We have a guest post from occasional (and valued) contributor Parastou Hassouri on the protests by artists and intellectuals that have been going on for some time now at the Ministry of Culture in Cairo.
Over the past week, I have been attending, with some regularity, the protests that are being staged in front of the Culture Ministry in Zamalek.
The protests/sit-in have been taking place on a daily basis since June 5th, when the demonstrators, many of them members of the artistic community, broke into and occupied the Culture Ministry building to demand the removal of the newly-appointed Minister of Culture, Alaa Abdel Aziz, whom they see as trying to “Ikhwanize” the arts. Alaa Abdel Aziz, who was appointed by President Morsi during a cabinet shake-up in early May, promptly alienated the artistic community (often referred to as the muthaqafeen, literally “the cultured”) by firing the heads of the General Egyptian Book Organization, the Fine Arts Sector, the Cairo Opera House, and the National Library and Archives. His firing of the Opera House Director Ines Abdel Dayem, in particular, aggrieved the artistic community and catalyzed them into action. On May 27, the opening night of Aida, the Opera House curtains lifted on performers and staff in full costume holding anti-brotherhood signs and chanting for the downfall of the regime. Read More
The Arabist's secret asset, Nour The Intern, visited Ismailiya last week and wrote this dispatch about an anti-Morsi rally (specifically focused on a proposed Suez Canal development law). Enjoy.
“They are as bored as they are politically divided,” I thought as I watched a group of young bearded men walk right past the wooden stage of the anti-MB “Da’ Canaly” (which translates to “Leave my canal”) public conference in Ismailia. They just shook their heads and waved their hands dismissively, apparently not provoked enough to mention Allah's take on infidels. Read More
In response to a remark on Twitter by Amira Howeidy, Nathan Brown is updating his take on the SCC's rulings we recently published. Here is a (lengthy) addendum.
A closer reading of the second (Constituent Assembly) ruling suggests I got one thing absolutely right and one thing absolutely wrong. But this is a very complicated ruling, because the SCC is sorting through all sorts of issues (standing, jurisdiction, governing constitutional text, etc). So I would love to hear others weigh in!
What I said before was that the SCC struck down the law by which the Constituent Assembly was elected that this had little effect on the constitution. That is what I got right.
What I now think I got wrong was that I said this tossed the matter back to the administrative courts but did so too late to make any difference. But a closer reading suggests the ruling does not toss the matter back to the administrative courts; it seems to argue they shouldn’t have been involved in the first place. And if I read the ruling right (and I may not!) the implication is that the first Constituent Assembly should never have been dissolved—which is again, the opposite of how I read the verdict first. Read More
Nathan Brown has read the recent, controversial verdicts of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court (official text here) and has kindly sent this initial take — helping us common mortals make sense of the world's most constitutionally complicated political transition. My own basic take is this: legal victory for the Brotherhood and its allies, but much to use for the opposition for its campaign of delegitimization.
On 2 June, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) issued three rulings—one on the constitutionality of the Maglis al-Shura election law; one on the Constituent Assembly law; and one on a provision of the Emergency Law. It struck down all three, but the implications confused many observers. That is not urprising--the legal questions are so complicated (with constitutions, constitutional declarations flying through the air, cancelling, contradicting, and clarifying each other) that the Court had to spend a lot of time figuring out what the relevant constitutional text was and how to apply its rulings. The judgment on the Constituent Assembly in particular reads a bit like a Rubik’s Cube.
What follows are some brief notes based on an initial reading of the verdicts. This is a very quick set of reactions based on a first reading of the decisions. I hope readers will forgive any resulting errors of emphasis or interpretation. Read More
This past week, major demonstrations took place in Istanbul, at first over the redevelopment of a city park but then, following a police crackdown in the park and nearby Taksim Square, against the ruling AKP Party in general. Thousands of protestors are still in Istanbul, hundreds of cops are being sent in to contain them with tear gas and water cannons, and now solidarity protests are taking place throughout the country (as well as outside of Turkish embassies in Europe). Limited coverage by the Turkish affiliates of SKY News (SKY Turk 360) and CNN (CNN Türk) has drawn criticism, and some other Turkish outlets like NTV (which has a partnership with MSNBC) and HaberTurk also shied away from extensive coverage, with critics hinting this was due to the increasing consolation of Turkish media by pro-AKP businessmen and foreign networks’ deference to Ankara. And earlier, some - but not all - domestic newspapers began filling up with editorials discussing whether or not PM Erdogan has gone too far. Read More
That is the question that has riled Egypt over the past week, as the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), in its latest bout of judicial jujitsu, has decreed that – in accordance with the new constitution – since the electoral franchise is supposed to be universal, the previous ban on uniformed services from voting should be lifted. This has triggered howls of outrage by Islamists, who see the judiciary giving the police and army the right to vote as tantamount to vote-rigging, and has been welcomed (to various degrees, and not by all means unanimously) by their opponents.
The recommendation came as part of the SCC's review of a new elections law and a law on parliament – a review that itself is mandated by the new constitution. The SCC's ruling appears correct: since the new constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens, and makes no mention of an exemption from voting for employees for conscripts, officers, and/or policemen, it stands to reason that they should not be denied the right to vote. Of course, there were no provisions preventing the military and police from voting under the previous constitution, so the SCC appears to have, in this case, made a recommendation that went against longstanding practice – or perhaps more simply it had never had the occasion to rule on this issue before, since it did not get to review legislation under the previous constitution.
A first take to this decision is that it shows, yet again, how foolish the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists were to rush ahead with a constitution that has already come back to bite them in many respects. And their reaction is proving yet more foolish, notably in the shape of calls for the SCC to be abolished altogether because it is seen (despite having been purged by the new constitution of many of its most anti-Islamist components) that are escalating the crisis between the government and the judiciary (judges are now threatening a national strike in response to a draft judicial reform law). Read More
I often choose Fahmy Howeidy's articles to translate in this series not because they are particularly brilliant, but because they are widely read, generally pretty cogent and quite influential on elite opinion. The kidnapping (and subsequent release) of six policemen and one soldier in Sinai last week is one occasion for Howeidy to do what he does well: provide a bigger framework on an issue, analyzing in passing the way the media has handled a crisis while providing some long-term perspective. In the piece below, he looks at the situation in Sinai in the context of Egypt's lingering political crisis, its unresolved strategic approach to the Sinai (and therefore the Israel) question, and more. While elements of the column show his usual moderately pro-Islamist bias (he rightly raises the conspiracy theories and Morsi-bashing of the press, but does not mention that just has some saw a MB-Hamas hand behind the kidnapping, senior MB leaders chose to blame Muhammad Dahlan), what's more significant is his take on the need to restore full Egyptian sovereignty over Sinai and thus revise the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. As he puts it:
the only way to deal with such issues in Sinai is to restore Egypt's complete sovereignty over its territory, while the only way to do that is to re-examine the peace treaty to make it serve Egypt’s security interests, and not just Israel’s.
That, of course, would suggest a renegotiation between the two states. Which means an explicit endorsement of the treaty by the current president, from the Muslim Brotherhood, and presumably an Islamist-led parliament.
Our In Translation series is made possible with the support of the industrious Arabists over at Industry Arabic. Do try them out. Read More