The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged mubarak
Egypt in TV: Highlights and low points on the talk shows

Did you know letting non-rich Egyptian kids become judges could lead them to suffer from “depression and a lot of things”?

The former minister of justice, Mahfouz Saber was there to inform you. His knowledge and concern for the psychological well-being of the poor is the reason he argued that the sons (forget daughters) of trash collectors should not join the judiciary, regardless of how academically accomplished and gifted they may be.  A judge needs to grow up in an “appropriate,” “respectable” environment, and be able to cultivate the necessary “loftiness” of judges, he told Ten TV’s Ramy Radwan. Saber's remarks ignited a media debate and led to his forced resignation. 

Prime minister Ibrahim Mehlab later told to CBC host Lamis el-Hadidi that Saber’s statement was a long slip of the tongue, and that he was actually the son of a peasant, who was lucky to continue his education. Saber then came out to say that it was not a tongue slip after all and that he stood by what he said.

“(I said that) to placate the people,” Saber all but muttered to el-Mehwar’s Mohamed Sherdy. Luckily, the poor were too busy being socially immobile to pay much attention to this back-and-forth. 

OnTV’s Ibrahim Eissa found it amusing that the sad little public didn’t know that the minister of justice has no say in the appointment of judges. It is the State Council’s job, and they should be focused on the alleged attempted assassination of a judge working on MB cases -- presumably by the MB --- rather than on the overt scorn the head of the entire judiciary just poured over the population.

Saber’s statement brought out an interesting and new side to Rola Kharsa, the TV presenter who frequently criticized the MB for “mixing religion with politics.”

“If you go back to religion ,I can simply tell you: If God willed, He would have made you a single people,” Kharsa said without further explanation, prompting one to assume that Kharsa thinks God has created people different -- and unequal, given the context -- and wants to keep it this way. This is funny because this verse (which is no. 48 from chapter 5, Surah al-Maidah) has nothing to do with social class. It is about religion and how Allah wanted to create diversity in beliefs to test humanity.

But Kharsa said that even if many might agree with the minister, it is not right for a government official to speak this way, and that individuals should be judged on their merits. 


Also mixing religion with politics this week was Rotana Masirya’s Tamer Ameen, who said that since we elected president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to run the country for us while we “sit at ahwas, smoke lots of shisha, go out a lot and don’t work a lot” rather than collectively run the country ourselves, we are religiously mandated to support him according to this Hadith: “Support your brother, whether oppressor or oppressed,” meaning when he is right back him up and when he is wrong correct him, which is another form of support -- one I don’t remember Ameen preaching for former president Mohamed Morsi, who was also elected. What’s more amusing than that is that Ameen is talking religion on Rotana of all channels. (Rotana sponsors music and broadcasts movies often laden with sexual innuendo.)

Refusing to be the only official not making classist generalizations this week, Minister of Urban Development and Slum Areas Laila Iskandar came out to blame (poor) Upper Egyptians for Egypt’s informal housing problem, as opposed to the government. She later said that she, too, is from Upper Egypt and deeply cares for the people there.

While the government told the poor to dream small, ElHayah TV’s Ahmed el-Meslamani advised the government to adopt China’s Internet censorship policy, just like he thinks France will do. The French interior minister, el-Meslamani claimed -- despite knowledge that Google is not blocked in Egypt -- said that 90 percent of terrorists today were radicalized on social media, making Facebook and Twitter the new nuclear bomb. What actually happened is that the French minister visited Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google to ask for direct cooperation with the French government. He did not give any statistics or compare these websites to weapons of mass destruction.

Sharing el-Meslamani’s disrespect for Google, Al Kahera Wal Nas’s Amany el-Khayat aired an amazing reportage about April 6 to warn Gulf states of the imaginary spread of the once-influential student protest movement, whose leader, Ahmad Maher, is in jail.

The report starts with a series of superimposed edited logos of April 6, claiming it has branches all over the world and that it is related to “Zionist Christianity, which is heralding the nearness of the apocalypse and seeks to establish The Structure.” The leading US Republicans controlling this branch of Christianity include  George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice.They chose to name the movement after the month of April, because of Passover, the regrettable day when Jews were freed from Ancient Egyptian slavery (which explains why they are targeting Egypt now). The number 6 was chosen because it is apparently important to Jews and probably because of the 2006 film The Omen, in which the spawn of Satan had the numbers 666 as a birthmark on his head to prove he was the spawn of Satan. The bottom line is that the “6” and the “April” in April 6 links it to Judaism which links it to Free Masonry. 

Meanwhile in the world of reasonable adults, the beloved political analyst and former member of parliament Amr Hamzawy kind of sold out. Hamzawy gave Khairy Ramadan a mercilessly long interview earlier this month that was so boring, one almost missed/no longer cared about his selling out. Hamzawy was one of the few liberals to publicly say that July 3 was a coup, but that was before he made his “revisions.” He fell silent when Khairy said the following: “Amr Hamzawy is not saying now that July 3 is a coup. Amr Hamzawy admits that the president of the republic Abdel Fatah el-Sisi was democratically elected.”

 

Hamzawy is also no longer wishes to bring down the regime. He wants to reform it from the inside and he regrets his support for the law which banned former members of the Mubarak’s dissolved ruling National Democratic Party from contesting elections.

Recent weeks have seen something of a Mubarak come-back tour, with the president and his sons being covered and quoted in the media. “Who is the first one to admit to the mistakes that we lived through in the past 30 years?”  asked Mahmoud Saad. “Mubarak,” he answered. He is the one who removed his son, Gamal Mubarak, and notoriously corrupt NDP members like Ahmed Ezz and Safwat el-Sherief from power (admittedly after putting them in power in the first place). Mubarak’s only fault was letting his son and wife rule with him, said Saad (who also at one point asked someone off camera if he was being polite enough about the former ruling family). So what is the point of this walk down Saad’s edited memory lane? It is to say that the wife and son did a poor job and that el-Sisi now is trying to save what Mubarak couldn’t. 

The only thing stranger than Saad’s logic was Wael el-Ibrashy’s awkward recent interview with Ahmed Fouad, the last king of Egypt and the son of King Farouk, in which el-Ibrashy kept asking his docile guest to tell us in his accented Arabic how much he approves of July 3 (which is arguably in bad taste, since his father was deposed by the military too) and how grateful he is to el-Sisi for giving him a diplomatic passport that says “Former King of Egypt” under occupation.

In Translation: Back to the Past in Egypt

The team at Industry Arabic -- look to them for all your Arabic translation needs -- brings us the latest installment of our In Translation series. Abdullah al-Sinnawi is the editor of the socialist newspaper Al Araby and one of the many public intellectuals who supported Morsi's ouster and the ascension of Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, couching his support in terms of restoring the authority and prestige of the state. Now he harsh words for a regime that he describes as rudderless if not deeply disingenuous. The title used a particularly loaded term: the word "normalization" in Egypt usually refers to normalization of relations with Israel, something much of public opinion does not really accept and much of the leftist intelligentsia has always viewed as a humiliating capitulation. 

Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak's son -- a free man again -- visited the pyramids recently with his family. 

Gamal Mubarak, Hosni Mubarak's son -- a free man again -- visited the pyramids recently with his family. 


Normalization with the Past

Abdullah al-Sinnawi, al-Shorouk, 6 May 2015

“Why are we protecting Mubarak?....You’re accusing us of being traitors.”

With this unequivocal expression, he tried to dispel any suspicions as to why the Military Council was putting off trying a president who had been ousted by his people.

During the first weeks of the January 25 Revolution, public squares full of anger were calling for the past to be put on trial for its sins. They called for all issues to be opened to questioning and accountability, so that Egypt would not be governed in the future in the same careless manner as before.

This forthrightness was not customary in other leaders and gave the strong impression that the young general who made this statement might be the future of the military establishment.

It did not occur to him, during this lengthy meeting in April 2011 that was attended by six journalists and military figures, as he made this firm response to the questions and doubts raised by the protests, that the question of the past would rear its head again, with greater anxiety and more serious misgivings, four years later when he would be president of Egypt.

It is natural for radical transformations to raise major questions.

It is not a sufficient response for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to say time and again that the past will not return. Pledges must be given shape through policies and confirmed by solid stances. This is what is sorely lacking in Egypt at a time when the public’s anxiety has almost reached a breaking point.

A quick glance at the current mood in Egyptian society reveals that its great gambles have been frittered away and its confidence in the future has fallen; that it does not know what priorities govern politics or where we are headed.

There is no discourse that interprets or explains the causes of crises or the nature of issues.

There is no coherent policy put before public opinion and no free media able to address the public mind.

There is an abject poverty in the public discourse that is unparalleled in Egypt’s modern history.

It is as if Egypt “the sorrowful” is a sail without a ship, in the words of the late Abdel Rahman al-Abnoudi in his last rubaiyat. The crisis of public discourse results from the lack of any vision of the future that determines the main goals.

It is impossible for any regime to advance one step forward and solidify its legitimacy without declaring where it stands and what its commitments are.

The return of the past to the forefront of the political, economic and media landscape is a complete tragedy for a country that launched two revolutions to claim its right to social justice, human dignity, and the transition to a democratic society and modern state.

The country paid a heavy price in terms of its security, stability and the blood of its children, and it did not reap any rewards either time.

The first revolution was hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, and the second one has almost been hijacked by the party of the past.

Based on past experience, a second hijacking of a revolution will have a steep price, as it will tarnish a regime that bases its legitimacy on the revolution and on a commitment to the constitution that emerged from it.  It will make a dent in the popularity of the regime and exhaust its political capital.

This will lead to renewed political tumult that Egypt cannot bear, and to chaos that will confound any attempts to end violence and terrorism.

Like any crisis of this sort, breaking the cycle takes time.

Any claims to the contrary are ignorant of history and the progress of societies.

The issue is not that Mubarak appeared on a private satellite channel talking about how proud he is of the role he played in war and government, and praising the current president’s wisdom. Nor is it that the media carried coverage of his 87th birthday celebration with the song “May you long live as the leader,” while other media went further afield to follow the social news of his family attending funerals and visiting the pyramids.

The real issue is not about what certain media does as much as it is about the reality of certain policies.

What is the nature of the current regime?

There are two main hypotheses.

The first is that it supports normalization with the past and its policies and figures.

This hypothesis has its logic, as the current economic policies are almost entirely copied and pasted from those adopted by the Policies Committee headed by Gamal Mubarak, youngest son of the former president.

Lots of talk about investment, the private sector and growth rates, without any plan that makes social justice a priority, even though it is a pressing need.

The Hosni Mubarak issue is above all a political one. He was the head of a regime who was overthrown by his people without being held accountable for the mistakes of the thirty years that he ruled Egypt. The issue of Gamal Mubarak is just as serious, since he symbolizes a project to bequeath the republic as an inheritance without the least constitutional basis, as well as policies that married power to wealth in a way that led to the largest plundering of public funds in Egypt’s history.

Certainly, the former president is the preferred example for a class of influential businessmen and his youngest son, their economic leader. Their influence in visual and print media continues to be felt.

Their first and last concern is to whitewash the past and subject the present to the same choices, as if matters had resumed their natural course after July 2013 and as if the January 2011 Revolution were nothing but a “conspiracy.”

Promoting the past lends legitimacy to violence, which is a terrible tragedy in any political or ethical sense of the term.

The most serious crime against this country is that the July 2013 Revolution is being portrayed as a “counter-revolution.”

This is a responsibility borne by the current regime before history.

Power cannot handle a vacuum of vision and direction.

In the absence of vision, the past steps forward to fill the vacuum and enlists the present to its cause.

When the public sphere narrows, politics retreats and security come to the fore.

The most dangerous part of this is that the political vacuum extends to the media in a manner that forebodes a potential collapse. It must not be forgotten that half of politics is talk.

This means that exchanging information and opinions is a vital necessity for any society.

A society deprived of politics and a country with a barren media landscape will descend into crisis at the first dangerous juncture.

Everything is hanging over an abyss; a collapse isn’t far-fetched.

On the other hand, the second hypothesis is that the current regime has nothing to do with all this celebration of the past and with the attempts to whitewash Mubarak’s reputation.

This hypothesis rests on semi-confirmed information that the president is perturbed by this media  coverage.

In this context, the president’s statement that he does not intervene in the judiciary or the media is worthy of note.

The statement in itself is positive, but the president’s responsibilities require that he declare his position and solidify the constitutional legitimacy of his regime.

Slipping into the past – which means opening war on the future – is more dangerous for the country than terrorism’s bullets and explosive devices. If society's discontent starts to reach the boiling point then political equations are likely to be completely overturned.

No one has the right to gamble with the country’s future.

The Mubarak mansions

Mubarak and his sons were just handed three- and four-year sentences on embezzlement charges. To understand the case, and get a detailed example of how the ruling family routinely stole from the public coffers, read this excellent piece of investigative journalism by Hossam Bahgat. Sifting through the court documents and talking to a whistle-blowing investigator, Bahgat reconstructs a decades-old scam that also involves the ubiquitous Arab Contractors company and the current prime minister, Ibrahim Mehleb.  

Egyptian citizens have unknowingly paid millions of pounds for refurbishments, furnishings, appliances, utilities bills and maintenance of the two offices that Gamal and Alaa Mubarak used to conduct their profitable investment business on al-Saada Street in Roxy, Heliopolis. Alaa’s wife Heidi charged the state for every last expense in the renovation of a new villa in the posh Golf Area on Qattamiya Heights in New Cairo. When Gamal and his wife Khadiga had their first daughter in 2010, the Arab Contractors company paid the bill to design, build and furnish a separate wing for the newborn in the Uruba Palace in Heliopolis. 

At some point, first lady Suzanne Mubarak wanted to have a private office in the new, glamorous City Stars Intercontinental hotel and mall – Egyptian citizens paid for its interior design and every piece of furniture. When Mubarak’s 12-year-old grandson Mohamed died in a tragic playground accident in 2009, Arab Contractors used the telecom towers budget to fraudulently cover the costs of building a new private mausoleum. Many of the receipts describe expenses on the five villas that Mubarak and his sons privately owned in the el-Sheikh Red Sea resort and on a 25-feddan farm jointly owned by Gamal and Alaa on the road from Cairo to Ismailia.  

Other expenses covered by the state budget include an elevator to the roof of Alaa and Heidi’s Qattamya villa “to be able to adjust and maintain the satellite dishes on the roof,” a Jacuzzi pool in the Heliopolis residence, and a giant tent and candles for a party in one of the Sharm el-Sheikh villas. 

The Crooks Return to Cairo

Bel Trew and Osama Diab, writing for FP on the potential exoneration of former spook, Sinai magnate and Mubarak moneyman Hussein Salem:

But for the first time since Mubarak was toppled, Salem's fortunes -- and that of other Mubarak-era businessmen -- may be shifting for the better. Since Egypt's generals ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last July, Salem said he has been ecstatic and is planning his return to Cairo, his lawyer Tarek Abdel-Aziz told FP. The billionaire Mubarak confidant phoned in to a popular television program in January to offer a deal to the new military-backed government: Cancel my convictions and I'll give Egypt millions.
Egyptian officials publicly welcomed the offer.
"Mr. Hussein Salem and other noble businessmen ... your initiative is really appreciated," said Hany Salah, a cabinet spokesman, during the phone-in on local channel CBC. "Anyone who proposes a noble and good offer, then the least we can do is listen to him for the best of our beloved country."
Under Morsi, Red Lines Gone Gray

Jonathan Guyer, in Jadaliyya, looks at political cartooning under Mubarak, Morsi and the military. His very interesting article (based on a year's worth of Fulbright research) confirms my sense that there was more freedom of expression under Morsi than before or after -- not because the Brother's weren't authoritarian, but because they weren't able to impose their control. All those cases brought against journalists and others for insulting the presidency were also the result of the fact that the presidency was getting mocked and criticized as never before. 

The most significant change in Egyptian caricature since 2011 is the implicit permissibility of satirizing the president. Nevertheless, during President Mohamed Morsi’s year in office, the same penal code article maintained that “whoever insults the president… shall be imprisoned.” Yet, according to Judge Yussef Auf, it does not clearly stipulate what insulting the president means or what the precise penalty should be.[3] Additionally, nearly seventy other articles limit freedom of expression. These range from prohibitions against “insults” to the parliament, army, courts, and other public authorities, to injunctions against the reporting of false news. Nonetheless, mocking these institutions became a core part of cartooning even in government-run newspapers, in spite of—or because of—these regulations.  

 

A controversial magazine cover criticizing Morsi and the political/religious establishment that was never distributed on news stands, but went viral online. 

A controversial magazine cover criticizing Morsi and the political/religious establishment that was never distributed on news stands, but went viral online. 

Mubarak's last chuckle

Private newspaper Alyoum7 has been publishing a series of audio recordings on its website of Mubarak and some unknown voices (reportedly recorded by one of his doctors) in which the erstwhile president comments on events throughout the summer. The sound clips are crudely edited, creating a lot of awkward pauses where there probably were none. 

That being said, the voices sound over-rehearsed and sometimes border on hostages trying to keep calm and entertain a mad gunman.

Clip 1:

Mubarak and friends express admiration of el-Sisi. His unknown interlocutors tell lame jokes about the Brotherhood, eliciting gruff chuckles from the former president. 

Clip 2:

Mubarak and friends say the MB is stupid and crazy for going head to head (more like knee to head) against the military, the police and the people. One voice likens them to a mindless CSF soldier who just follows orders and can’t think for himself. They predict that things will calm down and fondly reminisce about Habib el-Adly’s good ol days when the Brothers were “collected.”

Clip 3:

One voice tells the story of an MB relative who makes noises about Morsi’s legitimacy and the likes. This brainwashed, failed dentistry student protester stayed in Raba’a and didn’t visit his dying mother, the voice says. Mubarak interjects to remind him that, of course, the failure won’t leave since he is getting paid to stay there.  

Clip 4:

Mubarak and friends discuss possible leaders. It has to be a strong man from the army, Mubarak says. One of the leaders who is left, but not Sami Anan. He can’t handle Egypt.

Clip 5:

Mubarak’s June 30: The army might intervene and “make (the MB) leave.”

Clip 6:

Mubarak reiterates the  theory about Morsi breaking out of prison with Hamas help -- hence his inability to say anything critical of them or curb their activities in Sinai.

Furthermore, Mubarak says he felt the revolution coming a while back. The US has been plotting to remove him since 2005, impatiently working on “making the revolution," despite the fact that he told them that he was planning to hand over power in 2011 -- not to pass it down to his son, an idea they created and sold to the people.

Clip 7:

The unrest in Sinai began when Morsi pardoned certain prisoners, according to Mubarak. Also, the tribal leaders in Sinai are decor; the youth is running the show. Speaking with obvious pride, Mubarak recalls how Habib used to detain the little rascals.

Sinai needs careful thinking, Mubarak wisely adds, since Israel still wants to push the Palestinians into Sinai. Benjamin Netanyahu spontaneously told him as much six months before his ouster, but Mubarak firmly told him to forget about it.

 

PostsNour Youssefmubarak, egypt
Mubarak family worth hundreds of millions, not billions, investigators say

Mubarak family worth hundreds of millions, not billions, investigators say

Bradley Hope in The National, on a government report on Mubarak's wealth:

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by The National, reveals that Mubarak and his family have cash deposits of some US$300 million, as well as additional funds, properties and company stakes of undetermined value.

The only assets held specifically in the ex-president's name are a villa in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh - number 211 located on 15,640 square metres of land - and a third-floor apartment located in the Mediterranean coast city of Marsa Matrouh.

Mubarak and his wife Suzanne also have unspecified amounts of "liquid funds" in accounts in the National Bank of Egypt, says the five-page report, dated October 16, 2011. The former first lady also has an account in the Paris-based bank, Societe Generale.

Read the whole thing, it's full of details. The total amount of funds believed to be stashed abroad by the Mubarak family and his aides: $1.2bn.

Hope also has a full list of Mubarak family assets here.

What Stratfor's Fred Burton thought of Mubarak

✚  What Stratfor's Fred Burton thought of Mubarak

From the Wikileaks trove, here's their VP for intelligence's take, on February 11 2011, the day Mubarak stepped down:

The real kicker in all this is that the only reason we don't have a 9/11 type incident happening every week in this country is because of dictators like Mubarak. He's kept his boot on the throat of the Brotherhood and every other radical Islamic group for some time now. Yes, he has probably thrown many people in prison for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he's been one of our staunchest allies in the GWOT and we'll start paying the price (with more attacks on US facilities) when he's gone. If I were him, I'd take my millions, head to Tahiti and  giggle at Obama as he struggles with the flood of attacks that are sure to  come.

You see what I mean when I wrote that Wikileaks' over-hyping of what Stratfor is is ridiculous?

[Thanks, other J.]

Last Days Of The Pharaoh

Last Days of the Pharoah

Bradley Hope writes:

I have just published a Kindle Single with Amazon.com, an E-book that is available through Amazon's cloud reader or on the Kindle/IPad/etc. The piece explores the last days of Mubarak's rule in Egypt through the eyes of some of the government officials that were in close contact with the former president. One of the most compelling voices is Hossam Badrawi, who was the last secretary general of the National Democratic Party and met Mubarak several times in the final week of his regime.

Others, like Mubarak's long-time make-up artist Mohammed Ashoub, simply reveal a side of the president that was hard to know being on the outside.

I just started reading it, and it has some great material on what was going on in the inner circle around Mubarak during the 18 days. At $1.99 it's a steal if you have a Kindle - or just use the Kindle App to read it on your computer as its short.

Hosni Mubarak, the man with no ideas

Dull and dependableSteve Cook, talking about his new book The Struggle for Egypt [Amazon], discusses Mubarak's legacy and failure:

Mubarak, having come of age during the era of the Free Officers and having witnessed Sadat’s assassination first-hand, saw the problems associated with trying to resolve Egypt’s underlying identity questions through some bold ideological vision, and opted for a strategy that he hoped would bind people to the regime through economic and social development. By official measures, Mubarak achieved a lot during his almost thirty-year reign. The World Bank data shows impressive results. The problem is that ideas matter. For Mubarak it was all about “stability for the sake of development” and anyone who dissented from his conception of stability was beaten into submission until they—along with a lot of others who felt the same way but were afraid to speak out—refused to be intimidated. That’s how you got January 25. This was not an uprising about economic grievances, though they played an important role in creating an environment of misery. Rather, people rose up because they wanted social justice, representative government and national dignity. Not surprisingly, these are common themes throughout late 19th-, 20th-, and early 21st-century Egyptian politics.

Of course Mubarak had to deal with tremendous population growth during his reign  — almost a doubling, from around 45m to 85m today. It's true he achieved some things in terms of development, but any other president would have too. In many respects he did not do enough, and I remember a nice turn of phrase used by a (tame) opposition figure a few years ago: "The problem with Egypt is that it never really recovered from the 1967 and 1973 wars." Sadat, and Mubarak who largely continued his legacy but in a more pragmatic manner, was supposed to have made the grand bargains with the US and Israel precisely to do that. The result, while impressive in some regards (a lot of improvements in infrastructure, public health, etc. — believe or not) was not enough: not only it could have been better and fairer, but it also came as a heavy price. Part of this is that he created, through dull leadership and strategies of de-politicization, an enormous moral and inspirational vacuum.

Mubarak's letter to court

SCAF head Hussein Tantawy, kissing Hosni Mubarak, 1980s or early 1990sFrom Mubarak’s memo to the court trying him, protests of innocence and the obligatory reference to foreign conspiracy. Sarah El Deeb reports for AP:

“The unjust accusations and the baseless allegations I am facing sadden me. I am not someone who would shed his people’s blood. I have spent my life defending them. Hosni Mubarak is not someone to smear his military honor with ill-gotten wealth,” the published letter said.

He is charged with complicity in the killing of nearly 900 protesters in the uprising that forced him out of office last year. If convicted, Mubarak could face the death penalty by hanging. Five of the former president’s top security officials face the same charges.

“Despite everything, I am totally confident in the fairness and justice of the Egyptian judiciary. I am totally confident in history’s judgment, and totally confident in the great Egyptian people’s judgment — free from the allegations of the tendentious and those seeking to sow sedition, and those receiving foreign funding.”

In the completely schizophrenic mindset of SCAF, the security services and the state media they control, the revolution is both a glorious day and an insidious plot. They like the part that got rid of Gamal Mubarak and his friends, settling a decade-long inner-regime clan war. But they still can’t stand the other, more important, part that wants all the regime gone. That schizophrenia is part and parcel of Mubarakism.

Suzanne Mubarak's memoirs

I would approach this story with caution – after all it was published in the trashy Rose al-Youssef – but I'd like to confirm some of these tidbits:

In “Egypt’s First Lady: 30 Years on the Throne of Egypt,” to be published this year, Mubarak says that the United States gave her and her family asylum. A special envoy from the United States, she wrote, arrived in Cairo in early February 2011 with all the documents required to have in order to leave Egypt, but her husband refused to leave.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait gave the Mubarak family the same offer. However, the author adds, all those asylum documents were taken from the family in the Red Sea city of Sharm al-Sheikh on February 11, 2011, the day the president stepped down.

In the memoirs, Mubarak recounts how she had a nervous breakdown when she knew she was to be arrested, which drove her to try to commit suicide through overdosing on sleeping pills.

She was later rescued and her husband conacted several countries and begged many officials to let her stay with him in the hospital. His wish was granted, provided that she does not leave the hospital.

I like the bit where she says her childhood dream was "to become a flight attendant." After all, she was married to a man whose hope for retirement was to run Egypt Air. And also this nugget:

Among the secrets Mubarak reveals in her memoirs is that her husband did not think that he would be able to leave the palace and was almost certain that he would be assassinated. That is why he asked the Presidential Guard not to leave him alone for one minute and even used to let them accompany him to the bathroom.

Update: Reader "S" writes in with a reminder – "AUC Press was on the verge of publishing her memoirs in time for the 2011 Cairo Book Fair and was copy editing them just as the January protests started... "

The Mubaraks' last hours in power

From an article in The Times of 18 January [behind an annoying paywall that doesn't even let you link] by Michael Binyon and James Hyder:

Based on insider accounts, The Times can reveal exclusively the chaotic final hours of the deposed President’s 30-year rule, and the successive months of decline as he languished in a tiny hospital room.
At his side throughout the tumultuous events was his wife, Suzanne, the daughter of a Welsh nurse and an Egyptian surgeon who, at the crucial moment of her husband’s resignation, kept Egypt and the rest of the world waiting as she sobbed uncontrollably on the floor of the presidential villa, refusing to leave.
Mrs Mubarak had joined her two sons, Gamal and Alaa, in the helicopter to take them to internal exile in Sharm el-Sheikh on the day that her husband was forced out of office. But as the blades were whirring, she leapt out and ran back to the villa.
Impatient officials suspected that she may have forgotten her jewellery or a favourite dress. In fact, she had returned home and broken down. The guards who finally breached protocol and burst into the villa found her prostrate on the floor and inconsolable with grief, surrounded by the trinkets and records of her lifetime.
The final hours of the regime are dramatically outlined in a new book by the former head of Egyptian television, who played a key role in persuading Mr Mubarak to quit and in drafting his farewell speech.
Abdel Latif el-Menawy says that the guards had to pick up the President’s wife and carry her round the house, her tears staining their shoulders as she collected the few possessions she could not bear to part with.
“In her grief she kept repeating the same line, over and over, ‘... They had a reason ...’ When she had composed herself enough, she turned to the guards and asked in a panic, ‘Do you think they can get in here? Please ... don’t let them come here! Please, don’t let them destroy it, please. Look, you can stay here, stay in the villa ... please, protect it!’”
All this time Mr el-Menawy was waiting in his office for the order to broadcast the tape that would announce the President’s resignation. “Though no one knew it at the time, the whole country was waiting for Suzanne Mubarak as she wept in her empty palace,” he says. 

The rest has been put up here by Abdel Latif Menawy, and includes details on Mubarak's post-power depression, his minor heart attack, cancer of the intestine, brief coma and more – including an account of how Gamal Mubarak changed his father's third speech and how Egyptian intelligence and Anas al-Feki negotiated the president's departure. I suspect Menawy inflates his own role and omits more from this, but it's interesting to see a detailed account emerge nonetheless.

On vacation in Torah

Field Marshall Tantawi (the senior army man in charge of the country) testified in Mubarak's trial this morning. We don't know what he said, because the court session are closed and there is a gag order on the press (how can what happened during the revolution be a state secret?).

I was in a cab listening to a state TV reporter excitedly (not) report on the proceedings, when my driver burst out: "They'll never be held to account!" He said his mother lives near Torah prison and from her balcony they can see the Mubarak sons and cronies being held there hang out in the courtyard. He says they have laptops, cell phones, play soccer, have visitors, get food deliveries.. I can't confirm his account of course, but there have been similar stories in the press.

"Pasha on the outside, pasha on the inside," he said. "It's Sharm El Sheikh in Torah." If only the were treated like regular prisoners, he said -- beaten, humiliated, made to go hungry and sleep on the floor -- then they'd confess and tell us where the money they stole is. 

Decoding Mubarak's trial

I have a short piece in the Guardian as part of their "decoding the news" series, in which I adress why the trial is no longer televised, what's expected in the witness testimonies, and what the clashes outside the courtoom are about. Here's the bit about the witnesses:

Initial witnesses will focus on the orders being given by Mubarak and other senior officials to deal with the mass protests that began on 25 January. What the prosecution will try to prove is that Mubarak approved of shoot-to-kill orders, the deployment of snipers, and other measures taken by security forces before Mubarak stepped down. The time period that will be most intensely examined is between 25 January and 28 January (when the police retreated from the streets and the military deployed) and the "Battle of the Camel" in Tahrir Square on February 2-3, when pro-Mubarak thugs fought (and lost) a battle to regain the square from protesters. Those who testified today are part of a group of senior ministry of interior officers who were in the ministry's operations room in the first days of the uprising.

There is some controversy over who might be summoned: among the witnesses Mubarak's lawyer wants to testify is Egypt's current interim ruler, minister of defence Mohammed Hussein Tantawi. If the already unpopular Tantawi was in the loop in the decision-making process over the repression of protesters, it could make his position untenable.

Read the rest here.