Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Cairo proved to be very anti-MB. It voted for Shafik in the presidential elections, voted “No” in the 2012 referendum and in 2014 the turnout increased by 5.5 percentage points versus 2012. These results indicate clearly that the urban middle class has turned against the Brotherhood, which is also evident in the professional syndicates where the MB has been losing one election after the other (MB started losing syndicate elections during Morsi’s term).
Giza, which is opposite to Cairo on the other side of the Nile, is composed of affluent urban areas and very poor semi-urban semi-rural neighborhoods such as Kirdasa, the scene of the gruesome lynching of policemen after police cracked down on the pro-Morsi camps last August. The affluent areas including the poor urban neighborhoods such as Imbaba witnessed high turnout in the 2014 referendum (poor urban areas in Cairo and Giza turned against the MB since the presidential elections). The other more rural oriented areas which are densely populated with voters remained Islamist strongholds and hence Giza as a whole witnessed a decline in turnout by 2.5 percentage points (-2.5% versus 2012).
Once dubbed as the bastion of Salafism in Egypt, the picturesque Mediterranean city proved this assumption wrong since the first stage of the presidential elections when Hamdeen Sabahy came in first. Even though Alex does have a large Salafi voting base, it looks as if it has more urban middle class voters who, like their Cairo counterparts, have turned against the Brotherhood. Alexandria witnessed a 2.2 percentage points increase in 2014.
The surprise! This huge area of Egypt, composed of urban cities and rural villages, voted overwhelmingly for the Islamists in the parliament elections and we all thought that this fertile land which is nestled between the two branches of the Nile will be in Islamists’ hands forever. That was understandable back then. Delta is poor, very conservative and with a high rate of illiteracy, the perfect soil for Islamists to use religion for their political gains. Delta proved us wrong and broke this correlation.
Delta voted for Shafik and Sabahy in stage one of the presidential elections, Shafik in stage two. In the 2014 referendum, Delta had a whopping increase in turnout by 13.5 percentage points, the largest increase across Egypt.
Upper Egypt has almost the same socioeconomic characteristics of Delta yet it did not exhibit the same voting pattern. Turnout in this region declined by 3.9 percentage points even though the tourist areas Luxor and Aswan had an increase in turnout versus 2012. Upper Egypt remains the largest stronghold of Islamist power in Egypt. Morsi would have lost the presidential elections if it wasn’t for the votes he won in Upper Egypt.
How UE behaved in referendum 2014 indicates that the power of the so-called families and tribes is overestimated. These large powerful clans, who vote according to a deal stricken by whomever is in power and their chief, are definitely large in number but it looks as if they’re not large enough to sway the entire region towards a particular vote.
(My future post will explain why Delta and Upper Egypt behave differently despite their similar socioeconomic conditions)
The Suez Canal cities are Port Said, Islamailia, and Suez. The first two had an increase in turnout but turnout declined in Suez. Port Said, which rose up against Morsi and the Brotherhood early this year following the Port Said Prison massacre, had a 13 percentage points increase. The effect of how the mood changed in Port Said is very evident in the large increase in turnout.
Ismailia, where people played football with army soldiers during Morsi’s imposed curfew, had a 3.2 percentage points increase. Ironically, Ismailia was the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood organization.
Suez, on the other hand, had a negative turnout (38.7% in 2012 vs 34.5% in 2014). The city has a large Islamist voting base which affected the turnout in this referendum.
Matruh and Fayoum:
Matruh and Fayoum are two governorates with a very significant Salafi base. They had the highest decline in turnout across Egypt, -20.2% and -11.5% respectfully. The vote in Matruh and Fayoum proves that the Salafi Nour Party, which supported the June 3 roadmap, did nothing to turn out the Salafi vote. The Nour Party, the only Islamist entity in the post-July 3 establishment, just wants a seat around the table and it is willing to become the current regime’s “Islamist fig leaf” to get that seat.
Red Sea and South Sinai
The most important tourist areas in Egypt. Both witnessed a positive increase in turnout. Voters there voted for tourists to come back.
Unexpectedly, North Sinai had a slight increase in turnout versus 2012 (0.4%). This area is witnessing continuous fighting between the Egyptian army and jihadists. Observers, including myself, believe that military actions in this part of Sinai is doing little in winning hearts and minds of the civilians there. The turnout was a surprise to me. Is public opinion shifting in favor of the military or are civilians tired of the current situation that they believe voting for the constitution might bring stability to their turbulent region?
Friday, July 19, 2013
Myth# 1: State institutions worked against Morsi as soon as he became president
This is one of the biggest myths that aim at justifying the Brotherhood colossal mismanagement of the country. While it is true that the Brotherhood did not exert full control over a number of state institutions, namely the army and the judiciary, all other state apparatus were under their direct control. As soon as former President Morsi assumed power, the Brotherhood frantically worked on consolidating their power in the various ministries and governorates. Take Maspero for example, the state owned media empire comprising of many TV and radio channels. As soon as Morsi entered the presidential palace, Maspero did what it does best for the past 60 years: glorify whoever is running the country.
Even the Ministry of Interior, the Brotherhood might have failed to win the hearts and minds of the young officers, but they had enough control to sack the ministry’s top commander and appoint someone who they thought would be loyal to them. Mohamed Ibrahim, the minister of interior whom the Brotherhood appointed, tried as much as possible to remain loyal to his bosses until June 30 came looming. Days before the big day, young officers at the newly formed Police Officers Club announced they won’t be repeating the same mistake of the January 25th revolution and they won’t side with a political faction anymore. They said that they will not secure any Muslim Brotherhood (MB) offices and will just be present at the police and government buildings. Under pressure from his young officers, Mohamed Ibrahim had to choose between pleasing his subordinates or his boss. Days before the storm, he chose to please the former. It was a smart gamble. The MB were not in total control over the ministry of interior but judging from the speed of at which they were extending their tentacles over the other government institutions I expected the ministry of interior to totally succumb anytime soon. After June 30, signs of their attempt to infiltrate the ministry started to surface. 3 high ranking police officers at the National Security department were transferred from their positions because of their alleged ties to Brotherhood leaders.
The judiciary was another institution that was at odds with the MB. To tame the judges, the MB was trying to pass a law that would have severed 3000 judges. Critics of the law believed that the MB would have filled the seats of the severed judges with their own sympathizers. I believe if the MB had come out unharmed out of June 30, the judiciary law would have been the first thing they passed to exert total control over the justice system.
The Ministry of Culture was another ministry the MB appointed a sympathizer to. His first decision was to fire Enas Abdel Dayem, the manager of the Cairo Opera House back then. His decision caused an uproar because of the popularity of Abdel Dayem at the Opera and among artists. The MB and their ilk were in control of the country’s most important ministries to the extent that they had the time to pick up a fight with the opera house manager!
So the belief that all state institutions were working against the MB is a pure myth. While a number of institutions were resisting their control, the others, especially the public service institutions, succumbed to the new rulers. The vast majority of Egypt’s state bureaucracy will serve whoever pays the salary at the end of the month.
Myth#2: the media was fighting the MB
That is another delusion. When the MB was whining about alleged media bias, they were basically referring to 6 or 7 private satellite channels. Here is a list of the media channels the MB had under their direct control: the entire empire of the state owned media (we’re talking about a wide array of TV channels, radio channels and publications), Al Jazeera, the MB owned TV channel and newspaper, the various religious channels and above all thousands of mosques all over the country!
The MB had all these media channels under their disposal yet they were unable to communicate properly and whitewash their disastrous one year in power.
Myth#3: Tamarod was created by the military
This myth stems from the news reports (here and here) that surfaced indicating that Tamarod had contacts with the army via a third party.
First, it is not quite obvious what kind of help Tamarod got from the army. It can hardly be financial because I’ve seen how Tamarod worked. It was purely based on grassroots activism. Everyone was encouraged to photocopy the petition and collect signatures and hand it over to the campaign. I myself photocopied 300 EGP worth of petitions and gave them to a group of Tamarod activists who were collecting signatures in Shubra. I visited their official headquarters, a simple apartment in an old rundown downtown building. I saw young men and women counting petitions in the excruciating heat of Cairo because the AC was broken. Tamarod depended solely on people activism and the generosity of Egyptians who printed petitions on their own expense. And believe me, there were a lot of rich Egyptians out there who hated the MB and were ready to print loads of petitions and support the campaign financially.
Second, assuming that Tamarod was an army creation, I personally didn’t have an army gun pointed at my head when I signed the petition. No army soldier came to my house on June 30 and ordered me to take to the streets. The millions who signed the petitions and demonstrated afterwards did so by their own freewill and this renders any alleged Tamarod-army conspiracy irrelevant.
So this is what I believe happened. The army sensed that June 30 might be big especially after Tamarod went viral. They knew that if the numbers turned out to be huge, they had to act and topple Morsi especially after their months of acrimony. It made perfect sense from a purely political perspective to open a line of communication, via a third party, with the movement that would later lead the largest gathering of Egyptians in history.
Myth# 4: Someone created the gas lines and power cuts to turn people against the MB before June 30
That conspiracy theory appeared in a New York Times report written by my Twitter friend David Kirkpatrick. Ever since I read that report, I’ve been sending David and the New York Times pictures, tweets and news reports of gas lines and power cuts that happened and continue to happen after June 30! Follow me on Twitter because I’m keeping track!
Wasn’t there a huge fuel crisis before June 30? Yes and it ended a few days before June 30! The crisis was caused by the massive panic attack that people which made them flock to gas stations to fill their tanks before the big day.
I fully understand that myths around June 30 will continue to arise simply because many people do not understand how millions took to the street to demand a military coup. Well, it just happened. Some political textbooks need to be revised.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Two possible scenarios, but before I mention them, let’s make two facts very clear.
Fact One: Army is murderous & trigger happy
This is not the first time the army and police killed scores of people. They did so when SCAF was in power and during Brotherhood rule as well. Army troops in particular are not trained to deal with civilians, not mentioning armed civilians. They are similar to the teens from Alabama the US government sent to man checkpoints in Iraq. Couple their lack of training with their disregard to any human rights; you end up having creatures that turn into mass murderers in any given melee.
Fact Two: The Brotherhood are armed
I heard a bullet myself in Maspero. Last weekend, the Brotherhood decided to go protest at Maspero, the state owned media complex not far from Tahrir. Upon my arrival there I saw MB trying to reach Tahrir via the October 6th exit. Tahrir protesters were trying to stop them by throwing rocks and firing fireworks. They pushed the MB back and took control of the bridge. I was basically seeing and hearing the things I witnesses before in clashes during the past two and a half years: rocks, fireworks and occasionally birdshots. Suddenly it came invading my ears; the sound you hear in old cowboy and Indians movies, the whistle sound a bullet makes when it hits a wall. The Maspero clashes ended when armed locals from the area came and drove the MB away.
Another proof the MB had weapons is much more obvious than the whistle sound I heard at Maspero. Last week the MB were involved in clashes with protesters and locals in Bayn El Sarayat, Manial, Maspero, Sidi Gaber and Assiut – not mentioning the other battles that occurred in the provinces but were not thoroughly covered by the local media. Bayn El sarayat is very near the other MB sit-in in front of Cairo University. Since the MB had weapons there, we can presume they also had weapons at the Rabaa and Republic Guards Club (RGC) sit-ins. These were the major deadly clashes that witnessed the death of tens including MB who aggravated locals with their violence and assault on their neighborhoods.
Lastly, an army officer, a policeman and a soldier were shot dead during the RGC shootings. An army officer was shot from a high position (possibly a roof) and is now in a serious condition. A witness whom The New Yorker interviewed confirmed that he saw and heard shooting coming from the protesters side.
Scenario 1: Army wanted to break the sit-in
The army wanted to end the RGC sit-in and thus it was the generals who instigated the violence. The RGC sit-in is right on one of Cairo’s main avenues and is in the middle of high profile military institutions. It’s also possible that the army might have had intelligence on the presence of weapons inside the sit-in and decided to storm it.
According to witnesses, tear gas was used at the initial phase of the shooting. The usage of heavy tear gas usually precedes the storming of a particular sit-in.
Scenario 2: PR stunt by the MB
The Brotherhood is cornered. It lost the power seat it wanted for the past eighty years in just one year. The popularity of the MB went on a downward spiral and only an incident like that could win them some support especially outside Egypt. The intrernational community was the last card the MB was playing when the anti-Morsi protests grew to the millions. So the MB did in fact attack the RGC to provoke the RGC soldiers to commit the massacre to allow the MB a golden opportunity to plead their case in front of an already sympathetic international media.
Can the MB actually do this to itself? Yes. Even though the MB had renounced violence, it is still not distant enough from the dogma of suicide bombings and martyrdom. Almost every known terrorist had an encounter with the MB at one point in his life. Killing the poor souls you brainwash for political gains is not a far thing from the MB mind.
When the army moved in to storm the sit-in, the MB fired and that was enough to cause the knee jerk reaction from our trigger happy soldiers.
Friday, July 5, 2013
Whenever the Brotherhood wanted to prove that Egypt under their authority was going in the right direction, they pointed to Inar – a tablet made by Benha Electronics. They dubbed it as the first tablet to be made in Egypt. Inar was an important component of the Brotherhood’s achievements list to the extent that former President Morsi talked about it in his historical Qaddafi-style 2 hours and 30 minutes speech (he referred to Inar as the “first Egyptian iPad”! Me hope Apple did not hear that).
Well, putting aside the fact that plans for Inar started in 2007 (i.e during Mubarak’s reign), the tablet is made from locally assembled electronic components that are mostly coming from abroad. In other words, Inar is not an Egyptian invention. The tablet itself is not an Egyptian invention. We stopped inventing stuff, until Sunday June 30th 2013. On that day we invented the PLC: Popularly Legitimate Coup.*
Yes, it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck. Yes it is a coup. However, it is a “coup but”. It is a coup supported by the largest gathering of Egyptians in human history. I am an Egyptian, I have been living here for all my life and I’ve never seen before what I saw this week. I have been involved in almost every major demonstration since the 2011 revolution, what I saw this week is staggering. The numbers, especially on June 30th, far exceeded the numbers of who participated in the January revolution to oust Mubarak. People from all walks of Egyptian life thronged squares and streets even if no demonstrations were called for (take a look at this video shot by army helicopters on June30). If you call this a coup without adding the “but” then you’re not seeing the full picture at all. After seeing the magnitude of the demonstrations and their geographical reach, I can comfortably conclude that June 30 and the days that followed reflected what the majority of Egyptians wanted.
I wrote before on why Egyptians revolted against their elected regime. I just want to add that it was the Brotherhood who brought us to this stage. It was their political greed and mismanagement of the country that forced millions to the streets to demand General Al-Sisi to topple President Morsi. Washington and Europe had a role in June 30 as well. Aside from the few public statements here and there, both stayed silent in front of the Brotherhood’s abuses and seizure of absolute power. Last April I was in D.C trying to convince US policymakers and officials to exert more pressure and use the leverage that the US has in Egypt to force the Brotherhood to reform politically. With every meeting I had in Washington I became convinced that the Obama Administration chose to be just a spectator.
It is understandable why many in the West cannot understand the legitimacy behind PLC. In the West, facets of democracy such as an inclusive constitution, human rights, inclusive politics, bills of rights and rule of law are taken for granted. Elections is the only facet they practice every 4 or 5 years. In Egypt, we just had one facet of democracy, elections, and the Brotherhood deprived us from all the other facets that Westerners take for granted. President Obama was right when he told Morsi in their final telephone conversation that “democracy is more than elections”. Unfortunately, the advise was too late. Toppling elected regime happened before, especially in Argentina, Egyptians this time sought the help of the only state institution they trust: the army.
PLC is a product of the recent sociopolitical circumstances in Egypt. It is purely an Egyptian invention and it seems they are happy with it. They see it as a way to remedy the mistake they have done one year ago. It is the same mistake the Germans and Italians did before World War Two. We’re not better than the Germans and the Italians.
*The term Popularly Legitimate Coup was coined by H.A. Hellyer
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Last Sunday, Egyptians in almost every major city in Egypt took to the streets by the millions to demand that President Morsi steps down. The mass demonstrations did not stop since June 30th, the throngs continued to fill streets and squares even if no demonstration was scheduled by Tamarod, the movement that is clearly leading the streets of Egypt today. Yesterday for example, Tamarod asked the people to go to the Itihadiya and Quba palaces to continue adding pressure on Morsi. They did but at the same time Tahrir was also filled to the brim. No demonstration was planned in Tahrir!
June 30 witnessed demonstrations that far exceeded the revolution of 2011 that ousted Hosni Mubarak. In fact, the millions who took to the streets on June 30 exceeded the number who attended the funerals of both President Naser and Egyptian diva Um Kalthoum, making that day the largest gathering of Egyptians in history. So why did Egyptians suddenly turn against a president whom they elected only a year ago?
MB served two masters:
President Morsi was elected because people yearned for change. The margin between him and Shafik was not that big but still the majority chose change over a candidate who represented Mubarak’s era. What we later discovered was that Morsi turned out to be merely the Brotherhood’s representative in the presidency and not the president of all Egyptians.
President Morsi used his office to consolidate power for the Brotherhood which ruled Egypt as if it was just one branch in its regional organization. The instability in the country can be traced back to his dictatorial constitutional decree that granted him sweeping power; something Mubarak would have not even dared to do. Egyptians had big dreams after the January 2011 revolution and they hoped the Brotherhood would deliver a better Egypt. Instead, the MB minimized Egypt, the cradle of civilization, to just a tool for them to meet the petty geopolitical goals of their organization.
MB turned into an occupation force
The Brotherhood did not try to change Mubarak’s regime, they just cloned it and made it work for their interests. The cultic nature of the Brotherhood organization, its ideological ties with foreign entities and regional span made it look as if it was “not very Egyptian”. Some of the protesters who took to the streets since last Sunday refer to the MB as the “the Brotherhood occupation.”
No Sheikh under the Mosque’s Dome
“We thought there was a sheikh under the mosque’s dome.” Egyptians say this when they anticipate something big from someone and then get nothing at the end. Before reaching power, we thought the Brotherhood were these great business people who will improve the living standard of Egyptians. On the contrary, we discovered that the MB know nothing about the economy and their economic policy depended solely on borrowing money from anyone who showed any sign of willingness to lend. We thought they were Warren Buffets, they turned out to be Seven Eleven cashiers.
The Brotherhood’s dreadful mismanagement of the country’s economy and the political situation was one of the major reasons why Egyptians cannot take them anymore.
The failure of Westerners to understand why Egyptians revolted against an elected regime is stemming from the fact that they, the Westerners, are secured in their inclusive constitutions, bills of rights and rule of law. We have nothing of these. We only had one facet of democracy – election – which brought a cultic organization with a fascist twist that decided to cancel the other facets.
Why did Egyptians vote for the MB if they were so dreadful? Well, they didn’t know. They did a mistake. The Germans voted for a mass murderer and the Italians voted for a fascist. We have the right to make mistakes too. We’re not better than the Germans and the Italians.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Tomorrow, Sunday June 30th, thousands of Egyptians will commemorate the first anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s presidency by taking to the streets demanding him to step down. The scheduled protests might be the biggest since the revolution of 2011. This “second wave” of the revolution came after the nationwide signatures drive, dubbed “Tamarod” or Rebel, claimed to have collected over 15 million petitions calling for early presidential elections.
Upon it’s inception, Tamarod was underestimated by almost everybody. Few of the well known activists of the 2011 revolution even paid any attention to the Tamarod campaigners, many of them in their late teens and early twenties, who stood for hours in Egypt’scourging heat in order to collect these signatures. After Tamarod’s first press conference, all eyes started to be directed to this new campaign that managed to do what everyone else failed in doing: reaching out to Egypt’s abandoned populace outside Cairo and Alexandria. This worried the ruling Muslim Brotherhood; Tamarod reached their domain.
Below I try to answer the most common questions people might have about June 30.
Why June 30?
I believe June 30 is inevitable, it is destined to happen regardless of whether you agree with the demands or not. Thanks to the MB’s mismanagement of the country and their political greed, many “coach party members” who never joined a demonstration will do so on this particular day. In fact, if Tamarod wants to thank someone for the success of their campaign, they should thank the MB themselves.
During Mubarak I would have never imagined that the day would come when Egyptians would lambaste the MB so openly. The MB and their Islamists cohorts were “holy” under Mubarak, they were untouchable, they were God’s people. Today you can hardly get into a Cairo cab without hearing him hurl insults at the MB and Morsi.
So why June 30? Because of the MB’s dreadful rule during the past year.
Will June 30 be big?
Depends on who will join. If we had the same middle class crowd that took to the streets last December following the constitutional decree, then nothing much will happen. These folks demonstrate till 10 pm. If we had a newer segment of the society, namely the lower social economic class, then we’re talking. Judging from events in the Delta during the past days, do expect a new kind of protesters. I don’t know how they will look like, but I know for a fact they won’t look like the neat middle class protesters you all loved on January 2011.
What will happen?
Cairo – clashes might happen if the number of demonstrators was massive and they decided to occupy Cairo. In other words, occupy the institutions of power to force the regime to abdicate. If that happened, the Islamists stationed in Rabaa el Adaweiyah will react and the mini civil war will commence.
Delta – This region has been boiling in the past days and will be on fire on June 30. It is controlled by no one. It will be MB vs pissed off apolitical locals who are not affiliated with any political organization. Both are armed and it won’t be nice there. Living conditions will drive people out to the streets and I expect that people from the rural areas, MB strongholds, will participate as well.
Alexandria – we’ve seen a rehearsal today in Sidi Gaber. Live ammunition was used and 2 persons were killed including an American who was taking pictures of the clashes. Just like Delta, Alexandria might witness very fierce clashes.
The Canal cities – there will be mass protests especially in Port Said, however the 3 cities there will remain relatively peaceful. The army is in total control there and MB presence in Port Said in almost nonexistent.
Upper Egypt – There will be demonstrations fueled by the deteriorating living conditions but I am not expecting clashes there nor massive demonstrations.
The Battle of Cairo?
If massive numbers took to the streets and they decided to take control of the capital, “The Battle of Cairo” will occur.
As mentioned above, the Brotherhood shipped thousands of their followers from the rural areas and brought them to Cairo. They brought them to the battleground. Delta is not the battleground nor is Alexandria, Cairo is. Egypt is a very centralized country, even if the regime was facing fierce clashes in the provinces, if it lost Cairo then it lost power over the entire country.
The Battle of Cairo will be decided by the following:
1. Whether the protesters will in fact try to occupy or at least paralyze government institutions.
2. Whether Greater Cairo’s urban poor will join the clashes. This segment of the society have mostly turned against the MB. They hail from neighbourhoods such as of Matareyah, Imbaba, Shubra and Ain Shams. If they joined the fight, the poor MB rural supporters will be obliterated even if they were armed.
3. Whether the army will finally intervene and stop the clashes.
What will the army do?
The army would rather maintain the status quo, however, the generals will react to events on the ground. If the civil unrest went out of control, they will intervene based on two different scenarios:
1. If the MB had the upper hand, the army will side with Morsi.
2. If the protesters overwhelmed the regime, the army will force Morsi to step down just as it did with Mubarak.
What will happen if Morsi was toppled?
I’ve stated before that I prefer if Morsi continued his term. However, this doesn’t seem to be the consensus among the new activists behind the Tamarod campaign or the poor people who will protest because they wait for 5 hours before getting some fuel for their trucks. I don’t know exactly what will happen if Morsi fell. I did not do June 30. June 30 came upon me. It is like a big wave in the sea, you either swim along with it or wait until it hits you, turns you upside down and then passes you.
However, just for the sake of providing you with an answer, here it is: the army will temporarily take power and then schedule new presidential elections. How will the Brotherhood react? I don’t know, it depends on their structure post June 30 and how weakened they will be.
What will happen if June 30 failed?
Depends on how you define failure. To me failure is if the regime was unharmed and thus offered no concessions. If that happened, the Brotherhood will crush everyone standing their way.
To conclude, June 30 is coming whether you agree with it or not, whether you like the people who will participate in it or not. The choice is yours. You can swim along with the big wave or stand there till the waves hit you and turns you upside down. In both cases, you can do absolutely nothing to influence the wave.
God save Egypt.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
The Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) newly drafted NGOs law is the perfect embodiment of how low the Brotherhood can reach. By trying to pass a law that will greatly hinder NGOs funding, the MB is stifling the same organizations that supported it during Mubarak’s dictatorship. You can’t get any lower!
Why is the MB biting the hand that fed it?
First, repeat after me: the MB is a repressive regime, the MB is a repressive regime. When that reality sinks in, you will discover that there isn’t much of a difference between the Mubarak and the MB regimes. As any repressive regime, the MB considers a free strong well financed civil society as a threat to its regime and plans for consolidating absolute power in Egypt.
Second, NGOs with adequate financing are more capable of exposing the regime’s misconduct. For example, if democracy advocates have ample funding, they’ll recruit enough elections monitors to venture into the rural remote areas and witness what’s going on there.
Third, MB is working frantically to clone Mubarak regime and makes it operate for its political benefit and ambition to totally seize power. Mubarak curbed NGOs in order to protect his rule, the MB are doing the same thing, if not worse. By passing their law, the MB will provide a legal basis for intimidating NGOs and curbing their funding.
What should Western governments do? Western officials, whether American or European, should first fathom this fact: public statements are inadequate, they are useless. If Western governments really want to help the democratic transition in Egypt and they’re sincere in their desire to see a functioning democracy, they should start using their leverage on the country’s new rulers to push for things like an internationally standard NGO law. And there are a zillion cards to play ranging from political pressure to economic incentives. Yes it is the good old carrots and sticks approach. However, judging from my recent trip to Washington, this won’t be happening anytime soon. May be the Europeans will do things differently this time.
Friday, May 17, 2013
The Tamarod or Rebel campaign, the Morsi no-confidence signatures drive that began less than a month ago, triggered very little reaction from the media, opposition parties and well known activists who became figureheads of the January 25th revolution. After their press conference, where they claimed to have collected over 2 million signatures, Rebel activists saw thing turning upside down and everyone rushed to jump on the Rebel bandwagon. The regime took note and the MB started pointing their guns at Rebel. Since the kids behind this signatures drive managed to piss off the MB, then they’re most probably doing the right thing.
Shook the Opposition Out Of Its Hiatus
For the past four to five months, the opposition was simply in a hiatus. The failure of the mass protests of last December and January to force the Brotherhood to change their behavior seems to have discouraged many people and convinced them that protests and filling up squares do not work anymore. The opposition managed to fill two squares simultaneously without a single bus to ship people from outside Cairo yet the MB went ahead with their plans to consolidate power and clone Mubarak’s regime and make it work for their own benefit.
The Rebel campaign came as a bolt of lightning shaking the opposition out of its despair. Now almost every opposition party declared their full support of Rebel and offering their offices for the nationwide campaign to use. Rebel was the stone that fell inside a stagnant pond of water.
At Last Grassroots Work!
One of the most cited criticisms directed to the opposition is the fact that they do not engage in grassroots political activity. The Rebel campaign, on the other hand, spread across the country by the means of purely grassroots efforts. People were encouraged to photocopy the petition and pass the copies around. Once the petitions were signed, a Rebel representative will collect them and add to the number that Rebel hopes will reach 15 million by June 30th, the day on which they will march to the High Constitutional Court to deliver the petitions. The Rebel Facebook page is filled with pictures of Egyptians from all walks of life signing the no-confidence petition form. People the opposition would dream about reaching.
The End of the Mubarak Era Activists
I watched as well known Mubarak era activists were “philosophically” debating the merits of Rebel. Some were supportive; others thought the campaign was a waste of time. I followed this debate on the place where most Mubarak era activists are finding their refuge now: Twitter.
I believe Rebel is the first sign of the end of Mubarak era activists and the rise of a new generation of far younger activists. No one can blame the older generation activists for their demise. First, this is the natural cycle of life. Second, most of these activists are now in their mid thirties and early forties, they are married, they have children and the responsibilities of life are starting to weigh in on them. Third, these activists saw their life dream grumble right in front of their eyes. They saw their revolution being stolen while they’re standing powerless. Their energy was drained. It’s time for new soldiers to fight the new enemy.
Will Rebel make a difference? I don’t know but I do know it is the start of something and it is definitely better than the inertness the opposition was in since the beginning of the year.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
I have written before that if this revolution produced one good thing it is the clash of mentalities we’re witnessing ever since the Islamists reached power a year and a half ago. I said that the halo political Islamists sported during Mubarak is diminishing and this is opening up debates that we have never experienced before.
This clash of mentalities is fully symbolized in the below tweets. The tweet on top, written by a Morsi supporter and possibly a Brotherhood member, mocks Muslims who chose to say “Happy Easter” to Christians. “Greetings on the occasion of the Lord’s death and his waking up,” he wrote mockingly. Islam does not believe in Christ’s death and resurrection, extremists use that as an excuse to forbid well wishing Christians especially during Easter.
The tweet on the bottom is a reply by another Muslim. “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion. Allah truthfully said. May Allah punish you,” read the tweet. The author of this tweet is basically saying that even though Islam does not recognize Easter, the Quran declares that everyone is free to believe in his own religion and the difference in beliefs should not make humans antagonistic towards one another.
This exchange foretells two things. First, as mentioned above, we are entering in an era of debate and second thought. More and more people, especially the young, are refusing to take things at face value again. Mubarak kept us stagnant for 30 years. He did the thinking for us; we were left to talk only about religion, football and sex. The revolution, regardless of all its current ills, has stirred the minds of many people and brought a wide array of topics into the public discussions forum. When you debate you think, and when you think you question, and when you question you’re most likely going to reach a good conclusion.
Second, the author of the second tweet invoked verse 5 from Al-Kafirun chapter in the Quran to state his point. He used his religious beliefs to dispel the demeaning statement. I believe the current shock many people have from political Islamist rule will open the door once again for religious reformation. Politics unmasked the politicized Islamists and many people, especially those who belong to the influential middle class, do not like what they see. This will eventually lead anyone who despises radical thought to two reactions: either leave the faith and become very nominal or even an atheist, or return back to religious text and use it to change the current radical religious discourse. This is what our friend who wrote the bottom tweet did.
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Last March, the Brotherhood appointed General Prosecutor placed Egyptian billionaires Onsi Sawiris and his son Nasif on the travel ban and arrivals watch lists. The government accused their company, Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), of evading taxes worth $2.1 billion.
“The Egyptian Tax Authority has submitted a tax claim to the company to pay 4.7 billion pounds related to the sale of Orascom Building Materials Holding to Lafarge SA in 2007,” the company said on its website. “To date, the company has received no additional claim with any different tax liability.”
The debate over whether OCI owes the government this amount could go on forever and I do not want to discuss that here. I want to tell you why I think the Brotherhood led government went after this particular family.
I believe the target of this whole ordeal was not the 82 years old billionaire- who is not running any of his businesses today – or his son Nasif. The target was Naguib Sawiris and his political activity. Naguib, who literally sold everything he owns in Egypt, including the private satellite channel ON TV, was the major financier behind the Egypt Bloc, the loose coalition of liberal parties that ran against the Islamists during the last parliament elections. Now that the MB is rapidly losing popularity because of their dreadful way of running the country, having a billionaire on the opposition side is pretty dangerous for the regime. He had to be neutralized. He had to be intimidated. Since Naguib got rid of the vast majority of his assets in Egypt, they has to find another weak spot: his family. They went after his old father who could very much spend the rest of his life in a mansion on the French Riviera, instead he returned to Egypt yesterday after settling the tax issue with the government (OCI will pay $1 billion over 7 years).
What if OCI was indeed guilty of tax evasion? Let us assume this is in fact the case. Why was this particular company targeted on its own? Is OCI the only company that evaded taxes? Is OCI the only company the broke the law? Business laws in Egypt are very complicated, unrealistic and many of them do not make any sense. The nature of these business curbing laws led to the following reality: there isn’t a single businessman in Egypt who has never broken the law even if he was merely a cigarettes kiosk owner. If you want to pull down any business in Egypt, all what you have to do is dig in its papers and you will find something illegal there. This is Egypt! In fact, there is nothing called law abiding Egyptians either! You remember that 20 pounds you stuffed inside the government employee’s pocket so that he gives you your driving license in 1 hour instead of 5? Well, that’s called bribery, that’s against the law!
So if the MB appointed General Prosecutor had targeted a whole list of companies, including Islamist owned companies, I might have believed the whole issue was about trying to collect money from any source possible. But the whole saga has the word politics written all over it. The MB is using the same dirty tactics of the Mubarak regime to ensure that money does not go to their rivals.
Now we will have to watch whether Naguib will relent and stay away from financing the opposition. A source told me that a prominent opposition party approached him for finances and he declined. It seems this will be the case in the foreseeable future. It turned out that his old man loves his Cairo apartment more than the Cote d’Azur mansion.