The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged security
The dangers of politics for women

It’s dangerous to be the first”  is the title of a report just published by the NGO Safer World, based on interviews with hundreds of women who are trying to participate in public life in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. According to press release, the report finds that:

..women are seriously worried that states are not responding to their growing security concerns and, in many instances, state security providers are part of the problem. Consultations with over 400 women from a variety of social groups across the three countries found that rising crime, the widespread availability of weapons, and violent conflict between armed groups are major security threats. In addition, women face targeted violence against them, including harassment, sexual assault, threats of violence, and slander. Many perceive the police to be ineffectual and even part of the problem. Threats associated with honour and reputation present a particular challenge for politically active women and are being used by established power-holders as a political tool to side-line women from public life and restrict their opportunities to feed into policy and decision-making.
There are signs that a vicious cycle is in operation where insecurity reduces women’s political participation and low participation in turn means continued insecurity for women as their safety concerns are not taken into consideration by formal and informal authorities.

One of the reasons that Egypt's cultural and political elite advanced for declaring the Muslim Brotherhood beyond the pale was their bigoted views on women's place in society and public life. But the truth is that "liberal" parties and the state marginalize women as well. 

Women's safety and participation

I attended a day-long meeting in Cairo yesterday, facilitated by the NGO Safer World, addressing women’s safety and political participation in Egypt, Yemen and Libya. The meeting was attended by activists as well as a few government representatives.

Although the situation varies quite a bit from one country to the other -- in Yemen the context is much more rural, for example, than in Egypt, and geographic isolation plays a big part in women’s security and participation -- there were many similarities. In all three countries, women are the victims of violence -- and of an ideological discourse that blames them for that very violence -- that intimidates them away from the public and political sphere.  Also in all three countries, women’s groups are extremely frustrated and angry with the Islamist groups and parties that have come to power since the uprisings, who they describe as “dictatorial” and accuse of wanting to undo progress on women’s rights. 

In Egypt, as the New York Times recently reported, Islamist members of parliament and preachers have been saying grotesque things about women who were victims of gang rapes in Tahrir. The FJP has condemned some of the recent statements -- but only at the prodding of journalists, and even as some of its members have also expressed similar sentiments. 

President Morsi’s office sent a young female advisor on human rights and women’s rights to the meeting. She responded to the indignant questions of the activists with platitudes about the Freedom and Justice Party’s desire to listen before acting and the need not to demonize each other and to work together. In response to a question about the FJP’s position on lowering the age of marriage for girls, she said that the party had never advocated doing so and that there were “extreme” positions on all sides -- while some Islamists call for lowering the marriage age (to as low as 9), non-Islamists call for defending homosexuality. The claim prompted one activist to ask: “Why are you always bringing up homosexuality when we’re discussing women’s rights?”

The presidential advisor also noted President Morsi’s recent Women’s Initiative, a vague and hastily put together initiative that does not include any of the country’s prominent feminist groups and that at this point seems to be little more than Facebook page. The fact that this initiative took place just days after the FJP caught flak for its strongly worded dissent from a recent declaration by the UN Commission on the Status of Women does not seem coincidental. 

“Where can there be a meeting point between civil society and government?” a moderator asked. I’m not optimistic about that meeting point being found in Egypt today, especially as the Shura Council (which was elected by 10% of the population, remember, and whose original mandate did not include passing laws) prepares an extremely restrictive NGO law that seems designed to bring civil society to heel. 

It’s worth noting that it is not only Islamists who have misogynistic attitudes. The army also victimized and marginalized women. Non-Islamist parties’ platforms do not include measures to curtail women’s rights, nonetheless they do very little to empower women within their ranks and tend to view women’s rights as a means to criticize the Brotherhood. Women were under-represented in all leadership positions and in politics under Mubarak, and they were the victims of sexual and political violence. These are not new phenomena. 

That said the FJP’s record on women is abysmal. An article criminalizing gender discrimination against women was removed from the Islamist-drafted constitution; Islamists have consistently opposed a quota for women in elections; on the question of women’s safety, Islamists employ a paternalistic discourse in which they call for women to be protected (and controlled) by individual men, rather than guaranteed a simple, gender-blind right to be visible, active participants in cities, societies and political events. 

The FJP also does not trust and does not consult with the National Women’s Council (the government body established to deal with women’s rights) or with any of the country’s well-regarded, vocal feminist organizations. Yes, some of these organization are "elite," some had contact with Suzanne Mubarak (they could hardly afford not to) and some took foreign funding to promote largely empty women's empowerment programs (what does it mean to encourage women's political participation in the context of rigged elections?). But the vast majority of these organizations have been doing serious and ground-breaking work for decades; some activists put themselves in extraordinary personal danger to protect female protesters these days. Any initiative to discuss or address women's rights that excludes the country's seasoned activists and NGOs is bankrupt. 

And any political party that is serious about women’s safety will speak out strongly and consistently against all violence against women -- regardless of its political context -- and will condemn any attempt to blame the victim. It it will also support a quota, which experiences around the world have proven is one of the only ways to initiate large numbers of women into political life -- and which was used in Tunisia, for example, ensuring a significant female representation in that country’s constituent assembly. 

 

 

 

 

Weekend long reads

This is an experimental new feature — every weekend, links to some long articles and essays worth reading. Some of these articles may be behind subscription walls.

1. Sinai: The Buffer Erodes 

Nic Pelham writes for Chatham House on the deterioration of security in Sinai:

For over 30 years, the Sinai peninsula has served as a near-empty territory cushioning the geopolitical aspirations of Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians. With the changes brought about in Egypt by President Hosni Mubarak’s fall from power in 2011, that buffer is in doubt. The state security apparatus that underpinned the Egyptian regime collapsed, creating a vacuum that the territory’s sparse Bedouin population quickly filled with coping mechanisms of its own. Captivated by the prospect of acquiring power, local irregulars reacted fiercely to the regime’s efforts to regain control over its periphery, culminating in the August 2012 operation that targeted an Egyptian base, killing 16 soldiers, and perforated Israel’s border defences at the intersection of its border with Egypt and Gaza. Security officials, police stations, government buildings and Cairo-based institutions have all come under attack. In the eyes of its neighbours, Egypt is losing its grip over Sinai, transforming the peninsula into a theatre for the region’s competing new forces.

2. The Politics of Security Sector Reform in Egypt 

Dan Brumberg and Hesham Sallam, in a report for USIP:

The most pressing priorities for SSR in Egypt entail disengaging military institutions from political and economic activities that are not relevant to their mission of national defense and subjecting these institutions to meaningful oversight by elected civilian bodies, and transforming the police establishment from a coercive apparatus into an accountable, politi- cally neutral organization that upholds the rule of law and protects human rights. These challenges may seem conceptually distinct, but they are interrelated in a broader politi- cal context, in which the military establishment and other entrenched bureaucracies are attempting to limit the scope of institutional reform. Military interest in attenuating civilian control in a post-Mubarak Egypt seems to have deepened its reliance on the coercive capac- ity of the ministry of interior, which has taken the lead in suppressing popular mobilization. Civilian security forces, sometimes in coordination with the military, repeatedly used deadly force in confrontations with protesters calling for ending SCAF’s rule. The intertwining of institutional interests between the military and the police impedes SSR.

On a related note, see this NYT piece by Kareem Fahim on the issue of police reform, and this report by the One World Foundation on the same topic.

 3. The Revenge of the East? 

David Shulman asks some tough questions on Pankaj Mishra's much-praised book From The Ruins of Empire [Amazon US, UK], on Rabindranath Tragore, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Ling Qichao the intellectual roots of "Eastern revival":

Are these men, then, among the major “intellectuals who remade Asia”? One thing is clear: all three are fully modern figures, their consciousness shaped primarily by the terms of the modernist crisis and debate. But can we even speak of a broad “Asian” response to the West and the newfangled technologies and concomitant power equations that the West brought to the East—“printing presses, steamships, railways and machine guns,” as Mishra lists them? Living in Jerusalem and traveling often to India, I find it hard to think of Asia as a cultural unit with any integrity. There is, however, one experience that was indeed shared by the Islamic world, India, China, and Japan in the nineteenth century—that of predatory intrusion and sustained economic violation by the Western powers. The forms this intrusion took varied from place to place, but its traumatic effects were common to all the great Asian states and cultures.

4. Indecision as Strategy 

Adam Shatz reviews Israeli historian Avi Raz's The Bride and the Dowry [Amazon US, UK], a book about post-1967 Israeli strategy in the Israel-Arab conflict which uses new material to argue that "Israel's postwar diplomacy was deliberately ineffective because its leaders preferred land over peace with its neighbors":

The story of Israeli policy in the late 1960s has been told before, by Tom Segev and Gershom Gorenberg among others. But no one has provided as thorough – or as damning – an account as Avi Raz, a former reporter for Ma’ariv who has read every pertinent document in every available archive, in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The Bride and the Dowry is a work of meticulous scholarship, but it is also an angry book, burning with the sort of righteous (and sometimes repetitious) indignation to which native sons are particularly susceptible. It covers only the first 21 months after the 1967 war, but it tells us everything we need to know about Israeli policy during this ‘critical and formative phase’ of the occupation. It also sheds considerable light on Israeli diplomacy today: its resistance to a deal that would allow for genuine Palestinian sovereignty; its belief that the Americans will always come to Israel’s defence, however much they privately object to land grabs; and its use of protracted negotiations as a means of buying time. Raz’s book is about the conquest of time as much as it is about the conquest of territory: the fruitless peace processing of the last two decades is only the latest chapter of his story.

5. Why India’s Newspaper Industry Is Thriving

Ken Auletta writes a fascinating essay on the state of Indian publishing and its advertising-driven editorial practices, with many lessons applicable to developing countries:

While profits have been declining at newspapers in the West, India is one of the few places on earth where newspapers still thrive; in fact, circulation and advertising are rising. In part, this is because many Indian newspapers, following an approach pioneered by the Jain brothers, have been dismantling the wall between the newsroom and the sales department. At the Times of India, for example, celebrities and advertisers pay the paper to have its reporters write advertorials about their brands in its supplementary sections; the newspaper enters into private-treaty agreements with some advertisers, accepting equity in the advertisers’ firms as partial payment. These innovations have boosted the paper’s profits, and are slowly permeating the Indian newspaper industry.

Controversial US Police Chief hired by Bahraini Interior Ministry

I missed this, but it turns out that in addition to a bevy of lobbying – much of it centered on English-language media management – before and after demonstrations peaked, Bahrain’s government was also quick to tap American expertise in containing public demonstrations following the release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report:

… the former police chief of Philadelphia and Miami, John Timoney, has been recruited by Bahrain’s Interior Ministry to advise the Bahrainis on policing strategies, will come as no comfort to those in the opposition hoping that the next American intervention would be more constructive. They may be particularly sceptical considering his policing style was so notorious it came to be dubbed Timoney’s ‘Miami Model’ by Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who covered the chief’s heavy-handed policing of protests around the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia in 2000 and the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit meeting in Miami in 2003. Timoney’s militarized crowd control strategy involved ‘the heavy use of concussion grenades, pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters.’

Timoney has a reputation as a turn-around police chief from his work in the US, but his handling of these demonstrations has made him controversial. Another controversial cop, John Yates of the UK, (who gained notoriety during the News of the World voicemail hacking scandal) is also working with the Interior Ministry now. Given the charges of torture presented against Bahraini police, I imagine everyone in these circles is keeping the case of Ian Henderson in mind, a former British colonial officer who led Bahrain’s secret police for 32 years and gained the sobriquet “Butcher of Bahrain” because of the security apparatus’s use of torture against dissidents during that time.

Security ties such as this are by no means uncommon in the region, though the focus is usually focused on counterterrorism rather than public demonstrations. The Monitor Group, a Massachusetts-based lobbying firm, helped Muatassim al-Qadhafi train and staff his proposed National Security Council before the Libya uprising curtailed its creation. The New York Times reported last May that Erik Prince, former Blackwater chief, was building up a mercenary army in the UAE on the Crown Prince’s dirham. Israel and the US often share counterterrorism techniques and trainings. The US has been involved in past Bahraini police trainings, as have trainers from the UK: “British police have helped to train their counterparts in Bahrain, Libya, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” The Independent reported. The Saudi National Guard, which was deployed in force to Bahrain last spring, also received UK training. Military and intelligence training for security forces is also common – Iraq, of course, is the most notable Middle Eastern example of such a (multinational) effort, but the US has also funded and trained Lebanese, Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, and West Bank Palestinian security forces.

Although Washington places great emphasis on the place of ethical conduct in these courses, ethics don’t mean much when the police in question are not held accountable to civil society and operate as a state within a state. WikiLeaks shows that the FBI had trained members of the notorious State Security Investigations in Egypt.

Elham Fakhro and Kristian Coates Ulrichsen note that while “recruiting John Yates and John Timoney to re-train Bahrain’s security services may play well in London and Washington,” it “leaves unresolved the structural exclusion of large numbers of Bahraini citizens from an organisation many perceive as exclusionary and deeply-partial.”

Blogger and Bahrain watcher Justin Gengler is a bit more forthright in his criticism:

Bahrain is covering all of its bases. If you are going to bring in a expert trainer in police brutality [Timoney] then you are definitely going to want someone [Yates] specialized in illegal wire-tapping and police surveillance as well, not to mention someone who recognizes the need to withhold a page or two (or 11,000) of evidence for reasons of political expediency.

Post-uprising: what to do with secret police files?

This year’s uprisings have, in several countries, defeated the domestic spying apparatus, but there is yet little idea of how not only to reform these agencies, but what to do with all the data they collected (or indeed reveal the extent of this data collection).

In Libya, the chaos and sudden fall of Tripoli allowed, temporarily, access to files that revealed not only surveillance but collaboration with Western intelligence on various issues. The state of the intelligence apparatus in unknown, but it is likely that much of it collapsed alongside the Qadhafi state.

In Egypt, the very first days of the uprisings saw security agencies move to destroy many documents and recordings (this was seen in safehouses in different parts of Cairo, as well as in the offices of State Security), some capture of documents by protestors during the (possibly manipulated) break-in into State Security HQ in Nasr City, but no fundamental reform — indeed it appears that not only State Security is still operating as National Security (and lately returning to the streets), but General Intelligence is now at the peak of its powers, even without Omar Suleiman.

In Tunisia, in-depth police reform has yet to begin but the surveillance state has been partly dismantled already. They are now beginning to deal with the many years of work full accountability will take, as this fascinating post at Unredacted on the Tunisian debate of what to do with the former regime’s secret police files shows:

Operating out of the Interior Ministry and other federal agencies, the intelligence and security forces known collectively as the secret police, or political police, excelled in spying on citizens, infiltrating civil society groups, trolling emails and social media sites for information, and harassing, intimidating and torturing suspected opponents of Ben Ali’s regime. Conference participants agreed that no space, public or private, was safe from the surveillance state. As Farah Hachad, a lawyer and president of Le Labo’, recalled at the start of the conference, “Since I was born, even conversations inside our house would be silenced because of the fear inside our hearts that we would be heard and punished.”

Presenters at the conference and audience members had their own memories of the repressive power wielded by the political police. One man recounted how an agent showed up at his door to detain him, “And when I asked, do you have an arrest warrant?, he pulled twenty blank arrest warrants from his pocket, all signed by the Interior Minister, and said, I can have as many as I want.” Taieb Baccouche, the interim Minister of Education and president of the Arab Institute of Human Rights, remembered signing his name to a petition for democracy in the late 1960s along with dozens of other activists, artists and scholars. “That was the beginning of surveillance: they controlled my phone, my mail and all my movements from then on.” Everyone agreed that the political police still existed and still posed a danger to democratic change, despite the advances of the revolution.

More than the issue of disbanding the secret police, however, the conference was focused on how to seize their archives as a way of preserving collective memory and permitting informed public debate about the repressive past. There were strong differences of opinion about how to manage the archives. Some feared the impact on people’s lives of the release of personal information, whether true or invented by the regime. Others felt that Tunisia’s democratic transition could not be complete without access to the archives. As artist and activist Zeyneb Farhat put it, “These political archives were designed to devalue and damage the credibility of activists by spreading lies about them… They have to be opened now in order to create a justice-based relationship between police and citizens and to build trust, so that people understand the police are for protecting security, not for undermining change.”

Perception and reality of Egypt's safety

One of the unanswered questions of post-revolution Egypt is how unsafe things became. (Update: see how seuciryt looms large in this op-ed  by David Ignatius) In the first days of the uprising, as police released common criminals back onto the street and carried out looting themselves, it was clear that security was low. Most of it could be ascribed to action by the security forces themselves. But as that particular problem subsided, and other issues came up.

The collapse of the police state meant that crime was no longer regulated (I tend to see the police as mafia dons who ensured that criminal activity was channeled and was not disruptive to public peace, much like drug kingpins might avoid violence among their ranks to remain below the radar — fans of The Wire will know what I'm talking about). In all likelihood, you had gangs who were no longer limited in what they could do that took matters into their own hands, as well as police officers involved in crime who simply switched sides. You also had, and continue to have, a demoralized police force that often does not want to do its job. 

That being said, Egypt is still relatively safe. Not as safe as it used to be, but far safer than many Latin American countries, for instance. There are carjacks in certain areas, and a few cases of kidnappings of upper-class kids, but it's not chaos. It's not even US levels of criminality (which are quite high, mind you). Yet security regularly tops the concerns of Egyptians in polls, is a major talking point of the government and politicians, and even an argument by some for the postponment of the coming parliamentary elections. Some of this, I feel, is because the increase in security issues — even if small if compared to many other third world countries — is already a huge qualitative difference in the way Egyptians perceive their country. Mubarak's police state, through its regulation of crime and ubiquitous police state, kept things seemingly very safe. The same can be said of Syria I'm sure.

A recent Gallup poll has interesting data showing that while Egyptians worry more about security, they also report fewer incidents. Take a look at the charts below

ABU DHABI -- Egyptians feel less safe now than they did before the uprising that led to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's departure from office. Gallup surveys show 38% Egyptians in July through August 2011 say they do not feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live, down from 51% in June, but considerably higher than in previous years.

Do not feel safe walking alone at night

At the same time, Egyptians have become less likely to report that they have been assaulted or had their money stolen during the same period. The percentage of Egyptians who say they had their money or property stolen dropped to 8% in July through August 2011 from 13% in November 2010. Those saying they were victims of assault in the same period dropped from 7% to 3%.

Money/property stolen and been assaulted or mugged

Gallup makes the case that the key thing here is the media, which has been inflating sentiments of insecurity. I think that's partly true, and it has probably been a deliberate policy of the SCAF to justify its measures and buy public support. But we should not lose sight that in certain areas, the increase in certain types of crimes — car thefts, illegal use or purchase of weapons, burglaries, etc. are real. It seems to me that many of these areas are sparsely populated suburbs and major highways. Anecdotally I also hear about inner city crime, but the big-ticket items have been on Cairo's ring road or the Alexandria Desert Highway or Suez road. The poll above also seems to carry a built-in distortion: as people perceive greater insecurity, they take greater precautions.

My take is that insecurity has definitely risen, both naturally (a vacuum created by collapse of police state and slow reconstruction of regular policing) and artificially (media hysteria and perhaps state/former regime collusion in criminality, at least last February). Egypt will probably never be as safe — or perceived to be as safe — as it was under Mubarak. But I think the price is worth paying, especially if you factor in the biggest criminal of all for the last three decades: the state.

 

Behind the scenes

A fascinating piece at CounterPunch by Esam al-Amin, even if it contains some errors, but I have to wonder: where did he get all this information?

This lesson was not lost on the minds of a small clique of officials who were meeting in desperation in the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 31, 2011, in Cairo. According to several sources including former intelligence officer Col. Omar Afifi, one of these officials was the new Interior minister, Police Gen. Mahmoud Wagdy, who as the former head of the prison system, is also a torture expert. He asked Hosni Mubarak, the embattled president to give him a week to take care of the demonstrators who have been occupying major squares around the country for about a week.

Not only he had to rapidly reconstitute his security forces, which were dispersed and dejected in the aftermath of the massive demonstrations engulfing the country, but he also had to come up with a quick plan to prevent the total collapse of the regime.

The meeting included many security officials including Brig. Gen. Ismail Al-Shaer, Cairo’s security chief, as well as other security officers. In addition, leaders of the National Democratic Party (NDP)- the ruling party- including its Secretary General and head of the Consultative Assembly (upper house of Parliament), Safwat El-Sherif, as well as Parliament Speaker, Fathi Sorour, were briefed and given their assignments. Similarly, the retained Minister of Information, Anas Al-Feky, was fully apprised of the plan.

By the end of the meeting each was given certain tasks to regain the initiative from the street; to end or neutralize the revolution; and to defuse the most serious crisis the regime has ever faced in an effort to ease the tremendous domestic and international pressures being exerted on their president.

This much I do believe: the "pro-Mubarak protest" are the product of the regime and its NDP backers, without a doubt. Hopefully the details will come out in the months ahead.

Eyewitness to murder

I just got a call from an eyewitness to a situation near my neighborhood. The person is a member of one of the Popular Committees (the citizen's watch groups protecting streets) in Mounira, a middle class central Cairo area. This morning around 6:30am a car drove up the street leading from Qasr al-Aini St. to Saad Zaghloul metro station. The citizen watch didn't let them go through at first, but then they showed them their State Security IDs, so they were allowed to pass. At the end of the street they stopped, opened the rear of the vehicle and dumped a body out. The citizen watch people ran towards them, and the State Security fired a few shots before getting back into the car. Another car sped in the Citizen Watch's direction and hit two of them companions before fleeing. When the neighborhood people reached the body, they saw it was a dead man who had been shot in the stomach. He is unidentified and the body been taken to Mounira's hospital.

A note on this: there have been widespread reports of security forces being involved in the looting and violence that has taken place. This is one of the many incidents I have heard about. No doubt we'll hear of more. 

Nukes and regional security

A picture of the first ever nuclear explosion, 0.016 seconds after detonation.

I know I've been doing a lot of linking to Foreign Policy's Middle East Channel lately, but it's because they have so much good stuff. One item I'd really like to highlight in this piece on the nuclear question in the Middle East by Ezzedine Shukri-Fischere. It matches my thoughts exactly, and highlights a dimension of the current debate over Iran's potential nuclear program that is rarely touched upon in the American or European debate:

In the Middle East, however, the situation is more troubling and continues to generate serious risks for the world as a whole. Iran seems like the most compelling case at hand, but it is important to remember that Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity also stands in the way of establishing a regional security regime in the region. In the multilateral security talks that followed the 1991 Madrid Conference, Israel adamantly refused to discuss its nuclear program unless conventional and unconventional threats of its neighbors were addressed first (including those posed by Iran and Saddam's Iraq). Conversely, Arab states insisted on including Israel's nuclear weapons in the discussion before any security arrangement could be agreed. As a result, the talks collapsed and were never revived in the years since. Had the US intervened 15 years ago and led Arab states and Israel towards overcoming their tit-for-tat attitude, a Mideast security regime, with confidence-building measures, safeguards and verification mechanisms, would probably have emerged by now.

Both the US and actors in the region need to start a dialogue on all security concerns in the Middle East that includes the nuclear issues. And they need to start this dialogue now, and urgently.

Such a dialogue would help address a number of challenges at the same time. First, it would lay to rest the complaints about double standards in the nonproliferation community and relieve the US - and Israel - from the untenable claim that Israel's nuclear arsenal should somehow be treated as exceptional (a claim that nobody outside Washington and Tel Aviv gives serious consideration). The double-standard argument has been the most successful weapon against nonproliferation, especially in mobilizing public support for nuclear projects like those of Saddam's Iraq, Ghaddafi's Libya or Iran (and you will hear a lot about it in the coming weeks leading up to the NPT review). Second, such a dialogue would significantly decrease the pressure on Arab governments to start their own nuclear programs and abort what could be the beginning of a nuclear race in the region. Third, this dialogue would pave the way for the establishment of a Middle East security regime, which could be the vehicle for addressing a wide range of security hazards in this troubled and troubling region. Finally, such a dialogue might offer a framework for addressing Iran's problematic nuclear activities, especially if accompanied by a package of stabilizing confidence-building measures.

It's really a shame that al-Shorouk stopped running Ezzedine's columns, especially when they now instead have Fareed Zakariya and Thomas Friedman — who needs more of them?

Links for 10.24.09 to 10.25.09
Power play - The National Newspaper | M. Bazzi on Saudi-Syrian relations. Weirdly makes no mention of Lebanon.
Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter | Report: Ayman Nour attacked by security and NDP thugs in Hurghada.
Algérie-Maroc | Blog on Algerian-Moroccan relations.
Un propagandiste intéressé du régime tunisien - Les blogs du Diplo | Alain Gresh takes down Antoine Sfeir over his apologia for the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia.
“The State is an ostrich”: Algerian riots in the shadow of Power « The Moor Next Door | On the recent turmoil, and more generally the absence of a well-managed state in Algeria.
Arms Smugglers Into Gaza Face a New Foe: Egypt – Forward.com | To Egypt's eternal shame!
«الإخوان المسلمون» ينتصبون ضدّ بيونسي | جريدة الأخبار | The Muslim Brothers take on Beyoncé.
Daily News Egypt -No Egyptian Films At The Cairo International Film Festival, Says Ciff President | er.... what?
Reporters Sans Frontières | Tunisia: Election campaign impossible for opposition media
Daily News Egypt - ‘Spinsters’ By Choice: Egypt’s Single Ladies Speak Out | About the Facebook group "Spinsters for Change".
Michael Gerson - Michael Gerson on Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa - washingtonpost.com | Rather lame column about the Mufti of Egypt makes no mention of his civil servant status.
The Empire Lovers Strike Back « P U L S E | Fantastic text by Gore Vidal from the 1980s, about the Podhoretzes and the Israel lobby in the US.
Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism « P U L S E | Excerpt from new book by M. Shahuid Alam.
Bikya Masr: Ayman Nour attacked in Hurghada

Follow Bikya Masr (BikyaMasr) on Twitter for reports on an attack on Ayman Nour and his supporters by a dozen security and NDP thugs.


As of 23:10:










  1. Nour has told us that he feels "endangered."


  2. Nour has stated he will remain inside until there is a response from the Hurghada General Prosecutor's office.


  3. At this time, Nour and his party remain trapped in the restaurant.


  4. Nour: ""this sinful coalition between sec. forces and NDP is the worst form of terrorism. They are punishing us for our tour in Luxor.”


  5. Statement from Nour: "The situation is really dangerous. This is a severe attack and an unforgivable escalation.”


  6. They said that they are “security forces aided by some members of the ruling National Democratic Party Council in Hurghada!”


  7. Some members of El-Ghad Party Committee in Hurghada recognized the attackers.


  8. Only a small truck of Tourism Police came to the location of the incident and left after few minutes without taking any action


  9. They tried to call the police and security forces to help them, but they never showed up


  10. Nour and colleagues were having dinner with members of Elghad Committee in Hurghada before they were to go to the airport for cairo


  11. attackers tried to steal Gawad’s camera and papers but the owner of the restaurant saved him and pulled him inside again to protect him.


  12. Nour and his assistants are still stuck inside the restaurant which is surrounded by the thugs who are shouting: Viva Mubarak, Viva Egypt!


  13. Ahmed Abdul Gawad, Nour’s media assistant was severely beaten and wounded.


  14. While leaving Star Fish restaurant in Sheraton St., in Hurghada, Ayman Nour and his assistants were violently attacked by a dozen of thugs




Boycott Etisalat - in the UAE and everywhere else
Till they apologize and guarantee they will never do anything like this again, at least:

FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - BlackBerry rogue software leaves sour taste:

A bungled attempt by the United Arab Emirates’ largest telecommunications operator to install surveillance software into subscribers’ BlackBerrys has infuriated customers in the rich Gulf state, and raised global concerns over the security of smart phones.

Etisalat in late June told its 145,000 BlackBerry customers to ‘upgrade’ the software on their devices by downloading a program or ‘patch’ that Etisalat claimed would improve performance, but users said it only drained the battery of the smart phones, prompting tech-savvy subscribers to investigate further.

What they discovered was that the instead of improving performance, the software ‘patch’ – which included a mysterious file labelled ‘Interceptor’ – was actually spyware designed to let Etisalat capture, read and store targeted customers’ e-mails.

The claim was later confirmed by Research in Motion, the Canada-based maker of the BlackBerry, which sent out a warning to subscribers in the UAE with instructions on how to remove the rogue software."


For now they are stupidly denying it. And I'd love an initiative to reveal what all Middle Eastern telecoms are doing to help governments eavesdrop (or an easy way to disable that.) MobiNil and Vodafone in Egypt, for instance, provide access to their network servers to state security.