Dear friends and comrades,
On 9 June, 2005, 11:00am, a diverse group of anti-war and human rights activists gathered in front of the Egytian Embassy in Seoul to demonstrate against Egyptian dictator Mubarak.
Because the the domestic law forbiding any protest in front of foreign diplomatic offices, the group called it a press conference. People began the protest by chanting "Down Down Mubarak","24 years is enough", "Kifaya! Kifaya", "Victory to the Egyptian People's Struggle for Democracy!" The ambassador refused to see us. But we made sure that he will be seeing us more often as long as Mubarak and his son is in power. It seems South Korea is far away from Egypt and no one here will be interested in what is going on in Egypt. It is far from truth. Although not much of the situation in Egypt is reported in the mainstream media, when South Koreans hear about the Kifaya movement and Mubarak's desperate attempts to keep his power, they immediately make a connection to their past military rulers.
Yes, South Koreans have seen their ruler putting forth political reforms that are nothing more than shams to maintain control. If they did not all, military rulers resorted to brutal violence. A prime example is the Kwangju Massacre where citizens of Kwangju city were shot to death by the army. It seems the rulers all over the world are learning from each other on how to control the people.This is why it is utmost important that people struggling for democracy build strong international solidarity and learn from each other. South Koreans' democratization movement have shown that it is possible to defeat the military dictator. With courageous demonstrations and strikes, the Egyptian working people have shown South Koreans what is at stake and what must be achieved, a better world where working people manage their lives and society in true democracy.
On behalf of the South Korean anti-war and human rights activists I wish a grand victory to the Egyptian working people fighting for democracy and real change.
CJ Park, All Together________________________ As Neil Young sings, "Keep on Rockin in the Free World"
Defending women and calling for their contribution to politics has become over the past few years a frequent issue in the media and national institutions… Yet unfortunately, the women that participated in the peaceful demonstrations and demanded democracy in front of the Journalists’ Syndicate were faced with heinous, shameful acts – acts committed by hired thugs who went as far as sexual molestation. I must confess that I had myself placed great hope in the National Council for Women [an organization founded by Suzanne Mubarak] ... It is rather strange: these voices that had previously been raised to defend women and promote their political rights were mute when it came to crying out against these incidents.Other people have also criticized the main state-run papers for being so out of touch and cowardly when covering local news at a time of national political crisis (at least that's how many pundits are describing it). With the recent rumors that the head of the main newspapers would change (and counter-rumors that they would not, and that Gulf sheikhs came to Cairo to protect Al Ahram Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Nafie's position with bribes -- an odd mirror image to reports that Egypt is threatening Qatari sheikhs in order to get Al Jazeera to tone its coverage down), the state media is clearly in some kind of turmoil. Several opposition newspapers also reported that presenters on state TV were issued a directive last week, as Egyptian opposition movements called for a day of mourning and urged citizens to wear black, to wear bright colors, avoid any mention of the Kifaya movement, and smile a lot. TV and radio, therefore, has been even more out-of-touch with the burning political issues of the moment than the state newspapers, which at least mention these events in their crime pages. Imagine if you had an independent, and perhaps even activist, FM radio station that could spread the news that the independent press talks about, but with the immediacy of broadcasting. And by the way, if you're not using Windows you can still listen to it: just copy this link, launch Windows Media Player for Mac (or for whatever you're using), and use the "Open URL" function. Paste the link into the dialog box and it should work. (It worked for me last night, but this morning there was nothing -- maybe they're offline on Friday mornings!)
"Today El Ghad has broken the regime's monopoly on Radio Transmission in Egypt."Al-Ghad Radio for all you die-hards (and windows users) can be found here. The radio programs are scheduled to have political, economic, and social commentary. ______ Its a shame Mona Makram-Ebeid is missing all this. Now, really, back to my thesis....
In their public statements, U.S. officials have advised the Egyptian government to take specific steps such as ensuring free presidential elections in September, allowing international monitors, giving the opposition access to the state media and preventing violence against peaceful street protests.
But the officials have thrown little light in public on how fast they think change should happen and whether they are really willing to see the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who has worked closely with U.S. presidents for a quarter of a century.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March rejected the argument that political change could lead to instability, saying the region was not stable anyway.
Washington would speak out for ``freedom'' without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be, she added.All this while MEPI is witnessing 26-percent cut in its funding. In 2003, MEPI had $100 million to democratize the Arab world. This year, it will have $74-million to liberate the oppressed. _____________
Opposition newspapers reported a host of irregularities, with a number of civil and human rights organisations joining the fray. The Independent Egyptian Committee for Election Monitoring (IECEM) claimed members had monitored 26 per cent of polling stations.
"These," they reported, "were characterised by low turnout and the absence of judicial supervision."
Mohamed Ragab, spokesman for the NDP majority on the Shura Council, insists, however, that "the figures, as announced by the Interior Ministry, are realistic."In the article that specifically deals with the black protest on Wednesday the 1st, Jailan Halawi shows Ahram's editorial policy at its best. In her lead she writes:
Yesterday members of the Press Syndicate and the Bar Association joined several non-governmental organisations, led by an ad hoc group of women calling itself the Egyptian Mothers' Union, to protest the series of violent assaults against women, allegedly by sympathisers of the ruling National Democratic Party, that marred Wednesday's referendum on amending Article 76 of the constitution.
Eight journalists and two lawyers were among the most seriously injured in the assaults which activists claim amount to an attempt to systematically intimidate women from exercising their right to protest.My Emphasis Added _______ Before the comments start pointing out the obvious - that this is a state-owned paper and what do I expect - I thought it was worth recording the discrepancy for those not reading the Weekly online. It is telling that a little bit of electoral fraud can be acceptably received by al-Ahram's editors when reported in the state-press while the violence is not. I'm sure when Bush reads about the electoral fraud, he is going to be very very very not upset.
On the other hand, I saw many new faces there, and many more women, which is a positive sign. I also talked to some women who were from a different background than the ones you normally see at Kifaya demos -- the engaged activist types. One woman, distributing white ribbons (a second campaign parallel to the wearing black one), said upper class women were now getting behind this, saying that they felt "they should have been there instead" on Wednesday. That dynamic, if it continues, could have some impact and certainly help with fund-raising.
One thing that I noticed is that, once again, baltaguia (hired goons, see above pic) were waiting on the sidelines. Their presence was clearly meant to send a message of intimidation, and to some degree it worked. One (female) friend who wanted to join the demo hesitated outside, nervously eyeing the waiting thugs. Many will have similar doubts before joining a demo now, unfortunately. (My friend eventually went in the protest zone and joined enthusiastically.)
Perhaps the most important new step taken yesterday, apart from trying to involve women outside activism, was that there were specific attacks on certain persons -- Minister of Interior Habib Al Adly (on the poster above) in particular -- as well as a new more general attack on not only the security and police forces, but also the army. Some of the slogans against a military regime were, I believe, the first ever in such a demo. One interesting thing that happened after the demo was a meeting inside the Syndicate, during which several activists excoriated Ahmed Moussa, syndicate member and Al Ahram correspondent, for reporting last week that women were voluntarily taking their clothes off. There is now a movement within the syndicate calling for his expulsion. For me, it's too soon to tell whether this will really lead anywhere. But highlighting the role of security elements seems to be a smart step, something tangible activists can focus on. PS: You can see a short movie of the demo here. (Direct download)
"I urged him [Mubarak] once again to have as free and fair elections as possible because it will be a great legacy for his country," Bush told reporters during a session with visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Bush and Mubarak spoke by telephone for about 10 minutes and among the topics they covered was the start of the presidential election campaign in Egypt, and last week's referendum there and incidents of violence.
Bush said Mubarak assured him that he wants to have free and fair elections. "I will to the best of my ability continue to try to convince him that it's not only in Egypt's interest, but the world's interests, to see Egypt have free and fair elections," Bush said.And a little further down the article:
Mubarak's "publicly stated he is for free and fair elections, and now is the time for him to show the world that his great country can set an example for others," Bush said.
He laid out what he called some reasonable standards for free and fair elections.
"People ought to be allowed to vote without being intimidated, people ought to be allowed to be on TV, and if the government owns the TV, they need to allow the opposition on TV, people ought to be allowed to carry signs and express their pleasure or displeasure. People ought to have very vote count," he said.______ Call me a cynic, but it is going to take a little more than "about a 10-minute" conversation for "democratic" and non-violent presidential and parliamentary elections in the fall. Besides, seeing that the amendment has been changed, the point is mute. The legal mechanism now heavily favors the Egyptian government rather than benefiting those looking to participate. Bush is a little to late on the scene with his democratizing agenda. To me, Bush's call yesterday is like waiting to contact the fire brigades after the house has burnt to the ground. But then, again, what do I know...