The Joker’s Country

Many people, after my last post, were wondering if I am depressed. I wasn’t. I felt sad & helpless, but the reason behind my feelings of sadness and helplessness was something I could not pinpoint, until I figured it out two nights ago while watching The Batman Begins Sequel “The Dark Knight”. If this sounds strange to you, bear with me, because as always, there is a reason to my madness.

In the Dark Knight, the Joker’s plan was simple: He believed that modern civilized society, with all of its rules & rights, was nothing but a facade to be tossed aside the moment you apply some pressure on it. Do that, and people will give to their fears, completely ignore their morals, and humanity will show its true ugly face. And at first his plan seemed to be working, but it ultimately failed at the two Ferries test, where he controlled two ferries, one carrying regular law abiding citizens, and one carrying criminals, and both were filled with explosives. He then told both of them that they had until midnight, and only one ferry can survive, and that each had the switch to blow the other up. Terrified people on both ferries immediately went for the blow each other up option, but in the end, faced with the horror of their choice, how pushing this one switch would end countless lives to save their own, neither group could really do it. The Humanity in the hearts of people who lived in Gotham won, and the Joker lost his bet on their souls. Y’all saw the movie, so you know this. What does that have to do with anything? Well, the thing that dawned on me was this: The Joker was not wrong in his theory, he just chose the wrong sample group to conduct his experiment. Had he done this experiment in Egypt, he would’ve won his bet fair & square. Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?

Exhibit 1: The minute the police disappeared, and crime started rising, people were so terrified of possibly getting hurt or robbed, they immediately supported the idea of Military trials for civilians suspected of committing crimes, where they can be sentenced from 1 to 7 years without lawyers in 15 minute trials. There are now 16000 such prisoner, and people don’t care because they believe them all to be thugs or criminals. Why? Because the Army said so. Innocent till proven guilty suddenly was no longer a priority, & the fact that we were having military trials for civilians AFTER a revolution that got started because of the lack of justice is in itself a very bad joke.

Exhibit 2: The mostly angry public opinion at the protesters when they clash with the Police in Mohamed Mahmoud or the army at Egypt Cabinet, due to the instability this causes the country. Never mind that both clashes were provoked by the respective security forces, people were more mad at the Protesters being there, then of the fact that they were getting maimed and killed. After all, those clashes affected the economy.

Exhibit 3 : The complete denial that people have regarding how clean this election is, especially in its second phase and to the fact that the SCAF are implementing policies into laws that affects the generations to come, by ensuring that no actual change or improvement will be there for them. The reason behind this? People not wanting trouble, since they are almost over and done with the elections. I always marveled at those who believe that ” This is good enough” and ” it’s a start.” It’s like they are stating their lack of concern for the future being sabotaged, since all they care about is right now. They even stop following the news since it makes them angry and depressed. Yep.

Congratulations, Ladies and Gentlemen of the silent majority, you are the people the Joker was talking about. At the first sign of trouble, you abandon your ethics, your beliefs, all the rules of civilized behavior, and you support whatever solution that you believe will cause your problems to go away, at any price, literally. The freedoms and dignities of other people, their lives, whatever. You just don’t want any headaches or inconveniences to your plans, even if the soul of your country is at stake. And best of all, you will justify your point of view with a litany of reasons that reveal your prejudices, your fears, your lack of a moral compass. What? Too self-righteous? Too Harsh? Really? After all the evidence? Want more? Fine, let’s look at the Free Maikel Nabil campaign for example, shall we?

The people who champion the Free Maikel Nabil cause cry their lungs out at the injustice that this young man faces with his bogus charges, illegal sentencing & inhuman conditions he lives under, and everyone simply ignores them. Why? Well, because they have heard that at some point he supported Israel, so..ehh..fuck him. Well, newsflash assholes, not only was he charged for documenting in an epically long blog post the violations that the army conducted against the revolutionaries starting from the 18 days and not his support for Israel, there is no law that prevents an Egyptian from declaring a favorable opinion of Israel if he wishes to do so. To put it to you more bluntly: It’s within his right to declare his support for Israel if he wishes and to write posts that criticize the army, and your personal opinion of how distasteful that may be or how deserving it is of punishment is completely & utterly irrelevant. This is why it’s called a right: because it’s there protecting you, even when you- according to public opinion- least deserve it. Again for all of you not getting this: A right is a right because even in the worst circumstances, even when you least you deserve it, you are entitled to it. (I am repeating this sentence especially for all of you assholes who claim to be human rights activists and supported the Free Alaa cause and yet refuse to support Maikel Nabil because of the “Israel issue”. What a bunch of hypocrites you are.)

But what’s even more maddening, is that we can’t hate them for any of this, because we know that they simply, for some reason, just don’t get it. And it’s not just that they don’t get it: they simply refuse to see it. Hell, when one female Protesters at the Egyptian Cabinet Clashes was dragged and beaten by army soldiers, her cloths torn off, showing her bra, many of them wondered openly why was she at the Protest to begin with and why was she not wearing layers in this cold, unless it was in order to have the soldier beat her up and tear her cloths so she can cause a scandal for the army. Mind you, they are watching the same video as we are, yet somehow, the issue for them is not her getting beaten up by the same army that’s being paid to protect her, or getting sexually assaulted in broad daylight by them, but rather why was she there and if she had this diabolical plot to get the poor army soldiers to beat her up so she can show her bra to the world. Yes, let’s focus on the blue bra, and ignore the boot of the soldier on the stomach right under it. That’s the real issue here, clearly.

But despite it all, we understand. We get it. We get your fears, your hate, your deeply nurtured prejudices, and we refuse to give up on you. We will continue being there, reminding you of your humanity, because we refuse to believe that you are not good people, and that we live in the Joker’s Country. Maybe we are as delusional as you, but to be honest, we just feel guilty and responsible. We do.

One of the points that always get overlooked in the discourse of the revolution is the feeling of responsibility that has befallen many revolutionaries. At times when none of you are watching, in moments we don’t talk about with others, we face what the revolution has wrought, and we take a long hard look at ourselves and what we’ve done. The worst thing about this exercise is how lousy the story gets the moment the 18 days were over. If we hadn’t made the choice to revolt and then hand over power to the same people who used to give the best military salutes for 30 years to the man we revolted against, then all of the misery that followed from the thousands who were injured and maimed, the hundreds dead that we know about (and those we never even heard of their deaths), the thousands who ended up receiving years long sentences from completely unfair & illegal military trials, to the hundreds of thousands who lost their jobs, to the millions facing hard times economically due to a transitional government that failed to enact a single economical plan or measure to improve the economy in any way, and to the public, which we introduced terms like “forced virginity tests” into their everyday vocabulary, would not have happened. Yes, we definitely share a responsibility for all of this, but it’s not for causing it, because we didn’t cause it, but for being unable to stop it. Any of it.

We couldn’t protect you from those who used your fears to push forward their agenda of oppression and injustice. We couldn’t protect you from those who incited you to attack your brothers and sisters by claiming they are attempting to destroy your lives. We couldn’t protect you from their inaction, their guns, their military courts, their prisons, and their clear as day goal of aborting this revolution & preventing it from enacting any kind of real change or bringing any justice to all those who were maimed, tortured, imprisoned and murdered. We were so tired after those 18 days, that when the SCAF showed up and offered to guide the transitional period, we jubilantly agreed, because we wanted to believe so much that they are with us, and because we truly didn’t want to clash with them as well. Basically, when it truly mattered, we were chicken-shit and lazy. And we have been paying for this in blood ever since.

In my last post I wondered if the lives lost in Mohamed Mahmoud and Egyptian Cabinet were worth fighting for the symbol of Tahrir, but that was the wrong way to look at it. When the military took over, they promised to hand over Power by the end of September 2011 (remember?), and when that date passed and no power was handed over, they decided to extend the transitional period until end of March 2013. Then the Mohamed Mahmoud events happened, and with the mounting casualties the SCAF was pressured to move the date to end of June 2012, and then the Egyptian cabinet events happened, and with the mounting casualties they are now talking about speeding up the process and possibly having the Presidential elections as early as the end of January. And here comes the lesson: With every life lost, we speed up the transition from military rule to civilian rule. This is why we call them our martyrs, because they are literally getting us closer to our freedom with their very lives. I have always heard that Freedom is only won by blood, but I never wanted this to be the case here. Those people’s blood is on all of our hands, not only their killers’, because their sacrifice became necessary due to our complacency. They are winning us our freedom with their blood, and many of us call them thugs. I guess it’s easier than facing the ugly truth about them and us.

And by the way, the pressure that was placed on SCAF to speed up the process was obviously not internal pressure, since so many of our people were very much pro the protesters getting killed, but rather external pressure. Oh yeah. In case you didn’t know, when news of Egypt now comes on international media channels, they showcase a pictures of a protester getting beaten up by a soldier, with the picture of Marshal Tantawi, who with his military garb and Nubian features looks very much like one of those military rulers of Rwanda or Liberia, or one of those African Banana Republics. In contrast, whenever they showcase news from Tunisia, they showcase a Tunisian girl waving her country’s flag. Brilliant, isn’t it? The outside world sees that something is clearly going wrong here, while the locals are still undecided about that, and believe silly conspiracy theories of invisible hands and third parties, just like a good third world country would.

Egypt…..The Banana republic… The Joker’s country…. Over my dead body. People of Egypt, You deserve better. Believe it!

Underneath

Lately I have been hard to reach, even when I am surrounded by friends and loved ones. I don’t want to talk or think, my brain is a merry-go-round of ideas and knowledge that I wish were not there. 2 weeks ago I was noticing how everyone around me is falling apart: physically, psychologically, and emotionally. And the worst part is the helplessness you feel, knowing that you can’t offer them any real comfort or solution. We are in the shit. The Dark Days.

This is not an uplifting post. You have been warned.

My helplessness reached its peak when my friend S. came over two nights ago, and she was not alright. Fighting to release the thousands that are getting military tried over the months has been a draining crusade for her, and it only got worse the moment she got involved in trying to ensure that the death reports of those killed in Mohamed Mahmoud do not get forged, which meant she had to be at the Zeinhom morgue the night those bodies would come in, surrounded by wailing families and crying loved ones, seeing dead bodies after dead body come in, and almost getting arrested by the authorities that didn’t want her stopping the cover-up. She told me after wards that she now sees those dead bodies everywhere, and she can’t escape them. But that night, 2 nights ago, she had just come back from Tahrir, where a man , standing inches away from her, ended up getting set on fire due to an exploding Molotov cocktail. She could see the fire engulf him, the smell of burnt flesh and hair, his agonizing screams for help. She was silent. Very calm and silent. She was sitting next to me and I couldn’t reach her, and all I could do is hold her without being able to tell her that things will be alright. Because..how? How will they be alright exactly?

Cold comfort I proved to be..    

I haven’t written in two months. Two months I have spent running for parliament, stopping my campaign to run around all the field hospitals in Mohamed Mahmoud and ensuring they are well supplied, to losing the election and heading to Suez to lead another one, one that I managed to “win”. The things I have seen, on the street, I do not wish on anyone. One day I will write about that experience, but not today. Today, allow me to take you into my fragmented mind a bit. I have been silent, I have been tied up by advisors over what you can and cannot say during an election. This is over. The elections, for me, are over. I am done being silent. I am now loose, and I don’t think this was the desired effect

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One of the biggest mistakes of this revolution, and there are plenty to go around, was that we allowed its political aspects to overshadow the cultural and social aspects. We have unleashed a torrent of art, music and creativity, and we don’t celebrate or enjoy it, or even promote it. We have brought the people to a point where they were ready to change. To change who they are and how they act, and we ignored that and instead focused all of our energies in a mismanaged battle over the political direction of this country. We clashed with the military, and we forgot the people, and we let that small window that shows up maybe every 100 years where a nation is willing to change, to evolve, to go to waste. Even the work that was being done, it focused on teaching them their political rights, or superficial behavioral things like “don’t litter” or “don’t break traffic laws”, and nothing regarding respecting the women or the people from other faiths that share this cursed land. Wasn’t a priority back then, because in our arrogance and hubris we assumed that people will change by themselves. That they will act right, despite the fact that throughout the history of humanity, there wasn’t a single proof that people, by themselves, will act right. Sorry everyone, we were arrogant and idealistic. Forgive us.

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The parliamentary elections are fraudulent. I am not saying this because I lost- I lost fair and square- but because it’s the truth. The fraud happened on the hands of the election workers and the Judges. People in my campaign were offered Ballot boxes, employees and judges in polling stations were instructing people who to vote for and giving unstamped ballots to Christians in polling stations where they are heavily present to invalidate their votes, and the Egyptian bloc has about half a ton of correct ballots- ones that showed people voting for them- found being thrown in the streets in Heliopolis, Ghamra, Shubra, Zaitoun, Alexandria, Suez and many other districts. The amount of reports of fraud and legal injunctions submitted against these elections are enough to bring it all down and have it done all over again. Hell, a simple request for a vote recount would be enough to expose the fraud, since the ballots were thrown in the street. The people, however, are not privy of this, because it all looked very functional and organized to them. This is very important, because it tells you the shape of things to come.

When you ask the average Egyptian, you will find that they didn’t have a problem per say with corruption, but rather with the fact that things were both corrupt and dysfunctional. How many times have I heard the phrase of “He could’ve stolen all he wanted, and we wouldn’t mind, had he only made the country better while he stole” regarding Mubarak? Hundreds. Well, now we will get our wish. The shape of new Egypt will not be a place that’s free of corruption, but rather more like South American countries: Corrupt, yet functional. People will do their jobs, but they will allow the same level of corruption to exist on the down low. Give us a make-over, a window-dressing, and we will be happy & impressed with the apparent improvement. We never were high maintenance people anyway. You want security? We will place a bunch of cops in the street and you will feel secure, even though they won’t do much to protect you from criminals. You want democracy? We will create a media campaign, organize polling stations, and have you stand in cues and put your ballots in the box, while vote counters can tally the votes in any way they wish, and judges can change the total at any time they choose to, and you will be none the wiser and will believe whatever results you hear. Democracy is brilliant, ain’t it?

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Sorry to go back to the March 19th referendum, but there is something that was just brought to my attention: Did you notice that back then we voted yes or no, so we can elect 500 people to the parliament, who will put the rules to choose 100 people for the constitutional committee, who will be chosen by 80 different authorities/syndicates/groups alongside with the parliament, who will choose the remaining 20, so that we can write a constitution in 6 months that will be presented to the SCAF, and if approved by them, will be put into a referendum for another Yes or No vote?

God Bless Tunisia. The only time they went to vote was for the members of the constitutional committee.

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There is a disconnect between the revolutionaries and the people, and that disconnect exists in regards of priorities. Our priorities are a civilian government, the end of corruption, the reform of the police, judiciary, state media and the military, while their priorities are living in peace and putting food on the table. And we ignore that, or belittle it, telling them that if they want this they should support what we want, and deriding their economic fears by telling them that things will be rough for the next 3 to 5 years, but afterwards things will get better on the long run. Newsflash, the majority of people can’t afford having it even rougher for 3 to 5 years. Hell, they can’t afford to have it rough for one more month. We tell them to vote for us for a vague guarantee and to not to sell their votes or allow someone to buy their loyalty, while their priorities are making sure there is food on the table for their families tonight. You sell them hope in the future, and someone else gives them money and food to survive the present. Who, do you think, they will side with?

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In the past two months I have been both a candidate and a campaign manager, and what you see as a campaign manager is very different than what you see as a candidate, especially when you are a campaign manager in Suez. To make a long story short, in the 10 days we were there, this is what went down: We had one of our campaign workers fall victim to a hit and run “accident”, a campaign operative getting arrested by the military police at a polling station for filming the army promoting the Salafi Nour Party (with a big banner carrying the Noor Party slogan being placed on the side of an Army Truck) and his film confiscated of course, our campaign headquarters got attacked with molotov cocktails by thugs sent by a “moderate” islamist centrist party (hint: It’s not ElAdl) , the hotel we were staying in got repeatedly attacked by thugs till 3 am, with the army platoon leader protecting the Hotel informing me that if I don’t resolve the situation, he will “deal violently” with those outside and inside the hotel, the Leader of the 3rd Egyptian Army calling us looking for me, the Chief of Security for Suez doing the same thing, Lawyers and thugs working for a semi-leftist party filed police reports against us claiming we hired them and owed them money when we didn’t, and the other campaign manager finally going to deal with the situation, ends up getting arrested, and the two campaign members that were with him were left outside under the mercy of groups of thugs, and we managed by the grace of god get them all out unharmed and we escape Suez while Trucks filled with guys with guns going around Suez looking for us.

Oh, and we also sent in one of our campaign operatives dressed as a salafi into the Suez central committee for vote counting, where Army personnel assured him that they have helped the Noor Party and told him that they hooked them up with two seats, while winking.

Oh yeah.

In other news, we won a seat there.

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So, why would the military be “helping” the Salafi Noor Party get votes? Well, mainly because they invented them. It was a match made possible by State-Security, who probably alerted the military of how reliable were the salafis in their previous “cooperation” to scare the living shit out of the population into submission and supporting the regime. Remember the All Saints church attack, the one that happened this New Year? Remember the documents proving that our very own State Security had arranged it to take place to force the Coptic population to support Mubarak? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. Only on a higher level. Ensuring that the Salafis have a big chunk of the parliament (one that is neither logical or feasible considering their numbers in Egypt) achieves two goals: 1) Provide a mechanism for the security apparatus to keep the Muslim Brotherhood in check if they ever thought of using religion as a weapon against SCAF (As far as the salafis are concerned, the MB are secular infidels) and 2) to really frame the choice in our (and the international community’s) heads between a “Islamist country or a military regime”, because, let’s face it, The MB are not scary enough for the general population. But the Salafis? Terrifying shit. You add to that the piece of news that the average Egyptian duty-free buying alcohol limit over night went from 4 bottles to a single bottle, and that they now have a “women only” cue in the Airport, and you have the Upper-class and Upper-middle class – alongside with the west- pissing in their pants and psychologically ready to accept military rule over Islamic one. A fake and a false choice, especially that new parliament will have no power what so ever over anything.

So why bother with the elections? Well, because this is a fight for the nation’s morale. We know that you don’t know this country, that you live in social and cultural ghettos of your own making and that if we are not competing you will end up with a 95% Islamist parliament and you will believe that this is an islamist country and 50% of you will be booking their tickets out of here tomorrow rather than living in Egyptistan. That we too need to go down and see for ourselves how things work, since this is an election without data, real media coverage, and very few people have the experience or the knowledge of the areas that you would need to win an election in a district. Here is a fun fact: about 40% of the people head to the polls not knowing who they will vote for, and are simply there because they are afraid of the 500LE fine they must pay for abstaining to vote; about another 50% go to the polls with a piece of paper that has the names & symbols of the people they will vote for, people that they don’t know, or their history or anything about them. They simply asked their friends and they told them that these are “good people to vote for”, and this is true across the board in all classes, upper and lower, uneducated and educated. And you can’t blame them really, because each district has over 100 candidates fighting over 2 seats and only 4 weeks to campaign. If you are the average new voter, there is no time to meet or evaluate or educate yourself about all of them in order to choose objectively between them. I know people that voted for me simply because I was the only candidate they met. I am not kidding.

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So many times I have met people who are terrified at the electoral successes of the Islamic parties in the election, and while they acknowledge that there “must be a deal” between the SCAF and the Islamists, they sit back with a knowing smile and tell me : “But you know what? The SCAF are not stupid. They will screw the Muslim Brotherhood over. They are just waiting for the right moment and they will destroy them. You just wait and see!”

I tell them that they are disgusting for thinking this way. That they are like a raped woman who is rooting for her rapist to rape the other woman who got away so that she wouldn’t be the only raped one.

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I love it when a fellow revolutionary asks me : ” I don’t understand what’s going on. Why are the Police/Military shooting and killing people and prolonging street conflicts in Mohamed Mahmoud/ ElQasr Eleiny? What do they want? What’s the big plan?”

Well, to put it simply, The Big plan is the same as the immediate plan: they want you dead. It’s not that they want to kill opposition; they want to kill the opposition, literally. This country ain’t big enough for the both of you, and they have everything to lose. And they have guns. And the media. And all the keys of power. And you want to overthrow them. How do you think they will react to that? Give you cookies?

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One question that keeps nagging me for the past 10 months: Who, exactly, cut off the communications on the 28th of January?

Some people say it was the Ministry of Interior, but that’s not right, because the soldiers and officers on the street had no idea that the communication is about to get shut-off. Most of them were surprised by it as the rest of us, and using their radios was not an effective way to relay a plan or organize a police force against demonstrators. This is why they were so easily beaten. Every Police Officer I met has told me that they woke up to find the phone network down, and none of them were given a plan to begin with. If there was no plan, and no coordination, why would they shut down all communications? And if the MOI is the one that cut-off the communication, how long would it have taken them to realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot and switch it back on to save their soldiers from the epic beat down that they received? Half an hour, maximum? The communication was down for 4 days.

Who cut off the Communications? Mubarak? But the Police were his private army. They existed to serve him. How long would it have taken before he had the MOI chiefs’ informing him that cutting off the communications was getting the soldiers he needed to stop the revolution killed and beaten? How long would it have taken him to execute the order to bring it back on? Ten minutes? Why didn’t that happen?

And if both the President and the MOI both wanted the communications back on, at least the cell phones, who had the power to refuse their orders or stop them?

Who cut off the communications? And why?

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I didn’t partake in the events of Mohamed Mahmoud. I was there every day, getting medical supplies and helping people, but I didn’t partake at all. And in the current battle still going on at the Egyptian Cabinet building, I didn’t even set foot on any pavement near Tahrir for the past 3 days. I didn’t go not out of fear or cowardice, but because those two events crystallize to me the real problem in the Egyptian revolution: The schism between the symbol and the cause, or rather how we are always fixated on the symbol, and not the cause itself.

For example, the case of Khaled Said was not about Khaled Said himself, it was about Police brutality and lack of accountability towards those who are paid to protect us and instead have no problem killing us. The cause was to end this, not to try the murderers of Khaled Said. But instead of focusing on that cause, we focused on the symbol, and we ignored the cause. Police killing without accountability still happens to this day, but The killers of Khaled Said received a verdict, so Justice is served. The same goes for Alaa, who wanted- through his bravery- to give the cause of stopping the military trials for civilians the push and international pressure it needed, but instead, and in spite of his intentions, ended up becoming the Symbol that everyone rallies around, ignoring the cause. All got jubilant when Alaa got transferred to a civilian court, all the while, more than 12,000 other Egyptians are still serving year-long sentences they received in military trials that took on average 15-20 minutes for the entire trial. The Symbol and the Cause.

Tahrir became an international symbol, thanks to the foreign media, and everyone believed that the regime was brought down because of the people in Tahrir, even though every revolutionary knows that the regime was brought down because the revolution was at every square in the country, not just Tahrir. But, amazingly, we also believed the Hype that the media created. We believed in the Symbol, and it became a fixture in our thinking. If there is a problem, go to Tahrir. Hell, centralize the entire revolution into Tahrir, and instead of going to every other square and concentrating our bases in the country, we demanded – like the chauvinist Cairiens that we are- for them to come to us. That as long as we have many numbers in Tahrir, we will get somewhere, we will bring down the regime.

But here is the truth: Tahrir is not a magical land, one which if we occupy we can hold all the magical keys of our kingdom and bring down the evil regime of whomever is in Power. Tahrir is a square. A piece of land. A symbol, but a piece of land nonetheless. And just because it worked before, it doesn’t mean it will work again. We are like an old married couple trying to recapture the magic of their early days by going to the same place they went to on their honeymoon, or dance to the same song they fell in love to, and discovering that it’s not working because there are real problems that need to be resolved. Symbols are nice, but they don’t solve anything.

And this is why I didn’t get involved: I couldn’t understand the Battle for Mohamed Mahmoud, because it’s a battle to hold on to a street of no actual significance or importance, and yet some of the best youth this country had to offer died or lost their eyes or were seriously injured protecting it. The same thing goes for the current battle. What is the purpose? What is the end Goal? A battle for the sake of battle? Just like maintaining a sit-in for the sake of maintaining the sit-in, even though a sit-in is supposed to be a means to an end, not an end in itself? I mean, I would understand if the aim was to occupy Maspiro or something, but they are not even attempting that. They are maintaining a fight in the street, because they got attacked at that street, so the street immediately becomes a symbol and we must fight back and not be driven away even as we get beaten and killed. Because it’s all about the Symbol, and not about the cause or the goal, and people are dying.

It’s like reading Bad Poetry….Now what?

There is no solution. It’s the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. There must be a way out, but I can’t seem to find one without more blood getting spilled. There is no panacea here, no exit strategy. Just helplessness, and waiting for whatever it is that will happen next, even though we can rest assured it won’t be good news. I am sorry that I cannot comfort you, but maybe, just maybe, this is not the time to be comforted.

The Last Choice

Today the mood in Cairo was wary & melancholic. With the reality of what went down yesterday at Maspero hitting them with its full might, the general population that yesterday found itself on the brinks of chaos is utterly terrified. The number of phone calls I received from people who were worried and horrified made me wish I could shut off my phone, with everyone looking at the future with an incredibly bleak outlook. It’s easy to fall into that mood- after all you have your army killing your people, a long oppressed minority of it at that- but if one looks beyond what happened, one sees a very different picture. What happened yesterday was the beginning of the end of the military rule over Egypt: The days of the SCAF ruling us are numbered. And not because they don’t want to, but because they will no longer have any other choice.

A quick recap over what has went down yesterday: a huge demo held by Coptic Christians & muslim supporters protesting against yet another fight over the building of a Church was attacked by the Egyptian armed forces there to protect it and plainclothed thugs. Shots were fired at protesters killing them, rocks were thrown by protesters in return, protesters were overrun by armored vehicles, the Egyptian State TV issued a plea asking Egyptian citizens to come to the Demo and “protect the army from Christian thugs”, and a street battle that resulted in over 24 dead and 150 injured. The street battle after a while turned into Egyptian citizens fighting each other, without any of them being able to figure out who was fighting who. Pandemonium, for a lack of a better word.

But the moment the dust settled the questions started presenting themselves: This was obviously planned, so what the hell was the SCAF thinking? How could they attack and kill Egyptians on the street so casually, while their sole purpose is to protect them from getting killed? How could they risk enflaming the country into a huge sectarian battle by having state Media so conscientiously attacking the Christians and promoting violence against them? How did they not see that the choice they made is an inherently flawed one that it could spell their doom? How do you explain last night?

Well, the easy explanation is that they- like every single political force in the country throughout this year- fell into the trap of thinking that they have won and asserted their power, only to have the whole thing blow up in their faces. After believing the political street to be dead, and that the revolution is almost dying, they figured they now have the power to put “people in their proper place” like the old days. So, they went down yesterday to terrorize the Christians, counting that they won’t put up a fight (because they never really did before), and that the sectarian rhetoric will cause them all to fear for their lives, stop them from causing trouble, and quite possibly scare them from participating in the elections. With every single respectable political party formed after the revolution having prominent Christians in their founders and as their candidates, they figured that threatening us with the possibility that the next election will turn into a Muslim vs. Christian election will discourage people from voting and participating, leaving the new parties with fewer seats, with the Christians being underrepresented as always in the parliament, and thus allowing the ex NDP people control of the Parliament as the only other choice against the “Islamists”. To basically return us to the pre-revolution status quo. But had they thought this through for more than 5 minutes, they might have seen the inherent flaws in their old-and-reliable plan. They, somehow, didn’t and now they have overplayed their hand and about to face the consequences.

What consequences, some of you may ask, believing that there is no way to hold the army accountable for anything that they have done. This is not true at all. Yesterday was a game changer, and it proved that the old ways no longer work. Let’s go over the consequences shall we?

  1. They have shown how weak they really are: The SCAF might be the last remaining part of the Mubarak regime, but it’s not nearly as powerful, because they don’t have the tools of oppression that Mubarak had. Mubarak had the executive branch, a ruling party, talking heads, politicians, “intellectuals”, control over the Media and countless soldiers; SCAF only has the soldiers and Media, and neither are enough to control the situation for them. The soldiers yesterday were beaten up by the protesters, and in many incidents were shown running away from battle due to the sheer number of people they were facing. I personally saw a group of soldiers going up 6 October bridge, banging their batons against their shields, prompting many people to run away for 5 seconds, before standing their ground and advancing against them, and the soldiers stopped, suddenly looking hesitant and scared, and started walking back down. They suddenly remembered why they couldn’t fire on the protesters in Jan25: Because there are far more of us than there are of them. They can’t rule this country by brute force, because they will face real resistance from the population, even when they are unarmed. And the Media had to backtrack very quickly and are now facing the wrath of God from the average Egyptian, with no one able or willing to defend the SCAF, or what the armed forces did. They wanted to showcase their control, and failed miserably, because even they are not strong enough to carry this country alone.
  2. The old arrangement will no longer work on the Christians: The security apparatus always played a dirty game with the Christian population by inciting attacks on them by islmaist groups, thus ensuring that they continue to support it in order to be protected from the evil muslims, the closest example of which was the Church Bombing that took place earlier this year. But now that they have shown themselves willing to kill Christians, and inciting the population against them, they can no longer play the Christian protector, because they have killed Christians with their own hands. If the choice is between someone that is willing to kill you or someone that will protect you but oppress you, it makes sense to go with the Protecting oppressor. But if the choice is between two forces who are willing to kill you, well, screw both of them. The Army has now lost all credibility as the “protector of the citizens”, and thus can no longer be trusted to play that role by anyone. Instead, they left the Christians with no choice but to seek true democracy and civilian rule, because military rule -like islamist rule- now also leads to their oppression and murder. They have lost the trust of that segment of the population for a very long time, and thus left them no choice but to continue to fight, the exact opposite of what last night events intended to do.
  3. The Internal Consequences: The Army has Coptic Christians. Not necessarily in positions of power, but they do exist in all the ranks (except the top ranks of course) and have now placed them in a choice between their religious brethren and their army ones for no reason, which they are not at all happy about. If the Christians inside the army start thinking that their leadership is sectarian or promotes sectarian violence, they will start having serious cracks in the cohesion of the armed forces. Add to that the rising toll of their casualties, which , while not yet significant, are increasing alarmingly as far as the soldiers are concerned. Also, for the first time in their history, an increasingly rising number of the Egyptian population- who are known for their army worship- are starting to have an unfavorable view of them. All are not good signs.
  4. The Global Consequences: The way the world will read what happened won’t be in the context of “The Egyptian army killed its own citizens” (which is the real issue), but rather in the context of ” The Egyptian army just killed the Egyptian Christians”, which means that the Egyptian army will now be looked upon as a sectarian army, which is the death of them. Not only will they lose whatever international legitimacy they might have had, they have now put their allies in a corner: The US can’t justify giving military assistance to an army that kills its own Christian citizens, especially with how cozy they have shown themselves to be with the political islamist forces. The same goes to all western countries, international institutions, and global public opinion, which is largely in support of the Egyptian revolution, and not the Egyptian army, especially if they start viewing it in the “Islamist anti-christian” context. And since no one can defend what they did, there won’t be a counter-argument, because they have no people abroad who can defend them any longer. A Tsunami of international pressure will reign down on them with economic consequences, and it’s exactly the kind of headache they don’t want and can’t deal with economically right now. It’s a bad business.

So, now what?

Well, as far as I see it, there is only one solution out of this: Our political and social leaders need to sit down with SCAF and deliver the following message to them: “If you keep this up you are walking the path of your own destruction. The old tactics won’t work. The people refused to turn sectarian, and your soldiers are no way near enough to take control of the country. So why not cut the crap and finish this? Tell us what you want, and get out of power immediately, because if you continue doing this you will break the country and your institution. Neither one of us wants to live in a broken country, and you can’t sustain this, so this needs to stop, now. What we want is a country with a future, and the only way to get there is together. This is the only choice you have, because the Price of the other choice is one that you cannot afford to pay, but we are starting to be willing to pay it. This is not a negotiation; this is the only road out, and you no longer have space to maneuver. We are stopping you from signing your own death warrant, so let’s end this now.” And we take it from there. An exit deal, made right now, ending this fiasco, because the alternative is death to all. And make no mistake: they will have to answer to the death toll of yesterday, because the army cannot kill its people and be allowed to get away with it. Someone will be held into account as part of that deal. No one will win, but especially not the SCAF, because it’s no longer an option for them.

Too many people will say that it’s too late for this, and might even see this solution as a soft-handed approach to the SCAF, but there is no other logical way out. Yesterday, while observing the clashes at Abdelmeneim riad, the people who were violently clashing were regular citizens, Egyptian vs. Egyptian, with no army or Police forces in sight. Needless to say one couldn’t tell the muslims from the Christians (because we all look alike), and neither could the people fighting each other. After engaging in a street brawl where not a single person could tell who is with who or against who, they stopped a started chanting. One team started chanting “The People and the Army are one hand” and the others started chanting “Muslims and Christians are one hand”, thus providing us with the choices that we as Egyptians were told to make yesterday. And then, strangely, both sides at the same time changed their chants to “One hand”, and both sides started chanting that fiercely, stopped fighting each other, and joined each other into one big marsh chanting “One hand, One hand”, and thus showing us that they made the right choice. They were presented with the choice between the Army and National Unity, and they refused to make that choice and collectively and organically made the only correct choice: Each Other. Egypt. In the midst of the battle, they realized on a very basic level that they can’t chose one over the other, and that , even if they have prejudices, they really do not want to fight each other. There is a lesson in that incident for all of us, and it may just hold the key to our salvation.

Lest you forget

There is a general feel of malaise and melancholy affecting jan25 protesters, for they feel as if they have accomplished nothing: that the SCAF has halted the revolution and ended it, and it was all for naught. Now this kind of talk infuriates me, not because of its self-pitying whiney nature from otherwise strong people, but because it’s categorically not true. Let me count the ways:

  1. I’ve been in this since 2005, from the Blogosphere old guard, and for 6 years me, alongside of the others I’ve worked with, were simply trying to get the people to get one idea into their heads: If we all, as people, get together in big numbers, and go to a public square protesting, we will bring down the President. That he is not the inevitable, immovable, god-like figure we made him up to be. And we accomplished that, pressuring Mubarak enough to bring him down. This is the first time in 7000 years of continuous tyrannical rule that Egyptians managed to depose their ruler by their own hands. That’s a change in a 7000 year behavioral pattern of eat. Think about that.
  2. Historically, Egyptians have always succumbed to the violent actions of whatever internal security force that runs Egypt, foreign or domestic. Up until the revolution, people were discounting the nation that Egyptians, even if they are out in numbers, would ever win a face-off with the police, always citing the 77 riots, and how 2 million Egyptians went to the streets and were beaten up by the police despite their size. Jan25 has also reversed that trend forever, by beating up the police every single time they have faced them, to the point that in order for the police forces to get into and take back Tahrir, they have to be there in the protection of the army forces. The memory of 77 is replaced and erased forever; for now we pity the police more than anything. This, historically also, has never happened in 7000 years.
  3. Being under tyrannical rule for this long, Egyptians also grew apathetic to whatever it is that the government does, and got used to not being part of the decision-making process. Now, they are embedded with the idea of democracy, voting, and having their voice count. I don’t think any of you realize how many people will head to the polls this election, with some estimates pointing towards up to 80% voter turnout. This is unprecedented, and unlikely to go away. The days of voter apathy are over. We did that.
  4. Also, in the history of this great nation, never was there an incident where Egyptians held their rulers accountable. Now, we have not only removed the president, we have also put him on trial. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Kangaroo court; the historical precedent is there, not just on a local, but on a regional level. This has NEVER happened. We are now the people that removed their president and put him behind bars on trial. Think about what that means before you discount it. We not only created history, we have changed the narrative of this country forever.

Some will respond that this is well and good, but we haven’t accomplished our goals, to which I respond that this is normal, because, let’s face it, we were not ready. What happened is of such magnitude that we chose not to truly believe it, to the point that we are willing to revert to the notion that this is of no significance, and that we accomplished nothing. And not only were we not ready, we also made mistakes, specifically because we weren’t prepared at all to take on the military institution that secretly runs this country. But this might not even be our fight. We have brought the country thus far, and are still pushing, but the real game is 3-5 years down the line, when the newer generations emerge. Three days ago I went to the meeting of Students for Change, which is a group of 16 year olds amongst various school that wish to reform the educational system, and organizing their fellow students all over Egypt, and have a plan to do so. Those are 16 year olds who learned from us, are organizing themselves, and will soon enough become a force to be reckoned with. Can you imagine what they will do when they turn 21?

There are generations to come that will carry this out & will never repeat our mistakes. This revolution is only the start, and it won’t end until the equation is balanced, even if we lost steam for now. And we should also know that we will get there, but we just won’t do that at our time table. We were overly ambitious, hoping to change 30 years of corruption and institutional disintegration in a few months. It doesn’t work like that, but we managed to get the country to take the big leap forward in the right direction. We are simply not all there yet. And we are not aided by the state the country is in after 30 years of Mubarak’s rule, for he left the country’s foundations in such a horrible condition that brought it to the fragile shape that it is in right now. Those who accuse you that you did this to the country are either morons or liars, claiming that you broke something that was already broken, and completely ignoring that what you aim to do, more than anything, is to fix it. And we will get there, because really, what other choice do we have?

And if you believe we will never be able to bring down the military rule of Egypt and turn it into a real civil state, well, 6 years ago, we, a tiny minority started chanting “Down with Mubarak”, which no one dared to do before, while the rest of the country looked at us as aliens; 6 years later we as people pressured him down. Now, we are breaking the taboo of chanting against the SCAF and military rule, which was even a bigger taboo than chanting against Mubarak. Do you see where this is going? We have started deconstructing the military state, and sooner or later we will get them to back off, and maybe, just maybe, remind them that they work for us, and not the other way around. This day will eventually come, because the process has started, and all we need is time, and time is on our side.

Please understand, this is not an invitation to stop, or not go to Tahrir on 9/9. This is your country, and protesting is your blood-earned right, so don’t let anyone dissuade you from exercising it if you believe that it’s necessary. This is an invitation to give yourselves some credit. Our generation, for better or worse, forever changed the history of this country. Be proud of that.

 

الخطة هيه هيه

“وحتى يستمر مجلس قيادة الثورة في اتخاذ قراراته ارتاءي ان يكتسب شرعية دستورية تعطيه صلاحيات التقرير والتنفيذ, فأصدر دستورا مؤقتا في 10 فبراير 1953 وتقرر ان يستمر العمل بيه حتى نهاية الفترة الإنتقالية أي حتى يناير 1956 , وقد ضم هذا الدستور سبع مواد عامة,وأربع مواد للسيادة العليا لمجلس قيادة الثورة, الذي له حق تعيين وعزل الوزراء, كما يتولى المجلس السلطتين التنفيذية والتشريعية معا” …”وهكذا دشن الدستور المؤقت سلطة مجلس قيادة الثورة وادمج سلطتي التنفيذ والتشريع معا, فضلا عن اطلاقه يد قائد الثورة في اتخاذ مايراه من تدابير لحماية الثورة والنظام القائم عليه. وبالرغم إن هذا الدستور قد نص على ( إن الأمة مصدر السلطات) فانه افقد السلطة التشريعية, ليس استقلالها فحسب, إنما وجودها ذاته, واصبح استقلال القضاء مجرد اريحية من الحكم” ص. 120

“وفي رواية الصاغ إبراهيم الطحاوي, الذي عهد عليه بتنظيم “هيئة التحرير” أول تنظيم شعبي تقيمه الثورة, إن عبدالناصر استدعاة في أحد أيام شهر أكتوبر 1952 , وقال له  لقد يأست من ان تصلح الحزب نفسها وتسير في ركب الأحرار, ولذلك فلابد من وجود هيئة جديدة… وذلك امر له دلالته المبكرة, بعد شهرين من قيام الثورة, فما يتعلق بموقف القيادة من التنظيمات والاحزاب…وليس صحيحا إن قيادة الثورة حاولت احتواء الاحزاب بالتودد إلى الوفد, حزب الاغلبية, مع دعوتها لتطهير نفسها. أو إنهم في اجتمعات مجلس قيادة الثورة قد خرجوا بنتيجة واحدة: هي إن الجيش لا يحكم, إنما يقوم بالثورة ثم يسلم البلد للمدنيين, وانهم قرروا مبدئيا اعادة برلمان  1950 وترك الحكم لحزب الاغلبية يصرفه ريثما تجري انتخابات نظيفة…لم تكون المسألة بهذه البساطة في ذهن القائمين بالثورة, وإلا كانت حركتهم مجرد انقلاب عسكري, غيروا بـه شكل السلطة فحسب, ولا بد إن قضية الحكم والسلطة قد طرحت نفسها في اذهان الذين كانوا يخططون لتلك الحركة وذلك في خلال فترة الاعداد الطويل لها. لقد تحدثت بيانات الثورة الأولى عن الفساد والمفسدين والحكم البائد..الخ ولم يكن مقصودا بذلك الملك وحاشيته وحدهم, وليس منطقيا إن يستعان في تحقيق أهداف الثورة بـنفس القيادات التي كانت تحكم قبلها, وإنما المنطقي إنه لا يمكن مواجهة الأحزاب قبل فضح قيادتها وتعرياتها امام الرأي العام تمهيدا للإستفادة بجماهيرها وحشدها في تنظيمات جديدة, ولم يكن قانون تنظيم الأحزاب الذي اصدرته قيادة الثورة سوى خطوة تكتيكية عجمت به عود القيادات الحزبية, تمهيدا للخطوة التالية. لقد امسك الضباط بالجيش, وشكلو الحكومة, ولم يبقى إلى الشارع السياسي, لتكتمل حلقة السيطرة على الجهاز السياسي والاداري والشعبي كله.

إن من قام بثورة هو من سيحكم أو يطاح به, بمعنى إن من واجبه ان يحكم, وان ليس أمامه خيار ترك السلطة, فليست الثورة من أعمال الترف والهزل, يشرع فيها الشارع ثم يتركها اختيارا, وإنما هي أهداف بديء بها واستقطبت قوى وهدمت قوائم واستفزت خصوما, هي مركب من ركبه لا ينزل عنه وسط الموج الا بمنزل, كما أن من دخَل حربا, لا يخرج عنها الا بنصر أو هزيمة.” ص. 116- 117

من كتاب “ثورة يوليو والحياه الحزبية- النظام واحتواء الجماهير”  لأحمد زكريا الشلق

Bits and Pieces

There is a question that SCAF had at the beginning of the revolution: Is this a dignity revolution or a hunger revolution? After a while, they decided that it’s a dignity revolution, which is a lot easier to remedy than a hunger revolution. You see, a hunger revolution will tear everything apart, but a dignity revolution? Simple. Just give people some dignity.

” So, you want dignity? Fine, we will give you some dignity. First thing we will do is  create a referendum where YOU get to choose how the country works, even though WE will condition you to vote the way WE want you to. And WE won’t allow anyone to subvert your will or choice no matter how much they protest. Then WE will give you a parliamentary elections that will be totally honest at some point during the year, where YOU get to choose the representative according to a system that WE choose. You would like that, wouldn’t you? Oh, but you have an issue with Mubarak. He robbed you of your dignity. No problem. We will put him on trial in front of cameras, just FOR YOU, even though he will never see a day of prison. How about that to restore your dignity? Happy, huh? Now who is your favorite SCAF?”

Now that would work, if only that hunger revolution wasn’t coming as well….

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Unlike many of my compatriots, I was incredibly happy to see the Sharia Friday go down the way it went. Here is why:

  1. It ended the myth of Leftists-Islamist cooperation: For years I have been telling my leftist friends that any Leftist-Islamist alliance is a stupidly conceived idea on every level and is detrimental to the leftists more than anything, as history has shown every time such an alliance took place (Let’s not use Iran as our example, how about the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections? Oh, there was an alliance, and the MB ended up honoring the alliance by voting out every so called “leftist opposition politicians” from the Parliament). But no, please, let’s ignore that the Egyptian left has nothing in common with the Islamic right, neither socially nor economically (The economic programs of every Islamic party are the epitome of capitalism), and that the Left got screwed by the Islamic right repeatedly through-out the revolution, and make such an alliance and then act shocked when they dishonored the agreement. I understand that many people on the left believe in such an alliance because the Islamists used to get tortured in the same cell they used to get tortured in, but sometimes the enemy of my enemy can kiss my ass too. Just saying.
  2. It gave us a great hint to their size and financing: It was estimated to be 1-2 million and to have cost about 20 million LE, and this is all the salafi groups and the MB combined. If we apply a family multiple, let’s say 6, for each one there, then you have maximum 12 million islamists in Egypt, out of 85 million. Sweet. The money thing, however, not so sweet. They have incredible funding, which means this election will get very interesting very quickly.
  3. It scared the living shit out of the moderates: The best part about the whole experience was how alienating the islamist message was to the majority of Egyptians. Egyptians , for the last time, are moderates and this Afghanistan crap doesn’t appeal to them at all. So, the Islamists may have proven they can get numbers, but they have lost the center with this move. Good Job.

So in a nutshell, the Sharia Friday was great. More of this please. How about one every week? I really want them to bleed money.

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Did you watch the Mubarak trial? Didn’t you like how they added the Mubarak Case and the MOI case together for the first day, so you can see all the people you despise in one Holding Cell? Yeah, that wasn’t done to psychologically manipulate you at all.

Also, please watch it every day. It will only take 3 years, and if Mubarak isn’t dead by then, he will face house-arrest until he dies and will never see the inside of a jail cell. His sons, on the other hand, will get 3-5 years sentences topsand then leave the country to retire in Switzerland or something. Habib Aladly will be executed, of course.

Personally, after the first day, I am done with it. What will happen next will be a legal fiasco and a political circus. Not interested in either.

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For some reason, there are some famous revolutionaries who keep repeating the narrative that the Jan25 revolution wasn’t the peaceful revolution that the whole world saw. They cite incidents of violence reported and recorded on videos to support that theory. Incidentally this is the same group that always talks about violent escalation and the such.

Well, I am sorry, but this was a peaceful revolution because we didn’t go to the streets carrying weapons or pushing for violence. When we got attacked, we naturally defended ourselves, which naturally involved violence, because, well, our Police was shooting at us. And I have personally seen countless times when demonstrators around me would prevent people from carrying rocks or sticks in preparation for clashes with the Police on JAN 28th. So, this narrative is simply not true.

And while we are on the topic, I am officially going on record and stating that I am not pro violent escalation of any kind. Totally against it.

Self-defense, however, is another matter.

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One of the Silver-linings of the July 8 Sit-in was that it ended the phenomenon of people being lead by loud voices with no plan out of fear of not appearing revolutionary enough. Yep, that won’t work again.

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The Trick that the SCAF is using is simple and genius: Have people focus on the past (Mubarak Trial) and the present (Military Trials/SCAF actions) so that they don’t pay attention to the future, i.e. the parliamentary elections, which is in two months. And to those who say that the elections doesn’t matter and that it’s all about the revolution, well, the SCAF managed to completely screw the revolution for 5 months by a single referendum on 8 articles. Can you imagine what they can do with a democratically elected parliament?

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It’s not good to have demonstrations in Ramadan. It’s better to stay away during Ramadan, rest, strategize and come back ready. Ramadan, on its own, is a counter-revolution. No one is paying attention to anything, people distracted with fasting, eating, prayer than TV, and they have zero tolerance for anything beyond their own objectives in this month, which do not include the revolution. Hell, we have Tamer Hosny on TV, playing a revolutionary on a TV show.

You are playing the game of Public opinion, and your enemies have all the weapons. It wouldn’t hurt to be more strategic.

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A lot of people were shocked by SCAF statement #69 , where they singled out and attacked the 6th of April movement, even though it made perfect sense to me, because it’s all about monitoring the elections. First you get your minister of international co-operation (Mubarak loyalist Faiza Abulnaga) to make a big stink over international funding for local NGO’s , which they would need because election monitoring logistics are very expensive. Then you have SCAF issue an election law that forbids international monitoring of the elections, leaving it in the hand of the Judiciary, the same Judiciary that oversaw the fraud in every single election ever held in Egypt. And finally, they issue a statement against local groups that got trained on election monitoring abroad.

So, if the local NGO’s won’t get funding, international monitors won’t be allowed and internationally trained local groups that can actually monitor the elections are labeld agents and traitors, who will monitor what is only and arguably the most important election in the history of Egypt?

We need to start mobilizing people and training them on election monitoring. We can’t allow this one to get rigged.

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Not everything is a protest, a sit-in or a marsh. There are other tools that allow you to 1) Get all the people who support you to do so without leaving their houses, 2) prove that you have the numbers to back it up, and 3) stay away from fights with thugs.  Here is one: How about collecting signatures? A nice 8 million signature campaign demanding the firing of all Police Officers accused of torturing people, for example?

Do it, and then let’s see them try to downplay that.

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Dear SCAF, mentioning the part about how April 6 got trained in Serbia was a nice touch. People think Serbia, they think Milosevic killing muslims; they don’t think Otpur, the non-violent youth movement that took down Milosevic, and the one 6th of April models itself after.

Well done.

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It’s safe to say that the brand of the “revolution” has been damaged after being relentlessly attacked for months in state-media and by the reckless actions by some revolutionaries. It’s not beyond repair mind you, but what needs to be done to ensure that the revolution is a success has become too big to grasp for the average individual. For example, in the July 8 sit-in there was 7 demands listed, one of which is “cleaning the Media, the MOI and the Ministry of Justice”. Oh yeah, that’s one demand, and it mentions no specifics. And if you give people such a huge demand without mentioning the specifics of how it should be done, you are bound to lose them because, well, start with which one?

And here is the interesting thing : No one is against the demands. They are simply not big fans of the revolutionaries at the moment. Fair enough. Let’s change tactics.

Instead, let’s all pick one or two causes we are very interested in (MOI, Education, Media, whatever) and focus only on that. Do what “No military trials for civilians did”. Stick to the issue, keep pushing and it will become a national issue and part of the debate. Others will start supporting it, including Parliamentary candidates, who will want to be seen as advocating the people’s causes. And voila, you have yourself a lobby. And if you are not interested in lobbying, just monitor their activity and act as a Watchdog. Make sure that they are doing their job the way they should and expose them the moment they don’t. Off the top of my head, a Media Watchdog is incredibly necessary at the moment.

So yeah, let’s create Lobbies and Watchdog institutions on every issue, and work on it. Present solutions and policies and push for them.  Before you know it, they will become a permanent fixtures of our civil society, which will only make it stronger.

———————————————————————————-

The question of Elections first or Constitution first is irrelevant, because neither provides a solution to the real problem: Who, exactly, should be in the committee to write the constitution of your country?

Should it be constitutional law experts? Or Human Rights Lawyers? Or Sociologists? Or Psychologists? Or religious leaders? Or all of them? And if so, who?

———————————————————————————-

The 1952 revolution was a head without a body. The 2011 revolution is a body without a head. The head is trying to transplant itself on the body, and the body is violently rejecting the transplant.

Never mind that there is a Renaissance of culture taking place in Egypt ever since the revolution: art, poetry, music and humor – forces no army in history has ever defeated.

Never mind that there is an entire society being shaped as we speak, from political parties to underground media to empowered human rights activists, putting seeds that will change the future of this country forever.

Never mind that Independent unions have now jumped from 3 at the beginning of the revolution to 90 now. If each one has 20,000 members, welcome to a whole new player and force in the Egyptian political arena.

But never mind all that, remember when I said that peaceful protesting, that what we were trying to do, was nothing but being a safety pin for this country? That the moment we fail, other forces will look at peaceful protesting as futile, and will start using more radical means?

And did you pay attention to what went down in Suez, Sinai, and Gerga lately?

These are not isolated incidents, and they are not planned either. It’s an allergic reaction to a transplant operation that could never work.

Now imagine what will happen the moment the Delta rises, and it will, thanks to SCAF’s insistence on still appointing generals as governors instead of letting people appoint their own, or because of lack of serious land reform, or due to lack of services, or any of the other reasons that fueled those people to revolt. It will happen, because, as always, it’s only a matter of time.

And when that happens, well, God save us all.

———————————————————————————-

Food for thought: People cheered when the few remaining members of the sit-in were attacked by the Police and the Army. The reason? The people were mad that the Protesters were blocking things in Tahrir for 3 weeks, and intended to stay there for the duration of Ramadan, which they believe that no one should have protests during at all at the Square to facilitate and not block the insanely blocked Ramadan traffic. So they cheered.

Now, after the Police and the Army broke-up the sit-in, they stayed in Tahrir, arresting and terrorizing anyone who looked like a protester in order to ensure that no more protests or sit-ins take place. And they are doing so with gleefully violent abandon, because, well, they finally took back the square after 6 months. So they are out in force, being agressive and rude to people, and causing daily traffic jams and blockage. During Ramadan. And will probably continue to do this until its last day, at least.

Can you see where this is going? :)

Tahrir: an Exercise in Nation Building

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine asked me what I was doing at the Tahrir sit-in. When I asked him what he meant by that, he commented that I was acting differently this time, that instead of analyzing and taking a macro view of things, I was actually on the ground, not writing, and doing things all around the square instead. He simply found it out of character, is all.

I explained that I was there because I believe in the demands, and that the “Tahrir dance” we have been doing – going to Tahrir to get the government to move its butt – has gotten tired, and that in order to ensure that they continue moving said butts, it’s better to simply stay in Tahrir. But that was only part of the truth: that’s why I went there, but what intrigued me and got me moving around, doing things and staying there, was the fascinating social experiment that the sit-in was creating. In essence, Tahrir was very quickly becoming a miniature-size Egypt, with all of its problems, but without a centralized government. And the parallels are uncanny.

It didn’t start off being this way: it started off being more of a camp. That first Friday was a mess, trying to find the appropriate spot amongst your friends, dealing with the sun and how it turns your tent into more of a sauna than a habitable environment, your friends showing up to show their support (and to also find a refuge from the horrible heat of the protest). That first night, we were a nomadic society, dealing with issues of habitation. But at night, after the Muslim Brotherhood left, more tents came, and it turned into a very relaxed happy camp environment for all those involved. The next day, I managed to get an electrical connection from those stealing it from the street lights, which changed things dramatically: immediately we moved into civilization. I went and got electrical plugs, a fan, and an ice-box , thus ensuring that the modern society experience was complete. And that’s when it hit me – I was facing a unique opportunity here, one that very few people get; the opportunity to create a new nation, alongside everyone else, from scratch. We were in a space without a centralized government or arbiter, where all the political movements and parties of Egypt had presence, and were free to duke it out or to work together to create the best nation possible. A chance to create the “Free Republic of Egypt” I spoke about before. So immediately I went to work promoting and helping to facilitate ideas such as the school, the cinema, the library and the radio, bringing in Mahmoud El Esseily to do a free concert, and discovering great talents like Ashraf the Rapper, thus creating education, art and culture. And naturally everyone loved them, worked on them, cooperated and financed them (great kudos go to Tahrir Square Nation, Darbel Bahlawan and the Andalus Center, along with the great people that made things happen such as Nazly Hussein, Ahmed Samih, Moataz Atallah, and last but not least Lara Baladi and Khaled Yusef) and some wrote about them, and it seemed like we were really creating utopian society, forgetting that there was no utopia. But how very quickly this utopian society turned into a parallel miniature Egypt, with all of its problems, took everyone by surprise, although in hindsight it may all seem very predictable. Paradise was found, and lost, predictably, but the lessons and insights it gave me made the whole thing invaluable. I will give you my experience, as I saw it and lived it, and you can see where the parallels are.

It all started with the tent area we were in: the first night the tents were next to each other, in an unstructured formation. Immediately we started having issues with those passing by: asking intrusive questions, staring at us (we had girls, in our tents, and we were talking to them in the open…imagine) and leering at the girls. So the next day, we changed the formation of the tents, to create more of a circle of tents with a big space in between, to allow our visiting friends and people without tents a place to sit, socialize and sleep, and creating a single entrance/exit into the circle of tents – all in order to protect us and shield us from the intrusive eyes and actions of the same people whose rights we were there to fight for. In essence, without noticing, we – the people judging suburban compounds as being elitist and classist – created one without noticing. And what made it hilariously worse, was that in our quest for securing the area by creating one passageway into the circle to control access to it, we also ensured that we wouldn’t be able to escape if we got attacked. Egyptian safety standards at their best.

And then came the street kids. Three of them showed up, 8, 12 and 13. I came into the circle one day and found them hanging out with us because the people in the camp, in their quest for equality , took them in and even started teaching them things and playing with them, while sharing our fans, comfortable habitat, cold water, juice and snacks with them. And when supplies started coming, we started unpacking and organizing them and they helped us in doing so without asking, and in cleaning the area. We got so comfortable in that dynamic that we started asking them when we got new stuff to put the water in the ice boxes and to help us in cleaning the tents and surrounding areas, thus effectively, unwittingly, creating what very much looked like a child labor situation (even though it’s not, and not a single child was forced to do anything but always asked to help), and one where the children worked for their food, drink, fun and accommodation, which is trickle-down economics at its most basic level…by a bunch of human rights activists and revolutionaries.

Then you had the security situation, which in essence was always about keeping the entrances of Tahrir secured and manned at all times, all done by a bunch of volunteer individuals who kept checkpoints secure. You immediately started noticing that at some checkpoints people were not being searched by the people claiming to handle the checkpoints, and you started hearing that volunteers were leaving the checkpoints because the other “volunteers” were treating people violently or with disrespect, facilitating fights, or allowing women who have knives in their bags to come in, or allowing the street merchants access to the square for a fee, even though we didn’t want them there (border control issues: weapons and drug smuggling, and an undocumented immigrant workforce that is necessary to support the economy but is completely unregulated, thus causing all kinds of problems). At the same time, you have the Mogamaa situation, which is the central government building that everyone agreed to shut down for a day to pressure the government. A group decided to handle doing that, and when it was time to open it the next day, that same group refused to open it and called everyone else cowards and not revolutionary enough. You started noticing that this was the same group that wanted to get people to attack bridges, and allowed smuggling, and caused fights at the check-points. You and others who noticed the same thing started working together and connecting the dots and monitoring those, thus creating the Tahrir Intelligence Services. You noticed that they belong to three groups: the Free Revolutionaries, the Independent Revolutionaries and the Voice of Freedom, which no one knew or had heard of before that day, and were controlled by a man that calls himself “General Hassan”, who always caused problems and tried to do stupid stunts that would surely make the outside world hate us. When you finally forced them to open up the Mogamaa on Wednesday morning, they started running all around the camp side and doing all kinds of stunts and starting fights to upset people and get them stressed out and agitated. Upon monitoring them, you noticed that they are three groups of sixty working in shifts. One of us followed them on Thursday morning at 4 am, and he saw them leaving the Abdel Meneim Riyad exit to board three Central Security trucks. When he tried to film them, they noticed and attacked him. We had been infiltrated by a bunch of saboteurs working for the state. Their last stunt? Coming to our tents at 4 am, trying to put numbers on them and get our names for a mandatory security meeting to make the Square “more secure”. We noticed they didn’t try to mark all the tents, and in our group, they went for my and Nazly’s tents only. And then they started causing noise and trying to wake people – most of whom went to bed around 3 or 4 am – up at 5:30 am, to join them in a march, because the “lying State TV” was claiming there were no more people in Tahrir, so we should show them how many we were by marching at 6 in the morning. For real.

So, if Tahrir was a miniature example of Egypt in a controlled lab environment, those movements symbolized foreign intelligence services, spies and double-agents; basically external forces trying to destroy our state and foment divisions amongst our people. And then you have the street kids, which to us are the product of poverty and the failure of the state’s social services, all the while completely turning a blind eye to the fact that they are part of an organized street gang that stole our phones, laptops, sleeping bags and supplies, because apparently accusing them of that would be “classist” of us. And even if we know it, kicking them out would be wrong, because we are supposed to “reform and rehabilitate” them, so we continue to give them access to our circle, while the robberies are continue to happen, although on a lesser scale. The combination of those two forces – the “terrorist” spies and the organized crime units proved to be too much to handle for some tents, so they packed up and left the Square, which symbolically meant they were immigrating. We didn’t mind that much, because the empty spots were occupied by other tents, and we didn’t ask ourselves who the hell would join a sit-in on its sixth day anyway?

All of this forced us to contemplate the issues of security, crime and punishment, which are a hell of a lot harder to address in practice than in theory, especially with a population like ours, one that has no problem utilizing violence for disciplinary ends. We then heard that a group – which turned out to be the “Free Revolutionaries”- created a prison for “caught thieves and criminals”, in which they were gathered and tied up, hanging, in order to deliver them to the Military Police. So activists like Mona Seif and Ragia Omran from the “No Military Trials for Civilians” group ended up going to them and fighting with them against both the idea of the prison and handing them to the MP to be given a military trial, one of the main things this sit-in is trying to stop. And then we faced the other dilemma: who would we hand them over to instead? The police? Hahahaha!

And then we heard stories that two thieves were caught by people, beaten up, stripped of their clothes and tied, hanging, from a tree and beaten for all to see and the media to document – this in a protest that demands human rights for those arrested by the police and the end of police torture. So, when the news came that some people caught a 12-year-old thief that they wanted to torture, activists like Ramy Raoof had to secure him a human rights lawyer to go to the scene, because we had noticed that the people stop what they are doing if for some reason a lawyer tells them that what they are doing is illegal. And this hint later on developed into the solution that everyone agreed on yesterday: they creation of the security tent, where caught criminals are taken and investigated, and then handed over to the Public Prosecutor’s Office by a human rights lawyer from the Hisham Mubarak Law Center. One problem, solved, for now.

We started realizing the need for some sort of decision-making body, so attempts to create one started in earnest, by holding meetings at which at least one representative of every tent (whether for individuals or movements) met up to figure out what were are going to do, effectively starting another debate if this was even democratic at all, because, really, what does it mean to participate in a sit-in protest? Do you have to have a tent, or can you be one of those people who support and come when they can? And since the decision-making process is in favor of those who have tents (since they are the true sit-in participants), and not in favor of those who come and join the sit-in after work and go back to their homes at night, bringing supplies and ice with them (who in this scenario, symbolize Egyptians abroad who come to the country for visits and subsidize our fragile economy), it echoes the calls to prevent Egyptians living abroad from voting, since, really, only the true Egyptians stayed in Egypt and didn’t abandon it and escape it to greener pastures and only visited when it’s convenient for them (expatriate rights). But even that became a side-issue, since there were at least four such meetings every day, for the past seven days, not trying to reach a decision, but trying to create the mechanism by which we will take decisions. All of them so far have miserably failed (democracy building).

We also have 12 stages in Tahrir now, belonging to various groups and parties, which are all loud and trying to drown each other out, all playing the same patriotic music, and which have people yelling and screaming from about their plight, the abuses of the SCAF and the rights and the blood of the martyrs, each with varying degrees of eloquence and ignorance, on and on and on, making us sick of hearing about them and wish for some different music or silence. Naturally, they represent the current state of the media in Egypt. And in order to make the resemblance more eerie, while some of us manage to get on one of those stages every once in a while, the only true media outlet we have is Tahrir Radio, which is an online radio, broadcasting maybe twice a day from there. Oh, and 2 days ago, a bunch of Salafists attacked the stage funded by various groups including the FEP (the party founded by Naguib Sawiris), for playing music and poetry alongside news and speeches, and stole a laptop and two thousand pounds from the bag of one of the girls there. Does that remind you of something that happens all the time in Egypt?

Or how about the fact that we lose electricity in the morning, because the government started shutting down the electricity circuits and then turning them on at night, so we have to go buy generators (i.e. mini power plants) , which require gasoline to operate, and every single gas station – all of which are outside our borders- nearby has “instructions” not to sell it to so we have to get it elsewhere and incur higher costs of transportation, and yet still face power-cuts when a generator runs out of fuel (Egypt’s energy issues)? Or that our main focus every day in the sit-in is to get more people from outside of your borders to come to Tahrir and join to make us stronger and having them bring supplies with them, which causes more trash, more street vendors, and more “crime” and thus making everything uglier (Egyptian tourism and its side-effects)? Or that many of the new tents are now occupying areas of the circle used for sidewalks and many people have closed the entrances next to them and created the equivalent of backyards or terraces that they are imposing on everybody (illegal construction and settlements)? All the while, there are those who are camped next to the Mogamaa, and they have the natural fence protecting them and a security guard at every exit – we call them Qattamiya Heights. Are you noticing the similarities?

For some people what I just recounted will be heartbreaking, but to me it’s brilliant, because it’s a learning experience in governance unlike anything the world has ever seen, and it gives all of those new parties and movements that aim to rule the country a chance to take a much closer look at the issues facing us and figure out the limitations of their solutions and cracks in their organizational structure. While fissures were created, the challenges also created a huge number of alliances that were never possible before, since every group, no matter how hard they worked, started realizing that they can’t manage or carry the problems of the country alone, and that in reality, theoretical solutions are not always the most practical or effective ones. They were all driven to their breaking point, and humbled, but also learned all of their weaknesses and are destined to come out of this stronger than before. You see, an extraordinary experiment like this allows the activists to have a great learning curve, and it also allows innovation to take place, such as the crime and punishment situation. Egyptians, when confronted by figures of legal authority that they still respect, act accordingly and without a violent challenge to said authority. If we had human-rights-oriented law enforcement, we wouldn’t have the security problems that we have now, because then Egyptians would respect the law.

Or take the other lesson, which I learned while searching people at the checkpoint (which didn’t have enough of our people because many of those part-time protesters almost never assumed any responsibility in helping with the security situation, coming over to have fun instead – another lesson there about citizen responsibility) was that the checkpoint people, even if they had some bad apples in them, act right if an imposing figure shows up and treats people decently no matter how much they abused him with rudeness. I was there with 3 other young guys, and my demeanor in always politely asking people to be checked and apologizing smilingly afterwards got them all imitating me instead of acting upon their discretion. They basically need a good leader and a role model that they fear or respect (I am a big dude) around, and they will imitate his behavior, and start acting the same way, and discover that it makes things much easier.

But the ultimate lesson came from one thing: “No Military Trials for Civilians”. This group was started by a few girls who refused to compromise on that principle despite everyone attacking them or warning them against antagonizing the military (myself included at first, and I admit I was totally in the wrong there, and then I started supporting them in the ways that I could), and their persistence against all odds and huge pressures to keep this issue alive, drew more people to their cause, and made it the number one demand on every list of demands in all of the movements there. We might never control this country or rule it, but that may not be our role. Our role is to frame the debate and the demands, and push and advocate for them by explaining to people how they relate to them and benefit them directly. We get to frame the debate, and whoever frames the debate in a democracy has a huge effect on it and its future. And in reality, if we are not dictators, that’s all that we should aim to achieve, because our people, despite what you may think, are not stupid people, and if you are persistent enough, they get it. There is lots of work to be done, and apparently we were not ready for it, which is why I would like to send a personal thanks to the SCAF and Egyptian security and intelligence apparatus for this awesome experience, which is, without exaggeration, the best experience of my life so far. You provided us with much needed training in governance, made us understand our intellectual and social vulnerabilities and weak points, and in the meantime you showed us how you operate and how far you are willing to go. All of this is brilliant, and very well-played, but since you won’t end us, or the revolution anytime soon, because the equation is still unbalanced, you just basically helped us in a way you can never imagine, and one you will surely regret in the future. We were amateurs, you made us professionals. The game is on.

But as an ending note, here is some food for thought: If Tahrir is a microcosm of modern day Egypt with all of its issues, and it managed to get there in a week, then being there for the next few days is crucial to understand what might happen in the next few years and how to prevent it. The lessons that we will learn from being there now, about our problems and the proposed solutions to solve them is invaluable for a nation that is seeking a new beginning like ours, not one that we created from scratch like Tahrir was. All of those people with readymade solutions should go and try them out there before proposing it nation-wide. All of those people from outside who know how to best solve our problems should come and help us solve them, because as a nation we will also need this help from Egyptians from abroad, whether we like it or not. Basically if you are interested in figuring out what the problems facing our society and the best way to solve them, Tahrir is where you should be heading to right now. And you must stay with us, and help us in every way you can if you choose that responsibility. We no longer want tourists who want to have fun and give advice from afar, we want people who love this country so much that they are willing to get their hands dirty, even if it means standing at a security checkpoint for 2 hours a day, and spending the rest with your friends there. Let’s go, and try, and fail and learn with us there, because that’s better done in Tahrir than in Egypt. It’s really simple: If everything is hazy, and you want to know what’s going to happen next in the country, Tahrir, right now, even if this sit-in lasts for one more day, is the place to be.

The First tweetback event: Ezbet Khairallah

Dear All,

I am writing to share information about the “tweetback” initiative that has been recently brought to my attention. The initiative is the first of its kind and aims to give back to Egypt by utilizing the power of social media at the time when the country is in most need of the support of companies and individuals such as yourselves. I think you’ll also find this interesting due to the novelty of the idea and the immense value it can add to your
company’s perception and reputation.

“tweetback” is Egypt’s first social media-driven humanitarian fundraising initiative to support popular endeavors that aim to effect real change in the lives of Egyptians. **

“tweetback” invites companies, foundations and charitable individuals to pledge donations to select NGOs and development projects in Egypt. In exchange, “tweet back’s” network of some of the country’s most notable twitter bloggers will announce the contributions in Arabic and English through their network of nearly 250,000+ followers (at the time of writing), providing donor organizations unprecedented access to their followers. **The “tweetback” team has brought together 20 of Egypt’s most-followed tweeps, including names like @sandmonkey, @amrwaked, @sarahelsirgany, @Safi, @ahmedelesseily, @pakinamamer, @noornoor1, @salmaeldaly, @travellerW, @nawaranegm @ahmednaguib & many more.

“tweetback” will bring this fundraising concept to Egypt for the first time in support of local NGO Khair wa Baraka. Khair wa Baraka has been working since 2004 in Ezbet Khairallah, an unplanned community in Cairo, to develop services and opportunities for local residents to allow them to live with dignity in a clean, healthy and safe environment.

“tweetback” plans to make the most of social media’s power to generate positive change by organizing a series of events, each in support of a worthy local cause. As a tool, Social media helped the revolution and now “tweet back” is mobilizing it once again in the quest to promote positive change and to help rebuild the country.

The first “tweetback” event will take place on July 26th 2011 at the Marriott from 12-2pm (and two which you would be invited of course if you decide to contribute) and it will include presentations about Ezbet
Khairallah with a close look at the projects for which LE2,000,000 need to be raised. Corporate pledges will be announced on the day to members of the press and donations will be collected via various channels. We are in the process of setting up an IVR line to receive donations and will use twitter to drive traffic to it starting next week.

In lead up to the event, the tweeps will do what they do best: create buzz about the initiative among their collective 250,000+ followers. They will also be on hand at the event to provide live updates about the donors at
hashtag #tweetback. *

If you are interested, e-mail us and we will send you the proposal that provides more details about the initiative along with the benefit packages for every donor. Because of the
tight deadline we’re working against, we would be most appreciative if you could reply with an expression of interest by latest Thursday July 21st. All correspondences should be directed to Rania Helmy who can be reached on rania.helmy@publicistinc.com .

Thank you very much in advance and I hope we find this as exciting and interesting as we do. Remember, pledging any sum, small or large, is a massive show of support, and will not go unrecognized. For more information, please visit http://www.peaceandplenty-eg.org/takeaction.php for details. In these adverse times these campaigns could not be more important, and will pave the way for a better country. In these adverse times these campaigns could not be more important, and will pave the way for a better country.  More of these initiatives will only happen if you show support for this very first one, which by virtue of the timing, and novelty, is in desperate need for your sponsorship. Please step forward and help in any way you can. We look forward to hearing back from you.

I would be especially grateful if you help me spread the word, forward this to any of your colleagues, friends, family or contacts that you think could contribute. Thanks again!

Kind regards,

Mahmoud Salem

Lacrimosa

They say that all revolutions follow the same cycle: They start in the winter, they heat up in the spring, they lag in the summer, and then you have the fall of the counter-revolution and the final battle for the future. If that cycle is to be believed, then again, the Egyptian revolution is ahead of its schedule, and we are still going through hyper-time. Events are accelerating ahead of schedule, and fatigue is getting to all of us. This is very evident in the national mood in Egypt now.
We are all talking to each other, but we are not listening to one another. This will bite us in the ass, no doubt about it, and yet no one really cares. The “non-revolutionary” population are sick and tired of the revolutionaries, who they view as nothing more than hooligans without a plan, while the average revolutionary response to “regular” people’s dismay or distrust is that they’ve always acted this way, ever since February. The “regular” people are always unhappy, but offer no realistic solutions or talk about the real problem objectively, so why bother? And this is why this revolution is the only revolution in history where the Revolutionaries had to convince their people, time and time again, that they are on the same side. And even that has stopped.

And beyond all this lies the truth that this revolution isn’t a bunch of unemployed, unhappy spoiled kids and poor people in Tahirir Square; it’s a violent reaction to a problem. And it’s not just one problem; it’s a set of problems that are detrimental to our country as a whole and that the majority chooses to ignore. Corruption has reached unprecedented levels in Egypt, accompanied with its cousin inefficiency, and the general consensus was this: every one minded, no one did anything about it. They simply adapted, and thought only of today, until the day came when the country moved as one.

But corruption isn’t the problem that the revolution is the reaction to. The real problem is the relationship between the citizen and the state, on every level you can imagine: from the concept of legal justice and how the legal system should function, to the concept of personal rights, to the concept of services provided (education, healthcare, etc..) and their quality, all the way to economic, social and urban planning, which are all missing or dysfunctional. And this isn’t new and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. It was all not addressed for the longest time, and when it was addressed it was done in the most reactionary way possible. There was no accountability, hence there was no advancement. More than anything, this revolution is about holding your government accountable, and unfortunately your only weapon, to ensure that some accountability is achieved and some progress is made, is pressure through demonstrations. Still.

Sorry Mom… Sorry dad….. Sorry General population: we don’t mean to upset you by confronting you with your problems. If we only we can just wish them away.

You are forced into this game of Tahrir, where the general population just wants peace and quiet while change only happens through pressure applied there. So, you always end up going there because that’s the pattern and you want this to stay peaceful, but you are always victim to organized attacks there by “thugs”. Always. And as time goes by, you find yourself getting accustomed to street battles, while your peaceful protests get you nowhere, so you start thinking that maybe, just maybe, peaceful protesting is no longer working. So you get dragged into one more violent confrontation after the other, while the media screams, “See, look, they are thugs. They can’t be trusted”, and some believe them while the others just watch in dismay as the illusion of the “peaceful revolution” starts dismantling before their eyes. All the while, the revolutionaries lose public support, are filled with fatigue, hysteria and in-fighting, like the protagonists of some psychotic Greek tragedy, they are continuing in their journey, as their compatriots keep falling left and right, half-way getting that the security apparatus is simply drawing out the battle to weaken them over time, so that when the time comes, they have their absolute victory, kill the revolution and we are back to business as usual.

If only it was that simple…

Here’s the rub: this is not about the protesters. If we all die, or get sent to jail, it won’t make an iota of difference, because, in reality, we are not the problem. The problem will continue existing regardless of us because people will no longer take mistreatment or abuse from the police or the army. The problem will continue existing because even the poorest most uneducated Egyptian gets that something is wrong and needs to be changed. And with the eventual death of the concept of “peaceful protesting” as a means to achieve our demands, another type of not so peaceful protesting will become more popular. It’s only, as always, a matter of time.

I have said it a million times: This revolution happened to prevent another revolution, one that will be much more violent and one that we all see coming. All of our demands were geared towards diffusing that powder keg, and as they don’t get achieved, our ability to diffuse it becomes null. This is not fear-mongering. It’s simply reality.

So please don’t blame us when that happens. Everything we have ever done, and all that we are doing now is ringing the alarm, hoping to wake you up to help us resolve this before it’s too late. We are pushing and fighting for Police accountability, because we can’t live in a country where the police can torture and kill its people and walk away. There is no pride in belonging to such a country. And we don’t know what to do, but the police are rogue, the courts are a sham, The SCAF is either unable or unwilling to even remove the people that killed jan25 protesters from their positions of power, and the system works for no one. We are stuck in this vicious cycle, and in the end something has got to give. They are counting on you hating us, on you reaching the inevitable conclusion that maybe, just maybe, we deserve what’s coming to us. And maybe this is why we stopped talking to each other. We have taken different paths now, and we don’t even insist on bringing each other along anymore.

One day this will all be over, and this whole drama will be nothing but a distant memory of a time when the whole world was on fire, and the future seemed no longer as a promise, but a threat. Hopefully we will both be there, in a country that has finally healed, and has a future. And we will get there, not because the revolutionaries are right or smart, but because of one inescapable historical truth, that has been proven time and time again over the past 2000 years: You cannot oppress your people for long, for they are always too many for you to control forever. Eventually that coin flips. You can count on it.

Unholy Alliance

The news from yesterday’s alliance of 12 parties with the Muslim Brotherhood for a unified election front and a single candidate list came as a surprise to many, since the alliance included parties such as Masr Al Horreyah and AlAdl party. Masr AlHorreyah came as a surprise – or in hindsight maybe it shouldn’t have- because it’s Amr Hamzawy again jumping out of alliances and into other ones as if it’s not hurting his image or credibility. Just so we can keep track, Hamzawy was slated to join the Free Egyptian Party, then decided not to and joined the Egyptian Social Democrat party, and then leaving that and creating the Masr AlHorreyah party (which really doesn’t have enough members to qualify legally as a party), and in turn joined an alliance of liberal parties with the FEP, ESDP and the DFP, which it abandoned yesterday when it went and created an alliance with the MB. But since one expected the parties to join the alliance with the MB to be the old weak parties that were known to strike deals with the NDP to allow them to win a seat or two, and therefore ones that couldn’t win without the MB support anyway, like Eltagamo3 and ElWafd, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a party like Masr AlHorreyah joined up, since it neither has the street presence or the support that would allow them to win a single seat anywhere. The only reason why I am sad to see this is due to my knowledge that some really good and decent individuals are members of that party, and yet somehow agreed to tie themselves to a political albatross such as Amr Hamzawy. He is the only known name in the party, and is also their biggest liability. Badness all around.

AlAdl came as a surprise because it’s one of the few parties that knows what it wants, and can get it without anyone’s help. Chances are that they can get the 10% that they want in Parliament without a problem, and thus don’t require the MB’s assistance like the other 11 clowns do. However, the parties are claiming that they creating a national unity coalition, and as the party positioning itself as the centrist party in the Egyptian political landscape, it has to join such a coalition. On the plus side, it could also save them unnecessary hassle come elections time, not having to go in direct election battle with the MB. It’s political pragmatism at its best, and it comes from a position of power, unlike the other parties. However, whether the AlAdl members would like such an alliance remains to be seen, since a lot of its core members are the religiously moderate Egyptians, the type of people who view religion as an important part of their lives, but don’t want whatever the MB is selling. This could get risky.

The Problem with such an alliance is twofold. The first one is that it gives the MB too much power and influence over the next elections, providing them with 3 possible scenarios , all of them good for their purposes: Scenario 1: If the parties trust them, and they choose to betray the parties like they did in 2005 with tagamo3 and Alwafd, then they singlehandedly could eliminate all those parties from the next parliament and have more say on the constitution than anyone feels comfortable with; Scenario 2: If the parties trust them, and they deliver voter support, then those parties now become dependent on MB support, which means the MB will effectively control them to do their bidding if they wish to get re-elected again; and Scenario 3: The MB delivers on its support, and the other parties betray them once they are in power, then the MB will play the victim card to the max, talking about how the liberal and socialist parties can’t be trusted, and how they are the only true patriots because they gave up on more power in exchange of having a national unity parliament with all the political forces, which would erase the fact that they have literally betrayed the secular forces of the revolution like 5 times now. Just like the ill-fated alliance with the left in 2005, this is squarely in the best interest of the MB, and it’s rumored to have only happened because the SCAF told them they must do it, because the West is getting mighty uncomfortable with how Egypt is looking like now. Must keep up appearances of a diverse budding democracy, because the world wants a happy ending for that Egyptian Revolution story, and if the Islamists take over, we won’t get no funding or weapons. The Turkey Model must be adopted at all costs.

The Second Problem with this alliance is its intentions: The parties involved just want to divide the electoral map of Egypt, and divvy up the seats they will win from before the elections by having the other parties not compete on them and quite possibly having their people voting for the party running in that district. If this sounds like a good idea to you, then you obviously don’t understand democracy: Democracy is about giving people a choice. Multiple choices in fact. Competing visions and programs. If this Alliance happens in this intended way, with everyone cutting their piece of the parliament pie upfront, why even have an election? What about letting people choose their representative from the best of a competing pool instead of telling them “This is the national Unity candidate. Vote for him or we won’t have a national unity government. Don’t you want us united?” by creating such an alliance? Plus, Competition will allow us an elimination process that will finally declare the death certificate for some parties that have been effectively dead for years, and have no street presence or constituency and are nothing but a brand now, like ElTagamo3 or AlWafd. Those parties have survived by accepting whatever crumbs the NDP agreed to give them, and cartoonishly played the part of “the opposition” for years, and now is their time to die, or at least have a serious wake-up call. Such an alliance would negate all of that.

There is also the problem with execution of said power-sharing arrangement: How to divide up the seats? Will it be based on ability? Ideas? Presence? Historical weight? Ideology? How? There are 13 players in such an alliance, and if- god forbid- the other parties (The FEP, The ESDP, The DFP, and the Populous Alliance) also joined, you will have 17 parties and 444 seats. We know that the MB wants 30-50%, The FEP wants the same if not more, AlAdl is sticking to its 10% goal, AlWafd demanded at the meeting that they get 60 seats alone, which is 12%, so if both MB and FEP both agree on 30% each, that’s 60%, you add the requirements of AlAdl and Alwafd, and you have 82% of the seats. That’s 18% for the remaining 13 parties, and neither one of those 4 players will agree to any less of those percentages, and none of them represent the left. Can you imagine the in-fighting that will happen? Can you see how easily such an alliance wouldn’t work?

The concept behind an election is that there are a limited of seats in any parliament, so it’s up for the parties to represent their ideas and create ground operations that allow them to get as many seats as they possibly can in a free and fair competition. This alliance doesn’t want that. It wants a selection, not an election, and to rob the people from having a clear choice between parties, which is the exact opposite of what this revolution aimed to achieve. They can call it a National Unity government, a United electoral list, whatever, it’s still designed to rob the people from having any real say on who in the parties gets to represent them locally, unless it’s an independent candidate, and very few of those who aren’t NDP actually have a prayer in hell ‘s chance for winning such an election. It’s a bad idea anyway you spin it, and I am glad that the other 4 parties are not joining and I hope they stay this way. My only condolence is that such an alliance between leftists, liberals, centrists, opportunists and cartoonish parties wouldn’t last for long without crumbling under the weight of its infighting anyway. God knows that every decent person in Masr ElHorreya- except for Hmazawy of course- has been on the defensive ever since that meeting, stating that “no agreement has been formalized” and “we are simply just talking” to their enraged members, fans and friends. This will only get worse the longer this lasts. Just watch.

دليل الأحزاب للناخب المصري الشعبي

حزب المصريين الاحرار : والله العظيم ماحناش حزب ساويرس

حزب الجبهة الديمقراطيه  : هو الناس كلها راحت فين؟ ده حتى شادي سابنا

الحزب المصري الديمقراطي الإجتماعي :  يساري علق , ليبرالي معرص

حزب مصر الحرية : عشان مبقاش فيه حد عاوز ياخد حمزاوي

حزب العدل : اللهو الخفي

الحزب الشيوعي المصري : الشعب المصري بيموت في الشيوعية. حيصوتولنا آخر حاجة

حزب العمال الديمقراطي : العمال لهم الأرض وما عليها‬

حزب الغد : أيمن نور فاضي يا جماعة

حزب الكرامة والحزب العربي الناصري: عشان عبدالناصر مش هو اللي وقعنا  في خرة الدولة العسكرية  الديكتاتوريه ده

حزب الوفد : فاكرين لما كنا علمانيين؟

حزب الحرية و العدالة  : يعني عاوزين حزب؟ وماله..نعملكم حزب. المرشد اللي ماسك برضوه

حزب البناء والتنمية :  جواري وجهاد يا معلم. جواري وجهاد

الحزب النازي المصري : إنما بجد لازم تجربوا الصنف اللي احنا بنضربه. جامد آخر حاجة

7 Economic Ideas for a new Egypt

A lot of people complain that the government has no vision in regards to how to bounce back our economy, and is instead acting as if the revolution never happened and everything is Business as usual. For 4 months now I awaited a single decent economic plan, or even emergency economic measures (like temporary welfare packages to the lower classes to be able to feed itself until “stability” takes place, or a stimulus package to the small and medium size businesses to keep them afloat for a few months and not have to fire any people), but of course that’s as likely as them inspecting the old budget or trying to find where the public waste or corruption is in it, and cut those costs. In case you didn’t know, the new budget is like the old budget exactly, except that they are spending more money, and borrowing to cover it up, and not reducing the costs on anything. God knows that after reviewing our budget, I realized that if I was running a business the way the Egyptian government was running its finances, I would’ve been out of businesses years ago. That being said, expecting the government to come up with good plans is as likely as The Police starting to act like respectable responsible humans and go to work without abusing anyone: It’s not going to happen. So , instead of pointing out their flaws, which any idiot with a functioning brain can do, I will offer here some ideas of things we can do. This will cover a whole number of sectors, and the idea is to do more with what we already have and encourage that lost wheel of production to be found and to go round and round again. Let’s begin, shall we?

Idea # 1: LET’S PAY PEOPLE FOR THEIR TRASH!

Here is the concept in a nutshell: We live in a country of 85 million consumers, and they consume lots of goods and produce a huge amount of trash, many of which never gets recycled or used correctly, outside of Cairo’s Zabaleen community, which are the most brilliant people this country has in a while produced. But instead of being Cairo-focused, let’s go nationwide. Instead of people paying to have their trash collected, instead we will pay them money for their trash. We will provide trash cans everywhere that will divide the trash into organic and non-organic (with all of its variations) all over Egypt, and teach people how to separate their trash effectively. Then, once a week, the Trash cars come, and start paying people by the kilo for their trash, provided that they have separated it first. The trucks then leave to one of many huge factories that will be built all over Egypt, where the non-organic trash will be divided and recycled again into plastics, aluminum, papers, etc.. to be sold in the market to factories again, and the organic trash will be taken and processed to produce methane gas that will be turned into electricity that will power up the different production lines in the factory, which would reduce the energy needs of the factory dramatically or possibly eliminate it all together. Zero Waste! This idea will do the following : 1) Put money in the hands of all Egyptians for their trash, and actually give them incentive to pick up any litter anywhere in their neighborhoods, because, you know, there’s money to be made off of it now, 2) Hire thousands of workers- because this will be nationwide- who will drive the collection trucks, collect the trash and pay the people, re-separate the trash at the factory, man the recycling production lines, and sales people who will sell the recycled resources to the other factories or the people and 3) Make Egypt cleaner, reduce the horrible pollution from Trash burning and increase efficiency in the usage of our resources. And if you are worried on the business of the Zabaleen, don’t worry; we will simply subcontract Cairo to them. We won’t mess with their system; just integrate them into the cycle. I spoke to people in the IFC about this months ago, and they seemed really excited about the idea, but I don’t think it went anywhere. I am presenting it here again.

Idea #2: LET’S GET OUT OF CAIRO NOW!

I love Cairo. Well, I love Cairo at night. Like maybe from 10 pm till 4 am. The rest of the time, I am starting to hate Cairo: It’s a city overloaded with people (25 million residents, 1/3 of Egypt’s population almost) and Cars, and the centralization of all resources and business on the expense of the rest of the country has not benefitted anyone: The Cairo people are unhappy with how overpopulated and polluted their city is, and complain daily about the hellish traffic, and the rest of the country believes Cairo takes up all the economic development to itself. And the thing is, even when the Cairenes try to leave Cairo, they just go to 6 October or New Cairo, which are Cairo suburbs, and thus Cairo-centric as well, which now means that the traffic isn’t just in Cairo, it’s also facing anyone leaving Cairo, making Cairo a Blackhole of soul-sucking and misery. Let’s change that dramatically by moving entire industries to other areas of the country, and thus creating new cities, new pockets of development, and get people out of Cairo for good and for real this time (none of that 6th of October Crap). For example, let’s move the entire IT and technology industry to the North Coast, and build a huge IT and Technology focused city – our very own Silicon Valley- right behind all of those touristic villages that we only use 3 months a year. That whole area already has paved roads, communication lines, utilities connected to it for those touristic villages, so we will simply need to scale up the existing infrastructure instead of building it from scratch, and it will provide the restaurants, shops and clubs in the area of round the year customers. The IT people will love it, because it takes them out of the city and places them on the beach, the shop owners will love it because it will provide more sources of income for them, the population there will love it because it will mean more jobs whether in construction, factories or companies that will be erected, and the owners will love it because many of them will rent their property all year long instead of a measly 3 months, which will provide them with a higher return on their investments, and a ton of new service-based businesses (banks, car dealerships, retail stores, etc) will open up to serve this new and high-earning population. Another industry we could move elsewhere could be the movie industry, which we could move to Sinai, where huge studios can be built to cater for the Egyptian cinema industry and international cinema companies who will want to film in Egypt instead of Morocco, and thus also hire thousands of people. All the artists, directors, music composers, production people will be moved there, and thus creating the Egyptian Hollywood. And it won’t just be for cinema, it can host the entire media industry, including TV stations, Music companies, and production houses. A city for the arts, on the beach, attracting business and tourism. I would live there, leaving Cairo behind to rot forever! I think you would too.

Idea #3: LET’S GIVE THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT A CORRUPTION COLONIC!

It’s an idea I presented before here, and let’s present it again: The biggest hurdle against new businesses creation is the amount of corruption that exists in all levels of government, which means that if you want to start a new businesses, you have to pay a lot of bribes on many levels. A friend of mine once told me that Egypt is unique in the sense that while in most countries you pay bribes to get more than what’s rightfully yours, in Egypt you pay bribes to get what’s rightfully yours, and it’s true. Hell, if you want to open a new restaurant, there are about 18 different bribes to 18 different government officials that you must pay in order for them to let you open and hire people. If we hope to live in a better country, we need to remove all the bribe-taking individuals from our entire government, and our very scared Businesses men – who paid their fair share there- can lead the way. I want the Businessmen to unify and call for a truth and reconciliation initiative, where they will report every single bribe they paid to a government official in exchange for amnesty, and call on the rest of the population- because he didn’t have to pay some sort of a bribe to get things done here?- to do the same, and thus flush out every single corrupt government official out of the government once and for all, and highlight the weak points in Egyptian bureaucracy that allow such corruption to take place, and take measures against it, and simplify the process. This will also allow the government to get rid of many of its corrupt employees, which means that more openings in government jobs will become available, and the government can reduce its really high salary costs without bothering with early-retirement plans for people who are criminal parasites and have held the economic development of the country hostage for years. And if the businessmen or anyone for that matter, benefitted from that system, they should pay back the money they made off such corruption to the government or society, by funding social projects that benefit the country. Everybody wins!

Idea #4: LET’S HAVE A REAL SPORTS INDUSTRY!

The Sports industry in Egypt is a paradox that I can’t figure out, especially the football industry. Here is what happens: The Sporting clubs, with their football teams, are technically owned by the government, and the government funds them with half a billion pounds a year directly, without the money ever going back to the government, but rather to the Football Union. The Money from the games of the Egyptian leagues, the sponsorships and the TV broadcasting rights never goes back to the government, but rather to the corrupt Football union, whose budget- comprised of all the aforementioned items and the money it gets from the government- is its own to manage and waste, based on their personal preference, without any oversight, and thus they can fund a club like Ahly highly, while give peanuts to a club like ElEsmaely. This is why many clubs have to rely on charity from its fans to get players and compete, while their board of directors get to allocate their budgets towards benefitting themselves, friends or family members. And let’s not even talk about government institutions Football teams. Has no one ever wondered why the hell does a government owned Oil company like Enpi have a football team? Or Why does the Police, or the army, or the border guards have one? Isn’t that a waste of public resources and money? YOUR MONEY?

Instead of that stupid structure, let’s do the only thing that makes sense: The Government must stop wasting money on the sporting teams of the Oil companies and government institutions, and offer the rest of the actual sporting clubs up for privatization, selling 80% of their shares for example, and keeping 20% as a silent partner, or giving it to the members. Can you imagine how much money the government can make from selling a team like AlAhly or Zamalek to investors? Billions. Money that they can use to fund the criminally under-funded sport-centers and-god forbid- our Olympic teams. And those investors who will buy the clubs will start running the football teams correctly: We are talking real broadcasting rights negotiations, Factories creating sports merchandising, and team and club development, which in turn will develop the cities the clubs are in (Have businessmen build new stadiums for example, instead of lamenting our shitty government-built ones). Hell, we could then afford actually buying expensive international players and have them play in the Egyptian league: Imagine Ronaldo playing for the Alexandria sporting club vs. AlAhly with Messi in its ranks. We would elevate the game, start industries, and maybe even fund other sports, like, I don’t know, Basketball. All of it taxed. As for the Football Union, it would be comprised of the reps of club owners, who will make sure that no club gets favorite treatment over another, and that the resources are not wasted, because it will be THEIR MONEY. We could change the game, forever!

Idea #5: LET’S FUND OUR COUNTRY!

We agreed that we can’t depend on the anything, fine. Let’s fund our country ourselves. Let’s create “Patriotic Funds”, a huge fund per governorate that everyone can buy shares in, and that will take the money and invest them in two things: investment projects that the governorate needs, and development projects like schools or hospitals. The Income generated from their investment projects will find the development projects and provide a modest return of maybe 5% for their investors, who will be ok with it since they will see their governorate creating new jobs and factories, and having new decent public schools and hospitals getting built. Schools and Jobs for their kids. Or, we can have a law that states that every business should donate a tax-deductable 2 or 3% of its revenue to an actual social project ( a school, a hospital, infrastructure of an underdeveloped area), instead of PR campaigns like the current Egyptian companies do with their CSR budgets, and the government can supervise the projects. Simple!

Idea# 6: LET’S BRING THOSE EGYPTIAN EXPATS BACK FOR A VISIT!

This is an idea that a young enterprising man named Ahemd Fattouh said to me once, and I will present it here: Why not create a special Friday event, where we call on all Egyptians who live abroad to come down to Egypt and have their own Tahrir experience? And what better time to do this other than next September for the elections? Instead of worrying whether or not they will be able to vote, we should invite those Egyptians abroad to come back to Egypt for a week to vote and enjoy the country’s beaches or touristic sights. By doing that they will 1) ensure that their votes count and 2) provide a much needed boost to our Tourism industry, which desperately need it now. If you get 2 million out of the 12 million Egyptians who live abroad back, and each spends 3000$ on the trip, that’s 6 billion dollars entering the country right there. And we will host festivals and concerts to celebrate their homecoming and their participation, and enticing them to come back for, I don’t know, new years, or quite possibly for the Jan25 one year anniversary celebration next year! The world will see that Egypt is now safe to come back to, and if the tourism companies provide good packages to entice the tourists, our tourism will come back full force!

Idea # 7: LET’S PROVIDE OUR PEOPLE WITH FOOD SECURITY!

The reasons why we have a food-shortage in Egypt is due to three things: 1)We have a population that refuses to stop increasing, 2) We don’t have enough farmland to feed this population and 3) we don’t have enough water to create new farmland. Nothing can be done regarding the population thing, since we believe it’s our god-given right to compete with bunnies in terms of birth-rate. Fine, so we have to create new farmland in order to provide food security, which we can’t do without more water. So, it all comes down to water. But the question is: do we really not have enough water? Or are we simply wasting what we have? Well, anyone who works in agriculture will tell you that we waste our water ridiculously, because many farmers insist of just flooding their farmland with water, instead of using irrigation system that will efficiently water their crops without wasting our most valuable resource. Actually, if we make it a law that all farmlands need to have irrigation systems, not only could we cut down our waste, we could have enough water to at least double our farmland with ease! And they shouldn’t pay for it, the government should provide it for them, especially the poor farmers that depend on the Agricultural assurance bank. And while we are at it, here is a question: how come no one has ever used the lands surrounding Lake-Nasser as farmland? We are talking hundreds of thousands of acres, with water access right there. The movement of water in Lake Nasser to farm that land will ensure that we don’t lose 7% of our water reserves to vaporization, like we do right now, because it won’t be sitting still and will be used to farm that surrounding land, and thus increase our farmland and provide us with more produce, which will be sent to factories for packaging and ensure our food security. And since we are talking about Lake Nasser and food security, why not take advantage of the huge amount of fish that lives there? Do you know how much a Kilo of Fish costs in Aswan? 7 LE. Do you know how much it costs in Cairo? 23 LE! We could create an entire fishing industry, build a factory that will put the fish in cartons and ship it in frozen trucks or trains to be sold all over Egypt, feeding everyone cheaply, and to hell with the Cholesterol-inducing super-expensive red meat consumption, which in turn will lower the demand on it and make it more affordable to all Egyptians. New Farmland, new factories, more jobs and food security, and it won’t cost much. Why don’t we do it?

Just think about it!

Regarding that Referendum

One of the most persistent talking points by SCAF recently is that the people chose them to lead during the transitional period, and that the Referendum was really about giving the Armed Forces “the revolutionary legitimacy to lead” us. Now, as you all know, My view on the referendum has been that what’s done is done, and that people chose, and that we need to move on and focus on the election, because we shouldn’t take away from the people the experience of having their voice heard for the first time, even if that’s not true. Unfortunately, due to this persistent talking point, which is always followed by an accusation that the revolutionaries are trying to subvert Democracy by demanding a new constitution or a Bill of Rights first, I find myself unable to keep silent any longer. Fine, you want to talk about the referendum? Fine by me. Let’s go over this!

Now, mind you, this post won’t cover the usual whining of not having enough time for the No campaign, or how the MB told the people that if they vote yes they will go to Heaven, or how the army itself influenced the vote by telling the people that a Yes vote is the best way to move forward, while declining to give us a real choice as to what they will do if people voted NO, making the alternative seem mysterious and dangerous. None of that. I won’t even discuss this report that alleges, due to statistical fraud analysis that the referendum results were tampered with, and that blatant fraud took place. Instead, I would like to go over some facts with you, and let you decide for yourself.

1) The Referendum was proposed as an amendment of 8 articles to the 1971 constitution, thus bringing the constitution back to life temporarily until we create a new one. The voices opposed to this was that the 1971 constitution gave unchecked powers to the President, and we should have a temporary constitutional declaration until the election of a national committee to write the new constitution (which was one of the original demands of the Jan 25 revolution, alongside with a  Civil Presidential Council, which the SCAF promised back then they would fulfill). We were soundly ignored, and the referendum took place, and the Yes vote won, thus technically & legitimately resurrecting the 1971 constitution.

2) The 1971 constitution clearly states that in the event there is no President and no head of Parliament, then the head of the Egyptian Supreme constitutional court would have to be the next President temporarily for 60 days, until new presidential elections are held. There is nothing in the 1971 constitution that gives the SCAF any mandate to legitimately rule us.

3) Upon realizing that, the SCAF instead killed the resurrection of the 1971 constitution without informing us ( which would render the referendum constitutionally illegitimate, since it was done based on false pretenses), and instead announced that those articles we voted on will be part of a temporary constitutional declaration (oh yeah! That’s why we- No People- were gloating at the Yes people in case you were wondering), and then added 55 articles giving themselves the power of the President to rule unchecked and the Parliament to issue laws, and thus the modern SCAF was born.

4) Needless to say, those voters in the referendum didn’t vote to give SCAF absolute and unchecked power, and didn’t vote for the 55 articles they gave us as a bonus on top of the 8 we actually voted on, which also makes the temporary constitutional declaration and the Powers it gave SCAF constitutionally illegitimate as well. That’s two reasons why the referendum and thus resulting rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate for those of you who are still counting.

5) But even if one ignored the first two reasons why this referendum can not be used to justify all the shit that’s been happening for the past 4 months, or if you didn’t care and would have voted to give SCAF the mandate to rule out of trust anyway, well, there is the little problem of how they did alter the text of the very few articles that you actually voted on when they issued the constitutional declaration. Don’t believe me? LOOK AT THIS!

Yep, even the 8 you actually voted on were tempered with. That’s Three reasons why this referendum and the resulting temporary constitutional declaration and the Rule of SCAF are constitutionally illegitimate. And in case you still don’t get it: That’s three times you were made a fool of. That’s three times your democratic will was actually subverted by the SCAF, the people you trust most, in order to ensure that the power in the country isn’t in civilian hands and instead is in theirs.

“But wait”, you will say,”forget all that. You are no better. You don’t want me to choose my constitution via parliament. You want to subvert democracy, create a national committee to write a constitution to your liking, and  impose your ideas on me and my way of life, just like SCAF did. Right?” Well, no, not really.

Voting for Parliament that will vote for a committee that will write the constitution is a novel idea, but there are two problems with it: 1) The supreme majority of , if not all, the people voted into Parliament are not qualified to write a constitution. It’s kind of like having to create a nuclear reactor, but instead of sending your nuclear-physicists, you send you in your cousin who you trust to be good and honest. Great intentions, Most-likely catastrophic results;  and 2) Requiring a 50+1 majority to pick the committee means lots of political haggling will take place, which means that our rights will be up for barter based on a group’s beliefs or political interests. Such political haggling is fine when it comes to laws, because laws can be changed easily, but this constitution is staying for a long long time. So, in essence, you will vote in people that are probably unqualified, and who will follow their own personal beliefs instead of yours, and have them  barter over voting  for a group of people who will then write your constitutional rights, instead of having a list of qualified experts (let’s say law or human rights experts), which you would vote for directly, who then would write the constitution, which is what the vote for the national committee is. The vote for a national committee means that You get to directly choose who writes your constitution, knowing full well that they are qualified for it. How that is subverting your vote, or an abortion of democracy, I have no clue.

Now I am neither calling for you to overthrow SCAF or call for a National Committee for a constitution, or even support us, the revolutionaries. God knows I am gearing up for the election season and will fight on every front I can to ensure that by hook or crook our rights are secured either way. As I stated, this an attempt to counter a talking point that is both false and used as justification for things like military trials and forced “virginity checks”. I am simply reminding you that there are many people who want to take away rights from you or fool you, but we are not one of them. We are disorganized, arrogant, drained, angry, unable to communicate our message clearly and you might not even like the way some of us look like, but we are not liars. Deal with that.

A lot of the ideas in this post are blatantly stolen from a conversation I had with Alfred Raouf, who kicks a whole lot of ass and is a lot smarter than he looks. :P

The Egyptian Bill of Rights

Here is my suggestion for the Egyptian Bill of Rights, which I have spent the past week discussing with many civil forces and groups, and has managed to get a lot of support for it. The Free Egyptians party adopted it as their position, so dida number of other civil movements and forces as well, including “Together for a Civil State”. I welcome any other party, civil force or movement that aims to push it as well. This is not about Credit, and whoever wants the credit or has been working on it in parallel, please be my guest and take it. I just want to see this secured, and have it as an inalienable and irrevocable part of our constitution. I have explained the rationale for them here, and you will find the full text below, which is copied and pasted from the Universal declaration for Human rights, which Egypt is a signatory of. Please review and let me know what you think. This document is open for discussion.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • Everyone has the right to education.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
  • Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.
  • No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
  • Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
  • Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

مرة أخيرة

في العلوم السياسية، هناك معضلة فلسفية بشأن مبدأ دعم الديمقراطية. وقد نتج عنها مناقشات لا تعد و لا تحصى. المعضلة تكمن في السؤال التالي: هل دعم الديمقراطية يعني تبني أي قرارات تصدر عن الأغلبية حتى لو كانت تلك القرارات تعني تدمير الديمقراطية المشار إليها؟ أم أنه يعني التأكد من إستمرار العملية الديمقراطية حتى لو كان ذلك على عكس رغبة الأغلبية؟ إذا ضللت الفرق هنا، دعني أسوق لك مثالا من المنطقة، من الشرق الأوسط. الجزائر 1991

في عام 1991, كانت المحاولة الأولى الحقيقية للقيام بانتخابات ديمقراطية في الجزائر. وقتها ترشح حزب الجبهة الاسلامية للانقاذ على أرضية مفادها أنه لا ديمقراطية في الإسلام، وأنهم بمجرد وصولهم إلى سدة الحكم سيلغون الانتخابات الديمقراطية المستقبلية. وقد كان، صوتت الأغلبية بالفعل لحزب سيوقف العمل بكل أشكال التصويت!، مما أدي بالجيش أن يلغي الانتخابات على الفور، ما بدوره بدأ حربا أهلية عصفت بالبلد في أتون الفوضى لسنوات عدة. الآن إذا اعدنا طرح السؤال، من كان على حق؟ هل كنت تدعم فوز حزب الجبهة حتى لو كان ذلك يعني أنه لن تكن هناك إنتخابات ديمقراطية أخرى للأبد، وبالتالي لا ضوابط ولا موازين على حكمهم؟ أم أنك تعتقد أن إستمرارية الديمقراطية أهم للحياة السياسية والأجيال القادمة لهذا البلد، حتى لو كان ذلك يفسد على الأغلبية الحالية رغبتها؟ معضلة لطيفة أليس كذلك؟ لا يكف الناس عن النقاش حولها.

الأن دعني أخبرك لماذا إشتركت في الثورة بالأساس : بجانب التخلص من نظامنا القمعي الحبيب، كل ما أردت من الثورة هو وثيقة الحقوق المصرية، نافذة نهائية ولا يجوز صرفها أو إيقاف العمل بها أيا كان من بيده السلطة. أردت حق حرية الرأي والتعبير بكل اشكاله (الفني وغيره)، الحق في التجمع السلمي،حق الحرية الدينية، حق المساواة بين جميع المواطنين في الحق والحريات (بغض النظر عن الجنس، الدين، العرق، النسب، اللغة، الأصل الاجتماعي أو الرأي السياسي), الحق في المعلومات والشفافية لتبقى حكومتنا دائما تحت الرقابة وقابلة للمحاسبة، الحق في عدم الخضوع للتعذيب أو القسوة أو أي معاملة غير إنسانية، الحق في حماية متساوية من القانون والأمن، الحق في عدم التعرض للاعتقال أو الإحتجاز أو النفي العشوائي،أو إسقاط الجنسية بغير حق، الحق في إن يعتبر المرء بريئا حتى تثبت ادانته، الحق في محاكمة عادلة أمام هيئة قضائية مدنية نزيهة، يتمتع الجميع أمامها بالتمثيل القانوني، وأخيرا الحق في التعليم. من أجل هذه الحقوق خاطرت بحياتي وبدني، وهي ليست بحقوق جديدة أو أفكار مستحدثة، كلها وأكثر منها يمكن الرجوع إليها في الاعلان العالم لحقوق الانسان

عندما تبدأ ثورة، فإنك لا تقوم بها لتستجدي هذه الحقوق، وانما عليك انتزعها عنوة ممن حرموك اياها. تلك الحقوق هي الركيزة لأي مجتمع أو دولة ديمقراطية متقدمة، وهي لا تقبل الجدال أو النقاش، وملعون أنا إن وصل البرلمان احد يمنعني تلك الحقوق أو يفاوضني أو يساومني عليها. معذرة. أنا أريد هذه الحقوق أن تكن جزء من الدستور، بغض النظر عمن ينتخب للحكم. ولا يسمح بأي حال لمن وصل إلى السلطة أن يعبث بتلك الحقوق أو يغيرها، وله كامل الحرية في أن يفعل ما يريد بباقي مواد الدستور. لكن هذا منطقي أنا، ولك أن تتفق معي أو تختلف بقدر ما تشاء. ما أريد مناقشته الآن، هو لماذا يجب أن يخرج الناس إلي مظاهرات 27 مايو. لن اطلب من أن تذهب من أجل مطالبي، مع أن ذلك سيكون بادرة لطيفة، ولا لأجل مطالب المتظاهرين (يعلم الله أن هناك 7 قوائم مختلفة من المطالب يتم تداولها حاليا، والبعض سيذهب بدون قائمة واضحة من المطالب الخاصة بهم)، لأن المتظاهرين غير منظمين ومنقسمين ويئسوا من الحديث مع أي حد إلا مع أنفسهم في الوقت الراهن، ولا أطالبك بالذهاب للدفاع عن الثورة. لا، أنا اليوم أريد التحدث إلى الأغلبية الصامتة عما يهمهم: الإقتصاد، الأمن والاستقرار، ولماذا يجب عليهم، أكثر ممن سواهم، أن يذهبوا إلى مظاهرات 27 مايو، لأنه حقا وصدقا إن كانت تلك النقاط الثلاثة أكثر ما يهمك فاسمح لي إن أخبرك أنك في مأزق شديد، وكما كان الحال أيام مبارك، ليس بسببنا. عفوا

أعلم أنك ستختلف بشدة، فدعني اطرح عليك حجتي ثم قرر بنفسك، اتفقنا؟

عن الاقتصاد :

الآن السرد المتداول حول الإقتصاد يجري كالتالي: البلد تجاوزت حافة الهاوية، والآن في سقوط حر سريع، كل الاحصائيات تشير إلى كارثة محققة، إحتياطي الغذاء سينفذ بنهاية الشهر، ومتظاهري التحرير مازالوا مختطفين عجلة الانتاج ومحتفظين بها في التحرير مغطاه بأعداد منهم! ا ليس هذا مايقولون؟ حسنا، دعنا نسرد الحقيقة: الحكومة الانتقالية والمجلس العسكري فشلوا خلال 4 أشهر حتى الآن في أن يقدموا لك ما يمكن أن يشبه خطة إقتصادية عاجلة فيما عدا ، الجملة الشهيرة، “المظاهرات لا بد أن تتوقف”. وقد دأبوا، بإحصاءات مذهلة، أن يخبروك بمدى المصيبة التي تواجهنا، من دون أن يعطوك مرة خطة عمل واضحة كيف ينوون انقاذنا! (بالمناسبة، أنا لا أري فارقا بين تأكيد طنطاوي لنا أن أمة فقيرة، يعيش فيها 70% تحت خط الفقر وما بين تصريح مبارك الشهير : “احنا بلد موارده محدوده، أأكلكم منين كلكم؟”). تغاضى الآن عن قصة “سينفذ مخزوننا الإستراتيجي من القمح بنهاية الشهر” وهي القصة التي ظل المجلس العسكري يرددها الآن لأربعة أشهر، ودعنا نركز على المشكلة الحقيقية: أين معونة الطواريء – المكونة من مال وكوبونات غذاء – المخصصة لأقل الطبقات في مصر، والتي من المفترض أن تساعدهم خلال الأشهر القادمة حتى الانتخابات؟ أين صناديق التحفيز المخصصة لمساعدة الأعمال المتوسطة والصغيرة لعبور الفترة الانتقالية؟ ماذا؟ نحن لا نملك أي أموال؟ هل رأيت ميزانيتنا؟ لا أحد منكم فعل. أنت لا تدري ما هي مصروفاتنا ومدفوعاتنا، لأننا ممنوعون حتى اليوم من مراجعة حسابات بلادنا. أين المبادرات الجديدة التي حفزها التحرير نحو تكوين العديد من الشركات الناشئة والمبدعة؟ ماذا عن السياحة؟ كيف لا توجد مبادرة حكومية يتيمة لتشجيع السياحة تستفيد من الروح الجميلة التي نشأت في التحرير؟ لماذا لا توجد حفلات تحتفي بالحرية المكتسبة، معارض أو أحداث سياحية؟ لماذا على سبيل المثال، لا يوجد متحف ل 25 يناير، للناس لتحتفل بمصر الجديدة الحرة؟ هل قام سعادة وزير السياحة المحترم – صاحب مصنع مربى الفراولة سابقا – بتقديم أي مبادرة مثيلة؟

وماذا عن العقبة الحقيقية في طريق كل الاستثمارات ومشاريع النمو الاقتصادي التي نتمناها أن تبدأ في مصر : الفساد المؤسسي؟ لماذا لم يعالج أو حتى يشار إليه حتى الآن؟ ولماذا تروج لخرافة أن رجال الأعمال مستهدفين؟ إن وجود 7 أو 8 فاسدين منتفعين مقربين للنظام السابق في السجن ليس أبدا بالأمر الذي يحول الدولة إلى كيان ضد الاستثمار ورجال الأعمال، بل ضد الفساد العلني الرهيب. أنت يا راجل الأعمال الشريف، تريد أن تبرئ ساحتك وألا تنضم إلى من نفوا أنفسهم إختيار يا من ال منصور أو المغربي أو الحمقى الأخرين الذين حولوا مليارات إلى دبي؟ هاكم فكرة : تجمعوا وإبدأوا مبادرة للحقيقة والمصالحة. نحن ندرك أن الأغلبية العظمى منكم ليسوا فاسدين، لكنكم كنتم محاطين بثقافة فاسدة لم تكن لتسمح لكم بعمل أي شيء من دون دفع 18 رشوة مختلفة. نحن نفهم ذلك، لأننا جميعا دفعنا مثلكم رشاوي للحصول على أي خدمة عامة بشكل لائق. حسنا، لقد دفعتم رشوي فيما مضى، لكن الآن لحسن الحظ القانون المصري واضح: لو كنت قد دفعت رشوة وقمت بالابلاغ عن الواقعة، سيذهب هو إلى السجن وليس أنت. فلماذا لا توحدون أنفسكم الآن وتقدمن بلاغات رسمية ضد كل من إضطررتم إلى دفع رشوة له من قبل لتخليص أعمالكم، وننظف البلد مرة واحدة وأخيرة؟ أنتم لن تتحملوا أي مسؤلية قانونية، وفي الوقت ذاته ستقدمون خدمة جليلة للبلد بفضح الفاسدين في كل الوزارات و المحليات و المصالح الحكومية وتطهيرها كلها دفعة وحدة. تخيل ذلك. تطهير كامل من كل المرتشين في كل المصالح الحكومية، وبأيديكم. ستصبحون أبطالا على الفور، ولن تضطرون مرة أخرى، أبدا، إلى دفع رشوة لضمان سير أعمالكم! إنه ربح مضاعف! و إن كنتم لازلتم في خوف من المسؤلية القضائية إطلبوا العفو والحماية، وهذا جزء المصالحة! أما عن الحكومة، فإن كانت جادة حقا في تطهير البلد من الفساد وتهدئة مجتمع المستثمرين، كان عليها إقتراح ذلك، لكنهم لم يفعلوا، يجب عليك أنت إذن أن تطالب بذلك.

عن الامن :

فلنبدأ بأبسط الأسئلة: أين الشرطة بالضبط؟ هل تعلم أنه غير بعض الوجوه الذي ظهرت في الشوارع لتنظيم المرور، لم تظهر الشرطة لتؤدي واجبها؟ هل تعلم إنه ماعدا في الضواحي الأنيقة لوسط القاهرة (حيث يتجمع ويتحرك معظم الصحفيين الأجانب والإعلام المحلي) لم تظهر الشرطة بعد؟ وحينما تظهر ترفض التصرف؟ هل تدري أن هناك محافظات بأكملها لا أثر للشرطة فيها على الإطلاق بعد الثورة؟ وأن الناس هناك لا زالوا يحمون أنفسهم بأنفسهم؟ ولن اتحدث عن حقيقة أنه في حين قتل ما يزيد عن 800 مصري في الثورة، لم يداً حتى الآن إلا فرد واحد من الشرطة !، وقد حوكم غيابيا لأنه لا يستطيعون العثور عليه، لأن التعسف وجرائم القتل التي ترتكبها الشرطة لا يبدو أنها تضايقك، مع أنهم لا يهتمون ولا يفرقون بين من يقتلون.

لا، لن اتحدث عن ذلك كله، فلنتحدث بالأرقام: الشرطة هي الجهاز الوحيد في الحكم الذي تلقى زيادة في المرتبات، مرتين ومع ذلك لا يذهبون للعمل !. إذا افترضنا مرتباً مبالغ في تحقيره، قل 1000 جنيه لفرد الشرطة (اخذا في الإعتبار تدني مرتب أمناء الشرطة وتضخم مرتبات اللواءات)، إضرب ذلك في 1.5 مليون فرد شرطة، يكون الناتج 1.5 مليار جنيه مصري، في الشهر، أي حوالي 6 مليارات جنيه مصري في الأربعة أشهر السابقة فقط، نظير عدم قيامهم بعملهم! إذا أخذنا ذلك في الإعتبار جنبا إلى كوننا مفلسين وميزانيتنا تنزف كمان يقولون، فإن صرف هذه الكمية من الأموال على أفراد لم يكونوا يقوموا بعملهم قبل الثورة، وبعدها يرفضون القيام به، بالتأكيد سيبدو لك غير مقبول. أفراد الشرطة يقبضون مرتباتهم ليقوم بعملهم، فإذا كانوا يرفضون القيام به فلا يجب دفع مرتباتهم حتى يقوموا به، بالإضافة إلى إنه يجب مجازاتهم على ذلك. من ناحية المبدأ، لقد أقسمو قسما على الموت في سبيل تطبيق القانون و الدفاع عنك، وهاهم يحنثون بذاك القسم، وهو ما يقع تحت بند الخيانة. إلى متى تنوي أن تقبل ذلك وأن تتوسل اليهم ليقوموا فقط بعملهم؟ الى متى ستحتمل ذلك؟

عن الاستقرار :

الاستقرار يأتي من الشفافية، من فهم ما يجري حولك، وإلى أين تتجه البلاد، وهو ما لا نفهمه. نحن لا نعرف تاريخا لإقامة الانتخابات، عمليا قد يكون أقل من 100 يوم، حتى الآن. نحن لا نعرف شيئا عن سياسات الحكومة ولا عما كانت تفعل مختلف الوزارات في الأشهر الأربعة الماضية. لماذا لا يتضح لنا حتى الآن إن كانت حكومتنا تاخذ اجراءات في مواجهة المشاكل التي توجهنا؟ لماذا ليس هناك تقرير أسبوعي في كل الجرائد عن المواضيع التي تعامل معها المجلس العسكري والحكومة الانتقالية هذا الأسبوع وماذا على أجندتهم للأسبوع المقبل؟ لماذا يجب علينا أن ننتظر أمام الفيسبوك حتى يصدروا لنا بيانا غامضا وفي بعض الأحيان مناقض تماما لبيان سابق؟ وبما أننا نتحدث عن ذلك، لماذا سمح لهذا وهذا أو هذا أن يحدث؟ كيف يكون هناك إستقرار في ضوء ما سابق كله؟

 

وسؤالي الأخير، بعد مراجعة كل هذا، كيف يمكنك أن تظل ساكنا ولا تفعل شيئا؟ كيف لا تكون أنت بنفسك من ينظم مظاهرة الجمعة المقبلة في التحرير؟ لقد كنت مخلصا، لقد كنت إلى جانب المنطق. لقد أثمت مرات ومرات أنك سلبي للغاية، وأنك مبالغ في الرضا، وأنك مفرط في الرغبة في التنازل بلا سبب، وأنك رافض بشدة لترك الكنبة والوقوف من أجل أي شيء. وأنك لست براغب في القتال من أجل مستقبل بلدك التي تحبها، وقد تقبلت كل ذلك، واخترعت الحجة بعد الحجة، لشهور عديدة، ولا شيء بعد. كيف لا تكون غاضبا ؟؟؟

هذه الجمعة، أنا ذاهب إلى التحرير، وللمرة الأخيرة. وأنا ذاهب لأني أؤمن أن مطالبي عادلة ومشروعة. مطالبك ليست أقل شرعية، وحق لك أن تراها نافذة. لذلك، اذا كنت قد ذهبت للتحرير خلال أيام الثورة الثمانية عشر، ثم توقفت بعد ذلك، فالوقت قد حان لتذهب مرة أخرى، و تعلن مطالبك. وإذا لم تكن قد ذهبت قط للتحرير، وكنت جزءا من الأغلبية الصامتة التي لا تبغي شيئا إلا الأمن والاستقرار و الإزدهار الاقتصادي، فإنك، وأكثر من أي أحد آخر، يجب أن تذهب للتحرير هذه الجمعة، ولمرة أسمعهم صوتك ولا تبق صامتا بعد كل شيء. إذهب مرة واحدة، وخذ معك كل أصدقائك ممن يفكرون مثلك، ولتر إن كان ذلك لن يحقق مطالبك في أقرب وقت ممكن. إن صبرك قد اتخذ من المسلمات، وكل التماساتك وقعت على آذانا صماء على الجانبين. لقد حان الوقت لك أنت أيضا أن تتخذ موقفا.

Thanks to Amy Ash, Waleed Nada and Ahmed Omar for assisting in translating this post. 

One Last Time

In political science, there is a philosophical conundrum regarding the concept of “being for democracy”, and it has started 6 million thousand debates. Underlying that conundrum is the following question: Does being for Democracy mean supporting whatever decision the majority takes, even if it means the destruction of said democracy? Or does it mean supporting and ensuring the survival of the democratic process, even if it’s against the will of the majority? If the difference eludes you, let me give you an example, from right here in the middle-east. Algeria in 1991.

Now, in 1991, there was the first real attempt for democratic elections in Algeria, and the Islamic Salvation Front- an Islamist party- ran on the platform that there is no democracy in Islam, and that the moment they will seize power, they will cancel future democratic elections. And they won, the majority actually voted in a party that would end all voting, which led the army to immediately cancel the election, which in turn started a civil war that plunged the country into chaos for a number of years. Now, who is right here? Would you support the ISF’s win, even if it means that there will be no more democratic elections ever, and thus no checks and balances on their power? Or do you believe that democracy’s survival is more important for the well-being and the future generations that will come to this country, even if it subverts the will of the majority? A fun little conundrum, eh? People go on and on about it.

Now, let me tell you why I joined the revolution in the first place: Besides getting rid of our past lovely authoritarian regime, all I wanted out of all this was an Egyptian bill of rights, unalienable and irrevocable no matter who is in Power. I wanted the right to free speech, the right to free expression (artistic and otherwise), the right to peaceful assembly, the right to religious freedom, the right of equality between all citizens in terms of rights & freedoms (irrespective of Gender, religion, race, lineage, language, social origin or political opinion), the right to information and transparency to keep our government always in check, the right not to be subjugated to torture, or cruel or inhumane treatment, the right for equal protection of the law and security, the right not to be arbitrarily arrested, detained, exiled or have your citizenship stripped from you, The right to be considered Innocent until proven guilty and to be tried by a fair and impartial civil tribunal, where everyone has legal representation, and finally the right to education. Those are the rights I risked life and limb for, and they are not new or novel ideas, and you can find them all, and many more, in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, right here.

Now, when you start a revolution, you don’t have a revolution to plead for those rights: you have one to forcefully take them from those who denied them to you. Those rights are the foundation for any advanced democratic society or country, and they are not up for debate or discussion, and I will be damned if I will have someone elected in parliament denying me those rights or trying to negotiate or barter over them. I am sorry. I want in my constitution those rights, irrespective of who gets voted into power. And those who get into power should not be allowed to tamper with them or change them in any way, but are allowed to do whatever they want to the constitution after that. I don’t care if those elected state that we will be a Fascist country with Scientology as the source of all legislation, for whatever they will do, or whatever authoritarian/ sectarian/racist/sexist legislation that they will try to enforce on us in the name of security/ public morality/whatever will not be able to ever interfere with our blood-earned rights. As long as we have those rights in our constitution, we should be ok on the long run, and never be abused by a leader or a regime again.

But that’s my reason, and you can agree or disagree with it as much as you want. What I would like to discuss now, is why you, the general public, should go to the May 27 protests. Now, I won’t ask you to do so for my demands (although it would be nice if you did), nor for those of the protesters ( and god knows there are 7 different demands circulating right now, and many people who are going without a clear set of demands of their own) who are disorganized and divided and have given up on talking to anyone but themselves at this point, nor even to go there to defend the revolution. No, I want to talk to the silent Majority today regarding their set of interests: The Economy, Security and Stability, and why more than anyone, they should be going to May 27 to protest, because , seriously, if those are the three things you care about the most, well, you are getting screwed, and – just like the days of Mubarak-not by us! Sorry!

I know you will beg to differ, so let me present my argument, and then make up your mind. Deal?

On the Economy:

Now, the narrative regarding the economy has been as follows: The country is going downhill fast, all the statistics point to impending doom, we will go through our food reserves by the end of this month and the Tahrir Protesters have continued to hijack the wheel of production and are hiding it in Tahrir and covering it with protests. Does that sound about right? Ok, how about we tell the truth: The Transitional government and the SCAF for four months now have failed to present to you anything that resembled an emergency economic plan other than, well, the protests must stop. And they have repeatedly informed you with fantastic statistics about how screwed we are without once giving you a clear action plan as to how they plan to save it (And by the way, I see no difference in Tantawi asserting to us that we are a poor nation where 70% live under the poverty line without a clear plan or a notion of a plan as to how they will remedy that, and Mubarak’s famous response of “we are a country with limited resources; where am I supposed to feed you all from?” in an interview). Never mind for a minute that the whole “we will run out of our strategic wheat reserves at the end of this month” statement has been said by the SCAF every month for the past 4 months and it never happened, and let’s focus on the real issue: Where is the emergency aid package – consisting of money and food stamps- to egypt’s lowest economic classes designed to get them through the next few months until elections are held? Where is the stimulus package designed to aid small and mid-size businesses to also get through the transitional period? What? We have no money? Have you seen our Budget? None of you have. You don’t know what our revenues or expenses are, because we are not allowed to review the country’s finances until this day. Where are the new initiatives that they can spearhead and harness the positive energy that Tahrir created into creating many start-up and innovative companies? What about Tourism? How come there hasn’t been a single government initiative to encourage Tourism based on the fantastic goodwill that got generated in Tahrir? Why aren’t there freedom concerts being planned, touristic events- or even, Gee, I don’t know, a Jan25 Museum- to have people celebrate the new and free Egypt? Has Our Esteemed Minister of Tourism- whose previous job was owning a strawberry jam factory- proposed a single such initiative?

And what about the real hindrance to all businesses and economic developmental projects that wish to start in Egypt: institutional corruption? Why haven’t you tackled it or demanded it being addressed yet? And why do you perpetuate the Myth that Businessmen are being targeted? Having 7 or 8 corrupt very corrupt regime-connected Oligarchs in prison isn’t the country turning anti- Business or Businessmen, but rather anti- incredibly public corruption. Hey, Businessmen, you want to clear your names and not join the Mansours and Maghrabis in their self-imposed exile in London or join the other idiots that transferred billions to Dubai? Here is an idea: Join up and start the Businessmen Truth and Reconciliation initiative. We know that the supreme majority of you aren’t corrupt, but that you were surrounded by a corrupt culture that wouldn’t allow you to do anything without having you pay 18 different bribes. We get that, cause we all paid bribes to get any kind of public service done efficiently. Fine, so you paid bribes, but thankfully the Egyptian law is clear: if you paid a bribe to someone and reported it, they go to jail, and not you. So how about you all join up and file official charges against all of those you had to pay bribes to in order to get your business going and clear the slate once and for all? You wouldn’t be legally liable, and you would be doing the country a huge favor by exposing all the corrupt officials in all the ministries, municipalities and government institutions and cleaning them out once and for all. Imagine that. A Purge of all bribe-takers in all government institutions, and you would be the ones doing it. You would become Instant Heroes, and you would never have to pay a bribe again for your business to continue to function! Double Win! And if you are worried about legal liability, simply demand Amnesty. That’s the reconciliation part! And the government, if it’s really into cleaning the country of corruption, and calming the business community, they should’ve suggested that. They didn’t! You should demand it.

On the Security:

Let’s start with the simplest of questions: Where is the Police exactly? Do you know that besides showing some face as traffic police in some parts of Cairo, that’s the only time they have showed their face or done their jobs? Do you know that outside of the posh neighborhoods of Central Cairo (where the foreign journalists and local media move and congregate) the police still did not show up, and if they do, they refuse to act? Do you know that there are entire governorates that the Police never showed up at after the revolution, and the people are still fending for themselves there? And I am not going to talk about how when it comes to the 800+ people that got killed in the revolution, only one policeman was ever convicted for murder, and it was done in absentia because they can’t find him, because police abuse and murder doesn’t seem to bother you, even though they don’t care or differentiate who they kill. No, let’s talk numbers: The Police is the only group in the government that received raises for their salaries twice, and still didn’t show up for work. So, if we decide that we use the very unrealistically low average salary of 1000LE per policeman (factoring in low salary for Omanah and the high salaries of lewa2at) and multiply that to 1.5 Million official Policemen in Egypt, we are talking 1.5 Billion LE a month. That’s 6 Billion LE in the last 4 months, for not doing their jobs. Given that we are broke and our Budget is bleeding as they are saying, that’s money being wasted on people who were not doing their jobs before the revolution and are refusing to do so after, which I am sure you find to be unacceptable. The Police are getting paid to do a job, and if they are refusing to do it, then they shouldn’t be getting paid at all until they do it and they should be penalized for them. In essence, they swore an oath of death to uphold the law and protect you, and they are breaking that oath, which amounts to treason. How long do you intend to accept that and beg them to do their jobs? How long will you take that?

On Stability:

Stability comes from transparency. From understanding what is going on and where the country is going, which we don’t. We don’t know the date the elections will be held on, which technically could be less than 100 days away, until now. We have no clue what policies the government is taking, and what the different ministers have been doing for the past 4 months. Why isn’t it clear whether or not our government is taking action on the issues facing us? Why isn’t there a weekly report in all newspapers outlining the issues that the Transitional Government and the SCAF tackled this week, and the issues they have on their agenda for the next week? Why do we have to wait in front of Facebook until they release to us another Info-statement that is vague and sometimes in total contradiction to a previously released one? And while we are at it, why is this, this or this allowed to happen? How can there be stability in the light of all of this?

And my last question: Upon viewing all of this, how could you continue to sit still and not do something? How are you not the ones planning this Friday’s protest in Tahrir? You have been loyal. You have been on the side of reason. You have been accused time and time again that you are far too negative, far too complacent, far too willing to compromise for no reason and that you vehemently refuse to leave your couches to stand for something. That you are not willing to fight for the future of your country which you love. And you took all that, and You have made excuse after excuse for months and still got nothing. HOW ARE YOU NOT ANGRY?

This Friday I am going to Tahrir for one last time, and I am going because I believe my demands are just and legitimate. Yours are not any less valid, and you deserve to have them realized. So, if you went to Tahrir during the 18 days of the revolution, but stopped afterwards, it’s time to go again and make your demands known. If you have never been to Tahrir, and have been part of the “Silent Majority” who want nothing more than Security, Stability and Economic prosperity, then you, more than anyone, should go to Tahrir this Friday and for once make your voice heard and not be so silent after all. Just go once, and get all of your like-minded friends to go, and see if that won’t get your demands met ASAP. Your patience is taken for granted, and your pleadings fall on deaf ears on both sides. It’s time for you too to take a stand.

See you there!

Offensive

This post will be offensive. I am not sure how else to announce that more clearly than to have this as the title. If you are easily offended, then please read no further. This is the truth of my opinion at the moment, no holds barred. Deal with it.

 

Like many of you, I have been greatly disturbed by the Church Attacks in Imbaba, so much so that I found myself in the middle of Imbaba, at midnight, in front of the 3adrah church , as it stood there burning with people still locked inside. I wanted to see for myself who was behind this, scared shitless of course, envisioning myself arriving there to find myself attacked and surrounded by fundamentalist Islamists who will be less than friendly towards someone like me. What aided that paranoid perception was my Phone call to the Daily News Ian Lee, who-in abated breath-informed me that he was attacked by a mob when he arrived to Imbaba with a number of fellow foreign journalists, and had to escape it with his life. So, here I was, going there, with-mind you- a female activist friend, heading to what I was expecting to be a completely violent situation, in order to get the truth of what’s going on and confronting those nice violent people who did this. Total Insanity on our part, but completely necessary none-the-less.

When we arrived there, there was a huge crowd (maybe 7000 men, not a single female in sight, even though I knew Sarah Carr was there) gathered in front of the burning church, and they were visibly upset and angry. Their anger wasn’t directed towards the Christians in the area or the church, but rather at those who did this. More than one eye-witness told me the same story: That the people who attacked the church were: 1) not from that Area, 2) Not Salafists, but rather clean-shaven thugs, one even identified one of them as a paid thug that he has seen before, who threatened everybody with knives and blades, set the church on fire and escaped the moment they heard the Police were coming. The locals were busy trying to put out the fire, getting people out of the church and the adjacent building, cheering on and helping the Fire Fighters as they were putting out the fire and getting victims out. For about two hours I watched the population as they expressed their anger and frustration at those who burned the church, many of them expressing the phrase over and over “We don’t know who did this, but it can’t be from us. Egyptians were never like this!”

Those words kept circulating in my head all of the following day and yesterday. “Egyptians were never like this! Egyptians were never like this!” And the more I hear it the angrier I get, and the more I read of people’s responses on Twitter I get even angrier. It’s easy for us to be Egyptians and Proud when we don’t engage in sectarianism (or in the case of that church, have someone paid to fuel its fire), but we cannot fool ourselves or others. This is not new. Egyptians were like this for a long long time, and this is not likely to stop anytime soon either, if we are completely honest.

Actually, if we are to be brutally honest and realistic, we would have to admit that sectarianism has its roots deep in the foundation of our society, and that, in reality, as horrible as this situation is, it’s not nearly as bad as it was in the 80′s for example, when all of Imbaba was declared an Islamic state, or when churches and movie theaters used to be bombed (Now they just burn them…Progress). And if this is planned by a country that doesn’t wish to see us democratic and Independent (Saudi) and with the objective of burning the country to the ground and make Egyptians fight each other over religion, then in all reality we need to expect this not to be the last attack, but rather the harbinger of things to come in the following few months. That we should expect about another 20 church attacks and about 9000 more dead, Muslims and Christians, until every single Egyptian in this country, with unbending conviction, decides that this cannot be allowed to go on anymore. Sure, we could take steps to mitigate the damage from now, but that would require us to face a number of issues we don’t want to face, and actually do something about it instead of demanding that others do. Luckily, there is enough blame to go around for us all, so no one is walking away clean from this one: Muslims, Christians both share the blame. Let’s explain how in precisely that order, shall we?

How the Muslims are responsible for this:

It’s unfair to say that a group of fundamentalist extremists or a group of paid thugs- and thus a minority- should by their actions define the behavior of an entire population of people. True, but that doesn’t mean that the Muslim population can walk away smelling like roses from this one. Far from it. If anything, the Muslims of Egypt have created the chasm that exists today between Egyptians of different faiths through 1) Ignorance of the “Other”, 2) complete lack of interest in learning from the past and its mistakes and 3) total deficiency in self-awareness as to how they are representing themselves and their religion. If we ignore the sectarian nature of some of them, and everything else is being equal, those 3 reasons are responsible for all of the sectarian problems that remain pervasive in Egyptian society today.

Ignorance of the “Other” is where it all starts. Let’s start with a simple test: What do you know about Egypt’s Christians and the Coptic Church? How many of you know anything of the Church’s history, and the history of Muslim/Christian co-existence in Egypt, besides what government issues history books tell us, which is absolutely nothing? Are you aware that historically it is the only church in the world that can go head to head with the Catholic Church in terms of history, importance and influence on Christianity as a whole? That it has reach all the way to Ethiopia, and has directly influenced Rastafarianism at its inception? Or let’s take it on a more basic level: Are you aware that not all Christians in Egypt are orthodox Copts? Or that the Bible was not written by Jesus? I know that putting those last two questions here is offensive, if not downright condescending, to many of you, but please go and ask your friends and family members. Their answers will be incredibly amusing to say the least.

The Muslim population doesn’t seem aware that saying that Jesus was never crucified or that the Bible has been altered is offensive to Christians as a whole. They don’t seem to have a problem with a government educational system that forces Christians to read Koranic verses as part of their Arabic language education. They don’t seem to mind when on Islamic holidays, the nice lady on TV congratulates the entire country, and on their singular holiday that we recognize, the same lady wishes “our Coptic brothers & sisters” all the best on their holiday. In reality, the Christians in Egypt know more about Islam and Muslims than they ever wanted to, and the Muslim population, well, they don’t know much and almost never ask. But don’t you dare call us sectarian, because we all have a Christian friend that we have known since forever & always been “cool” with his religious orientation, despite the fact that we don’t know anything about his/her culture, except that they have weird vegetarian dietary habits most of the year, which never stops us from eating meats in front of them, regardless of how offended we get if they dare to drink water in front of us during Ramadan.

And if we can’t learn from those amongst us in the present, we definitely won’t learn about the history of Christian-Muslim relations in this country. No one wants to learn about the atrocities committed by Amr Ibn ElAss, when the Muslim army “opened” Egypt, which lead through a series of unfortunate events to the eventual assassination of Osman Ibn Affan on the hands of Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr, which in turn lead to the “War of the Camel”, the first true Islamic civil war, which also lead to Sunni-Shia divide. No one wants to know when we actually stopped making Egyptian Christians paying the “Jizzyah”, which they had to pay till the mid 19th century (only 150 years ago, which means they had to be second class citizen- by virtue of their faith- in their own country for a good 12 centuries). But, then again, no one wants to remember the 90′s or the 80′s, where Christians were attacked and killed in droves by fundamentalist Islamists , and definitely no one has learned the lesson of the new Year’s eve bombing of the Alexandria Church, which later on was proven to have been planned by the Mubarak State Security apparatus. You want to hear a funny story? When they asked Camilia Shehata on TV, if she never converted, then how did the Salafi Sheikh have her ID and marriage certificate, she said that she doesn’t know how that happened, because the people who took her papers from her were State Security. You would’ve been able to see it, but it was broadcasted on an Egyptian Christian TV channel. Oh yeah, those exist. I wonder how many Egyptian Muslims watch them, even for educational purposes.

Which brings us to the final point: How Muslims present themselves to those around them. Let’s just focus on two examples for the sake of not making this article 17 pages long: Religious sermons in Mosques, and general population behavior. Now, we all have heard Friday sermons where the Imam does nothing to talk about the evil Jews and Christians all the time, and how we have to be vigilant and other such beautiful example of hate speech that we just shrug off as normal (It’s not like we ever listen to what the Friday sermon says anyway; The guy could be reading from a phonebook for all we care!). Now, I often wondered what the reasons behind such sermons were, because they don’t reflect current reality. We live in a country where the supreme majority is Muslims, and there are maybe 100 Jews left in the entire country, and Islam is the world second major religion, & gaining more ground rapidly. Why the defensiveness and paranoia? And then I realized that the problem is very simple: the religious discourse of the Friday sermons has apparently not evolved since the days of Islam’s inception, when Muslims were a small but scrappy bunch and the entire world was against them. But now? Now Muslims are over one billion people, and their countries are rich and influential, i.e. Big Time Players in the world’s stage now. They are no longer a persecuted scrappy minority, but they still act like and see themselves as one, instead of acting with the Grace required of people in their position. Over one billion people and they are still paranoid about & scared of maybe 20 million Jews worldwide and 10 million Christians here. Imagine!

Which brings is to the general population behavior, which is a paradox of its own: the complete disconnect between piety and morality. I left the country in 1999 for college and returned in 2004 for good, but I visited the country every few months, and noticed a very peculiar thing: The Muslims were getting more and more religious, yet they are not becoming better people. They pray 5 times a day, most of the girls got veiled, almost everybody had Amr Khaled fever, and yet, they had no problems with lying , or cheating, or trying to rob you, or treating you rudely. For example: The Taxi driver would be blasting a religious sermon and then try to rob you blind on the fare, and sees no contradiction in his actions. The guys who would be late for class because they had to pray gamaa for every prayer were also the same guys that cheated off of each-other at tests. And let’s not even mention the amount of lying I’ve seen veiled girls engage in. All of that schizophrenia, dirt off their shoulders. Also dirt off their shoulders: attacks on Christians every time they wanted to build a church. Hell, some of them justified and defended such attacks by stating that the Christians were trying to provoke Muslims by building a church, & that those Muslims were simply- and I quote- “jealous for their religion”, like that’s supposed to be justification or an excuse. Never mind that it is the right of Christians and Jews to build places of worship on land that they own as they damn well please. Never mind that this behavior signifies a serious insecurity in those Muslims belief system, where they seem to believe that their religion can’t handle local competition (and its hilarious byproducts- like the unannounced but totally noticeable competition of making sure that the Minerate of any Mosque built next to a church is always taller than the church’s Tower). Never mind that Jealousy- in general- is an inferior negative emotion practiced by the immature and the senseless. But then again, Salafists Fundamentalists always claim that their actions are out of “jealousy for their religion”, so I guess the shoe fits in this specific case.

Now, for anyone paying attention, none of this is news or in any way informative, but unfortunately very few do, and even fewer attempt to address those issues. Our country has sectarian undertones, and many of which come from the Muslim Population (I will address the Christian ones in the Christian section) and its daily social practices, and therefore can be exploited. Please note that I never even touched on how Muslims find it acceptable that many companies will simply never hire Christians, or that they will never reach certain positions- no matter how good they are- because of their religion, and other such embarrassing topics, because they are not reflective or pervasive in society as a whole. But everything else, well, Muslim readers, you tell me! How comfortable was reading those last few paragraphs for you?

 

What they need to do now:

Well, needless to say that all three issues presented above need to be addressed by Egypt’s general Muslim Population if we are ever to be a country not divided by sectarian lines. However, since we are facing a crisis, let’s just focus on damage control for now. And here is all I will ask of you dear Muslim reader who is concerned about the unity and well-being of his country: Talk to people. Seriously.

Talk to your life-long Christian friend and ask him or her about their culture, their family, what they go through and what they don’t say in front of you. Tell them that you won’t be offended. Try to understand where they are coming from.

Talk to your family members and friends who have repeatedly said hateful or ignorant stuff in front of you and explain to them what they are doing. That they are fermenting the ground for future sectarian attacks by their rhetoric and behavior.

And finally, you know that Imam in that mosque near you that week in and week out does nothing but insult Christians and Jews in his Friday sermon? Well, bring a bunch of like-minded people from the neighborhood and talk to him. Explain to him that he embarrasses Islam & Muslims by his narrative, that because of such sermons that some people find it justifiable or acceptable that churches or Christians get attacked and that given that this is your mosque you will not allow it to be a center for spreading hatred and division amongst people from the same country. Do you realize that religious stances, radical or conservative ideas are influenced by the congregation and not by the religious leader? Well, you, by being part of the congregation, have the power to change the stance of your leader. Same goes to all the Islamic Tele-evangelists. Inform them that you won’t allow them to define you or your religion by the other religions anymore. That they should focus instead on how to bring us together by advocating the principles of tolerance that Islam preaches. Do that, and we won half of the battle right there, at least where you live. Now imagine if this spreads to the entire country.

Also, when such attacks like the Imbaba attacks happen again, please be the first one to call for a show for national Unity, and make sure that all of your Muslim friends show up. If we hope to beat this, we have to show Unity like never before, because the enemy this time doesn’t just want to scare the Christians into voting one way. The Enemy hopes to destroy any hope for us for a post-sectarian future. And we can’t allow this to happen, now more than ever.

 

How the Christians are responsible for this:

Now, I am not in the habit of blaming the victim for being attacked, so nothing here will be related to this attack directly. However, there are a number of things that the Egyptian Christians need to face, and there is no better time than the present. The first part is the harsh truth: Many of them are equally as sectarian as their Muslim counterparts. Sure, a lot of it is a reaction to the actions taken by the Muslim population, and yes they are not a quarter as vocal, and not even a tenth as violent, but what’s good for the goose is good for the Gander, so we will deal with their sectarianism here as well once and for all. Please note that the Christians I will discuss here are mainly the Coptic Christians, even though the other denominations share similar symptoms to various degrees.

If there are roots to The Christian sectarianism in Egypt, they come down to two main reasons: 1) victimized minority/Ghetto mentality amongst the poorest Christian social classes and 2) the role the Orthodox Coptic Church, and its leadership, plays in their lives. Let’s talk about them in that order.

The first problem is the easier to identify and explain: due to what they perceive to be a hostile antagonistic environment against them in every facet of society (in terms of rights, work opportunities, career advancement, not to mention education & entertainment), the Christian community, with notable exceptions due to intellectual or social status (i.e. this doesn’t hold true to the rich Christians), has closed its self off on the outside world and started functioning in their own little hidden ghetto society that exists all around us all over Egypt. Churches become more than simply places for worship and fellowship: they become the focal point, if not the universe, of those who attend it. Christian Boys and Girls go there and only hang out with Christian boys and girls, and then go to camps together to make them even closer, and thus ensuring that the supreme majority of the friends of those Boys and Girls are also Christians, with, as always, the random Muslim friend or two that they acquire. And even the relationship with that Muslim friend can never truly be honest, because Christians are taught not to engage their Muslim counterparts in direct discussion or express their grievances from them to them directly, because, well, how “sensitive” Muslims get and how “extremely” they will react to such a discussion. So instead they deal with the problem internally, by praying away their grievances or injustices that they face daily, by never vocalizing them out to the world if a Muslim is around, and by being internally resentful of the fact that this is the life they have to lead.

To most, it never passes the point of silent internal resentment and feeling victimized in their own country, and thus start feeling that this country, despite how much they love it, is not their country anymore. How could it be when they are afraid of, well, everything, and not without reason? So many seek to just leave the country, while others stay and accept this as their reality and try to be part of the society as much as they can, within the small parameters they allow themselves to function in. As for the rest, well, they go full-on sectarian, and start mimicking their Muslim counterparts. They engage in equal insulting of the Islamic religion on every platform they could find, and many amongst them start advocating adopting the “islamist” idea of not dealing with those “heathen Muslims” all together, because “they are filled with deceit and hatred towards us”, which is exactly what the “heathen Muslim” counterpart say about them, verbatim. But all in all, all of the groups above suffer from the same ailment: as much as they love this country and are attached to it, they don’t feel welcome here at all. Only inside their social ghetto they get to feel as if they belong to something, that they are accepted for who they are, and thus become totally invested in protecting it above all else, and anything else is irrelevant. And nowhere is that more apparent than in their demands. If you looked closely at their demands, you would notice that they are all sectarian in nature: a number of rights for Copts; not equal rights for all. And while you understand that they naturally want to address the issues that affect their livelihood as a minority, those in the end are religious sectarian demands. Fine. Noted. But besides that, if you ask what their demands as Egyptian citizens for Egypt are, they will tell you that they only have those demands, and if they get them, they are fine with whatever else happens. I was once having a conversation with a Coptic rights activist, where I was discussing how the secularists and the Christians should align themselves together against the Muslim Brotherhood in the elections, and he basically told me that if the Muslim Brotherhood give the Christian community those demands, they won’t mind them being in power, as long as they leave them alone and in peace, while “the Muslims can burn fighting with each other over this country”. I wanted to explain to him that, actually, no, because at the end of the day secular Muslims and religious Muslims are both Muslims, so they can always work something out, just like what’s happening now, which leaves the only people burning being the Christians, literally.

But this is the crux of the problem: Coptic Christians don’t exactly want a secular state, they just want a state that lets them live their lives by their own rules and that’s it. How is that different than a secular state you ask? Well, because the country has more than just Muslims and Christians: It has Shia, Baha’ais, some Jews and a whole bunch of atheists and agnostics. A secular state would give rights to all of those groups, and make everyone equal. The Christians have another thing in mind, which is nowhere more apparent than their proposed position on the infamous Article # 2 of the constitution : They don’t want it removed, they just wanted to add a sentence that basically states that Christians get to follow the laws set by the church, because it says that other religious minorities based on their religious institutions, and Egypt only recognizes Islam, Christianity and Judaism as religions, and since there are practically no Jews, this will only provide preferential treatment to the Christians and the Christians alone. I have to say that their suggestion an amendment is brilliant though, and we should all follow it: The 100 Jews should ask that they follow Jewish laws, the Baha’is can follow Baha’i laws, the secularists can demand their own laws, and I will demand that they also add my name to the article, and create laws specifically tailored for Mahmoud Salem and Mahmoud Salem alone. Let’s all just follow our own laws, like we are separate countries, despite the fact that we share the same space. Brilliant.

The thing is though, we joke about how the Coptic Christians act as if they are part of a separate parallel country that occupies the same borders as Egypt, but at this point, they are not just acting like it: they are flat-out demanding it. And why wouldn’t they opt for a secular country, where civil law would rule supreme and make everyone equal? Well, mainly because the Coptic Orthodox Church doesn’t want that. Why not? Well, because a secular state where civil law exists means that alongside religious marriage, there will be civil marriage, and thus civil divorce. And we can’t have that for Coptic Christians, cause, how else would we control them? No, it’s better to keep it this way, making the only way for orthodox Christians to get a quick and immediate divorce is through conversion to Islam, which was Camilia Shehata’s motive, in case you didn’t know. She wanted to leave her husband, couldn’t, escaped, some Muslims took her in, presented her with the idea that since we are in an Islamic country, no Christian man can marry a Muslim woman, so if she converts to Islam, she will be automatically divorced. All of those who died in the name of Camilia, they wouldn’t had there been civil divorce, but since the Coptic Church doesn’t allow divorce and would probably fight a civil marriage law as much as the Muslim Brotherhood would, we will probably be in a similar situation like Camilla’s sooner than we would ever want to be in. (And while we are on the subject of the church and Camilia, what does it mean when I read in the newspaper that the Prosecutor General Office formally called for Camilia to come in for questioning, and the Church refused? How could the Church refuse the formal request for investigation by the government for an Egyptian citizen? How? Not only did they simply deny Camilia her agency rights, they are also getting her to break the law, because if you get called in for questioning and you don’t go, well, that’s a crime right there, and one that she could end up going to Jail for. Can someone explain this to me please? I am all ears!)

And this brings us to the Coptic Orthodox church, and the role it plays in aiding this sectarianism as well, because, well, it’s good for them in terms of Power, and by them I mean Pope Shinouda and his crew. Who could deny that during his reign, which now outlasts Mubarak’s, he has managed to turn the Church into more than just the spiritual representative of Coptic Christians in Egypt, but the political representative as well? Or how he managed to turn the church almost into a parallel government, and one that negotiates with the Egyptian government on all the concerns of its subjects, usually for a Price that is usually too low? I recall during the 2005 elections reading a scan of a Coptic church newsletter that got sent to me by a Coptic friend, and its two top news bits were “Pope Shinouda declares in the name of of all Copts in Egypt support for Mubarak for President” and right next to it “President Mubarak agrees on giving permits to building 2 new churches in Egypt”. At the time there was serious uproar amongst the Coptic Christians in Egypt, who openly wondered 1) how dare he speak politically in the name of all Coptic Christians and 2) If this means they are bad Copts if they vote for someone else and 3) if their voices worth is so low that it only equals two new churches. But this Power-sharing agreement between Shinouda and Mubarak continued all the way through the Revolution, where –in case you forgot- The Pope, in the name of the church, announced his support for Mubarak throughout it, and many Christians violated his orders and went anyway. Now while it would be disrespectful to ask the Coptic Christians to hold this position against him religiously, one has to wonder why he is still their leader politically, especially after 30 year of continued political marginalization under his political leadership. One also has to wonder where the Christian politicians are. How insane is it that for 10 million Christians, I can only name Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Naguib Sawiris, Mona Makram Ebeid and Ramy Lakah as actual politicians? Oh yeah, I forgot Nabil Louqa Babawy. My bad. But on a serious note, can someone explain to me, in the absence of independent Christian politicians, how exactly different is the Coptic Church under Shinouda from the Muslim Brotherhood? Both are religious organizations with political agendas that only aims to consolidate their powers over their respective religious sects, both provide a parallel society to its members and their children since they are very young, both employ similar social models of dealing with the outside world, and both don’t want civil law or a secular country. For all intents and purposes, both are almost identical, to the point that I sometimes wonder why they don’t just join forces.

The Point is this: the moment the only political representation you have is the religious representation you have, and all of your demands are religious and sectarian in nature, is also the moment you lose the right to complain if the other religions did that and you become equally as sectarian as you accuse them to be. Think about that!

 

What they need to do now:

Well, there are two concerns right now: one is immediate, which is to try to prevent more church attacks now. The other is to prevent this insane situation to continue to influence our lives.

The solution for the first concern isn’t having more security or army personnel protecting the churches, because that never really did much in the past, and especially not now, given the state of anarchy we live in. The reality of it all is, if those churches are to be protected, they have to be protected by the people in the neighborhoods that they are in. That means, the Muslims have to help protect them, and many of them are sectarian as I previously mentioned. How do we manage to swing that?

Simple really, ask them to. For real. I am not kidding. If you are a Coptic Christian and you live in a neighborhood that houses your church and you are concerned about it getting attacked, gather all the Christians in the area, divide the streets of the area between them and have them go to all the Muslims in their respective locations and tell them the following: “We are worried about the safety of our church. Not from the people of this neighborhood, but from the outsiders who are trying to destroy Egypt by engaging in such attacks, thus make us all fight and hate each other. If we ever hope to defeat those dark and evil forces, as our Lord-of-the-rings-reading-SCAF likes to call them, we have to band together, and protect the church”. I guarantee to you it will work, because even the most sectarian Egyptian will not be able to stop his nature of trying to protect his neighbors and friends, especially if they are asked to. Hell, go to the Imam of your local mosque after your conversations with the rest of the neighborhood people and take a bunch of Muslims with you, and have him call for the protection of the church during Friday Prayers. The people will form groups, be vigilant, and from that moment on it will engraved in their psyche that no one should attack that church. It’s their area’s church now, and under their protection first and foremost. Social engagement. Creating a sense of communal responsibility. This stuff works.

Now, on to the second concern: how Coptic Christians make sure that those insane situations stop. Well, the first thing they need to do is decide if they are all for inclusion in post-revolution Egypt or not. If they are not, and would rather live in this parallel universe that occupies the same space like the rest of us but not with us, that’s their right, but they have to be honest about it. And they have to let all of us know. Because the revolutionaries all want them to participate: we all want them to be part of the Egyptian society again. Not because we need their votes, because if the referendum is any indication, Coptic Christians are as voting averse as ever, but because we could use their input. Because a country divided alongside sectarian lines is not a country, and it’s definitely not what I signed up for in this revolution.

Secondly, they need to decide what they want in this country as Egyptian citizens. What is their position on the social issues? What is their position on economic policy? What is their position on freedom of speech and artistic expression? What each one of them envisions this country to be and for them to act on that vision. And then thirdly, they have to either join a party or form a new one, and partake in the process of building a new Egypt. To say that it is imperative that every single one of you that is interested joins a party or a movement is an understatement. Some of you will join the liberal parties; others will join leftist parties, while 3 will probably join the Muslim Brotherhood party. It doesn’t matter. What matters is this: have an actual and real political representation in all parties. Run for office even if you believe you will lose. Be part of this and help rebuild this society, because otherwise this rift will continue to exist and it really shouldn’t any longer. And finally: talk to your Muslim friends. Explain to them everything from your side. Trust me when I tell you that they don’t know. A lot of us got to know each other in Tahrir and in our neighborhoods people’s committees; it would be a shame if we stopped now.

7 Popular Myths about the Revolution

There are a number of myths that seem to dominate the discourse in Egypt’s upper and middle-class, and subsequently national and international media. Given how frustrated I am by all the “experts” – foreign and
domestic- pontificating really superficial analysis about something they can neither understand nor grasp, I have decided to write this post. I apologize beforehand for anyone who might read this and think my tone is condescending, because I am not being nor trying to be that and I hope you have the wisdom not to mix the message with the messenger!

1) The Army is co-opting the revolution/trying to establish
another military dictatorship

WRONG. This is a prevalent one, and it has strong roots: the arrests of some protesters and their torture, the insistence on ending protests, and the lack of transparency of the Army’s actions. But please take a minute and stop thinking of the Army as a monolith or an institution, and think
of it as a bunch of human beings. The Army is a conservative institution, it doesn’t believe in chaos, and has operated for 30 years based on direct orders from Mubarak. The supreme council is a bunch of 60 and70 year olds who are not used to deliberate amongst themselves to how best deal with civil issues, and they look at the world in terms of balancing risks. And now they have to deal with all the rapid pace changes in the country and the pressures both internal and external and they are working harder than they ever thought they would work in their lives. I mean, can you imagine how a day of any of them looks like? Between internal issues (security, corruption in every sectors, economy, foreign policy), international conflicts, hiring new people, dealing with international diplomats who all want to meet him to either discuss their concerns or make demands, the situation in the borders, running the affairs of the army, facing demands and questions and requests for interview by foreign or local media and then getting cursed out by name in Tahrir by 250,000 people last Friday. Can you imagine their schedule? And the average age is 60 something to begin with, so imagine how low their energy levels are.

The Supreme Council views his country as a powder-keg and they want to hand over the responsibility as fast as possible, hence the referendum, but until that day they believe, wrongly, that they are the only force that can keep this country from being ripped apart at the seams. You think they can take over the country? With what army? Against Egyptians after they have become organized and formed their own militias? How fast do you think such an attempted takeover will last, before they are all killed or face an inevitable insurrection within their ranks? They wouldn’t last 3 days, before every single last one of them would be killed. They joined the revolution and made the high-council in order to ensure their survival first and foremost. They are more scared of you than we are scared of them.

2) The NDP/Mubarak is still controlling the country
WRONG. The supreme majority of the NDP are shitting in their pants, every single one of them dreading the day their sins will be exposed to the public, and they are watching their leaders getting plucked and investigated one by one. The reason why the Military is taking its time with the big names is that it needs to 1) build up the civil cases against them and 2) to feed them to the public at the best opportune moment, which with mounting pressures is looking closer every day. As for Mubarak, just watch as his credibility is being destroyed, and how slowly but surely the perception of him as the traitor who helped assassinate Anwar Sadat in order to take power and neutralized Egypt for 30 years, during which he kissed Israel’s ass in every conceivable way, in order to ensure his survival and US support is being formed. Go to any newsstand any day and read the headlines. By the time he gets tried, and he will based on public pressure, he will be branded as the biggest traitor in the country’s history. Just watch.

3) The Islamists are hijacking the revolution

WRONG. The Islamists are getting weaker by the day. The Salafists, with their bushy beards, talk of bringing back the 7th century and violence against chirstians and women are already alienating and angering the supreme majority of the Egyptian public, to the point that they have angered the sufis- the hippies of Islam, who are 16 million in case you didn’t know- into rising up and standing against them, and they have gotten the Muslim Brotherhood to the point where they will tell anyone who listens that they are different than the Salafists, and that the Salafists are insane.
As for the Muslim Brotherhood, well, they are having their own problems. This organization who long has lived and survived underground is now being forced into the light, which isn’t exactly where they are most comfortable, because the cracks are now showing. At first they seemed drunk of the success of the referendum result and their belief that they are the best positioned group to take over power come the parliamentary elections, to the point that Essam ElAryan- thinking he is Safwat el Sherief now- started a laughably titled “historic initiative” of dialogue with the Church youth, as if they are representative of Egypt’s Muslims. But like any group that gets drunk on its own hype, it’s bound to start doing stupid shit and wake up the next day with the worst hangover ever, and it’s already starting. Internal divisions are ripping the MB apart, with the Youth announcing their defection and making their own group, with reformists such as AboulFoutouh publicly leaving them for being out of touch with the public, with the rising public hostility towards them since they can’t differentiate between them and the Salafists, and with them trying to appease the public by declaring their party platform will call for a “civil state” and will not have any conditions against women or copts running for President and thus in turn angering their own hardliners as well. The Muslim Brotherhood is at its weakest point and it’s being torn apart, and the egyptian people are quickly getting the point that they don’t want to live in a theocracy. Go to Upper-Egypt and talk to regular people, and they will tell you that they don’t want the Islamists taking over because they want the tourists to come back. Hell, did you know that in the University of Minya, during the first free Student Union elections, not a single islamist candidate won? In freakin Minya! So, please don’t think that your people are stupid or ignorant or easy to deceive by a bunch of Islamists. You are not the only one who “gets it”. Respect your people. They have earned it.

4) New Parties are the only way to save the next elections

WRONG! The new parties are important, but let’s face it, they are still organizing, being formed, formulating policies, trying to explain their ideological position, creating headquarters, reaching out to people and they are run and formed by cairene elites who think they are the only ones who can save the country and hold discussions in English about reaching out “those people” in the villages and the governorates, yet they have no clue who they are or how to talk to them. They are not the best way to save the next elections. The People are.
Unbeknownst to most of you, there is a new rising power in the Egyptian street and it’s not affiliated with any party of clique, and it’s called the people’s committees. At first they were formed to protect their areas, but during the referendum they started evolving into a civil force that help campaigns and did their best to monitor the elections. Now those committees are getting in contact with each other and forming coalitions. I have met representatives who have formed coalitions of 40 or 50 such committees all over Egypt, and they are organizing a conference for all of Egypt’s committee reps this June. Already, right now, there are 220 such committees covering 220 districts of Egypt’s 280, and that’s besides the independent unions and citizen groups that are getting formed everywhere every day. They are not waiting on us to save them or guide them, they already took matters into their own hands and we are the ones who are trying to catch up. And the way they operate, and their strategies for organization are impressive. A bunch of them asked for experts
on capitalist, socialist and Islamic economies to come to their neighborhoods and give lectures to educate people on their differences. This is happening while you are sitting in cafes discussing how you want to “spread awareness” to Egypt’s “ignorant population”. Well, if you want to do that, go to such meetings, find those people and ask them, humbly, how you can be of help and they will let you know. But you better not think you can deceive or bamboozle them in any way, because they will sniff you out very quickly. Go and get to know your people, and prepare to be floored by how intelligent and sophisticated they are.

5) Amr Moussa / Baradei is the new President

WRONG. The political Life cycle of any politician in Egypt is now 1 week, the same goes for Presidential candidates. The people don’t want someone who is as tainted as Moussa or as unable to communicate with them as Baradei. Chances are, Egypt’s real next president will appear sometimes by late august/ early September, after those two have been kicked and burned and faced a trial by fire unlike Egypt has ever seen. If one of them manages to survive it, then kudos to them, cause that means they have earned it. But this is far from being set by anyone, and any candidate who believes they have this in the bag already are also drunk on their own hype and are bound to wake up one day with the worst hangover ever wondering what the hell happened. Just watch!

6) International forces will destroy the revolution

WRONG. But not for lack of trying. God knows the Saudi government and Israel are both very worried about this revolution and will try anything- like funding salafis in the case of Saudi, or placing pressure on the US to support Amr Moussa in the case of Israel and both in order to ensure Egypt stays in the Sunni-Zionist alliance against Iran- in order to sustain a status-quo whose expiration date has long passed. Both of them don’t get that the rules of the game has changed, and that the virus of the revolution will infect their despondent and dissatisfied population as well. Hell, Egypt is so mad at Saudis for trying to pressure them into a conflict Sunni-Shia they have no interest in partaking in that we have now started reaching out to the Iranian government to resume diplomatic relations. Those are not the Mubarak days anymore; unless our sovereignty is respected, we can and will push back. Count on it.

And don’t think this is a victory for the Iran wing either, because Iran is also facing the prospects of their own revolution, and Syria is already dealing with its own, and the Palestinian people are already limning up to get rid of the corrupt leaders of both Hamas and Fatah. On March 15 there were huge protests by non-aligned Palestinian youth who are demanding the end of the division between the people and subsequently getting rid of those who have divided them in order to rule comfortably. The geopolitical map will look radically different in 2012. This virus will spread everywhere. Just watch!

7) There is doom and gloom everywhere!

WRONG! There is nothing but optimism and the prospect of a brighter future. Yes, there is economic instability and the economy will go down for a bit, but that’s only natural and part of the healing process. When you take an anti-biotic to cure you from a disease it is bound to keep you bed ridden and feeling tired for a few days so that you can properly heal, but you will heal and you will regain your full health eventually. We are completely unaware of what’s happening in the country because things are happening so fast that everything seems like it’s standing still. But the country is moving, the virus of the revolution spreading everywhere and changes are happening by the minute because 30 years worth of changes and reform are unleashed all at once. We are living in Hyper-time, and every person who sees a hole in the foundation of our country is working really hard and fast to plug it, and the future is looking brighter every day because of it.

Think of state TV employees who are protesting right now demanding that our national TV practices real journalism without an agenda. Think of the coalition of restaurant owners that is being formed in order to tell the municipalities that they won’t pay bribes anymore, and if they wish to shut them down they can go right ahead and face the wrath of all of their employees. Think of the students of the Lycee in Cairo, 6 and 7th graders, who did a 3 day sit-in protest demanding the return of a teacher that got fired for carrying an anti-Mubarak sign in Tahrir and forced the administration to re-instate him. Think of all the 8 and 10 year olds who went out with their parents the day of the referendum to vote and had the experience engrained in their psyche forever, something we never had ourselves, and know that they will never allow that right to be taken away from them. Think of all the 12 year olds who are watching all the hot issues (secularism vs. theocracy, left vs. right, the role of the army, the role of the police, etc..) being debated all around them right now, and having their political consciousness formed right now and know that when they turn 18 it will be next to impossible for someone to trick or co-opt them. Think of all the 15 and 16 year olds who are watching the protests all around them and the lessons and mistakes that we are doing and think of what those kids will do the moment they get into college in a couple of years or when they join the workforce. Think of all your friends, wherever they are, who are joining and debating and talking and wanting to help and do something, and know you are not a solitary phenomenon. The Virus is everywhere. The Future is AWESOME. We will not save Egypt, Egypt will save us.

Now go and think of how you can help. And when you encounter people whose stupidity or irrationality or ignorance frustrates you, smile, because you know in 6 or 7 years they will no longer exist nor be of any
influence.
Have a lovely day! :)

The election campaign Blueprint

The Topic: The Elections

We are on the verge of our first real Parliamentary and Presidential elections in our nation’s history, and we are very short on time, thanks to the schedule put there by the army. Usually preparations for such campaigns would take a year and a half, so the little time we have makes the job really difficult, but not impossible. In reality, the Presidential elections isn’t as big of a concern as our Parliamentary elections, since we know that whomever becomes President can be changed in 4 years, but whomever gets into Parliament this time around will get to write the constitution, which is here to stay. Speaking to people from eastern European countries who have gone through a very eerily similar transition to what we are going through (Communist instead of simply authoritarian, a Police force so corrupt that it continues to burn evidence against it at every chance it gets, a population used to stability over the chaos and responsibility of freedom, Slavic orthodox Christians instead of MB and Salafists, etc..) and who also wanted the transition phase to pass quickly, so they ended up with a Parliament that looked very similar to the one they had before democracy, since no one was really ready. In order to avoid such fate, we will need to fully understand the picture at hand, and work really hard to mitigate the damage of trying to do this under such limited and severe conditions. It will be a lot of hard work, and here is where we start.

The Analysis:

The current parliament is 444 seats, plus 10 seats that the new President, whomever he/she is, will get to appoint. However, those 10 will not be able to join in the committee that gets to draft that new constitution, so for the purposes of our math, they don’t count. Amongst those 444 seats, there will be at least 20% , approx 89 seats, who will be previously NDP, but not necessarily ideologically NDP; they will be the members whose families control the district that they live in and they are mostly located in the Delta and Upper Egypt. The reality is, the NDP didn’t have an ideology; it was a party of power and for power, and not all of its MP’s were cheaters or engaged in fraud. Sure, in the same supreme majority of the seats they had to commit voter fraud in order to ensure that their Party candidates win, but they were also in the habit of recruiting the Independent winners into the NDP either through coercion or enticement. This also means that those 20% are up for grabs for any party that is interested in some easy seats and is willing and able to recruit those candidates. So let’s ignore those 89 seats from our calculations and focus on the remaining and truly competitive 355 seats.

What we need to do in order to ensure that the MB doesn’t get to write the constitution is for whatever coalition of parties we create to represent us to win the magic number, which in this case is 223 seats (50% of 444 + 1 seats). Given that the MB is interested in winning 30% of the Parliament (133 seats), then whatever coalition we make will have to be competitive in all 355 races and make sure that the MB loses at least 1 seat in order to get 223 seats. Given that all elections are local, in order for the parties to do so, they will need good candidates, and more importantly, good campaigns. Sure, there will be voter fraud or vote buying to some extent, but this is to be expected and the more elections we have the cleaner the elections will get. So the campaigns should acknowledge that issue and try to mitigate it as much as possible, but should also operate as if it doesn’t exist. In more than one way, this is a test-run also for all the parties involved, and whatever mistakes they will make (and they will make many), it will only help perfect their political machine for all future elections. So, a good campaign is essential for all parties involved, and the most important thing in a campaign is the organization of it. If your campaign is organized, that’s 95% of the battle, and the remaining 5% will simply depend on the candidate’s likeability and ability to sell himself and his ideas.

What to do:

Any serious campaign for Parliament will require the following Positions to be filled, for they are the people that will create the organizational structure for the campaign:

  1. Campaign Manager: Most Important Person in the campaign. He manages the heads of the different departments in the campaign, and he sets the pace and the image of the candidate. If the Candidate loses, he is the person usually to blame. The Stories of perfectly good candidates who lost to bad candidates because they didn’t have a good campaign fills the books of political history, and a bad campaign manager (like the one Baradei currently has) will cost you the election every single time. That person must understand the political canvass, must understand politics of perception, must understand PR, must be capable of running a really tight ship and should never ever ever panic. He must be cool, collected and relentless, and must have a vision for the campaign even better than the candidate has for himself. He should never let the candidate run the campaign himself and simply execute his wishes; he must present the candidate with the full picture and options and consequences of every option. Politics is a game of lesser-evils, and any candidate must have a campaign manager who is capable and comfortable with picking ones. He is the most important person in the campaign, but there isn’t a second or third person after him/her. Everyone after that is equally important and essential.
  2. Research & Data Manager: More than anything, elections are about identifying the voters, polling the voters, identifying your voter segments and then counting the votes. Those are the duties of the Research and Data manager. Other duties include: Creating Focus groups, researching the issues and the solutions and seeing which resonate with the voters; researching the competition thoroughly and polling their support level as well; creating the electoral map for the campaign and knowing every voter by district, street, age group, socio-economic status, religious & political affiliations. Demographics, psychographics, purchasing behavior, level of education; you name it, they must have it. No campaign wins without the Research & Data Manager and his team.
  3. Communications Manager: This person is responsible for the image of the candidate and the campaign on all fronts: In the eyes of the voters, in mainstream media, in social media and on the street. This is why any communications manager must have an excellent team under him/her (preferably a her , very few men understand perception and image the way women do, at least in Egypt where in many times their lives depends on it), and that team must be big and have many different departments: The branding team (under which the entire creative department for print, posters, TV ads, radio ads, web ads, you name it), the PR team (hosting events, writing Press releases, arranging for articles to be written on their candidates in various newspapers), the Online reputation management team (this is where all those internet kids can start rumors to trash you, and you always must respond pleasantly, swiftly and decisively; like the Twitter CS teams of our local Mobile Operators), the media relations team, the media monitoring team, the Media-buying team, the Production team and the Rapid Response Team (those are your media commandos, they must be on top of everything in regards to the candidate to the second, and must memorize the positions of the candidate better than himself and be able to respond as fast as humanly possible to whatever issues or crisis that might arise for whatever reason). The candidates’ Spokesperson has to be the head of the Rapid Response team and it is preferred for him/her to be a different person than the communications manager , who in the case of a campaign turned nasty will also need a buffer from the media, just like the candidate.
  4. Scheduling Manager: Any campaign is about time- management, and that’s the scheduling manager’s job, for he will be responsible for the life of the candidate. This is the person that must schedule his appearances in the media and in the voting districts, alongside with fundraisers, public events, meetings with backers and stakeholders and , last but not least, the campaign management team itself. This may seem like a PR job, but it’s not, because it’s mostly about striking the balance between the operations and the Public aspects of the campaign. This is tough job, all about setting priorities and managing expectations, and therefore absolutely essential.
  5. Field Operations manager: This is the person responsible for voter outreach, organization and on-the-ground campaigning. This person’s work relies heavily, like the communications manager, on the research & data manager’s work , alongside with excellent organizational skills and ability to focus no matter how under pressure you are. This person will run the street teams (distributing & posting promotional material, door-to-door campaigning, creating the voter database, operating the phone banks, University outreach, election monitoring and all other logistical aspects of running the campaign. This person must be able to deal and manage young people (many of which never had a real job before) as well as old, which is not an easy skill to find in Egypt.
  6. Fundraising Manager: Welcome to Sales. This person’s job is to continuously sell the candidate to many people in order to raise Money to keep the campaign afloat. This person is responsible for identifying backers, working with the scheduling manager & communications manager to set-up fundraising events and send out fundraising communications. This is the person who will get you the money, while insuring that you don’t get beholden to all of your financial supporters (maybe 4 or 5, tops).
  7. Security Manager: This is the person who will handle your campaign’s security, whether physically or internally. He is responsible for protecting the candidate and the elections monitors come election day, and for ensuring that the campaign’s secrets, tactics and information doesn’t get leaked. He is the campaigns’ State Security, and in the current conditions we are in, he is absolutely essential.

How can I help:

As I said, I am not interested in the welfare of one political party as much as I am interested in all of them. I recognize that it would be impossible to expect one party to win all of those seats, so a coalition of parties is a must, and that can only happen if all the parties run good campaigns. I will remain objective, even if I am backing or working with someone else, because it’s in my best interest that any party other than the MB or the NDP to do well. I would be more than happy to sit down with any party or presidential campaign that will run a list of affiliated candidates and discuss their operational campaign strategy with them. If I can help in any way, drop me a line at sandmonkey@gmail.com .

As for the readers, I will be going to the meetings of any new political party that gets formed and will provide all of you with the over-view of their principles, position and operations, and an objective assessment of all of that, with their contact information if you are interested to join them or check them out for yourselves. I understand that we need as much information as possible and will bemore than happy to provide that for you here. What you do with this information will be up to you.

Next post: If you want to help, but not through joining a party or campaign, how to do it.

10 points

I have only an hour left before my flight, so this will have to be bullet point style, no verbose exposition. This is nothing but food for thought. Agree or disagree, up to you:

  • Egyptian Protesters seem to believe that we have the support of the entire world by what we did, and that we need to focus on local battles because the international scene will just have to adjust itself to whatever we do. This is incredibly naive given how big and important Egypt is geopoliticaly. They need to understand that there is no way the US, Israel, Saudi, Qatar, Russia, China or others will not try to influence the outcome and apply pressure on the Military government to rig the game slightly in their favor. America for example wants to ensure Israel’s safety, so they will pressure the army their way, Saudi and Israel need to ensure that the Sunni-Israeli alliance against Iran continues. God only knows what the Chinese and the Russians are thinking.
  • I believed Brussels was only good for waffles and chocolate, and I was surprised to find it the den of spies and lobbyists. The EU headquarters is here, so is NATO and 20 % of the workforce works in lobbying one way or another. This also affects us, because many of the local players are lobbying here: For example, The Mubarak’s are lobbying here for their own purposes, and  Ahmed Ezz’s family is lobbying to ensure he gets “a fair trial” , because he knows in a “fair trial” he can drag many names in the mud with him, and have them tried as well. Especially Mubarak. That’s his card, because he knows no one wants Mubarak to be put on trial. This is why I have been working on creating a lobby for the revolution, because the foreign front is the only front we are not paying attention to at all, and its the one we need the most right now.
  • The reason why no one wants Mubarak put on trial is simple: You don’t get to be the leader of a country like Egypt for  freaking 30 years without knowing where many bodies are buried. Some of those bodies might prove to be embarrassing to many world powers & could set a dangerous precedent that may fuel more revolutions. This is why there are no international calls to try Mubarak. Everybody just wants him to shut up, and they know he probably has a safe somewhere to be opened when he dies in suspicious conditions that contains many secrets. Again, no one wants those documents out in the open. That doesn’t mean the Egyptian military doesn’t pressure Mubarak in its own way though. The same way for the 3 stooges (Sherif, Surour, and Azmy), who are also cards in the hand of the military to play if needs be and will be offered to the public when the time comes.
  • There has been A lot of talk regarding the release of Abood el Zomor and the Media attention he got. Many people in the egyptian and international so-easy-to-frighten population took it as a sign that the Islamists are taking over and we might have another Iran on our hands. While this might have been the international message the military council intended to send to the international world to ease the pressures on them a bit , this wasn;t supposed to be the message sent for local consumption. The local consumption message was simple: Abood ElZomor was arrested in Sadat’s assassination, the same assassination that resulted in Mubarak’s take over of the presidency, the same assassination that many say Mubarak had a hand in. This coincided with a video circulating the web showing Mubarak throwing chairs on a shot Sadat “to protect him” while Sadat is trying to get up. Even Zomor during his interview regarding the Sadat assassination said that some people involved in the assassination slept in prison, and others in the presidential palace. This was a message to Mubarak: We won’t touch you for now, but don’t think we don’t also have you by the balls. And how Ironic that the Man responsible for the death of one President is becoming the weapon against the President that followed him.
  • The Salafists & MB are local players, but they have foreign ties and funding. Qatar fully funds and supports the MB , and Saudi fully funds and directs the Salafists. While Qatar is more interested in having a say in a democratic Egypt, Saudi is more interested in blackmailing Egypt into continuing the Sunni-Zionist alliance against Iran. Naturally, Egypt, right now, is totally not interested, so Saudi tries to pressure us by inciting lots of Salafi Chaos and violence. Please note that it’s all very targeted against so called egyptian minorities, attacking christians and women mostly, and burning churches. That’s the kind of headache Saudi knows Egypt doesn’t need, & will stop immediately the moment they are sure that the alliance is back on track, because they are shitting their Saudi pants over Iran. Please note that in this scenario, whatever we want as Egyptians, totally doesn’t matter to them, or anyone for that matter.
  • Amr Moussa is the preferred candidate for President for all of the international players: A man from the system, has no achievements either as Foreign Minister or Secretary of Arab League, friendly to dictators and foreign powers, and who barks a lot for public consumption regarding the US and Israel, but always always always does their bidding. The Americans and the Israelis are rooting for him most of all, because they know his MO, and they can’t guarantee how either Baradei or Bastaweesy will play it. Many Egyptian elites want him as well for the same reason they supported the Ahmed Shafiq government: He is someone they know..someone from the system, a good ole boy from the same corrupt system that we revolted against and who until the last minute wanted to save Mubarak’s presidency and now stands firm on not putting Mubarak on trial as well. While many good natured and well-intentioned Egyptians support him because he seems prestigious and his name was always on the table, they must fully understand that he represents everything this revolution was not about : The End of Mubarak Regime, The End of the corrupt system that it created, the end of a foreign policy dictated by everybody else but the Egyptian people, The End of politicians who are in it for their own glory and not for the service of the egyptian people (check the record on how embassies treated Egyptians during the time he was Foreign Minister and see how big he was on serving egyptian people or maintaining their dignity). Mind you, whomever the US supports will usually win, so please, if you are into winning for the sake of winning, or even if you have familial or business ties to him or his family, then jump on the Moussa bandwagon. But if you really care about this country & really would like a strong independent Egypt, not one like we had for 30 years, well , do some research into his history. You won’t find many things that you could defend him with.
  • Baradei & Bastaweesy are the two honest candidates in the field right now, which is why they are losing badly. Baradei’s campaign’s inability to engage the population or respond to rapidly changing events is continuing to enforce the image that he is elitist and disconnected from the population. For example, the MB yesterday endorsed Baradei in an attempt to corner him internationally (how does Muslim Brotherhood backed candidate for President sound to all of you in the west, people?), a move that he could’ve easily used to his advantage by going on TV and saying that he welcomes the MB’s endorsement for his campaign for a civil secular Egypt and that he hopes this ends all the lies about his daughter being married to an Infidel (Which isn;t true, but is used against him by the salafists) or that he is America’s agent, because there is no way the MB would endorse him in that case. Had he done that, he would’ve pushed back the MB in a corner and immediately placed a wedge between the MB and the Salafists, while asserting his commitment, locally and internationally, for a secular egyptian state. He, of course, maintained his silence, cause he is above it all, or his campaign people are rank amateurs. Bastawaeesy still has no campaign to speak of, and god knows if he will be able to compete in the first place, but he is incredibly popular on the street. If those two get their act together and join forces, they would make an unstoppable ticket, and we would have a real ELECTION on our hand, instead of the SELECTION by other countries we are going through right now.
  • One thing to e sure of, the next election in Egypt will be incredibly fun, due to the fact that many US election campaign operatives are now offering their services to the highest bidder, and the egyptian election is a very sexy and important election for them. I even heard some were hired, but by whom? No clue. But if you can deduce who has money in Egypt right now and who they support, well, then you have your answer. Hint: The revolution backed candidates have no money to buy those guys. This will get interesting very quickly.
  • I am currently for the revolution to stop protesting, because after the referendum, we are now facing a new political reality: The roof of street legitimacy just got raised. Public Opinion went 14 million for a YES vote and 4 million for a no vote, which means that in order to show we represent the majority we need 14 million to join us, which we won’t be able to produce. Hell, if we manage to produce 1 million protesters, people can dismiss us claiming we were only able to turn out 1/4 of our base. It’s not that impressive anymore, and going every friday to Tahrir means we have totally or about to burn that card. But if some feel the need to still protest, that’s fine, but let’s do it right. We need to stop the notion that we all need to be together in every fight, because every day we have 3 fronts being opened against us, and we are getting exhausted and disoriented. Fine, let’s do what we did in Tahrir: Share the work. Let’s Organize fronts: One for protests, one for prisoners rights, one for advocacy and outreach, One for voter registration and organization, one for communications, one for campaigning, etc etc, and lets agree on guiding principles and then let each front work autonomously and only coordinate with each other when needs be. For example: let’s use the protests to have people from the registration front show up and register those who show up for the protest so we can reach them afterwards. Let’s play it smart.
  • Please note that this is a war, and in wars its ok to lose Battles willingly to win in the end. A good parable is the Coventry Blitz myth, and it goes like this: During WW2, the brits had the Enigma machine, which they sued to decipher the messages of the germans. One day a message showed up alerting them to a massive raid on Coventry, which had a population of 320,000. This Presented Churchil with the dilemma: Does he evacuate Coventry, save the lives of the 320,000 and alert the Germans that he has the machine by knowing about the attack before hand, or does he allow Coventry to be attacked, safeguard the secret of the machine, be able to decipher the German messages in the future and thus win the war? Well, Churchil didn’t evacuate Coventry, which got attacked indeed, and he ended up winning the war. The lesson here should be clear: The battle for protesting is not the war, having a democratic egypt is. It’s ok if we lose that battle, if it means we get to win the war. What we need to do is withdraw ourselves from the scene, stop being everyone’s favorite blame hanger and work on the ground. Reach out to every governrate, go to every city, village and house, Zenga Zenga Dar Dar style. Also, our absence will force those blaming us (The MB, the government, the Army, the NDP crowd, the Couch Party) to look for someone else to blame, and will start attacking each other. Good. Let them fight each other while we work to win this on the ground, out of sight and under the radar.

That is all!