2006 archive

Moments in Egyptian History #2

In 1964, a cuban delegation, headed by Che Guevara, came to Egypt to meet the fellow egyptian “revolutionary” President Gammal Abdel Nasser. Upon their entrance of the Presidential Palace and meeting the egyptian delegation, the cuban delegation announced that they have a special gift to the Egyptian President. Two hot young cuban girls, reportedly virgins, wearing really short dresses made from army fatigue fabric, stepped to the front. They were given cuban tobacco leaves, and proceeded to roll 2 cigars on their naked thighs, and then gave them to the Egyptian President, as a genuine cuban gift.

I am not a mind reader, but I bet there was one thought going through the minds of the Egyptian President and his buddies throughout this whole thing:

“Damn. Our revolution SUCKS!”

Moments in Egyptian History #1

A few weeks ago one of my friends who works in an egyptian newspaper showed me archived copies of Newspapers and magazines 50 years ago. The year was 1956, the year of the Suez War, and the following was reportedly seen to my astonishment:

1) A story of the rising religious teachings in Egyptian mosques, showing a picture of 20 year old guys and girls sitting in a mosque during a religious lesson, side by side, and the girls aren’t covering the hair, and are wearing dresses that are showing *gasp* their arms.

2) A Stella beer ad that says “Drink Stella, it’s good for your health!”

3) A letter to the editor protesting a poll taken at an egyptian university, that showed that 70% of the people polled said they didn’t believe in God and didn’t regard religion as important. The letter said the fact that President Nasser called for the resistance to the anglo-franco-israeli agression from the pulpits of mosques and churches showcases the importance of religion in our society. (This in the first time, I think, where God gains credibility by being assciated to a leader, and not vice versa)

4) A news story on how the famous egyptian bellydancer Samia Gammal is volunteering her services to the army, and have been sent to the frontline to entertain the troops.

5) A picture of the other really famous bellydancer, Tahhiya Karyoka, actually planting the egyptian flag in Suez.

Oh, how the times have changed!

Salvation assists Destruction

I read daniel’s post today, and it broke my heart!

It broke my heart because I can see myself writing it one day. I can see other bloggers I know from many different countries writing it as well. You just have to change the name of the country to your respective country and, Presto, you are there. Sure, here we don’t have chavistas, but we have the MB here, and their influence is causing so many people to leave, which can also be said about Hezbollah in Lebanon, the various militias in Iraq, and the list goes on and on.

I remember once reading about the encounter between Our super asshole ex-president Nasser and the supreme socialist scumbag Che Guevara and how Che asked him about the number of egyptians who left the country en masse after his land and property “reforms”. Nasser responded to Che’s question by saying that no giant exodus took place, and that the people stayed. This surprised Guevara, who informed Nasser that his “reforms” must not be successfull, for the degree of a revolution’s success is only measured by the amount of people who end up leaving the country because of it, feeling that this new revolutionized society is one where they just couldn’t live in. Only when the country becomes unliveable for those the reforms has as its victims, then and only then are they successfull.

I keep thinking of that whenever I think about this country, and how this day has arrived for the many many egyptians linning up in front of the canadian and american embassies, and how more will surely come. And those following paragraphs haunt me for it:

Tonight I also feel strangely liberated because all my obligations
toward Venezuela have ceased. I do not need to worry anymore about its
future. There is no role for me in that future. The battles to come
will be fought by different people, for different reasons and my advice
will be laughed at. The battles to come are not my battles anymore. I
have been left on the wayside by a people who has decided to entrust
its fate unto a single man, deranged, egotistic, uncompromising,
blustery, disrespectful, amoral. People who value that have no business
talking to me except to make sure that I shut up, that I stay quiet,
that I never remind them of their emptiness.

But it is fine with
me. Really, I am the better for it. During four years I have tried to
deliver a consistent message of ethos and culture, of gentility and
passion. There is nothing I can say today that will not be a repeat of
what I have written in the past 4 years. It is time to move one, to go
to new ventures. For four years I have sacrificed so much to pass a
message. So many hours spent at a computer, so many friends ignored, so
many obligations disdained. It is time that I regroup some. The new
Venezuela has nothing to offer to me and yet it is my country and I
will not leave it. Tonight more than ever I understand the ending of
Dr. Zhivago. I am Yuri Zhivago tonight. I just need to change my life,
isolate myself from all the degradations that will come to Venezuela as
the incompetence of Chavez will have now free rein to finish off
historical monuments, National Parks, customs, culture, traditions. Now
I need to nest, to bring out all the books that I have bought over the
years and never had time to read, to start listening to music again as
I forget about the news.

It is not that Chavez has beaten me, he
just has convinced me that I need to lead a parallel life, with select
and trustful friends, and forget about the dreariness of the coming
Venezuela, where streets will be named for obscure assassins, where
buhoneros will rule the cities, where nature will become too dangerous
with crime and pollution to visit. We will gather in small groups,
reminisce, rebuild in our imaginations a gentle Venezuela that could
have been.

We already do that here!

I don’t want to think about it. Sometimes I don’t want to think anymore at all. Oh how I envy those bastards who live in the middle of nowhere and do nothing but farm lands and only worry about what to eat and what they will do the next day, and who can’t name a single foriegn president and can’t point any country out in a map. How I envy my auc-ian friends, those usefull idiots who do nothing all day but talk about cars, haircuts, gossip and who appeared in what magazine. How I envy those who just don’t care, who tell you point blank that they never discuss politics or religion, because it will just upset them. I wish I could do that. To just not care anymore. That would be so nice. I can’t wait for that day to come.

The day has arrived for Daniel, and I hope he is a happier person for it, even though I doubt it. That day will come for me as well, and for many people I know who also care and try to chnage things despite the nagging knowledge they have that they are powerless. It will be a liberating, yet very sad day. And as much as I long for the salvation of apathy, I fear the day I recieve it, for that will mean that a good part, a decent part, in me has died, and that the people I fought against are the ones who managed to kill it….

…and that I allowed them to do that.

Yesterday's demonstration against sexual harrassment

The start of the demonstration. You can see Mohamed Abdel Kuddoos leading the demonstration, which is significant, since he is an MB member, and they always maintained that the veil will protect girls from harrassment. His presence here signifies a at least a tiny shift in that view. The demo had a number of noteable females present, like:

Hend Al Henawy

Mona Al Tahawy

and Nora Younes.

The AUC kids start arriving.

The Protest got bigger!

Picture of the people from the other buildings watching us.

The Police started besieging the protest, but they didn’t do anything to harm anyone. It was an intimidation tactic more than anything, prompted by the shift in chants from just anti-sexual harrassment to anti-government. But for all intents and purposes, it was a success. Thanks to nerro who started this entire thing and to everyone else who helped.

There will be a second one November 14th, in front of the movie theatre that the attacks started at. Details on that later!

The Eid sexual harassment incident

I didn’t want to write about this.

Hell, I didn’t even want to know about it.

I remember the first time I heard of it while I was in Amman. Eblis sent me an e-mail titled “Behold the revolution in Egypt” with a link to malek’s post on it and I stupidly clicked on it and was presented with a reality that I didn’t want or desire to confront.

The story is as follows for the those of you who didn’t hear about it: It was the first day of Eid, and a new film was opening downtown. Mobs of males gatherd trying to get in, but when the show was sold out, they decided they will destroy the box office. After accomplishing that, they went on what can only be described as a sexual frenxy: They ran around grabbing any and every girl in sight, whether a niqabi, a Hijabi or uncoverd. Whether egyptian or foreigner. Even pregnant ones. They grabbed them, molested them, tried to rip their cloths off and rape them, all in front of the police, who didn’t do shit. The good people of downtown tried their best to protect the girls. Shop owners would let the girls in and lock the doors, while the mobs tried to break in. Taxi drivers put the girls in the cars while the mobs were trying to break the glass and grab the girls out. It was a disgusting pandamonium of sexual assaults that lasted for 5 houres from 7:30 PM to 12:30 am, and it truns my stomach just to think about it.

I called my father when I heard of that happening, and he informed me that he didn’t hear of it at all. They watched Al Jazeerah, CNN, flipped through opposition newspapers, and nothing. Nada. Nobody mentioned it. As if it didn’t happen.

But it did.

The bloggers available downtown documented the whole thing, and provided pictures of it as well. Reading their accounts I can’t help by feel my heart being torn on what the people of the country has turned to. The one that broke my heart the most was Sharqawi’s account (remember, he is the guy who got sexually assaulted by the police during interrogation ) and how it suddenly danwed at him that what happend to him wasn;t an isolated incident. That The Police forces didn;t came from another planet, that they were born and raised egyptians, amongst the egyptian people, the same egyptian people who have produced those mobs who found it in their right to attack girls in middle of crowded downtown for 5 houres under the police’s watchdul eyes. The ones who approached the police asking them to do something were told : “what do you want us to do? It’s Eid. Happy Eid to you too!” The same response was given to women who went to the police stations to report the incidents. The police refused to do their jobs and take a report, because it would probably reflect badly on their downtown peers. Some people were surprised at the Police’s reaction, but the majoirty of us weren’t. Those are the same police officers who facilitated the assaults on women last year during the referendum. This is business as usual for them.

What was unusual was the silence of the press. Nobody was mentioning it. Nobody was bringing it up. It seemed like there was some consensus of just not reporting it and maybe it will just go away. What at first seemed like a conspiracy got later on confirmed by my sources in the news media. Al Jazeera had taped the incidents but were forbidden to air it at the request of the egyptian authorities. The editor at a leading newspaper refused to touch it with a 6 foot pole. This was going to be one of those incidents that only the blogsphere would talk about, while the mainstream media ignored.

Until Nawarah Negm blew the whole thing wide open on live television on the Dream Channel.

She was brought in as a writer to be part of a fluffy segment on Mona Al Shazly show talking about the Ramadan TV shows, and the girl’s first response to the question was: “What Television shows do you want to discuss, when egyptian girls are assaulted on the streets of Cairo while the police watched and did nothing?” When Mona counterd that she never heard of it before, Nawarah told her all about it, in details and how it’s all over the internet.

All of Egypt saw that. The cat was out of the bag. A cover-up was no longer feasiable.

When I spoke to the brilliant Nawarah yesterday, she told me that she was debating talking about it or not on television, that was until she was faced with the camera and found herself on the air, and just couldn’t hold herself back. She went for it, and god bless her for having the guts to do that.

The next day, Mona Al Shazly went and did a segment on the incident and interviewed the people on the street. The video of the segment is here (arabic, sorry). She even contacted the Ministery of Interior for a statement. You know what their response was?

“We didn’t hear of anything. This didn’t happen. Things were just crowded in downtown that day, but no girls were assaulted, because no police reports were filed in that regard!”

FUCKERS!

I am not one of those people who claims to be above hate. I do hate, and I hate quite passionately, the same way when I love I love passionately. But I have to say that I have never hated anyone or group as much as I hate the egyptian police at this moment. It’s a hate of unequaled proportions. I really wouldn’t mind them all dying horrible deaths right now. A police force that doesn’t protect its citizens, especially its women, has no business being on the streets. They become nothing more than an organized armed gang now in my opinion, even lower, because they are shaming everyone who wore theat uniform before and did his job. THEY DESERVE TO DIE!

Anyway, the TV show brought it up, and now Egypt’s leading newspaper, Al Masry Al youm, featured two columns on the incident. More is bound to come and this national shame will be exposed and confronted.

Now, the egyptian blogsphere has been abuzz in debate over the incident. Some are writing posts on why it happend, possible causes, what it means, the social and political factors that could possibly lead to this behavior, and quite honestly, I can’t be botherd. I don’t care why it happend. Rape is not up for debate. I just care that it happend. What we should discuss right now isn’t what caused it, but what kind of horrible punishment that should be enacted on any egyptian male who thinks that it is well into his right to sexually harass a female on the street. That’s it. Pure and simple.

I am often told that I am too westernized or too liberal by people I know, and they are not wrong or inaccurate. My values are for the most part western values. However, there are two middle-eastern traits in me that I can never give up: The first is my stupid insistince on always paying for the bill when I am with a girl I am dating, and the second is my protectiveness of women. I have no tolerance for those who assault women sexually in any way, and that almost got me kicked out of my school in Boston when I broke the leg of one of my roommates who raped a friend of mine. The incident only resulted in him getting a broken leg because people stoped me before I killed him. And I had the full intention of killing him. Rapists do not deserve to live. And that’s how I feel towards every single one of those pieces of shit that attacked women on the streets of cairo the other day.

People can debate solutions based on dialogue, education, or whatever and that’s their right. My solution is far simpler: Any egyptian man whose mother raised him right should beat the living crap of any man he sees on the street that assaults or harasses a female. Think of them as your sisters, and act accordingly. The Police isn’t interested in protecting the women, and that’s fine, but that means that we should take this job as our own. Those who insist on  acting like animals will be treated as such, and deserve no sympathy or mercy from us. I assure you, if we did this, if we undertook this as part of our national duty, there will no longer be a problem on our streets.

That is all!

The Mubarak drinking game

Yesterday was Mubarak’s speech at the NDP conference, which was supposed to show surprises and shed some light on the proposed 2007 constitutional changes we keep hearing rumors about ( the one about removing judicial oversight over elections is terrifying). Given that me and Hossam were supposed to hang out even though he had to transcribe the speech for his work, we decided that we could do both by playing a Mubarak speech drinking game. The rules were simple: You drink whiskey and you take a sip everytime Mubarak says one of the following 3 words: Democracy, Reform or Future.

Holy shit did we get drunk.

Here is the tally (I kept count):

Reform was said 18 times.

Future was said 7 times.

Democracy or democratic was said twice. 2 times. That’s it.

There was  one word, however, that kept popping about 40 times, and that word was “constitutional”. And even though it was self evident we should’ve included it to our drinking game, I kind of thank god we didn’t: We were drinking whiskey, people!

That aside, I found it interesting that the word constitution had totally replaced the word democracy in the NDP vocabulary. Every other sentence had the word constitutional in it. Oh well, I guess that’s the “new direction”. We are, after all, a democracy now, No?

There was also a “no talk about the war on terror should be held without examening its causes” speech, which seemed to imply that the key to stop terrorism was the middle-east peace process (cause that’s the cause and not the recruitment tool, get it?), which we know is Mubarak’s little niche. The Message he sent the americans was clear: You can’t win without peace in the ME, and I am the peace guy, so you better take off the heat off of me and mind your own business.  Get that you imperialist pigs?

Last but not least, more as an added bonus really, there was one word that got utterd 3 times during that speech. The N word. Nuclear.

Yep, Mubarak has just announced that Egypt’s new energy priority would be seeking Nuclear energy. Cause you see, it’s our right to have it, just like Iran.

Nevermind that taking care of the railroad is kicking our ass, we cand handle Uranium enrichment. And shit, if we end up having a chernobel-like accident that kills thousands and left millions sterile, look at the bright side: Population Control! Wink

Welcome to a nuclear middle-east everyone.

A Pharaoh's last Joruney

It’s Ramses last night in his Square. He is about to be moved for a nicer, less polluted location. You decide that you won’t miss it. You and your friends talk about it, and you deciude to take the Journey together.

The Bridge was awfully crowded, even though it was 12:30 am on a Friday. The reason? People have parked their cars on the bridge and stood out to watch the moving of Ramses. You contemplate doing the same thing those assholes did, but you know better, and you decide to go park the car and try to get their legitimately without messing up Cairo’s traffic.

You park the park at the Ramses Hilton parking garage, and you realize for the first time how weird it is that they named it the Ramses Hilton, when it’s a good 2 miles away from the actual square. You ignore such thoughts. You start worrying about how you are going to get there. There won’t be a single Taxi that will take you and your friend. You decide that the best way to get there is to walk it. Sure, it’s a long hike, but it would be faster than taking any car. So you get on with it.

The actual walk is very close to a religious experience. Here you are walking with a prupose, braving the heat, the humidity, the cars, the egyptian public and other unpleasantness on your little quest to say your Farewell to the Statue of the last great Pharaoh. It’s almost like a Funeral, and you are there to pay your last respects and say goodbye. There seem to be others that share your sentiments. When you ask someone if this is the way to the Ramses statue, he tell you that it is, but not for long, and urges you to hurry up and get there. And you increase your pace. You realize that You are close because people are everywhere and its getting crowded.

This is what You hear:

“Ramses is leaving. They say he doesn’t like the pollution and the dust, so he too is moving to the suburbs!”

“I don’t understand. All of this Hooplah for a false Idol? What is wrong with those people?”

” This is an Idol you Kafarah”

“Even if it’s a great statue, God is greater!”

Your Blood pressure rises, and you feel like killing some people until you find this old man crying and saying: ” For 50 years I have passed by this sqaure, and he (the statue) was there. He was Egypt to me. And now, even he is gone. I don’t know what I will do when I pass by this square tomorrow and not find him standing there”, and your heart goes out to him immedietly. But you take the mental note that this is an old man. He came from a different era. Before Wahhabism mindfucked Egyptians. The man is our past, the hateful idiots are our future.

You position Yourself in a location that allows you to snap pictures, and its hard since you have a girl with you, an unveiled one at that, and you have to make sure that the egyptian crowds don’t get to have the freedom to exercise their favorite pasttime of groping unveiled western dressed girls. The staring is bad enough as it is. And then Ramses arrives.

The People start pushing. They all want a better look. Some guys point that the foreigners were allowed to walk infront of it and take pictures, while the egyptians had to stand behind Police barracades. Others were urging the guys infront of it to not carry their children on top of their shoulders so we can see. One guy was following Ramses through my camera, and he would be like “Can you zoom a little bit? Don’t zoom out yet. This is good. Take a picture now!”. And I would. Guy had a good eye.

There were people chanting “Allahu Akbar” and waving V for Victory signs. Why? I have no idea. There was Jubilation in the air. The people sensed that they were particpating in an event. I am just not sure that they understood the significance of said event. So they acted the only way they know how to act: Cracked Jokes, chanted Allahu Akbar and flashed V signs. Was it a Victory that the Statue had to be removed cause of the pollution? Was it a Victory that the False Idol was gone? Or was it a Victory that we were actually doing this? That we were managing to actually do this on our own? Move such a Huge Statue without messing it up? You remember that this is a country surrounded by incomptence, so you understand that the people will take any victory they could get.

And Ramses finally moves away. Some Egyptian dude screams “GOOOOOOOOOOOODBYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”, and you can’t help but smile sadly that it’s over.

You decide to take a cab on your way back, and the young cab driver decides to start a conversation with you about it, and he-word for word- echoes the same sentiments you heard earlier on that night.

CD: “Why are all of those people out  here? All of this for a (Sanam) False Idol. Go back home, people!”

You: “Well, don’t call it a Sanam. It is part of our heritage, and has been a huge part of our Daily Life. And now, it’s gone. The government is moving it away.”

CD: “Well, if this country had real men, they wouldn;t have waited for the Government to remove it. They would’ve removed it years ago themselves!”

You decide to keep your mouth shut, and before you get out, he decides to give you one last pearl of wisdom.

CD: “You know, I am feeling sad. Not because they are removing the Statue, but because you are sad that they are removing the statue.”

You feel like responding that you feel sad that he is the future of your country, but you decide to nod your head and just give him his money. Some battles are just not worth fighting.

Farewell Ramses. May you, one day, find yourself  in a country whose people will appreciate you and what you represent.