Wanted — put a name to these faces

Above are pictures of soldiers, police and plainclothes participants — on SCAF's side — in the last week's protests. There are many more on Jonathan Rashad's site.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Parallel dimensions

This is a good video juxtaposing officials' speeches with the actions of protestors. We added the subtitles for non-Arabic speakers to get the jist of it, but you can see the original video here. The official speaking is Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal Ganzouri.

Notes on the #occupycabinet protest

Above, Jonathan Rachad's photography of the recent protests.

Some good narratives of the days of fighting:

Extremely graphic video of treatment of wounded, dying.

Al Jazeera English report by Sherine Tadros on the violence and SCAF's press conference.

Possibilities of a political solution:

There have been various initiatives to obtain a ceasefire between protestors and the armed forces, but to no avail. A number of public personalities are now gravitating towards another option: moving presidential elections even earlier to get SCAF out of power as soon as possible. A Facebook campaign has been started and obtained the backing of various personalities. The former prime minister, Essam Sharaf, is also backing earlier presidential elections (I say "earlier" because in mid-November, after the Mohammed Mahmoud St. clashes, they were just moved from sometime in 2013 to June 2012). 

Most political parties have remained silent on this matter. The Muslim Brotherhood has issues a series of messages condemning the clashes and the military's behavior, but only issued a vague call for investigations. Mohammed Beltagi of the FJP has however gone further in his critique and suggested a handover of SCAF's power to parliament instead of a presidential election (obviously this benefits them). Abu Ela Madi, the head of the al-Wassat Party (MB dissidents), has resigned from the SCAF's consultative council (he was deputy head) along with 10 other personalities and is now joining calls for SCAF to step down as soon as possible.

Other links: 

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

The girl

The picture of this girl has been a major topic of debate on Egyptian talk shows tonight — with some SCAF defenders arguing it was photoshopped — and is on the cover of tomorrow's Tahrir newspaper. Below is the video that shows her and a companion being chased, then beaten by soldiers.

"Liars"

The headline on the cover of tomorrow's editor of al-Tahrir newspaper, by Khalid Abdala
Via Cairowire via TheMiinz on Twitter.
(sorry earlier version said "they lied", the photo is dark I did not see the "nun" at the end.

Egypt, Pakistan, the US and the "right side of history"

Congress is going ahead with plans to make aid to Egypt, including military aid, contingent on Egypt’s relations with Israel and a successful transition:

Reflecting concerns about uncertainty within the Egyptian government, the bill would restrict $1.3 billion in security assistance to Cairo and $250 million in economic assistance until the secretary of state certifies to Congress that Egypt is abiding by a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, military rulers are supporting the transition to civilian government with free and fair elections and “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion and due process of law.” 

These and other restrictions — notably on the Palestinan Authority and Pakistan — carry “national security wavers” — meaning the Secretary of State can easily lift them. ( Read more: Congress moves to restrict aid to Egypt, Pakistan )

Meanwhile Mamoun Fendi says Egypt could be come worse than Pakistan and underlines Tantawi’s experience in that country during the abominable reign of Zia al-Haq:

The past experience of three major players on the Egyptian political scene ― the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the US Embassy and Islamists ― suggests that Egypt may soon come to resemble Pakistan.

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Egypt, still the land of denial

Army officers beating protestors / watchers. (Stupid music unnecessary, particularly when in the background someone seems to be yelling “the journalist died” or something similar [1:20].

More beatings with truncheons, rock-throwing by soldiers.

Here you can clearly see uniformed troops throwing rocks from the top of the government building adjacent to parliament.

From the same rooftop, a uniformed soldier relieving himself on the roof — doing the Egyptian army proud.

The government would have you believe all of the above is untrue, did not happen, and was done by foreigners anyway: Ganzouri blames cabinet clashes on ‘foreign elements’:

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri on Saturday accused “foreign elements” of stirring up riots outside Egypt’s cabinet building.

In a press conference, he also said military police have exercised self-control in dealing with protesters.

Eight people have died and at least 299 injured in the clashes, the Health Ministry reported earlier on Saturday.

“Elements that infiltrated the protest shot fire. Everything that is happening now has nothing to do with the revolution. This is intended to ruin the revolution,” Ganzouri said.

He went on to say that revolutionary youth are those who fight unemployment or seek to solve society’s problems, adding, “Those who carry out these acts are not revolutionaries and do not want the best for Egypt.”

“Once again I emphasize that military forces did not clash with them, and only guarded the parliament and cabinet building,” he said.

Someone — a behavioral psychologist perhaps — should do a study of the power of denial in Egypt, something I’ve long called the Egyptian Reality Distortion Field (ERDF — used in another with regards to Steve Jobs). The ERDF gives Egyptians, notably public officials, an uncanny ability to disregard what is plain for all to see and, with the utmost confidence, assure all comers of its opposite. Ganzouri today described people dying during the protests and then insisted “there was no violence” before storming out of his press conference. Last October the SCAF insisted no army truck ran over protestors despite much video evidence being available of exactly that.

The most incredible thing about the ERDF is that it seems to work on most of the population, giving many Egyptians the ability to assert one thing and then its opposite with no awareness of self-contradiction. You have to experience it to understand it. Much of it has to do with Egypt being the Blanche Dubois of the Middle East — a faded belle whose glory days have long gone but who keeps on pretending otherwise — and is all too often indulged (somewhat abusively) by those around her. Apparently, a country can suffer from post-menopausal hysteria.1

As Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter:

Since #Jan25, innocents continue to be killed & tortured while authority denies using force or violence. Orwell’s “Min. of Truth” reincarnated


  1. I only use the hysteria reference for theatric effect in the context of the Streetcar metaphor, with apology. Read this for debunking. ↩

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

On the #occupycabinet protests

I won’t recap here the events of this morning in which several protestors from the #occupycabinet sit-in on Magles al-Shaab St., where the prime minister’s office and parliament are located, were arrested, wounded and/or beaten. You can take a look at Aya Batrawy’s reporting for AP, excerpted at the end of this post, for context. Suffice to say that, from what appears to have been an accident (an activist entering the gardens of the parliament building to retrieve a football was arrested and mistreated) we now have a return to the kind of street warfare seen a few weeks ago on Mohammed Mahmoud St.

As you can see from the video above, which I shot this afternoono, it’s not quite as violent as that. But the battle is now blocking Qasr al-Aini St., one of Cairo’s major arteries, and has been stagnant for hours. No riot control police has been deployed, and you have a few hundred of protestors on one side vs. a few hundred plainclothes police and, possibly, some soldiers on the other. No decision has been taken all day to stop the violence, and those plainclothes police are engaged in the same rock-throwing and Motolov cocktail-throwing as the protestors. There does not seem to be any authority there, or chain of command, and my bet is that the SCAF are paralyzed about what to do. Send in Military Police or riot control police and you risk an escalation.

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