HRW Press Release re Saturday's protest violence

Below is Human Rights Watch's press release regarding Saturday's state violence against protesters. ________________ For Immediate Release: Egypt: Security Forces Attack Opposition Demonstrators Eyewitness Testimony of Plainclothes Police Beating Protestors (Washington, August 2, 2005) – President Husni Mubarak should urgently appoint an independent commission to investigate those responsible for ordering and carrying out attacks against demonstrators protesting his decision to run for a fifth term, Human Rights Watch said today. The attacks, which took place on Saturday evening, July 30, were the second time in two months that police beat peaceful protestors. Human Rights Watch said that because the police violence appeared to reflect a high-level policy decision, any investigation should include the role of Interior Minister Habib al-Adli. “Police brutality against peaceful protestors is becoming the norm again in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “What we saw in Cairo on Saturday night reflected a high-level decision not just to prevent a demonstration, but also to physically punish those daring to protest President Mubarak’s candidacy.” Police initially detained some 40 persons, including George Ishaq and Amin Eskandar, leaders of the opposition umbrella group known as Kifaya (“Enough”), and took them to the Central Security camp in Darrassa, a Cairo neighborhood, which is not a legal place of detention under the authority of the public prosecutor. The authorities released Ishaq and Eskandar and a dozen others after several hours, but held 24 others overnight and transferred them the next day to Higher State Security Prosecution headquarters in Heliopolis for investigation on charges of participating in an illegal assembly, resisting and assaulting arrest officers, and “spreading tendentious propaganda that could damage the public interest.” On Sunday the authorities referred three of the detainees—Muhammad Nabil al-Sayyid, Usama Ahmad `Abd al-Salam and Mustafa Khalil Faragallah—for forensic examinations to determine the extent of their injuries. On Monday evening, authorities ordered the 24 released on bail while the investigation continued. Saturday’s police attack on non-violent demonstrators involved scores of plainclothes security forces wielding short, thick truncheons. In several cases, they told demonstrators that they were police officers, and journalists witnessed uniformed security officials directing the assaults against individual demonstrators. After President Mubarak announced on July 28 that he would run for a fifth term, organizers from Kifaya (“Enough”) and other groups called a protest demonstration for 6 p.m. on July 30 in Tahrir (Liberation) Square. By 5 p.m. that day, the authorities had saturated the square itself as well as surrounding streets with more than 1,000 uniformed security forces to prevent the demonstrators from assembling. Some demonstrators then moved toward Talaat Harb Square and Bab al-Luq Square, several blocks away. One Western journalist told Human Rights Watch what he saw as he walked towards Talaat Harb:
A cordon of uniformed Central Security [amn al-markazi] blocked the way, surrounding a few dozen protestors. Every now and then the cordon opened and a group of plainclothes men with truncheons dragged out a protestor, often beating the protestor as they did so. Other demonstrators and bystanders started chanting. The police chased them up al-Tahrir Street towards al-Faliki Square. There were now 100 or more demonstrators, followed by 50 or 60 plainclothes men and maybe 200 from Central Security. The Central Security [forces] would surround a small group, and those in plainclothes would grab whoever it was they had picked to arrest.
According to a subsequent Interior Ministry statement, demonstrators had provoked the security forces by throwing stones. This journalist said he had witnessed the confrontation from the outset. “I can imagine that some demonstrators may have pushed back when they were attacked,” he said, “but I saw no indication that protestors provoked the violence.” Other journalists and eyewitnesses to the incidents also told Human Rights Watch that they neither witnessed nor heard reports of violence from the side of the protestors. A photographer covering the incidents told Human Rights Watch that he went to a subsequent improvised rally point near the Hurriyya [Freedom] café in Bab al-Luq.
I was setting up my [camera] equipment. It was about 6:30 p.m. and there were maybe 50 people there. All of a sudden out these plainclothes thugs came from everywhere. They all carried the same kind of short club. These guys were not hired, like those who beat up the women [demonstrators and journalists] on May 25. This was very disciplined. They knew who they were after. They went in and grabbed that person, hitting him. After they had pulled him out from the crowd, a uniformed officer would direct them where to take the victim. About 10 people were arrested like this over the course of maybe 15 minutes.
Magdi `Abd al-Hamid, a 53-year-old engineer who is also on the board of the Egyptian Association for Community Participation, told Human Rights Watch that he was among the protestors assaulted in Bab al-Luq. The plainclothes security officers chased the demonstrators there, apparently determined to prevent any assembly from occurring. They set upon people in small groups. “One of them tripped me,” he said:
I fell on my face. Two of them then grabbed me by my feet and dragged me on my stomach along the street for about 20 meters. Others beat me with their clubs on my back and shoulders. “Demonstrations against Husni Mubarak are forbidden,” they said. Luckily other demonstrators were able to pull them off of me and I got away.
Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a Cairo-based organization, spoke on Saturday evening with some of those who had been detained and released that night. Salah Adli, an activist with the Popular Campaign for Change [al-Hamla al-Sha`biyya min agl al-Taghyir] told Bahgat:
I was among the group that was beaten up on Talaat Harb Street. I’ve never seen anything like this. It was only because police opened gaps in their cordon to take people out that we were able to breathe. I saw women and girls being kicked and beaten with batons and clubs. In [the Central Security camp at] Darrasa they took four of us aside to meet with a senior police officer. His main message was that demonstrations were no longer allowed.
A woman activist who did not want her name used told Bahgat what she witnessed as she walked toward one of the confrontation points:
I saw many people lifted by their arms and legs and hauled off to police trucks. Police thugs in plainclothes were on both sides hitting the suspended protestors in the head and face, everywhere really. Others were being dragged by their legs on the asphalt while being kicked in the head. They were bleeding as they were taken to the [police] trucks.
Adel Badr, a political activist, showed Bahgat bruises on his right arm, his back and above his knees. Badr explained how he had been injured:
I reached Tahrir Square but found it closed off so we moved to the Nasserist Party headquarters [on Talaat Harb Street], about 200 of us. [The police] surrounded us and then a large group of huge men in plainclothes carrying police batons started beating us on every part of our bodies, from all directions. Some protestors were pulled outside the cordon for more beating, or dragged by their legs on the ground to the police trucks.
Muhammad Hashim, a publisher, told Bahgat:
The police weren’t simply intimidating us or breaking up the demonstration. Officers in uniform were shouting at thugs to hit harder. We were knocked to the ground and they still didn’t stop kicking us with their shoes and coming down on us with large police batons.
`Abd al Hadi al-Mashad, a Kifaya member and schoolteacher from Dakahliyya, told Bahgat that he was also among those in front of the Hurriyya café in Bab al-Luq after being chased from Tahrir Square:
A police officer pointed at me and asked three of the big thugs in plainclothes to get me. “Get this son of a bitch,” he said. They locked me in the entrance of a deserted apartment building for about half an hour. They were holding me by my hair and my belt, completely surrounding me. When I tried to resist they hit my head against the wall. They also hit me on the arm with a police club.
Bahgat told Human Rights Watch that he observed serious swelling on al-Mashad’s head and the bruise on his arm. According to al-Mashad, the officers then put him in a police van and took him to Abdeen police station. A senior officer instructed subordinates not to file an arrest report, saying, “Just throw him in a cell until we see what we do with him.” Al-Mashad said police held him until 11:30 p.m. and kicked him in the stomach before releasing him. Trade union activist Kamal Abbas, director of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services in Helwan, was reportedly among the most seriously injured. A medical examination and X-rays at Qasr al-Aini University Hospital revealed that Abbas suffered multiple rib fractures, Bahgat said. Journalist Shaaban `Abd al-Rahim al-Daba’ was also reportedly hospitalized with injuries sustained in the incidents. The following detainees were released on bail on August 1 and remain liable for criminal charges by the Higher State Security Prosecution in connection with the July 30 demonstrations: 1- Ahmad Ragheb 2- Muhammad Mamduh Muhammad 3- Muhammad Nabil al-Sayyid Ahmad 4- Islam Muhsin `Abd al-Mu`ti 5- Fawzi Muhammad Ramadan 6- Ibrahim al-Sa`id Muhammad Saleh 7- Sherif Yunis 8- Hamdi Abul-Ma`ati Qenawi 9- Muhammad `Ali Muhammad 10- Hassan Muhammad Hassan al-Barbari 11- Usama Ahmad `Abd al-Salam 12- Mahmud Khaled Fath al-Bab 13- Ashraf Ahmad Hussein 14- Imam Hanafi Imam 15- Adel Imam Khalaf 16- Muhammad `Abbas Kheir 17- Mustafa Khalil Faragallah 18- Nabil Fathi al-Sharbati 19- Yahia `Abbas Hamdi al-Qazzaz 20- `Alaa `Abdallah `Abd al-Shafi 21- Ayman Muhammad al-Shahhat 22- Ahmad Helmi Salem 23- Muhsin Beshir 24- Wael Ahmad Khalil For information on previous crackdowns on dissidents and pro-democracy activists in Egypt, see: “Egypt: Government Uses National Security to Stifle Dissent” ( “Egypt: Calls for Reform Met With Brutality” ( “Egypt: Investigate Attack on Anti-War Protesters” ( For more information, contact: In Washington D.C., Joe Stork: +1-202-612-4327 In Amman, Fadi al-Qadi (Arabic): +962 (78) 883-7862
Read More

Protest Detainee Update

This post is mostly speculation. It is based off of rumor and information that is being passed around through phone calls and text messages regarding the cases of the detainees picked up during the anti-Mubarak demo on Saturday. _______________ What is Known: First off - there were 24 people detained. According to HR activist Ahmad Saif al-Islam, 2 are in bad shape. The detainees seemed to have been shuffled back and forth from el-Darrassa military camp to the procesctors and Amn al-Dawla's offices in Masr Gadida. This morning they were sent back to el-Darrassa. Families and friends of the detained held a sit-in at the General-Proscecutor's office at the supreme court (Dar al-Qada al-Aliya). Around 430pm this afternoon, the General-Proscetor ordered all of the detained released on bail. This may, however, only be a small victory. _________ Sound Rumor: There is a likelihood that those detained will be charged. I heard the charges that could be levied are: 1) Assaulting police officers 2) Damaging state property 3) Criticizing the government of being corrupt (don't ask me, I don't have a clue about this charges constitutional placement) 4) Holding a demonstration without permission Naturally, charges 1-3 are suspect. BUT - should the state wish to push this - charge #4 could be used against those recently released. I am not implying it is fair but it is the way it is unfortunately. __________ Unsubstantiated Rumor: There is a story circulating (since last evening) that 8 arrest warrants have been issued to pick up top Kifaya leadership. Kamil Khalil, George Ishaq, and Amin Iskandr were names that were talked about. I have been periodically checking and have not heard that anyone has been served. No one seems to know much about it beyond that. _________ The Arabist will continue to monitor and update when information is reasonably well confirmed. The situation is, however, very fluid and constantly changing.
Read More

Pictures from yesterday's Protest Violence

Yesterday, the groups that comprise Kifaya launched a protest against President Mubarak's candidacy ahead of elections on 7 September. PICTURES: Pictures are in this album. For the second time in shortly over two months, security quashed the protests violently. Plain clothed security employees beat and arrested the movement's leadership. Some have been released while others are being held at a military base called el-Darrasa (according to Kifaya sources). At a sit-in today at the Public Prosecutor's office, he informed those striking that he had no knowledge of those detained. This means that not only has violence been used against peaceful male and female protesters but that the regime is using extra-judicial means to process the detained. Where is Condi now? As Wael Khalil said as a gang of six security personnel led him away, "Welcome to Mubarak's fifth term." UPDATE Someone phoned and asked the difference between 25 May and yesterday. The answer, in my view, lies in the perpetrators and style of the repression. On 25 May, rent-a-thugs paid by some MPs and licensed by the security services wreaked havoc by beating anyone and everyone deemed to be from Kifaya. Journalists and photographers (and overtly Westerners) were left alone. The rent-a-thugs were highly undisciplined. When they attacked it was akin to letting a lion out of a cage. The rent-a-thugs could not easily be controlled or stopped once they were unleashed. I remember seeing the thugs of the 25th fighting with security when the latter tried to halt the attacks. Perhaps, the powers that be (or at least this power center of the regime that thinks violence against protesters works) saw this 25th May-type violence as dangerous or uncontrollable. It is here they tried to rectify how violence was conducted. Yesterday's thugs were clearly in the employ of the security services. Several said to journalists and on-lookers that they were police. There were no arguments between plain-clothed and uniformed security as they took orders and directives from their bosses. They were disciplined and more targeted when they went for people. They also could be recalled easily - hence it was less out of control (if violence can be). Yesterday's thugs also had an arrogance about them regarding journalists and photographers. They were much more aware of cameras and being filmed than the rent-a-thugs of 25 May. In this sense, yesterday's perpetrators were like trained attack dogs. They could be released to bite but also had masters that could end the violence on a moment's notice.
Read More

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. _____________
Read More

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?
Read More

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.
Read More

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.
Read More

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
Read More

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.
Read More

Ayman Nor's Trial Begins....

AymanNor This afternoon, the judge in charge of Ayman Nor's forgery case postponed the hearing until Thursday morning. In the courtroom, the prosecution framed his case by asking for key documents such as his birth certificate, his PhD certificate, his Parliamentary membership papers, and his national identity card. Speculation is that they are going to build a case by showing that Ayman has a history of forging documents. Ayman's defense team offered a plea of not guilty. After a 50 minute recess, the judge announced the case would be postponed until Thursday after reading out a list of charges. __________________ Pictures from the courthouse today can be found here. __________________ This morning we made our way to Cairo South courthouse in near Bab al-Khlaq. We reached the courthouse at 830am. For some of us, this trip was deja vu. It was the same courthouse, courtroom, and judge (Adil Abd al-Salam Guma) that Saad Eddin Ibrahim had in his first trial in 2001 when he was tried for tarnishing Egypt's reputation abroad. But that is where the similarities between Saad and Ayman's cases end. __________________ Al-Ghad mobilized loads of its supporters (I am guess around 2000) inside and outside the courthouse. There were orange banners everywhere and people placed stickers that called for "Justice for Ayman" on the many pillars of the once (long ago) beautiful building. Other stickers read "al-Ghad says Kifaya" and "No to Oppression. No to Forgery (or trumped-up) Charges" We managed to make our way to the closed courtroom door. As the journalists and al-Ghad supporters waited impatiently, it became very crowed and hot. To add to the increasing number of people, there were a sizable contingent of al-Amn al-Markazi deployed to encircle everyone. The unit in charge of crowd control in the holding area (which became known as 'the Sauna') was the same unit (Basateen) as from the Lazoughly protest on Sunday. Around 10am, Ayman arrived and was taken to meet the building's head judges. What happened next remains confusing. Apparently, Ayman wanted to take between 50-100 defense lawyers into the courtroom with him. The judges refused. Ayman came out and addressed his supporters, who were throwing themselves through the security lines to get close to him at the top of the stairs. Ayman was completely inaudible, but the story (at the time) was that he was not going to go to the courtroom. Instead, he was going to file complaints with some ministry. The al-Ghad leadership were conducting interviews with the media and pointing out the injustice. Ayman reportedly called the process "a circus". Then, Ayman disappeared and rumors shot about that he had went to the courtroom through a side door. By this point - most of the journalist had split into several groups. Some were outside with the demos, others were inside with the demos, and the remainder were in the courtroom. It did not look like journalists were going be be allowed accessed early on. In fact, the entire day was extremely poor regarding information flows from the government. I went down and watched the indoor demos. There was some overlap with the Kifaya protests with slogans denouncing the Mubarak family and other top ministers. The most innovative chant had to be "Soldiers are oppressed in the military, eating lentils and dressed in rags." It was an attempt to sway the al-Amn al-Markazi conscripts. They get points for novelty but were unsuccessful in igniting a revolt. After tiring of the demo, I went with a group of journalists and tried to gain entry to the courtroom, which was sealed off by CSF. After several attempts, the head-officer let a bunch of us into the courtroom. Entering the room was odd. It was hot and quiet (compared to the noise outside). It was also packed with people. There had to have been 300 people in a court room that holds 100. The closer you got to the front, you hit a wall of bodies so tightly connected that many strangers shared sweat and body odor. Every time the door to the courtroom opened, you'd hear the protesters chanting anti-regime slogans. In an attempt to get a picture of Ayman in the cage, I tried to push to the front. It was not happening. So I waiting in the back until the proceedings recessed and then pushed with the other photographers hoping to get their one good shot. When I got to Ayman, he was smoking a cigar and pacing back and forth in the cage talking to the press. It was so noisy and hot, I could not hear what he was saying. When the trial restarted, I slipped outside to see those demos. They were small outside in the heat. I am guessing 25-people max. The overwhelming thing outside the courtroom was the security forces. There could of been upwards of 70-100 security trucks parked around the area. They seemed everywhere. There were easily 5000 soldiers in the rows and lines in front of the courthouse and down the streets. In fact, in pictures taken from the nearby Anwar hotel, the street was blocked off 1/2km in each direction from the courthouse's entrance. Al-Ghad brought numbers, but Cairo security brought more. Riding back to the island, many of us were tired and drained. The heat, disorganization, and general feeling of being uncomfortable all day had taken its toll. And, today is only the beginning. The trial resumes on Thursday.... ___________________ Saad Eddin Ibrahim's trial was a big deal when it started in 2001. Yet, anyone could show up 5-minutes before the proceedings began and enter without difficulty. True, the courtroom was warm (especially in the summer) but not sizzling because all the bodies trapped together liked sardines. Saad also never had a popular following show up at court like Ayman had today. I guess now we will see if all this support is sustainable.
Read More

Lazoughly Protest

Yesterday, a group of about 200 (Kifaya-ish types) gathered in Lazoughly Square to protest against torture in Egypt. The protest coincided with the International Day for Victims of Torture. The protest's site was highly symbolic. Held in a square named after Mohamad Ali's first interior minister, Lazoughly is where State Security and the Ministry of Interior are located. So the protesters demonstrated where a lot of torture is said to happen in Cairo. _________________________ Pictures of the latest Protest are available here. _________________________ The demo was scheduled to take place before a press syndicate function where groups would launch a declaration against torture. So the Demo started at 430pm (and it was hot!). Everyone gathered on a sidewalk under al-Gad restaurant in Lazoughly as al-Amn al-Markazi (CSF) closed in on them to confine their demo. Now, there were a lot of signs denouncing torture and detailing individual cases on poster boards. But there were no original slogans about torture. Instead, it turned into a anti-Mubarak (and anti-top regime figures) protest very quickly. With Kifaya leaders like Mohamad Abd al-Qaddos and Kamal Khalil leading chants, it resembled a Kifaya protest except with many of the younger faces recently new to street politics. Other than Abd al-Qaddos and Khallil, however, this looked by a protest by the women's group al-Sharaa Lina (the Street is Ours) and Youth for Change (The Y4C people did not like being called that - they prefer to be nameless and independent). Perhaps upset that the CSF was blocking the street or just a sign of the movement's building frustration that is loosely together on their anti-Mubarak message but different politically, the protesters tried to make a hole in the CSF line to take the streets. At first, they were successful. Then the barricades were brought for crowd control. As noted, it was hot and people started to faint, which led to more tension between the CSF and the demonstrators. Not contented to be on a small part of the street, the protesters began wrestling with CSF conscripts over the barricades. The yellow and black painted metal was lifted into the air in what seemed to resemble a dangerous game tug-of-war. It did not take long for the protesters to want to break the CSF's lines again. So push turned to shove, as they say. After the CSF boys came under pretty sustained pressure, some of them panicked and pulled their long truncheons. They began waving them more out of fear than anything. Their superiors had not given the order and so it looked undisciplined. A couple people received some hits to the head but no one was seriously injured while I was there. These types of scuffles flowed and ebbed. There would be tension and shoving for 20 minutes and then protesters spent 20 minutes recovering before having another go at the CSF. In one break, water arrived. Many of the protesters offered the CSF water which they all resolutely refused. __________________ I know that the CSF is the tool of repression but I sympathized with them during the protest. Most of them were scared of the protesters. They were all trying to look tough but underneath they were worried. The mistake was, I think, that the protesters wanted out of the security cordon and the CSF was ordered to hold the line. So when the shoving started, the CSF conscripts took it personally as pockets of them defended themselves and each other. This was not a case of the nasty regime employing its repressive apparatus arbitrarily although you can sure argue the fact they are there in the first place is the root of the problem, which is undeniable. ________________ I don't know where Kifaya is going but I feel it is splitting. The movement is disorganized during protests. While some protesters challenged the CSF, others led witty Anti-Mubarak chants. There is also a divide that runs along generational lines. What started out as an umbrella organization welcoming all trends is now several groups willing to cooperate on a strictly Anti-Mubarak platform only. Beyond that, I don't see much communication. The numbers in the demos are decreasing as summer pushes along and I have not seen Abd al-Halim Qandil, Geroge Ishaq, Hani Anani, or other top Kifaya brass since the Saad Zaghloul candle-light vigil where around 1000 people showed up. There is another outing on Wednesday. ___________ I received a call last night which said after the protest ended. A semi-march through downtown Cairo took place by a faction of the Lazoughly protesters. There were about fifty people chanting slogans en route to the Syndicate. There seems to have been more scuffles. I heard Alaa and Lelia Soueif were beaten by security (again). Alaa's group also had two cameras stolen by the plain-clothed police. I was not there so I cannot confirm this last development.
Read More

Yesterday's Demo in Shubra

sdvasdf Yesterday, The Hamla Sha'biya min Agl al-Tagheer (The Popular Campaign for Change) held a demonstration in the Rud al-Farag section of Shubra (Northern Cairo). ____________ PICTURES: Pictures of this protest are available here. ____________ For reasons beyond my control, I don't have much time to blog. So the quick highlights: My band of friends arrived in Duran Shubra (Metro Station: Rud al-Farag) about 15 minutes before the protesters came. There were security trucks packing away the metal barricades that are used to contain protesters into trucks and disappearing. Around 6pm, the protest began. It was strange that there was no police presence except for the helpless traffic cops. Anti-regime protesters (around 300) chanted passionately for about 20 minutes or so. Then, the decision was taken to march down Shubra Street. It was exciting and odd to be marching down the street listening to the chants as everyone half-peered ahead looking for al-Amn al-Dawla to show up. Instead, a group of Mubarak supporters (all men, about 150 of them) showed-up on the other sidewalk without signs, started their angry chants, and looked menacingly towards the Popular Campaign protesters. They were being rude. Beyond calling the anti-government demonstrators "traitors" and screaming about how they were not "real Egyptians", there were several other more foul chants not worthy of being recorded. Similarly, they were chanting against Ayman Nor. The anti-Nor slogans were anti-semitic. As with the last protest, the pro-Mubarak gang looked possessed. The anti-Mubarak protesters had the usual "Down with Mubarak" chants supplemented with the "ya Ashreen Geenah, Be'ulu Eh?" (Hey 20 LE, what are you saying? -implying the Mubarak supporters are paid to be there) and "Give Mubarak a visa and Take him with you Condi". It was interesting listening to what the people in Shubra were saying. Most were in shock and asked "Who are these people? They want to destroy the country". The absence of security, however, allowed anti-regime activists to mix and mingle with ordinary citizens and explain their anti-regime program. In the case of previous protests, there has been a pattern of keeping citizens passing-by separated from the demonstrators. Whether this strategy works or not remains to be seen. There were a couple times I thought we would see a fight but each time things were de-escalated quickly. In fact on the way back to the metro as the demo was finishing, Pro and Anti- Mubarak demonstrators returned together jawing back and forth. ________ At the post-protest festivities - many activists, academics, journalists, photographers, and observers debated the meaning of the lack of security. Three major theories surfaced as of last night. 1) It was "the Condi effect". The regime did not want to look bad in the aftermath of Condi's little democracy lecture and visit this week. (I don't buy this). 2) The regime thought that the people of Shubra and the pro-Mubarak gang would attack and beat the anti-Mubarak protesters so if the police were not there, the regime would not be blamed. (I don't buy this either - it seems like a major shift in security's modus operandi). 3) That having all that security around peaceful protesters just does not look good. It is 300 people and there are security trucks waiting in the wings should hell break loose. (This is one that appeals to my logic although I am not saying this is correct). One of the key young organizers laughingly explained that the unexpected lack of security was "like meeting a date and finding that the partner is a no show." ____________ Next week is a busy week in Egypt. Sunday - there is a demo against Torture in Lazoughly (where State Security has been accused of torturing people according to unverified complaints received by the National Council of Human Rights). Tuesday - Ayman Nor's has his preliminary hearing at the courts near Bab al-Khalq (or so Gamila Isamil told me last Sunday). Wednesday - Kifaya, the Hamla, Youth for Change, and the internet based group that argues it is independent and has no name take the touring demonstrations to Zayton near Masr al-Gadida. The Zayton site will be near a church to counterbalance the demo held at Sayida last week. But, as several of the organizers told me, this is a national movement that equally includes Muslims and Copts. __________ Stay posted!
Read More

Protest against Torture on Sunday

lazoughly On Sunday, there is a protest at Midan Lazoghly - which is where State Security HQ are - to protest torture in Egypt. It coincides with the International Day for Victims of Torture. The advertisement says the protesters will bid farewell to Egypt's interior minister, General Habib al-Adly. The Kifaya offshoots (which seem to number dozens and growing) hold al-Adly responsible for the referendum violence last month. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, I have not heard al-Adly is going anywhere. The protest begins at 430pm and will last for an hour. It will be followed by a conference at the Journalist's Syndicate to make declarations against torture. ________ More today (hopefully) about yesterday's intersting protest in Shubra. Naturally, pictures will be included.
Read More

Did Rice Meet with the Opposition?

Most of the papers, without getting to who said what, portrayed US Sec of State's visit with with Egyptian figures following her AUC speech as "meeting with opposition". This is an overblown characterization. First of all, in a conversation with someone in attendance, Rice was said to have done little talking and a lot of listening. Hence, given the fact that only one substantial opposition figure was there, the chances that he was drowned out among the "reformers" and "supporters" of the NDP is not a far fetched assertion. Who was the opposition? Ayman Nor was in attendance for Hizb al-Ghad (as was Hisham Kassem in an individual capacity but also with al-Ghad). Anyone Else? The rest of the figures present at the meeting were - if not overtly part of the ruling NDP - "independent" figures that maintain good, and in some cases, very deep contacts with the president's party. For example: Hossam Badrawi - who is often referred to as a "reformist" - is a close associate of Gamal Mubarak and the education head of the NDP's influential policies secretariat. He is a member of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR). Mona Zulfiqar is a lawyer and noted for pressing the government to change the law to allow women the right to divorce. Her links to the NDP are strong. She also serves on Suzanne Mubarak's National Council for Women and the Boutros Boutros-Ghali headed NCHR. Monir Fahkry Abd al-Nor is a Wafdist MP but I have personally seen him in public roundtables praise his colleagues in the NDP while they return their admiration for this "great" opposition figure. Abd al-Nor, according to some, is the equivalent to a Colmes complement to Sean Hannity on Fox News. Abd al-Nor serves on the NCHR. Osama Ghazali Harb was also in attendance. Harb is the editor of al-Siyasa al-Dolwiya journal and works for al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. He is an appointed member of the Shura, NDP policies secretariat member, and on the NCHR. Recently, Harb received some attention as the only NDP member in the Shura to vote against amending article 76 of the constitution. Yet, to label him opposition is a misnomer. Tasiyr Mondor is a professor of medicine at Azhar University. It is unclear if she is affiliated with the NDP or not. Does anyone know if she is on the NCHR? Bahey al-Din Hassan runs the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He also serves as an opposition member of the NCHR. While not an NDP member, and often critical, he is not an overt opponent of the government. ____________ This was not a meeting with the opposition. It was one opposition figure and a bunch of people closely connected to the hall of power. So it worked out well for everyone. The Egyptian government felt secure that the opposition was safely diluted by having its official and unofficial reps there. Meanwhile, the press could advertise on behalf of Rice and her democratizing mission that she did her part by meeting Ayman (without meeting those who are not looking so favorably on the US administration's grand regional design). Cynical? Perhaps but I am just one guy sitting behind a computer who wants to see a plan of action if Egypt's presidential and parliamentary elections don't turn out free and fair. There are lots of folks on the government's NCHR. Any guesses what that means?
Read More

Youth For Change Update

Youth For Change - the younger and newer activists on the protest scene - have a little news. Sponsors of yesterday's demo against the Rice visit as well as last week's protest in Sayida, Y-4-C is reporting that those detained from their group by Egyptian authorities last week are being released. According to an email from a Y-4-C organizer, the names of the detained are:
Mamdouh Mohamed Makram - Asiut - member of the hamla (that is the popular campaign for change, as opposed to the popular movement for change). He was arrested while hanging banners that talk about freedom.
Mohammed Shafiq and Ahmed Said - Cairo - youth for change members arrested in the metro after distributing leaflets written in Colliqual Egyptian Arabic about the deteriorating state of health, education and lack of jobs (released on bail after being interrogated without laywers)
Mostafa Khalil - Mansoura - Kifaya member arrested for putting Kifaya stickers on the walls of his house that face the street.
Khadiga Mohamed Madkour - Kifaya member- was assaulted on the referendum protest and one of the women who pushed charges. I have no idea what was the reason/excuse for her arrest.
___________ In another email, the organizer writes:
I just recieved an email confirming the release of all Kifaya related detainees.
The prosecutor general called to personally check their release and informed someone in Mansoura that Kifaya stickers are free speech or something to that effect.
____________________ Also tomorrow in Shubra, the protests resume. Pictures and reports to follow. Shubra
Read More

An Interpretation of Rice's Policy Speech at AUC

condi1 This afternoon US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, gave what the US Embassy in Cairo was touting as a "Major Policy Speech." Rice - who is on a five nation trip to the Middle East - came from Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan. She spent about 10 hours in Egypt. Reportedly, she met with president Mubarak at 7am in Sharm al-Shaykh before coming to Cairo. At 1pm, she delivered a 30 minute policy speech before conducting Q&A with the audience for 30 minutes before departing to the Sheraton Heliopolis. There, the secretary is scheduled to meet with opposition figures (including al-Ghad's Ayman Nor and Hisham Kassem) and NDP-connected folks (Such as Wafdist Monir Fakhry Abd al-Nor and Mona Zufilqar) before departing for Riyadh around 4pm (Egypt time). _________________ Reuters' story is already available for journalist account. More articles will follow tonight and tomorrow. Remarks and excerpts of the speech are available below. ________________ Although it was advertised as a major policy speech, there was not a whole lot that was new. Rice was introduced by Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies scholar and publisher of al-Dimaqratiya journal, Dr. Hala Mustapha. Mustapha is a member of the Higher Policies Council, which is a 123-person subsidiary of the Gamal Mubarak headed NDP policies secretariat. The symbolism was striking. A young, professional Egyptian woman introduced Rice. The flip side of that symbolism is that she is a card-carrying member of the ruling party. Rice spoke about how the US government had supported dictatorships for 60 years to acquire stability in the region and that policy proved erroneous following 9/11. The policy shift was, then, the adoption of promoting democracy in the region. She said that people in the region were pining for democracy and although it was a long and difficult process, it had begun. She took the audience on a tour of the region discussing people's desire for democracy by sighting the elections in Iraq and Palestine. Insurgents in Iraq, who are attacking people, were described as "evil". Rice then spoke about how Jordan had began a process of decentralization and reform. She continued to note that municipal elections in Saudi are a beginning there. Syria was singled out as "a police state". Despite Syrians wanting change as she evidenced a recent document signed by 179 democratic activists in Damascus to allow the Damascus spring to (re-) bloom, she called on the Bathist regime to "embrace and trust its people". She also said that Syria needed to get with the regional program of change. After the run-down, she got to Egypt. Rice said the amendment of constitutional article 76 an encouraging step and that it unlocked the door for change. She then said that the US was pressing the Egyptian government to follow through. The ways the government could do this is to allow peaceful protesters (men and women) to express themselves, lift emergency law, and reassert judicial independence. Rice also, in a bit of an escalation, said that Egypt's fall elections for president and parliament should permit equal time for opposition figures to campaign and move about the country. She called for international monitors to be present for both elections and to have unrestricted access. Also, she noted that the Egyptian government must embrace the rule and accept the outcome of the elections. Following this, she got ideological about democracy in a fairly polarizing manner. Rice argued that democracy can never be imposed (only tyranny is). Democracy, she said, had to be a homegrown effort. She rejected claims that democracy leads to chaos by saying that inclusion lifts the fears of difference in a society. She refuted that democracy leads to a decline in social institutions and morals. Then, the speech got into the Greater Middle East Initiative phase as she noted that education and the participation of women are key for introducing democratic development. Then, in a manner that looked less preachy than directly lecturing, she talked about her personal experiences as an African-American woman growing up in the south around the time of the civil rights movement. ___________________ Condi2 In the Q&A portion of her appearance, there were several questions from an array of folks. Basically, there were a few journalists who asked about Egypt and the region. A second group of people that spoke about their personal projects and lives and how democracy rocked without a clear question. Then, there were the questions from the front six rows. These were reserved seating for mainly NDP middle-ranking figures. Their questions had nothing to do with Egypt. They, instead, talked about subjects such as Palestine and US-European cooperation towards the Middle East. The secretary was rather long-winded when answering those questions. Basically, the people that talked about themselves and the NDP characters were wasting Q&A time. A few journalists were randomly selected to ask questions (there was no vetting of questions as has been reported with other Rice trips such as the February trip to the Paris high-school). Whether those of us in attendance were vetted or not, I don't know. But I don't think so as I was not asked any questions about my political affinities. One reporter asked her if she spoke to the president about protesters being assaulted and if they were talking with the Muslim Brotherhood. She explained that the US government has spoken to the Egyptian authorities about the "sad" event of protesters being attacked. That was about it on that subject. Rice said that the US government has no contacts with the Brotherhood. She argued that they were engaged with civil society in deference to Egypt's legal framework but that "we have not engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood. And we won't." This seemed to contradict the secretary's portion of the speech which pointed out the democracy means that everyone is included. By using the technicality that she was basing Egyptian law as the policy anchor, this got around the issue of including the MB and its support base in Egypt. Another question got her to say that there is not a plan of action if Egypt's fall elections are not free and fair. Rather, the US government was concentrating on making elections free and fair from now and that they were saying what is expected. She reiterated that the constitutional amendment was a step in the right direction but that it must now be advanced to open the political system. She then said a couple days ago Egyptian FM, Ahmad Abul-Ghait, said that the elections would be free, fair, and transparent. Although she did not say as much, she seemed to take a contented but we will wait and see approach. As she was concluding, Rice drew on her own experience again. She said that people in the US used to say that African-Americans were not ready for or did not want democracy. She said that this was patronizing view in the extreme. A group of friends smirked as this is a frequent refrain spouted by government officials here about Egypt's citizens. I am sure that it was intentional but she did not overtly link it. There were reports this morning that Rice was going to give the Egyptian government a "bloody nose" today, but I am not so sure that was the result. Perhaps this can be a subject of debate in the Arabist's Comments section. Also, there should be more news following her meetings in Heliopolis. _______ SIDE NOTES: No opposition members or movements (read Ayman Nor or Kifaya) were mentioned by her in her speech or responses to questions. Apparently, it is diplomatic nicety not to mention opposition groups or figures when discussing friendly regimes in formal settings. Former US Ambassador to Cairo and current Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, David Welch, and Elliott Abrams, GW Bush's deputy national security adviser, were some of the top US officials in the audience. _____ And the Opposition not Meeting with Condi? The Kifaya offshoots - the Youth for Change (responsible for the Sayida Zaynib Demo last Wednesday) and Doctors for Change - held an hour long demonstration from 1-2pm at Dar al-Quda al-Uliya on Ramsis Street. The protest had two objectives: 1) To protest Rice's visit and 2) to show solidarity for detainees of the Youth for Change movement. According to those there, about 150 people participated. The central chant of the day was "Idee Mubarak Visa, wa Khudi ma'aki ya Condoleezza." Or for the non-Arabic speakers, "Give Mubarak a Visa and Take him with you Condoleezza." ________ Condi3 More later.....
Read More

Condoleezza Rice's Remarks from her Cairo Speech at AUC

Remarks of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice At the American University of Cairo Monday, June 20, 2005 Thank you, Dr. Mustafa, for that kind introduction. I am honored to be here in the great and ancient city of Cairo. The United States values our strategic relationship and our strengthening economic ties with Egypt. And American presidents since Ronald Reagan have benefited from the wisdom and counsel of President Mubarak, whom I had the pleasure of meeting again today. The people of America and Egypt have always desired to visit one another and learn from one another. The highest ideals of our partnership are embodied here, at the American University of Cairo. This great center of learning has endured and thrived -- from the days when our friendship was stormy, to today, when it is strong. Throughout its history, Egypt has always led this region through its moments of greatest decision. In the early 19th century, it was the reform-minded dynasty of Muhammad Ali that distinguished Egypt from the Ottoman Empire and began to transform it into the region’s first modern nation. In the early 20th century, it was the forward-looking Wafd Party that rose in the aftermath of the First World War and established Cairo as the liberal heart of the “Arab Awakening.” And just three decades ago, it was Anwar Sadat who showed the way forward for the entire Middle East -- beginning difficult economic reforms and making peace with Israel. In these periods of historic decision, Egypt’s leadership was as visionary as it was essential for progress. In our own time, we are faced with equally momentous choices -- choices that will echo for generations to come. In this time of great decision, I have come to Cairo not to talk about the past, but to look to the future -- a future that Egyptians can lead and define. Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty. And as these people gain the power to choose, they create democratic governments to protect their natural rights. We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens -- because the ideal of democracy is universal. For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people. As President Bush said in his Second Inaugural Address: “America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.” We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. Our goals are idealistic. But our policies must be practical. And progress must be evident. When we talk about democracy, we are referring to governments that protect certain basic rights for all their citizens -- among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate. The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children -- boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police. Securing these rights is the hope of every citizen, and the duty of every government. In my own country, the progress of democracy has been long and difficult. And given our history, the United States has no cause for false pride and every reason for humility. America was founded by individuals who knew that all human beings -- and the governments they create -- are inherently imperfect. After all, the United States was born half free and half slave. And it was only in my lifetime that my government guaranteed the right to vote for all of its people. Nevertheless, the principles enshrined in our Constitution enable citizens of conviction to move us ever closer to the ideal of democracy. Here in the Middle East, the long hopeful process of democratic change is now beginning to unfold. Millions of people are demanding freedom for themselves and democracy for their countries. To these courageous men and women, I say today: All free nations will stand with you as you secure the blessings of your own liberty. I just came from Jordan, where I met with the King and Queen -- two leaders who have embraced reform for many years. Jordan’s education reforms are an example for the region. And the government is moving toward political reforms that will decentralize power and give Jordanians a greater stake in their future. In Iraq, millions of citizens are refusing to surrender to terror their dream of freedom and democracy. When Baghdad was first designed, over twelve-hundred years ago, it was conceived as the “Round City” -- a city in which no citizen would be closer to the center of justice than any other. Today -- after decades of murder, and tyranny, and injustice -- the citizens of Iraq are again reaching for the ideals of the Round City. Despite the violent attacks of evil men, ordinary Iraqis are displaying great personal courage and remarkable resolve. And every step of the way -- from regaining sovereignty, to holding elections, to now writing a constitution -- the people of Iraq are exceeding all expectations. The Palestinian people have also spoken. And their freely-elected government is working to seize the best opportunity in years to fulfill their historic dream of statehood. Courageous leaders, both Palestinians and Israelis, are dedicated to the cause of peace. And they are working to build shared trust. The Palestinian Authority will soon take control of Gaza -- a first step toward realizing the vision of two democratic states living side by side in peace and security. As the Palestinians fight terror, and the Israelis fulfill their responsibilities to help create the conditions for a viable state, the entire world -- especially Egypt and the United States -- will continue to offer its full support. In Lebanon, supporters of democracy are demanding independence from foreign masters. After the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, thousands of Lebanese citizens called for change. And when the murder of journalist Samir Qaseer reminded everyone of the reach and brutality of terror, the Lebanese people still were not afraid. They mourned their fellow patriot by uniting publicly with pens and pencils held aloft. It is not only the Lebanese people who desire freedom from Syria’s police state. The Syrian people themselves share that aspiration. One hundred and seventy-nine Syrian academics and human rights activists are calling upon their government to “let the Damascus spring flower, and let its flowers bloom.” Syria’s leaders should embrace this call -- and learn to trust their people. The case of Syria is especially serious, because as its neighbors embrace democracy or other political reforms, Syria is harboring or directly supporting groups committed to violence -- in Lebanon, in Israel, in Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories. It is time for Syria to make a strategic choice to join the progress all around it. In Iran, people are losing patience with an oppressive regime that denies them their liberty and their rights. The appearance of elections does not mask the organized cruelty of Iran’s theocratic state. The Iranian people are capable of liberty. They desire liberty. And they deserve liberty. The time has come for the unelected few to release their grip on the aspirations of the proud people of Iran. In Saudi Arabia, brave citizens are demanding accountable government. And some first steps toward openness have been taken with recent municipal elections. Yet many people still pay an unfair price for exercising their basic rights. Three individuals in particular are currently imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their government -- and this should not be a crime in any country. Here in Cairo, President Mubarak’s decision to amend his country’s constitution and hold multiparty elections is encouraging. President Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. But now, the Egyptian government must put its faith in its own people. We are all concerned for the future of Egypt’s reforms when peaceful supporters of democracy -- men and women -- are not free from violence. The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees -- and when the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice. The Egyptian government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people -- and to the entire world -- by giving its citizens the freedom to choose. Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election. Opposition groups must be free to assemble, and participate, and speak to the media. Voting should occur without violence or intimidation. And international election monitors and observers must have unrestricted access to do their jobs. Those who would participate in elections, both supporters and opponents of the government, also have responsibilities. They must accept the rule of law, reject violence, respect the standards of free elections, and peacefully accept the results. Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy. There are those who say that democracy is being imposed. In fact, the opposite is true: Democracy is never imposed. It is tyranny that is imposed. People choose democracy freely. And successful reform is always homegrown. Just look around the world today. For the first time in history, more people are citizens of democracies than of any other form of government. This is the result of choice, not coercion. There are those who say that democracy leads to chaos, conflict, and terror. In fact, the opposite is true: Freedom and democracy are the only ideas powerful enough to overcome hatred, division, and violence. For people of diverse races and religions, the inclusive nature of democracy can lift the fear of difference that some believe is a license to kill. But people of goodwill must choose to embrace the challenge of listening, and debating, and cooperating with one another. For neighboring countries with turbulent histories, democracy can help to build trust and settle old disputes with dignity. But leaders of vision and character must commit themselves to the difficult work that nurtures the hope of peace. And for all citizens with grievances, democracy can be a path to lasting justice. But the democratic system cannot function if certain groups have one foot in the realm of politics and one foot in the camp of terror. There are those who say that democracy destroys social institutions and erodes moral standards. In fact, the opposite is true: The success of democracy depends on public character and private virtue. For democracy to thrive, free citizens must work every day to strengthen their families, to care for their neighbors, and to support their communities. There are those who say that long-term economic and social progress can be achieved without free minds and free markets. In fact, human potential and creativity are only fully released when governments trust their people’s decisions and invest in their people’s future. Education -- for men and for women -- transforms their dreams into reality and enables them to overcome poverty. There are those who say that democracy is for men alone. In fact, the opposite is true: Half a democracy is not a democracy. As one Muslim woman leader has said, “Society is like a bird. It has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing is broken.” Across the Middle East, women are inspiring us all. In Kuwait, women protested to win their right to vote, carrying signs that declared: “Women are Kuwaitis, too.” Last month, Kuwait’s legislature voiced its agreement. In Saudi Arabia, the promise of dignity is awakening in some young women. During the recent municipal elections, I saw a father go to vote with his daughter. Rather than cast his vote himself, he gave it to his daughter, and she placed it in the ballot box. This small act of hope reveals one man’s dream for his daughter. And he is not alone. Ladies and Gentlemen: Across the Middle East today, millions of citizens are voicing their aspirations for liberty and democracy. These men and women are expanding boundaries in ways many thought impossible just one year ago. They are demonstrating that all great moral achievements begin with individuals who do not accept that the reality of today must also be the reality of tomorrow. There was a time, not long ago, when liberty was threatened by slavery. The moral worth of my ancestors, it was thought, should be valued by the demand of the market, not by the dignity of the soul. This practice was sustained through violence. But the crime of human slavery could not withstand the power of human liberty. What seemed impossible in one century became inevitable in the next. There was also a time, even more recently, when liberty was threatened by colonialism. It was believed that certain peoples required foreign masters to rule their lands and run their lives. Like slavery, this ideology of injustice was enforced through oppression. But when brave people demanded their rights, the truth that freedom is the destiny of every nation rang throughout the world. What seemed impossible in one decade became inevitable in the next. Today, liberty is threatened by undemocratic governments. Some believe this is a permanent fact of history. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, there are others who know better. These impatient patriots can be found in Baghdad and Beirut, in Riyadh and Ramallah, in Amman and Tehran and right here in Cairo. Together, they are defining a new standard of justice for our time -- a standard that is clear, and powerful, and inspiring: Liberty is the universal longing of every soul, and democracy is the ideal path for every nation. The day is coming when the promise of a fully free and democratic world, once thought impossible, will also seem inevitable. The people of Egypt should be at the forefront of this great journey, just as you have led this region through the great journeys of the past. A hopeful future is within reach of every Egyptian citizen -- and every man and woman in the Middle East. The choice is yours to make. But you are not alone. All free nations are your allies. So together, let us choose liberty and democracy -- for our nations, for our children, and for our future.
Read More