The Egyptian Presidency and rediscovering the couch

The Presidency

As Expected, the presidential race in Egypt has taken over the debate in all Egyptian social circles,virtual and real. The Political scene shifts to new front-runners by the second , and rumors around the nominees, and who of them is qualified to run and who has what nationality are both abundant and premature, especially that with every passing moment, the populace realizes more and more that they didn’t know much about the Nominees to begin with, and what they are finding out is not making them happy. And this entire process really got fired up the moment the Muslims Brotherhood announced the candidacy of Khairat ElShater for President.

I am not one to criticize that decision, since I do not share the view that the Muslim Brotherhood is the power-hungry opportunists everyone makes them out to be, and I believe that every decision they made they had to make. They need to remove the Ganzoury Government, cause Ganz-the old NDP weasel that he is- is burning money, spending like a drunken sailor, as if vowing to hand over to the MB a completely broke government, which in reality he will. Their attempt to highlight this was not met with favor from the SCAF, hence the beginning of their fight with them & their desire to remove the government. The ElShater nomination had to be made because of the AbulFotouh candidacy, with the Mid Cadres of the MB are grumbling over why they should vote for someone they don’t know or trust (SCAF’s candidate, whomever he is, as per the deal between them and the MB) when they can vote for AbulFotouh, whom they know and respect.

This forced the MB’s hand, either support AbulFotouh, at which case he would’ve defied the Supreme council of the MB and won, which is a very dangerous precedent to be set in an organization that operates on strict obedience to the Supreme Council’s decisions, or have one of their own run for President, in violation of the deal, to unify the votes of the Brotherhood, and since it has to be a strong figure, and Saad ElKatatny can only hold so many titles, it had to be Khairat ElShater, because no one else would be taken seriously by either their voters or the general public.

The Problem lies in the argument that the ElShater is a card that’s being used too soon, and will create more problems for the MB and ElShater himself, that anyone inside and outside the political scene considers it a miscalculation at best and a spectacularly dumb move at worst. This is an argument that should be respected, since it does have a lot more merit than its detractors believe. It’s a can of worms, and it got forced open, with far reaching consequences than anyone originally anticipated.

The Problematic Nomination

To put in laymen’s terms, the Khairat ElShater’s nomination will cause problems in five major areas: Inside the MB, the political scene, the public, ElShater’s personal life, and the Media.

  1. Inside the MB: The grumbling inside the MB over ElShater control of everything is really irking the members, who are not happy with the Brotherhood’s decisions, positions, and the hierarchical structure that ElShater is attempting to impose on their flat structure in order to fully control them. This is further heightened by the AbulFotouh campaign itself, and how many ex-MB members are coming out of the woodwork with open criticism and dirty laundry to air to the public, which is turning off the Youth of the Brotherhood from its organization and message as well. The speak of a real split inside the MB is not false nor exaggerated, with many members believing that a case of disintegration has afflicted their beloved organization, and its decay will be accelerated by the presidential competition between ElShater and Abulfotouh, eventually splintering a sizeable part of it forever. Even their political messaging, painting ElShater as this age’s Prophet Joseph, has been met with derision even amongst the MB’s rank and file. Win or lose, the MB, as a whole, will be in a weaker state by the time the Presidential elections is over.
  2. The Political scene: The Nomination stoked the rhetoric that the MB is trying to replicate the NDP and completely control all branches of the government. This has lead to: panic-turned-into-aggression amidst the different non-islamist political parties; landing the final straw for all the revolutionary movements; and the calls, by ex-regime sympathizers and nonaffiliated voters, for a military strongman candidate who they want to use fascist tactics to end the reign of the Brotherhood. This further emboldened by the way the nomination announcement was made, given that the Supreme Guide was the one to announce it on behalf of the FJP, which lead to all sorts of questions ranging from how separate the FJP really is from the MB, what exactly are the functions and powers of the Supreme guide and whether ElShater winning will mean that the Supreme Guide will be the one truly ruling the country, since ElShater, like all MB members, have sworn an oath of loyalty and obedience to that man and the MB’s decisions. In all cases, the MB finds itself more isolated than ever, will garner neither support nor sympathy by any other political force in the country by any of the groups, even if it’s against SCAF and even by the people who oppose SCAF the most. There is a word to how they all feel, and its contempt; and it’s not going away!
  3. The Public: The MB’s votes already splintered, the centrists will no longer be swayed by them, especially that the MB announced the nomination as a revolutionary act against the interfering SCAF. People can argue whether this disagreement is real or make-belief, either way the average Mo, who supports the army and fears civil conflict, will be turned off and shy away from them. With every other group already having a candidate that’s not ElShater, one has to wonder on whose votes he is counting.
  4. ElShater’s life: The man who has always been working in the shadows is now supposed to woo the public, who are both getting to know him and his family, all ten children of them. They are a publicist’s nightmare, since most of his 10 children are active social media users and are getting now pursued and interviewed by the Media, where they always end up saying things they shouldn’t say. I don’t think ElShater considered how this nomination will affect his and his family’s life, or more importantly, his professional life. The Presidency requires qualifications, and ElShater’s high profile will lead to people examining his own, and his business dealings, which will never end positively for a population that, fairly or unfairly, has grown resentful of the rich businessman types.
  5. The Media: Nominating yourself to a political office in Egypt, from a personal experience, is one of the most terrifyingly vulnerable experiences that anyone could go through, for it brings you out into the open and allows everyone to poke at you. Given that the Egyptian Media is both unprofessional and sensationalist in its reporting in order to gain customers, their desire for sensationalist news or information that could be turned into a scandal is insatiable, which is usually fed by agents of the security apparatuses in the regime for their own purposes. The moment the nomination door closes I envision a meeting between a government spook and journalists from every newspaper, where he hands them each a different file with all the dirt over a specific business transaction that ElShater or the MB have made, as a gift to the newspapers who need to sell their issues to survive. Expect the following stories: Khairat ElShater and the Business of the MB, Khairat ElShater’s money laundering operations, the land deals of the MB, etc.. They will basically turn him into the Islamist Ahmed Ezz, which will tarnish his image, and subsequently the MB’s, considerably, and enforcing the rhetoric that they are the new NDP and should be treated as such.

 

The AbulFotouh Vendetta

In the midst of all of this, it’s hard not to believe that the AbulFotouh’s campaign is becoming less about AbulFotouh leading the country, and more about the very personal political cage-match between him and ElShater over the MB. The whole thing is looking more and more like a personal vendetta between those old frenemies, and upon close inspection it does open up a few questions about AbuElFotouh himself. For starters, who says that he is really fighting a reformist fight inside the MB and that’s why the Old Guard forced him out, and not that he is simply someone who found himself slowly but surely being excluded from the circle of Power inside the MB and all the monetary & personal benefits that comes with it, and is therefore waging this war against them for revenge purposes, and using the reformist rhetoric to hide his true agenda? Would that really be an unfair presumption, given that this is exactly the situation that most of his supporters who are ex-MB, like Mohamed Habib, are ex-MB for precisely that reason? Or that he, more than anyone, knows- and doesn’t care- that his candidacy is slowly but surely destroying an old organization that he proudly states to be honored for being a part of and loves dearly, for his own egoistic reasons and ambitions? What kind of reformist strategy that aims to not embolden the reformist wing inside an organization and lead to its enforcing its will, but rather to cause them to split with the organization all together and join his camp? How will this lead to anything other than the other camp solidifying their power with what’s left of the organization of loyal supporters and beneficiaries, and having their rule or antics no longer challenged or questioned by anyone internally?

I am not saying that AbulFotouh is evil or malicious, but a little skepticism and cynicism are both utterly necessary and healthy before supporting a man, who happens to be a politician, for the position of highest office of the country, especially that his CV, while respectful and all, doesn’t qualify him for a position of that magnitude to begin with. Also, in the midst of all the ruckus, no one has done a proper job of documenting and examining his positions to begin with, especially that the man is infamous amidst those who are paying attention of changing his position based on the venue at which he is speaking. Quick, can someone tell me what is AbulFotouh’s position regarding the Israeli Peace agreement, or Sharia implementation? In the former he has three different positions that correlate to the target audience of whichever TV Channel he went on, whether liberal, State-owned or Islamists, and they range from respecting the Peace Process and the agreement with some reservations, to stating that it’s against Egyptian sovereignty and must therefore be changed, to rejecting any ties, agreements or relations with Israel completely. Don’t take my word for it, research it, and while you are at it, please see what he says about Sharia in secular Channels like ONTV and contrast that with what he says on Islamist channels. Try it. It’s a rather fun exercise.

Hazem Salah Abu Ismael People

In the midst of the fight within the MB’s camp between the financiers and the rebels, it’s important not to forget the third Islamist heavyweight, Hazem Salah AbuIsmael, whose base is the much ignored segment of islamist voters, the crazy fanatics, just because it has come to light that his Mother was a US citizen and thus should be legally disqualified from running. Neither will AbuIsmael give up his candidacy that easily without a serious legal challenge, nor will his supporters accept such a decision without causing problems. AbuIsmael may not have the widest base of supporters, but he does have the most fanatic ones, and they have already vowed violence if he is not allowed to run. Given that they are so loopy that they believe that 1) He is the most honest man in the country, even though he did caught redhanded in public lying about his mother’s nationality; 2) his Mom’s passport was fabricated by the US as a conspiracy to disqualify him from running, and that the SCAF are in on it, so it’s not out of the range of the possible to imagine them clashing with everyone from the supporters of his political competitors to the army itself for his sake. Think am exaggerating? Think again. It’s already happening.

Omar Soliman’s candidacy

On Top of this mess, comes the nomination of Omar Soliman as the proverbial icing on top of our political shitcake. The Ex-VP of Mubarak, and the man who is regarded worldwide as one of the world’s most powerful spooks, is throwing his hat in the ring one day after announcing that he is not running, and turning the entire political scene on its head. He has huge name recognition and technically has the most presidential of all CV’s presented, but he is also a military man, an intelligence man, and Mubarak’s VP, which are all huge weak points against him. Also, the assumptions of his winning the support of the population, fair and square, is suspect. The man operates brilliantly in the shadows, but the moment he is thrust into the light, like last year, he can’t escape looking scary as hell in the Media. Ironically, this is the main reason his supporters love him, for he looks like the kind of strongman daddy-figure that they need and crave. His supporters believe that he is the only one capable of stopping (and hopefully locking up) the Islamists for good, and just like the ElShater’s supporters, they have given him an Islamic-based packaging: The Messiah-figure. He who will solve all, bring back security and order, and save this country, especially from ElShater and his ilk. While as equally naïve as ElShater’s Joseph thing, there is one main difference: Soliman’s supporters actually and truly believe that he is really the messianic savior that they need, and have shown that in the speed and ferocity they have shown in collecting his support credentials. As of now, our election has the modern day’s Joseph, the Messiah, and the Demigod known as AbuIsmael. Oh Yeah!

The Six Truths

This all leads to my conclusion, which is really comprised of the following 6 simple truths:

  1. Public Support is Bullshit: After Saad ElSoghayer’s ( a famous Sha3by singer in Egypt) stunt of collecting 55,000 letters of agency to run for President in a week and showing up with his supporters, the trick of giving the image of massive public support by showing up with thousands of supporters (a.k.a the AbuIsmael strategy) no longer works. It’s actually impossible to gauge who has real public support now, since almost everyone who is running can mobilize thousands in a country of 50 million voters.
  2. Our Intelligentsia and Elite are failures: The course of this revolution, and the nature of the candidates, makes it obvious the depth of failure that has befallen that our country’s Elite. The entire Egyptian Elite and Intelligentsia, and not a single acceptable, plausible, electable presidential candidate? Are you kidding me?
  3. The newly-elected President won’t be able to solve anything: Whomever wins, our next President will have to deal with a MB & Salafi controlled Parliament that might not last very long, a military that very much acts independently and follows its own agenda, a government that is unlikely to solve any of the compiling problems, and yet to be defined, by parliament’s constitutional committee, powers, responsibilities and job description. Either way you look at it, at least one of those forces is a problem for each candidate.
  4. We are heading into a crisis: While for most people the fight within those forces will determine the shape of the state, they forget that there is no state to speak of right now. We are heading into a crisis as a country, with the failing economy, rising prices, the failure of almost every sector of government services, and the outbreak of crime. Also, the idea of the strong President who will solve it all is breaking, since whomever will win will be someone that the majority either hates or voted for because they had no other option. We are entering the era of The Minority President, so what pull can he really have?
  5. We will finally know the true size of each Player: All of our impressions about the candidates are based on media interviews and social media presence, which are misleading at best. Who would lead a better campaign, Soliman or ElShater? Can Abulfotouh really get the centrist votes? Where is the Moussa campaign? Do the people actually know those candidates; especially that none of them has managed to score more than 18% recognition amidst the public in any poll?
  6. We will witness the show of a lifetime: Everything that already happened is nothing, since the official campaigning has not even started yet, and we are playing democracy with a population that so far doesn’t have democratic values, nor does it have any impartial media to inform them. This will be insanely entertaining!

     

Basically, we are about to encounter two months of political mayhem that no one can control or stop, so relax, get the popcorn, rediscover your couch, as I am rediscovering mine, and enjoy the show.

This will be SO AWESOME! :D

For the light to come back

There is something gloomy now about the nights of Cairo, which you notice it while driving at night. It’s as if the City has suddenly become less bright at night, and it doesn’t shine the way it used to. I used to think I am imagining it, and then tonight I’ve finally figured it out: Not only does it seem as if the light bulbs that they are using now to light the 6th October bridge at night are dimmer, there are dozens of light poles that are simply off, and have been for a while now, with no one fixing them. Their absence makes the night full of dread, as if with the rising crime and the continued lack of safety of our streets are not reasons enough. Those light poles and their conditions are perfect metaphor to what’s happening in the country right now: The situation is, slowly but surely, deteriorating, and nobody is doing anything to fix that. The Arab spring has turned into nuclear bloody winter, and the lights are slowly fading.

If we ignore the current political situation for a second, we might be able to focus on what’s really happening in the country, and maybe, just maybe, figure out the ways to which we can ensure that the current dark phase is a temporary one, and provide solutions to the real concerns of the people that are both well-thought out and researched. We don’t do that, and instead we offer platitudes and theoretical solutions that don’t adhere to practical reality or our goals. We started a revolution to prevent corruption, and now the government officials, at least on the municipalities’ level, are being more corrupt than ever and being blatant about it, and nobody is doing anything or offering any real solution to actually stop that from happening. The same is happening in regards to our cattle, and to our economy, and nobody has a clue on how to fix this, or has a real full understanding of the problem and why it exists in the first place. Without that, we are doomed to stay stuck with our problems and to watching them continue to exasperate and grow to something of ghoulish proportions, without the ability to fix the problem on the long term. And nowhere, and I mean nowhere, is that more evident in our problems with security and law enforcement, or the fact that it still doesn’t seem to exist on our streets in any meaningful capacity. There are reasons for that that we must understand, or we are stuck in this limbo of a broken country, with no hope of ever getting out.

There is no doubt that our Police force leaves much to be desired, or that it’s filled with people who may not have criminal minds or intentions, but definitely have criminal attitudes. However, this is not an article that aims to attack them and continue to call them all the names and adjectives that we have so grown to use regarding them, neither does it aims to apologize for their actions, or excuse them. This article aims to understand the root of the problem of police reform, and why they continue to act like criminals are worst, or criminally negligent at best. It’s easy to take the position of many revolutionaries and write off the force as 99% criminals and butchers, but it doesn’t help solve anything, nor will any of the plans that aim to “clean the police” that keep popping up. The Problem, in a nutshell, and away from any criminal or corrupt activity they engage in, is simply this: Our Police is comprised of severely limited (many of which are violent) human beings that are facing an extremely hostile environment without proper training or resources, at a shit salary and shitty hours, to protect a public that daily demands their presence on the street, but refuses to obey the law or respect their authority. But if we take a bird eye view, we will find that things are slightly more complex than that. Here is some food for thought to consider in this debate:

  • Like many government institutions (the army, the judiciary, the media), our police suffers from a severe case of nepotism, with families that all work in that sector. The Son gets into the MOI due to some strings done by his father who is also in the MOI, and pre revolution it was the parents and their friends protecting the sons if they got into trouble. After the revolution, it is the sons, the law-ranking street officers who are refusing any punishment against their parents (and parents’ friends) generation. For the lack of a better word, our police force is a clan.
  • Throughout their 4 year study in the Police academy, they are not trained in any way, shape or form to apply the law or deal with the public, or even to do proper police work. They don’t get trained on crime scene investigation, proper interrogation techniques, or respecting the same law & process they are supposed to protect. They have something called “The scene of the crime” theater, where they are supposed to learn how investigate a crime scene. That thing is never opened or used unless we have foreign visitors. Otherwise, it is closed and never used.
  • As much as there is talk about how much funding the MOI receives in the Budget, the reality is that they are severely under-funded and under-resourced. Take Maadi for example, where they have one police officer and three soldiers to protect all of the Maadi banks, and with an old blue pick-up truck (elbox) to chase out potential robbers who usually are driving stolen new 4×4 cars, or guys on motorcycles (They also have one police officer in charge of protecting all the gas stations in Maadi as well). Or in Heliopolis, where during my run for parliament my friend Ramy’s bag was stolen from his car, at 10 pm at night, on the very busy street of Marghany, on a Friday night, and the car was parked in front of the presidential palace. Our trip to the Police station was depressing, because they were helpless, and still reeling from the fact that the police checkpoint in Roxy was just robbed two days ago of its computers. We awaited the patrol sergeants in the area to arrive, which they did 20 minutes later in a taxi, because they don’t have cars or motorbikes, and are supposed to “secure” a three kilometers radius area at night on foot, which is safe to say is not the most efficient way to do this. They complained to us incessantly on how helpless they are, and how they have orders of “selective law enforcement”: i.e. if they found someone smoking up in the street for example, and they have a Heliopolis address (thus rich and upper-middle class) they were clearly instructed to let them go, all the while are encouraged to apply the law fully if the person had a “Ain Shams” address for example, which is the neighboring lower-middle class neighborhood. Why? Because their commanding officers don’t want headaches (upper-middle class people have connections & media access that could cause them trouble as opposed to their middle and lower-middle counterparts) or the people from the neighborhood to dislike them further, thus sending to their lower-ranks the same message they had before the revolution: the law is meaningless when it comes to the affluent, thus ensuring the perpetuation of the lack of respect to any law, because If the country’s most educated won’t respect the law, even on the level of putting seatbelts on, or talking on the phone while driving, or hell, having your license on you while driving, then who will?
  • The question then arises: well, if the resources are the same, and the attitude was the same, how was Cairo so secure before the revolution? Well, the answer was simple: FEAR. They harnessed and perpetuated the fear from the Police, and the fear from being taken into Police custody, who will abuse, mistreat, torture and sometimes even kill you, to ensure that the citizens complied with “the law” and that the streets were “secure”, which they did through the mistreatment of the citizens or the distribution of what is now known as “Police torture videos”, which were aimed at lower classes to put the fear of God into them. This method lead them on the very dangerous path of viewing themselves as also above the law and able to literally get away with murder, especially with the culture of zero-accountability that marked the Habib El-Adly reign. They also had a very good idea of who the “repeat offenders” in the area were, so if a crime happened, they would simply round them up and torture them until someone confessed, fully understanding that if he was truly guilty, then justice was done, and if not, the population would feel safe again since “the criminals were caught”, and that the true perpetrator would be unlikely to repeat the crime in that same area because they know someone else took the fall for them, and they wouldn’t want to attract that kind of attention in their direction again. This is no longer the case, with the torching of Police stations, and break-outs in the country’s jails, which makes them completely unable to gauge how many “repeat-offenders” exist in the area they operate in anymore, and the rise of human-rights organizations and advocates, who became focused on defending the “suspects” and “repeat-offenders” rights from Police abuse, and supplying them with the lawyers that would defend them, and god knows our Police was never even trained on the right legal procedures to arrest or interrogate anyone, thus ensuring their release and the placement of the Police officer under internal investigation. So, in return, the police realize that it’s far easier to not bother with the rounding up of those suspects in the first place, especially with how well-armed the lower-class neighborhoods’ are at the moment, and the general lack of sympathy when a police officer dies on duty or get injured if they do try to stop a crime, and decided to let it all go to hell.
  • This, of course, doesn’t go well with the few good apples that exist in our Police Force, and they do exist, who would like to ensure that the respect of the police and the security of the streets return once again, because, like the rest of us, they reside in them. So a few in Heliopolis suggested that the MOI supply them with small wireless lipstick cameras that they can wear as part of their uniforms, recording their interactions with the general public, and acting as evidence and an arbiter in deciding if they broke the law or rules of conduct with the citizens and vice versa, and have it all logged in hard-drives in their patrol cars. That idea was of course rejected by the older generation in management, no reason given. Another police officer came up with a plan to actually secure an entire neighborhood with the low cost of 15,000 pounds (2.5 thousand dollars), and that idea was also rejected by the older generation, no reasons were given. One can guess the reasons to be anything from 1) their reluctance to change their ways to 2) lack of resources, to 3)fear of “trouble” if those cameras recorded evidence that one of the more connected citizens broke the law, or one of their officers in the lower-class neighborhoods did the same thing, thus stopping their ability to interfere or “resolve the situation”. Thus again sending them the same message from their offices of Power: Don’t bother; which is easy for them to do since they are not the ones on the front-lines of anything and don’t want any accountability for anything.
  • This general culture of lack of accountability or desire for improvement by the older ranks naturally leaves the lower-ranks officers quite resentful of them and of their orders to “bring back security” to the streets, and also making them believe that they are expendable, since they are asked to go and stop criminals that have better guns and better cars equipment than they do, and without the leaders that don’t care for them or the public that neither fears or respect them, so they simply don’t obey any order given to them that would place their lives at risk. Take for example of the events of Mansour Mohamed, where the MOI insisted that they didn’t give any of the officers any live ammo or birdshot ammo, but rather blanks, and contrast that with the thousands of injured with birdshots all over their bodies. We naturally assume that the MOI is lying, but that’s actually not the case. The MOI really did not give the officers any live ammo of any kind; the low-ranking officers, Lieutenants and captains, are the ones buying it themselves, with half of their salaries, mostly from their officer friends in the army, and if they don’t have any, they go to Gun-shops and buy it there. Why? Because they believe, totally and utterly, that the revolutionaries want them dead, and that if any of them gets caught by the protesters, they might not make it our alive by firing blanks at them, so they take the blanks from the Ministry, toss them, use the live ammo and go out guns-blazing and shooting any of them that’s close enough to be in range, to get them to either flee or be “neutralized”, knowing full well that they will get away with it because legally there is no evidence, and that the rule of zero-accountability still exists in the MOI, and emboldened by the fact that any Minister that takes over can simply be removed by 1) mounting public anger to anything bad that any of them anywhere in the country can do or 2) Cabinet changes that keep taking place so often that I bet that half of the readers of this post wouldn’t be able to say who the current MOI Minister is without looking it up. After 15 years of having the same minister, the MOI has changed ministers 3 times in the span of a year, and is expected to have a 4th one the moment the MB forms the new government, so why bother with any of their directives orders or plans, if they can just be replaced at any given moment?

And mind you, this is nothing. Just the tip of the ice-berg of the cluster-fuck that is our current security situation, and it doesn’t even take into account all the Police officers who have, over the years, become so corrupt that they are the ones running crime (drug rings, prostitution rings, theft-rings) in their neighborhoods, nor does it take into account our fantastically criminal state security apparatus and all the shit that they did and still do throughout their reign, and that nobody, again, is doing anything real or substantive about it. So, for a lack of a better word, we are currently in a cluster-fuck, and one that is unlikely to change or improve in the coming couple of years because as any criminal-justice major will tell you that worsening economic situation and the lack of strong and present law-enforcement will lead to the rise of petty-crime. You add to that the instances of newly forming organized crime structure that are starting to show themselves, and the ever worsening situation of street-children and street-families, who are 1) increasing and 2) many of which are venturing into semi-organized crime as well, and you start seeing the increasingly darker picture of our very near future. The question then becomes: what should we do?

Well, many of the proposals and solutions presented, from “firing everyone who broke the law”, to “we can train lawyers to become police officers in a year” are naïve and impractical. If we fired every police-officer who broke the law, we will fire them all, and if we train lawyers to become police officers in a year there is no guarantee that 1) the lawyers who will join won’t be equally corrupt to the ones in office now, or 2) that they will be any more effective in enforcing the law, given the worsening crime situation and their lack of the tools and street knowledge that the police force cultivates over the years that allows them to do their jobs and 3) the problems highlighted above will continue to exist, because, well, who will train and equip them except the current crop of MOI honchos who are equally ill-trained and equipped? What can be done?

Well, I am no expert, nor am I nearly qualified to provide the solution, but I do understand some things, so I will present them here also as my suggestions to slightly improve the situation:

  • There is no such thing as fast police-reform. The Police in Belguim, an affluent first world rich country, took them 10 years to reform their police force from something that used to be considered a joke to something respectable. Their conditions were nowhere near as bas ours was, and it took them 10 years, so we shouldn’t expect anything faster.
  • Crime will happen in Egypt, like it happens anywhere else in the world. Muggings, breaking and entry, even murder, are commonplace everywhere in the world, even in the safest areas of the most affluent civilized countries. It sucks, but it’s normal. What we had before was abnormal and resulted in consequence to everything that took place in the past year. The return to that will not solve any of our crime problems, but rather exasperate them more.
  • Join the Police. The corrupt clan “Band of brothers” culture of the MOI needs to be broken and this could only happen if ethically-minded Egyptians applied to the Police academy and joined the force. We didn’t encourage young revolutionaries to do that last year, even though we should’ve, because that would’ve been the most logical way to produce a new crop of Police officers in the near future that wouldn’t be corrupt and who would take their job and the law seriously. Another suggestion should’ve been ensuring that the two years of law that the Police get as part of their education as police officers should actually be taken outside the academy and in the regular universities of Cairo and Ain Shams, thus breaking the fraternity feeling that the police recruits have and that makes them protect each other over applying the law, and making the newly graduated police officer a part of a greater society, instead of the bubble they get placed in for four years inside the Police academy.
  • There is absolutely no other choice but for the culture of proper Police investigation to make a come-back to our Police force, which should be our demand and concern. Training the officers and recruits on police investigations should be our first priority, and getting them experts from abroad on this should be a national demand until we cultivate our own.
  • Technology and IT will help: The use of cameras is not a bad idea at all, and ensures 1) the existence of evidence of the charges presented against the suspect, 2) the following of police procedures by the police, and 3) ensuring the equal treatment of all, citizens and police, according to the law. The creation of a strong national database is also a must that connects everyone’s ID number with the criminal record or lack there-of, and giving the officers hand-held computers that allows them access to such a network when they apprehend someone that they believe to be suspicious due to his “appearance” to verify the need to take them to the police station to investigate further. Currently, the only such computer is found inside the police station, and thus created the need-or the excuse- to take the suspected citizen back to the police station to “investigate”, which is where the majority of the abuse historically happens. Having those computers or hand-held devices will eliminate that problem or excuse immediately.
  • Put on your seat-belts. For real. Respect the law even if you don’t respect the law-enforcer. Don’t complain about corruption when you are willing to use it to get yourself or your loved-ones out of trouble. Don’t complain about traffic officers when you continuously break all of the laws every time you drive. The Law shouldn’t be respected because of fear of punishment, but for the desire of the citizens to live in a civilized ordered society. You know that corny saying of “Be the change you want to see”? Well, in our case it’s not that corny. If you won’t respect the law and encourage others to do the same, don’t complain about the crime or the police, because, guess what? You are part of the problem. Big time.
  • Offer your assistance to improve the situation, and it might get improved. I am working on getting the police sergeants in Heliopolis Chinese motorbikes, so that they can at least cover their 3km patrol areas on something other than foot, and thus making them slightly more efficient in crime prevention or criminal apprehension. Someone else I know is offering to 15 K necessary to implement the plan of that police officer, with the condition that the same officer present an equal plan for a poorer neighborhoods that he is also willing to fund. We are living in the same country, might as well start behaving like we are a community.

Those suggestions are not a silver bullet, nor will they solve the problems that we have immediately, but they are a start, and we must start somewhere, and do it together, if we want things to improve, instead of always wanting to throw the responsibility on someone else and complaining that they don’t do their jobs. The deterioration that is taking place in all the sectors might not be our fault, but it has to be our responsibility, if not for the love of our country, then for our own self-interest. The nights might be becoming gloomier by the minute, but if we don’t do something about it, well, the light might never come back.

On the Presidential elections

In a few months, Egypt will undergo its first Post-Mubarak presidential elections. Barring no new entrants in the race after registration starts on the 10th of March, and everything else remaining constant, here is an analysis of how this thing will go down.

The Candidates Categories:

Ex-Mubarak Regime: Includes Ahmed Shafiq, the ex-Mubarak Prime Minister; Amr Moussa, the ex-Mubarak Foreign minister; Hossam Khairallah, an ex- high ranking official in Mubarak’s Intelligence.

Islamists pretending to be liberals: Includes AbdelMoneim Aboulfotouh and Selim Elawwa , both ex-Muslim Brotherhood.

The Salafis: Hazem Salah Abu Ismael.

 

The Breakdown:

Ex-Mubarak Regime: In that category, and given the sorry state of his campaign, Mr. Khairallah is slated to get maybe half a million votes. Ahmed Shafiq, who, for some unfathomable reason beyond my comprehension has a relatively high level of popularity, will get maybe 2 million votes. Thus leaving Amr Moussa, who has the highest level of name recognition and money, estimated to get at least 10 million votes, thus emerging as the real winner in that category.

Islamists pretending to be liberals: Selim Elawwa has no real base of support, so he will maybe get a half a million votes, so he is also out from round one. Aboulfotouh is slated to get the votes of religious centrists, ex-Baradei supporters, a contingent of the revolutionaries that believe- for some reason- he is one of them, and the mid-cadres inside the Muslim brotherhood, who will not openly support him, but will vote for him, since he was their mentor, literally. This amount will round –up to about 8 million votes that Aboulfotouh should get, and thus cementing his status as the winner in that category as well.

The Salafis: The salafi vote is estimated to be around 9 million votes, but so far the salafi parties have not endorsed Abu Ismail, and we still don’t know if the Noor Party has a candidate of their own, thus splintering the salafi vote. But if everything remained constant, and no other salafi candidate emerges, Abu Islamail will get the 9 million votes.

This leaves us with two possible scenarios:

Scenario A is one where Abu Islamil gets no competitors for the salafi vote, so he and Amr Moussa end up going to the run-off round, at which point the Abulfotouh votes get splintered almost evenly between the two candidates, and Moussa gets all of the ex-Mubarak regime votes on top of this, so he ends up being the winner, and Egypt’s next President.

Scenario B is one where Abu Ismail gets a competitor, splintering the salafi vote, and leaving the run-off between Moussa and Aboulfotouh, at which point the salafi vote will go to Abulfotouh, so he ends up being the winner and Egypt’s next President.

And thus, if no super-candidate shows up in the last minute and no political fiasco ends up exploding in the middle of the race, we end up being with one of two Presidents: A salafi-backed Muslim Brotherhood President, or an Ex-Mubarak Hack President.

Doesn’t that just leave you super excited for this election?

A Democratic Union

Are you familiar with General Abbas Mekheimar?

No? Well, General Abbas is the MP who heads the Defense and National Security committee in the Egyptian Parliament. Before he got in, he was Candidate Abbas Mekheimar, on top of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party list in Sharqiya in the last elections. Before he was Abbas Mekheimar the candidate, he was General Abbas Mekheimar, the head of internal investigations in the Egyptian military intelligence agency. General Mekheimar’s job was to ensure that all military officials, whether in the army or the military intelligence, did not have political leanings, especially of the islamist type. More specifically, he was the person responsible before all others to ensure that none of the people he supervised were Gamma’a islameya or Muslim Brotherhood or had leanings in that direction, and if they did, he would investigate and then punish them if his suspicions were proven right. He was that guy.

Well, sometime around last may, General Mekhemar suddenly quit his post in military intelligence and disappeared for three months, after that emerging as Abbas Mekheimar, one of the top names on the FJP’s list in Sharqiya, which won, naturally. Once he got into parliament, he once again was referred to as General Abbas Mekheimar, and he ran, unopposed and unchallenged by all, for the head of the defense and national security committee in the post-revolution Egyptian parliament.

You figure it out!

The Baradei thing

I am still being asked for my opinion on Baradei’s decision to quit the presidential race, which has left his fans and supporters lost and traumatized. As someone who was never a supporter for his candidacy for President in the first place, but one who still respects the man, I figured that someone must encapsulate why his fans are so disappointed, even though I expected him to withdraw his candidacy way back last march, as anyone else with half a brain working in Egyptian politics did. This is why I am writing this short-take.

I believe in the minds of his supporters, they were waiting for the time of the Presidential election, so he can finally launch his campaign and travel all over Egypt to deliver his message of Baradei-ness, which in this fantasy would have “Eye of the Tiger” as its the background music. He would go to all the governorates, visit all the small towns and villages, talk to the people, find out what the problems of the people were and realize the true size of the cluster-fuck we are in. He would then appear on TV, dismayed, sometimes even crying, over the injustice he sees all over our fair land. He would rage so much about what’s going on, that he would deliver heartfelt speeches that would turn the people who came to his rallies to attack him into Baradei-ites, and even then the applause to him would feel hollow, since he is not a man going after applause, but a serious man who understands how grave our situation is. And sometimes, when he is in his house all exhausted, he would doubt himself, and his ability to shoulder this responsibility. At those dark moments of doubt, he would tell his beloved wife that he is not sure he would be able to do this, and that the situation is much bigger than him, and his wife would tell him “Don’t doubt yourself. YOU ARE BARADEI! YOU STOOD UP TO THE STATES AND U NEVER BACKED DOWN. YOU CAN DO THIS”, and he would find strength and comfort in her words, and would gather himself, and go on the campaign trail the next day, more determined than ever. And on election day, he would get maybe 5 million votes, and wouldn’t win, but he would’ve inspired millions and became the winner in all of their hearts. (End “Eye of the Tiger” montage)

That’s what I believe his supporters expected, but not me. For me the reason why Baradei would have to withdraw wasn’t that his image was maligned and tarnished by Mubarak’s media, even though it was; or that the game was rigged, even though it is; or any of the reasons he mentioned in his candidacy withdrawal statement, even though they are all true reasons, and he is completely justified in withdrawing for them. Nahh.. To me, there was a much simpler reason why he would withdraw from way back then, and it really just comes down to this:

Being a Presidential candidate would’ve required him to move and leave his house. A lot. And he is very much opposed to that notion.

That is all.

Numbers

“Once and for all
the idea of glorious victories
won by the glorious army
must be wiped out
Neither side is glorious
On either side they’re just frightened men messing their pants
and they all want the same thing
Not to lie under the earth
but to walk upon it
without crutches”

(Roux, act 1, scene 19) Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat

8: 39 Pm Feb 1st

Was at a friend’s house, right after we had dinner where we contemplated the notion that the next day was the one year anniversary of the Camel Incident. One our friends receives a phone-call about thirty-something dead Ahly fans in the PortSaid stadium. We turn on the TV and we were greeted with horror. The Updates keep rolling in, the amount of dead, the number of injured, the parents who are calling TV shows and crying over their children that they cannot reach. Within 3 hours, the numbers death toll was released: 70-something dead, and hundreds injured. In a football match. The replayed footage showed the players getting endangered repeatedly before the attack, and the referee doing nothing. Then showed the storming of the stadium by the “Masry Fans”, with the police doing nothing to stop or block them. And then the camera goes dark.

Your brain doesn’t comprehend what happened immediately; all the while a split-screen shows Cairo Stadium with a huge fire behind it. You are informed that the Zamalek Ultras burned their banners in protest to what happened to their natural enemies & competitors, the Ahly Ultras. Natural enemies, Nemeses, in solidarity over the lives lost. Prayers and tears fill your timeline on every social network. Nobody has names, only numbers of victims. Categories. Statistics. Someone informs you that this is the second biggest disaster in football history, and the first of its kind when it comes to clashes inside the stadium. Your Brain can’t process this information, and doesn’t want to. Too many people have turned into numbers and statistics this year, and nobody has done anything about it. All you know is this: the numbers of the dead, they just keep piling up.

1: 30 am Feb 2nd    

I am stuck in a meeting with 40 different political parties & “Powers” that was called for at the Wafd HQ in order to take swift action to this disaster. The Muslim Brotherhood’s party, The FJP, is notably missing. Lots of talking and arguing over what to do, but a general direction started emerging of calling the SCAF into question in Parliament, remove trust in them, create a temporary National Salvation government that has full executive powers and start the presidential election process immediately. Everybody seemed to agree on those points, given that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After all, during the tenure of the SCAF, over 2000 protesters were killed, over 7000 were injured (hundreds maimed permanently), and 16000 were thrown in military prisons for year-long sentences without due process or adequate representation, and they were entrusted with “providing security” and “guiding the transition of Egypt to a democracy that respects civil rights”. Needless to say, their management of the country has been quite terrible, and it was time for them to be removed from Power.

And then, out of the blue, Hazem Salah Abu Ismael, the salafi presidential candidate, graces us with his presence, and has a suggestion of his own to resolve the issue: Lets remove the requirement of having 30 MP’s endorse the Presidential bid of anyone who wants to run, and thus we can jumpstart the Presidential election process in order to facilitate a speedy transfer of executive Power, claiming that anything else wouldn’t be supported. Useless discussion ensued, his suggestion rejected, and the process of writing the agreed upon points in a press release commences around 2:30 am. Suddenly, the words “hold the SCAF accountable by questioning them in parliament” is exchanged with the “more powerful” –according to them- words of “Trying whomever is responsible”, and “moving the executive powers from SCAF to a National Salvation government” got changed into “the creation of a National Unity government”, because, you see, with a National Unity government you can apparently change the Minister of Defense, who is the head of SCAF, so it’s a way of doing so clandestinely, apparently (although why you would do such a thing is beyond my comprehension). Protests over the final statement were drowned by the sound of the political leaders escaping the room to read the statement in front of the TV cameras. I took the backdoor out fuming, watching the historical moment & opportunity slip away.

(Next day, during an emergency parliamentary session, the Speaker of the Parliament Saad elKatatny, of the FJP, wanted to not have a televised session, curtailed efforts to question Tantawi or the Minister of Interior, and created a fact-finding committee to investigate the incident further, and ended the session early. The Political solution was lost, possibly forever.)

4 am Feb 2nd

The Ramsis train station, where I found myself alongside with thousands of Ahly fans and family members of those who went to Portsaid. I entered the station just as the train arrived. The moment the Ahly fans stepped off the train, they were greeted with applause, but there was no celebration. They were walking out crying, with looks of shock and sadness on their faces, and then you started seeing the injured as they were being gurney-ed away. You step away from the platform and you start seeing the family members, many screaming their sons’ names, many others crying as they realize that their children did not come back. I stood there and spoke with friends who were there, and they all confirmed the story as follows: The Police was not checking the Masry fans for weapons; the moment the second half started, suddenly they suddenly found the fans storming the playground holding weapons and knives without being stopped by the Police at all; Some were stabbed, others escaped to the top of the stadium where they had to jump from it to avoid the stabbing, and the rest who tried to escape the stadium through the passageway to the exit doors found the exit door locked, and people escaping those thugs with their lives ended up causing a stampede and pushing people to be suffocated in the small hallway. 79.. dead, many of them teens who just wanted to support their team in an important game.

I decided to head home, and on my way to the car, an old man just passed by me, talking to me, talking to anybody around him, crying that his son “Abdelrahman” had called him & said he was in Portsaid with his friends. He now can’t find him, and is wondering where he went. “He called me”, he kept repeating while crying. “He called me, and now his phone is off!”

7 PM Feb 2nd.

At Mohamed Mahmoud, again, with scores of young Ahly Ultras and fans, who were headed towards the Ministry of Interior to protest the death of their friends and colleagues. Earlier that day, the news kept rolling in: The National football league was suspended, Mohamed “the Saint” Abu Treika had announced his retirement from football, alongside with fellow soccer superstars Barakat and Meteb, and lead a demonstration where he chanted against military rule and for bringing justice to the dead fans, one of which died in his own arms, and people were marching to Tahrir. So far it was only people chanting, and then suddenly the teargas started. Two Canisters were fired, one at the frontlines, and the other landed next to my feet, forcing me to jump away and fall on the floor. The escaping crowds from the front started running to the back, and I almost got stampeded by the panicking crowd if it wasn’t for a stranger that pulled me up and saved my life. I cough back to the corner of Mohamed Mahmoud and Falaky street, when I hear the growl of the first motorcycle that drove through the crowd to get whomever was injured on the frontline. Suddenly we are back in time 3 months, and we are at the Battle of Mohamed Mahmoud again, and everyone knew their role: Young People upfront hurling rocks, Police shooting expired teargas on them, and first-aid motorcycles storming in and out of the pandemonium to carry the bodies of the injured. Déjà vu. The madness, all over again. And there is nothing any one can do to stop it.

5 pm Feb 3rd (last night)

At the Falaky street Field Hospital, located in a tiny alleyway right on the corner of Falaky and Mohamed Mahmoud, where tens of victims were being aided by an exhausted young medical staff until the ambulances or a first-aid motorcycles arrive. I had woken up and practiced that horrible tradition that we all do now: Check twitter on previous night’s events, and find out how many more people got killed while I was sleeping. That morning I had taken the decision that I no longer wanted to cover the battle taking place, nor was I interested in hurling rocks at the Police; I wanted to help save those kids, because I don’t want any more to die. I was sick of all the unnecessary deaths, of all the young people who lost their lives so a bunch of 70 year olds in shiny uniforms could continue to retain their powers. The situation had escalated dramatically over night, with the Police forces shooting the protesters with shotgun shells, and birdshot victims were arriving in the dozens. I would carry the wounded into the field hospital or to the ambulances, many of which are young boys who could not be older than 18, shot and bleeding in my arms, while teargas was relentlessly being sprayed at us. In the moments when things were calm, I would check what the field hospital there and on Tahrir street would need and tweet it, and people I’ve never met in my life would show up and bring the supplies. They too were sick of all the deaths, and wanted to do whatever was in their power to help stop it or at least contain the damage. Similar protests were taking place in Suez, where four protesters were shot to death that day and many others were injured.

5 hours I spent doing this, and I walked away with two images stuck on my mind: the first was the 16 year old, with birdshots in the chest and staring vacantly in space, whom I carried bleeding to a motorcycle across the barrier.

The second was of a man standing in the middle of the street crying and screaming to no one in particular: “Now what? Where is the solution? Where is the solution?”, and received no answer.

————————————————–

Eleven died in the clashes since Thursday. Six in Suez and Five in Cairo. 2532 injured over the killing of 79. All were people, and now they are numbers.

Many calls were made to stop the violence, to keep those youths from protesting, but all were ignored and unanswered, naturally, and more people than ever turned against the military rule. This was it, the turning point, and no one can blame them. A year ago the whole country was filled with dreams and hopes for the future, and within the year all of these hopes and dreams were burnt to cinders. They have seen their loved ones military tried, their friends maimed and their children killed. Their sense of security has all but vanished, the fact that no change or any kind of real reform took place has left them disillusioned and bitter. And then their one source of entertainment and distraction, Football, was taken away from them as well. They are plagued with news of bank robberies, tourist kidnappings, refugees getting their organs harvested, children being kidnapped and held for ransom and now they can’t even send their children to stadiums without them getting killed. The People are fed up, and all the excuses and conspiracy talk no longer holds the test of reality. The SCAF have finally earned the wrath of the Egyptian public, which means that their days are numbered and they know it. The Joker’s Country, no more.

But have no delusions here, there is no panacea or an easy way out. This is not the original 18 days, with its romantic and inspirational happy ending; this is the sequel, with gritty realism and seas of spilled blood. News of Death has become so commonplace, that people have accepted it as reality and the price they are willing to pay for their freedom, but they still refuse to be anything but peaceful, still refuse to carry arms, and only throw rocks on the police when they attack them first. The day before yesterday an officer abandoned a Central Security truck in the middle of Talaat Harb square near Tahrir, which had about 40 CS soldiers, and fled, probably thinking (or hoping) that the protesters would torch it and kill the soldiers in them. The Protesters protected the truck, and helped the soldiers escape the scene in ambulances. Hell, a whole year without any kind of police and people were shocked, shocked I tell you, that a Bank was robbed. Those are beautiful people, and they don’t deserve the nightmare that has been thrust on them by a bunch of old generals still clinging to Power. The SCAF will be overthrown, and they will fight to their bitter end by killing as many people as possible, and more people will turn into numbers in their quest for freedom; To be treated like human beings, to not get killed by their own government (whether by negligence or design) and see neither accountability nor Justice. It never had to be this way, but the unnecessary trail of blood and dead bodies they left behind them in their merciless attempts to abort this revolution has sealed their fate. It’s only a matter of time now.

Meanwhile, the revolutionaries are walking PTSD cases. We have endured more pain, injustice and deaths in the past year than we have ever expected or bargained for. We have seen our reputation maligned, our dream destroyed and our friends and loved ones kidnapped, tortured, jailed, and killed, sometimes in front of our own eyes. All we wanted was to live in a country that had a future, where we are treated like human beings, and even that was too much for us to ask. Our existential war for dignity and freedom became a real one, and many of us were driven to the edges of insanity with all the mayhem that our lives have turned into, careers lost, ties severed, relationships destroyed, and marriages turning into divorces. An entire generation traumatized, damaged, lost, psychologically scarred and filled with guilt over the horror that got unleashed on them for demanding not to live like animals. The only thing that’s not broken is their spirit. They waver, they backtrack and suffer long episodes of self doubt, but their will remains the same. They know they will most likely not walk away unharmed, but they have resigned themselves to the price they were destined to pay. Not because they are heroes, but because they are humans, and they fully understand what that word means. It may seem to you like it’s blood for blood, but they are the first ones to tell you that it has to stop one day, and they hope that day comes sooner than later. But until that day comes, they have resigned their fate to this battle, and they will not take the easy way out and leave like many others already did. This country, and its future, is their responsibility now, and they will do whatever it takes, even it destroys them inside and out. That’s their tragedy: that they get that the numbers used to be people one day, and they will not allow them to have died in vain.

But the true tragedy of this revolution was that we were willing to forgo and forgive anything the SCAF had done in the Mubarak years, had they kept their word, started us on the road of accountability and reform, and given up power back in September as they originally stated. They didn’t, and one year later, here we are. The inevitable conclusion. They could’ve been our heroes and they chose to be Bastards, and now they will pay.

 

آه يا كواكبي..

المستبدّ: يتحكَّم في شؤون النّاس بإرادته لا بإرادتهم، ويحكمهم بهواه لا بشريعتهم، ويعلم من نفسه أنَّه الغاصب المتعدِّي فيضع كعب رجله على أفواه الملايين من النَّاس يسدُّها عن النّطق بالحقّ والتّداعي لمطالبته».

 

«المستبدّ: عدوّ الحقّ، عدوّ الحّيّة وقاتلهما، والحق أبو البشر، والحرّيّة أمّهم، والعوام صبية أيتام لا يعلمون شيئاً، والعلماء هم إخوتهم الرّاشدون، إنْ أيقظوهم هبّوا، وإنْ دعوهم لبّوا، وإلا فيتَّصل نومهم بالموت».

 

«المستبدّ: يتجاوز الحدّ ما لم يرَ حاجزاً من حديد، فلو رأى الظّالم على جنب المظلوم سيفاً لما أقدم على الظّلم، كما يقال: الاستعداد للحرب يمنع الحرب».

 

«المستبدّ: إنسانٌ مستعدٌّ بالطّبع للشّر وبالإلجاء للخير، فعلى الرّعية أنْ تعرف ما هو الخير وما هو الشّر فتلجئ حاكمها للخير رغم طبعه، وقد يكفي للإلجاء مجرَّد الطَّلب إذا علم الحاكم أنَّ وراء القول فعلاً. ومن المعلوم أنَّ مجرد الاستعداد للفعل فعل يكفي شرَّ الاستبداد».

 

«المستبدّ: يودُّ أنْ تكون رعيته كالغنم درّاً وطاعةً، وكالكلاب تذلُّلاً وتملُّقاً، وعلى الرَّعية أنْ تكون كالخيل إنْ خُدِمَت خَدمتْ، وإنْ ضُرِبت شَرست، وعليها أن تكون كالصقور لا تُلاعب ولا يُستأثر عليها بالصّيد كلِّه، خلافاً للكلاب التي لا فرق عندها أَطُعِمت أو حُرِمت حتَّى من العظام. نعم؛ على الرّعية أن تعرف مقامها: هل خُلِقت خادمة لحاكمها، تطيعه إنْ عدل أو جار، وخُلق هو ليحكمها كيف شاء بعدل أو اعتساف؟ أم هي جاءت به ليخدمها لا يستخدمها؟.. والرَّعية العاقلة تقيَّد وحش الاستبداد بزمام تستميت دون بقائه في يدها؛ لتأمن من بطشه، فإن شمخ هزَّت به الزّمام وإنْ صال ربطتْه».

من أقبح أنواع الاستبداد استبداد الجهل على العلم، واستبداد النّفس على العقل، ويُسمّى استبداد المرء على نفسه، وذلك أنَّ الله جلّتْ نعمه خَلَقَ الإنسان حرّاً، قائده العقل، فكفَرَ وأبى إلا أنْ يكون عبداً قائده الجهل. خَلَقَه وسخَّر له أمَّاً وأباً يقومان بأوده إلى أن يبلغ أشدّه، ثمَّ جعل له الأرض أمّاً والعمل أباً، فَكَفَر وما رضي إلا أن تكون أمَّتُه أمّه وحاكمه أباه. خَلَقَ له إدراكاً ليهتدي إلى معاشه ويتّقي مهلكه، وعيْنَيْن ليبصر، ورجليْن ليسعى، ويديْن ليعمل، ولساناً ليكون ترجماناً عن ضميره، فكَفَرَ وما أحبَّ إلا أنْ يكون كالأبله الأعمى، المقعد، الأشلّ، الكذوب، ينتظر كُلَّ شيْ من غيره، وقلَّما يطبق لسانه جنانه. خَلَقَهُ منفرداً غير متَّصل بغيره ليملك اختياره في حركته وسكونه، فكَفَرَ وما استطاب إلا الارتباط في أرض محدودة سمَّاها الوطن، وتشابك بالنّاس ما استطاع اشتباك تظالُم لا اشتباك تعاون… خَلَقَه ليشكره على جعله عنصراً حيّاً بعد أن كان تراباً، وليلجأ إليه عند الفزع تثبيتاُ للجنان، وليستند عليه عند العزم دفعاً للتردُّد، وليثق بمكافأته أو مجازاته على الأعمال، فكَفَرَ وأبى شُكْرَه وخَلَطَ في دين الفطرة الصّحيح بالباطل ليغالط نفسه وغيره. خَلَقَه يطلب منفعته جاعلاً رائده الوجدان، فكَفَرَ، واستحلَّ المنفعة بأي وجه كان، فلا يتعفّف عن محظور صغير إلا توصُّلاً لمُحرَّم كبير. خلقه وبذل له مواد الحياة، من نور ونسيم ونبات وحيوان ومعادن وعناصر مكنوزة في خزائن الطّبيعة، بمقادير ناطقة بلسان الحال، بأنَّ واهب الحياة حكيم خبير جعل مواد الحياة أكثر لزوماً في ذاته، أكثر وجوداً وابتذالاً، فكَفَرَ الإنسانُ نعمةَ الله وأبى أن  يعتمد كفالة رزقه، فوكَّلهُ ربُّه إلى نفسه، وابتلاه بظلم نفسه وظُلْم جنسه، وهكذا كان الإنسان ظلوماً كفوراً. 

 

الاستبداد: يَدُ الله القويّة الخفيّة يصفعُ بها رقاب الآبقين من جنّة عبوديَّته إلى جهنَّم عبودية المستبدِّين الذين يشاركون الله في عظمته ويعاندونه جهاراً، وقد ورد في الخبر: «الظّالم سيف الله ينتقم به، ثمَّ ينتقم منه»، كما جاء في أثرٍ آخر: «مَنْ أعان ظالماً على ظلمه سَلَّطَه الله عليه»، ولا شكَّ في أنَّ إعانة الظّالم تبتدئ من مجرَّد الإقامة على أرضه.

الاستبداد: هو نار غضب الله في الدّنيا، والجحيم هو نار غضبه في الآخرة، وقد خلق الله النّار أقوى المطهِّرات، فَيُطَهِّر بها في الدّنيا دَنَسَ منْ خلقهم أحراراً، وبَسَطَ لهم الأرض واسعة، وبذلَ فيها رزقهم، فكَفَروا بنعمته، ورضخوا للاستعباد والتَّظالم.

 

الاستبداد: أعظم بلاء، يتعجَّل الله به الانتقام من عباده الخاملين، ولا يرفعه عنهم حتَّى يتوبوا توبة الأنفة. نعم؛ الاستبداد أعظم بلاء؛ لأنَّه وباء دائم بالفتن وجَدْبٌ مستمرٌّ بتعطيل الأعمال، وحريقٌ متواصلٌ بالسَّلب والغصْب، وسيْلٌ جارفٌ للعمران، وخوفٌ يقطع القلوب، وظلامٌ يعمي الأبصار، وألمٌ لا يفتر، وصائلٌ لا يرحم، وقصة سوء لا تنتهي. وإذا سأل سائلٌ: لماذا يبتلي الله عبادَه بالمستبدِّين؟ فأبلغُ جواب مُسْكِت هو: إنَّ الله عادلٌ مطلقٌ لا يظلم أحداً، فلا يُولَّى المستبدّ إلا على المستبدِّين. ولو نظر السّائل نظرة الحكيم المدقِّق لوجد كُلَّ فرد من أُسراء الاستبداد مُستبدّاً في نفسه، لو قدر لجعل زوجته وعائلته وعشيرته وقومه والبشر كُلَّهم، حتَّى وربَّه الذي خلقَهُ تابعين لرأيه وأمره.

 

فالمستبدُّون يتولاهم مستبدّ، والأحرار يتولاهم الأحرار، وهذا صريح معنى: «كما تكونوا يُولَّى عليكم».

 

ما أليقَ بالأسير في أرضٍ أن يتحوَّل عنها إلى حيثُ يملك حرّيّته، فإنَّ الكلب الطّليق خيرُ حياةً من الأسد المربوط.    

 

طبائع الإستبداد و مصارع الإستعباد” , عبد الرحمن الكواكبي

The Joker’s Country

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Underneath

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

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

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

Cold comfort I proved to be..    

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

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

………………………………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah.

In other news, we won a seat there.

………………………….

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

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

………………………..

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

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

…………………………..

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

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

……………………………

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

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

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

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

Who cut off the communications? And why?

……………………………

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, now what?

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

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

Lest you forget

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

الخطة هيه هيه

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

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

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

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

Bits and Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-defense, however, is another matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you see where this is going? :)

Tahrir: an Exercise in Nation Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First tweetback event: Ezbet Khairallah

Dear All,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kind regards,

Mahmoud Salem

Lacrimosa

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

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

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

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

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

If only it was that simple…

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

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

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

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

Unholy Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Economic Ideas for a new Egypt

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

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

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

Idea #2: LET’S GET OUT OF CAIRO NOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Idea #5: LET’S FUND OUR COUNTRY!

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

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

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

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

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

Just think about it!

The Egyptian Bill of Rights

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

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

مرة أخيرة

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

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

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

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

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

عن الاقتصاد :

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

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

عن الامن :

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

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

عن الاستقرار :

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

 

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

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

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