The Powers That Be

It’s hard to keep your sanity in Egypt with everything that is going on these days. As the Battle for Egypt’s rule and future drags on into its second year, it’s impossible not to feel exhausted, especially that the pace of events keeps getting faster and faster. The feeling that you are in a car that is driven by an inept driver who is too busy arguing with his “backseat driver” to notice that they are about to hit a dead-end is one shared by many. That’s why there is an eerie silence in Cairo and on the social networks these days; the people feel that there is a storm coming; a storm of many forces preparing for a final showdown. In the middle of all the battling Powers that be, two men stand firm in the eye of the storm, causing the state of flux that is taking shape: A Salafi disqualified presidential candidate called Hazem Salah Abu Ismael, and A young 25 year old Hero, called Sayed Moshagheb.

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It’s hard not to disengage from reality when observing or experiencing the Egyptian revolution; through it we have lived all of our Hollywood cinematic fantasies. The story-arcs we have experienced so far in this theatrical saga include the following: inspirational peaceful revolution, Romantic comedies, Family drama, generational conflict, human rights struggles , Gang warfare , vigilante society, Courtroom drama, political thrillers, Media Thrillers, Freedom of Speech battles, Tales of Corruption & deceit, Zombie attacks (as far as the police’s point of view is concerned), Religious persecution, election sagas, and now we are entering the civil conflict & civil war section. All of this, in two years that also included a man who wrestled with a lion, 4 churches that were attacked / burned because a woman left her husband, and the brave tale of one man who, in retaliation for their killing of an Egyptian soldier on the border, climbed a 10 story building to capture an Israeli flag off of the embassy, a moment hailed by all as a great victory against the Zionist entity, to the point of giving him a hashtag, and an apartment for free as a reward to his great achievement. Yes, I forgot to mention that we also do absurd comedy.

There is, however, one man, who seems to be misplaced by the producers of our insane saga. A man, who truly belongs as a villain or a leader of a science fiction post-apocalyptic movie, and has the personal army of followers to prove it. A man whose first name literally translates to the following words: Firm, steadfast, resolute, tough and gritty.

A man called Hazem.

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In the realm of the Salafis, things are not going well. They are currently at war, and are fighting for their lives on all fronts: The local Media, the international media, the police, the army, the revolutionaries, the NGO’s, the independents and the Felool – the whole world basically- seems to be against them. Sure, they have their own media and Sheikh’s, but they are nowhere near as effective as the impure whores of the secularist media. They could launch horrid attacks (using Quran, profanity, ridiculous hyperbole) on the channels and with all of their Sheikhs’, and then comes Bassem Youssef and destroys it all in less than an hour, without using a single profane word. Even the Mosques, their undisputed domain, their source of power, are being invaded by those secular demons when the Sheikh’s try to use the sermons for political guidance. To have Adballah Badr cornered in a mosque is one thing, but to have Al-Mahallawy, the great symbol, the man Sadat mentioned him as an enemy by name in the 70′s, cornered in HIS mosque as well? What is the world coming to?

What makes matters worse is the amount of internal divisions taking place on their side thanks to that half-assed islamist constitution that they have to sell, not thanks to the cursed Muslim Brotherhood. This constitutional draft is nowhere near the kind of constitution they envisioned, and many in their camps are becoming vocal about how this is not even close to being the Sharia constitution; not to mention the Jihady salafis, who didn’t only attack the constitution for that reason, but attacked the whole concept of elections & referendum as anti-islamic to begin with. On top of all of this, the Sharia constitution gets a 44% No vote in the first phase and ends up with a total No vote of 37%? No to Sharia is almost half and to win in three states, including the capital? With all of the tricks that the MB pulled to rig it? Nope, things are not good at all. The situation is terrible.

And then there are the antics of Sheikh Hazem…

Very few of the secularists saw Hazem Abu Ismael coming, and even fewer understood his real power and reach, but everybody in the Islamist camp did, and watched with increasing alarm as his followers grew all over the country and across all kinds of segments, but especially with the Youth.

It’s not hard to grasp if you consider the real appeal of his project for a broad number of followers, especially that no one else seems to have one: The Leftists don’t, the Liberals don’t, the Salafis have a very vague notion of one, and the MB have one that’s dying. What’s his political project? Well, Revolutionary rhetoric + Nasserite (we shall live with dignity and show the world) rhetoric + Islamist rhetoric. Think Islamist Gamal Abdel Nasser, and you are starting to get the picture. For young non-affiliated islamist- & revolutionary-minded youth, who else is there?

Between his reach amongst the population, the amount of AlQaida members that have joined his movement, and the murmurs about his dealings with the Syrian “revolutionaries” who pay him to send his members to fight with them, it’s safe to say that he is planning to be a force to be reckoned with. And no one, not a single soul amongst them, can rein him in. So, they must approve and support his actions, no matter how insane they seem. They can’t afford to have dissent showing amidst the ranks now, especially that so much of it exists thanks to that stupid MB constitution.

Ironically, his antics had one benefit, for now: They are distracting the media from the fact that the supreme majority of the salafis are boycotting this constitution, because it states that sovereignty is for the people, and not God, and for stating that all citizens are equal, which allows Christians to run for presidency. To do damage control, the good Sheikh Yasser Borhamy had to zigzag throughout all of the governorates- going at times to two governorates a day- to convince salafi voters that through specific words inserted in the draft that this constitution will implement Sharia.

It’s not really working.

Sure, the constitution will pass. The so-called Muslim Brotherhood will make sure of it. However, they will have to start challenging them on Sharia implementation the second this constitution is in effect, or they are doomed. After all, there is growing resentment amidst the salafi ranks at the MB for using them as their foot soldiers and attack dogs, and the legitimacy of the Sheikhs are being challenged for towing the line with those diet Islamists. There really is no alternative to clashing with them. No wonder AlArian is talking about arming the MB youth. He is terrified.

But one battle at a time. This is only the first step. And God is on their side.

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A disturbing journalistic story that was being shared all over the social media rattled the nerves of revolutionary symbols. The Story listed in details the creation of a new islamist Ultras Group, called Ahrar, a joint venture between Ultras Zamalek, Hazemoon, and the most hated revolutionary at the moment, AbdelRahman Ezz. This group attacked the revolutionaries in the Itehadeya Clashes, with Ezz pointing out the revolutionary symbols so that Ahrar would target them. The freak-out was due to their feelings that they have lost the Zamalek Ultras as a revolutionary force with them, as if they were theirs to begin with.

Sensing the danger, the revolutionary symbols went to work immediately by tweeting and retweeting the news story, while expressing how freaked out they were about it. Some were so freaked out, they even posted it on facebook. Somehow, all of this energy didn’t manifest itself in them seeing the value of organizing themselves in any meaningful or useful way, or do any effort in that regards. God Knows that would make sense, so why do that?

Those revolutionary symbols were freaking out because deep down they realized how useless and irrelevant they have become. Because people have stopped listening to them, and will completely ignore them soon enough. Actually, more than anything, those revolutionary symbols were freaking out, because at this point, those symbols are now far more useful to the cause as martyrs than leaders.

Those same symbols always spoke about how people were getting sorted out between who is with or anti the revolution, and how this sorting is happening all the time, and other such poppycock. Those symbols suddenly realize that the sorting phase is now over, and that they are now entering new territory. The Elimination phase.

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Sayed Moshagheb is a Hero. If you don’t know who he is, then you don’t know your Ultras.

Sayed is a Capo in Ultras Zamalek, and the most beloved and respected one at that. When the old Capos disappeared around 2009, during Zamalek’s darkest time, it was Sayed who held the group together. He dedicated his life to the group, went to all the Games, was in a new governorate almost every day to coordinate events, and even delayed his own marriage for almost two years for the sake of the group. He was all heart, purpose and dedication, and he shined when he would lead the tens of thousands of Zamalek Fans in chants during the games the same way he did when he lead his men through the battles of the January 25 revolution. He is their Hero.

He is also in his early twenties.

Sayed, like many youth, had Islamic leanings. So, like many Islamic-minded youth, he joined the Hazem Salah Abu Ismael movement “Hazemoon”, but wouldn’t let it affect his decisions: When the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes started, all the Sheikhs ordered the youth not to engage with the Police. Sayed publically ignored the order, told everyone that he is going to stand by his revolutionary brothers, and all the Zamalek Ultras followed him there. He didn’t leave Mohamed Mahmoud for the four days of clashes. He was there, always on the front line, always inspiring his men. He was so loved and respected, that when he joined Hazemoon for their sit-in in front of the Ministry of Defense, the Zamalek Ultras went and joined the battle despite not fully believing in it. To them it was enough that Sayed was there, and they wouldn’t leave him fight a battle alone; He wouldn’t do that to any of them. They are all Brothers, no matter what, and you are always there for your brother when he needs you.

This is why when Sayed joined Ahrar, an islamist youth Ultras movement started by Hazemoon, many of the Islamic-minded Ultras followed him as well. The group was made of revolutionary youth who was at all the battles, who simply wanted the revolution to win and for Sharia to be implemented. They were not controlled by any Sheikh or political group, and their actions were purely revolutionary driven. When they attacked the Judges for example, they did that because the Judges were corrupt remnants of the previous regime who wanted to stop the revolution. This was all fine and dandy, until Ahrar went and joined the side of the Muslim Brotherhood militias at the Itehadyea Clashes. Suddenly you had Ultras Zamalek members side by side with the MB, fighting against Ultras Zamalek members standing side by side with other revolutionaries, many of which were Ultras Ahly, their arch nemesis. The Revolutionaries were appalled that there were Ultras standing with the dictatorial MB against them, while Ahrar were appalled that their revolutionary brothers were joining forces with Felloll no matter what the cause. Each side saw the other side as traitors to the revolution.

There was a crack in their brotherhood. What was worse is that Sayed was rumored to be there, fighting on the Islamist side. No one could confirm it though, but the rumor was enough drive an unprecedented wedge within the group. Civil war loomed amidst the Ultras. All that was needed was a spark, and the spark would be a confirmation that Sayed was indeed there.

And then the news article on Ahrar came out, and it was so detailed, with names and locations, that it gave the Interior ministry enough info to go after Ahrar, albeit clandestinely. A secret campaign arrest was started, with Ahmed Arafa being the shiny example of it, but the target was Sayed. After all, not only is he in Ahrar and Hazemoon, but the ministry had an old vendetta against him for being the Ultras Capo that humiliated them time and time again. He was their top target, and they went after him, even storming his house and terrifying his family and baby girl.

But Sayed was not there. He was on the run. And the Police were after him. For all the Zamalek Ultras, this was enough reason to cast aside their differences and the divide for now. Their Brother, their leader, their Hero was in trouble.

And you are always there for your Brother when he needs you….

The civil war will have to wait, for now, until they all make sure that Sayed is fine.

Both sides are preparing for it though.

It won’t be long.

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The Police General sat in his office inside the Ministry of Interior, reviewing today’s newspapers. Satisfied with the public outcry regarding the MB’s militias and the Hordes of Abu Ismael, he continued reading the field reports coming his way from his officers. They have been successfully towing the line between not antagonizing the new ruling party and the revolutionaries. Of all the parties in play, the only real winner has been the Ministry of Interior: Their profile is on the rise, especially with refusing to clash with Itehadya Protesters during their marshes, while having a stand-off with the Hazemoon people when they tried to attack the Dokki police station. Despite his wishes to the contrary, he knew they couldn’t arrest Abu Ismael, since the Presidential palace gave them strict orders not to touch him. Fine, will tow the line, but the orders do not include Hazemoon, and the Minister of Interior has used that distinction to wage a silent war against them.

The General couldn’t shake his distaste towards his new bosses, especially the so-called President, who used to be dragged from his house by officers much lower in rank than him back in the day. His officers shared this distaste, and even the most violent amongst them did not look forward to following Sharia orders from bearded men. Sure, they have no problems with torturing or raping or electrocuting people, but this cutting of hands and stoning to death business is just so…messy, if not backwards.

He knew that the powers behind Morsy were certain that the MOI was not in their pockets, or that the current Minister was not their man, and that both are playing for their sake and their sake only. He knew that they fear the MOI would join forces with the revolutionaries against them, and become their organized armed wing (despite how unlikely that is due to the ridiculously utopian nature of the revolutionaries), and that such an alliance would completely challenge their power. He knew that if the revolutionaries let bygones be bygones, they would do that in a heartbeat, and has been sending them signals to that regard for the past month, which didn’t escape his new bosses. He knew that the current Minister will be removed soon, to be replaced by a more MB loyal candidate to help them “cleanse” the MOI. He knew that all of this was coming, and he and his men are waiting for it, so that they can start wreaking Havoc all over the country against the MB and their allies. They couldn’t fight a revolution, but a war of attrition with Islamists? That’s something they know how to do quite well, and they would really like a repeat performance.

All in good time, he thought. All in good time.

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Inside the real MB Headquarters, the Guidance Council member was not happy. Sure, the situation so far seems under control, and the plans to forge the elections have gone impeccably well, but the loss of support on the ground has been very worrying. What’s even more worrying is the refusal of the Cairo MB members to show up in support of the President at the Itehadeya clashes, turned off by the guidance council tactics and increasingly sectarian tone. They keep bussing more and more people in from the governorates, and relying more and more on the Salafis. The Cairo University Protests were 90% Salafis. Not good. Not good at all.

They had no choice though, he said to himself. They had to pass the constitution this way and right now, otherwise they might not be able to ever pass one, especially not in another 6 months. The Economy is not doing well, and their friends in Qatar and Turkey are not stepping up their financial support as they should. If they didn’t move fast, they risk losing the parliamentary elections completely, and they need to have those yesterday to fully control the country. Also, if anything happened to Morsy now, they have lost everything. They need a parliament head from the Brotherhood to ensure their stay in Power if Morsy’s health deteriorates further. If he dies now, the presidency moves to the head of the Supreme Court, and they would be out of the game. And if they are out now, they are out forever. That cannot be allowed to happen. They will fight that until the last Salafi.

He is not too worried about the Salafis; if they overstep their bounds, the MB will unleash the MOI on them, who would love to tear them apart. Not Abu Ismael though. His group has many ex-AlQaeda people, and if they go against him, AlQaida will declare them apostates, and start a war against them. It should be noted that too many Mujahdeen have entered the country those past two years. They were beneficial in making the MB look like moderates back then, but now they are becoming a threat. Thankfully, the US recognizes that they are the ones holding the Mujahedeen and Hamas back, and will continue to support them. And if you have the US on your side, you don’t need much else.

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S/P Memo 56734

Global

13/12/2012

Subject: Egypt

S/P currently has no new recommendations regarding the situation in Egypt. While President’s Morsy’s actions have been troubling, especially that they have been taken the day after Secretary Clinton’s visit, the political developments have not provided us with an alternative to the current regime. As called for by the Secretary, this memo examines: whether there is a course for action advances the transition to democracy in Egypt; whether the new developments would be benefitted by such course for action; and finally, the impact of such action on American interests in the country.

The US currently has three strategic interests in Egypt: 1) Maintaining Regional stability, 2) Maintaining the strategic partnership with the Egyptian Military, and 3) Ensuring the continued operation of the Suez Canal for the next Five years. Providing support for the liberal opposition in Egypt- if such support is even possible- would not guarantee the serving of those interests. The Opposition is still divided and fragmented, and there is no clear leader to negotiate with. The National Salvation Front has emerged as an attempt to provide a counterweight to the Brotherhood, but their alliance is fragile, their rhetoric isn’t unified and their performance sophomoric. There is genuine doubt in the alliance’s survival beyond the proposed constitutional referendum.

Even if the US chooses to support them regardless, the options are still very limited. Imposing conditionality on the aid would provide us with no positive outcome, for if they meet our bluff we would have to either cut the aid, which loses us leverage, or not cut the aid, which would allow them to ignore any such future pressure. Not to mention, given that the US government is tied with 5 year contracts with the defense contractors for Egypt’s military aid, cutting it would still require us to fulfill our monetary obligations to our contractors, while losing all strategic advantages from our relationship with Egypt.

It should be noted that at this juncture the situation in Egypt is low priority in the rapidly shifting geopolitical map of the middle-east, specifically in relations to the coming conflict with Iran. Egypt is and will remain solidly in the Sunni camp regardless of who is in power, so the focus should be on the grey countries, specifically Syria, Iraq and Bahrain. To focus on the political developments in Egypt is as inconsequential to our goals as focusing on the score of a soccer game when your real concern is maintaining ownership of the field. Hence, in light of the current state of affairs, it is recommended to stay the course until further developments arise.

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About a week ago, there was a meeting between the Egyptian Minister of Defense and the Egyptian Naval command. Upon entering the meeting, the Naval Command chiefs wanted to discuss the recent political developments, especially Hazem Salah Abu Ismael. The Minister curtly cut the talk, informing them that the army should stay away from discussing politics. The Chiefs responded by stating that they were not there to discuss politics, but rather National Security. They expressed their astonishment at the Army not taking action against Hazemoon until now, given that they are breaking the law so blatantly and publically. They stated that had the army sent in two 777 platoons, they would have easily taken out the entire population of Hazemoon during their siege of the Media City. They informed the Minister of Defense that the lack of government response towards Hazemoon and their antics puts their own families and the families of those they command in danger, and that if any of them gets hurt or terrorized, they will not wait for permission to mobilize their troops and weapons against them, or any other similar group.

The Minister of Defense did not comment, but a storm was brewing inside his head. He knew that there are undercover MB officers in the army that command units and platoons, and that he doesn’t fully know who they are. The Army intervening in what’s going on in Egypt could risk splitting the military institution, a risk he was not prepared to take, hence his inaction. Now he has to contend with the possibility that the institution might split if he doesn’t do something as well, and the ineptitude of those in charge of the Presidency is pushing the country into the Precipice. He is doomed either way, and time was running out.

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Tarek works for an NGO in Alexandria that provides charity and local developments to the poorest villages in the Governrates. About a month ago, a group of his colleagues, which were working on a different zone than his for the past 5 years, were approached by a group of Salafis. The Salafis informed them that they control this area now, and that if the NGO wanted to continue to work there, they would have to work through them or not at all. His Colleagues chose to ignore them, and a week later, while delivering the sustenance bags to the needy, were ambushed by the salafi group, got held up with swords, beaten and roughed up, and had all of their supplies stolen by them. True Story.

Tarek has similar problems in his zone, but with a unique twist: The Salafis informed him that if he doesn’t work with them and works with the MB, then all of their mosques will be closed to him and his group. In turn, the MB has informed him that if he works with the Salafis and not them, they will make his life hell through government intervention. Tarek, so far, has played them off each other, but their pressures on him are increasing by the day, and he has no idea what to do the day he is forced to choose.

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The Phones have not stopped ringing at the Offices of the Central Bank of Egypt, with everyone from public and Private Banks calling to get confirmation on whether the Bank’s chairman, Farouk Al-Okda, has really resigned. The intensity of the phone calls reflected the panic that the financial community has been living in for the past few months. Al-Okda has been keeping the economy afloat for the past two years, at the cost of the rapidly depleting financial reserves. Before the revolution, the reserves were 36 $ Billion, now they are down to 15 $ Billion; 4 $ Billion of which are in Gold, 5 $ Billion are in various securities that if touched would signal the country’s bankruptcy, leaving only 6 $ Billion in actual financial liquidity. Taking into account the financial obligations of the government in terms of salaries, subsides and loan servicing, accompanied with the record low growth rate, the evaporation of FDI and the shortage in foreign currency replenishment due to the deterioration of the Tourism industry (having Islamist burn Churches & then electing Islamists to power does not bring in tourists), it is safe to say that Egypt is one foot in the economic grave.

Due to IMF pressures, the government has adopted really strong austerity measures in the shape of new tax laws and subsidy cutting, but froze it on the same day due to fears that it might cause people to vote against the constitution. The freezing of the laws made the IMF believe that the Egyptian government is not committed to the agreement, and is now moving into rejecting Egypt’s loan request. Without the loan, the government will not be able to cover the pensions, salaries or remaining subsidies, or cushion the inflation of the Egyptian pound. This brings us to the nightmare scenario of rising prices of goods, of which many will vanish from the supermarkets and sold in the black market, coupled with a drastic decline in value of the Egyptian pound, and the inability of the government to meet its financial obligations towards its employees and pensioners. A perfect economic storm.

Expected financial outcome will include any or all of the following events: the vanishing of the US dollar from Banks and exchange offices; Bank runs that will bankrupt public and private banks; Unprecedented losses in the stock exchange; Disappearance and/or increased pricing of basic consumer goods; Layoffs; Bankruptcies; Lack of liquidity in the Market for new or existing projects; Huge increase in Unemployment rates; A lower credit rating for the country that will further drive away serious investors; drastic increase in petty crime; Social Upheaval; Huge economic protests; and the ever so looming scenario of a hunger revolution. The Panic is justified.

No wonder the phones keep ringing.

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The MB Constitution has passed, thanks to massive fraud and a deeply sectarian campaign on the hands of the MB controlled Government. The Yes votes are 64% , the No votes are 36% and the voter turnout was 32% of all eligible voters. Out of every 100 Egyptians, 20 have said yes, 12 have said no, and 68 didn’t even bother to go and vote.

Mohamed was one of those 68% that didn’t go vote. He is a government employee by day, and a Taxi driver by night, who spends every waking minute of his day trying to provide for his wife, 3 children and sick mother. Mohamed didn’t vote. Mohamed didn’t vote because he didn’t think it mattered, and that no matter what he chooses the outcome will be Yes anyway. Mohamed didn’t vote, because like all of his friends and neighbors, he has become disgusted with the tug of war between the secularists and the Islamists, and how all they care about is power, even if it means pulling the country into a civil war. Mohamed didn’t vote because he knows that neither side cares about him or his family, despite what they always say in their speeches, before and after the revolution. Mohamed didn’t vote because all the hope he had at the beginning of the revolution was gone, replaced with bitterness and anger, and he would rather spend the time scouring the streets of Cairo for a fare that might help him cover his ever increasing expenses. What good is a constitution to a bunch of hungry mouths anyway?

Mohamed hated the revolution. Mohamed hated that his neighborhood became infested with crime and thugs, and that the whole city soon followed. Mohamed hated the absence of the police unless they wanted a bribe, a practice that has increased after a revolution that claimed that it will stop it. Mohamed hated the state of Chaos the country has been in for the past two years, and the hours he wasted in traffic caused by marches and sit ins and clashes that don’t seem to ever stop. Mohamed hated that there are no tourists anymore, and that when he gets a foreign customer it’s usually a Syrian refugee who hassles him over the fare, unlike the days when the Americans and the Gulfie tourists used to populate the city and pay him generously for taking them around. Mohamed hated that they were gone, and has lost hope that they will ever come back.

Mohamed barely meets his expenses, and has no idea how he survived those past two years. Mohamed panicked when he heard that the prices of goods were going up, only to relax hours later when he was informed that the government cancelled the increase. Had those prices increased, Mohamed would be completely unable to feed his family, and what kind of a man would that make him?

Mohamed is scared, bitter, angry, hungry and tired. He knows one thing for certain: if things get any worse financially, he will lose it. He will take the gun he bought two years ago, and kill the Islamists, the secularists, and all of those people who have the luxury to fight over stupid shit on his and his family’s expense.

Mohamed will show them the exact amount of consideration and mercy they have showed him, which is none.

Mohamed will have his Justice, and he is not the only one.

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Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Mathew Arnold

 

The End


 

Game Over

Tomorrow is the Referendum on the MB’s constitutional draft, which the great President Morsy wishes to pass on two phases with a week in between the results of the first phase and the second, which makes no sense in terms of security and Voter manipulation. But for him, and his people and allies, this is it. This is the end Game. In their silly little mind if they pass this referendum by hook or crook they have won everything.

I am of the argument that they have already lost. Here are my reasons:

  • They don’t have the votes: Given that the secular side in Egypt has finally unified itself, and are all against the referendum, there is no way the Islamists can win this vote fair and square. Their numbers are 7.5 million votes, the combined votes of the secular voters is beyond that of 14 million (sabahy, moussa, shafiq and abulfotouh votes, all saying NO). Which is why they will attempt voters fraud..and about that..
  • They don’t have the legitimacy: The constitution is approved by an illegal Constiotuint assembly, created by an illegal parliament elected in an illegal election, and 1/3 of its members are opposed to it. There are no international Observers, the Majority of the Judges are not joining, with reportedly only 20% of Egypt’s judges will supervise, which is why they need to conduct it on two phases, which is not only logistically disastrous, but also technically illegal: The referendum is supposed to be held for one day only. Everyone expects fraud, especially with the absence of the minimum voting requirement to pass this. No one sees this as a legitimate referendum.
  • They don’t have the bases: The MB has divided the referendum states on the two phases, with all the solidly and leaning NO governorates in the first phase, and the Islamist strongholds on the second phase. This way if the results are overwhelmingly NO in the First phase, they can fraud the vote as they wish in the second phase. They are delusional. First of all, everyone is wise to their trick, so people will be keeping a closer eye on the second phase anyway. Secondly, the second phase governorates are also now against them, and they will find out the hard way.
  • Their tools no longer work: The Islamists have long depended on Mosque mobilization and Guidance of religious leaders, both of which are being challenged by the people. Mosque sermons by Imams trying to push for a YES vote are being interrupted by the mosque goers, with clashes ensuing. Today it happened in Tanta, Mahalla, and Alexandria, where the Salafi symbol AlMahallawy is still hiding in the mosque from the clashes that took place after his YES vote sermon. Imagine this happening in Egypt? Islamists no longer scare Egyptians, which is why the Islamists are so terrified.
  • Their propaganda sucks: Where to start? From the MB claiming that all the protesters and rejecters of the constitutions are Christians? Or from their twitter accounts showing a photo shopped pictures of Pornstar Gianna Miachaels as an Egyptian expat yes voter? Or that Gehad Hadad, their face in western media, was quoting Nazi propagandist Carl Schmitt today on his twitter account?
  • There will be no stability with this constitution: Already people are fighting on the streets over it, do you think those people will magically disappear if the constitution passes? Even the Stability voters are getting that message.
  • They have bet all against the House: You want to rule Egypt? You can’t fight with all of its institutions at once. You can not alienate the people, the opposition parties, the Media, the workers, the army, your own advisors and ministers and try to incite sectarianism and expect that everything will work out your way. You never take the House. The House always wins..

It’s Game Over, Islamists. If this referendum fails and it will fail, prepare for the wrath of the people and the in-fighting amongst your very loose alliance. You have shown your hand, and the people don’t want what you are selling. Best of Luck. You will need it.

 

A simple update regarding our constitutional referendum

The constitutional draft that was created by an illegal Constituent assembly is on referendum this saturday. Until this moment we don’t know the following:

1) Who will supervise: More than 90% of the Judges -who by law must supervise- are refusing to supervise the referendum. The remaining 10% are in no way enough to cover the entire referendum.
2) Who will monitor it: Until now No info has been given to NGO’s or journalists to get monitors passes
3) where people will vote: Until now people have no clue which polling stations they are supposed to go to.
4) When will people vote: The Presidency until now hasn’t decided if the referendum will be on one phase or two phases, and if it’s two, there will be a week separating the first half from the second with results coming out for the first phase a week before the second phase. Very dangerous.
5) Who will secure it: The Army is now responsible for securing it, but said they would only do it for one day, the two phases situation is not in its plan.

Again…The referendum is on Saturday. Today is Wednesday..

 


I am on the assassination list of Ansar AlSharia

This is so cool. I am very proud to be on this list. J

Imagine

Imagine sitting at a friend’s house, watching the President address the nation after a week long crisis, with his supporters just the night before opening fire on civilian protesters in Heliopolis in horrifying clashes that spanned the whole day. Imagine finding out that he issued the illegal constitutional declaration that enflamed and divided the entire country, because- and I quote- one of the suspects in the Camel incidents –who was declared innocent by the courts- had a meeting with 3 other unnamed people in his office. The President that has under him State security, general intelligence, military intelligence, the ministry of Justice, The Police and the General Prosecutor office declaring that he had no choice but to issue this declaration because four people had a meeting. And then as he swipes the page of his speech on his IPad, he instinctively licks his finger first as if he is turning a paper page. Imagine.

Imagine that this President saw that the situation was so urgent, he called for a national dialogue meeting with the opposition in two days to resolve the crisis, one that all of his allies and none of the opposition attend, and he walks in, talks for 5 minutes, then leaves the dialogue he called for immediately, telling people to talk to his VP and that he is leaving to guarantee the “neutrality of the dialogue”. Imagine that his group’s uber-intellectual, Fahmy Howeidy, shortly after leaves as well, because he had another important meeting to attend, and that this group of clowns come with a solution after midnight that isn’t a solution, drafted by ex-Presidential candidate Selim Al-Aawa, who wrote the Sudanese constitution that eventually led to Sudan getting divided into two countries. They fronted that guy. Just Imagine.

Imagine that the next day, you are no longer greeted with the President face, but with those of the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his second man Khairat AlShater, who both hold press conferences defending the President in hiding, while the army builds walls around the Presidential palace. Imagine watching the Supreme Guide claiming that all who died in the clashes are Muslim Brotherhood, despite there being dead Christians in the clashes, and AlShater talking about how hard it is to get investment into this country and blaming the whole crisis on the Christians and the church. Imagine knowing that those are the people who run the Order that is running your country at the moment. Imagine.

Imagine knowing that your President, the first civilian democratically elected post-revolution President is a puppet for that group, and his puppeteer is the second man in this order, and not even the First. Imagine that this group has its people, for two weeks, wondering openly on TV talk shows about why are the people, after a revolution, cannot tolerate having a temporary dictatorship for a few months, since they endured it under Mubarak for 30 years. Imagine them being unable to comprehend that because simply you won an election by 1%, you can’t just do anything you damn please in the name of democracy because you are the majority. Imagine them openly stating that this constitution, since it supports sharia, will have 90% support in terms of votes and that the opposition are all Christians and agents and no more than 40,000 in the entire country and want to repeat the constitution writing process to allow gay marriage. Imagine.

Imagine that this group is still pushing for a referendum over a constitutional draft that is created by an illegal constituent assembly that a third of its members withdrew, while an entire country goes in flames over it, with hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in the governorates are protesting and clashing with this group’s supporters. Imagine that with this referendum being 4 days away, and the Presidency has no judges to supervise it, doesn’t have the schools to host it, did not open the door for journalists or observers to go in and observe the process, and gave no way for the voters to find out where they are supposed to vote. Your country’s constitution. Imagine.

Imagine that the secular side is the majority for the first time, with people in the streets all over Egypt viewing this as a referendum on the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsy and want to vote No on both and teach them a lesson. Imagine them finally rallying behind a unified opposition front, called the National Salvation council, who just yesterday issued that they will boycott the first referendum they actually have a great shot of winning, because they think it’s an illegitimate referendum and we shouldn’t dignify it with our votes, despite it being the country’s constitution and everything.

Just freakin Imagine.

 

Tuesday is the New Friday!

 

Dear Egyptian Islamist Forces,

First of all, I would like to thank you. If it wasn’t for the massive organized effort and insane amount of money that you poured into having a strong showing in Giza and Alexandria last Saturday, and the full Panic mode that you put all the secular people of Egypt (who are now the majority after 5 months only of your rule), we wouldn’t have seen yesterday’s massive, nay, colossal turn out in all of the governorates. Not only did we pack Tahrir, we completely covered the huge area surrounding the Presidential palace (despite security checkpoints placed there by your security forces to divide the crowds & make the numbers look small, and which were naturally removed by the protesters), not to mention the massive turnout in Alexandria, Asuit, Minya, Daqahliya, Suez, Port Said, 6th of October, Mahalla, Hurghada, Sharm AlSheikh, Damanhour, Damiettia, Aswan and others. This is not surprising if compared to the turn-out last Tuesday in Tahrir, but definitely compared to the turn-out last Friday, which marks the first symbolic change of the second wave of this revolution: Tuesday is the New Friday.

It makes sense when you think about it: When we were all on one side, Friday made sense since we were mobilizing after Friday prayers, a tactic that you pioneered. The switch to Tuesday showcases the symbolic change in demographics in the revolution, after the Independents finally joined our side, who go down to the streets after work instead of getting bussed in after Friday prayers. Friday was the day we demonstrated with you, Tuesday is the day we demonstrate with all of Egypt, because-unlike you- we don’t need the Mosques to mobilize our people. Hell, we don’t even need to plan or provide Logistical support or pay people to increase the numbers: Our people come down on their own, and they are LEGIONS. If by your count the people you brought to the streets last Saturday were Six million, I estimate our people count by your Math to be around two Billion. Yeah, that sounds about right.

In light of Yesterday’s events, we urge you to convince your President to withdraw the constitutional declaration and cancel the referendum. I am sure you will find him very agreeable to this notion after his daring escape from the Presidential Palace yesterday. It must be very hard on him after to be the first Egyptian President to escape from the Presidential palace, especially 5 months after he stood in Tahrir opening his suit to prove the absence of a bulletproof vest as a show how unafraid he is from the people. But then again, he did escape from Protesters at a Mosque near his house last week, and before that from Prison, so escaping is kind of his thing. I would also scale back the threatening Jihad talk from now on, because, what will you do, exactly? You don’t obviously have the numbers to control the streets of Egypt, so your only option is Terrorism, which, meh, we’ve been through before in the 80′s and 90′s and survived it with no problem. And if you go down that route, it won’t be the MOI that will hunt you down, it will be the people this time, who will view you as an enemy and act accordingly by bringing you from your houses. You will lose. You will die. We don’t recommend it. Back down.

Also, don’t go on the media and try to maneuver your way out of this and try to have the referendum anyway. If all of those people went out against the constitutional declaration yesterday, then there is no consensus on the constitutional draft and it shouldn’t even be put on a referendum. Even if you go through with it, we know that the majority is with us, so you will either lose or you will forge it, and we will go after you and bring you down. What are you counting on? And why do you have people like Beltagy go on TV talking about how the protesters should abide by the rules of democracy? You mean the same rules of democracy your President broke by giving himself unprecedented powers, by sending his supporters to prevent the constitutional court from doing their job as a check on his decisions and by trying to push through a constitution that is rejected by everybody outside his base of support? Why do your Sheikh’s talk about conspiracies by the church in your media? Yes, naturally we have Christians in our demonstrations, like we have representatives of every other group in Egypt in our demonstration, because they are Egyptians, and as we keep telling you, we are a diverse population. Come to our rallies and you will find it representative of Egypt, while your rallies only have Islamists. And then your President speaks about how you have the majority? What Majority? He won the presidential elections by 1% with the help of non-islamists. Get a grip on reality.

Yesterday was called “The Final Warning”, and it was just that: our Final warning to you to back down from this insanity. We were at the gates of the Presidential palace and we could’ve stormed it, and we chose not to, and instead Grafiitied all over it to let you know that you are not untouchable behind palace walls. Our symbols have given you until Friday to back down on both the referendum and the declaration, a generous offer that you frankly don’t deserve, but we really find it distasteful to get into violent conflict with other Egyptians, and we really don’t want to bring down the first democratically elected President after only 5 months; But we will if we are forced to. If you don’t back down by Friday, then prepare yourselves for the wrath of an entire population next Tuesday. And Just in case you forgot, here is a friendly reminder: January 25 was also a Tuesday. ;)

I hope you listen.

Best Regards,

Mahmoud Salem

The Game no one wins

As the country continues to be horrified over the events of the past few days, and braces itself for the “epic showdown” that is supposed to take place on Tuesday, I find myself, as always, in awe of this country and what happens in it. The nature and the rapid pace of developments that took place over the past few days tells me that this country and revolution will continue to surprise me for a long while to come. I have spent the past year and a half studying other revolutions and their history, and let me assure you, what’s happening here has not happened in the history of any revolution before. Egyptians, you are still Pioneers; pat yourselves on the back.

We have a President who, after some praise from Obama over resolving this week’s episode of the Ghaza crisis, decided that he will grant himself the power to do anything he wants in the land, and then the consequences. The consequences are what’s new: 1) Clashes over the decision erupt all over Egypt, and not just Cairo as usual ; 2) His Presidential Team almost all quit, to the point that people joke that his wife will quit next; 3) His Islamist Party’s Branches got attacked and raided all over, with people finding election ballots, utilities receipts with a special party discount, and on more than one occasion female lingerie items; 4) His newly appointed Prosecutor General, and the head of the Shura Council- who is not only a member in the President’s party, but also his relative and In-law –both coming out against his decree, 5) Our Ministry of Interior, who has for decades persecuted and killed Islamists, is now killing for them ; 6) Our constituent assembly has now less than 50 out of the 100 people that are supposed to work on the new constitution in and it’s still hasn’t be resolved legally; and 7) The secular side has almost unified its front, to have the same people (leftists, anarchists figures and 6th of April) who promoted electing Morsy for President, are still trying to divide it, as if an Islamist Dictatorship will somehow differentiate between Shafiqistas, Independents or Revolutionaries when it comes to oppression or as if you don’t need every single able body in this fight.

What people don’t get about the declaration is this: It literally empowers the President to do anything he damn pleases. It’s not simply about shaping the government institutions to his whimsy, but will also move to the Private sector and Syndicates, the latter for which he issued a new syndicates law yesterday that will remove all the elected heads of the syndicates and having him appoint them. Morsy can now strip people from their citizenships or hand it out to others, try them in “special courts” for vague charges, shut down Private enterprises or Media outlets or seize them, reshape our judiciary branches and their roles singlehandedly, and even change your last name, and no one will be able to legally question or stop his decision. Granting yourself this level of Power is so in the essence of Fascism that President Morsy’s new nickname is Morsilini. It’s as if he is stating that while the old regime was autocratic, dictatorial and secular, thankfully the revolution happened and we are no longer secular.

Even the old regime couldn’t just do what Morsy is doing, because it always had to play the part of being a state. When Mubarak wanted to change the constitution for his liking, new amendments had to be discussed in parliament, and then a referendum had to be had over them. Even the SCAF had to have a referendum in order to grant themselves such Powers. Morsy didn’t even do that and now we are experiencing street warfare all over the country. And The sad part is, it didn’t have to be this way. Morsy did not have to go this route this quickly, but he did which is why his reign, even if he shuts down the current uprising, will not last , and if the Islamists are removed from Power, chances are that they will never be voted in again, iof there wasn’t excessive Violence and justified oppression against them from now on. We are now playing a game where there is no winning, only degrees of losing, and that’s not even the real problem.

If you want to know what is, imagine Egypt as a woman who was married for a long time, and her Husband cheated on her, lied to her and abused her throughout the relationship. She finally managed to get rid of her Husband, only to have Her Father insist that she gets remarried again ASAP, without going into the necessary therapy. A whole bunch of ill-suited individuals, who fit her Father’s insane conditions, propose to her, and when there were two of them left, people on each side pressured her to choose one over the other, not because their choice was good, but because they hated the other guy with a passion. She finally marries one who promises her the world, and the right to divorce him if he betrays her trust, and then within a few months, while she is still traumatized and Paranoid, he starts exhibiting similar behavior to her first Husband. When she confronts him, he assures her that it’s all in her head, until one day she catches him erasing and changing clauses in their marriage contract. When she accuses him of treachery and demands a divorce, he informs her that they are married and whatever God Unities, no man can separate, and then places a Gun on the table, threateningly. She will naturally fight it, he might kill her, but she will most likely get rid of him first. The Problem, the question, then becomes, how do you convince this woman to get remarried ever again?

Why the Salafis agreed to the constitution

Up until very recently the Salafi parties were planning to vote no on the constitutional draft that is being called to referendum in two weeks, on the basis that it’s not Islamist enough. The Salafi Parties wanted a strict implementation of Sharia, including Sharia judgments, in the constitution, and yet there is no clear article that states this in the proposed constitution. However, upon closer scrutiny, one find it hidden, in two unassuming words in article # 76 in the constitutional draft.

Article 76 states the following:

Penalty shall be personalized. There shall be no crime or penalty except by virtue of a constitutional text or of the law. No penalty shall be inflicted except by a judicial sentence. Penalty shall be inflicted only for acts committed subsequent to the promulgation of the law prescribing it.

Now please pay attention to the words “by the virtue of a constitutional text” here. The constitution doesn’t include penalties for crimes, that’s the law’s job. Even crimes that are listed in the constitution do not have the punishments in them as much as a reference to the law that regulates such punishment. So, if it was simply the law, why would anyone put in the words “constitutional text” instead of referring directly to a crime punishable by an existing law? The only reference is then for punishments for crimes that don’t exist in the law. So, how would that work exactly?

Simple, really: In this case, the search for a legislation that doesn’t exist in civil law will refer directly to article 2 , which states that “Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation” . Those Principles of Islamic Sharia are in turn explained by article 219 “The principles of Islamic Sharia include general evidence, foundational rules, rules of jurisprudence, and credible sources accepted in Sunni doctrines and by the larger community” , which means that if there is any Sharia-based judgment that exists in the 1600 years of Islamic jurisprudence or stated by a “credible source”, then it shall be found to be in accordance of this constitution. This includes anything from the famous punishments for theft , adultery, idolatry or murder (cutting hands, whipping, stoning to death, paying your way out, respectively) to less famous ones that include social crimes that no functioning moderate Muslim today knows to be crimes. It is the constitutional equivalent of allowing the punishment for witchcraft set by the Catholic Church in the middle ages, since it is part of historic Catholic jurisprudence.

If this Constitution is passed, Cairo will truly become Kendhar, with the blessing of the Egyptian President and the Muslim Brotherhood. Hope that Gaza cease-fire was worth it, dear President Obama.

 

Down with Sharia in the constitution

With every semblance of what is commonly referred to as “the civil forces” (The churches representatives, the secular parties & members) withdrawn from it, the Egyptian constituent assembly’s fate seems more precarious than ever. While many speculate about its fate and the fate of the constitution it is supposed to present to the public soon, it is safe to say that the current draft is not satisfactory for neither the islamist or the secular factions, each believing that the constitution is too secular or too islamist, respectively, because of the argument of the meaning of the word Sharia in it. Having followed its news with increasing boredom like the rest of you, I have reached a sense of moral clarity towards it: I don’t want the word Sharia , or any amendment that refers to it, to be in our constitution. I want all of it, gone, and here are my reasons for this very unreasonable request.

First of all, I would like a solid definition of what Sharia actually means from the islamist side. I am willing to bet that if you gathered a representative from every islamist political party and asked them for their vision and definition of Sharia and what it means in terms of governance and implementation, they would come up with very different answers from each other. Islamic jurisprudence and schools of thought is a vast field with many contradictory interpretations, hence why there are so many islamist parties in existence in Egypt today: they all think the others understand or implement Sharia the wrong way. If you think the secular side has problems uniting and unifying, then you should try uniting or unifying the islamist side. It should be a hilarious experiment. They all think each other are extremists or infidels.

The constituent committee tried to side-step that by creating an amendment that states that AlAzhar’s Scholars should be the ones that interpret what Sharia means and how it should be implemented, which brings us to the second reason behind my decision: I do not trust AlAzhar with that role either. It was an AlAzhar scholar who came up with the Fatwa that would allow strange men and women to share office space if the women breastfeed the men. It was an AlAzhar scholar who came up with the Fatwa that any journalist that criticized Mubarak would get 40 lashes. Both cases were based on flimsy reasoning or interpretations for purposes of insanity in the former and corruption in the latter, and both came from AlAzhar.

If we choose to ignore insanity for a second (despite having Islamist politicians who see nothing wrong with kidnapping a 14 year old Christian girl & claiming she converted & marrying her off without parental consent, or others who see nothing wrong with having AlQaeda operating in Egypt as long as they don’t attack us), we will have to face the Problem of corruption. AlAzhar scholars can be as corrupt as any other institution in the fantastically corrupt entity referred to as the Egyptian state. There are Scholars who tailor fatwas for reasons ranging from gaining favor from whomever is in power, to whomever pays them more. Are they all like that? No, of course not, but given that Fatwas are based on interpretation, a scholar could easily come up with two opposing fatwas based on the same “evidence”, which creates a very flexible environment for corruption to grow and prosper, in a land that already suffers from a corruption epidemic in its government. Here is another fun experiment: try to bribe an Azhar scholars for a tailored Fatwa and see if he will have a problem with it.

This brings us to the final reason why I am against having Sharia in our constitution: I don’t trust our government one bit , and I believe this distrust is commonly shared by Egyptians all over after the events of the past two years, especially after the Asuit School bus incident. The question then becomes: how do you trust this fabulously corrupt government not to abuse its powers under the cover of Sharia? Hell, my level of distrust in them is so high, I don’t even want them teaching our children religion in public schools, especially with an Islamist President in office. Our public school teachers find it acceptable to beat up their students, cut their hair because they were not veiled, and have them clean their shoes , examples of which we all saw in the past few months, so do you trust those people to teach the next generation of Egyptians- your children- religion? Do you even trust them to not mess with the curriculum to have it suit their political ends?

I had no problem with keeping the Sharia clause in the constitution before, but it has become increasingly obvious that the islamist parties won’t just contend with having it there, but will increasingly try to use it to “fix us” , which is something I am totally opposed to. I am not the one who wants to sleep with children or finds it acceptable to kidnap teenage girls & marry them off without the consent of their parents. I don’t need fixing, and neither do any of you. The level of potential abuse of power that having even the word Sharia in the constitution with the islamists in charge is so high that I fear we will continue witnessing horrifying events, laws and justifications- like the ones we have been hearing for months- for years to come if it stays in its current form. So ask yourself this question today: Does that seem like a country you want to live in?

 

 

The Rights of the Martyrs

As the first anniversary to the Clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud approaches, my social media timelines are bombarded with the images of the martyrs who died there and how we should never forget until we get back their rights. As the pictures and the names keep rolling in, it becomes impossible to distinguish the faces and the names anymore, and all that you are left with is a blurry memory and a sense of helplessness and guilt for being alive and unable to get their rights back. You are then left with two questions: 1) how do we get the rights of the martyrs back and, more importantly, 2) what does that even mean?

When revolutionaries talk about it, it’s placed in the following context: Desire for Justice for those who died a quest for revenge and accountability against those who killed them. However, nobody wants to publically admit that both are impossible at this point. Judicial Justice would require having real investigations into the conditions of their deaths from the day they died, which didn’t happen, and would also require non-corrupt Police & judicial institutions to transact this Justice, which we don’t have either, and don’t seem like we will any time soon, since we haven’t done any real efforts in that area for the past year and a half. And once you reconcile those two realizations, you are then hit with the third: in the context of the revolution, there is really no such thing as the rights of or Justice for the martyrs.

When we went down in 18 days or in the subsequent events of the revolution, we knew that we were placing ourselves in the face of mortal danger, and we had implicitly reconciled ourselves with the fact that we might die for the cause of getting rid of the Mubarak/Military rule. We were soldiers in a war, not looking for martyrdom but knew that death was always a possibility with the regime we are dealing with. And we were also Ok with that, if our death was the price that needed to be paid for a better Egypt: One with functional institutions, better governance, and a future. The Supreme majority of us survived it physically mostly unharmed (psychologically most of us are still reeling), but there are those who didn’t and were martyrs for that Cause, a cause that we are nowhere near achieving. And instead of focusing on it, we are fighting to bring their killers to a justice that is administered by institutions that facilitated their deaths.

The revolutionaries figured out before anyone else that most of our governmental institutions were mirages of the real deal and beyond reform, and set their sights at exposing them and destroying their credibility, which is fine, but only half of the equation. The Other unfulfilled half was the building of parallel institutions with policies and methods that actually function to replace those that were being destroyed. And we had the people as well, some of the best young minds in their fields who wanted to do it, but they were dragged into protest, and then sit-ins, and then battle, reducing them to numbers and cannon fodder in battles that both sides would lose. Those who attempted to build those institutions or form new ones were scoffed at, were told that this isn’t the time for such endeavors, labeled reformists or sell-outs, and guilted into participation for their desire to not leave their friends and comrades alone in danger. And then, the inevitable conclusion: nothing got built, the institutions got destroyed, but with nothing to replace them with they were left to continue to function, and we ended up with even more martyrs on our hands.

You don’t destroy a state unless you are ready or willing to built one to replace it, the same way you don’t start a revolution unless you intend on ruling, but we had symbols and intellgentsia who steered us to the path we were in, side-battle after side-battle instead of focusing on winning the war, because they simply couldn’t stop being the opposition. They had won, removed Mubarak, and were still doing protests and making demands, instead of enforcing their will as winners. We followed them because we couldn’t comprehend the truth at the time: They didn’t have the desire, capacity, knowledge or experience to rule or build institutions; they just wanted to stay as the opposition. If you think I am too harsh, consider this: They are the same people who told us to vote in for Morsy- a president who values and goals have nothing to do with us or theirs- so we can oppose him later, and are now opposing him. Joy.

The Martyrs wanted accountability, not just for their deaths, but for those who die daily due to our governments’ ineptitude. They wanted Justice, not just over their murder, but for every single Egyptian who would survive them. They wanted not to be forgotten, but not as our fallen comrades, but as the price we had to pay for our complacency towards tyranny and corruption. The Martyrs died for a better Egypt, one that they entrusted us to build and wanted their memory to fuel our desire to do so, and we didn’t. And had we did, had we done the work, built the state we wanted, we could’ve had a shot to actually bring justice to their killers, instead of simply demanding it. The battle to bring justice to them is a symptom of a disease, not the disease itself, and we occupied ourselves with the symptoms instead of treating the disease. We are not responsible for their deaths, we didn’t kill them, but we did nothing real to bring true justice to them, and that is our Guilt. That’s what we have to live with.

Open Letter to the Egyptian President

Dear Morsy,

Like many Egyptians, I was looking forward to your government’s attempt to implement its decision to close down shops at 10 pm out of the sheer comic value it would’ve presented. I had set up an observation post in front of my building in Roxy Square, chairs, Shisha, et all, to have a front row seat to the Tom & Jerry-style shenanigans that would take place the moment you tried to shut down the shops there. And then the news came in that your government backed down on its decision and were delaying it for another week, which at first got me into a fit of laughter, which to my amazement got replaced with increasing levels of anger as time went by, with a single thought dominating my head: Have you no shame, at all?

The Point of any state is its ability to enforce its authority on the ground; it is what is referred to as political will. Any state that doesn’t do that is basically turning itself into another Mirage state, one that only exists on paper, which is not what the Egyptian people signed up for when they went to the election polls. The people wanted a functioning government: one that has a vision, runs the country based on that vision and can enforce rule of law, which your government fails on all fronts. Is the Decision to shut down the shops a bad idea? Yes! Absolutely; but here are the options that any government has when it gets such a bad idea: 1) Don’t propose it at all, or 2) Go through with it and try to enforce it, even if it is doomed to failure from the beginning. Since you decided to propose it, I wanted you to try to close the shops, and fail, but at least you would’ve failed with some semblance of dignity or self-respect. Your government now has neither and has become the laughing stock of the entire country, which brings us to the real question: Dear President, what the Hell are you doing exactly?

What exactly was the point of the MB running you for President in the first place? To be in Power? What Power? What’s the point of power if you are incapable of exercising it or enforcing it? So far me and every Egyptian I know can count at least 5 major decisions that you or your government took in the past 4 months and couldn’t enforce. And it’s not like those decisions were great ones and there is a conspiracy preventing you from executing them; they were simply bas decisions, either legally or practically, and they showed an embarrassing amateurish style of governance. If you can’t handle the trappings of power, why go for it? So you could give us a weekly sermon every Friday? So that your governments gets us more in debt and executes shady international business deals that we know very little about? I mean, we get that the grand ambition of the MB is to have the same kind of business corruption that the NDP enjoyed, and that unlike every other Egyptian, the top honchos in your secret society are enjoying ridiculous sudden economic prosperity, but at least the NDP were trying to make it look good, and they were not scared to enforce their will, two things your people can’t seem to do. And yet again, is that really all there is to you? Did you not learn from your predecessor at all?

Listen , when the people elected you they didn’t do so in order to watch you make a mockery of the national symbol of the Presidency by having you touch your privates, nor did they do it so that you can give us religious sermons that, are not only boring, but are falsely interpreting the Quran verses you are citing as well. They elected you so that you can make things better, fix the country, and create a functioning government. They basically elected you to work, your Excellency, and you are not doing your job at all, and it’s starting to show. Not only that, but the people are slowly getting the message that this is a government without vision, plans or tools to execute or enforce their laws and decisions, and will start ignoring you. And then the question won’t be whether or not the opposition will be able to unseat you or your party in the next elections, but whether if there will be a point to another election in the first place, because nobody wants to be part of a government that has no power of execution. And why would they? If they wanted a place to go exchange ideas and draft laws that won’t be implemented, they would start a Think Tank or a social club, and it would be one where they don’t have to debate with idiots whether or not a 9 year old is eligible for marriage because she had her period. It’s not only you that’s failing, it’s the entire concept of the state, and if that falls, well, good luck bringing that back. Am I getting through to you? Do you understand what’s at stake here? Do you get that you are taking the country into anarchy?

And mind you, anarchy will not bother me nor my friends. We will adapt, get guns and electric generators and generally be fine. Others won’t be though. We will turn into the land of do as you please, and the supreme majority of the country- some of which are MB- will suffer greatly. Is that what you want? No? Then stop being such a joke, and work. Do your job. Or step aside if you are unable to. Whichever choice you make, you better make it quick. We have serious problems that require serious solutions implemented by serious people, and so far you have shown that you neither have the solutions nor are you serious about finding them. You better change that quickly, because we can’t take 4 years of this. It has been only 4 months and we are already cracking.

Sincerely yours,

Mahmoud Salem

 

The First Egyptian Revolution

It is said to have started sometime around 2181 B.C. , although the exact date cannot be pinpointed for sure. The first Egyptian popular uprising took place around then, thus ending the reign of the 6th dynasty and the era of the old Kingdom. It overthrew the rule of King Pepi II, who has ruled the country for a very long time, some even say into his 90′s, with the documents usually describing him as an ageing King secluded in his palace and disconnected from the outside world. Stop me when this starts to sound familiar.

The causes behind the first Egyptian revolution were as follows: The long reign of the King created problems with succession in the royal household, where there was no clear heir apparent who could hold the keys of the Kingdom and stop the infighting that had plagued the royal court for years. The Infighting was mainly due to the weakening of the King and the centralized authority, which lead to emergence of many forces and individuals who were part of the royal court but started to act with impunity, prompting many to question the authority of the King. Extravagance and corruption reigned supreme all over the land, along with extensive injustice and class discrimination. The agricultural based economy was getting controlled by Feudal Lords who cared very little for their workers, and who were more interested in conflicts over political influence and economic prosperity between each other than the well-being of the country. These conflicts dominated the life of the general Egyptian population until one day they had enough, and started the first Egyptian revolution.

Like any revolution, the first Egyptian revolution had its negative and positive consequences. On the negative side we have the complete destruction of state authority and institutions (local and central), the collapse of the security and judicial apparatus, and unprecedented wave of crime and looting. This lead to the eventual economic breakdown, with production collapsing and internal and external trade halted due to production and security issues, and the people refused to pay their taxes, which lead to the complete failure of the little state services they had. This, in turn, lead to the collapse of the religious and moral values that defined the Egyptian society for decades, and to a wave of atheism unprecedented amongst the Egyptian population, with many of them feeling that if the gods existed, then they have forsaken them.

The positive consequences were mainly in the area of rising political awareness of the population, with the ideas of equality and rights taking hold amongst them against the previous stringent class system that existed before, and with the establishment of schools of political thought, which aimed to come up with policies that would ensure good governance of the land and the rules rulers must follow. This era was also marked with the emergence of new artists, who brought new styles and interpretations to classical Egyptian artworks and archoitecture.

The first Egyptian revolution spanned 4 different dynasties, rising, trying to rule the country, and failing, to the point that Manheto, a historian of the Ptolemaic era, describes a period in it where 70 kings ruled for 70 days. This era was marked with a divided Kingdom filled with civil strife and conflict, not to mention attacks from invading tribes from our Asian and Libyan borders. The general weakness of the country, and the insufficiency of regional and minority rulers, made Egyptians very wary and tired of localized governance. Eventually Egyptians decided that what they needed was a strong centralized monarchy that doesn’t infringe upon their rights, which paved the way for the 11th dynasty to take over the country in absolute monarchial rule once again, under Menuhotep II , who unified the country and ushered in the era of the middle Kingdom, which was marked as an era of great wealth and prosperity, ending the revolution.

The first Egyptian revolution lasted 141 years, with the people, in the end, demanding the return of the monarchial rule that they revolted against in the first place. If you are a believer that history repeats itself, and this information is disturbing you, please remember one thing: they didn’t have internet back then.

 

 

 

 

The Circle Jerk

 

Just the other day I was contacted by my good friend (whom we shall call here A.) to inform me that he intends to marry his foreign girlfriend (we shall call her B.) and mother of his future twin babies the next day, and asked me to be his witness during the efficiation of the marriage with the egyptian government. I was naturally honored to be chosen, but also intensly curious, since he intended to have an Egyptian “civil marriage”, which is the same as the regular one, but instead of going to an Islamic efficiarry to register his marriage, he would do it directly with the Egyptian department of Justice. Given eternal fascination with Egyptian beauracracy, I couldn’t let the opprutunity go to witness it in action, especially in a civil marriage situation. The experience that I went through with them, the one I will share in this column, has been nothing short of affirming to my commitment phobia.

When A first went to the DOJ, they simply informed him that they needed simply his and her ID, and the embassy’s approval of theiur marriage, with them confirming B. citizenship, religion and marital availability. This required A to go get papers from everyone that he knew stating that they knew him and verify him, as well as all his personal papers, and then go to our ministry of foreign affairs, to get it stamped. After stamping it, he had to take the papers to a MFA-certified translator to translate everything, then back to the MFA to get it stamped again, then take it all to the embassy to start the paperwork cycle and get the confirmation regarding B. The embassy took a month and a half to process the papers and interview them, and then informed them that they can give them everything that the Egyptian government needs, except the religion of B. since the government there is secular and it has no reason to keep records of its citizens’ religion. So, in order to satisfy the requirement, B. went and converted to Islam, to get that ball rolling. After finishing all the paperwork, they went back to the DOJ to finally get their marriage contract, a journey which I accompanied them on.

After submitting all the papers, and verifying that everything in order, the government employee started to go ahead with the paperwork, when he noticed B’s baby bump, which started this exchange:

“You are pregnant?”

“Yes.”

” Are you married?”

“No”

“Were you previously married?”

“Ehh..No!”

“Ehh…then how could you be pregnant?”

“I am not sure..It’s a mystery!”

It took the government official a few minutes to get that she is kidding and that he isn’t witnessing an immaculate conception, before informing her and A that he can’t go through with the paperwork unless they were originally married. After pointing out that this is insane, since they are there to get married, he informed them that they need to create a urfi “custom” marriage that is dated before the pregnany so that he could go through with giving them an official marriage certificate. Ignoring the fact that the government employee is asking them to forge a piece of paper, they asked him how could they get Urfi married right now, to which he informed them to go to the bookstore in front of the ministry, where they sell the Urfi Marriage forms. So, we went to the bookstore, bought the form, filled it, and then submitted it. Satisfied that now the couple in front of him are officially not having babies out of wedlock, and thus not sinful infidels that should not grace his presence, the government official started asking B. about the conditions she wants in her marriage contract.

B simply wanted to state in the contract that she has the right to travel with the children when she pleases, which the official informed her is illegal, since the marriage contract conditions can not cover future conditions, and since there are no children yet, and she could miscarry, this condition could not be inserted. When she asked what she can have as conditions in the contract, he informed her that she has the right to 1)Divorce him if she wishes , 2) to work without his permission, 3) travel without his consent and 4) keep separate finances. He then assured her that Islam protects her right as a mother and that she will have equal control over her children by the law and religion, and when she asked him why he can’t add that to the contracts, he informed her because it would be illegal to do so. You figure it out.

After 3 and a half hours, and a ton of signitures and photocopies and paperwork, we were finally in the stage of printing the marriage contract and signing it. The female government official handeling that aspect noted the exhaustaion that all of us were in, and then asked me what was the problem. When I informed her that the process simply took longer than originally anticipated, she told me “By the way, this is very quickly. Did you know that had they come in two months ago, they wouldn’t be able to get the marriage certificate before a week of submitting their papers?” Astonished, I asked her what happened to change this. Was there a new law that we were not aware of? Or is the new minister maybe pushing for more efficiency? She snorted at the notion, and told me : “No. we are the ones that were bothered by it, and staged a meeting with upper management to change the delay, since it made no sense to delay people who wanted to get married.” “And they agreed?”, I asked, and she replied with a smile, as she is giving us the marriage contract, “Of course. They had no choice when they realized we were all united here on this. Didn’t we have a revolution to make everything better? ”

Ahh, man. Faith truly gets rewarded in the strangest of places….

 

Hope

 

Legend has it that when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by creating the first woman, Pandora, and presenting her to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother. With her, Pandora had a jar which she was not to open under any circumstance. Impelled by her natural curiosity, Pandora opened the jar, and all evil contained- every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy- escaped and spread over the earth. She hastened to close the lid, but the whole contents of the jar had escaped, except for one thing which lay at the bottom, and that was Hope. When she opened the Jar again, Hope sprang free, and flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.

We are comforted by the seemingly happy ending of this legend, but the truth is, it’s a false and misleading ending to the story. You see, hope is not what we think it to be. Hope was locked in Pandora’s jar for a reason. Hope was not a force of good, but rather the worst evil of them all; a demon so vile, it was hidden and buried deep in the bottom of the jar. Hope was a demon that fed on human suffering, and aimed to prolong man’s torment as much as possible. It clutches itself to humans in their darkest hour, and whispers in their ears to wait, to be patient, that the misery and suffering in the world must end, and that all will be magically well some day. And the humans believed the demon and grew to feel comforted by its whispers, so when misery and decay takes over their lives, they remain calm, still and hopeful, and end up suffering longer then they would, had they just confronted the evil that’s in the world. They lied to themselves and let it into their hearts, even though what they needed to do to fix the world didn’t require it one bit.

You see, upon further reading, we discover that Hope, the demon succubus of our souls, alongside with every other evil that was in that jar, can only be truly vanquished by Tabbris, the Angel of self-determination, choice and free will. The truth that nobody told you was this: You don’t need hope. You never did. Even at your darkest hour, it wasn’t necessary. What you truly needed to overcome it was determination; to make the choice to face the evil and the suffering head-on, without blinking or hesitation, or hope. We urge you to remember the evidence of this throughout the history of humanity; that those who fought the great wars of old, those who faced the might and machines of evil men, they did it without hope, and they confronted it directly and fiercely regardless, which is why they won.

So, if what’s going around in your life, your country, or in the world, is terrifying you, and the situation seems so gloomy and ominous, to the point where you admittedly claim to have lost all hope, well, be glad, for getting rid of it is half the battle. Once you are at that point, all that is left for you to do is to make a choice. You can either decide to vanquish the rest of the evil, the source of your suffering, if you wish to live, or you can choose to run away, forever a quarry to suffering and misery, and a possible prey to Hope once again. If you make the second choice, you will live the rest of your life a victim, without having any power over it, which, when you think about it, isn’t a way to live, at all.

 

So please remember, when the world is at its darkest, when your friends fail you, when your allies betray you by their malice, cowardice or surrender, when your best-laid plans fall into disarray and all seems lost, please, abandon all hope, for it only buys evil time…

 

..and make the choice, to live or not, once and for all.

 

 

The view from here

    

Dear World,

I have a confession to make: while the whole world was transfixed on us, yet again, due to that whole attack the embassy business, I was going through a tumultuous emotional journey, alternating between bewilderment, horror and shock-based laughter, ending with the most unexpected of feelings: Pride. I must say that currently I am filled with a sense of ironic pride with my country and my revolution, for the status both have achieved over the past 19 months. The attention and importance given to Egypt, well, it has been nothing short of overwhelming. We sure have wow-ed you.

Sure, the scenes on your screens might be so disturbing , that some of you openly wonderd if we are going through a second revolution or something, but let me assure you with both facts and personal experience: There is no second revolution, there are no open riots on the streets, the action was totally confined to a 250 meter radius around the embassy, with people going to eat, drink, smoke hookah right nearby it. This whole video thing didn’t affect us at all, with the majority of the 2500 stationed around the embassy in the following clashes were the Zamalek Ultras (Super Football fans) who were there simply to clash with the police the following days. Really. Nope, in reality, we are doing just fine.

Sure, there are scary indications of things to come, like the attack on the MFO camp where the AlQaeda flag was hoisted, the same flag that became a Tshirt being sold in Tahrir; or the arrest of Alber Saber, a guy whose crime was sharing the trailer of “innocence of Muslims” on his facebook page while being a copt and an atheist as well, and whose house was attacked by a mob as this glorious movie shows, but such things are trivialities compared to our other Problems.

I mean, sure, it’s brilliant that we have AlQaeda now openly operating in Egypt, or that a revolution that was organized by a facebook page presenting ideas that the previous regime thought offensive and dangerous for national unity would end up with a government that actually arrests a guy for sharing content on facebook that it considerd offensive and dangerous for national unity, but really, such things are besides the point. What is the point you may ask? Well, the fulfillment of the Pakistan model of government in Egypt, of course. How we are slowly becoming a dangerous broken rogue state, just like them. We are implementing the Pakistan model here, you see, and the results have been fantastic. Just yesterday we had a salafi member of the constuient assembly (the people who are writing the constitution) talking about efforts to remove or change the amendment of human trafficking to allow the bringing down of the legal Marriage age for girls to the moment they reach puberty and have their first period, even if she was as young as 9 years old. Yes, we might end up having a constitution that grants us Child marriages. And you thought you had a culture war.

But this all sounds horrifying ,you say? Where would such pride that I spoke of come from, you ask? Well…

For me, and others, the most fascinating aspect of all of this has to be our effect on the American elections, and how suddenly we became an important campaign issue in the snoozefest that is the Obama vs. Romney elections, primarily against Obama. How Obama, he of the message of peace and understanding with the Muslim world, must now contend with islamist rage fueled by those whom he – and a million thinker, analyst and pundit- referred to as a moderate Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood. The same moderate Islamic group whose people met with his people over 14 times this past year and a half, who convinced them that they should support them because Salafis and Liberals are unpredictable and undesirable, and because they will bring peace to the region. The same moderate Islamic Group who actually called for and facilitated the protests at the US embassy on the anniversary of 9/11, all the while pretending to have nothing with it to the English-speaking world. The same moderate Islamic Group that now controls all aspects of Egyptian government, and the source of his current dilemma. How in 4 years Obama’s name went from the praised American President who wasn’t Bush, to the target of hostile chants by religious extreemists that utilize the “Obama/Osama” rhyme scheme, the one pioneered by anti-Obama American religious extremists, in anti-US demonstrations. If this ends up becoming a hot campaign issue, and Obama loses, pundit and historians will say that the Obama presidency started with Egypt and ended because of Egypt. As an egyptian political geek always enamored with international Political Theatre, well, how can I not be proud of that? How awesome is that?

The cherry on the cake in this whole Obama/Embassy affair has to be the role that the MB had in this attack, and how it provides fantastic fodder for conspiracy theorists and political analysts alike. Here is what we know: A bunch of Mulsim Brotherhood and Salafi figures started making an issue of this movie, who no one heard of before, a few days before the anniversary of 9/11. A call for protests was made by both the MB and supported by the salafis at the US embassy was made on the anniversary of 9/11. That day, as a friend who works for the embassy has informed me, the employees who left at 4 pm noticed that both the Police and the Army forces protecting the embassy had both vanished, followed by the attack that you all watched on your television. The following days the MB would praise the attackers in Arabic media and condemn the attack on their English language media, prompting a testy exchange between the US embassy and the MB’s English twitter account, and for Obama to inform the world that he no longer views Egypt as an ally.

Damage control by MB operatives and apologists was exerted, asking the world to understand Muslim anger (the demonstration again never exceeded 2500 people from a city of 20 million)and blaming the affair on the Police who assured them that they had this under control. Any person with half a brain would’ve asked about why the army- who Morsy now fully controls- didn’t defend the embassy, or why Morsy didn’t fire or even reprimand a single employee of the Ministry of Interior for failing to fulfill their duty, but really, no one botherd because no one believes the MB on this. While analysts and conspiracy theorists scrambled to come up with a theory explaining why the MB did this, and how maybe the MB hopes to have Obama lose since having Romney would give them the external enemy that they can use to silence internal dissent, the rest of us marveled at the circus that took place internationally because of it, one that we know will lead to nowhere, like all such manufactured crises, just like the Danish cartoon affair, although far more entertaining: We now have a call to reinstate the emergency law, again, and a call to boycott Google, which is so absured it’s hilarious. I wonder if they will have Gmail account deletion parties and android-phone-burning events soon.

For real, how can I not be proud of all of this? On how, my little country, is affecting the world the way it is? How we inspired the world with our revolution, and then broke its heart? How, because of us, a at least half a dozen other uprisings, not to mention general social upheavals, took place all over the world, at a time when it simply can’t afford them? How the images that occupied news about Egypt changed from a cute flag-waving westernized-looking Egyptian girl, to the image of Previous Grand Marshall Tantawy in army uniform, looking like the dictator of some African banana republic, with the image of the army beating up protesters in the background, finally ending with the bearded image of our newly elected President, Mohamed Morsy, with images of islamist protests in the background, to the horror of anyone who was still watching? How we became another cautionary tale, your favorite world drama, the harbinger of bad things to come, the uprising that singlehandedly saved journalism internationally, changed governments, broke international markets and now threatens the US elections, and whose twists and turns rivals that of the Game of Thrones? How my little country, my beloved Egypt, did all of this with one peaceful revolution. Imagine.

Sure, it is safe to say that the original revolution is now over for the time being, with the secular minded revolutionaries, so abused and traumatized by the bloodbaths carried against them by both the MOI and the Army , are now solely focused on holding the army and the police accountable, instead of actually working to create the country of rights and freedoms that they originally set out to do. Sure, it is safe to say that with Islamists in power, the whole child-marriages amendment affair is nothing but a taste of the horror we are bound to see under their rule. Sure, it is safe to say that the dream of a modern functional Egypt is destined to remain just a dream at this point, and that this breaks my heart in ways I can’t even begin to describe. But, on the bright nihilistic side, we will continue to amaze you for the time being and you won’t be able to to be smug about how much of a broken state we have become for long, because you are joining our ranks very very soon.

You see, when we called for this revolution we were dissatisfied with the conditions of our country compared to those shiny clean advanced first world countries of yours, and many were driven with the desire to fix this country so that we-as a country- can advance and hopefully one day keep up with you. But now, looking at the ensuing economical tsunami that is bound to hit this entire world- especially first world countries- the hardest, we realize that we don’t have to worry about advancing to keep up with you anymore, because you will be brought down and regress to our level very soon. We don’t have to come to you; you will come to us. We will all be miserable equally. That horrifying Egalitarian Ideal. And we started it. US. We broke the world. Without Armies. What a remarkable achievement. How can I not be proud?

Egypt is firmly in the big leagues now, people. Get used to it!

Best Regards,

Mahmoud Salem

Internal Memo 21581-2012

Dear (Redacted),

 

Oh man, things went insane after you left your post a few days ago, but thankfully we got the situation under control, and we removed the old bag of bones and his henchman. I can’t believe he wanted to stay as minister of defense after the decades he spent in his post and the insane things he made us go through the past year and a half. I mean it’s bad enough that all the lower ranks couldn’t get promoted for all of these years because those two stayed in their posts, but to want to continue, after the damage your actions did to the army and its image? Tantawy had to go with his boy, and thankfully the rest of the group chose me as the next Minister of Defense and we made the deal with Morsy to appoint me, in exchange of giving him all the powers we had, to end this circus we have been living in for the past 18 months.

I mean can you imagine us continuing to go through what we went through the past year and a half? For all of those meetings, and media appearances, and the journalists, and the friends and family members who all want to be assured one way or another, to continue? Why? We didn’t sign up for this. All that we wanted in all of this is not to have our mode of operations messed with and to keep our business empire. That’s it. And we haven’t been doing that. The Army is one of the country’s largest and richest business empires and it is too integral to our economic interests to have it ran this way. We have veered off course with our revenue targets because of this whole ruling the revolution business, that I can’t fathom how much we lost when I review our balance sheets. Do you know how much we spent on buying gas for those whiney under-paying gas guzzlers the last year and a half alone so that they wouldn’t complain? Unless we forgot what we are doing here in the first place, we are here to make money and to keep our guns and prisons to mess with anyone who threatens that. Can you say that we have been doing this efficiently lately? I can honestly say that the environment at work lately has been as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

And that supplementary constitutional declaration business; don’t even get me started at that. The country now has a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, which means they will get off our backs, and we have completely managed to defame all the political parties and annihilate all of those Tahrir creatures that wanted to review our books. Why would we continue this ruling business? We don’t want to be Turkey. We have seen how this film ends. It’s better not to be in the public eye when you are running the kind of racket we have been, especially that this close scrutiny is causing us great embarrassments. It’s bad enough that we had to excuse what happened at Maspiro by stating that our soldiers freaked out and ran over those copts, but Sinai? They were surprise attacked while eating? Those kinds of fiascos are bad for our image, and they might encourage people to start asking to review what we are doing here, and we can’t have that. I mean we have the occasional good apples, but those kids in recruitment today are not the caliber of yore. Plus, we don’t want to get involved in this securing Sinai business. That’s, as Mubarak used to say, “Israel’s problem”. Why would we want to assume responsibility for that? I will end up having one those incidents once a week. I think us stepping away from the spot light is for the best, and that we should focus on repairing the damage done to our image in the mean time. That’s why I earmarked 1 billion EGP from our budget for Sinai as this year’s CSR campaign. We are hearing good buzz about it already, and less on the news that we are not really hunting the rafah killers and that we are bombing sand dunes to make it look like we are fighting them. And honestly I expect our revenue projections to rise dramatically when we raise the prices of our products because of “inflation”, like we actually pay wages or taxes or anything. That’s what’s so great: Nobody is paying attention to us anymore, and everyone is focused on Morsy and “the Ikhwanization of the state”. Oh how I love journalists and political analysts. They really do believe anything we tell them.

Unfortunately we will have to sustain some damage for a while, with people continuing their tradition of making legends about us and believing them to be true. Like how we are getting infiltrated by the Brotherhood for example, which completely ignores that 75% of all armed forces men come from outside of Cairo and Alex, and many of them have some seriously conservative religious point of view. Or how they believe that we will be affected by them, completely ignoring that we are with whomever is in charge. We were socialists under Nasser, capitalists under Sadat and Mubarak and we have no problem becoming islamists under Morsy, just as long as he doesn’t actually think that we will fight in any wars any time soon. But I am expecting people to continue making theories about how “SCAF” is doing this or the “Deep State” is doing that, like there is an entity that actually plans and really works in Egypt. Like we don’t have Egyptians running this Institution. Oh well, let them entertain themselves. The best analysis I’ve heard lately was that us going back to the shadows is to have morsy be totally responsible for the sad state of this country; like, Idiot, isn’t that what you wanted in the first place? To end military rule? Why are you complaining? Freakin political analysts. They are the worst.

Either way, I hope all is well with you and your kids, and please don’t forget to call every now and then. And don’t worry about Tantawy and Anan, they are ok with this: they get to keep all of their money, and enjoy it, and not go to prison. It’s an excellent deal, really. Why would they be mad?

Oh, and before I forget: regarding that thing you asked me about, we did investigate your suspicions regarding Mohamed Abu Hamed, and you were right: he is an alien. From Mars, we think. We are checking it out. Will keep you informed.

Sincerely Yours,

Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi

Minister of Defense of Egypt

Reconciliation

Right now, we have an Egyptian President who holds the executive powers, the legislative powers, power over the military, and the power to veto the drafted constitution or create another constitutional committee if he wishes. If this alone wasn’t disconcerting enough, let’s add to it the fact that there is no organized opposition to him, he seems intent on continuing the time-honored tradition of hiring loyalist unqualified hacks and lackeys for important government positions, he doesn’t seem to have any intentions of being democratic or even create a government out of the coalition that he created, with his supporters viscously attacking anyone who criticizes him, sometimes with religious overtones.

One would think that such a president must have a huge mandate to be able to pull this kind of crap on all of us, but surprisingly enough, he doesn’t. He won with 51% , with almost half of his votes coming from secular revolutionary voters who simply didn’t want Shafiq to win. In reality, if someone did the math, one would realize that at least 17 million of the 25 million voters who voted in the presidential elections did not vote to have the Muslim Brotherhood take over the shaping of the Egyptian post-revolution state, and actually belong on the secular side. The Problem is, this secular majority is so divided amongst revolutionaries and Shafiqistas, that a reconciliation, despite its utterly logical necessity at the moment, is completely out of the question. Why? Only two reasons: perspective and political symbols.

Let’s start with the perspectives problem, and outline the 3 major points of contention: 1) The Mubarak state, 2) presidential elections and 3) character, and tackle them one by one. Shafiqistas believe that a corrupt and possibly murderous state is better than having no state, since they believe correctly that millions would suffer at the absence of state institutions, and incorrectly that such a state can be reformed with time, while Revolutionaries believe that no state is better than having a corrupt and murderous state, and that such a state would need to be brought down and rebuilt correctly for the sake of our long-term benefit, even if in the meantime millions end up suffering the absence of what little state they had. Shafiqistas will not forgive that revolutionaries have chosen to invalidate their votes or vote for Morsy in the second round of the presidential elections instead of voting for Shafiq, while revolutionaries will not forgive Shafiqistas for voting for Shafiq in the first round of elections instead of Sabahy, or Amr Moussa or even Abulfotouh. Shafiqstas believe that it should be apparent for anyone by now that the revolution was a mistake, and that the revolutionaries are too cowardly to admit this, while revolutionaries believe that the revolution was right and had to happen regardless of the consequences, and that the Shafiqistas are too cowardly to face our problems, hence why they always supported security forces oppression as a solution to our countries ills, instead of fixing them, which brought on the revolution. In conclusion, Shafiqistas are pragmatist realists to a point that is unacceptable to revolutionaries, and revolutionaries are Utopian idealists to the point of naïveté to Shafiqistas, and both sides believe that the other side owes them an apology and should uncompromisingly adopt their point of view immediately. Did I also mention that both sides are silly? No? Well, they are. Ridiculously so.

Both sides are silly because their point of contention doesn’t matter anymore, and what unites them is so much more than what divides them. The argument over the state is moot, because we live in a Mirage state and in reality no longer have one, so, the focus should be how to build it right this time around and not over who dropped the ball. The argument over the presidential elections is stupid because they are over, and if we are truly democratic, we should be able to respect each other’s choices and not hold it against them now. As for the Character debate, well, besides the ridiculous notions that each side has about the other, if you are serious about loving this country and rebuilding it, you need both. You need utopian idealists and pragmatic realists if we hope to make something of this mess we call a country. We don’t live in Switzerland. We have so many problems one doesn’t even know where to begin, and we are stuck in this country together. And here is where we agree: We want a state that respects all of our rights, one where government services function, one where corruption doesn’t rule supreme and where the arts are not considered satanic distractions. We want a country that we can be proud of and that has a future. But If this is the case, why can’t we reconcile?

Well, we can’t reconcile primarily for the second reason: Our symbols. Both sides are not only silly mirrors of each other when it comes to organization or personal beliefs so strong they border on demagoguery, but also when it comes to our political symbols and leaders: They all suck. Reconciliation is a process that requires both sides to have mature respectable political leadership, which is lacking for the revolutionaries and the Shafiqistas. The revolutionaries symbols are big on platitudes, but have no real experience or solutions beyond theoretical ones and are too cowardly to take risky stands, and Shafiqistas symbols are so nonexistent, that they have to pretend that people like Okasha, Abu Hamed and Mostafa Bakry are respectable representations of them, which they are not, but it’s all they have. It should go without saying that those symbols and leaders, on both sides, should be retired by their respective audience due to their utter failure to do something productive, but for some odd reason this is not happening, and hence our current state of limbo.

But here is a thought: maybe we shouldn’t push for reconciliation just yet, but support things that are in our common benefit, like pushing for the next elections law to have a nation-wide closed-list voting system. Under this system all of Egypt would be considerd one district, with each party offering a list of 500 names, and based on the total votes nation-wide a party receives, they are allocated a proportional amount of seats in the parliament. This would ensure that every vote everywhere counts, and give people the freedom to vote for whomever they truly support, instead of having to compromise and vote for the least evil in their district, like the current system demands it. Think about the voting results for the presidential elections in the first round, and imagine if each candidate represented a party, and got allocated seats in parliament based on their total votes, and then ask yourself this: how appealing would such a parliament be, compared to the alternative? The first round showed that Islamists have 35% maximum of the vote, but due to superior organization and districting, they manage to beat everyone else. Let’s put an end to this, and have a voting system that leaves no vote behind, no matter if you are a revolutionary or a Shafiqista or anyone else for that matter. Let every faction get equal representation to its side first, and then we can worry all we want about reconciliation.

 

Entropy

Take flight, and bid your little kids farewell. Travel to mystical, magical , dry lands of Sinai, where good and evil greet you with the same face and the same smile. Stand where the rivers of life have gone dry and rivers of blood now flow. Twenty Egyptian officers and soldiers, gone, on the hands of idiots who strive to make a point with death. Pass by the tanks stolen by Jihady salafis, and the apache birds piloted by jews that shot them down, all the while the ruling heads of Cairo still live in denial, not able or willing to confront the reality of their situation, while an old dog sits, looking sad, pensive and alone, reflecting the mood of an entire nation.

Explore our magical skies, and try to avoid getting shot down by stray bullets that are being shot by neighbor to kill neighbor, all over this blessed land. Two families in Alex engage in street warfare, with the news of the apartments getting burned raises more eyebrows than those of human casualties. A smug and cursed cornice that hasn’t seen its share of blood in a while, sits back and enjoys the Dickensian scenes of the attack by the Ramlet Boulaq denizens on the Fairmont Hotel , with the police showing up with their uniforms off, wearing wife-beaters and double strapped guns, mimicking Hollywood action fantasies, with tear gas canisters and cars on fire give the whole thing an apocalyptic flair. A village in upper Egypt turns against itself over a burned shirt and conflicting prophets, enacting a scenario that repeats over and over, while what must be a case of collective amnesia causes people to act shocked and wonder what went wrong. Never stop your flight to look, because soon enough, you will see something similar, and if you have seen one you have seen them all.

Pass by the city of the sun, where the President who hails from a secretive and old Islamic order is fumbling on cameras, offering no sense of comfort, confidence or inspiration to a nation in worry, who have sat there and watched him pardon friends & holy warriors not much different than those who have caused the carnage in Sinai, while leaving other innocents in jails to rot. His day started with communiqués from brownnosing governors who were congratulating him over the anniversary of the Badr battle, and plans to grace us on TV for the last ten days of Ramadan, to talk to us about religion instead of actually doing his job. This piece of news wrinkles the jittery nerves of his opponents, who are convinced that the country is heading towards Iran due to such shenanigans, all the while totally ignoring that the country is heading in a completely different direction that is entirely Godless.

Land on the branches of a tree and watch the streets getting filled with drug dealers operating in impunity, and lost boys believing their weapons make them men. Observe while an entire street culture comes out of nowhere, with its own language, music, dance and rituals, like a rising tide that will flood the country and flush it from years of synthetic and borrowed overproduced trash. Say a prayer to those young street warriors who no vice Police can control, and for the souls of those well-meaning bearded ones who will try and find it their end. Recognize that you are living the greatest days of history, and that you are witnessing something greatly remarkable, if you can accept the horror that comes with it.

The Americans always said that an armed society is a polite society, but that idiom is getting challenged by the sons of pharaohs, who are now armed to the teeth and not intending to be polite any time soon. While intellectuals sit back and argue that they are smarter and know better than to bear arms themselves, you recognize that in any battle between ten astronauts and ten cavemen, the cavemen will always win. That’s the history of civilization, where the barbarians were always at the gate, on both sides. You sit back and think: Screw you Marquez, you could never write anything as insane as what we are going through as a country right now. We are making history, again, despite our deepest and most sincere wishes not to, or at least not like this.

Oh well…

I am getting a gun. I suggest you get one too.

January vs. July

On the 60th anniversary to the 23 of July revolution, I like to think about the man who actually made it happen: Officer Yusef Sediq. Yusef was a communist member of the Free Officers movement who actually went and took over the Egyptian army’s headquarters, shooting tow soldiers in the process and imprisoning the army’s leadership, a full hour before Nasser and the rest of the movement started. If you are not familiar with this man and his story, don’t blame yourself: Nasser and his compatriots made sure to erase his contribution from the official history books, partly because it would tell people how to actually stage a similar revolution, and partly because they threw Sediq in the Gulag in 1954 for demanding the return of democracy to Egypt, and then kept him in house arrest until he died in 1975, the same fate that has befallen the other believer in democracy in the 1952 revolution, General and ex-President Mohamed Naguib.

The fact that the average Egyptian doesn’t know about Sediq’s story is due to the fact that it’s completely absent from the history books they thought us in school on purpose. Actually, there isn’t much that they thought us about the 1952 revolution in our history classes, apart from that it took place, and that everyone was seemingly happy about it and its achievements, from free education to land reform to the High dam. However, the 1952 revolution and its leaders had a huge effect on all of our lives, in ways most people don’t even imagine, and all of them were negative. So today, I will name my main issues with that revolution, and hopefully it will shed some lights on way the participants of the January 25 revolution believe their revolution was brought to end the 23rd of July one, and the concept of military rule.

The 23rd of July revolution ended democracy: One of the revolution’s first and longest-lasting achievements was the destruction of the concept of democracy in Egypt. It cancelled Parliament, dissolved parties, threw anyone whom they viewed as a political threat into prison, established the notion of strong-man rule that shouldn’t be opposed, questioned or challenged, a tradition that was carried by Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak. Even after Sadat brought back parties, they were not allowed to be anything other than the approved cartoonish opposition, a tradition that Mubarak carried through throughout his 30 years in power. This is why most parties , whether created before or after the January 25 revolution, are limping and unable to establish themselves in the Egyptian political scene today.

The 23rd of July revolution ended diversity: The 23rd of July revolution dealt with everyone in Egypt with the paranoid and xenophobic eyes of the military, viewing everyone who isn’t their definition of a pure-blood Egyptian as a spy/traitor at worst or an unwelcome intruder at best, a mindset we still suffer from to this day. Before the 1952 revolution Egypt was a hotbed of diversity, where people from various points of origin and religious backgrounds came here and co-existed peacefully. Once Nasser took power he first vilified the foreigners (Italians, Greeks, whatever) who lived here and forced them to leave, then vilified the Egyptian jewish population and also forced them to leave, a tradition that got carried through by his predecessors as well: Sadat was the first President to utilize a sectarian tone in Egypt, by stating that he is a Muslim President and that Egypt is officially a muslim country, and acting upon it, which started the process of Coptic migration out of Egypt, and Mubarak continued the sectarian tone with the Christian copts and added to it the vilifying of the Egyptian Shiites as agents of Iran. In a country where people of many faiths and origins were always welcome, the 23rd of July revolution and its aftermath had one message: Sunni Muslim Egyptians are the only true Egyptians, and everyone else is a second class citizen at best.

The 23rd of July revolution destroyed the arts: The 1952 revolution nationalized all film studios, music companies, recording studios, basically any means of production or distribution of music and cinema. It made all the actors into government employees (our Movie stars used to get monthly paychecks), and instructed them to make movies that were not political, offensive or dangerous to society (i.e. in opposition to their rule), which led to two decades of Egyptian cinema essentially creating the same love-story plot movie over and over again, sometimes adding a few bits of comedy, others heightening up the drama, but no one was allowed to create anything else until 1974, when the first private movie production company was allowed to be created, and even then the egyptian censorship board was there to prevent any movie whose idea was considered to be too daring or provocative to our military overlords. And despite of how bad this all is, it is nothing compared to what they did to the music industry.

Ever wonder why the pre-Jan 25 revolution music scene was populated only by pop musicians who only sang about patriotic songs or love songs? Or why you have very little information about the Egyptian music pre the 23rd of July revolution? Or why the stars of that era were AbdelHalim and Om Kalthoum? Or why very very few Egyptians know about Nadra, which was the queen of Arabic music before the revolution and the star of Ansohdet el Fouad, the first ever Arabic musical film, and whose talents so eclipsed Om Kalthoum’s that it was said that Om Kalthoum wouldn’t dare sit down in a room if Nadra was sitting? Well, mainly its due the fact that the officers decided that there is the right kind of art and the wrong kind of art, and the right kind was either patriotic or love-themed, and that they needed to create their own music stars – who were loyal to them- who would carry their messages in their songs, and completely sidelined or destroyed anyone who didn’t fit that bill. When Om Kalthoum went and reported to the officers that Nadra was against the revolution and pro the monarchy- for recording an old historic Othmani song that’s written for the Othman ruler-Nadra ‘s songs were immediately banned from playing on the radio and on TV and was not allowed to record another song after that. Also, her film reel was somehow lost and in the official music history books, it is now noted that ElWarda elBaydah was the first Arabic musical film, because it starred the regime-approved Mohammed Abdel Wehab. For at least twenty years no one other than regime-approved musicians could record anything other than regime-approved love or patriotic songs, which would then be broadcast in the regime-owned Radio (The only person who managed to escape this was Sheikh Imam, but mainly due to the fact that he was adopted by leftists activists, who made sure that his music survived those years). Even after the invention of the cassette tape and the private recording companies, the government still controlled the radio waves and wouldn’t allow the broadcasting of anything other the set criteria, and any other form of music was relegated to either Nighclubs or private recordings, but never the radio. The insanity that someone like Mohamed Adaweya would spend years unable to broadcast his songs on the radio, even though millions of Egyptians listened to him and bought his tapes, was never questioned, and still isn’t. Until this day, a year and a half after the revolution, we are still unable to listen to any kind of Arabic music on our radios except love songs or patriotic songs. The moment you hear DJ Amr Haha instead of Cairokee on the radio, that’s when you know that the radio waves got liberated.

The 23rd of July revolution ended government transparency: In the Egyptian state, there is an institution that got created in the days of Mohamed Aly that’s called the Hall of records, where every piece of government issued decision or paper was archived and accessible to the public, well, up to the 23rd of July revolution. Since that day, not a single piece of government paper was submitted or archived there, because the military regime believed that its affairs should be kept secret and away from public access. This not only ended government transparency, it also ended government accountability, and has kept the Egyptian people in the dark, till this day, as to how the affairs of their state are being run or how historic decisions- that are no longer secret- were even made. The importance of having those documents as part of the public record could not be overstated, not only for purposes of transperancy, accountability, or even academic history, but also to learn from historically bad decisions and to know our people. How insane is it that until this day we are not allowed to know the census information of Egypt, or how many Christians are there in the country? While the rest of the world was introducing freedom of information acts, some even going for open-meeting legislation that allow access to government meetings and not only records of them, our military-run government until this day resists the very notion of opening its books or archiving its documents.

The aim of the 23rd of July revolutionaries was to create a strong Egyptian state, and given that they were all military men who witnessed the armies of might super powers, they believed that military strength is the only way to make their country into a world power, and acted accordingly. They didn’t comprehend that the world powers were world powers not because they had advanced armies, but because their state had other foundations (social, political, cultural, economical) that made them strong and contributed to the strength of their military, and that without those foundations any state would be doomed to fail, the way theirs did over and over again.

This is why the 25th of January revolutionaries believe in their heart of hearts that their revolution came to end the 23rd of July revolution, because their values are in complete contradiction with each other. 23rd of July ended democracy and political life while the 25th of January demanded it; 23rd of July ended diversity and was xenophobic, while the 25th of January revolutionaries celebrates diversity and constantly battles the xenophobia; 23rd of July destroyed and controlled the arts, while the 25th of January has produced more inventive music and film in the past year and a half than the last 30 years combined; 23rd of July ended government transparency and accountability, the 25th of January happened as call for accountability and still demands transparency from the government in every decision it makes; And finally the 23rd of July revolution propped up and supported many regimes just like it (Assad’s Syria and Ghaddafi’s Libya for example), while the 25th of January revolution inspired the citizens of those countries to topple those regimes. To say that the 25th of January revolution is an extension to the 23rd of July revolution is an outright lie propagated by a military whose rule has ruined this country in every way and tries desperately to save its legacy. The only connection that the 25th of January revolution has with the 23rd of July one is that the latter drove the country so off-course, that the former had to happen to stop it.

Our Dickensian Revolution

Going back to read Charles Dickens’ masterpiece on the French revolution “A Tale of Two Cities” messes with my head, specifically due to how relevant it is to what we went through for the past 18 months, and continue to go through. All of this truly has happened before, and will happen again, and no one will learn from anything. I am leaving you with a few quotes, and as always, just let me know when it sounds familiar:

 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

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“Monseigneur had one truly noble idea of general public business, which was, to let everything go on in its own way; of particular public business, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea that it must all go his way–tend to his own power and pocket. Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them. ”

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“A revolutionary tribunal in the capital, and forty or fifty thousand revolutionary committees all over the land; a law of the Suspected, which struck away all security for liberty or life, and delivered over any good and innocent person to any bad and guilty one; prisons gorged with people who had committed no offence, and could obtain no hearing; these things became the established order and nature of appointed things, and seemed to be ancient usage before they were many weeks old.”

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“The miserable bakers’ shops were beset by long files of them, patiently waiting to buy bad bread; and while they waited with stomachs faint and empty, they beguiled the time by embracing one another on the triumphs of the day, and achieving them again in gossip.”

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“What private solicitude could rear itself against the deluge of the Year One of Liberty–the deluge rising from below, not falling from above, and with the windows of Heaven shut, not opened!”

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“In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease– a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.”

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“In short,” said Sydney, “this is a desperate time, when desperate games are played for desperate stakes.”

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“Well, well,” reasoned Defarge, “but one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still where?”

“At extermination,” said madame.

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“Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop,” returned madame; “but don’t tell me.”

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“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

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“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out….


I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his…

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.”

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“I hope you care to be recalled to life?”

And the old answer:

“I can’t say.”