Archive of ‘Egypt’ category

This past week

I have been gone for this past week, but I wasn't absent in any way. I was running around helping an Australian friend do a report on May 4th. Here are glimpses of the days that passed by and the people that I met during.


Going to the Hesham Mubarak center is a head-trip. In front of its building there is a street market for groceries, there are 4 police soldiers always camping at the entrance, and there is no respectable sign at the door that says that this is the main legal center for the defense of human rights violations in Egypt, only one made out of cardboard and written on it with a sharpie. And the funniest thing about it is that it is managed in the most democratic of ways. Every year they have elections for the position of the Center's manager, and everyone can nominate him/herself and everyone from the previous manager to the officeboy has a vote. Oh, and no manager can run for more than two consecutive terms.


"I find that I have no choice but to support May 4th, even if I disagree with it, because it's something that the youth are demanding and doing on their own and I am all for them trying to do something. Now, despite the fact that they are going at it the wrong way, I can't stop them, nor will they listen to me, because they are sick of hearing people telling them what they can or can't do. So I support them, cause if they succeeded, it's a good thing, and if they failed, they will gain experience."

Malek, Tuesday


On Wendsday we met with Abdel Monem, the Muslim Brotherhood Blogger and Khaled Hamza, the editor if www.Ikhwanweb.com at the house of the Media Coordinator for the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the setting that I walked into: We were greeted by the house owner, who had with him this young and tiny veiled girl named Sondos, who (of course) spoke English fluently and (naturally) was one of the higher-up editors of Ikhwanweb ( "See, not all veiled women are oppressed an at home, we have young ones who know English and are in managerial positions") and who hosted us in a very posh living room and served us Tea and Cake, with members of his family periodically coming out, dressed in western clothes come out and greet us very nicely. Those people know exactly how to handle the western media.

To be fair to them though, they have been extremely nice and hospitable to me, despite knowing my beliefs and stands on them, which is a cause enough to respect them. And despite the fact that I completely disagree with almost everything they stand for, they are getting their human rights violated in this country on daily basis, which any human being will tell you isn't right. And in case I was never clear on this before, I am for them having the right to form their own political party and run in elections. Firstly because it's everybody's right to have political representation and secondly because maybe that will be the jolt that will move the anti-Ikhwan crowd from their apathy and slumber. Maybe.

One thing though I am confused about, so Khaled if you are reading this, can you tell me why in the name of Zeus' Butthole was there a decorated Christmas tree- in May nonetheless- in the corner of the room with ornaments on them? And why did the ornaments have pictures of veiled girls plastered on them? Please, I would like to know.


" You know, the State Security people one day decided to give me a "humanitarian visit" to see my very sick father. So the night before my visit, a squadron of SS soldiers arrived at our building at midnight and occupied the building, and forced themselves on my parents' house and stayed there for 8 hours till I arrived at 8 am, in the name of securing the building, since you know, I am a dangerous visitor and all. When I found out I flipped out on the accompanying officer, asking him why would any decent human being do this, and of course there was no answer. My mother came out, gave me this look and said "Damn you" . That killed me. I think that messed me up more than all the time I've spent in prison."

Abdel Monem, Wendsday


Khaled: I spoke to your friends, Elijah and Issandr, about you. And you know, they both said that you are extreme.

Me: Well, of course they would say that. I am not surprised at all!

Khaled: Why? Is it because they are leftists?

Me: No. It's because they are foreigners here and their work warrants them to have a good relationship with you, and I am not sure that's possible with them publicly endorsing my views. Don't you think?


Thursday was the first of May, the Egyptian worker day. On that Glorious day the new Mubarak directives were released: A 30% increase in the wages of government employees as a solution to the current problem. Because, you know, the rising prices only affect government employees, and a 30% increase on their 30$ a month salary will really help improve their lives, and allow them to buy cars and houses and maybe save some money for Lil Mo's college fund. And the way he said it too, man, talk about classic: "They told me we will raise the workers 10%, I refused and said it has to be higher. They said ok, 20%, I said, NO, it has to be higher. They said we can make it 25%, but we really have no way to cover it under the current budget, I said NO, NOT A PENNY UNDER 30%". And this, ladies and gentlemen, how you know the mark of a great leader. A great leader doesn't care about the budget, the economy or reality, he only cares about the goal he set in his imagination despite what the actual circumstances may allow. All Hail Hosny.

Thursday was also the day we met Bilal, the kid that went up to the PM and demanded –to thunderous applause- that he release the April 6th detainees. He is very young, very skinny, with intelligence just poking out of his eyeballs. I didn't know that he was a member of the Ghad Party, hell, I didn't even know el Ghad party still had members. The interesting thing about him though, is that he is from the Post Ayman Nour generation: i.e. he joined after Nour went to Prison. That's a believer in a party and its ideals, not a leader and his charisma, which is a concept that is lost on the middle-east for some reason.


"Oh, my parents didn't think highly of what I did at all. I went home to find that my parents burned half of my books. However, after my mother talked to the neighbors, who surprised her with their messages of support to what I said and did, she changed her mind. She looked at me and said "Bilal, you know, you and your friends may perish for standing up to what you believe, but don't worry, Egypt will always remain Bilal!". So I looked at her and said "That's all very nice mom, but couldn't you have figured this out before burning my books?""

Bilal, Thursday


A state of uncertainty dominated the media scene on Friday, on whether or not anything was gonna happen on May 4th. You see, it's kind of hard to predict the outcome of a strike that has no clear organizers or participants, with everything operating in a very anarchist manner. In order to combat such uncertainty and confusion, the media invented a new political entity that is behind all of that is happening. What did they call it? "The Facebook Youth movement", I kid you not. So now the Facebook Youth movement is the new political player in town, with newspapers running stories on how they are calling for this or demanding that, which is basically them making a story from any asshole creating a group calling for something on the Egypt network. This reminded me of when they started running stories on the new gods of politics, media and activism: "The Egyptian Blogger Movement". Remember that shit? When they used to run stories on how "The Egyptian bloggers called for this or organized that", like we are some sort of monolithic entity that actually agrees on everything and is organized and has goals and leadership. I kept asking every blogger I know to introduce me to the coordinator, the supreme leader or even the spokesman of "The Egyptian Bloggers", but they would be as stumped as I was.

My suggestion? We create a facebook group called "The leadership office of the Facebook Youth Movement" and I will be their spokesmen, and someone else can be their supreme leader. I am sure the Media will jump on us in 30 seconds, hosting us and asking us of our goals and demands and what we have in store next. Oh boy, I would mess with them for hours!


"Do I like this government? Of course. It's not a bad government at all. From the security side of things, they are great. They have some problems from the economical side of things, but really, who doesn't? Oh no, I find nothing to complain about when it comes to this government. They keep us safe and secure. God Bless them!"

A Taxi Driver, Friday


Saturday was the day we were slated to meet the Supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mahdy Akef. It wasn't what I expected. His personal office is tiny, like literally smaller than my office, and he gives this image of this very kind and sweet old man, a total grandpa type. Since I was only the translator for my friend, I didn't ask any of the questions I wanted to ask. My personal impression of him, personally, is that he is a very smart and astute man, and his brain operates perfectly despite his old age. Oh and very polite. All freaking MB members are very very polite.


"Why are we joining this strike when we didn't join the last time? Well, we are joining because that's what the people asked us to do. There is a national demand for us to join, and we listen to the people, so we have to comply."

Mahdy Akef, Saturday


Later on that day I received an SMS from Sharqawy's fiancé. State Security has been tailing and harassing them for 3 days, and she needed him to hide somewhere until May 4th is over, so she asked me. I've known this kid for more than 2 years now, and I can safely say that I've never seen him in the state he was in. He embodied controlled rage and weariness in a way that is impossible to describe. He told me that they refuse to leave him alone because he managed to identify the State Security Officer that tortured him at the police station, and mentioned that over the phone and now the Officer knows and is scared. So he is harassing him in every way he can, hoping that Sharqawy would have enough and flee the country.


"Those Motherfuckers. You know what they did? They blindfolded me and then took my wallet and looked in it. I could hear them naming the different types of ATM and credit cards I had in there. They then looked into the money pocket where I had about 6 K worth of dollars and Egyptian pounds on me, and then they loudly said ' you have 270 egyptian pounds in this wallet. Take it' and put it in my hand, but didn't return my wallet immediately, but did so later. I didn't figure out why until I came out. The wallet had a piece of paper that had my ATM pin code on it. That Bank account in my business account, and it had over 14 K in it. By the time I was out, the Balance was 0. All the money was withdrawn. And now I am out, I am broke, and owe people money. They are the scum of the earth."

Sharqawy, Sunday @ 2 am.


" Today is the Day Egypt was reborn!"

Al Ahram Newspaper headline on Sunday, marking the President's 80th Birthday! 


Sunday, well, you could read all about it here. So instead let me tell you this unfortunately 100 % true story:

Magdy Hussein- the leader of the Islamic Labor party- called Zakareya Azmy- The President's Chief of Staff and an MP- on the phone one week before the strike and told him that he is organizing a committee to run Egypt after the people's revolution will force Mubarak to abdicate on May 4th and that if he wants a seat on it he is welcome to join them. Not a word was mentioned of Azmy's reply though, although it is widely believed that this was due to Aazmy being too busy rolling on the floor laughing his ass off to reply to Magdy.


Monday, ahh Monday.

Monday was the day the Egyptian press gloated over the failure of the strike, with many of them claiming that the 30% raise aborted it. Monday was also the first day that Mubarak announced that there is no way to finance the 30% raise. The parliament, that same day, passed measure to finance the raise, by raising the prices of car gas by 35 %, solar by 40% and the taxes on cigarettes by 20%. The ripple effect of those increases will fuck us of a lot of money for the entire year, and one has to openly wonder if a 30% raise for a segment of the population that is less than 10% warrants collective punishment for the entire population. Hell, now even the government employees are more screwed. The new prices were enforced starting from 10 pm. Under my house there is a gas station and at 11 pm, the fighting started. And it's just the beginning. The people, as usual, will turn on each other instead of the government, and life will suck for all of us all around.


"The rich will be the ones paying for the workers raise"

The headline in RosealYusef, a government sponsored rag today 

"This guy I work with, while riding the Micobus with me, kept curisng Mubarak today. His government salary has increased by 37 pounds, but now the Microbus' fare has doubled, so now he has to pay extra 2 pounds a work day. If he works for 20 days a months, he is already worse off by 3 pounds. And what kills is that he raised the prices right after he announces the raise. This Mubarak guy, he has no tact!"

The Taxi Driver I rode with to work today. Oh, and by the way, the ride now costs 30 pounds, up from the standard 20. Increased Gas prices, baby!  


I do have to admire this government's cunning though. If people connect between the hikes and the government wage raises, not a single person will dare to support a strike or demand a higher wage again. And what a perfect excuse to implement price increases that you wanted to implement for ages then say it's a way to pay off the huge raise you gave the workers. And here we thought we were going to give him a Birthday he wouldn't forget on Sunday. Ha, he is the one who made the following Monday unforgettable. Thanks Mubarak for doing this to us on your birthday. What a way to make us celebrate it with you. Motherfucker!

May 4th coverage

Today is Mubarak's Birthday (Happy Mubarak Day, people!) and the day of the new strike. There are two new organizational developments that differentiate this strike from April 6th: The Mahalla workers said they wouldn't join, and the Muslim Brotherhood decided to join. The scale of it this time, however, seems smaller and unorganized, which is making many people believe that the MB is planning a surprise, because the last time, without them, succeeded. So if the one they choose to join fails. then they will look very bad. I will update this day as it goes:

Update: It's 2 am. There are news of people getting sporadically arrested in Mahalla. No confirmation on names so far. The Police seems paranoid. Ahmed Maher the facebook administrator for the protest group has been hiding for the past 2 days. So has Sharqawy.

Update: It's 10 am, things seem very normal. The traffic is normal and nothing is happening so far.

Update: It's 11:30. Mahalla is a ghost town, the police has threatened to shoot the people who demonstrate with live ammunition. 

Update: It's 1 am. A group of protesters have decided to start a protest at the Lawyer's syndicate as planned. There are around 50-100 demonstrators and about 1794374 policemen in plain clothes who are surrounding the protest.

Update: The Kefaya website (www.harakamasria.org) is now blocked in Egypt. No Journalist is allowed to enter the city of Mahalla.

Update: Reports of sporadic small demonstrations in Shubra. The police is rounding the streets behind them. We are still waiting for the MB surprise!

Update: Two were arrested in Jordan for trying to call for a similar strike!

Update: The BBC and Al Jazeera English both haven't been able to send their teams inside AlMahalla. Unconfirmed reports of the Police destroying satalite dishes and severing illegal internet cables.It's like they are daring the people to do something!

Update: This one seems like a failure. It's definitely not even close to the 6th of April strike. The NDP spokesman is gloating on BBC arabic right now!

Update: There are no calls on facebook for another strike on the first and 5th of June and the 25 of July. Fuck off you wankers. I will be at the beach! 

Cause women should be able to walk the streets safely

One Million Signatures Campaign

Support Women's Demands for a New Law Against Sexual Harassment

ECWR’s
One Million Signatures Campaign for a law protecting women from sexual
harassment is part of our broader Campaign Against Sexual Harassment:
Making our Street Safer for Everyone, which began in 2005 in response
to complaints from Egyptian and foreign women exposed to sexual
harassment in Egypt’s streets. Please join us to protect your mother,
sister, wife, daughter and yourself.

To join you can
1. Email ecwr@link.net with your name, job and email address
2. Follow the link and sign the petition online http://petitions.ensan.net/showpetition.php?petition=32 or
3. Print out the petition, distribute it to all your friends and family, then send it back to ECWR.

Join the facebook group! http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8634989990

Sharqawy's publishing house ransaked by Vice police

It happened an hour ago and the details are still hazy. The Public Morality Police (we actually have one) has just stormed Sharqawy's publishing house, and confiscating all of the available copies of the egyptian graphic novel "Metro" . The police are demanding the presence of Shrqawy and Metro's author Magdy el Shafey and are banning Metro from all Bookstores. If anyone could explain to me why they are having such blood vendetta against Sharqawy, please e-mail me. This is making no sense!

Breaking: Khairat Al Shater sentenced to jail

The MB number 2 man and main Financier, Khairat Al Shater, just received his sentencing in the MB militray tribunals: 7 Years for financing the MB's activities. Hassan Malek also received the same sentence, Two others received 5 years, 13 received 3 years and 5 who are abroad received 10 years of sentencing. All in all, the 25 were sentenced to jail and 15 were released.

And the beat goes on

Previously on Sandmonkey: Mahalla was awash in riots , people were tearing down Mubarak pictures, and arbitrary arrests were everywhere. We last stopped after the news of the arrest of George Ishac.

Now, where were we?  Oh yeah, George Ishac. Hmm..

Well, to be honest, while I was shocked and totally against it, I wasn't too torn up over the arrest of good ole Mr Ishac, for a number of reasons that every downtown activist knows and every journalist refuses to report, chiefly amongst them is :Kefaya is dead!

Kefaya has been dead for quite some time now, with a number of other movements picking up the slack. Some have names, such as Youth for Change and the revolutionary socialists, and others don't, with many people showing up individually wanting to do something for the country. But you will tell me that you never heard of those other groups and are only aware of Kefaya's achievements in street mobilization and protesting. Well, my friend, that's because after every such protest in recent memory, Mr. Ishac -and whomever his cohorts are- issue a statement claiming organizational responsibility for the protests and calling the numbers of people arrested as members of the movement, but they would never be there. Hell, I can count 6 protests from recent memory, some very important ones,where none of the so-called-Kefaya leaders were available, but statements of responsibility were issued, and the leathery face of mr. Ishaq was all over Al Jazeera. And mind you, this goes back to the constitutional amendments protest. Remember that night? Yeah, not a single one of them was there, but you bet your ass mr. Ishaq issued a statement, calling it a Kefaya protest and the arrested Kefaya activists, even though he didn't know any of them.

There is a story that I believe and was told by one of my activist friends on dear George, which was during the Islam Nabih (a police officer) trial over his torture of Emad el Kebeir. George comes into the court and goes to my activist friend and the following exchange takes place:

G: So, this is Sharqawy's trial?

F: No, sharqawy didn;t have a trial. This isn't it at all. This is the trial of Islam Nabih.

G: Oh, Islam, great kid. Who is defending him?

F: Ehh..no one from our side.

G: Why? That's outrageous. He doesn't have a lawyer? 

F: well, he does, but not from our side. Islam Nabih is the police Officer that tortured Emad el Kebeir. They are trying him for that today.

G: Oh, ok! (storms off the court, and then storms back in, heads to Emad and pats him on the shoulder and says)

G: Don;t worry Emad, we are all  behind you.

(And then stormed out again)

So yeah, as you can see, he wasn't exactly on top of things, but that never prevented him from appearing on TV shows, talking about things he had nothing to do with. The last time was when he was representing "the egyptian opposition forces" on Al Jazeera program covering Al Mahalla riots, opposite Esam Al Aryan. The government was looking for someone to blame this on, Georgie boy couldn't resist the lime-light, and suddenly they had the perfect candidate. Oh, and by the way, they released him now, but only on bail, which is making many people speculate that this is far from over.

And it is far from over. It really is. I was shocked at the news of his arrest, not because of who he is, but because I was informed by some of my sources that they were planning on arresting him the same day they arrested Sharqawy, but they couldn't locate him. The words "military tribunal" and "3 years minimum sentencing" got thrown in there as well, but don't hold me to it. I wouldn't be surprised if they do go the route of military tribunals though, they do want the May 4th strike aborted in any way possible, because if it took place, then Mahalla is not a fluke and we could be heading towards a seriously sizzling summer of egyptian anger. And God knows that the government was too stupid in the way they have
handled Mahalla so far.

You see, besides arresting anyone that moved, the government also sent in a
delegation of Ministers of Mahalla, who promised them 30 days pay, benefits,
upgrading the factories, and everything but giving them head in an effort to
placate them, and them alone. They thought by doing this the crisis would be
over, but it's not just about Mahalla, it's about the entire country, and they
are all having
the same problems,
and they just saw that protesting gets them stuff. So
Almost immediately after Mahalla's textile workers strike was subdued
crushed over, the Nasr steel factory workers started their own strike in
Mahalla. And now the workers of two spinning
factory workers in Alexandria are striking as well.
The government opened
up Pandora's box, and now they can't close it. Even their half-assed attempt of using
religion to stop people from striking
was duly ignored, all the while the
fighting over the bread lines is taking place now with
gunfire.
Fun stuff.

In other news, the authorities had arrested the creator of the strike on
april 6th facebook group, a veiled girl named Isra2, who just got released
yesterday. They had also detained
American Journalist James Buck
and have refused to
let go of his translator
until today. James Buck's testimony is posted on his website here .As for Al
Mahalla itself, it's under lockdown, with no people allowed in or out of the
city, especially the journalists, as a group tried and found out for themselves
last week. The only exception to this rule was, as usual, Wael Abbas, who
managed to snag an interview with the father of the 15 year old boy that got
shot in his house twice accidentally by police gunfire. By the way, in case you
are wondering, the police ain't investigating the incident. We are, after all,
80 million, what's a dead boy in 80 million? Can't waste time investigating
that, we have national security concerns people, and we are busy busy busy.

So yeah, that is all. No one knows how many exactly got arrested, and what
their names are. I know that Sharqawy is still arrested, which is ironic,
because he had nothing to do with this strike and had put aside activism in
exchange of running his publishing business more than 6 months ago. Yet, here he
is, arrested for no reason, and the only one they won't let go. As for why
there isn't any campaigns to free him, well, all I know is that whenever
someone opens up the topic, they get yelled at that there are other detainees
than Sharqawy and that he got plenty famous the last time, and that we
shouldn't give him anymore fame this time. Reminding them that it isn't about his fame, but about the fact that the boy is in
jail doesn't seem to move them either, which is another reason why I thank the
lord that I am not close friends with those "downtown" types. Ehh..
Anyway…

We now play the oldest of games, the game of waiting. The 15 days end on the
21st, and that's when we will find out the charges against Sharqawy, Ishac and
and all the others. The buildup for May4th strike is currently underway, and
the fact that it coincides with the president's Birthday just makes the whole
thing more..ehh..delicious. But this could all get killed based on the indictments given out in 6 days: if the words "Military" and
"Tribunal" appear anywhere, then rest assured that nothing will
happen that day.

As for those of you who are worrying about how the MB could be behind this,
well, fear not. The MB, for the 1000000 time, proved that they are pussies, and
have even attacked the people who protested and striked, hoping that the
government would allow them some seats in the municipal elections, and the
government naturally complied, and all is well. The MB doesn't really care
about the issues not does it oppose Mubarak, and they would gladly support all
of his decisions and polish his penis daily if he agreed to give them some
power. So yeah, The MB doesn't really care about Al Mahalla right now, cause they are too busy
creating a campaign to support the Muslims in Chechnya.
Yes, that's where the MB's priority lies these day, Chechnya.I thought you might want to know.

And that is all for now folks, have a lovely day! 

There is a reason why I love camera phones

 They allow you to take pictures like this one. 

    (h/t Isis )

And people called us liars and exaggerators when we said that the police is the one doing the damage to their equipment to claim that the people are violent and out of control! 

hmmph 

We have come to see the Day…

 (Picture by Nasser Nouri, via Hamalawy )

Ammar, when he saw this picture, had one comment to make : Hopefully one day we will have this too in Syria.

Yeah, I hope so too Ammar.

The Mhalla riots are going into their second strong day. 50,000 people are rioting. The police is shooting tear gas, rubber bullets, you name it, and IT'S NOT WORKING. The demonstrators were originally only like 2000-3000, but the government crackdown forced the people on the street. And until today, it's a War Zone.

 

Here is a picture of one of the feared State Security trucks, commandeered and smashed by the people.

For impeccable coverage of the riots, check Hossam's blog.

Update: Another picture that makes my hearts swell, by James Buck.

 

Sea of people. Makes my skin tingle! 

My friend R. from the US just sent me a message : "I'm proud of the people of ma7alla but so scared about what's coming to them. actually terrified"

We shall see R. , I am keeping my fingers crossed!

All I know is this though, for the first time in over 50 years, yesterday AlMahalla was a free city!

Update: This is response to some people in the comments section, you can ignore this if you want to:

Okay, both of you are acting like idiots. First of all, Mahalla is not a MB stronghold, no more than any other city is. The MB's power is greatly exaggerated and hyped, and they are too chicken to be behind this revolt. If anything they are distancing themselves from it and criticizing the actions of the Mahalla people. So no, that's not what's going on. What's happening is that the people there are ignored and fed up, and refsue to shut up while their family members and friends get arrested. They have a semblance of diginity that has somehow eluded the rest of the population. So, yes, we should encourage this.

Secondly, if you are following what's happening there as much as I am, here is something you might not know: The people are not the ones burning stores and cars; the police is. It's being done to be used as pretext to arresting people, The people are setting tires on fire and throwing rocks at the police who are unlawfully arresting their friends, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at them and have killed so far 4 people, the last of which is a 15 year old boy, who got shot in the head. The people are finally pushing back against a regime you both know is autocratic and tyrannical, and yet you only take issues with them refusing to eat shit. That, on its own, says volumes about you.

Thirdly, and most importantly, allow yourselves to enjoy those brief moments of joy before the get crushed, as they're going to.  If this spreads, then the regime will spare no expense to squash it, especially with the visible absence of the western media and their coverage. Without international cover, this won;t survive, and the government will fuckin air bomb the demonstrators if they truly became a threat to the regime. The point isn't the overthrow of the government, not yet. It's a warning shot, letting them know that they can't get away with this shit much longer, that the corruption must stop, that political liberties must be respected and that the mismanagement of the economy can not continue. That the people won't just bend over and take it anymore. That they better change or this might breed the revolution you so rightly fear. But that won;t happen today, or next week, so please, quit your whining, worrying and bitching about the protesters, and start fearing for their lives. Those people have almost nothing and are risking what little they have for a chance for a better life. Nobody asked you to act like them, nobody asked you to support them, but at least try to respect them. They earned that much!

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