NDP sues Kifaya

Just where do they get the balls: Al Masri Al Youm, the quite reliable independent daily, today had an article claiming that five members of the National Democratic Party were suing three Kifaya leaders -- George Ishak (one of Kifaya'ss main organizers, but who is rather elderly to be violent), Muhammad Abdel Qudous (a portly Muslim Brother in his late fifties) and Amir Salem (a journalist who also runs a NGO) -- on the ground that they had insulted and hit them. Apparently, the claimants have presented at least one medical document as evidence that they were beaten. The prosecutor of the Qasr Al Nil district court has asked the three Kifaya members to come to court to answer questions. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black...
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Alex admin/student switch for Laura Bush's Visit to school

This is reproduced from an email I just received: This item is from the London-based Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayat (May 29, 2005):
CAIRO - Egyptian Parliament member Hamdi Hassan demanded an immediate investigation into a report that the Education Department, in preparing for a visit by US First Lady Laura Bush to a school in Alexandria last week, replaced the administration and students of the entire school in order to present a better image to the visiting dignitary.
The MP said in his official investigation request that “there is no talk in Alexandria right now except on this forgery scandal that took place during the visit of Mrs. Bush to the school of Um-Al-Qura.” He revealed that, "The school’s entire administration and students were replaced with a different administration and students in order to perform their own show in front of Mrs. Bush."
He added that the Education Department officials, in preparing for the visit to the school funded by USAID money, “ordered the teachers and students to stay home, and prepared alternatives for them. The Department ordered the administrators and teachers of another distinguished school to be prepared and brought them to Um-Al-Qura school to perform the show.” MP Hamdi said in his letter, “that this trick was not noticed by Mrs. Laura and her intelligence bodies. But what would have been the case had she found out?”
He added, “It seems that the appearance of the school’s original administrators and students would not have been appreciated by the US First Lady, as she would have seen poor faces obviously suffering malnutrition. Thus, Egyptian officials wanted her to see, instead, an administrators and children who looked better to prove that they have benefited from the traces of the generous US aid aimed at developing schools and the education system.”
________ I don't know the validity of this claim. It was in al-Hayat so it should get the benefit of the doubt. If this is the case....Ouch, the scandals just keep emerging.
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Linking Laura Bush with Egyptian Female Protesters

Today, the WaPo has an editorial where Eugene Robinson links Laura Bush's visit to the region on behalf of women's rights with the beatings that occurred on the 25th in Cairo during a national referendum. The heart of the editorial is:
U.S. involvement in the Middle East deepens every day, as the Bush administration struggles to push autocratic regimes toward democracy. Ultimately the moral responsibility to ensure that women are liberated along with men falls upon the president. But I'm hoping the first lady doesn't forget that she now has personally invited women in the Arab world to dream forbidden dreams.
If she had stayed in Cairo a few more days, and seen police allow pro-government thugs to pummel anti-Mubarak demonstrators in the streets, she might have noticed, as reporters did, that the goons singled out women for especially rough treatment. That's the challenge that the president faces -- and that I hope Laura Bush now feels she shares.
_______ The reason to post this is that many in Egypt's activist circles have questioned if they mismanaged the symbolism around the First Lady's visit (she departed the day before the referendum vote). Tomorrow when the demonstrators, clad in black or with white ribbons, take to Cairo's streets again we will see if Washington is watching. If more violence rules the day and tame comments follow from Washington, then we will know that Laura Bush's women's rights rhetoric is as empty as her husband's regarding supporting democracy and freedom in Egypt.
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al-`Arabi's Front Page

UPDATED: This morning I grabbed a copy of al-`Arabi. Without reading an article or a column yet, it is safe to say it is the Egyptian paper most critical of last week's events. Al-Arabi Below the pictures of three different women being assaulted, the headlines say: "The Police in the service of 'sexually assaulting' Egyptian women'" "We Demand President Mubarak to Apologize to the Egyptian People" "The Journalist Syndicate demands the resignation of the interior minister and prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of Black Wednesday" "Popular and international protests insist the Regime open the door to investigations in front of the Prosecutor General" __________ After I get the opportunity to read Abd al-Halim Qandil and Abdalla al-Senawi, I will try to give a summery of what is sure to be harshly worded editorials.
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Where is Egypt's NCHR?

In light of an article on the National Council for Human Rights that is coming out next week in MER, I am curious if anyone has seen it referenced in the past week. More specifically, has anyone heard anything from Egypt's NCHR regarding last week's electoral violence? My guess Abul-Magd and the boys are going to choose to handle this quietly (as they do most human rights violations). The council, which has been much debated following the release of their report in April 2005, is now yet again in the middle of a mess. Its members like to emphasize their social credibility as a measure of their independence but silence is their weapon of choice in combating HR violations. Does anyone remember Northern Sinai last November and December when 2,500 citizens were detained (some tortured)? The NCHR was silent then and I suspect will remain so. _____________ At least the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (albeit EOHR was a little generous in not being to overt about women that were attacked) have stepped up to publicly condemn regime thuggery. This flies in the face of the government claims that journalists injured were collateral damage, innocents caught up in the mix of sparing groups. Meanwhile, the response from the NDP's influential policies secretariat has been that competition among the opposition parties will help "expand the scope of political choice for citizens". Expanding political choices in a polity where only one real choice is available. Nicely confusing to be sure. It is all a little too much Orwellian double-speak for Cairenes following the situation.
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AmCham Luncheon

Today the American Chamber of Commerce hosted NDP policies secretariat chairman Gamal Mubarak, who gave a press conference at the Four Seasons. Gleaned from foreign press journalists invited to attend, Gamal gave a presentation which mainly dealt with economic - rather than political - issues. After the presentation, a Q&A section followed. Rather than directly taking questions from the audience and press, questions were written down and vetted on stage before the moderator asked Gamal to respond to a selection. During the Q&A, Gamal took questions that deal with the "historic initiative" of the constitutional amendment and how Egypt is working to sign a FTA agreement with the US. Another question that Gamal tackled was the rather general "why is economic reform going faster than political reform" query. The details of today's meeting should be published on the AmCham website in the coming days. ABC, BBC, LA Times, and the Washington Post posed written questions asking whether there would be investigations regarding the women sexually assaulted last Wednesday and if the crackdown on opposition was a contradiction with the policies secretariat's view of the reform process. None of their questions were selected by the moderator. After the meeting ended, the foreign press stringers went to the podium where they were cut off by AmCham's executive director (Hisham Fahmy) and executive V-P (Gamal Muhharam). As one stringer told me, "They switched from speaking about democracy in American accents to treating us like we were in a local coffee shop." According to reports, "Fahmy and Muhharam started saying things in Arabic like 'you all don't have manners and are rude,' 'you are not invited again to an AmCham event,' and 'if you ask those types of questions, you should go and talk to the Americans about them'." The Western affiliated journalists were offended and told them not to invite them anymore and that it was a waste of time. ________ So much for damage control... This is another example of how not to win hearts and minds of the Western press. Yet, rather that chalking this up to government/AmCham mishandling/stupidity, there may be another explanation. Based on recent statements coming from government and its appendices - it seems that the Egyptian government is feeling extra-confident that there is not going to be any follow-up Western pressure. Washington....Are they right? If they are -really- shame on you. _____________ UPDATE: The text of Gamal Mubarak's speech at the AMCHAM luncheon is now available.
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The Egyptian government responds

According to Reuters, the Egyptian government is responding to the accounts of violence against demonstrators last Wednesday. According to the report:
Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad told Reuters he believed the U.S. comments and media coverage in the United States and elsewhere were "unfair and unjustified".
"When you have more than 54,000 electoral units nationwide, (and) when you have two sad, unacceptable incidents taking place in the greater Cairo area, this is not something to be exaggerated in the way some circles did."
Later on, Awad said:
[The] public prosecutor Maher Abdel Wahed was investigating victims' complaints. Asked if there would be arrests, he said: "This is something to be decided by the judiciary."
________ Rather than condemn what happened, the government is blaming the international media for focusing on the violence rather than the polling stations. But then, again, it is difficult to do 'damage control' with the international press when women working for that press are being groped and kicked by thugs. This is a case where the government is blaming the messenger rather than the message its security forces were ordered to send.
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Makram-Ebied resigns from al-Ghad

In a text from al-Ghad party member, Wael Nawara:
"Mona Makram Ebeid, Secretary-General of El Ghad, had today resigned from the party for what she described as 'Personal reasons in addition to internal division.'
We realize that these are difficult times for anyone to be in opposition in Egypt. We respect Dr. Mona's decision and wish her well."
Will this be an isolated incident or will the government make a move to exploit the "internal divisions" which could lead to the party being frozen like several of its predecessors. At last count, 7 out of 19 political parties, including the Liberals (Ahrar) and Labor, are frozen.
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al-`Arabi newspaper delayed

al-`Arabi newspaper, the voice of the Nasserist opposition party, has been delayed for at least 24 hours. Usually, the highly critical paper is released on Sunday morning but can be picked up at a news-agent on Saturday night. The paper's editorial staff is saying that it has been delayed but will be available by this evening. It seems censorship/delays are on the rise in the wake of last week - with the Brotherhood's site only intermittently available and the Kifaya site down. Updates to follow. UPDATE: I spoke to Abd al-Halim Qandil and there appears to have been a problem with al-`Arabi's computers rather than a censorship issue. Yesterday was a slightly paranoid day for censorship. But…one has that in such a climate. Apologies for jumping to conclusions.
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Egypt's beaten women pledge to fight on

Below is a profile by WaPo's Daniel Williams regarding one woman's experience last Wednesday. The story was published on 27 May. I could not locate it on theWaPo website but found it via MSNBC. Williams' profile can be found here. The LA Times' Megan Stack also had quotes from this victim in her article on 26 May. ra Raba` Fahmy was one of the women I saw assaulted at the Journalist Syndicate. I have some pictures of her in the middle of a crowd of attackers but it is near-impossible to see what is happening (other than she is trying to get away). Read her story and forward it. Raba's story is but one of several that are starting to be concisely told. Pictures of the assault on Raba` Fahmy are published here. ____________ One of the interesting aspects of these women who were horridly assaulted and beaten is that many Egyptians, relying on the Egyptian press, are not aware of it. Equally, I have received emails from foreigners in Cairo that are surprised to hear of the referendum violence. When Mohamed commented the other day that it was unclear who was watching the Egyptian scene, I was slightly taken aback. Yet, his point has merit. All indications point to increasing polarization between the opposition and the state. Many of the female Kifaya activists I have spoken with said that this was not a game and that it was far from over. One email explicitly said, "we will make them pay for what they did." _____ As the saying goes: Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned
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Stories/Rumors About Town

Last evening, I met up with my shilla (gang). It was partly a get-together to relax in the aftermath of the previous days, but also an apt setting to compare notes. Two interesting points are worthy of sharing (although there were others). 1: The Wafd newspaper sent a journalist out to see how many times he could vote during voting hours on the 25th. The reporter managed to vote eight times around Cairo (although he did not mention which way he voted). 2: The information ministry's press center is circulating an email and trying to touch base with Human Rights Watch in an effort to do, in their words, "damage control". _____________ NDP Policies Secretariat Chairman, Gamal Mubarak, is holding a press conference on Sunday at the Four Seasons. While I did not receive an invite (why should I have?), I may just have some friends who are ready with questions to pose to Mr. Mubarak. Stay posted for the press conference's details at the Arabist.
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HRW Press Release on the Referendum Violence

Human Rights Watch released a press release regarding the violence in Cairo on the 25th of May. Some of the key portions of the release are:
A witness to the Sa`d Zaghlul confrontation told Human Rights Watch that there were two separate groups totaling about 50 Kifaya demonstrators on the sidewalk, with a cordon of about a hundred riot police. On the street facing them was a larger group wearing NDP pins: At first the NDP crowd was just content to shout and threaten the Kifaya people that if they came out of the cordon they were in for a beating. The Kifaya group stood their ground, so the thugs changed tactics. The police would let a bunch of them cross into the Kifaya group, where they would single out one person to pull out to their side, all the while beating that person. They’d repeat that. It was almost choreographed, someone would say “attack” and then say “stop.” It was brutal but it was not chaotic.
Also, this passage of this incident from the Journalist Syndicate:
It was about 2 or 2:30 p.m. I was at the top of the steps of the syndicate building, to the left of the entrance. The steps were full of Kifaya people and I was on the edge of the crowd. There was a cordon of security and riot police on the street. I saw a group of NDP people come down the streets—they had Mubarak posters—and there were at least 20 riot police walking with them, looking like they were protecting them. The police at the bottom of the steps opened the cordon to let the NDP gang through to the demonstrators. The next thing I knew a gang of about 20 or 30 NDP guys came at us from the left. One of them groped and manhandled me. I tried to push him away and he shouted, “I have a lady, let her through.” This seemed to be a signal for others to attack me. They pulled my hair and ripped my shirt, touching me all over. All over. I started screaming in English. “Hey, she’s screaming in English,” they shouted. They grabbed the strap on my bag and pulled me to the ground. Then the kicking started, and more groping. They were laughing and cheering. I crawled closer to the stairs. Another NDP guy came. He pulled me up and told them to calm down. I ran down the stairs. The police at the bottom let me through to get away.
Lastly Joe Stork, the Washington Director of the MENA program at HRW, had this to say in response to Condi Rice's neutral response about Egypt's electoral violence: “This kind of mealy-mouthed talk from Washington must have been the best news President Mubarak had all day. When push came to shove, as it did literally in Cairo on Wednesday, the Bush administration’s commitment to reform looked bankrupt.” _______
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Referendum Results In

Tonight, it has been reported by the BBC that yesterday's referendum passed with 83-percent of the votes being "Yes." According to the Egyptian state 16.4 million of the 32 million (54-percent) eligible voters turned out nation-wide. UPDATE: Reuters is reporting that the initial electoral returns from the first two provinces showed that referendum was approved by 98-percent. Hence, it was the remaining 24 governateswhere all the "NO" votes came from - yeah right! ALSO: I had brunch with the scholar this morning. We were talking about the turnout and the 83-percent YES margin. Both of us felt it was manipulated to lower it. After all, as the scholar put it, that would mean "around 3 million people turned up to vote 'NO'." Actually, it would have been 2.77 million people voting NO. Based on the empirical finding we collected, this seems impossible. That said, however, we were in Cairo and not outside, where the government claims the polls were more active. But who are those 2.77 million naughty citizens voting no? Al-Masri al-Youm spoke with one voter who said no to changing the constitution. Why? Well, according to this guy, he did not want to change the system because he wants Hosni Mubarak and only Hosni Mubarak forever. He did his part by trying to make sure there won't be any democratic slips in Masr. After all, you never know what happens when you open-up the system.
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My Referendum Experience

DISCLAIMER: Everyone whose name I use was consulted for permission. ____________________________ There has already been much said about yesterday's referendum to amend constitutional article 76 and the accompanying violence against protesters (including the harassment and beatings of women) in Egypt. I doubt I have much to add or contribute. But I will try to give as full a description as possible of my account. Yesterday's events and incidents happened very quickly so excuse my delay in posting as I tried to tie everything together. Pictures I took can be found posted below on the Arabist or directly accessed here. I met up with two friends - the scholar and the photographer - around 930 am. We cabbed over to Agouza's National High School for Girls. Outside this polling station, there was a small smattering of people going to vote. There were signs outside that essentially indicated that a vote for the amendment was a vote for Mubarak, which was pretty confusing. Was one voting to amend the constitution or affirming a president chosen by the parliament? There was no doubt that the referendum was heavily connected to the NDP and the president (to a lesser extent). There was a copy of the ballot on the wall which basically said "Do you agree to amend article 76 of the constitution and add a new amendment entitled article 192 based on the law parliament passed on 10 May 2005?" Below in green, it read "Agree" and in Black "Disagree". Naturally the color choice was telling - green means go while black symbolizes tragedy. This, however, was better than the proposed alternative I have heard about in the days leading-up to the referendum. The rumor was that the referendum question would be "Do you agree to amend the constitution article 76?". That would of been general, which is usually how governments like to handle "reform". Some folks walked out of the Agouza station and were happy to see us. They wanted their pictures taken by their bus, which was adorned with slogans about Yes to Mubarak, stability, and democracy. The photographer and I snapped some shots. At the time, I was thinking that they believed if we put them in the papers, it would be seen as evidence or an extra affirmation of their "yes" vote on the ballot. Their story was typical. They work for the public sector company (in this case called Benzeyoun) and came on a bus with about 50 total to come and do their national duty. I asked a group of them how they voted and they outdid one another with thumbs ups and enthusiastic yeses. Afterwards we returned to the station's entrance. The interior ministry personnel at the gate were not keen about letting us in. We charmed them and went to the third floor where the voting was taking place. There were five polling stations (Lagaan) on the floor. Each station had 550 allocated voters according to one of the poll managers, who was friendly and open to questions the scholar put to him. We got the government line back but that was to be expected. At this point, it was around 1030 am and the manager we spoke with said 180 had voted. We left Agouza and went to a second school to see how the referendum was progressing elsewhere. We went to the Nasariya school off of Talat Harb and around the corner from the Tugammu and al-Ghad parties' HQs (as well as perhaps a more important reference: the Greek Club). The polling stations were in this incredibly beautiful but run-down school. Again, we sweet-talked our way in. In the building we entered there were three stations. The manager was overtly welcoming and willing to talk with us about democracy and whatnot. We hung out there for about 20 minutes with no voters showing up. I asked him about the voting and he reacted with shock. "You vote? you are not Egyptian...that is impossible," he exclaimed. I rephrased and said that I had no intention of voting but wanted to see Egyptians voting. Relieved, he smiled and said, "Wait a second, I'll grab someone for you." Within 60-seconds, a man entered all smiles, grabbed a ballot, checked "Agree", and placed it in the box slowly so that even the most ridiculously poor photographer could catch it. Under a portrait of the president, he deposited the ballot into a box that was not only unlocked but had the keys attached to it with a metal wire. Now, I am no election monitor, but even the most optimistic part of my logic was suspicious. We hung around some more. A couple people entered. One guy had his three sons with them (he voted, they did not). Then, as I looked around, I saw the manager overly active when anyone put anything into the box. He was more or less watching over them. Also, a face that I started to recognize more and more was the voter I photographed earlier. It turned out that he was sort of an assistant to the manager. Only God knows how many times he got to vote yesterday. The photographer, the scholar, and I were two-for-two at getting into polling stations. I am sure there had to be a judicial-type somewhere, but I did not see one. On our way out, I expressed concern that there were not many voters. The manager assured me to come after 1 pm and there were be "people pressure". I told him that I would try to get back. It was about 1145 am at this point and we were in the street talking to a member of al-Ghad and Tugammu. They were watching Gamila Ismail's (Ayman Nor's wife) SUV, which the security were threatening to tow away. The al-Ghad and Tugammu guys assured them Gamila on her way. After a while we took off to a coffee shop around the corner. By this time, the mobiles were ringing relentlessly. One journalist was at Cairo U, others were heading to Monira (by the Saad Zaghloul mausoleum), and still more went on about a demo at the journalist syndicate (off Ramsis street). The scholar, photographer, and I discussed a strategy. Then in mid-cup of coffee, we heard explosions of chants and cheers resonating from the main street. We gathered our things and returned to the polling station. We were told the NDP Secretary-General and long-time regime stalwart, Safwat al-Sherif, was voting in Nasariya. We caught up with the crowd of well-wishers, bodyguards, sycophants, and journalists surrounding al-Sherif. I squeezed my way in and photographed him casting his ballot. It was a big scoop and a fortunate coincidence. Afterwards al-Sharif gave some interviews to the press and again our mobiles were ringing. One of my buddies told me to "come quickly to Monira". We hopped in a cab and took off to the protest. We arrived and I immediately saw Kamal Khalil flashing a peace sign and loads of Mubarak sign-carrying Shabab (younger males) coming down the street. Within two minutes of being there and seeing basically my entire social network in Cairo, scuffles broke out. It was unclear who was fighting who. I could not entirely identify where the Kifaya people were and it seemed there was a fight among the NDP mini-thugs (as opposed to the well-built ones). After that calmed, it became clear that Kifaya people were being hunted by the NDP mob (pun intended). The NDP-supporters were chasing the Kifaya people into local shops like pharmacies and whatnot. When the Central Security forces, police, NDP-thugs, and journalists arrived, residents of the street were locking down their shops' shutters and moving their cars through a sea of people in hopes of not having their property damaged. One concentrated mob waited outside of a store dying to get in and have a go at the Kifaya activists trapped inside. Then Kifaya people outside were identified and chased as a gang of teenagers punched, kicked, and basically lynched them. In one case I was close to - the Kifaya-kid just barely got away. I was shocked he was not more seriously wounded. As I made my way through the Mubarak-supporters, I saw a Kifaya activist friend (female) trying to reason with the police. She was saying something about "what is this? They are going to really hurt someone!" The officer she spoke with gave her an uninterested look. Frustrated, she looked over at the Central Security Forces (Amn Markazi) mobilized around the circus and screamed, "You are all Faggots!". The CSF personnel who heard her looked back as if they did not understand why they were being insulted. Some of them looked like disappointed children who had just been told off by their parent. Around this time Magdi Allam (a policies secretariat member - read Gamal Mubarak's committee) arrived on the scene. I was standing next to a female journalist friend trying to get quotes from this NDP official while young men periodically groped her behind. Magid Allam was nice enough but his explanation for the violence was that "it was hot out and people may be a bit agitated." For all of you that have done August in Cairo, it is still only May. It was not that hot. After Allam gave some statements about the importance of the referendum and whatnot, the mobiles were telling us to go to the Journalist Syndicate. We grabbed some water and our group of three increased to eight. As we passed through Lazougly square (where one of the State Security HQs are) one of my Egyptian friends, who has done some HQ time there, waved and thanked the statue of Lazougly Basha for all the "Ta`zeeb" (torture) done in the place named after him. We got to the journalist syndicate around 130 pm. After making our way through the security cordons, we got to the syndicate's stairs. Everything looked familiar to the previous Kifaya protests at the syndicate. There were loads of security personnel (three deep at the barriers in front of the stairs), trucks, and journalists. The haphazard nature of the how the protest had been setup and disrupted by the NDP-supporters meant that there were only 70 Kifaya demonstrators there. I started to talking to people from the movement. I did not expect what would come next. About ten minutes after getting there, the same NDP-characters that where in Monira showed up. Unlike the previous NDP-Kifaya protest Issandr posted on, security made way for them to also come onto the syndicate's steps. Initially, there was a lot of insult trading as empty plastic water bottles were thrown from one side to the other. The NDP people made their way to the center of the stairs and then pushed upward en-mass. Anyone with a Kifaya sticker or seemed to be one of its supporters became a target. In the beginning, I don't know what I was thinking. It was pretty surreal and I did not believe it would last. Then I started to feel like the circus-master lifted the cage that was holding the lion. People were being thrown down the stairs as the NDP-thugs screamed "Allahu Akbar". Then after the men were beaten and older members of Kifaya escaped beyond the threshold of the syndicate door, the cowardly thugs began attacking women. I saw Raba Fahmy get attacked but it was all very unclear what was going on. There was not this wrestling style that was apparent when the men exchanged blows. Also, Raba looked like she was getting away as they pursued her down the stairs. Most of Raba's clothes were ripped off. Another friend - Jailan Zayan, a news assistant with the LA Times - was cornered as the thugs placed their grimy hands all over her body. As she tried to get away, they grabbed her by the bra-strap and pulled her down and began kicking her in her back and stomach. Other stories I heard involved AP reporter Sarah El-Deeb's hair being pulled as the thugs attacked her. When trying to clarify which women were and were not beaten up, a friend responded, "basically if you were a women, you were at least groped yesterday." After the initial rush on the stairs, most of the journalists and Kifaya supporters escaped to the other side of the security lines. By this time the NDP-thugs had burned a Kifaya sign, ripped their stickers into pieces and were chanting a ripped-off Kifaya slogan, "Ya Gamal Ya Gamal, Tell your Father, The Egyptian people Love Him" (as opposed to Hate Him). Also they screamed, "Hey Kifaya, Hey Kifaya, Hosni Mubarak until the End." Lastly, the NDP-supporters started saying "Long live Mubarak, Long live Egypt". With the stairs occupied and Kifaya beaten, chased away into the syndicate, or running for their lives, the Central Security Forces three-deep line decreased to only one-deep along the barricade (it was not a very disciplined line). The remaining violence at the syndicate was with about 10-15 trapped Kifaya people being held in a dead-end space immediately adjacent to the syndicate steps but separated by a wall. The security forces surrounded them in a way that I initially thought they were protecting them. Yet, after the area was syndicate stairs were occupied, they called over some thugs into order to turn them loose. Hossam al-Hamalawy, a news assistant with the LA Times and long-time friend, went over to security. He spoke to a plain-clothed guy with a walkie-talkie. Hossam said to him, "Hey what is going on? They are going to slaughter them." The officer coldly replied, "We have our orders." Amazed and confused Hossam asked, "Do your orders include having people kill each other in the streets?" The officer smirked and said "Yes". Somehow the trapped Kifaya folks managed to get out after their beating. Hossam escaped with a punch on the back and arm. After the Kifaya people disappeared the CSF mobilized most of its forces and got them out of there. Undecided what to do next, we thought about going to another polling station (since it was afternoon and the election officials promised loads more people). A group of about six of us went to Bab al-Shareyya to see what would be going on in Ayman Nor land. We got directed to a polling station in Gamilaya (as opposed to Bab al-Shareya). It was bigger than the others I had been to. There were nine polling stations. Our journalist friend began asked all sorts of questions - about the judges, turnout, and whatnot. We were there twenty-minutes and I did not see a soul vote. The gentleman watching the station told us we just missed the crowds. A bit disappointed, I suggested I take everyone to the station in Talat Harb. By now, those people knew me (and I had promised to return). We arrived and there was about 20 people sitting in the courtyard drinking tea. There were not many voters from what I could tell. Mohamad, the station organizer, told me that I just missed all the voters but to come back at 5 pm because that is when it gets really busy. The journalist started speaking to people who claimed to have voted. One gentleman was a retired 72-year old. He was talking about how and why he voted. It was for the future of Egypt and his kids and grandkids. He spoke about how Hosni was a real democrat with loads of political experience. He wanted Hosni to be president for life. A second gentleman was asked about why he voted today. He got a huge smile on his face and proudly said, "Well, I came here to vote Yes to Mubarak." A silence overtook the group as one of his companions hit him on the arm for him to change his answer. He straighted up and said, "I mean... I came here to vote Yes to amend the constitution." We all sort of laughed (including the NDP folks) as we all realized that this was not a referendum about the constitution. Indeed, the only real constitution and institution in this country is the president. The journalist then asked the "voters" about their feelings about the opposition. The latter of the two argued that the protesters were traitors and did not love Egypt. Voting in the referendum, to him, is a national duty. To do anything otherwise - let alone protest - is unacceptable. Then the more elderly gentleman spoke up. He said, "Today was a day for the system (al-Nizam). You cannot have democracy without a system and today we witnessed the system's power". Oddly enough, it was from this 72-year old man that the most accurate depiction of the day was stated. About this time, the scholar called me. He told me one of the woman beaten and harassed by the thugs was in the al-Ghad HQ (Ayman's law offices). We quickly made our way there. Sitting there was the victim, who was traumatized and scared. She said she was not an al-Ghad member but she knows Ayman Nor helps people. She did not know where else to go. She explained that she clothes were ripped off her and she was naked in the street. Her co-workers saw her and she was ashamed to go back to work. After re-telling her story, Hossam tried to console her. She wanted nothing of it. She said her frustration was at an all time high and that her only wish was to leave Egypt and never look back. Hossam did his best. He told her, "No, this is our country, not theirs." With tears in her eyes, she quickly responded, "No this is their country, we are nothing." After a quiet period she looked up more angry than scared and said, "This was a message today. If you go to the streets, the government will beat and humiliate you." Ayman showed up a bit later and took the woman into his office - perhaps to discuss her legal options and cheer her up. The woman was determined to go to the authorities and report her attackers. For her part, this victim wants a public apology from the Egyptian president. ____________________ After this, I went home. I could not even think about writing this up last evening. I was tired, had a splitting headache, and was not entirely sure what I saw. I certainly did not know how to put it together intellectually. This account, then, is just a testimony of a day's events that saw highs, lows, humor, sadness, and fear. One thing is for sure - Egypt looked bad. There was a way the Egyptian political establishment could of come out of this looking well. They could of left the small numbers of demonstrators alone. Let the voting continue, won by dominate margin, and spun it as "look, we tolerate opposition but still had the people express their will (which happens to compliment our vision of reform)". It would of been denounced as sham democracy and the press and bloggers alike would have moved on. Instead, they opted for a show of force against their citizens. This amplified the opposition's voice internationally and squared their more determined demands on a direct collision course with the Egyptian government and American calls for democracy. George W. Bush likes simplistic black/white depictions of the world. Well, he got his wish. Will he be with an opposition looking to be more inclusive or stand shoulder-to-shoulder with autocracy? It is becoming an us vs. them dynamic in Egypt. Yesterday was not the end of the story. It was, in many ways, the beginning of a showdown yet to come. Rather than using repression to concentrate power and quell the opposition, it was on this day when the opposition was so badly beaten and humiliated that their ranks may strengthen. But, then again, this may only be wishful thinking by those wanting to see their state treat its citizens with the dignity and respect they deserve.
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Referendum Photos

Pictures taken from yesterday's voting, protesting, and violence can be viewed here. One thing I failed to clearly capture were the attacks against females (primarily demonstrators and journalists). I have some pictures of one woman in a group of men but it is impossible to see what is going on (although I cannot even imagine). That said, I saw many women (including some friends) after they were sexually harassed and, in some cases, beaten by those animals masquerading as humans. ____________ Feel free to circulate the photos among any interested parties.
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