Dear friends and comrades,
On 9 June, 2005, 11:00am, a diverse group of anti-war and human rights activists gathered in front of the Egytian Embassy in Seoul to demonstrate against Egyptian dictator Mubarak.
Because the the domestic law forbiding any protest in front of foreign diplomatic offices, the group called it a press conference. People began the protest by chanting "Down Down Mubarak","24 years is enough", "Kifaya! Kifaya", "Victory to the Egyptian People's Struggle for Democracy!" The ambassador refused to see us. But we made sure that he will be seeing us more often as long as Mubarak and his son is in power. It seems South Korea is far away from Egypt and no one here will be interested in what is going on in Egypt. It is far from truth. Although not much of the situation in Egypt is reported in the mainstream media, when South Koreans hear about the Kifaya movement and Mubarak's desperate attempts to keep his power, they immediately make a connection to their past military rulers.
Yes, South Koreans have seen their ruler putting forth political reforms that are nothing more than shams to maintain control. If they did not all, military rulers resorted to brutal violence. A prime example is the Kwangju Massacre where citizens of Kwangju city were shot to death by the army. It seems the rulers all over the world are learning from each other on how to control the people.This is why it is utmost important that people struggling for democracy build strong international solidarity and learn from each other. South Koreans' democratization movement have shown that it is possible to defeat the military dictator. With courageous demonstrations and strikes, the Egyptian working people have shown South Koreans what is at stake and what must be achieved, a better world where working people manage their lives and society in true democracy.
On behalf of the South Korean anti-war and human rights activists I wish a grand victory to the Egyptian working people fighting for democracy and real change.
CJ Park, All Together________________________ As Neil Young sings, "Keep on Rockin in the Free World"
"Today El Ghad has broken the regime's monopoly on Radio Transmission in Egypt."Al-Ghad Radio for all you die-hards (and windows users) can be found here. The radio programs are scheduled to have political, economic, and social commentary. ______ Its a shame Mona Makram-Ebeid is missing all this. Now, really, back to my thesis....
In their public statements, U.S. officials have advised the Egyptian government to take specific steps such as ensuring free presidential elections in September, allowing international monitors, giving the opposition access to the state media and preventing violence against peaceful street protests.
But the officials have thrown little light in public on how fast they think change should happen and whether they are really willing to see the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who has worked closely with U.S. presidents for a quarter of a century.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March rejected the argument that political change could lead to instability, saying the region was not stable anyway.
Washington would speak out for ``freedom'' without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be, she added.All this while MEPI is witnessing 26-percent cut in its funding. In 2003, MEPI had $100 million to democratize the Arab world. This year, it will have $74-million to liberate the oppressed. _____________
Opposition newspapers reported a host of irregularities, with a number of civil and human rights organisations joining the fray. The Independent Egyptian Committee for Election Monitoring (IECEM) claimed members had monitored 26 per cent of polling stations.
"These," they reported, "were characterised by low turnout and the absence of judicial supervision."
Mohamed Ragab, spokesman for the NDP majority on the Shura Council, insists, however, that "the figures, as announced by the Interior Ministry, are realistic."In the article that specifically deals with the black protest on Wednesday the 1st, Jailan Halawi shows Ahram's editorial policy at its best. In her lead she writes:
Yesterday members of the Press Syndicate and the Bar Association joined several non-governmental organisations, led by an ad hoc group of women calling itself the Egyptian Mothers' Union, to protest the series of violent assaults against women, allegedly by sympathisers of the ruling National Democratic Party, that marred Wednesday's referendum on amending Article 76 of the constitution.
Eight journalists and two lawyers were among the most seriously injured in the assaults which activists claim amount to an attempt to systematically intimidate women from exercising their right to protest.My Emphasis Added _______ Before the comments start pointing out the obvious - that this is a state-owned paper and what do I expect - I thought it was worth recording the discrepancy for those not reading the Weekly online. It is telling that a little bit of electoral fraud can be acceptably received by al-Ahram's editors when reported in the state-press while the violence is not. I'm sure when Bush reads about the electoral fraud, he is going to be very very very not upset.
"I urged him [Mubarak] once again to have as free and fair elections as possible because it will be a great legacy for his country," Bush told reporters during a session with visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki.
Bush and Mubarak spoke by telephone for about 10 minutes and among the topics they covered was the start of the presidential election campaign in Egypt, and last week's referendum there and incidents of violence.
Bush said Mubarak assured him that he wants to have free and fair elections. "I will to the best of my ability continue to try to convince him that it's not only in Egypt's interest, but the world's interests, to see Egypt have free and fair elections," Bush said.And a little further down the article:
Mubarak's "publicly stated he is for free and fair elections, and now is the time for him to show the world that his great country can set an example for others," Bush said.
He laid out what he called some reasonable standards for free and fair elections.
"People ought to be allowed to vote without being intimidated, people ought to be allowed to be on TV, and if the government owns the TV, they need to allow the opposition on TV, people ought to be allowed to carry signs and express their pleasure or displeasure. People ought to have very vote count," he said.______ Call me a cynic, but it is going to take a little more than "about a 10-minute" conversation for "democratic" and non-violent presidential and parliamentary elections in the fall. Besides, seeing that the amendment has been changed, the point is mute. The legal mechanism now heavily favors the Egyptian government rather than benefiting those looking to participate. Bush is a little to late on the scene with his democratizing agenda. To me, Bush's call yesterday is like waiting to contact the fire brigades after the house has burnt to the ground. But then, again, what do I know...
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.
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.