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Watch: IDF detains Palestinian children and foreign citizen in Hebron

By:  Published May 2, 2013. See original post.

On Sunday, three Palestinian boys were detained by the IDF in Hebron, along with a Swedish activist who seems to have tried to calmly prevent their arrests. (Footage of the arrest is below, and highly disturbing to watch). According to the International Solidarity Movement, who put out a report on Sunday and has since been updating, the children were released a few hours later, but the Swede is still being held and attempts are being made to deport him.

According to sources from Youth Against Settlements and B’Tselem with whom I spoke, the children were detained because settlers from the extremist Beit Hadassah settlement inside Hebron complained to the IDF that they had thrown stones. One of the children is only 10, the others 11 and 12 (the age of criminal responsibility is 12).

Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist with Youth Against Settlements who has been arrested countless times for organizing and engaging in peaceful protests in Hebron’s Tul Rumeida area where he lives, told me that the arrest of children by the IDF has become a regular “phenomenon” in Hebron. He says the IDF is “pro-settler,” often arresting Palestinian residents, whether children or adults, simply because settlers tell them to – regardless of whether there is any evidence against them. He also points out that settlers are almost never detained after they throw stones, even when the soldiers are standing right there. Issa added: “These arrests do not stop violence, on the contrary, they feed violence more and more in the long term.”

According to Ynet, the Swedish activist was arrested because he tried to steal a soldier’s weapon and resisted arrest – however the first video below makes both those accusations appear false, although he clearly made an effort to stop the soldiers from taking the children. (It is also well known that the IDF tries to deport foreign citizens living and documenting life in the West Bank). I contacted the IDF Spokesperson several times in recent days to hear its side of the story, but have yet to receive a response.

According to B’Tselem, the children were investigated at the Kiryat Arba police station with an adult present, and released 3-4 hours later. The Swedish activist is reportedly still in Israeli custody and trying to avoid deportation.

The first video below, published by Youth Against Settlement, shows one of the children and the Swede being arrested. Below that is a video filmed by an member of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) showing the arrest of one of the other children at the same time. Needless to say they are very disturbing, and no one in Israeli media is giving it any attention.

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Syria’s second revolution?

Source: JoinRevolution Miswiyati-v

Women stand to be emancipated in more ways than one.

A story relayed to me by the editor of this fine publication has it that an elderly woman in Homs used to leave her house each morning and, on her way to the local bakery, encountered Syrian Army soldiers standing by their tanks. She knew very well who these men were but without fail would greet them with a polite “Shalom.” This went on for several days. Finally, one of the nonplussed soldiers was given to inquire: “Grandmother, why do you pass by us every day and say ‘Shalom’?” The elderly woman replied: “Oh, you speak Arabic? You’re Syrians? I thought you were Israelis,” before continuing on her way to her daily bread.

It’s a shame that the term chutzpah is not more commonly associated with Arab feminism. In a week that has seen the passing of one Iron Lady, and the decidedly softer agitprop of Ukrainian mammaries, it’s worth remarking on one of the least addressed yet perhaps most significant aspects of the Syrian revolution; namely, how important women have been to it and how important it has been for them.

Typically characterized in the Western press as grieving widows and childless mothers – bit players in an overlong masculine tragedy – Syria’s women have been prime movers in the two-year-long struggle for emancipation, which carries a double meaning in this context. Women have led the earliest demonstrations against the regime, they’ve chronicled the uprising and its repression in vivid detail, they’ve coordinated humanitarian relief efforts, and they’ve taken up arms. Judging from what I’ve witnessed of the extensive reconstruction planning being undertaken by the Syrian diaspora, women have also been the best organized and most willing to bypass the pettiness and factionalism that have stunted their male counterparts. (Martin Amis’ notion of a “gynocracy” is especially intriguing in light of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

Any reckoning with a post-Assad society will necessarily be a reckoning with the status conferred on half the population. Two worthwhile projects that are trying to redefine that status merit discussion. The first is called Syrian Women at Work, which is sponsored by the Syrian-American Alliance and does exactly what its name suggests. Women refugees in Antakya, Turkey are given jobs in the handcrafting of fabric bric-a-brac for sale in the United States. (This charity was started by my friend Mahmoud Elzour, of whom I’ve written extensively over the past year; it was he who first suggested to the young male activists of liberated al-Bab that they needed to include women in all spheres of emerging municipal governance.) In much the same vein, Syria’s Future Lies in the Hands of Its Women is the nicely titled initiative being underwritten by the new NGO Watan Syria. This organization is teaching 200 refugees in Reyhani, Turkey basic computer skills, nursing, social advocacy, and foreign languages. It’s also putting them to work making garments and accessories for sale abroad. The idea, as relayed to me by Mouna Hashem, one of Watan’s volunteers, is simple: professional autonomy is the only way to stop the horrors of auctioned-off child-brides and coerced prostitution that have added misery upon misery for the ever-growing number of female refugees. “Syrian women are so resilient and strong,” Hashem told me. “They want representation in every aspect of the political and economic sectors in Syria.”

By representation, Hashem means something other than the sham sexual equality peddled by the Assad crime dynasty, founded as that has been on the presence of women in elite positions in the regime. Bashar’s mother Anissa is to this day thought of a combination between Lady MacBeth and Connie Corleone, and I suppose there still must be people out there who believe that Bouthaina Shaaban testifies to social progress under Ba’athism more so than Leni Riefenstahl did under Nazism. By contrast, the extremities of war have allowed for, if not demanded, a dramatic reconsideration of traditional gender roles.

Razan Zeitouneh, the de facto leader of the Local Coordination Committees and the recent recipient of a prize named for Anna Politkovskaya, told Al-Arabiya: “At the beginning of the revolution, I heard young men shouting ‘Al-Bayt lil neswan’ (Women should stay home), and now I hear them say ‘Hayyou ‘alaeneswan’ (Cheer for women).”

“This revolution also freed us from the tyranny of our homes,” Amina Ahmed Abid told Newsweek in describing her leadership of inaugural protests in Latakia.

Abid’s husband had sought to keep his own head well below the parapet but didn’t dare restrain his spouse from risking hers. Farah Nasif, a liberal Damascene explained that the feminine garb of the pious had now become a useful prop in the underground: “We’ll wear a hijab to look like the local women if we’re heading to a conservative area. I hide medicine, sometimes money, in my pockets and in my clothes, and I don’t really get any questions.” As for the men who remained confined to their homes, Nasif was mordant: “I am happy for this. Keep men in the home and kitchen.”

Can it be a coincidence that the most prominent Alawites who have given the lie to the notion that opposing the regime is an inherently ‘sectarian’ action have also tended away from the y-chromosome? Feminist novelist Samar Yazbek chronicled the protest movement only to discover she had become a part of it.

She fled Syria in 2011 after being given a guided tour of one of the regime’s torture dungeons and warned that what she saw there awaited her if she didn’t shut up. (Her PEN-winning memoir of the first months of the uprising, “A Woman in the Crossfire,” came out last year.) Despite being called a ‘whore’ and a ‘black stain’ on her sect, Yazbek has gone back to tour the liberated areas, putting her life at further risk. Joining her is Loubna Mrie, a 21 year-old Alawite whose father, Abu Muntazer, is – or was – a shabiha assassin. After participating in protests in Latakia, Loubna appeared in an online video, her face thinly disguised by the Syrian Independence flag she used as a bandana. She compared the ruthlessness of her own sect to that of the Salafists, who have been cast as the drivers of anti-Assad sentiment. As she later recounted on Facebook, her father “went to his brothers, cheered them up, and told them that he washed the shame that his daughter brought to Jebel al-Akrud” by murdering his own wife. Honor killings, it seems, are also the purview of ‘secular’ dictatorships.

Indeed, the regime’s well-documented sexual violence is clearly more than the psychotic outcroppings of totalitarianism. The horrifying industry of rape in Syria may target both men and women but it’s the latter’s case to not only shame and traumatize the individual but to “break the family,” as Lauren Wolfe of Women Under Siege phrased it in a haunting piece for The Atlantic. Husbands and sons are meant to turn against their ‘tainted’ wives and mothers such that society simply cannot be reconstituted. This is an actual war on women with nihilism as the intended endgame. Little wonder that some have chosen to fight back.

Em Joseph is a nom de guerre taken from a popular Syrian television mini-series that belongs to a 40 year-old rebel profiled by Time’s Rania Abouzeid as a Levantine Maid of Saragossa. She’s not afraid to tell the men to leave the real dirty work to the deadlier of the species:

Here, she’s one of the boys, and she’s as tough — or tougher — than most of them. She is a respected member of the unit, somebody the men say they are proud to fight alongside. “She’s a sister of men,” one of her comrades says, using a common Arabic phrase for a strong, independent woman. “She raises our morale,” says another, Walid. “When we see her in front of us, we push forward. May God keep her,” he says before offering her a hearty slap on the shoulder, the kind of slap a man might give another man, but not one a man would give a woman in a community where many women will not shake hands with a man they are not related to. Em Joseph was married only briefly and has no children; her parents are alive and live nearby. When asked what they thought of her fighting, she responds, “God willing, I have raised their heads high.”

It’s worth noting that Em Joseph fights for Suqoor al-Sham, a popular Islamist brigade in Idlib that is party both to the Syrian Liberation Front – a loose consortium of rebel formations that, although lacking a coherent ideological platform, espouse a vaguely defined Salafist-nationalism – as well as to the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Command. I have no idea of what Em Joseph’s own politics are, but let us assume that once the war is over some of her bolder comrades-in-arms will eschew the hearty back-slapping and hosannas only to turn their attention to that brief marriage and that conspicuous lack of offspring. Will a Kalashnikov- and grenade-wielding veteran of air base raids find it necessary to submit to the misogyny of the blowhard clerics and politicians her bravery helped bring to power, or will she be emboldened to defy them as she did the Assadists?

The case should not be overstated that a violent conflict, particularly one set in the Middle East, is the cask in which the equality of the sexes can fully mature. Hamas has long managed to define female militancy in its Qassam Brigades as just another expression of a woman’s duty-bound domesticity. But there is at least now an opportunity, even if it has been forged in hell, for a second revolution in Syria to follow from the first. That is no small thing.

(NOW)

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Riot police deployed around St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt

By Shahira Amin. See original post

Cairo’s central district of Abbassiya was tensely calm on Monday as riot police deployed around St Mark’s Cathedral, scene of violent clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims the previous day. A Copt was killed and more than 80 people were injured in Sunday’s clashes, the latest in a spate of deadly sectarian violence that has rocked the country in recent days. Four Copts and one Muslim were killed by gunfire in weekend clashes in the town of Khosous, north of Cairo after a group of Coptic Christians spray-painted offensive drawings on the walls of an al Azhar-affiliated building in the town. The trouble in Abbassiya meanwhile erupted when Coptic mourners (who had been attending a funeral service for the four victims of the violence in Khosous) came under attack as they left the cathedral. The Christian mourners had reportedly chanted anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans , prompting an angry reaction from Muslim residents of the neighbourhood, who hurled rocks and molotov cocktails at them. Loud blasts were heard as riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd.

President Morsi has condemned the violence, promising an immediate investigation into the incident. Copts who gathered outside the cathedral on Monday however,expressed skepticism that the perpetrators of Sunday’s attack would be brought to justice.

” We have yet to see justice done in previous assault-cases on Christians ,” said Hani Kirolos , a pharmacist. “If anything, it will be the Christians who get arrested.”

“They (the Muslim Brotherhood) want Christians to leave the country but we are not going anywhere,”said Mary Toma, a Coptic housewife.

Sectarian tensions that have been brewing for years have escalated since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi came to power with increased attacks on churches and physical assaults against Coptic Christians who make up an estimated 12 per cent of the population. Egypt’s Christians however, have not been the only group targeted in recent months by Morsi’s Islamist supporters. The country has seen intermittent violence between Islamists and liberal opposition activists demanding an end to Muslim Brotherhood rule. In recent weeks, simmering tensions between Morsi’s Islamist allies and Al Azhar have also boiled over, pitting Islamists against one another.

A controversial draft law that would allow the government to issue sukuk ( Islamic bonds ) has inflamed longstanding tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and al Azhar, placing Sunni Islam’s highest authority on a collision course with the Islamist group ruling the country. Grappling with a burgeoning budget deficit , the Muslim Brotherhood is seeking sukuk as a new source of finance to ease the current economic crisis but al Azhar has said its scholars must be consulted over the proposed law before its issuance by the Shura Council (the Upper House of parliament currently responsible for issuing legislation). A provision in Egypt’s new Constitution stipulates that” al Azhar scholars must weigh in on matters related to Sharia law” but it remains unclear if the scholars’ decisions are binding or merely consultative.

Friction over the draft law is part of a wider conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Azhar as competition between them intensifies over religious authority in the ‘new’ Egypt.. Since the January 2011 uprising, al Azhar has sought independence after longtime state control, striving to assert its role as “the voice of moderate Islam.”

Last week, thousands of protesters rallied in Egyptian cities to express solidarity with the Grand Sheikh of al Azhar Ahmed El Tayeb amid increasing calls for his dismissal by members of the Muslim Brotherhood and fears that the Muslim Brotherhood would try to “Ikhwanize” the institution (a term used to refer to the appointment of Muslim Brotherhood members or their supporters in state institutions with the aim of controlling them.) The protests in Cairo, Luxor (the hometown of the Grand Sheikh ) and other cities came in response to earlier protests by hundreds of Azhar students angered by a case of mass food poisoning on campus . The students accused the University Management of negligence and called for those responsible for the poisoning to be held to account. An exchange of accusations followed: In a widely circulated rumour on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, opposition activists accused the Muslim Brotherhood of involvement in the food poisoning incident which they claimed was meant ” to discredit the Grand Imam and have him replaced”. Essam El Erian, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood ,in turn criticized Sheikh Tayeb saying that the mass poisoning was “the result of old corruption at the university” and urging the Grand Sheikh to introduce “real change.’

The latest unrest will likely further isolate the ruling Islamists amidst growing opposition to the Morsi regime. The recent dismissal of a Salafi Presidential Advisor for allegedly “misusing his public post for illegal benefit” has fueled tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood President and ultra-conservative Salafists who had initially backed him. The hardline Islamists appear to have switched loyalty in recent months, unifying ranks with the liberal opposition and intensifying their criticism of the President. In a so-called ” national reconciliation initiative” announced in January, the Salafis echoed calls by the liberal opposition for a change of government, amendments to the constitution and the selection of a new Public Prosecutor– piling pressure on Morsi to fulfill those demands.The growing rift between Morsi and the Salafis is certain to weaken the Brotherhood’s chances of securing majority seats in the next legislative election which has been postponed indefinitely by the Supreme Constitutional Court. But the Salafi-opposition alliance may prove even more dangerous than that as it can only spell dire consequences for the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

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Giza Women Form All-Female List For Egyptian Elections

Women queue at a polling station to vote in the second and final round of a referendum on Egypt’s new constitution, in Giza, south of Cairo, Dec. 22, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)

On March 6, a Cairo administrative court ruled the election laws unconstitutional, suspending parliamentary elections slated to start in late April. The decision came after the Shura Council bypassed submission of the revised electoral-laws draft to the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), raising concerns about the laws’ constitutionality. After stating that he would respect the court’s decision, President Mohammed Morsi appealed the Administrative Court’s decision via the State Litigation Authority.

However, instead of waiting for the verdict regarding the previous law in what could become a dragged-out appeals process, the Shura Council is finalizing a new set of election laws to submit to the SCC for approval. The SCC is currently debating the laws on political rights and parliamentary elections, which together govern parliamentary elections in Egypt. Morsi announced that the parliamentary elections now will likely begin in October.

For Zeinab Afify, chair of The National Orphans Association and the Social Services Association, among others, the delayed election is good news. She is leading a group of eight women to form Egypt’s first independent all-women candidate list to contest the upcoming elections in the first disctrict of Giza. The chance for Afify to form an independent candidate list is the result of an amendment to the election laws after the SCC dissolved the previous parliament in June 2012. Previously, in what the SCC judged to be a breach of the principle of equality, only political parties could run lists in elections. Independent candidates were only permitted to run as individuals.

A gracious, articulate women who has spent the past 25 years conducting women’s development work, this is her first foray into politics. Like most ordinary Egyptians, she is frustrated with the current political options, finding no one who represents her interests or beliefs.

“We are the majority of Egyptians. We are Islamic, but not Islamists,” she says.

Her colleagues on the list are lawyers, doctors and engineers aged between 30 and 60 who also have no previous political experience. More than half are women with whom Afify has worked through her Charitable Pearls Association, an organization that she helped found and also chairs. Her approach to social work is reflected in her political beliefs: “The difference between us and the Islamists is [that we] teach women how to be independent and critical thinkers.”

Other political parties asked Afify to join their lists, but, disenchanted with them, she refused. For her, women voted, but did not benefit.

“The problems of women were not solved after the new parliament. No one from the Islamists, Salafis or liberals helped,” Afify explains. Moreover, the Shura Council voted against a proposed amendment requiring at least one woman to be in the top third of all candidate lists last week. Thus, the law remains as it was during the 2011-2012 parliamentary elections; at least one woman must be on the list, but in any position. This renders it a superficial provision to encourage women’s political participation, as many parties slot women toward the bottom of the list, where it is impossible for them to win a seat.

This change to the electoral law continues the “severe deterioration on the level of political rights of women,” according to a 2013 report issued by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights. Women’s representation in parliament decreased to two percent in 2011, after reaching 12.5% in 2010 under deposed autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s regime; this decline lowered Egypt’s status to 128 of 131 countries for female representation in parliament. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranked Egypt 124 of 135 countries regarding economic opportunities for women.

There have also been various draft laws put forward on women’s issues by the Islamist parties seeking to undermine women’s current rights regarding divorce and child custody. In a heavily criticized statement, the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, of which Egypt is a signatory but with reservations, claiming that it violates all principles of Shariah and the Islamic community.

Afify, who has long worked with divorced, widowed and abused women, is determined to change these conditions for women and ordinary Egyptians by engaging the political system. Although the liberal opposition has employed the strategy of boycotting elections and refusing discourse with the current regime, Afify refutes, “It is necessary to enter elections because if you don’t, your opinion will not count.”

Although her expectations for victory are realistic, hoping to be elected herself as the first candidate on the list, along with another colleague, she has grand plans after that, sharing, “In parliament, we will make a lobby of women from our NGO to support me. We must move society forward.” The women’s list is also an initiative for women from divided religious and ideological backgrounds to unite around women’s issues.

Tensions between Muslims and Christians have been high after the revolution, especially as many Christians fear that the Islamist government will attempt to limit their rights and status in society. Afify hopes to have at least two women representing Christians, liberals and Islamists respectively on the list. So far, she has struggled to find liberal and Christian women who are willing to participate with them in the list, saying, “The liberals see us in hijab and say that we are Islamists, but we are the people in the middle. Many of our ideas are liberal.”

The Charitable Pearls Association is well known in Giza and works closely with schools and mothers providing after-school programs for children and training for women. Amany Zaghloul, a board member and candidate on the women’s list, is confident that their detailed knowledge and reputation in local communities will help win over women’s support for them.

“Like many Egyptian women, I am a mother and a wife, who is also working in the social sector. I feel the problems of Egyptian women, who are like me, and also the problems of poor women because of my work,” Zaghloul explains.

Naglaa Fathy, a soft-spoken, poised young woman who was trained by the Charitable Pearls Association and is now a trainer herself, is leading the development of the campaign strategy. Armed with detailed constituency maps, voter registration figures and activity calendars, she explains that they have approximately 50 volunteers at the moment who are speaking to women in their communities about the list. According to Afify, “In the end, women vote, but most women are told how to vote. We want women to make their own decisions.”

While they are confident about winning much of the female vote, they are aware that persuading men to support them will be more difficult. The idea of an all-women’s list is still new and strange for many Egyptians, while others may continue to oppose them for ideological reasons. Laughing, Afify told Al-Monitor that her own brother is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and vowed to vote against her in the election for the Freedom and Justice Party’s candidate.

However, this group of woman is determined to prove to all Egyptians that women can help solve Egypt’s problems.

“We can work, we can have a place, and we can do it. Let us do it, let us take the chance,” says Afify.

Zenobia Azeem is a Cairo-based freelance writer. She has worked in the field of international election observation for the past five years, primarily in the Middle East. Follow her on twitter @elbowsymmetry.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/giza-women-egyptian-elections-candidate-list.html#ixzz2Q2qgMCRb

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EU Has No Choice But to Support Egypt in Its Struggle for Democracy

Shahira Amin, Egyptian journalist, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors

CAIRO, February 19 (Shahira Amin for RIA Novosti) – Even though European leaders have been divided over the policy the EU should adopt toward Egypt after free elections brought an Islamist party to power, the EU Council has pledged the union’s continued support for economic growth in countries that have weathered the Arab Spring.

Shahira Amin, Egyptian journalist, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors

EU heads of state met in Brussels earlier this month to coordinate stances and adopt a unified position on “support for the Arab Spring countries.” After two days of deliberations, focusing mainly on the EU budget for the next six years, the EU Council released a statement saying: “EU support is crucial to the promotion of democratic institutions in the countries undergoing transition…EU support is more urgent than ever to help transitions move in the right direction.”

With substantial geopolitical interests in the region, the EU had decided there was too much at stake for Europe to turn its back on its southern neighbors.

“While some European countries encourage the integration of Islamists into the political process and seek to engage them, others are deeply suspicious of the Islamist political agenda and have been reluctant to extend aid to the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia. But if the democratic transition in Egypt fails, it will fail in the other Arab Spring countries, too,” an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a group of journalists from the Arab Spring countries on a recent visit to Brussels. “An economic collapse would imply failure of the political transition.”

His statements contradicted remarks made two months earlier by EU Parliament President Martin Schultz, who had suggested that Europe hold back on commitments made to Egypt following President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to seize legislative and judicial powers.

“The only thing that such a regime understands is economic pressure. Europe should consider with all seriousness the appetite this man has for power,” Schultz said back then.

Grappling with its own economic crisis, Europe has adopted a wait-and-see approach, temporarily freezing the delivery of a €5 billion financial package (€90 million of which are earmarked for socio-economic reform measures) it pledged to Egypt last November.

Meanwhile, a series of high-level visits to Egypt since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster (including visits by High Representative Catherine Ashton, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Commission President Herman Van Rompuy) attest to the EU’s political commitment to engage with the new government in Egypt in a bid to coax it to stay the course of democratic reform.

The EU is Egypt’s largest trading partner and biggest investor. Despite the significant deterioration in security, the political instability and the social unrest in Egypt following the revolution, EU companies have brought foreign direct investment inflows worth $9.5 billion to Egypt in 2011 and 2012 (up $3.4 billion from the previous year).

The EU has also provided €449 million in aid for Egypt from 2011 to 2013.

When President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February 2011 after an 18-day-long uprising, expectations of the post-revolution era were high in Egypt. Many of the activists at the center of the mass protests believed that the transition from a military dictatorship to democratic rule would be smooth and swift. But two years on, hopes for the “secular, democratic state” have all but faded. Since the second anniversary of the revolution, 63 people have been killed and scores wounded in violent clashes nationwide, with riot police using water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to quell anti-government protests.

Burgeoning tensions between Morsi’s Islamist supporters and secularist forces, continued police brutality, a lack of military accountability and restrictions imposed on civil society organizations are some of the pressing challenges cited by EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidi during a recent visit to Cairo.

The EU’s subdued reaction to the recent violence has provoked the ire of critics, who argue that “a more forceful approach” is needed to encourage good governance and greater political reforms. “The EU must prove that it has learned from past mistakes. It should leverage its aid to Egypt to apply more consistent pressure on the government to promote human rights and stronger democratic institutions,” said rights activist Hisham Qassem. “It needs to show Egyptians that it is siding with the people, not the government.”

Shahira Amin is an Egyptian journalist, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors.

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Turmoil in Egypt continues, as state of emergency is declared

Authoritarian

JANUARY 30, 2013
BY 

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in three Suez Canal cities on Monday night, defying a night-time curfew and a month-long state of emergency declared by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a day earlier.

“Down with Mohamed Morsi! No to the emergency law,”they chanted.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, the Islamist President announced the imposition of martial law in the restive cities of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia in a bid “to end the bloodshed and protect citizens.” The move came in response to four days of street violence that left more than 50 people dead and hundreds of others injured.

Egyptian police fire tear gas in Alexandria

The latest wave of unrest was sparked by nationwide anti-government protests on the eve of the second anniversaryof the mass uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, that began on 25 Jan 2011. Opposition activists on Friday reiterated the now-familiar revolutionary slogans of “bread, freedom and social justice” and “the people want the downfall of the regime”.

They demanded quicker reforms and called foramendments to the Islamist-tinged constitution passed in a popular referendum in December. The situation deteriorated further after 21 defendants charged with involvement in last February’s violence at Port Said football stadium — the worst football-related violence in the country’s history — were sentenced to death on Sunday. The verdict triggered angry riots and attacks on police stations in Port Said.

The army has been deployed in Port Said and Suez in a bid “to restore stability and protect vital installations,” a military spokesman said on Egyptian TV. “Those who defy the curfew or damage public property will be dealt with harshly,” he warned.

In Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, demonstrators meanwhile staged rallies to protest the return of the much-detested emergency law, which was used for decades by Mubarak to round up opponents, silence voices of dissent and stifle freedom of expression. The protesters accused President Morsi of using the same repressive tactics as his predecessor.

“Morsi is Mubarak,” they shouted, “Down with the rule of the (Muslim Brotherhood) Supreme Guide.”

In recent weeks, a government crackdown on journalists critical of President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood has fuelled concerns of restrictions on press freedoms gained after the January 2011 uprising. Several journalists have faced criminal investigations after being accused by Morsi’s Islamist supporters of “insulting the president”.

In December, a lawsuit was filed against Egypt’s answer to Jon Stewart of the Daily Show — satirist Bassem Youssef — for poking fun at the president on his weekly television programme Al Bernameg (The Programme) on Egyptian independent satellite channel CBC. Youssef appeared on the show hugging a pillow with the president’s picture on it — a gesture mocking Morsi’s repeated calls on Egyptians to “unify ranks and love one another”. While the court dismissed the charge, the case served as a reminder to journalists that the country’s controversial new constitution includes provisions forbidding insults.

Meanwhile the online editor-in-chief for state-sponsored newspaper Al Ahram, Hani Shukrallah, was forced into early retirement this month. Highly respected for his objectivity in covering the news, Shukrallah would not reveal the details surrounding his removal from the post, but some have suggested via Twitter that his dismissal was for not being pro-Muslim Brotherhood.

In December, Islamist protesters staged a sit-in outside the Media Production City calling for “the purging of the media” and accusing independent journalists and talk show hosts of vilifying the Islamist President.

In Cairo, security forces continued battling rock-throwing youths around Kasr-el-Nil, not far from Tahrir Square for a fifth consecutive day on Monday, disrupting traffic in the downtown area. The protesters hurled molotov cocktails at the police and set fire to a police armoured personnel carrier, in scenes reminiscent of“The Friday of Rage” on 28 January 2011.

Members of the 6 April youth movement that called for the mass uprising two years ago condemned the government’s slow response to the violence and warned that the state of emergency would further provoke Morsi’s opponents. They called for a political solution to address the root cause of the problem.

Emerging from talks with the president on Monday night, Ayman Nour, Head of the liberal Ghad Al Thawra Party said that the president had rejected the call for a national unity government but had agreed to amendments to the constitution including articles that opposition political parties say undermine women’s rights.

Rights groups denounced Morsi’s declaration of a state of emergency as “a backward step” that would allow police to resort to the heavy-handed tactics practiced under the ousted regime.

Heba Morayef of Human Rights Watch in Cairo lamented Morsi’s decision to re-impose martial law describing it as “a classic knee-jerk reaction that would pave the way for more abuse by the Ministry of Interior, causing more anger.”

Analysts have expressed fears meanwhile, that the newly-declared state of emergency will plunge the country — battered by weeks of street violence — into deeper political and economic turmoil, and further polarising the already divided country. The emergence of the mysterious “Black Bloc”, a group that has vowed “to protect the goals of the revolution and rid the country of the fascist regime” has raised alarm. Islamists have so far exercised restraint and have stayed away from the protests, in order to avoid the kind of bloody confrontation witnessed in December outside of the presidential palace. They have warned warned however, that their patience is wearing thin, and that they are preparing for combat should the need arise. Such warnings have led some to even express fears of a collapse in Egyptian society. A scenario that would present Egypt’s powerful military with a fresh opportunity to return to power.

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Interview: Frank Beuken tells Al Rasub about the Arab Spring

Original interview at Al Rasub

Frank Beuken is a Blogger   and a political analyst, he talks to Al-Rasub about his coming novel and changing political conditions of Arab world..

 

Al-Rasub:     Frank, can u  tell us briefly about your younger years and school College life .

Frank Beuken:  I was born in Baarn, The Netherlands. I have seen many schools as my parents moved quite a lot. Several places in the Netherlands, France and Belgium. High school was my highest grade. Due to severe problems at home I ran away and lived temporary in a shelter home. I first tasted freedom when I lived in a town called Nijmegen in the Netherlands. I became active in protests against government decisions which were undermining normal civil rights. As well against American weapons to be place in the Netherlands. I spent many of these years in the so called underground culture of the town. Evenings were filled with philosophical discussions with friends which lasted often till the next morning.

 

Al-Rasub:     You have a very close look on Arab Spring, will you explain the context of Arab Spring ?

Frank Beuken:    From the first moment in Tunisia when a boy set himself on fire out of pure frustration against the authorities, my attention for the Arab spring was born.

Of course I was always against suppression and followed the news in Romania 1989 when the dictator Ceausescu was captured and shot by a military tribunal. The people of that country suffered for many years just because one man “owned” the country and found he had the right to abuse the people. With fear for their lives, young people, supported by miners dared the stand up against this cruel man. With the fast that 1 of 5 men in Romania had served the Securitate (Secret services) they were never sure who to trust. But they won with the right spirit.

In Tunisia the young people found the strength to stand up as well and they succeeded. Egypt followed, then Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and many more countries. The young people just had enough of these cruel dictators. All they wanted was respect, jobs and a normal future without fear.

 

Al-Rasub:    How do you think Arab spring gets its targets ?

 

Frank Beuken:  The Arab spring was already very successful. Several dictators fled or were killed. The people took back what belongs to them. The country itself. It is now important to stay focused. A good example is Egypt now with Mursi, who wants to get more power than Mubarak had. Maybe his intentions are good and does he really wants to protect the revolution but it is unacceptable for the people on Tahrir square. Many of their friends died or are in prison. Mursi needs to listen to them. Not to Tantawi, who in my opinion is still very much in power. Often I wonder if Mursi is a puppet from the army and with this idea, a democracy is still far away. And the youngsters on Tahrir are aware of this.

 

Al-Rasub:     There is a common perception in many groups in Muslim world that Arab Spring is American funded moment, what are your observation and opinion ?

 

Frank Beuken:   Personally I think it is the biggest offence for all these young people who have given their lives for the revolution. The first real proof that America couldn’t be in control, when Obama mentioned the resign date of Mubarak. But it didn’t happen. Mubarak stayed in charge. Obama lost his face with this awkward moment. People who believe that foreign powers have set up the Arab spring, are conspiracy thinkers. People who always believe that higher powers are behind it. The Arab Spring is pure and started and finished by these brave young people.

 

Al-Rasub:    Some critics says that Arab spring divided Muslim world or specially Arab world in two groups, Liberal and Fundamentalist and they give the examples of Tunisia and Egypt what you think ?

 

Frank Beuken:  These critics are often people from the west, with a huge lack of knowledge of the Arab world. Remember that Ben Ali, Khadaffi, Mubarak and now Assad as well, always mentioned the danger of fundamentalists? They wanted to warn the nation for a fear what doesn’t really exist. I mean of course there are extremist groups but they do not have the power to set the revolution in their direction. Personally I believe Al Qaida is a myth. In a sense that it isn’t a worldwide terroristic group. Every extreme group uses the name Al Qaida to impress the world. Fear is a tool to make the nation to believe in their leader, to protect them against evil.

 

Al-Rasub:     What will be or should but the outcome of Arab spring like moments ?

 

Frank Beuken:    To my opinion this isn’t an issue what will be solved in one or two years. Of course the expectations of the western world are probably the same as the people in the Arab world. We all hope that democracy is installed within a short time. That is the ideal world but unfortunately, reality is otherwise. People lived for over 30 years under suppression. Most of the people, survived by adapting them to the system. And for most families, the basic things are important: A home, a job, to be able to feed your family. Now everything is turned upside down. Suddenly the oppressor is gone. Security forces fell apart and people feel liberated. But then, reality of all day life comes around: Homes, jobs, feed the family etc. To be honest, I think it will take up to 30 years to have a full stable country again. Don’t forget; most people think the same way: Freedom. But still there are many groups who are still either supporting the former dictator or groups who want to take over control. Also these people need to be given a place in the new society. They cannot be ignored, as they are there. It will take a full generation before the whole consensus is a fact.

 

Al-Rasub:   What kind of lessons can be learned from Arab spring, especially in Muslim word.

 

Frank Beuken:   The revolutionaries must stay focused until the end. They have to stay alert until  a democratic constitution is established and protected.

 

Al-Rasub:    Tell us something about your Books and what inspires you to write a book ?

 

Frank Beuken:  With all the information and all the conversations I had with revolutionaries from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya I felt to do something. To write a book was a long time wish from my and what subject was better than the Arab Spring. What I did is I combined the protests in a novel. It is a story based on the Arab Spring. The reader will experience the protests in the streets, social behavior and to see a world which is so different than west Europe but so very much alike as well. After all, we are all human beings. This book is an ode to the young man, or the young girl in the middle of the freedom fights. The book is written in my language, Dutch, but soon it will be available in German and English. Inshallah soon in arab as well.

 

Al-Rasub:    What keep you busy during your free time?

 

Frank Beuken: Since August I started to write a new book. Again a novel in which east meets west. Still I talk a lot with people from “the arab spring” countries.

 

Al-Rasub:   What are your future projects on which you are working or you want to work?

 

Frank Beuken:   As said, my new book of course. Secondly, my wish for next year, is to meet the people I had contact with in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.

 

Al-Rasub:  Your message for our readers ?

 

Frank Beuken:  Believe in mankind. Stay focused and let’s unite because, we are in a far majority compare to small extremist groups who want to tell us how we have to live. So we can win and make this world a better place for all. Respect, dignity, peace and a future for all.

 

 

 

Frank Beuken can be reach at:

www.frankbeuken.com

info@frankbeuken.com

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