Washington Dispatch

Dear all,

I have been out of the country for the past 2 weeks due to an involvement in the wedding of a best friend, and used the time I’ve had to attend a conference, host a couple of policy forums and write articles on what’s been happening in Egypt( here is a video of my talk is here, and an article I wrote on how for the west to best support democracy in the coming years). During that week that I spent there, I have had a few meetings with Think Tank fellows, journalists, and people from the foreign affairs committee in congress. Here is what I’ve come to know..

  • Obama was never for the Egyptian revolution: The current US President had formed a special relationship with out former tyrant of a President to fulfill his legacy of being the President who finally resolved the Middle East Conflict. This relationship started with the former regime ended the Ghaza war crisis on January 19th, 1 day before Obama took over, and Obama reciprocated by making Mubarak the first head of state he called, and by choosing Egypt to be the setting of his famous speech to the Islamic world. Last thing he wanted was for Mubarak to be removed and to have a situation where the internal and foreign political of Egypt to be unpredictable or focused on his goal, so he basically tried not to support the revolution from the beginning, and then proceeded with a policy of no-response no matter what the SCAF did, even to US citizens. He never kept his word on any economic assistance he promised, and failed to implement any positive step to support the new democracy in Egypt, even through economic cooperation means (He could’ve, for example, give a tax incentive for US companies to invest in Egypt). The man couldn’t care less about our struggle, and would like things to return to normal as fast as possible.
  • The Current administration truly cares about two things only, and they do not include the protection of Egyptian minorities, supporting a democratic transition in Egypt or even an Egyptian civil state. All they care about is the continuation and solidification of the Camp David Peace agreement, since it’s the founding ground of US presence in the region, and ensuring that the Suez Canal remains operational for American ships, military included due to their rising crescendo of bombing Iran rhetoric, which requires having a strong relationship with the Egyptian military. The Egyptian people themselves are a low priority and a burden, and will receive no assistantship from the US in any form in the coming years, mainly because we are not important to them survival as Greece, and their own economic conditions. The US is broke, y’all.
  • The Israelis are pushing the idea that North Sinai is becoming too unstable and a threat to Israel due their various criminal and smuggling activities and support for AlQaeda presence in their area. We might not agree on many things, but they are not wrong: The North Sinai Bedouins have been enjoying a lawless state for quite a while, including their support for terrorist cells and engaging in human trafficking and organ harvesting. Both activities must be stopped by our government. They can strike a compromise that we can turn a blind eye to their smuggling, but not to support terrorist organizations, or engage in organ harvesting and human trafficking again. But what’s happening there needs to stop, and the army needs to stop pussyfooting about it and deploy there, since they already have the Camp David military waiver from Israel. A good question would be: why isn’t our military taking control over Sinai, now that they have the chance?
  • The MB is all over DC, and have been here visiting US officials for at least 8 times the last year, including meetings with congressional delegations and organizations like the World Bank. The basis for their support in the US is that they have positioned themselves as the clear alternative to the salafis, and are not afraid to milk that cow. No one from our side represents us in DC: I was the only liberal voice that doesn’t align itself with the MB- or brag about how close he works with them- coming to DC in over a year, and I was shocked at the cognitive dissonance that existed there. Did you know that AbuElfottouh is the liberal candidate? Color me surprised as well.
  • The US media is only concerned with Obama supporting gay marriage and how Romney is against it. Does anyone care? No? Thought so. The Americans are bored with this as well..
  • American weddings are a pain in the ass. It’s not like Egyptian weddings where you go to eat, drink, celebrate and leave. Nooo. You are involved in everything and you have responsibilities. Boo on that. I love my friends, and I was honored to be a part of their union, but I will never do this again. Down with Imperialist American weddings, especially ones with married bridesmaids.

The Lizard parable

A lot of people ask me for advice on whom to vote for in the Presidential elections, since they can’t seem to make up their mind regarding the choices that are presented to us (Morsy, Abulfotouh, Moussa, etc..). Unfortunately, I can’t articulate my opinion on the whole matter better than the way Douglas Adam did in his saga the Hitchhiker’s guide To the Galaxy trilogy of five, regarding the Lizard parable. Here it is:

[An extraterrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship…]

“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, as he sat with Arthur and watched the nonstop frenetic news reports on television, none of which had anything to say other than to record that the thing had done this amount of damage which was valued at that amount of billions of pounds and had killed this totally other number of people, and then say it again, because the robot was doing nothing more than standing there, swaying very slightly, and emitting short incomprehensible error messages.

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

“What?”

“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

Ford shrugged again.

“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

Well, I am saying it. They are all Lizards, and they don’t deserve your vote or mine. You are , of course, free to do what you want with your vote. Just try your best to decide whether the person you choose is actually genuine, or just another Lizard.

Abbasiya in a nutshell!

 

This is why the entire Abbasiya Fiasco is retarded:

 

  1. As a general rule, as a secular revolutionary, you should never go to any protest or a sit-in that got started by Islamist protesters, especially if the goals are unclear or vague to you, because, as always, they will start it, and then once its filled with your people, they will withdraw and leave you to deal with the subsequent heat and arrests (Israeli Embassy, anyone?). This goes double for protests or sit-ins at the Ministry of Interior and/or Defense. Stick to your causes, because the islamists stick to theirs, and they are usually against you.
  2. All the Twitter talking heads need to put a stop to the shaming and guilting of people that follow them or trust them to go join protests that their neither started nor control out of “principles” or “solidarity”, because some other protesters that may have completely different goals than your own were clashing with the Military/Police/ People from the neighborhood/All the aforementioned forces at once and are urging you to go stand by them in their fight. When those people, who trust you and follow you, end up going there and get arrested, injured, maimed or killed, you may not be solely responsible for what happened to them, but you do share a big share of that responsibility, and that goes double if the that person is under 21.
  3. Also, when critics point out to you that you have sent those people to meet a dangerous & possibly fatal fate for no actual reason or achievable goal, you do not get to just yell at them “That this is no time for blame-placing and such talk because people are getting arrested/injured/killed” and expect them to just shut up and go away. This used to work, it no longer does, and people will call you on your bullshit. Please understand that the revolutionaries are not cowards, and they will go and face up with the military, the police, and thugs from the neighborhoods with no weapons if needs be, but there better be a real and achievable goal, and not another symbolic hollow stand-off. Their blood is not cheap, so don’t help spill it for no reason, and if you do, don’t you dare use it to garner sympathy with it later for your cause.
  4. When you are starting a sit-in, it’s always advised to keep and maintain good relations with your surrounding neighborhoods, even if they don’t wish to maintain good relations with you, and especially if your sit-in is at either the MOI or the MOD. You should also understand that no non-revolutionary ordinary Egyptian wants to see his MOI or MOD attacked, nor do they wish to have you blocking traffic and taking over parts of their neighborhood in a protest that a) they don’t understand, and b) you did not bother to explain it to them, or even consult with them on the best ways to make it as painless to them as possible. If you are fighting in the name of the people, and the people don’t support you, and actually send people to forcefully disband you, well, now what? How successful is your messaging, really?
  5. If there is an extremely violent group of people in the sit-in- whom you don’t know and never seen in any sit-in before- and they proceed to torture “criminals” or “thugs” that they have captured, well, you are either in the presence of psychos or undercover security agents. Either way, if you can’t stop them, or control their actions, or in this case prevent a group of armed middle-aged salafis from using actual guns with live ammo on the residents of Abbasiya or capturing Abbasiya residents and beating them up or torturing them in their tents, well, then you should disband the sit-in and urge people to leave immediately and lead by example by leaving.
  6. Also , when describing that aforementioned group, please refer to them as “a group” or “infiltrators”, not as “revolutionaries”, and most definitely never ever under any circumstances do you tweet “The revolutionaries are armed with guns and are shooting back at their attackers”, you freakin idiot, because for the general public that means that the “Revolutionaries” are 1) no longer peaceful and 2) arming themselves, thus giving any security apparatus in the world the justification to come to the sit-in and crack skulls. Also, don’t try to justify your mistake by stating that just your tweet won’t be enough to indict the people arrested by the security forces, because it’s not about the legal indictment to them, but rather the social indictment to all of us. We have kept arms out of the revolution because we understand that 1) this is not our game, 2) this is not what we signed up for, 3) the moment guns are in the equation we can be easily branded as terrorists and treated as such, while the worst thing they were capable of describing us as has been “saboteurs”, and our trials would always end in acquittals. But armed conflict? Terrorism? That’s exactly what they have been waiting for to round us all up and start the witch-hunt for real.
  7. The Presidential election is in less than 3 weeks, which would mean the “end of military rule”, and that such clashes are usually instigated right before the elections to get the revolutionary forces either preoccupied with fending for their lives, saving their fellow friends’ lives, or boycotting the entire thing (Mohamed Mahmoud Anyone?), and then spending the next few weeks trying to get those arrested out of Prison (Every sit-in ever). Are you not noticing the pattern yet? That maybe, just maybe, you might need a new strategy? Maybe stop the sit-ins all together, since they no longer work and have stopped being anything other than death-traps? Why do you insist on competing with the Romanians for the title of most retarded revolutionaries ever? I just don’t get it!

 

PS: If by writing this post I have betrayed the revolution or stopped being a revolutionary in your eyes, and no longer worthy of your respect, well, I find no better answer to give you then the following passage from Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek:

“So maybe, just maybe, I am on the right path, the path of fidelity to freedom. Fidelity should be strictly opposed to Zealotry: a Zealot fanatical attachment to his cause is nothing but a desperate expression of his uncertainty and doubt, of his lack of trust in the Cause. A subject truly dedicated to his Cause regulates his eternal fidelity by means of incessant betrayals”

In other words, you are a retarded zealot, fuck off and die.

Anecdote, platitude, inspirational quote, etc…

WAN-IFRA had asked me to write them an article for World Press Day. The Theme was “Silence Kills Democracy, but a free Press still talks”. This is what I’ve sent them.

 

When writing this article, one is quite tempted to take the easy way out: Write about the importance of free speech, how a free press emboldens democracy, and provide some sort of semi-horrifying/semi-inspirational anecdote about a journalist who was very brave and faced the odds and now everything is better and democracy stands triumphant, all because of a free press. And quite naturally, since I am one of the new-media pioneers (remember when it used to be called just blogging? I miss that), not to mention a “voice of the Egyptian revolution”, I am supposed to take this stand and advocate that position with all the might and power of the jan25 revolution. I really want to, but… I can’t, because there is a problem in the premise, and one that won’t go away anytime soon.

It used to be easy to advocate this point of view, that of a simplistic world where the evil government oppressed the good journalists and bloggers, and where the Internet offered us the only space of freedom of speech that we were allowed to exist in. The basis of this view was quite evident: The regime used to ban newspapers, arrest journalists, and the journalists would fight back in courts and we would stand in solidarity defending the right to free speech and freedom of the press. This view was something that I subscribed to until we had the revolution and the regime was gone and for a good while we had no censorship, during which time, slowly but surely, that point of view went through a serious case of deterioration. Let me explain.

Before the revolution there were two kinds of press in Egypt: Newspapers that were against the regime, and newspapers that were trying to be mediators between the regime and the people (whether by being state-owned media, or “centrist” journalistic institutions). Then the revolution happened, and there was suddenly no regime, and that’s when the fatal flaw showed its face. The anti-regime newspapers suddenly had no regime to oppose or ministers to expose, and the mediating newspapers suddenly had no regime to mediate for, and it all went downhill very quickly. The anti-regime newspapers milked the old regime for all its worth, spending month upon month writing about the scandals of the regime and its ex-officials, most of which are articles that were poorly sourced and mostly based on “hearsay” and “truisms” or ”common-knowledge”. The mediating newspapers didn’t have a single editorial line that they could or were able to follow, which used to lead to opposing headlines on the same topic in two consecutive days, without a hint of an explanation or apology for the 180-degree switch in 24 hours. At a time in which the whole nation was looking for guidance and truth, the Egyptian press lacked both, despite the fact that they had all the freedom in the world. Or maybe because of it… because now we had all the freedom, accompanied by zero accountability, and serious resistance to any form of it as well. Hubris or power-drunk are not the right words, but they are the first to come to mind. And then things got worse.

You see, this model presented the journalists of the old-regime a golden opportunity to do the same thing to revolutionary forces through their old or new media outlets, which led to a series of incredibly false and scandalous reports about the revolution’s symbols, none of which they were ever held accountable for. The press became a battlefield of conflicting false accounts and exaggerations, truth was the first casualty, and all credibility went out of the window. We suddenly lived in a Huxley-ian world where there was no truth, only narrative, and the people got flooded with such conflicting information that they either believed what they wanted to believe (whether it was “The revolutionaries are foreign agents” or “Mubarak still rules us”), or tuned out completely from the entire process and stopped paying attention to any of the current events or caring about their outcome.

Until this day, this still holds true: No one has identified the problem or tried to solve it in any real way, given that all the players have seemingly decided that credibility no longer matters, as long as the content is controversial and sells issues. So, yeah, after an entire year of this, I am not entirely sure that the free press truly supports democracy in our case. However, it does get people talking, so if silence truly kills democracy, I guess our press is doing its job protecting it.


7 reasons why I am against the Disfranchisement Law

There is a huge debate over the newly voted-in disfranchisement law right now, one which I believe to be critical to the future of this country. Given that I have demanded from day one that such a law to be formed, I find it very strange to find myself opposing it now. I am writing the reasons for this opposition right here, because I sincerely wish for someone to be able to refute the argument that I’ve reached. I understand that writing this article could cost me dearly amongst many circles, and that conveying such an opinion would come with a heavy price, so please give me the courtesy to save any judgments until you have read it all. Here are the 7 reasons why I am against the disfranchisement law:

  1. It is a self-serving law for the MB that uses the revolution as its cover: This law, while being in the revolution’s wish list for a year now, was something that the MB had no intentions of implementing at all, despite repeated calls for it, due to the understanding that they have had with SCAF. This understanding, coupled with their majority, got them to turn their backs on the revolution at some very crucial moments, focusing their energies at consolidating their powers and not take any real stand with the revolution that would hinder their attempts to recreate the old regime in their image. They took a a neutral position regarding the Maspiro attacks, despite its horrifying and sectarian indications, and then ran for parliament on a completely sectarian platform; they didn’t stop their campaigning or join the national call to delay the elections for one week when the Mohamed Mahmoud Incidents took place and Egyptians were dying and injured by the hundreds; they completely turned their backs on aftermath of that event, alongside with the events of the Egyptian Cabinet sit-in, and the PortSaid massacre and the renewed clashes that took place after it as well, and refused to allow the questioning of SCAF’s members in Parliament; when they were faced with mounting anger due to their continued betrayal in their quest for power, they had the audacity to propose a law that would make protesting illegal and protesters thugs; Last but not least, the constitutional committee fiasco, where they sidelined everyone and attempted to fully control the constitution writing process, to create a constitution to their liking and not one that represented all of us. For them the revolution had served the purpose of getting them to power, and they were so completely disinterested in any of the revolution’s demands that didn’t serve them. Then Omar Suleiman decided to run a few days after Khairat ElShater announced his candidacy, and they realized that they are in grave danger of losing all the gains that they amounted, because they didn’t want this competition to their candidate. Knowing that they can’t overtly just ban him from running, they decided to use the revolution as a cover for their self-serving purposes. And I don’t know about you, but given what they have done, I am done helping the MB in any capacity to increase their powers, and I am disgusted that they have the audacity to use protecting the same revolution that they betrayed time and time again as the excuse and cover for their self-serving goals. They made their bed and they can lie in it.

     

  2. It is a tailored law for one person: When the revolution called for this law, they wanted it to set the foundation of a new era by sidelining all the symbols of the old regime from the political landscape until the revolution stands on its feet. This included NDP parliamentarians, officials and members, Mubarak’s Cabinet members and people associated with the Presidency. All of those, including Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s Prime Minister, were deemed not to be a problem for the MB controlled Parliament, until Omar Suleiman threw his hat in the ring. So they tailored the law specifically to ban him from running, and in order to avoid that problem, they added two words that would include Ahmed Shafiq as well, but vetoed adding to that list Mubarak’s ministers or symbols or NDP parliamentarians, because 1) Adding the ministers or symbols would mean that Amr Moussa wouldn’t be able to run, and Field-Marshal Tantawy would have to be removed immediately from his position, since he was Mubarak’s defense minister and Vice-Prime-Minister; 2) Adding the NDP parliamentarians would mean disqualifying many MP’s inside the current Parliament to the point that the parliament could be dissolved and a new parliamentary elections would have to be held, and they wouldn’t be likely to maintain their prized majority; and 3) Who wants all of this headache when the real sole purpose of that law is to ban Suleiman from running anyway? Needless to say that in this context the law proposed is not only an abomination of the law we wanted, but also unconstitutional, and can- and will- be easily struck down in court. Why support it then?

     

  3. It is a very dangerous Precedent to set: The greatest indicator of the NDP’s corruption has always been their tendency to tailor laws that favor them over their competitors. Given that this law was only proposed the moment Suleiman announced his candidacy and is aimed at removing the MB’s main competition for the Presidency and no one else, they are literally walking in the footsteps of the NDP. If this precedent is allowed to be made and succeeds, thus paving a smoother path for their candidate to their presidency, there will be nothing stopping them in the future of making laws that exclude other competitors, such as non-islamist parties or their candidates from running against them, since they do have the parliamentary majority- and possibly the Presidential powers- necessary to enforce their will and choose their competition Iran-Style. This time they are protecting the revolution from the Mubarak figures running against them, next time they will be protecting the Islamic revolution from the secular infidels running against them. There is, after all, a very valid reason why any elections in which an Islamist party has the majority has the tagline “One man, One Vote, One Time”: They usually do anything, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, to stay in power. Why give them the precedent that they would need for that?

     

  4. It shows a magnificent weakness on the Revolution’s part: This law, and the level of hysteria and panic that followed Suleiman’s candidacy amongst the revolutionary forces, juxtaposed with the fierce & solid determination that they showed that forced him out of Power a year ago, is painting a very unflattering picture of the current state of the revolutionaries. Why is there so much fear from the idea of Suleiman running? Why isn’t he treated the same way Ahmed Shafiq is being treated, an out of touch remnant of an old regime that was brought down by the people? Are you telling me that all the political forces in the country, many of which got millions of votes in an election that ended 3 months ago, alongside all the revolutionaries that are against him, are incapable of making the argument that he is the wrong man for the job to the people of Egypt? That all the presidential candidates combined cannot convince their voters or base not to vote for him? What kind of base do they have then? They had an entire year of wooing the public and they are unable to make the case against someone who was in power for 18 days and got ousted by public rage a year ago and hasn’t shown his face since? Why are they not gearing up for the battle, glad to be facing a face of a regime that has brought Egypt down to the sorry state it’s in today? The revolutionary forces destroyed Mubarak in 18 days, why can’t they do the same to Suleiman? Or are they aware that they are so weak, even the MB, that they cannot sway the people combined? Why are they running then? All that they have to do is to destroy the air of invincibility that he has around him and question him on the issues: How, for example, will he be able to bring security back, given that our Ministry of Interior is in shambles, our crime rate is rising due to our worsening economic conditions, and the lower classes are all armed to the hilt now? How will he enforce security using fear and oppression against a population that is a) no longer afraid and b) fully armed? Go out there and stop crime with his own hands? Last I checked he had no superpowers. Why are we treating him like he does?

     

  5. The argument for it doesn’t hold: When the proponent of the law are faced with all the previous points, they usually resort to the argument that if Suleiman was SCAF’s candidate, then they can forge the elections for him, and use article 28 in the presidential elections decree, that state that the decisions and results of the presidential election committee cannot be questioned, to force his presidency on the population that didn’t choose him. Fine, then the problem doesn’t lie in his candidacy per say, but in the article and the process of the elections. Why not change that? And since when is the process in doubt? I thought all the Islamist Parties that hold the majority in Parliament have repeatedly brushed off any talk about election fraud in the parliamentary elections as the bad sportsmanship of their losing election competitors and have declared full faith in the process and the Judges that are monitoring it, and again, this was an election that ended 3 months ago. What changed? Or was the process always corrupt, and it is how they got their majority, and they are now furious that it won’t be used to their advantage? I don’t forsee anyone would ever disagree on ensuring that the process would be less corrupt, more open for scrutiny, and double-checked (system, judges, voter registry, etc..) to ensure that it’s a fair election. Why not do that, instead of just ban the man from running?

     

  6. It doesn’t solve the problem: Even if the law is passed and deemed constitutional and barred Suleiman from running, it still will not solve the systemic problem of his candidacy. The Problem here is two-fold: A) If the presidential election process is viewed as corrupt and a way for SCAF to push through their candidate, then banning Suleiman won’t solve that since they can simply have a back-up candidate ready to push him through the same way; and 2) The Utter failure of all the political forces in the country to provide an appealing alternative to the public to vote for, and thus banning him would increase public anger and dissatisfaction at all the forces that supported his ban, which would cost them dearly in any upcoming elections. If you deny the regular citizen the right to choose his candidate for no legal reason other than the fact that you have issues with him, then next time that same citizen won’t vote for you, and will blame you for any and all mistakes that the other candidate that ends up winning instead of Suleiman will commit. If we are building a new democratic system, then the first step would have to be not to lose the trust of the regular voter, which was the NDP’s most fatal mistake.

     

  7. His Candidacy might be a good thing for the revolution: First of all, his candidacy and popularity should send a signal to the revolutionary forces: you need to up your game quick. It would mean that if the revolutionary forces want to change things, they will need to start offering solutions, instead of always objecting; they would need to present real electable candidates to the public, instead of the pack of lizards that we have running their name; They would have to stop being this disconnected with the public and its concerns, and start presenting a real alternative to the old regime, which until now they haven’t. Secondly, if this is a battle between SCAF and the MB, then it’s a battle that the revolutionary forces should stay out of, since it’s bound to leave the winner, whomever it is, weakened, and thus allow them to renegotiate the order of power in this country. Thirdly, if Suleiman’s candidacy is anything, then it’s a wakeup call for the revolutionaries to get their house in order and unite once again, and there is no unifying power greater than the man that represents to them the epitome of everything they opposed. But instead of taking that wake-up call, they want to hit the snooze button, and continue the foolishness that has mired them since last year. If Egypt deserves better than Omar Suleiman, then this is the time to stand up and prove it, or forever hold their peace.

Oh boy!

I was going through my old posts, and I found this paragraph in the post Tahrir: an Exercise in Nation Building :

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.

That post was published on July 16th, a full two weeks before the July 8th sit-in was disbanded.

Do you recall what happened in those 2 weeks and how it all ended?

I do.

Hmm….

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! 😀

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!

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