The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts in Videos
The Daily Show on Abu Ismail

Jon Stewart on Abu Ismail's American mama, making parallels with the Obama birther conspiracy.

Might also check out Egypt's own Daily Show, al-Barnameg, on Omar Suleiman serial failures as intelligence chief as well — Sudan split up, Gaza was taken over by Hamas, etc. A few years ago Suleiman was hailed by Foreign Policy as some kind of masterspy, but his record is actually fairly lackluster...

Video: L'Bassline

L'Bassline is a new hip-hop group from Fes in Morocco — this song, Chayllah Systeme (Down with the system - actually "Chayllah is a kind of holy figure, a reference to the untouchable nature of the regime, a rather subtle play on word that I mistook for something else - thanks Aba!) tackles with a lot of politically sensitive subject, including electoral fraud, the new constitution, the Makhzen's economic stranglehold, and more. It's a fantastic test of one's darija comprehension, too.

Previous Fez rap video: http://arb.st/e03P1W.

The Factory

As part of al-Jazeera's great series on the Arab uprisings, this documentary profile the workers of Egypt's largest textile mill in Mahalla al-Kubra, who took to the streets on April 6, 2008 in the largest protests in decades, presaging the January 2011 uprising. 
Will Fox News fire Tucker Carlson for calling for genocide?

No, I doubt it will. But this video is a good occasion to revisit the whole Ahmedenijad "wipe Israel off the map" debacle (i.e. that he did not say that, although he may have meant it), reflect on the fact that thus far it is Israel and the United States where talk of a strike on Iran is routine, as well as the sorry state of television discourse in the United States. In France, for instance, Carlson would be almost certainly sued and perhaps could even face prison. In the US this will probably be defended under the First Amendment (which I actually prefer), but many respectable news organizations have fired contributors for much less. Too bad Fox News probably doesn't fit that description.

Update: HM sends me via Twitter a link to an exchange of emails between Carlson and Gleen Greenwald of Salon on this. Carlson says he was actually talking about the dangers of a strike on Iran to the US economy. Watch for yourselves, seems pretty unambiguous.

Great new anti-army video calling for Egypt general strike

This video, put out by Aalam Wassef, is one of the most daring and well-made I've seen yet by the anti-SCAF movement. The basic narrative is that the SCAF represents a military that has run Egypt into the ground for some sixty years, while enjoying the fruits of its economic empire, luxury hospitals, clubs etc. It calls for a boycott of military-produced products and a general strike on February 11.
The football protests, day two

This morning I took a ride only my bicycle just before prayers to check out what the situation was in Downtown Cairo. I got all the way the the HQ of the interior ministry, passing through checkpoint after checkpoint (and by much barbed wire) in the whole area surrounding it, which has many government buildings. It seems an area roughly the size of nine blocks has been cordoned off to traffic (see map), with the Interior Ministry at its center. Around these streets are mostly riot police, but close to the ministry itself there are also a bunch of army APCs. On streets around the ministry, nearby shops had broken windows and signs of having been looted – despite that they were on the side of the police rather than the protestors.

The marches towards the ministry did not restart until after prayers, and were in full swing by the afternoon. When I ventured down Mansour Street, which leads to Lazoghly Street where the ministry is located, it was packed and a familiar scene of an Egyptian riot/protest: pavements upturned, the air acrid with tear gas, hundreds of youth launching into impromptu sloganeering, and a general atmosphere of exhilaration and anxiety. Except this time there were also large flags of Cairo's two main football clubs, al-Ahly and Zamalek, whose normally rival fans had united against the police. As someone said on Twitter, Mansour St. is the new Mohammed Mahmoud St., and I saw very much the same kind of bravado, anger and desire for martyrdom I'd seen in November.  (You can see a short unedited video I shot of the crowd there at the top of this post.)

The biggest difference is perhaps that for now the police are less aggressive than in November they are firing tear gas canisters and birdshot, but I  have not seen rubber bullets or live ammo being shot in Cairo, although that's not the case in Suez were two protestors appear to have been shot. They seem to be under instructions not to escalate the situation, and on TV were even shown trying to urge the protestors to stop by shouting – in a bizarre reversal of positions – "kifaya, kifaya" ("enough, enough"). Kifaya of course was the battle cry of the opposition to Mubarak since 2004. I wonder how long this restraint will last.

One aside about the tear gas attacks: as well as being pretty unpleasant, they provoke pretty dangerous behavior in the protesters: small flash-stampede that can suddenly see you carried away uncontrollably in a crowd. I am 1.85m and, with my heavy protest boots on, nearly 100kg, but I lost control briefly as the crowds pushed back. Here's a little tip: wear your scarf tightly or take it off, mine was pulled on during the mini-stampede and it can strangle you.

I'm not sure were this is all going, but my intuition is that there was tremendous anti-SCAF sentiment yesterday (and sympathy for the al-Ahly fans who died in Port Said) it may not last. We're already seeing the tone change on TV. Yesterday it was remarkable to see an emerging consensus towards an accelerated transition back to civilian rule, which only a few days ago seemed to be the losing argument (against the parliamentary majority) of the revolutionary movement. The danger is that this emerging consensus evaporates as frustration with protests mount, in part because so many of those on the front lines on Mansour St. (as opposed to the many more in Tahrir Sq. and elsewhere) seem so intent in fighting with the police and seizing one of the best-defended fortresses in Cairo.

Video: "People have this thing called a remote control"

A wonderful appearance on Egyptian TV by my friend Ezzedine Shukri-Fishere, in which he pulls out a remote control out of his pocket and proceeds to explain that every one has one of these in their house and can switch the channel from State TV. He then says enough with accusations of foreign hands, spies and agitation, there are tactics from the 20th century and we are in the 21st. The presenter is quite defensive. He goes in to say State TV must be the television of the Egyptian people, not that of the Interior Ministry or SCAF.

Although State TV continues to be fairly bad, especially with the call-ins, I have to say it has improved tremendously even since Maspero last month. It may be partly because of rumored rebellions by its employees. And there’s still much, much room for improvement.

Video: Tahrir 2011-11-22

A stroll around Tahrir Square as thousands more join the protest, now in its third day.

 

I know these videos are a little surreal. I just take the camera with me where I go, film and then edit a bit when I get back home. I put them up to capture a little of the mood. I did not go all the way to the end of Mohammed Mahmoud St. at the end of the video, when it's hard to see what's happening. I like having both of my eyes.