Regarding the Brotherhood

Ever since the beginning of the uprising in Egypt, I have been urged to address the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have not do so to make a point: it just was not that important in the phase that just ended, leading to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. There were more urgent matters at hand, and the alarmism over the Brotherhood we see in many publications was largely silly.
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Seham's hope for Egypt

For the last few days, Palestinian web addict Seham, who usually compiles long link-lists on what's happening in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, has been providing us with stellar compilations of links for Egypt. She wanted to send the following message after Mubarak was toppled.

My hope for Egypt

تحيا مصر long Live Egypt - 11-02-2011 from karim shaaban on Vimeo.

I'm glad that I am young enough that I'll be able to watch the transformation of Egypt back to it's rightful place as the epicenter of the Arab world.  I can't wait to watch that place and it's beautiful people become a hub for all Arab youth who are looking for modernity, change and progress. I'm thrilled that this will occur in Egypt, that so rightfully deserves and so valiantly struggled for it.  I'm trying to imagine what this new Egypt will look like, a new generation of men born without their fathers training them to be obedient and subservient to authority lest they end up in an Egyptian prison being sodomized by armed thugs.  The possibilities are endless.

Dark Foreign Forces

The youth website of al-Ahram (aka, "A Diwan of Contemporary Realignment") sends a reporter to Tahrir to investigate the identities of all those foreigners in the square. (It was published Feb 11, so it was probably commissioned a few days before). It turns out that while some of them may have been a bit Iranian-looking, they were mostly journalists asking demonstrators what they wanted, rather than foreign agents handing out cash.

Given that xenophobia-mongering was one of Mubarak's main tools in trying to delegitimize the revolution, it's nice to see that the state media is tackling the "Irano-Israeli spies in Tahrir stirring up trouble" narrative head-on.

Seham's links 12 February 2011

Jubilation in Egypt


Scenes from Cairo: Mubarak is Gone

Egyptians regain sense of pride in damaged nation


* Revolt overlaid with strong patriotic tones


* "I am Egyptian, I have toppled Hosni," - protest chant

Scenes from Cairo: Mubarak is Gone


Seconds after the official announcement was broadcast on state television and radio, protesters waiting at the presidential palace in the Heliopolis neighborhood of Cairo celebrate the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak.

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Seham's links 11 February 2011


Pic via FLC:

Protests/Protesters/Attacks Against Them & Eyewitness Accounts


The Lede: Latest Updates on Day 18 of Egypt Protests


The Lede provides updates on the protests in Egypt on Friday, 18 days into the standoff between pro-democracy protesters and the Mubarak regime.

Egyptians hold 'Farewell Friday'


Pro-democracy campaigners march on state television and presidential palaces, as army calls for normal life to resume.

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A quick analysis of the situation

The situation is evolving so rapidly that I hesitate to put thoughts down. Still, here's my take on what's happening:

  1. Although we still don't have details about what powers Mubarak has transferred to Suleiman, it's become pretty evident that Suleiman is in charge. 
  2. Why then keep Mubarak around? Aside from the loyalty the regime's key men have for Mubarak — Suleiman, Tantawi and Shafiq have 20 years of being close confidantes to him — retaining Mubarak allows them to preserve the sanctity of constitutional authority.
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How it all started

I think my friends Levinson and Coker at WSJ have written the best piece on how the January 25 protests were organized published thus far, continuing the Journal's excellent coverage of the events in Egypt. Rupert Murdoch does not deserve them!

The Secret Rally That Sparked an Uprising -

In early January, this core of planners decided they would try to replicate the accomplishments of the protesters in Tunisia who ultimately ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Their immediate concern was how to foil the Ministry of Interior, whose legions of riot police had contained and quashed protests for years. The police were expert at preventing demonstrations from growing or moving through the streets, and at keeping ordinary Egyptians away.

"We had to find a way to prevent security from making their cordon and stopping us," said 41-year-old architect Basem Kamel, a member of Mohamed ElBaradei's youth wing and one of the dozen or so plotters.

Read the whole thing, it's fantastic.

Recent reporting

I've written something for The National, looking back over the blur of the last two weeks, and trying to peak forward. I almost thought it had become obsolete last night--but as it turns out, we are still in no-man's-land. This is how it starts: 

Our ruler for the last 30 years/His name is Hosni Mubarak/His description?/He's stupid, he doesn't get it/He's blind, he doesn't see/ He's deaf, he doesn't hear/If you find him/Throw him in the nearest garbage can/Set him on fire..." A tall man in a jellabiya and a traditional turban sang these lines in Tahrir Square one night last week, accompanied by a small crowd keeping the beat on pieces of scavenged metal. It was just one of dozens of impromptu chants ricocheting across the square that has become Egypt's revolutionary headquarters. When I asked someone in the group who the singer was, he answered, with finality: "An Egyptian citizen."

Hana Lotfi, a 35-year-old mother who was there with her husband and children, approached me. "The people have been quiet too long," she said. "And being quiet has done us no good. So we die here - we're already dying outside, what's the difference?"

Egypt has changed, it goes without saying. Things are being done and being said, on the airwaves and on the street, that would have been unimaginable last month. The nation is split, wavering, living "in two different time zones" - the present and the post-Mubarak - as one local academic recently put it.

After two weeks of street protests and violent clashes that have left hundreds dead and thousands injured, Egyptians are waiting - uneasily, expectantly, stubbornly - to find out if they are living through a stalled uprising or a real revolution.

(Thanks to AUC law professor Amr Shalakany, whose brilliant column was an inspiration).

Also, at The World website, you can hear me talk to some of the many women--long-time and first-time protesters-- who have taken to the streets since January 25th. I am still amazed and impressed by how many women here have fearlessly taken to the streets. 

The Wiles of Mubarak

Tonight's speech by Mubarak is a reminder of how much the course of a revolution against an autocracy is shaped by the personal quirks of the autocrat. Here are a few thoughts from my end what calculations or miscalculations might have been going through Mubarak's head...

* Tone-deafness: Mubarak genuinely thought that he could defuse the situation with a hat-tip to the protesters, and that his transfer of powers would satisfy the protesters. He may also have thought back to his Feb 2 address, where he stirred up some genuine sympathy and regained the initiative, and was trying to repeat the performance. However, he so badly mangled his speech, and struck such an arrogant tone, that he made things worse.

* Cussedness: Mubarak projected arrogance and intransigence so as to call the bluffs of everyone -- the protesters, the Americans, and presumably now the military -- who are pushing him to leave. Maybe he allowed expectations to be raised, so as to make the blow fall that much harder. If you can't get rid of me after this, he is saying, then you can't get rid of me until I'm ready to go. Show your hand, or give up.

* Worse is better: Mubarak wanted to stir things up, to provoke a march on the palace and possibly trigger some violence. The regime had its greatest success undermining the uprising when the situation was at its most unstable. The return to normalcy on the other hand this week provided the opportunity for people to come together in the workplace, remember what they really dislike about the stagnant and corrupt status quo, and go on strike. So, he thought he might end the normalcy, rekindle fears of long-lasting anarchy, and put pressure on the demonstrators to quit with what concessions they have already won.

Seham's #jan25 links (10 February 2011)



Egypt's Mubarak 'may stand down'


A senior member of Egypt's ruling party tells the BBC he is "hoping" that President Mubarak will transfer power to to his vice-president on Thursday.

Egypt army detains protesters - rights groups


CAIRO, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Egypt's army has detained dozens of Egyptians involved in massive protests against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak and abused some of them in custody, a U.S. rights groups and Egyptian activists said on Thursday. The army was ordered to the streets on Jan. 28 to restore order. It was welcomed by protesters as a neutral force. The army said it would protect protesters from Mubarak supporters who have attacked them but also asked them to return home.

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The tide is changing for the army

When the uprising began in Egypt and tanks deployed on the streets on January 28, the military was initially welcomed. Perhaps many thought it had carried out a coup against Mubarak (in fact it probably partially has), and many more still cherished the myth of the Egyptian army triumphant in 1973 after the defeat of 1967. Things began to turn last week when the army stood and did nothing while pro-Mubarak thugs attacked the crowd in Tahrir. The protestors issued an ultimatum to the army to pick its side: with them, or with Mubarak. The army has still done nothing. Then, over the weekend, military police (and probably military intelligence) were deployed to beef up security on the streets. It then came out that they have been arresting dozens if not hundreds of people, and began raiding the offices of human rights activists and visiting the homes of people asking to poke around their computers.
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Dispatch from Tahrir

I spent most of the day today walking around Downtown Cairo and Midan Tahrir. There are still tens of thousands of people in the square. A definite rhythm has established itself, with Tuesday and Fridays the serious turn-out days; the rest of the week a moulid-like atmosphere pervades the area, with families visiting it, taking pictures next to tanks and the various memorials and displays set up in the square--out on the fun excursion. Some genius has started making hundreds of laminated مصر فوق الجميع ("Egypt Above Us All") tags that you can wear around your neck (they sell for 2 pounds, about 30 cents). Sellers are also doing a brisk business in Egyptian flags, snacks and drinks. Opposition newspapers are taped to walls so everyone can read them; and some enterprising local restaurateur has set up shop in the demolished Hardee's. 
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