Obama cannot ignore rights issues in Egypt: activists - Yahoo! News

Obama cannot ignore rights issues in Egypt: activists - Yahoo! News
Activists say Obama must tread a careful line. Direct and public criticism of his host could rile Cairo and spark a backlash, but they hope Obama will still address abuses like police mistreatment and press for freedom on some level.
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Obama 2009 | Nixon 1974

As Obama meets with Mubarak and participates in a festival of pageantry, let's remember another, much more historic and important, visit by a US to Egypt. In 1975 1974 the disgraced President Richard Nixon, still reeling from the Watergate scandal, arrived in Egypt to consecrate the Egyptian-American alliance that emerged after Sadat expelled Soviet advisors. Take a look at some of the pictures below and you will see that he traveled through Cairo as millions of Egyptians cheered (see Two million Egyptians greet Nixon in Cairo). That was the beginning of Egypt's special relationship with Washington, and people were optimistic that it might mean be a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Sadat had just carried out the 1973 war, an heroic Egyptian attempt to retake Sinai that may have failed militarily but that he was able to translate into a political process leading to Camp David. I'm no Sadat fan, but just contrast with the present situation with Mubarak. Of course it was not all adulation. From that visit we've also had one of the best songs of the Ahmed Fouad Negm - Sheikh Imam duo, Sharaft ya Baba Nixon, which savages Sadat for preparing such an elaborate reception. Sharaft ya Nixon Baba Here's one translation (not entirely accurate though) I found:
You came Father Nixon Mr. Watergate They gave you so many honors These exploiters of the people. They festooned the widest path From Ras-El-Tine to Mecca So that from there you could go to Accra And that it could be said he made the pilgrimage. It was a real traveling circus, Your benediction Parents of the Prophet. The day of your arrival your agents prepared for you A beautiful exorcism ritual Where the whores strutted their stuff Homos and lowlifes And where Chamhourèche in person Made love to the priestess, there were many processions. A whole retinue of blood suckers followed Groveling by order of importance, Of course. Those who invited you said to you Come eat some candies and sweets. And since you are a little naive, You thought us easy prey. You were in ruins; They wanted to help prop you up. Undesirable partner, I spit in your face, Disguised as a blessing. Listen and remember, Even though you won't be around much longer, I won't bid you welcome or to go away. I won't tell you come, or get lost. But they say, Egyptian flesh is corrosive there, Where it's wasting away. For a real traveling circus, Your benediction, Parents of the Prophet.
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Bronzed for Obama

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Above: Picture of man repainting lampposts near Cairo University ahead of the Obama visit, from al-Masri al-Youm. Barack Obama's visit to Cairo to deliver a speech "to the Muslim world", whatever that means, has many ironies, not the least of which is that this visit by the "leader of the free world" has caused a the tired dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak to prim itself up in anticipation. Trees are being planted, august university domes cleaned, marble floors polished in the grand tradition of Mubarak's Egypt: whatever you do, no matter how things are going, don't look bad in front of the foreigners. When I worked at the Cairo Times, a now defunct English-language weekly that ran between 1997 and 2004, we called this the "no donkeys on the cover" rule. Basically it meant that while we did little self-censorship (and indeed were often punished for our political coverage), one rule the publisher insisted on not breaking was the ban on depicting poverty. The ultimate insult to the regime, apparently, was not insulting the president, but depicting Egypt as it sometimes -- often -- can be: a country where large parts of the population live in poverty, sometimes without enough wealth to maintain personal dignity, and where traditional means of transport such as donkeys are judged to be synonymous with backwardness. Nevermind that a donkey is a useful animal and that it's perfectly normal that those who can't afford cars use them in their business, usually to transport goods, and that this scene is quite banal in most of the developing world. The Egypt the government wants people to see, and that Obama will be shown, is the one that alternates between monuments and friendly waiters, the Egypt's of the "Red Sea Riviera" ads. This is why, even if one likes Obama and has high hopes that his policies will depart from two decades of a wrong-headed to the Israeli-Arab conflict in particular, this visits leaves one feeling very uneasy. As I watched Obama kiss Mubarak on both cheeks this morning, I felt this pageantry was in terrible taste and it's hard to shake that feeling. As Hossam wrote in a NYT op-ed, this is the bottom line:
President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid. The Western press is clearly excited about Mr. Obama’s “significant” choice of Egypt, and his destination, Cairo University, which the news media seem to consider a symbol of enlightenment, secularism and freedom. The truth is that for years, Cairo University students have been demonstrating against the rising cost of education, demanding the university subsidize expensive text books, only to be rebuked by the authorities, who claim no funds are available. Yet the university somehow managed to find the money to polish up the building dome that will shine above Mr. Obama’s head when he delivers his address. As for the other host of the president’s visit, Al Azhar University, one of its students, Kareem Amer, is languishing in prison after university officials reported his “infidel, un-Islamic” views to the government, earning him a four-year sentence in 2007. In advance of the visit, Egyptian security forces have rounded up hundreds of foreign students at Al Azhar.
Well, he's here now. Let's see if he can redeem himself by what he says.
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The justifications of the torturer

Alaa al-Aswany in the Los Angeles Times:
"As President Obama prepares for his trip to Egypt this week, the Mubarak regime is facing unprecedented waves of social protest because life here has become intolerable for millions of Egyptians, who now have no choice but to take to the streets to proclaim their demand for a life fit for humans. Today, between 40% and 50% of Egyptians live below the poverty line; Egypt has become two different countries -- one for the poor and one for the rich. As for the regime, it is now completely incapable of serious reform, so it pushes the police to confront, repress and torture people, overlooking the simple and important fact that police officers are, first and foremost, Egyptian citizens and that what applies to Egyptians in general applies to them too. Most of them suffer in the same way as other Egyptians. I often recall the discussion I had with the State Security officer at the wedding. And I reflect that a political system that relies for its survival on repression always fails to see that the apparatus of repression, however mighty it may be, must be operated by individuals who are part of society and whose interests and opinions generally conform with those of the rest of the population. As repression increases, a day will come when those individuals can no longer justify to themselves the crimes they are committing against people. At that point the regime will lose its power to repress and will meet the fate it deserves. I believe that we in Egypt are approaching that day. "
The story opened with a meeting with a State Security officer whom he confronts about working for the regime. It's worth reading in its entirety.
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Daily News Egypt - Cairo University staff, students weigh in on Obama’s visit

Daily News Egypt - Cairo University staff, students weigh in on Obama’s visit “The American president is not welcome; especially after what happened in Gaza and the destruction that was acknowledged by all human rights organizations,” Nasr Radwan, secretary general of Cairo University’s Professors’ Club</b>, said.
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Obama’s visit is dividing Egyptians - The National Newspaper

Obama’s visit is dividing Egyptians - The National Newspaper
“We can’t deny our shock from Obama’s planned visit to Egypt,” said Abdel Halim Qandil, the spokesman for Kefaya, an opposition group. “When he comes to Cairo, he will be Mubarak’s, not the Egyptian people’s, guest. This visit will have a negative impact on Obama’s image, who is popular in Egypt.” But some other quotes in there are supportive.
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In Egypt, dissident Ayman Nour is pessimistic on eve of Obama visit - Los Angeles Times

In Egypt, dissident Ayman Nour is pessimistic on eve of Obama visit - Los Angeles Times
"I want to go back to jail," says Ayman Nour, whom the government released in February as an apparent goodwill gesture to the Obama administration. "The government insists on getting the maximum benefit out of my liberation, but they are causing me the maximum harm.I am denied all rights. My party cannot return to the political scene. I am stalked by the police. They are even messing with my personal life. There is no ceiling to the injustice and the revenge of this regime." [He also says no invitation to meet Obama - is Obama meeting with any civil society or opposition leaders at all?]
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Member of Obama's advance team in France has swine flu

For a while some of us in Cairo have wondered whether the huge team of staff, journalists, hangers-on and so on who travel with President Obama will have to submit to the swine flu testing taking place at Cairo Airport. There actually seems to be ground for concern, considering the swine flu hysteria that has swept through Egypt:
Member of Obama's advance team in France has swine flu - Monsters and Critics: Paris - A member of the US delegation in France to prepare President Barack Obama's D-Day visit to Normandy has been diagnosed with swine flu, French authorities in the city of Caen said Friday.
This is how he plans to woo Muslims?! Oh I am looking forward to the Egyptian press debating this. [Thanks, EZ]
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Saudis pushing Obama for new Mideast plan - Haaretz - Israel News

> Saudis pushing Obama for new Mideast plan - Haaretz - Israel News - Spin-driven peace process? "WASHINGTON - The United States expects Israel to make concrete concessions to the Palestinians before U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Cairo on June 4, an American official said during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington this week."
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