Imbaba Protest

Just saw Issandr posted as well. For those of you asking of Imbaba coverage, here is a double dose. imbaba _________ For pictures see this album. _________ Another Wednesday protest happened on the 6th of July. It could of of been the heat, how busy the streets have been the past 6 weeks, or that my camera and I were slightly off - but the Imbaba protest signified (for me) where the anti-Mubarak movement is heading. To tell you the truth, I don't know who organized it. The young bloggers and post-25 May activists who do not want to been seen as Youth for Change or Kifaya were not advertising this demo. So I am guessing they did not organize it. But Youth for Change was there Hamla Shabaya with their "Freedom now" stickers and small signs had a big presence. The Revolutionary Socialists (RS), who have previously been underground, made their first overt appearance (with signs) at the protest. It was the RS - which is headed by Kamal Khalil - that signed on with the Brotherhood at the National Front meeting at the Journalists syndicate on 30 June. Also, the Islamist Labor party was in attendance and brought considerably more folks out than usual. There were many more beards at the protest than usual. Members from the women groups' al-Sharaa Lina and Shafinkum were also there. As is now the norm, no real Harakat Masriya people showed up. Instead, many rank and file that used to be Haraka were there but they are all in different groups now such as the Rev Socialists and Hamla. All these group's are using the Kifaya sticker and slogans. The fact that Haraka refuses to sign on to the national front as they cling to a rigid strategy that refuses to cooperate with other factions is leading to the group's utter ineffectiveness. If Haraka's leadership is not careful, people like Qandil and Ishaq are going to be left screaming that the other groups mobilizing and cooperating stole their stickers. Haraka was described to me by former loyalist as "a very undemocratic movement. Haraka's leadership said it was an umbrella organization for all and it wasn't." The Kifaya logo and those bright yellow stickers maybe Haraka's key legacy. ___________ The demo was strange. At one point, two anti-Mubarak protests were going on until both protests negotiated with security to join. It turned into a control melee as the protesters took over the street very briefly. They were then shuffled back to the sidewalk after a few minutes. The security cordon provided the smallest of spaces and, at one point, it felt like there were 300 people. A more realistic number is likely 150. Plain-clothes security mobilized some Imbaba youth ad hoc to chant pro-Mubarak chants, which were highly unimaginative such as "Imshu" (leave). The pro-Mubarak crowd operated for about 15 minutes before their security minders dispersed them. They were kept separated from the anti-Mubarak protesters and there was no violence against one another. The Revolutionary Socialists presence was clear as they recited chants from the days of the January 1977 bread riots. One of the best was "They (the regime) wear the latest fashions while we live 10 in a room." Alternatively, the Islamist characters chanted against America and "Allahu Akbar". At one point, the leftist and Islamist crowds almost got into it over who was leading what. About the time, a group of the younger activists from the leftist trend decided to charge the security lines. One Amn Markazi solider was pulled into the crowd and slapped around. A senior officer entered and pulled him back to safety behind the security lines. He was not hurt. UPDATED (thanks to Mohammed): Although not directed at the CSF, the crowd chanted "Amn Dawla, Kalab al-Dawla" (State Security are the state's dogs.) There is much debate over this strategy of attacking the small statued Amn Markazi conscripts. But, as one photographer said, "Not that I want the protesters to be attacked but this is stupid. I simply cannot sell photos of protester on security violence." Naturally, after all the pushing and shoving, one of the over emotional demonstrators passed out. It was dramatic but I saw him back in action after a five minute reprieve. The demo ended and I left feeling pretty empty. The movement is changing politics here but it feels kind of static. It is like the car is on and the wheels are spinning but there is no movement. There is certainly no guarantee where all this is going which helps as much as it hurts (I suppose). _______________ Other developments: Haraka cancelled their long anticipated conference yesterday. It was supposed to be at the Shepard's hotel, whose management backed out - no doubt - due to security pressure. There are no plans as to when the conference will convene as they said it was postponed indefinitely. It is the latest sign that Haraka is fading from the scene as the other groups mobilize. This coming week: The MB and Revolutionary Socialists, who singed the national front agreement are planning a demo at Abdeen palace on 13 July. Haraka is saying they will participate on the 13th but have scheduled their own demo at a yet undetermined location on the following day. Also, at the end of the Imbaba demo, the last guy with the bullhorn said a protest would happen next Wednesday at 6pm at Midan Mataraya. Given the choice as an observer, the Abdeen demo is most interesting. But if the MB fails to produce numbers then the national front will likely be belly-up before it starts. Al-Ghad was excluded from the national front because its president met with Condi Rice which seemed a stupid reason. _____________ Perhaps, my interpretation is not as generous as these brave activists taking the streets and wrestling with security may like. But, just as the government advertises reform and does not deliver, the discontented groups appear divided and too argumentative to achieve a greater aim. The only thing holding them together is that they don't want Mubarak(s). Beyond that, it is all political fragmentation. I could be wrong. But, given what I have seen the since December, I reserve as much a right to be critical of what is going on as those activists have to say I am misreading the developments. Unfortunately, at this store, we cannot take credit from any side at this time. _____________
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The Imbaba demo

A few days late, yes, but here are some quick thoughts on the Imbaba demo that took place on Wednesday. First, these protests seem to be getting smaller. I don't think there was more than 150 people (Josh says 300). Secondly, they seem to be attracting more dedicated activists (especially the communists/revolutionary socialists and Islamists as well as some bloggers) and less "ordinary people." Thirdly, media interests in still high judging by the number of journalists and photographers who attended (I would say 10-20% of the crowd). Fourth, the core of Kifaya is absent -- people such as Abdel Halim Qandil and so on. This demo was the creation of offshoot movements and Hamla in particular, or so I'm told. Fifth, there seems to be a distinct lack of effort in trying to encourage people to join in. Granted, this is difficult, but the demos are essentially small groups of activists surrounded by a double or triple cordon of Central Security goons, with bemused onlookers watching but not participating (even if they feel supportive, and many do). I'll leave the details to Josh who's more intimate with the details of who's who, but there are some interesting dynamics between Islamists and socialists that don't bode well for the unity of the movement. One thing I found interesting was the slogans: they're getting more original every time I go, and some of them are quite funny. I particularly like the one in the picture below, which says "Heikal said it should be 10 years, but Hosni wants it to be 30" -- a reference to Nasserist figure and uber-journalist Mohammed Hassanein Heikal's recent statements about imposing term limits on the presidency. (Also, in Arabic the slogan rhymes: "Heikal qalha 'ashra seneen, wa hosni 'ayizha talateen")


More pictures and some videos will be posted later in the day.
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Egypt's New Press Dons

The biggest news of the week is the changing of the editors in Egypt's big three state papers - al-Ahram, Akhbar al-Yom, and al-Gumhuriya. At Al-Ahram: Ibrahim Nafie was replaced by editor Osama Saraya and chairman Salah al-Ghamri. At Akhbar al-Yom: Ibrahim Saada was replaced by Momtaz al-Qut. At Gumhuriya: Samir Ragheb was replaced by Ali Ibrahim. _______ There are rumors that the new press heads are either connected to the security services or Gamal Mubarak's influential NDP's Policies Secretariat. Does anyone know, for certain, who is attached to where/what? Perhaps Baheyya could shed some light?
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Nor Trial Postponed

Amir Salim --  Nor's lead defense attorney
Today, in the third day of Ayman Nor's trial, judge Adil Abd al-Salam Guma postponed the trial until the 25th of September. This is two-and-a-half weeks after Egypt's scheduled presidential elections on 7 September. The immediate repercussions of today's announcement suggest that Ayman will officially be a candidate in those elections, where he will presumably run against president Mubarak. Today's hearing was short and sweet. My group got into the courtroom around 1030. The trial started a little before 11am and concluded an hour later. Today, Ayman Ismail Hassan (defendant number 3) officially stated before the judge that he was taking back his confession from 28 June that said Ayman ordered them to forge party membership lists. Hassan surprised the court last Thursday when he announced to the media that the government was pressuring him to testify against Nor. But, because the retraction was not officially included in the courtroom minutes, it did not count. So, as of this morning, Hassan's recantation is official. The question on some people's minds this morning is why delay the trial until the end of September. According to the head of Ayman's defense team, Amir Salim, the court that is overseeing the case only works the last week of every month. Today's session was extra-ordinary. So rather than delaying it until the end of July or resuming two weeks before the presidential elections, the judge opted for the end of September. The proscecution has bearly said a word in the court to this date. The defense team basically argued that they needed more time to prepare their case. Gamila Ismail, Ghad spokesperson and Ayman's wife, seemed unpleased with the delay due to statements she made to the press following the judge's announcement. Today, there were loads of plain-clothes security in the courtroom. Most milled in the back of the courtroom while others photographed those in attendance. I recognized one of State-Security's photographers from the weekly demos. _____ Useless Anecdote: When leaving the courthouse today, we were waiting in the street for a taxi to take us to a coffee shop to get a caffine fix. A interior ministry guy with the eagle and two stars on his epaulet asked if we wanted a taxi. As we stood back, he hailed us a cab and politely saw us off. Now that is wasta... _________ Other related Ayman trial tidbits: Defendant Number 5, Mervat Sabr, has gone to the police and alleged that Nor tried to bribe her to recant her story. Whether this is the state encouraging her to make such an allegation to smear Hassan's recantation or whether Nor did this is unknown. It seems unlikely to be the latter. Ayman, on a legal basis, seems to have the upper-hand against the state for the time being. There has been some speculation that Hassan was bought off by Nor in the days following his surprise reversal last Thursday. I have neither seen nor heard any evidence to substantiate or rubbish this claim. Amir Salim and his defense team look to be tackling the case based on the numerous procedural errors that the state made in the lead-up and aftermath of Ayman's detention on 29 January. This focus on procedural mishandling was the same strategy used in the Saad Eddin Ibrahim defense, which proved unsuccessful until it reached the Egypt's highest appeals court (Court of Cassations). The defense team are also looking to untangle the relationship of Ismail Zakaraya Abd al-Latif (known to Ghad founders between March 04-January 05 as Diaa Zakaraya Abd al-Latif) and the head of the checks and fraud department in the Ministry of Interior Adil Yassin. ____________________ At any rate, in between now and the next court session, there is more time to prepare the cases on both sides as well as the early September presidential elections.
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Nazif on renditions

The Chicago Tribune has more on the renditions to Egypt, including a profile of the man kidnapped in Italy and this interview with Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, who seems to have no problems whatsoever with renditions:
WASHINGTON -- "I think that the war on terror, if it's a war, then it has to be treated as a war."
Ahmed Nazief, the Egyptian prime minister, recently explained to a group of Tribune reporters and editors why his country has agreed to receive what he estimates are "60 to 70" suspected terrorists delivered into its hands from all points of the globe by the CIA.
"As terrorism has crossed borders, it's the right of the people who are doing the investigations to also cross borders. At the end of the day, you have those people being investigated," Nazief said.
"Whether it's in Egypt or the U.S. or they're kept in Guantanamo or in a prison near Cairo is immaterial in this case. It's not the physical location. It's the process itself."
Egypt has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East since 1979, the year it agreed to peace with Israel and began receiving more than $50 billion in U.S. aid.
The nation appears to have received more such deliveries of terror suspects, known as "renditions," than any other country, in large part because it is the native land of many of the militants who carried the Muslim doctrine of jihad, or holy war, to Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Nazief admitted he isn't "privy to the details of each case," which he said are worked out between "security people" in Egypt and the U.S. But he said he has no concern about the practice as long as the "rendered" suspects are Egyptian nationals.
Nazief also acknowledged that a criminal charge isn't necessary to land a suspected terrorist in an Egyptian prison.
"If they fall within our definition, and your definition, of terrorists, they're dealt with this way."
Strong words.
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Fighting corruption, recent history

Freedom House, a US lobbying group/think tank, offers an assessment of accountability, civil liberties, rule of law and corruption in Egypt as part of their 'Countries at the Crossroads' report. The report contains a summary of some of the developments in the four areas until September 2004. For me, the report raised two questions. Discussing recent anti-corruption efforts, it points out that
The campaign’s near-total focus on senior officials in President Mubarak’s NDP has been concurrent with the political rise of his son, leading to speculation that the crackdown is simply clearing a path for an increasing public role for Gamal....

Egypt has a number of agencies that could, if properly empowered by the president, promote transparency and fight corruption. A central auditing agency, working out of the prime minister’s office, is engaged in privatization of government assets and strives for financial transparency. 42 The Administrative Control Authority is Egypt’s primary anticorruption watchdog,43 although it does not have jurisdiction to investigate accusations of corruption against certain categories of state employees. All of these agencies are directly tied to the executive branch and thus the presidency; therefore, reform (with public accountability and transparency as part of that overall agenda) is only possible if the president wants it.

Given the rumoured shake-out in the state-owned media, should we assume that the patronage networks at al-Ahram and al-Gomhouriyya will simply be replaced by new patronage networks headed by cronies loyal to the new generation of rulers rather than to the septuagenarian leadership? Or have the rules of the media in the Arab world changed so much - as Brian Whittaker suggested in his Guardian column a few days ago - that state media empires of the kind so useful to Safwat Sherif and his clients are a thing of the past? A second question comes from the report's mention of a period of parliamentary diversity in Egypt after the 1987 elections, when independent and opposition MPs held 30% of the seats in parliament (the NDP has since taken firm control of parliament). Was this parliamentary diversity reflected in the broader political environment? Was the executive ever questioned or tested by parliament in this period? And how and why did Mubarak allow this diversity to come about? I'd be grateful if anyone can shed light on this.
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Ah Ahram chairman fired

This just in: Al Ahram chairman and editor-in-chief Ibrahim Nafie has been replaced today by Osama Saraya, formerly editor of Al Ahram Al Arabi. Saraya will only take up the editor-in-chief title, while the chairmanship of the Al Ahram press group will be going to Salah Al Ghamri. This is the first of presumably several major press reshuffles to come, as we discussed earlier. Nafie is reportedly in Tunisia at the moment, and there is some speculation on whether he will return at all, considering long-standing rumors of staggering corruption at Al Ahram. The more unusual news that came along with this is that Hani Shukrallah, the executive editor of Al Ahram Weekly, has also been replaced. The odd thing is that Shukrallah, a former leftist activist, was nothing like Nafie--in fact, reading his latest editorials, he was rather critical of the regime. He will be replaced by Assem Al Qirsh, a former London bureau chief. (Update: This is most probably a false rumor--see comments below. Update II: Unfortunately, it was true.) Update: There could be changes in the other press groups tomorrow, according to today's Nahdet Misr. It wouldn't be surprising at all: recent declarations by the Higher Press Council had made clear that the jobs of editor-in-chief and chairman of the board would be separated, the surprise comes in that Nafie did not stay as chairman. For the other groups, there have been some rumors about Adel Hammouda taking over Al Gomhouriya. I'm not sure what this really means for the future of the main three newspapers--my guess is that there will not be an immediate qualitative change, except perhaps that some top journos and commentators will be demoted or fired. I'll try to post more tomorrow after talking to some insiders.
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"If stability had been sacrificed from democracy"

UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave continues his attacks on Ayman Nour and reflects that democracy might not be so good after all:
If stability had been sacrificed for democracy, the former national security adviser and secretary of state to Presidents Nixon and Ford could not have negotiated major Arab-Israeli disengagement agreements: Sinai I, Golan and Sinai II. Without the undemocratic, benign dictatorial figure of Anwar Sadat at the helm in Egypt, or without the late Syrian dictator and master terror-broker Hafez Assad, yet another page of war history would have been written.
With a democratic parliament in Egypt in 1974, presumably dominated by the popular Muslim Brotherhood, Sadat could not have made his spectacular, death-defying trip to Jerusalem -- and suddenly become the most popular leader in Israel. A peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and between Jordan and Israel were possible only because absolute rulers -- Sadat and the late King Hussein -- led both Arab countries.
Sadat knew his courageous act of statesmanship was tantamount to signing his own death warrant. It was carried out in 1981 -- by Islamist extremists -- on worldwide television.
In Egypt, Miss Rice, presumably attempting to confer respectability on President Hosni Mubarak's challengers, took time to receive a known political charlatan who over the years has been exposed for forging election results as he climbed the ladder of a number of political parties under a variety of labels.
Even Mr. Mubarak's enemies concede Ayman Nour fabricated and forged the signatures of more than 1,000 citizens to conform to regulations to legalize his Ghad (Tomorrow) party. His career is dotted with phony academic credentials, plagiarism, a staged assassination attempt on himself, charges of embezzlement by his Saudi media employer, and scads of document forgeries.
Miss Rice had canceled a previous trip to Egypt to protest the indictment and jailing of Mr. Nour pending trial. And before Miss Rice's most recent accolade, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also went out of her way to praise Egypt's master political con man. Makes you wonder what kind of political reporting is coming out of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
His conclusion is that it's unrealistic to expect democracy anytime soon in the Arab world. I find his argument about Sadat particularly offensive: so what if the peace treaty hadn't happened? Is democracy OK only if it doesn't prevent an Arab leader making peace with Israel? Many politically engaged Egyptians I speak to, while grateful that they didn't have to fight a war against Israel or suffer the economic consequences of war, feel that Camp David was wrong and did not get Egyptians that much in exchange for peace aside from Sinai. In fact, many make the argument that the price they paid was a quarter-century of US-approved dictatorship. The Washington Times (which is owned by the same owner as UPI, the Moonie cult) has had a strange habit recently of being pro-Mubarak after a long anti-Egyptian stance. They even interviewed Mubarak last time he was in Washington, while the Washington Post went on a campaign against him. One wonders what changed.
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Presidential Elections Date Set

Although the only candidates that have declared their intentions to run for Egypt's presidency are Ayman Nor and Talat Sadat, the government finally, finally, finally set a date for the presidential elections. Zakariya Azmy, the presidential office's chief-of-staff, said that those elections will be on 7 September 2005 (which is a Wednesday). Invest in mace now while it is cheap should you wish to venture out of your homes that day. ________________ Hosni Mubarak is expected to declare his candidancy soon (the deadline is 31st of July). The rumor is that he is waiting for the presidential elections law, participation law, and parties law to pass in parliament and be declared constitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court.
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Nor Trial Development

aylau So I am a couple days late. After the Zaytoun protest on Wednesday, I was drained. At the post-protest festivities I could hardly concentrate. As I left, I told friends I doubted I was going to Ayman the following day. Fresh off the uncomfortable experience of Ayman's first day at trial, I dreaded the thought of it. So, I slept in. I got up, had my coffee, and looked at the mobile. Should I do it, I thought. Before thinking it through and like an addict with a problem, I rang two of my journalists friends at the court. They told me they were in the courthouse but were barred from entering the courtroom. As one said to me, "There is some mysterious list." I changed clothes, grabbed my camera and thought I'd join them for a bit. Besides, the Y4C was meeting at the syndicate at noon. If there was nothing interesting at the court, I could always take it to the syndicate. I arrived and things were busy but much more sedate than Tuesday. Security was not doing a better job at crowd control but there was extra barriers of Amn Markazi lines so it gave a false appearance of order. Meeting my friends, I had half a notion to go. Standing in a hallway seemed pointless. Then one friend said, "let's try again" as she referenced getting into the courtroom. One of the al-Ghad organizers took us over to the security separating people from the hallway connected to Ayman's courtroom. I had my camera out but did not say a word. All of the sudden some general said "right this way sir." I politely said I was "with other journalists." They were let in as well. We got into the courtroom and it was a piece of paradise compared to Tuesday's hot, smelly, unorganized circus (In Arabic, the saying goes "al-Moulid was Sahib Ghayb"). I saw some reporter and photographer friends. I also bumped into some friends from various embassies there to watch the trial. As with Tuesday, the room's acoustics were rubbish. So you could not hear anything. As I whispered with friends and enjoyed the room to move around the court (like in the days of Saad Ibrahim), I heard Gamila Ismail - who was standing on a window seal for a better vantage point - loudly say, "Ya Salam" as a smile broke out on her face. In the cage with Ayman Nor are five other codefendants. But it is more complicated than that. The other five argued on Tuesday that Ayman Nor directly ordered them to forge party membership lists. They are all pleading guilty as Ayman pleads "not guilty" and argues that he never saw these people before in his life. The prosecution has been trying to paint Ayman as a life-long forger as well as stooping low enough to question Ayman's "alleged" father (who is, in fact, his real father). Even the staunchest apolitical Mubarak-supporter I know said "that's ill-mannered by the government" to question of Ayman parental lineage. It is character assassination par excellence. Gamila's "Ya Salam" and smile was triggered in reaction to one of the codefendants speaking out to change his plea. The courtroom buzzed as the media rushed the cage. Ayman Ismail Hassan is defendant number three. He hails from Shubra and has a petty criminal record. According to Ismail, he had never met Nor, did not receive orders from Nor to forge, and had not participated in the alleged forgery of party lists. He said that the government pressured him and promised to erase his criminal record if he turned state's evidence against Nor. Ismail looked scared and said that the security services put pressure on him and threatened his two small nieces if he refused to cooperate. He said he was unsure of what would now happen to him. The pressure on Ayman Ismail had been too much as he stepped into the role of government deal-breaker. The judge Adel Abd al-Salam Guma watched the chaos erupt, called for the court to recess until 6 July, and left the courtroom. As the crowd and defendants waited for further word from the judge who entered and left shortly there after again, media and observers got quotes from the Aymans, the attorneys, and Gamila. The prosecution slipped out the front door. ________________ If this case looked trumped-up initially, there are definitive allegations that the state is tampering with defense witnesses as they conspire against Ayman. People are going to have a tough time believing the trial's outcome should it go against Ayman. For a while in the courtroom, it looked like another defense witness was going to turn to Ayman's side. After about 30-40 minutes, Ayman began to hit the cage and demand to be released. He rhetorically asked, "What is this stupidity? It is over." Finally, the order was given to release him. I stood about three feet close to Ayman from the time he was released from the cage until he departed in his car. It was insane. People were rushing to touch him and be close to him. Ayman was wishing people well and looking confident. When we exited the courthouse, a smile broke on his face upon seeing his supporters. We walked to a security closed section and Ayman demanded they part the way. They refused so we carried on in the heat towards the small exit designed to allow one person out at a time. The crush of people was incredibly intense. I have never felt anything like it. The Amn Markazi soldiers were panicking and pulling their truncheons as the wave of people tried to exit with Ayman. As luck had it, I slipped out after Ayman at which time the security sealed the exit to prevent a mass gathering. Ayman got to his car and stood on its step demanding to speak with the the General in charge of the spectacle. He pointed forcefully at the general and said that he "better not hear of one person being beaten by security." He waved again and said "To the office," before departing. I hailed a cab and hightailed it to the office. I was one of the first on the scene. A Ghad supporter led me into Groppi's where Ayman Nor and about 8 supporters sat enjoying juice and sandwiches. Seated to Ayman's right was Ayman Ismail. Talk was mostly congratulatory and triumphal. The state is now in a bind, they argued. After a while, Gamila and the kids showed up as did the lead defense attorney Amir Salim. The group then moved to Ayman's offices for a press conference where Ayman, Amir, and Ayman Ismail spoke. I did not stay for the whole thing. I was surprised to see that al-Jazeera did not cover it later that evening as I dined with my in-laws. Instead, they reported the Egyptian-Israeli gas deal. Similarly, Friday's official press (there is no such thing as semi-official)conveniently mentioned the development of the Nor case with a small bottom front page article linked to somewhere deep in the edition's pages. ______________ The trial resumes on 6 July....But the state now looks to be on trial rather than Ayman. Saad used to say things like this when he was on trial between 2000-03. Ayman also said the court case would lead to putting the regime on trial last Tuesday. But nothing this embarrassing ever surfaced before that made the political prisoners' arguments look more than moralistic appeals expected from anyone in such a position of suspect justice. PICTURES: Pictures from the Nor Trial Developments are located here. ___________________________ More to come
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Protest in Zaytoun

zp On Wednesday, 29 June, Youth for Change (Y4C) held a demonstration in the Zaytoun section of Cairo. The demo was to be held at the Church of the Holy Virgin (Kanesat al-Azra'). Instead, it was moved down the street because of the security's interference. The group had come under pressure for conducting a demo at the Mosque of Sayida Zaynib so they choose a prominent church to assert their national platform that includes all Egyptians. __________________ PICTURES: Pictures of the Demo are in this Album. _________________ The protest was attended by around 200 people, who orderly chanted slogans against the regime. One slogan that stuck out was "Hosni Mubarak is a coward, remove your dogs from the square". This referenced removing the security presence so that the people could march. The protest was, yet again, another in the the latest of Youth for Change's weekly traveling demos. While the movement does not seem to be growing, there is a feeling that Y4C is getting more emboldened with each step. While it is indiscernible what will result of all these demos, they promise to be a constant source of pressure until the elections in the fall. While Y4C does not posture alternatives to their "No to Mubarak(s)" platform, predicting a conclusion is premature. Should the elections prove overtly managed and fraudulent, I see this group upping the pressure rather than disintegrating quietly after an objective unachieved. The movement - even without obvious support from Kifaya's leadership (Where are Qandil, Ishaq, Anani, and others?) - has the strong mixture of being a little insane, very courageous, and highly organized. The future may not be theirs but they are determined to have a say (even if it is a subjugated whisper should the regime have its way). Y4C was more discipline during this protest and only two very minor scuffles between the protesters and security over the barriers happened. In fact - in what is becoming a visible trend - it was after the protest finished that the demonstrators were assaulted, away from the international media's watchful eye. ______________ When everyone was returning to the metro, a load of al-Amn al-Markazi troops run down the street followed by security's top officials. We followed. I personally did not witness any assaults. But I stumbled upon a group of people - surrounded by CSF soldiers. Mohamad Shaqawi lay on the ground and was close to being unconscious. The people grabbed me into the circle to photograph. From what I could tell, Shaqawi was holding his abdomen in pain and had hit his head on the cement sidewalk. As I was shooting, a verbal argument broke out. People were screaming at plain-clothes security saying that them had hit Shaqawi (who is a leading organizer in Y4C). Security was saying that they had done nothing of the sort. Their version was that Shaqawi had slipped and fell. As this escalated, security asked their accusers "Did you see us touch him?" The people said "no but look at him now." Eventually, Shaqawi was brought to his feet and escorted away by people as security slowly tailed them. I asked someone later at the scene what he saw. Had security beaten Shaqawi, I asked. He told me that there was shoving because CSF surrounded them but that he was not beaten per say. This did not completely explain Shaqawi's abdomen. The man then expressed despair. He claimed that as soon as Y4C leaves, thugs would be deployed to wreck shops and terrorize Zaytoun's residents so that Y4C could be blamed. This seemed to be a non-issue at the moment given Shaqawi's state. We walked to the metro with the activists. Security followed to make sure that there was no trouble. ________________ Next week's demo will be held in Imbaba. ____________ The following day, while most of us were at Ayman Nor's trial, Y4C met at the journalists syndicate ahead of the meeting between the Islamists and Leftists to discuss a unified, national plan of action. The activists promised us if they had over 50 participants, they would march. Apparently, they did try but security beat them badly. I, however, don't have anymore details at this time.
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Arabist, Cairo in The Guardian

Regular reader and The Guardian Middle East Editor Brian Whitaker has an article about censorship in Egypt in which he mentions both Cairo and
The only real effect of this sort of behaviour is to make the state media look ridiculous, since people can easily find out what is going on from satellite television, the internet and Egypt's non-state media. Some of the best day-to-day coverage comes from a group of unpaid bloggers on The Arabist Network.
From Cairo with Love is also mentioned, and Samir Ragab gets his comeuppance. It should be noted that Brian's site Al Bab was one of the first websites discussing the Arab world and was one of the inspirations for It has a round-up of his favorite blogs here. Update: I just checked the server logs, has just broken the 50,000 visits barrier (51,688 to be exact) for June with an increase of over 20% compared to May. Many thanks to all the readers, and especially to Josh and his dedicated (and sometimes risky) blogging while Charles has been away and I've been swamped with work. I think it also shows that the world at large is taking an interest in what's happening in Egypt at the moment, and that can only be a good thing.
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Is the Brotherhood going for it?

In the midst of a very busy week in Egypt, opposition forces outside the main established opposition parties seem to be finally uniting around a single platform. This is an issue that Cairo has covered in the past, and readers will have noted the skepticism about whether an alliance was possible considering how the historical opposition parties have been reluctant to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as new parties such as Al Ghad. (See here for instance). Over the last few days, an important conference has been taking place in Cairo in which the Brotherhood seems to have finally come out of its hesitation to take on the regime along with other political forces that, like the Brotherhood, have been left outside the mainstream opposition. Here's what the AP said about it:
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic group, has launched an alliance devoted to the peaceful removal of President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981.
Several other opposition groups promptly lent their support Thursday to what the Brotherhood has called the an alliance intended "to exercise peaceful pressure on the regime, through legal and constitutional means, to make it respond to democratic change."
Although not directly called for by the Brotherhood, Magdi Ahmed Hussein of the banned Labor Party said a disobedience campaign is already underway.
"The regime is dying and there should be one goal for this alliance - toppling Mubarak and his family rule," said Hussein.
The deputy leader of Wafd Party, Egypt's oldest liberal party, Mohammed Alwan described Mubarak's regime as "authoritarianism living in the dark."
He said his party had no problem with the Brotherhood's religious foundation and called the alliance "long overdue."
Other coverage (, UPI) generally noted that apart from the Wafd, the establishment parties were against joining in. According to these reports, even Hamdeen Sabahi's post-Nasserist Karama (Dignity) party stayed outside the coalition. However, according to other reports and people who attended the conference, the coalition did get the support of several prominent university professors such as Hassan Nafaa (read this article by him to get a flavor of the man) and some pseudo-parties (Al Wasat and Karama are mentioned, which mudies the picture.) Al Ghad has apparently joined in, and while I'm dubious as to whether the above quote from Wafdist Mohamed Alwan is really representative of what regime crony and Wafd leader Nomaan Gomaa thinks, other parties such as Al Tagammu and the Nasserists are pretty unlikely to join in. The reality that the picture is still very unclear. First and foremost, how serious is the Brotherhood about this? Apparently Mohammed Habib, the Brotherhood spokesman, attended and spoke at the conference. But why was Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef not there is the Brotherhood is really serious? And are these claims of a million-man march and a campaign of civil disobedience really serious? The feeling I get is that the Brotherhood, like many Egyptian parties and movements, are divided over the issue of establishing a cross-ideological alliance against Mubarak and of taking their activism further. The generally pro-regime independent daily Nahdet Misr published an article a few days ago about splits within the Brotherhood which seems credible. It's also interesting that one of the more outspoken Brothers, Essam Al Erian, is still being held in preventive detention for over a month now without being charged. Al Erian, while not a member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Council, is a favorite of journalists and a prominent public figure, and famously declared that he would run for the presidency, which the Brotherhood leadership quickly distanced itself from. Some of the more conspiracy-minded people here are wondering whether the regime might be doing the Brotherhood's old guard a favor by keeping Al Erian in jail. Another interesting and much-publicized aspect of the recent conference was that the Brotherhood is reaching out to Copts to reassure them about what a stronger role in national politics would mean. Back in the March/April Brotherhood-led demonstrations, I was struck that some Brothers were carrying signs that said "Copts are Egyptians." To my knowledge that was the first time that ever happened--and a far different line than that former Supreme Gudie Mustafa Mashhour held, when he famously told a newspaper (Al Arabi I think) that Copts should not be in the military. Rafiq Habib, a prominent Copt, is now supporting the Brotherhood-led alliance. It does seem rather controversial with other Copts, though, who are much less trusting of any Islamist group. For some discussion of this topic (and also secular attitudes towards the Brothers), I recommend this article by my friend Omayma Abdel Latif in the current issue of Al Ahram Weekly:
The ongoing debate over the role of the outlawed group in the reform process is likely to become more urgent following the Brotherhood's expected announcement today of a new reform initiative allying pro-reform figures and movements under the National Coalition for Reform. The new alliance is likely to be met with dismay by those opposition parties which, say Brotherhood sources, chose to keep their distance.
Arguments about the imminent rise to power of Islamists tend to be viewed by the Brotherhood as an aspect of Islamist phobia.
"This myth about Islamists capitalising on calls for reform to leap to power has long been used, by both the regime and by liberal intellectuals, to hinder any process of change," says Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh, a senior member of the Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau. "It is generally accepted that in a free and fair election we would gain between 20 to 25 per cent of seats in parliament. Any talk about the group monopolising power is utter nonsense."
Currently, the Muslim Brotherhood controls 13 seats in parliament held by members who stood independently, making it the largest opposition bloc.
But what of the group's recent political performance which many believe has been fraught with contradictions?
Recent weeks saw a surprising surge in the group's street activism as demonstrations were held across the country in what many viewed as a show of strength, only to be followed by a period of deafening silence. Brotherhood leaders take an outspoken line with the regime only to follow it up with a more compromising tone. Some Brotherhood members have joined the ranks of pro-reform movements while their leaders refuse to be lumped together with other reform movements and insist they are the strongest group.
To be fair, I think Omayma should have mentioned that since that "surprising surge" over 2000 Brothers and sympathizers have been arrested (and since then mostly released), an event that has been incredibly under-covered as it is probably the biggest crackdown specifically targeting the Brothers since 1965 or perhaps even 1954. So, to conclude, is the Brotherhood going for it? I'm skeptical. I think we know very little about the inner workings of the Brotherhood and what debates are taking place there now. But it strikes me that like so many other Egyptian political organizations, such as the ruling National Democratic Party, there is a real generational divide inside the Brotherhood. If the Brotherhood is serious, we should be seeing a larger presence in street protests (although it remains unlikely that it will alongside Kifaya) and a plan to present a serious roster of candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections. So far, we have nothing of the sort. (A little aside: I'd be grateful if readers can point me towards good online resources on the Brotherhood and blogs that are sympathetic to it, in Arabic or other languages.) Update: I mistakenly omitted the word not above (see in bold) when discussing the Brotherhood's attitude towards Copts. A rather big difference, obviously. Apologies to those who were misled or confused, and thanks to Paul for catching the typo.
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