Archive of ‘Reporting’ category

Conjuring up the secterian demon

A coptic jewlery shop owner was gunned down, him and 3 others in his shop in Zeitoun, by 2 gunmen wearing sunglasses and wigs. The incident is problematic because the gunmen didn't attempt to steal anything, and the whole thing has the air of gangland assassination.

 Two men in wigs and
sunglasses shot dead four Coptic Christians jewellery shop workers in
the Egyptian capital on Wednesday in an apparent gangland-style
killing, a security official and witnesses said.

The shooting happened at
around 12:30 pm (0930 GMT) in the mixed Christian-Muslim district of
Zeitoun in northeast Cairo, the official said, adding that the
attackers escaped without stealing anything from the shop.

Eyewitnesses said that the
men arrived at the shop on a motorbike, walked in and shot dead the
shop's owner and three employees before driving away, in a rare act of
brazen bloodshed in the capital.

"Preliminary investigations
show that the motivation behind the attack could have been revenge,"
the official said, adding that the owner had frequent disputes with
local residents.

The official had initially said the killings were the result of a drive-by shooting.

Police, who swiftly cordoned off the area, found 15 revolver shell casings at the scene, the official said.

Now, I received over 5 calls from different coptic friends all frantic and all talk about how they believe this was done by muslims and that we are on the doorsteps of a fantastic case of sectarian strife. While their ranting has the air of conspiracies and panic to them ( no one knows the identity of the shooter and whether this is related to religion to begin with), this kind of talk is a harbinger in itself. A panicked coptic population that believes that muslims are out to kill them- with their general distrust of the egyptian authorities ability to protect them- could end up taking matters into their own hand, which could elad to catastrophic results. The other problem lies in the location: Zaitoun is a neighborhood with lots of christians, and it has 4 big churches there. But it also has the "AlAziz bellah" street, which is a hub for "Ansar Al Sunnah" a wahabi salafist islamist group in Egypt. That street houses tons of stores that sell nothing but inflammatory islamist speeches on tape (usually not very copt friendly) and it houses the "AlAziz Bellah" mosque, which, let's say, is an Ansar Al Sunnnah dominated mosque. There are usually tensions there to begin with between the christians and the muslims because of them, so if anyone commits any rash action, this whole area could explode in full muslims-chiristian conflict. It's still early for such talk, but one thing is true: whomever committed this crime, no matter what their reason might be, they are conjuring up the secterian demon, and that is never good.

Aftermath

The following happened after I stopped blogging yesterday: Malek was released, we found out where Sharqawy was detained, there was a tiny protest at the Lawyer's syndicate in Cairo , and the city of Mahalla went on fire. Clashes erupted between the people and the police, shots were fired, over 100 detained and at least 2 are dead. Here is the story:

Egyptians angry with
the government about high prices set fire to shops and two
schools in a Nile Delta textile town on Sunday after police
thwarted plans for a general strike and countrywide protests.

Police fought battles through the streets of Mahalla
el-Kubra with the protesters, led by textile workers who tried
to go on strike for more pay to compensate for inflation.

The demonstrators set ablaze a primary school, a
preparatory school and a travel agency, among other shops in
the working-class town, and stopped an incoming train by
putting blazing tires on the railway tracks, witnesses said.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the
protests. Some 40 people were injured and hundreds of others
had breathing problems from gas inhalation, security sources
said.

Protesters threw stones at police, attacked police vehicles
and tore down the posters of the ruling party's candidates in
Tuesday's local elections, witnesses said.

Hossam has more  

Sometime after 3pm, demonstrations broke out in El-Shoun Sq, chanting
against price increases.. Mubarak’s police fired on the demonstrators..
A man and a child were killed.. Police trucks attacked.. Buses caught
on fire… Mass round ups of activists and citizens… Ghazl el-Mahalla
labor organizers Kamal el-Fayoumi and Tarek Amin el-Senoussi are in police custody… Police gunshots heard throughout the town according to witness…

UPDATE: I’ve spoken with Kareem el-Beheiri,
who’s on the run now… Kareem says hundreds were detained today in
Mahalla including minors… Anyone nabbed was abused also by the police.
Children were beaten up with sticks, sacks full of rocks, punches,
kicks… Lawyers who showed up to defend the detainees were chased by
sword-wielding plainclothes police thugs… For more information about
the mass round ups of activists and demonstrators in Mahalla, Cairo,
Mansoura, Kafr el-Sheikh and elsewhere, please check out the Tadamon, April 6th Strike and the HMLC blogs, as well as Nora’s Twitter account

UPDATE: Mahalla is under “unofficial” curfew,
according to an activist in the city I’ve just spoken with.. The town
is occupied entirely by Mubarak’s Central Security Forces who managed
to pacify the city by 10pm.. Citizens are instructed by microphones to
stay in their homes…

 I could write all about it, but I got pictures, and you know what they say, worth a thousand words and all, so check it out:

This is how Mahalla looked like. Streets empty and shops closed!

And then the police arrived, which got the clashes started, and it looked like something out of Gaza:

 

 
 

As you can see, all ages participated in the rioting….

 

..and genders… 

 Tear Gas was used to disperse the protesters

 A protester kicking away a canister of tear gas

 

 The people started burning tires in the streets

 

Some even burned down a Bus…

 

 

 

Some people were arrested 

 

 

And others heavily injured. 

For more pictures go here and here , and for more coverage, go here .

There are talks of a repeat strike the first week of May, so this may be all far from over! 

A week ago

*Those incidents took place a week ago, when I went to that protest. The fact that I didn't write about them until now is a testament to how busy I am. Apologies for that!* 

"Why are you doing this?", my friend S asked me. "Why are you, of all people, going to today's protest?"

I looked at her silently for a second, as if I am not able to comprehend the question. What exactly did she mean by "you of all people"? And then I rememberd, yeah, flaming Libertarian going to a solidarity with workers' protest. Yeah, I guess that should raise some eyebrows.

I  looked at her and said: "Well, because I am a capitalist, babe. Those people worked, and they deserve their getting their pay. That's all there is to it.", and she looked at me and shrugged, as if saying, "I think what you are doing is stupid!".

Yeah, You are probably right, I thought to myself. But then again, I wasn't totally honest about my answer. What I said was a truth, but not the whole truth. But I wasn't going to explain now. It was almost 9 m, and my ride was here.

It's time to embark on some civil disobedience.


We, me and M., arrive at the Parking lot right next to the AUC. That's the rendez-vous point with Gimmy , H., her boy, and whomever else was coming to this thing. M. and H. were dressed in jeans and male shirts, looking like female british factory workers. I guess if you are a capitalist chick going to a worker's protest, this is what You wear.

The news we heard so far wasn't very comforting: The Talaat Harb square is , again, a War Zone. Police Cars everywhere, plainclothed police Officers lining up the streets, and everybody is afraid to start the protest by themselves. For the life of me, I do not understand their insistence on always protesting in either Tahrir Square, Talaat Harb square or the Press Syndicate. I persoanlly don;t get it. Why not have a protest in Heliopolis? Or Dokki? Or Maadi? Why always Downtown? God knows the State security knows how to completely control the area and squash the protests with ease now. It almost feels like folly. Like we are children and we are about to play Police and Protesters. Where we playing today boys? The Talaat Harb Playground? Fantastic. Let's all go to Al Borsa Cafe after it's all over and talk about how we managed to waste the last few hours, while smoking cheap Shisha. Yeah!

I call Nora to see where she is, and she informs me that she is in the Ghad Party headquarters, an apartment in a Building in Talaat Harb sqre, and that they are having "inside the apartment Protest". The Police is standing in front of the building's door and are letting people in, but not letting them out. So, what now? We decide to go anyway, but we had to wait a couple of minutes cause a bunch of other people were coming first. In the meantime, Gimmy starts mock wailing while holding his cellphone: "Nawarah, this is not the time for this stuff". I ask him what's up, and he shows me a text message she sent to his Phone: " 'Peacefull protests are the best way to neutralize causes and trick the people' Malcom X.- I fear for every one of you, because you are doing something no one else is doing and you have no one covering your backs but GOD!"

Oh Boy! 

At that moment 3 other guys passed by and shook hands with Gimmy, and stood with us, also seemingly going to the Protest. Someone pointed at one of them and told me that this was "Egyptian Leftist"- the guy who designed this greeting – and he was in the classic egyptian half sarcastic, half Jovial mode, informing us that 4 people were arrested already for this protest. I asked him which group they belonged to, and he tells me "The Ghad Party".

To which I respond, mischievously, "Good riddance", and he laughs and says : "Absolutely. If anyone is to be arrested, let them be the capitalist liberals."

At that moment I extend my hand to him and say "We haven't met before. Hi, I am the Sandmonkey!" He looks at me for a second, and then starts laughing immediacy, says"That's you? Been wanting to meet you for a while now!" and shakes my hand, without a hint of hostility.

This is gonna be fun!


The atmosphere is tense as we are heading out to Talaat Harb Square. Gimmy is very much a “usual suspect” with a very known face to the Downtown Police. We kept teasing him and asking him to walk 3 meters away from us so when the Police arrests him, they wouldn't arrest us as well, to which he runs towards us and hugs me laughingly saying, "No, not getting arrested alone". And as if the Gods wanted to test us, I get a text message from Nora that asks me to pick up Salma from the place close to Talaat Harb square. Now Salma is another very very known face, and walking with Gimmy and Salma is like wearing a sign saying" arrest me now!". Oh fuck it. What difference will it make, right? So, once we all arrive to Talaat Harb square, me and Gimmy split from the group and go get Salma, who was at a Candy store with a female friend and this tall bald dude with glasses, who looked like a walking foriegn journalist cliche. We walk with them  to Talaat harb and the police, once they see them, completely ignore Salma and Gimmy and pounce on the Journalist looking guy, telling him to get out of here and pushing him away. Salma immediately starts fighting with the Policeman, trying to pry his arm off the bald dude, which in turn made more policemen gang up on them. I froze in my place, looking at the scene and not doing anything.

Someone besides me asks me "We are not gonna do something?".

Without turning around, I hear myself saying "I don't plan on getting arrested today, do you? No? Then keep still. We don't want to give them any excuse for them to use violence against us."

The Police wasn't arresting the three though. The Police simply was pushing them away from Talaat Harb. The Talaat Harb protest wasn't gonna happen. They were pushing the people away from the square. I look at Gimmy and ask him: "The Press syndicate?"

He sighs, shakes his shoulders and says: "Yeah, guess so!".

And we head out there.


The Scene at the Press Syndicate is the same as every protest: A hundred people standing on the stairs, the Police has barricades surrounding them, and are letting people in but not letting them out. The usual Kefaya players are also there: Oh Look, there is George Ishac, and here is Kammal Khalil. The Kefaya Theathre group doing an encore of their favorite show. As I walk in I realize how many of the old players are not there: Alaa and Manal are in Italy, Sharqawy, Malek, Droubi and the Brothers Gharbeia were nowhere to be found (they probably had better things to do), Hossam is in California, Elijah is somewhere between Bangkok and Hanoi, and Issandr is god knows where. Even the foreign journalists have changed, and all the old crew is gone and replaced by newbies. Egypt is no longer news worthy, and our cause is now almost forgotten.

The Protest goes on, and gets bigger and with every moment I miss my favorite Marxist Trotskite revolutionary more, so I decide to call him in Cali and keep him updated. There was news after all: A Lebanese journalist named Jano Charbel got arrested, which I found out later was Hossam's friend and neighbor. There were also rumors that some guy in Mahalla got shot and killed by the Police, but no one could confirm it. I was more distracted by the presence and arrival of 2 ambulance cars and a firefighting truck. I started harboring hopes we might get hosed. Now that should be interesting, I think to myself as I am sitting on the stairs and resting my back on the wall of the syndicate. And for a second there, you get the appeal of the place. This is our Freedom Zone. This is the place we get to scream and shout and exercise our rights of free speech. I decide to get into the spirit of things and start chanting and clapping with the rest of the protesters.

No wonder they need to confine us to this place, freedom of speech is infectious.


Gimmy came over  accompanied by a dutch journalist and introduced her to me. We shake hands, and she asks if she can ask me a few questions, and I agree. This is how it went:

Z: So, you shut down the blog for a long time because the Police was after you, right?

Me: Well, that was a reason for why I shut it down, that's true. 

Z: Yet you opened it again last month. What happened? They stopped harassing you?

Me: Well, things were quiet for the first few month, and I decided to move on and get involved in a couple of other projects. But around the last week of august I got a phone call from my father, asking me why a man in a suit came over and asked our doorman questions about me. Questions regarding if they see me here often, where I work now, stuff like that. The guy told the doorman that he is asking those questions because I was being "considered for a  very prestigious position" and they wanted to do background checks on me. This, of course, is bullshit. They were snooping around me , again, when I didn't do anything and completely "behaved" myself for the past few months. So I figured, I am damned either way, so fuck it,  I will blog again.

Z: Ok, so what brings you to this protest? This is not usually your scene.

(Why does everyone keep asking me that?)

Me: Well, part of it is because I believe the workers are right. They are owed money and they didn't get paid for over a year, so they have every right to protest the way they are. But that's not the full reason. The reality is, I haven't gone to a single protest ever since the constitutional amendments one, and you know how horrible that one was. And it has gotten worse ever since that day. Ayman Nour is still in Prison, the brothers Sadat are all out of the Parliament, Saad el Deen Ibrahim is all but virtually exiled out of the country, with the Egyptian government sending him a message using the american ambassador Riccardione to tell him that Egypt isn't safe for him anymore, and now we have 4 editors in chief of independent anti-Mubarak newspapers who are facing trial and jail sentences. And NOBODY CARES. We are pretty much heading towards a very dark period, so I came today to see if there is a glimmer of hope left, and be a part of it. Cause, what else is there to do?


Two hours had passed, it was around mindnight, and the Protest had grown in numbers, partially because more people were coming in to join, and partly because the Police wasn't letting anybody out. We started joking that we will spend the night on the stairs, and have our Sohour here. I started taking a poll, asking people if they feel like ordering Food Delivery. We figured we will call Gad for Falafel sandwiches, since it's Ramadan and all. I even went to the guards and asked them if they would allow the passage of food to us, since it seems we are gonna be here till tomorrow and we might need to have a sohour cause it's Ramadan and all. The Police soldiers laughed and said they would let the food pass, no problem. Sweet.

Just as we are actually preparing to take the order, we noticed that the Police was starting to let some people out, but the majority of which were carrying kids. I had seen some of them coming in with children and I didn't get it at first, and now I did. They bring the children with them, so that they can use them as an excuse to get out. Unfuckinbelievable. Anyway, more people were alerted that they were allowing some people to exit, so they started moving towards the exit as well, and the entire situation became intensely crowded, with the people pushing and shoving each other, and the Police letting like 3 people out every 5 minutes, enjoying how much we are pushing and shoving each other every time in adjustment.

I was leading the way, and when the door finally opened to let some people out, a woman cried that she is suffocating. So getting her out became a priority, so I also screamed that we have girls and pushed M and H to the front, so they all got out and the door closed again for another 5 minutes. Ignoring the guy who was elbowing me and the 3 trying to push me against the barricade, I could see M and H talking to the police Officer and pointing at us. Then the door opened again, and they pointed at me and told me to get out. So I pushed my away out, knowing that Gimmy is right behind me, to find them closing the opening in his face. The Police Officer pointed at him and said: "Anybody but him. He kicked me in an earlier protest. Don't let him out".

Fuck.

I went and spoke to the ranking Police Officer ( a different one), imploring him to open the gate to let the rest of our group out. He told me that I can point at them and let only 3 out. I agreed. As I was about to chose the rest of my group, including Gimmy, the police Officer said "On one condition. Not that one" pointing at him. Looking at him, I muttered "I am sorry", and started pointing my friends out. Suddenly everybody knew my name and started shouting at me to choose them to get out as well, so I started pulling everybody that I could out, bringing out 8 people instead of 3 until the Police removed me and shut the gate again. The Officer looked at me and said : "I said only 3", to which I responded "yeah, but they are all my friends and its Ramadan. Happy Ramadan to you", so he shooed me away, and told me to start moving or else we will all get arrested for real. So we started walking towards the side street we came from, grouping together the original group with the extras I pulled out. The three of them knew Gimmy. We started debating what we should do, so I decided to call him and found him answering: "Yes, they let me out. I am coming right now!". So we told him where we were, and when I started seeing his sillouhette coming towards us I started running towards him, except that he wasn't answering my calls. Instead he was starting to move faster, almost running, and pointed towards me with his hand to stay away.

And then he suddenly broke into sprint and went into a side street…

…and then I noticed 4 other big men that were behind him, who suddenly started sprinting and ran behind Gimmy as well.

Gimmy was being chased! 


I ran towards the group, telling them to start moving. They asked me "What's wrong? Where did Gimmy Go?"

"He ran this way. He is being chased by 4 plainclothed police officers", I respond.

"But why? They let him out!" M. said.

"So that they can beat him up later away from the media." One of the three joining us said. He then looked at his two buddies and said, "Let's go after them, to make sure he is ok!" and they started running towards that side street, and then stopped suddenly, when they saw a gorup of girls they knew, and started chatting with them. Probably telling them heroic stories about the protest they just got out of. The rescue Gimmy Calvary got shut down by a 3 protester groupies. The Kid was on his own.

"Let's run and get the car", I said to M. as I started pulling her away with me.

"What the fuck are they doing? Is this the time to pick up chicks? Weren't they gonna.."  

"Well, they saw a chance to score Punanni and they took it over helping their friend M. Ok? We are gonna have to get him. So LET'S RUN."

She looked at me for one second and then she started sprinting, and I am with her and the rest of the group behind us. I call Gimmy, and ask him for his location. We agree to rendez-vous at Talaat Harb square again, because its crowded and they wouldn't be able to secretly beat him up there. Not to mention, numbers in strength. In 3 minutes we bumped into him and I look for the 4 guys and I don't see them. He lost them. Relief washes over me, but we are not out of the woods yet, so we immediately head to the cars to go home. On the way there, Gimmy gets a phone call from the 3 guys who were supposed to come to his rescue, asking him how he is doing and if he was ok. They then asked him if he wanted to join them at the Borsa Cafe, cause everybody who was in the protest is there.

God I hate Downtown activists! 


Two days later, the Mahalla strike was over. The workers were victorious. A settlement with the state-owned company was reached, and they were going to get paid their rightfully acquired salaries and profit shares. The moment the news broke out that the Mahalla workers got their rights, 2 other workers Protests broke out in Domyat  and Tanta. The workers saw that this government , for the first time ever, responds to pressure, and they are taking full advantage of the opportunity. Good for them. 

Yeah, we are heading towards some seriously dark days, but glimmers of hope still exist! 

Round 2

For those who are not familiar with this case, please go here , here , here , here and here for background information. For those who are, this is what happend today:

Today was the first session of the case at the new court, the sixth district court, to cover the case of Judge Mourad against the 21 websites. The Judge was supported by the Hesbah lawyers of the AbdelKarim case (they are trying to add his blog to the list of banned websites), and our side was supported, by, like many many many people, including the government. Imagine that. The Ministery of telecomunication sent a lawyer that was, for the lack of a better word, excellent. But more on that Later.

Judge Mourad presented his case, which was a whole lot of Bullshit. His first line of argument was that he was being attacked and slanderd by those evil websites, which is something that could happen to any Judge (Hint hint, presiding Judges, hint hint), and that he faces a very organized campaign of attack and slander against him since day one. His case then became that those websites and organizations insult the Quran, God, The President and the country, and some of them are funded by "foreign sources" that give them "bags of dollars" to help them continue to defame the country. He asked the court to demand from the NGO's a detailed account of where their funding comes from and then presented posts and pirnted webpages to support his claims. He also demanded that the court makes the sessions private and not allow publishing anything in the newspapers on the case.

Then our side striked back.

Gamal Eid from HR Info presented the plagarsim document, and made a very elequont case that this is very much a private vendetta thing and an attempt by the Judge to hide his plagarism, and has nothing to do with defending Egypt. He also wanted the Judges to ignore the gag order and continue nmaking this case as public as possible, since the man just publcially defamed them in court.

The Government Lawyer made a very detailed argument that a) It's practically impossible to block a website, since there are proxies that can access it, and b) That it makes no sense to block every website someone defames somebody on, and made the analogy that if a wrietr in a newspaper insults someone in his writing, the newspaper doesn't get shut down and c) that the Judge has no business telling the government which websites to block and which not to, and that if thatd oor gets opend, everyday someone will demand the pulling of a website, and they do not have the time, energy or respources to investigate every single one and block it , given that they know how futile it is. 

 The Judge then announced that he will make his decisions on the demands known at the end of the session, then came out with a decision to move the next sesion to the 5th of may and to ignore the Judge's demand for a gag order. The thing that makes you very optimistic is that the Judges seemed to really know the case and what's at stake and weren't exactly friendly to the Judge. So there is hope and a very good chance that this case could be very well thrown out.

After the session was over, a small but heated argument started between The Hesbah Lawyer and Alaa and Gamal Eid, given that the Lawyer was a witness at a police report accusing Manal and Alaa of insulting Judge Mourad the last hearing. This is bullshit, because, well, Manal wasn't even there. She had left at 10 am and the scuffle that took place last hearing where the alledged insulting happend, occured around 1:30 pm. The Hesbah Islamic lawyer, with his beard and all of his Koran spouting skills, is a liar and Alaa told him that to his face. Not that it matters of course. The man has no conscience!

It feels weird though to be on the same side of the government. Not sure that I am going to get used to that feeling. 

Oh well..

Hershed!

So yesterday I went to the AUC to hear Seymor Hersh speak. I must say I had only heard of the man in passing, and knew that he was the guy who broke out the Abu Gharib story, but beyond that I had no prejudices going in. And then I read who was presenting him, and those Prejudices went right out of the window. You see, the man was brought to us by the Heikal foundation for Journalism, as in Mohamed Hassanein Heikal. For those unfamiliar with the man, he wrote the book on crony journalism and regime propaganda. This is the man who crafted the image of Nasser for the egyptian people for over almost 2 decades, creating and crafting his personality cult, and then spent the rest of his days as an advisor, a writer, and occasionally a weapon's dealer. But in essence, he is an apologist for an authoratarian regime and a proagandist per excellence. So to hear mr. Hersh talking about how he is glad and optimistic regarding the future of egyptian journalism thanks to institutes such as the Heikal Foundation for Journalism, well, you can understand why I felt like crying at that moment.

However, I was immedietly distracted by the group masturbation session that followed those words as mr. Hersh started his speech. I was wowed by this man's ability to verbally give every single member of the audience a handjob. It was exactly everything they wanted to hear and nothing more. Simply amazing. This is a man who knows his audience and how exactly to bullshit them. For example, he mentioned- with the disclaimer that he has no proof of this- that the UN owed Iraq approx. 9 billion dollars for Oil sales in escrow, which was later on claimed by the US government when it took over Iraq and then simply dissappeared and vanished. He of course has no proof or sources to confirm this, but his audience is not one that needs proof in such matters. After all, we live for this shit.

What was slightly surprising was how pro-Shia the man was (the man apparently could see no harm coming from Iran, syria or hezbollah), which was later on explained to me in the context that this man is a member of the new Left, and the new left believes that any enemy of the USA is a good person and needs to be supported, because the USA is a very bad and naughty country. But the dude was stretching thing a little bit. I mean when he decribed the March 14th movement as "The US backed Sunni dominated Seniora government" I started heaving, but when he described  Hezbollah as "a member of an opposition coalition with Christian catholics" I knew I was in the presence of greatness. This is a man who could distort shit so well that he could disprove gravity. And just so you know, the US is backing a "Fitnah" amongst muslims that is trying to get sunnis to fight the Shias, who apparently before the US moved into Iraq never fought before. Oh yeah, and it's all the saudis fault. If you removed the Saudis and the americans, the region would be peacefull with rainbows, butterflies and choclate springs sprouting all over. It's not like the Iranians are equiping shia militias in Iraq, financing Hezbollah in Lebanon,  trying to detsabalize the government of Bahrain and occupies part of the UAE. Not gonna mention that, no way. The Iranians are cool after all, because they hate the US.

You know, I am willing to listen and accept his version of how the americans are to blame for everything in the middle-east if he would just mention the other asshole players and assign them blame as well. I mean, yeah, the sunnis are asshole extremist fanatics and Saudi is filled with crazy wahabi and mutawaeen, but so are the Shia, and Iran has the religious police and almost executed a girl for killing someone who wanted to rape her. Yet somehow, in Hersh's world view, what Iran does is not a problem, the Saudis are. After all, they are cozy with the US. Dude, this is the middle east. The devil's asshole. Everybody here is guilty. We all have blood on our hands. Sunnis and Shia. Christians and Jews. Arabs and Persians. It's just how things are around here, and it's not gonna change if the Saudis ran out of Oil or the US lost its power and status. Sorry. Any undergrad Junior International Affairs or middle-eastern studies student will tell you that it's a tad more complicated than that. But not as far as mr. Hersh is concerned.

All in all, it was lovely. People had the same blank happy look on their faces that they had after watching Fehrenheit 9/11. They didn't come up with anything new, just everything they have believed and heard a thousand times before just rehashed and repackaged and told to them by an anti-Israeli jew. And, after all, in a country like Egypt, the moral authority of anti-israeli jew is absolute.

So yeah, it was a fun hour. I love me a good bullshit artist. Maybe that's why I always had a soft spot for Bill Clinton. He was, after all, the master of Bullshit artistry! However, if you are not a critical thinker, you left this place with the satisfied face and shit-eating grin of someone who just got exactly what he wanted and expected, faith rewarded. Good for you. Keep it up. Your world will always be a simple one.

Lucky you! 

Yesterday's demonstration against sexual harrassment

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

Hend Al Henawy

Mona Al Tahawy

and Nora Younes.

The AUC kids start arriving.

The Protest got bigger!

Picture of the people from the other buildings watching us.

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

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

A Pharaoh's last Joruney

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

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

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

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

This is what You hear:

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

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

” This is an Idol you Kafarah”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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