him in surrender. A boy is driving a three-wheeled rickshaw because he has decided to defy everyone around him. A cart carries garbage and is being drawn by a donkey. Delivery motorbikes jump between cars as they race with time and defy the capabilities of the vehicle they’re driving. Amid all this, microbus drivers argue with many around them as they scream out their destinations. Theme parks can be compared with these roads.

Theme parks can be compared with these roads

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Somewhere amid this chaotic scene, a crash occurs and blood is shed on the asphalt – or whatever is left of it.

Unfortunately, many transportation vehicle drivers do drugs, and a high percentage of road accidents are because of them. Blood analysis campaigns used to deter them and force them to adhere to safety measures. This helped reduce the number of accidents caused by transportation vehicles.

However, accidents are also caused by the absence of road signs and lighting, poor road conditions, and the thoughtlessness and inattention of private vehicle drivers.

Estimates of the number of deaths caused by road accidents range from around 8,000 to 12,000 a year. What is agreed on is that Egypt ranks highest in terms of such accidents, according to the World Health Organization. This has led to economic losses estimated at 17 billion Egyptian pounds a year.

 

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The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded on Oct. 10 to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi for “their defense of children’s right to education and their struggle against suppressing children and teenagers.”

Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said: “Children must go to school and not be financially exploited.” This is the sublime message that 17-year-old Yousufzai has tried to spread worldwide via her blog, which she started in 2009. She was only 13 years old when she was granted the national peace prize in Pakistan.mlala-yousef55

British and other TV channels and dailies agreed on Jan. 4 that the most important news that day was Yousufzai leaving Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England. She was being treated there after Taliban fighters shot her in the head for defying the movement, exposing its crimes and advocating the education of girls.

On Oct. 9 last year, two masked men halted a school bus transporting female students in Pakistan. One of the men boarded the bus and started screaming: “Who is Malala? Speak or I’ll shoot you all. Where is she, who attacks God’s soldiers, the Taliban? She must be punished.” He then identified her and shot her in the head.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said: “Malala was shot because she’s a secular girl. This must be considered a warning to other youths like her. She won’t be safe if she survives this time. She supported the West and opposed the Taliban. She was young but she supported Western culture.”

Awarding Yousufzai the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant step that honors this young girl who held on to her principles despite all the threats against her

Yousufzai’s fame began when she started exposing atrocities committed by extremist Islamists in control of the Swat district in northwest Pakistan, where she lived. She did so through a blog using a fake name. In one TV interview, she said: “I wanted to scream out loud and tell the entire world what we suffered from under the Taliban’s rule.”

During their control of Swat, religious extremists burnt schools, prohibited the education of girls, and forced women to either wear the burqa or stay at home. Among what she wrote in her blog during that time:

– Jan. 3, 2009: “I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban’s edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.”

– Jan. 5, 2009: “During the morning assembly, we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.”

– March 3, 2009: “On our way to school, my friend asked me to cover my head properly, otherwise Taliban will punish us.”

– March 12, 2009: “I had a sore throat. My father took me to the doctor. There a woman told us about a boy named Anis, ‘Anis was with Taliban.’ His Taliban friend told him that he had a dream that he is surrounded by heavenly virgins in Paradise. The boy then asked his parents if he could become a suicide bomber to go to the Paradise. The parents refused. But Anis exploded himself at a check post of security forces, anyway.”

Awarding Yousufzai the Nobel Peace Prize is a significant step that honors this young girl who held on to her principles despite all the threats against her. She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in its 114-year history. Her story may move many to reconsider their resistance to concepts aimed at pushing their societies forward.

Egyptians have a long way to go until we achieve what we aspire to as a nation but one positive factor is that we are headed in the right direction even if our pace is slower than we hoped. There is no magical wand to solve our problems which have accumulated throughout the decades and people will not suddenly feel that their situation has become easier. There is a long road ahead of us but change is on the way and the hope is visceral.images11

I thus asked myself this question: What can the government – any government – do so people are pleased with it? Part of my answer was gleaned from a conversation with a friend of mine. To give an answer, one must ask another question: When are people ever pleased with their governments? When I talk about people here, I mean most people and to varying degrees. Most people are not pleased with their governments, not due to some defect or due to some high aspirations of the rulers but due to our human nature which is always seeking higher aspirations. A real crisis occurs when the defect is in the government and not in the people and when the people’s demands are possible to achieve yet the administration in charge is incapable of meeting them.

The real crisis

If we apply this to our situation in Egypt, we can say that the real crisis between the government and its people lies in the rhetoric adopted by the government towards the people. It’s represented in the government’s ability to attract attention to its positive achievements yet when it drowns itself in small mistakes, it ruins its achievement. Another mistake the government commits is when it fails to focus on the simple and possible means to satisfy citizens. If it manages to take control of these means, it will be able to gain the citizens’ full support.

What can the government – any government – do so people are pleased with it?

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

The government can begin to do this by specifying the locations where citizens deal with it directly. These locations include the health office which issues a citizen’s birth certificate, the hospital where they are treated, educational administrations, tax offices, police and traffic stations, passport and civil registry offices and other offices. Before specifying what’s needed, let us close our eyes for a moment and imagine the suffering of the citizen in all these places I just mentioned and other places I haven’t mentioned. Imagine if the government – as an introduction to create confidence between itself and the people – decided to begin reforming these offices and decided to make citizens’ lives easier in these places where’s it’s in direct contact with its audience. The citizen would thus walk in to a clean office where there’s a smiling employee who quickly finishes his paperwork.

Imagine if citizens feel that the government has set its mind to making their lives easier in these simple places. Imagine how the citizen will thus feel towards his government? I am not saying this will solve the problem and I am not saying the government will have solved its problem with the people. However, it’s a start for people to feel that the government is really concerned with their suffering. What must come later is for the citizen to feel that the government is his government and that its problems are his problems and that its achievements are his achievements. Let’s give it a try.