Two new and important websites

I’ve recently come across two new and, I believe, important websites concerned with two hotly debated and discussed issues in Egypt these days:

1. Military trials for civilians.

2. The new Egyptian constitution.

The websites are NoMilTrials.com and DostorMisr.com. Both are Arabic-language websites though NoMilTrials.com does have posts in English.

I hope you find them useful.

SCAF and Government issue freedom-limiting law

So I heard yesterday over one of the Egyptian national radio that the new law criminalizing any action that disrupts “production” in both the public and private sector has been confirmed.

I find this law to be absolutely ridiculous as it effectively means that workers will not be able to demonstrate, carry out strikes or sit-ins (basic rights that they should have as workers) without fear of being charged by the Public Prosecutor.

Egyptian activists, but not all Egyptians, have agreed that this is in clear breach of the promises that were made by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Dr. Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s current Prime Minister, to ensure that the Egyptian people will never again live in want of freedom; freedom to express their opinion without being detained or prosecuted and the freedom to demonstrate peacefully (amongst many others).

I have dedicated an episode of my podcast to this topic. [Please note that this is wholly in Arabic.]

My podcast feed is in the right-hand column of this blog. Those of you that use Facebook can find the podcast page here. In addition, you can subscribe to the podcast using this RSS Feed – found also at the main page to the podcast.

“What is the Egyptian mainstream” – يعني أيه التيار الرئيسي المصري؟؟

Yesterday, I came across a video on youtube entitled “يعني أيه التيار الرئيسي المصري؟؟”. When I first saw the title, I imagined it would be something produced and executed by anti-protesters who would spin the economy and security yarns. This wasn’t because I thought that these were the views of the “Egyptian mainstream” but because I felt that anyone with the gall to give such a name to a video had to belong to this group.

Instead this is what I got. [Please watch the video before reading the next part of the post. Also, the video is in Arabic.]

I watched the video three times over a period of two hours – so as to give myself a chance of forming a non-hasty opinion of it. My first impressions were such:

  1. An amateur professional filmed and edited this video; definite signs of investment of effort into it.
  2. Scripted – with some leeway in what they talk about.
  3. All the women in the video were veiled.
  4. The piano playing throughout the video is kitschy and annoying. Almost like they were talking to us from some sort of heaven.
  5. I feel the man who starts speaking at 2:29 is an engineer and perhaps needs to work for the Egyptian authority for bridges and roads or the Ministry of Planning. Also, I have never been attacked by a dog on the street as long as I did not attempt to aggravate the dog in some way or form.
  6. Perhaps the video should have been called the Egyptian upper class mainstream. None of these people looked like workers or laborers or technicians of any sort.
  7. A lot of Egyptians are sheep and cling strongly to this mentality.
  8. I felt they were all “young professionals” who are trying to go about forming a political party in a “scientific” manner; using broad terms to include members of the “silent majority”, university students and fresh graduates to ensure largest number of members.
  9. These people will definitely use power points presentations in their meetings and at least half of them will have laptops open and taking notes.
  10. It is very patronizing and condescending of them to call this “The Egyptian Mainstream” ( ‘The’ pronounced Zee) and not the The Egyptian Mainstream Movement or something of the sort. They got it the other way round, didn’t they? The mainstream should come first and then you talk about it, you don’t create it. Or, do you? [I realized this inner debate would not end, so I dropped it.]

These are, very seriously, the ideas that ran through my head as I watched the video for the first time. When I showed my mother the video she commented after watching about 3 minutes of it: They cannot rid themselves of the one-party mentality. Then she walked away, dis-interested. Please note that my mother is 100% a-political and though she reads multiple newspapers, she does not like to actively discuss politics for more than a minute at a time.

I also felt that some of them contradicted each other – which shows that they came from different political participation backgrounds. Some insisted that they would shed their differences and at least one or two spoke of including a main set of ideas that would not contradict with pre-existing views or principles. This wasn’t so much an issue though as much as the impression I got that they believed that having differences divides us and makes us weaker an unable to help the country or move forward etc.

If you shift that line of thought, it seems to me that this is exactly the way of thinking – the idea that we should all be homogeneous as a people – that spurs religious tension and strife in the country as well as racial and class prejudices and discrimination.

Also, the video did not state or list a clear set of ideas or principles that they follow or believe in. This does not necessarily make it any “weaker” – it did look like a promotional video – but it made me feel like I wasted 25 minutes of my time listening to a number of people saying that we should all unite and there is strength in numbers as well as ‘we want Tahrir values’ to continue… etc

Right.

Just before I meant to write and publish this post,  I came across this on Facebook (written by a friend of mine – Reem Abu Zahra – also in Arabic). In case Reem hasn’t set her notes to be viewed by the public, below is the text of her note:

التيار الرئيسي” و إحتكار ألهوية المصرية

لا اخفي دهشتي من إعلان ما يسمى ب”التيار الرئيسي” المصري. في بادئ الأمر لم اصدق عيناى و أنا اقرأ العنوان “التيار الرئيسي” و بتعريف اللام… و عند قراءة التفاصيل في كتابات الدكتور معتز عبد الفتاح لا اخفي صدمتي. بصرف النظر عن طبيعة الشخوص التي نصبت نفسها محددة للهوية و حدود و الإطار العام  للشخصية المصرية المعروف معظمهم بميلهم نحو تيار الإسلام السياسي كالدكتور طارق البشرى و حتى معتز عبد الفتاح، إلا أن هذا لا يعنيني بقدر ما تعنيني فكرة محاولة رسم حدود هوية الشخصية المصري كما يراها بعض الأشخاص مهما بلغت درجة العبقرية و التسامح. فمجرد إعلان كهذا في حد ذاته يعنى إنهم ليسوا على استعداد أن يتسامحوا مع قطاعات من الشعب المصري إذا لم يكونوا من “التيار الرئيسي.”

التعريف يعنى أن أى شخصية خارجة عن هذا التيار الرئيسي هو ليس مصريا أو على أقصى تقدير “مصري نص نص” فاقد أو منقوص الهوية و فاقد أو منقوص الأهلية و بالتالي فاقد القدرة على ممارسة مصريته بالكامل. كيف يمارسها و هو “شاذا” عن التيار الرئيسي؟

من أعطى بعض أفراد الشرعية لمهمة كهذه؟ من فوضهم؟ و من يحدد من هو المعتدل اذا كان عبود الزمر نفسه أحد رواد العنف الديني السياسي يرى انه معتدل و غير متطرف الفكر.

مصر لكل الأطياف و الألوان بكل أفكارهم و أشكالهم و توجهاتهم و طباعهم و اهتماماتهم على اختلافها و هذا أجمل ما في مصر. لكل فرد أن يحدد هويته كما يراها و المشترك بيننا جميعا إننا مصريين و علينا احترام بعضنا طالما لم يعتد طرف على حرية طرف آخر بدون عنف و لا استبداد طرف لطرف حتى و ان كانت ديكتاتورية الأغلبية.

ما يفعله “رواد” ما يسمى ب”التيار الرئيسي” هو محاولة لاحتكار الشخصية المصرية و اختطافا لها و هو غير مقبول إطلاقا بل و يرقى لمرتبة الفكر الفاشىا.

مصر لكل المصريين. و الهوية مش بالعافية

(I apologize for any formatting errors that might have occurred – still trying to get the hang of wordpress and multi-language posts)

I will leave it to you to analyze what she’s written and to form your own views about it. Reem has definitely gone much further than I would have in criticizing them – but this is only because (too many headaches!) I had previously decided that this movement wasn’t worth the time or effort (more than a single, quick blog post at any rate).

One of the comments on her note pointed to this declaration (also in Arabic) which they called, very concisely, The Document. Other than the strange fixation with appointing itself the caretaker (through defining anything it does as “The” whatever-the-thing-is), I have no problem with the movement’s document of principles.

I do have a problem with the fact that they really haven’t said or done anything beyond it, although apparently the preparatory meeting to set up the document was 2 days after Mubarak stepped down.

How will I react to this document or anyone who belongs to that movement? I will nod my head at them, tell them I like the document and ask them what’s the plan now.

Because, really? That’s what is important now. It will be at that point that I will probably figure out just how united is this movement in its “unity” and what exact path/ideology/principles they follow.

Egyptian blogger sentenced to 3 years in jail for criticizing Egyptian military

Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil was sentenced to three years in jail by a military court for publishing a blog post criticizing military actions/torture/detention. Apparently, as reported by the ANHRI (arabic statement), Maikel’s lawyers were tricked by the military court into thinking the session was adjourned and thus they left. The blogger was then sentenced by the court.

It is important to note that Mr. Nabil was not arrested from Tahrir square or for staying out after curfew; he was arrested from his home on charges specifically related to his blog post.

This is a sad day for the Egyptian Military who have promised freedom of speech and yet their actions do not seem to support their previous declarations.

Religious “moderates” and acceptance (linked to)

This is a post by Just an Egyptian on the above. The post is in Arabic (mostly Egyptian colloquial) so apologies to all non-Arabic speakers/readers.

I love what he has to say.

To me, this is a post about the myth of accepting those of a different faith in Egypt and how the word moderate is now used by anyone who is not a card-carrying member of a religion-based organization or group.

Maadi Popular Committee

My popular committee in Maadi has decided to mobilize itself for continued security but also to take active part in the politics of our neighborhood. We have issued the first communique that we plan to share with all other Maadi Popular Committees. Here it is (in Arabic):

اللجنه الشعبية لشوارع المعادي

لجان شوارع النادي؛و الجولف؛ و الشريفة دينا

دعوة لاعادة تفعيل اللجان الشعبية في المعادي و تكوين لجنة شعبية عمومية لجميع سكان المعادي

نظرا للتحولات الكبيرة و المتلاحقة لمصرنا الحبيبة ؛ و تفاعل جميع شرائح المجتمع معها ؛ و نظرا للتأثر الشديد للحياة اليومية لسكان المعادي بسبب الغياب المستمر للشرطة و الاجهزة الرقابية المحلية و انعدام الثقة في وجود جهاز تنفيذي سريع الحركه في حاله الطوارئ.

فنحن ندعوا لاستغلال حالة التلاحم الشعبي لسكان المعادي بجميع شرائحه التي تكونت في الاحداث العصيبة الماضية و تمركزت في تكوين اللجان الشعبيه ؛ نحن ندعوا لاستغلال هذا التلاحم و استمرار طاقته الايجابية من اجل تأمين و تفعيل مجتمعنا الصغير و الحفاظ علي طبيعة حياة سكانه الحميمية كاسرة واحدة.

هذه ليست دعوة للنزول الي الشوارع مجددا لحمايتها بل الاحري لتنظيم انفسنا للتعامل مع اي حالات طوارئ مرتقبة و الحفاظ علي قنوات اتصالنا لتوحيد القرارات ؛ و تقوية اواصر الصداقه الناشئه حديثا بين الجيران و توسعة دائرتها لتشمل جميع سكان المعادي.

و نظرا لأننا لا نرى بوادر لرجوع حقيقي للشرطة؛ و معرفتنا لفساد و عجز الاجهزة و المجالس المحليه نقترح النقاط العمليه الاتيه:

1. اعادة تكوين جميع اللجان الشعبية في جميع شوارع المعادي خصوصا التي تكونت بعد الاختفاء المريع لقوات الشرطة؛ بحيث تكون قادرة علي التحرك السريع في حالات الطوارئ ؛ مع تحديد فردين في كل لجنة للاتصال العام مع باقي اللجان الشعبية و تحديد بروتوكالات التعاون.
2. اقامه قنوات اتصال قوية بين جميع اللجان
3. تحديد شخص واحد موثوق فيه في كل منطقه يكون مسؤلا عن تحديد اي ملابسات تحدث في هذه المنطقة درءا للشائعات و البلبله و الزعر.
4.  الدعوة لاقامه اجتماع انشائي للجنة شعبية عموميه لجميع سكان المعادي لتنظيم التعاون و تقوية المواقف الموحدة لسكان المعادي.
5. الدعوه لمشاركه اللجان الشعبيه في تنظيم التوعيه السياسيه لسكان المعادي و المناطق المحيطه حرصا علي المشاركه في انجاح التحول الديمقراطي في وطننا العزيز.
6. الدعوة لمشاركة اللجان الشعبية في المعادي في الاشراف المدني علي الاستفتاء الدستوري ؛ و الانتخابات القادمة
7.العمل علي اجبار المجالس المحلية و اجهزتها علي القيام باعمالها و رقابتها بجدية و سرعة
8.العمل علي الضغط علي جهاز الشرطة للاسراع بنزول افراده للقيام باعمالهم و الرقابة عليهم و ادائهم ؛و الحرص علي جديتهم و حزمهم مع الحرص علي المعاملة الادامية و المحترمه مع المواطنين؛ منعا لتكرار أي من الكوارث الدامية التي تسببوا فيها سابقا.
9.الدعوه للتخاطب و التلاحم و التراحم مع المناطق المحيطه بالمعادي ؛و تكوين صلات و ثيقه مع عقلائها و سكانها لتوحيد الصفوف و درء اسباب الفتنة التي يتمني البعض اثارتها.

و في الختام نحن نحض علي الاستجابة السريعة لهذه المبادر و الدعوة لتكون خالصة من اي توجة حزبي و رفضنا التام لاي معيار غير محايد في التعاطي مع شئون المعادي.

المعادي لسكانها و مصر لشعبها و الله الموفق

No one wants a war, we all want change, BUT…

For all those slow of mind enough to think that the people/protesters are asking for a “war” against the army or anything to the like, this is not the case. They (the protesters) have said nothing to indicate this and anything you MIGHT even REMOTELY believe to have implied this was mid-read or misunderstood or mis-analyzed by you.

 

If there are groups of people that ARE saying they want to go to “war” with the military… know that they are couch activists (just like you, the person who thinks we should pay homage or be subservient to the military) and that the majority of protesters do not even listen to them. Those that do listen to them will be stopped from being violent by other protesters. We know how to care for our revolution now. We understand the ramifications of this. People much more intelligent, active and brave than I have been out on the streets for YEARS (in many cases, where possible of course, years means over 5, 10 and even 15 years).

 

These people were jailed, beaten, humiliated and yet they are on the street doing this again. They are loyal Egyptians who want the best for their country. If you doubt this, please… prove it with something more than words or just shut up.

 

We want a free Egypt. Since the Army is in charge now, we demand change from the Army. The army could have taken many immediate steps to show that they are, indeed, in support of the revolution. Removal of all old figures of the regime, disbandment of the State Security apparatus, the release of all political prisoners and detainees… in addition to not torturing or beating up people. [We are not stupid, we know the constitution and elections will take a bit of time. We will wait and we will ALL watch and monitor closely what is done.] The revolution does not end until its demands are met. [This might be a good time to brush up on revolutions in the 20th century. There have been many, so read up about 20 or so… in different parts of the world. You’d be surprised about how different and yet similar they are to this one.]

 

Is the only way you’ll believe that protesters want the best for their country is by seeing them die? Grow up. [Preferably, shut up.]. (This post was sarcasm-free but cynicism-full.]