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Belal Fadl on Egypt becoming “A Nation of Snitches”

Belal Fadl, an Egyptian screenwriter and columnist who has continued to speak his mind on the brutality and hypocrisy of the country’s military regime, has published a five-part series with the news site Mada Masr on the history of domestic espionage in Egypt. Our good friends at the professional translation service Industry Arabic have translated the final installment in the series; the earlier ones are available in Arabic on the Mada site. 

 

When a ruler depends solely on the power of oppression and completely impedes rational thinking, he no longer concerns himself with ensuring that there is an informant for every citizen.  Rather, he seeks to drive each and every citizen to become an informant of his or her own volition.

Some weeks ago, Abdel Rahman Zaidan, coordinator of the Revolutionaries Front in East Cairo, published a testimony on his Facebook page that soon became widely shared.  In this testimony, Abdel Rahman states that as he was riding a microbus [shared taxi-van] home, he was surprised to hear a middle-aged woman begin to fiercely criticize Sisi, the current government, and the Interior Ministry, much to the shock of those riding in the microbus with her.  One of the other passengers, encouraged by what the woman was saying, joined her in openly attacking Sisi, the government, and the Interior Ministry.

Before Abdel Rahman could join the discussion, the woman suddenly asked the driver to pull over next to a church along the way.  As soon as the microbus stopped, the woman stuck her head out the window and called to the church guards, shouting, “Save me! There’s a Muslim Brotherhood terrorist in the microbus!”

The guards rushed over, began beating the young man who had criticized Sisi, and pulled him from the microbus. The woman also got out of the microbus in order to accompany them and to testify to the heinous act that the young man had committed. She shot a sharp glance back at the other passengers, as if defying them to intervene, and stated proudly, “We’re cleaning up this country!” The remaining passengers, shocked at what had happened, sat frozen in their seats as the microbus drove away.

Abdel Rahman concludes his testimony by advising his colleagues – who are busy defending their comrades who are among the students who have been detained, providing for their needs, and publicizing their cases – to refrain from talking about politics on public transportation in order to focus their efforts on what is most important. He urges them to avoid falling into this new security trap, set to ensnare anyone who expresses opposition to what is happening in Egypt.

read full article here

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Albert Einstein – God bless him – defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  And I think if you asked him to define filth, he would say that it is repression: a repression that labels as traitors all those who warn the people of the danger of repeating the same actions that have led to their defeat in the past, expecting that these actions will somehow lead them to victory now. It’s like expecting milk from an ant’s…well, let’s just say from an ant. [The expression “getting milk from an ant’s c#nt” means attempting the impossible]. 

Egyptian Author Omar Hazek’s ‘World Cup’ Letter from Prison

The poet and novelist Omar Hazek, sentenced to two years at Borg El-Arab prison ostensibly for violating Egypt’s controversial anti-protest law, has written his seventh letter from inside prison:

The letter was written last month and published in El-Badil. It has been translated by Zahra Abdel Aziz:

omar-hazeq-275x192This is a lovely morning, the morning of June 12, 2014. I have just finished the revision of the fourth draft of my new novel, which I started in Hadara prison by the light of a candle and completed here in Gharbaniyat—Borg El-Arab prison. It is my habit to write half of the text or more in the first draft, and in the following drafts I complete the text after further editing either deleting or adding, and I think there may be fifth or sixth drafts. Now all the features of the novel have become clear, and I am delighted with it — so have a delightful morning, my few friends and my many brothers in loving this country.

Despite  this, there is another reason for this morning to be lovely. Yesterday, I learned that today is the beginning of the World Cup, which brings joy to millions. I don’t like football and hate its capitalism and unwise industry. Millions of the poor will be happy with unreal victories of the national teams of their countries. Let the poor become happy because there are no real reasons to be happy in their countries. These poor and simple people avoid politics and prefer to “walk close to the hall” or even walk inside it (that is, lead the quiet and keep themselves away from any troubles). These are the people that I am addressing here.

I remember a few days before the 30th of June; there was a long discussion on one of my friend’s and colleague’s Facebook wall about participation in the 30th of June. I remember that I wrote: whatever the arguments against participation, I will participate. This is because millions of the poor protested against Mubarak’s regime dreaming of a better life and they became poorer and this is enough reason to protest against any president even if he is an elected president.

I say to you poor man, my brother, when you make the tea with the biscuit packet which is worth half Egyptian pound, and turn on the old fan and sit on the sofa watching the television that you purchased through paying monthly instalments. When you are amazed by the Samba dancing at the World Cup opening ceremony, when you cannot restrain yourself while reacting after a goal or after watching a player keeping the football from the other team in a skillful way, and you start applauding, cheering, or even insulting. After the end of a very good match, you return the empty tea cups and the empty biscuit packets, or when you leave the café where you watched the match with your friends and return home, you are still analyzing the match. When something like this happens, be happy and best wishes for being happy. I just from here want you to think about a small, simple and inspiring idea.

Think of an exceptional girl — her name is Maheinor El-Masry who is currently in Abaddiyya prison in Damanhour because of a clear, shameful crime: dreaming for a better tomorrow for you, with more freedom, justice and dignity. Maheinor led our protests since Mubarak and taught me a lot, and now she’s imprisoned for defending her dreams. I am not afraid for her because I know her very well.

I also have learned that Alaa Abd el-Fattah and his companions were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Think also about thousands of young people who paid their lives and others who paid their eyes and injuries as a price for our freedom, your freedom and my freedom. Don’t forget this and don’t waste your rights, my poor brother, because life is beautiful with freedom.

More:

A previous letter from prison and background on Hazek’s case

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mlynxqualey | juillet 6, 2014 à 6:01   | 

How Egypt’s New Regime is Silencing Civil Society

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Somewhere in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak must be smiling, knowing that three years after his downfall, he has won after all.

After three decades of muzzling civil society, of harassing, detaining and torturing political activists, scholars, journalists, lawyers, doctors and regular citizens of all stripes, Mubarak never was able to accomplish what the new regime has achieved in a matter of months.

Mubarak was never able to silence completely civil society. The judiciary rose up to check his periodic grabs to expand his power, frustrating his regime so much that in his last years, he collaborated with the military to set up an entirely separate system of military courts to try scholars, activists and others who spoke out in defiance.

All of that is gone now. In just one week, we have had a dizzying series of show trials and detentions.

In three cases, civilian judges handed down death sentences against large number of supporters of former Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s top religious figure. In another, three Al Jazeera English journalists were convicted of “falsifying news” and belonging to or assisting the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Finally, on Tuesday, 23 Egyptians were detained for a peaceful march to the presidential palace. The protesters were first attacked by groups of men in civilian clothes before they were arrested for violating the new Protest Law. Some may have been simply bystanders. One was a noted women’s rights activist who told friends she was arrested while buying water from a kiosk near the protests.

Egyptian defendants’ relatives mourn after Egypt court refers 638 Morsi supporters are sentenced to death sentence in the coutnry’s latest mass trial (Photo Credit: Ahmed Ismail/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

All of this is disturbing, but most of all the total failure of the judicial system to maintain any semblance of fair justice.

In the words of the Amnesty International trial observer, these trials were a “farcical spectacle.” Death penalties, we said, are now being issued “at a drop of a hat.” Journalists were “jailed for journalism.”

Some of the details resemble dark comedy. The low point of a bad week of the judiciary came in one of the death penalty cases, involving 683 defendants. As the judge listed the sentences, one of the defendants was first sentenced to death and then to 15 years in prison. Three days later, there’s still public confusion about which sentence he received.

A second man sentenced in a second death penalty case was a blind man who could not have possibly been involved in any political violence.

Egyptian relatives of supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi cry sitting outside the courthouse after the court ordered the execution of 529 Morsi supporters after only two hearings (Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images).

Piously, Egypt’s leaders deny any politicization of the judiciary. Responding to pleas from President Obama to release the journalists, Egypt’s new president Abdul el-Sisi, said on television that he wouldn’t dare interfere with the rulings because that doesn’t happen in Egypt.

It’s despicable that after this week President Sisi would celebrate “the independence” of the Egyptian judiciary. Egypt’s judicial system is broken and is no longer able to deliver justice.Its role now is to silence dissent.

That should be a matter of concern to the Egyptian president, but the judiciary’s failure is far too closely related to the expansion of the regime’s powers, its broad ability to silence all political activity, and the wide immunity its police, security and military forces have for any abuses.

This is a familiar pattern of abuses for Egypt. What’s new is now Egyptians can’t depend on the judiciary for the mildest of protections.

Take action to have Egyptian officials release all prisoners of conscience, squash the death sentences and end the use of the death penalty in all cases.

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Egypt to fight ‘destructive ideas’ through surveillance

Web privacy advocates concerned, students and activists alter strategies, as foreign companies offer Egypt advanced surveillance technology

Egyptian blogger Michael Nabil, was jailed for insulting Egypt’s armed forces but eventually pardoned (AFP)
Tom Rollins's picture

“A guy logs on to Facebook or Twitter, finds something that agrees with his politics, and if he can’t find anything, he just expresses himself,” says 23-year-old Mostafa from Giza. For young Egyptians pitted against the state, social media can provide a lively, irreverent and democratic political space away from the increasingly familiar spectre of the riot van or prison cell.

However, now Egypt’s Ministry of Interior is preparing an offensive against “destructive ideas” through a stepped-up surveillance programme, aimed at social media and private communications. Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim recently told Egyptian media that the system was “necessary to combat terrorism and protect national security…similar to that used in the US or the UK to protect their national security.”

According to the ministry, a new surveillance programme – the so-called Social Networks Security Hazard Monitoring (SNSHM) system – will combat terrorism and defend national security. However, web freedom and privacy advocates, as well as Egyptians online, are concerned that monitoring will go much further than that.

Indeed, digital rights and security researcher Ramy Raoof claims that Egyptian surveillance will effectively mirror the National Security Agency’s hugely controversial surveillance programme (PRISM)  – by trawling public and private communications and storing reams of information, all in the name of security, stability and President-Elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s war on terror.

“They want to be able to monitor all public content and private content and avoid any kind of surprises…or avoid any sort of positions or opinions that they’re not aware of,” explains Raoof. “Technically speaking, it’s almost copying PRISM in its functionality.” The Ministry of Interior will collect masses of content, dredging the Egyptian internet and storing and analysing the findings, a tactic Raoof calls “expansion on the tools they already have.”

And yet the aims of Egypt’s SNSHM system are apparently more far-reaching than that. While the new tactics have largely been presented as part of the ongoing crackdown against any form of dissent, the ministry is also setting its sights on online activity deemed immoral and disrespectful. One of the online vices the government named in an official document was “sarcasm”.

According to ministry tender guidelines leaked to the press on 1 June, surveillance through SNSHM will combat “destructive ideas” dangerous to Egyptian society, warning of the “strong effects the networks [have] on users, particularly juveniles and youths” – an indication as to the sorts of Egyptians who may be targeted according to the new law.

This includes standard security-minded concerns such as “encouraging extremism, violence and dissent” and “educating methods of making explosives and assault, chaos and riot tactics.” However, ‘ideas’ more open to interpretation are also named – “sarcasm; using inappropriate words; calling for the departure of societal pillars” and “taking statements out of context.” Online activity seen as insulting to religion, public morality and highly coveted political stability is highlighted.

The guidelines also suggest that monitoring communications on WhatsApp and Viber “will be a plus” for the future.

On Monday, ministry officials announced seven foreign companies had offered proposals to the Egyptian government to assist with surveillance of social media websites. They did not name the companies involved.

In the past, Egypt’s security apparatus were in contact with British tech firm Gamma International, responsible for Trojan-style surveillance software known as Finfisher. The programme allows authorities to inhabit computers and then monitor exactly how that computer is used, albeit on a targeted basis.

That deal-in-the-making came to light after activists got hold of paperwork of a tech proposal – not unlike the seven supposedly received this year – from inside Cairo’s State Security Investigations (SSI) service headquarters. Alongside police batons and torture equipment, activists found papers detailing a free trial offered by Gamma International to the Egyptian security apparatus to introduce Finfisher. This “high-level security system” would give authorities “full control” of the computers of “targeted elements.”

Egypt is known to have used other surveillance software: Bluecoat ProxySG, introduced in August 2012; and Remote Control System (or “RSC“) surveillance between March 2012 and October 2013.

“They have already been practising different scopes of surveillance,” says Raoof. “They might punish me or you for online content, they might not; but what they want to know is what you’re saying, what you’re doing, what you’re friends are doing. Whenever they need to punish you, they then have all this to do it.”

Others suggest the ministry may not have the capability to employ blanket surveillance over the internet.

“When you read the tender…they mention Google as a social network,” says Eva Blum Dumontet from Privacy International. “What that kind of reflects is that they have no idea what they’re talking about.” The same could apply to intended surveillance of privation communications. “Monitoring something like Viber and WhatsApp would require a completely different infrastructure.”

Still, the threat is real – perhaps most of all for young Egyptians, like Mostafa and Abdel Aziz, who are turning to the internet more for politics at a time when street protests can quickly attract violent responses from the police.

“If [someone] goes on an April 6 page, or whatever movement he’s into, and he likes that page, that’s exactly the kind of data that’s going to mark him,” explains Blum Dumontet. “Typically for these people this is very problematic,” as opposed to leading activists, who may well be on the state’s radar already. “The followers who are liking and sharing, they’re the ones who are really going to be exposed by this.”

The Interior Ministry’s own guidelines suggest this is not just about activism, however. Recent Egyptian social media highlights – including the anti-Sisi “Vote for the pimp” hashtag or the mockery of an apparently over-tanned addressing the nation after this month’s presidential elections – could potentially fall under the category of “dangerous ideas.” In the age of military chief-turned-president, Sisi, this kind of irreverent and satirical online activity could now be more problematic.

And so Egypt’s new internet restrictions could potentially put people like Abdel Aziz, another Egyptian in his 20s from Giza, at risk.

“We are criticizing more and more online,” he says. Abdel Aziz, who does not identify with any group or political movement, describes social media as a place to withdraw, now that street-level dissent is so risky. He is not ready to give up that space.

“Those of us who still believe in our ideas, we are always talking to each other about politics online, and the streets remain the same.”

“They want us to be afraid…But they will not stop us.”

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-fight-destructive-ideas-through-surveillance/1484399951#sthash.xeHmsdcA.dpuf

Horror in the Sinai (AVAAZ)

Nick Kimbrell – Avaaz.org

4 févr. (Il y a 2 jours)
Dear friends,

Thousands of East Africans have been kidnapped by sadistic gangs, and tortured in Egypt’s Sinai until their families pay huge ransoms for their freedom. If we show Egypt’s leaders that this dirty secret is out and damaging the Sinai’s tourism reputation, we can force them to end the horror. Sign now:

SIGN THE PETITION
Nine months pregnant and in chains, Haben’s* torturers beat her ruthlessly demanding a $35,000 ransom from her husband and sisters. She gave birth in shackles, beside other terrified captives, with only rusty metal to cut the umbilical cord. It’s unbelievable that this is happening in Egypt in 2014!

Amazingly Haben, a young Eritrean refugee, survived — but she is one of thousands of East Africans who have been abducted by criminal trafficking rings, and tortured in Egypt’s Sinai until their desperate families pay huge ransoms for their freedom. If we can show Egypt’s leaders that this dirty secret is out and damaging the Sinai’s tourism reputation as the ‘Red Sea Riviera’, they could stop the horror.

Every hour these men, women and children are in captivity is an hour too long. Sign the urgent petition now and forward it to everyone. When we reach 1 million signers, Avaaz will raise a massive media storm and place hard-hitting ads in key airports, tourist magazines and websites.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/end_the_torture_trade_c/?bcxbQeb&v=35222

It’s an underground economy that runs on the misery of the world’s most vulnerable. Eritreans fleeing oppression at home are kidnapped out of refugee camps, sold to local trafficking gangs, smuggled into the Sinai and repeatedly tortured to extort ransom from families who are forced to listen over the phone. And this despicable torture trade is big business — earning traffickers hundreds of millions of dollars according to a recent report.

The Sinai Peninsula is large and parts are lawless — but the Egyptian government has the power to shut the traffickers down. What they need is the political will to move against these criminal torture gangs. If our community launches a massive global call with hard hitting ads calling out the Sinai’s reputation as the headquarters for the horrific torture trade, the government will be forced to listen.

Torture camps that prey on the suffering and desperation of vulnerable refugees and their families have no place in our world. Sign now to end this horrific trade in human suffering and share as widely as you can.

http://www.avaaz.org/en/end_the_torture_trade_c/?bcxbQeb&v=35222

From breaking the blackout in Syria to fighting violence against women in India, the Avaaz community has fought tirelessly to protect and empower the world’s most vulnerable. If our community acts now, we have a unique opportunity to end the horrific torture trade in Egypt’s Sinai.

With hope,

Nick, Ari, Antonia, Luis, Alice, Bissan, Wissam and the entire Avaaz team

*Haben is a pseudonym, but her story is real.

Extortionists, smugglers preying on Eritrean refugees, report says (Globe and Mail)
http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/extortionists-smugglers-preying-on-eritrean-refugees-report-…

Egypt/Sudan: Refugees face kidnapping for ransom, brutal treatment and human trafficking (Amnesty International)
http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/egyptsudan-refugees-face-kidnapping-for-ransom-brutal-tre…

The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond (EEPA Report)
http://www.eepa.be/wcm/dmdocuments/Small_HumanTrafficking-Sinai2-web-3.pdf

Thousands of Eritreans ‘abducted to Sinai for ransom’ (BBC)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25222336

Egypt’s Sinai: Trafficking, torture and fear (Al Jazeera)
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/12/egypt-sinai-trafficking-torture-fear-201312682516380563.html

Congress to Give Egypt $1.5 Billion in Aid

Photo by Amr Dalsh/Reuters
New legislation dropping on Monday will free the Obama administration to send money to Cairo after last year’s military coup put a freeze on the cash.
Congress is preparing to allow the Obama administration to give more than $1 billion dollars to the Egyptian government and military, despite the fact the generals perpetrated a coup last summer and are suppressing opposition ahead of a nation-wide constitutional referendum.The House and Senate are set to unveil a year-long spending bill that will loosen restrictions on U.S. aid to Egypt and negate the law that prevents the U.S. from funding a foreign military that has conducted a coup against a democratically elected government. The Obama administration has been lobbying Congress for permission to give the aid to the Egyptian government. Several senior senators had been working to make sure that aid was conditioned on the Egyptian government pursing a path toward democracy and respect for the rule of law.

But now, with the Egyptians speeding toward a Constitutional referendum that will cement the rule of the military-led regime and with the Egyptian government’s crackdown on the opposition ongoing, most of those conditions could be lifted by Congress or waived by the Obama administration.

For experts and congressional officials who have followed the Obama administration’s clumsy and often incoherent policy on Egypt, the potential easing of restrictions on aid represents only the latest unfortunate twist in a failed effort to preserve U.S. influence in the Arab world’s most populous country.

“When the omnibus bill is passed, there’s going to be legislation in it that in effect is going to give the administration a waiver from the coup provisions and allow them to restore aid to Egypt,” said Michele Dunne, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ever since the Egyptian military ousted and jailed ex-president Mohamed Morsi last July and began its campaign of arresting opposition leaders and protesters, the Obama administration and Congress have been withholding most of the $1.5 billion in annual aid the U.S. gives Egypt, most of which goes directly to the country’s army.

“I think there’s a sense of giving up on Egypt [inside of the Obama administration], on the Hill as well,” said Dunne. “There’s a sense that ‘Oh well they tried a democratic transition, it didn’t work, but we don’t want to cut ourselves off from Egypt as a security ally, so let’s just forget about the whole democracy and human rights thing except for giving it some lip service from time to time.’”

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The law prevents the U.S. from funding a foreign military that has conducted a coup against a democratically elected government.
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Congress is set to unveil the omnibus spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 Monday afternoon. The Daily Beast obtained the text of the section that deals with U.S. aid to Egypt. It states that the president must certify that Egypt is “sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” and “meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.”

Following that certification, Congress would allow Obama to give the Egyptian government $250 million in economic support. Also, Obama could give the Egyptian military $1.3 billion in two installments: $975 million after Egypt holds its constitutional referendum and $576.8 million after presidential and parliamentary elections.

Secretary of State John Kerry would have to certify “that a newly elected Government of Egypt is taking steps to govern democratically and implement economic reforms,” according to the text of the legislation. Kerry would also have to submit a comprehensive, multi-year strategic review of military assistance to Egypt and report back to Congress on the trials of former Egyptian leaders such as Morsi.

Egypt’s constitution referendum will be held January 14-15 amid charges of widespread voter suppression and intimidation by the Egyptian government security forces. Human Rights Watch detailed those abuses Monday, which included arrested the leaders of the political organizations who are campaigning against the ratification of the constitution.

“There’s no doubt that the referendum will pass because the people who are opposed to it won’t vote. For the first time since 2011 there is really questions about whether this is a free and fair vote,” said Nathan Brown, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It already seems criminal to challenge a constitution that hasn’t passed yet. This is a degree of shamelessness and a degree of accountability that really is a return to the pre-2011 era.”

Experts also point out that the new legislative language would override the existing law that prevents the U.S. from funding any military that has perpetrated a coup. Although the Obama administration decided not to say whether it believed Morsi’s overthrow was a coup, they have quietly followed the law and lobbied key congressional offices for legislative relief that would allow them to resume to flow of aid to Egypt.

Key lawmakers, including Patrick Leahy and Lindsey Graham, heads of the Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee, had been the loudest critics of the administration’s effort to ignore the anti-coup law and continue giving billions to the Egyptian government and military. Last August, Graham and John McCain traveled to Cairo and publicly declared the takeover was a coup.

But both senators appear to have backed off their position that the aid to Egypt should be halted or at least heavily conditioned. Leahy’s office declined to comment and Graham’s office did not respond to several requests for comment.

“In six months, the appropriators went from railing about human rights and democracy to giving the military a blank check to continue its return to Mubarak-era policies. They are essentially endorsing a failed administration policy that many of them initially agitated against, with little to no public discussion,” said one senior GOP senate aide.

The language was negotiated behind closed doors between appropriators and leadership, without the consultation of key senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which had just approved an Egypt aid bill with extensive restrictions in December by a vote of 16-1.

Several congressional aides said the administration had been quietly working with key House and Senate offices on the new language. Elements of the pro-Israel lobby have also been on Capitol Hill lobbying for a resumption of U.S. aid to Egypt.

There has been long-standing tension over Egypt aid between the White House and the State Department, with the State Department leaning more towards support of the military-led Egyptian government. On a November trip to Egypt, Kerry defied National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s orders to publicly raise U.S. objections to the trial of Morsi, who stands accused of murder and other serious charges.

In October, the administration announced a partial suspension of Egypt aid and said it would not deliver planes, tanks, and missiles to the Egyptian military pending actual progress in the areas of democracy, human rights, and respect for the rule of law.

“They are in many ways saying the right things,” one senior administration official said in October. “It’s important to us to see those things actually happen.”

But now the administration seems to be backing off their insistence that the aid flow be linked to positive progress in Egypt, rather than just any kind of progress to a new government system. Experts see that as a return to the failed U.S. policies that guided U.S. interactions with Egyptian dictators for several decades.

“Frankly I don’t think there’s been that progress and it wouldn’t be realistic to claim so. On the aid front, the administration is adhering to the old status quo and wants to make sure the funds can go through uninterrupted while the situation in Egypt is deteriorating,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “The administration seems to be turning a blind eye towards a lot of things that are going on in Egypt and that is part of how we got to where we are now.”

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Egypt’s top political satirist back on air

Bassem Youssef’s show returns to the screen and pokes fun at pro-military sentiment in the country

                                                    Last Modified: 26 Oct 2013 15:19

Youssef’s show has not been on air since July, when Sisi ousted Morsi in response to nationwide protests [Reuters]

Egypt’s most prominent television satirist, Bassem Youssef, known for his fierce jabs at ousted president Mohamed Morsi, has returned to the airwaves following a summer break, poking fun at the frenzy surrounding Egypt’s defence minister that has gripped the nation in recent months.

On Friday the comedian, along with his team of entertainers, poked fun at all camps – Mubarak loyalists, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters who have staged frequent protests since July, and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s fans.

Early in the show, Youssef and others on the programme broke into a comic song-and-dance routine to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, which he said aimed to explain to Egypt’s children the country’s political events this summer.

“After the revolution we got a president who thought we would be duped,” they sang in rhyme in Arabic, with the sound of drum beats in the background. “His Renaissance programme was a terrible idea … so the people decided to revolt.”

Referring to the ruler of the country, Youssef later jovially displayed a projected image of Sisi before quickly swapping it with the image of the interim president, Adly Mansour.

He poked extensive fun at the adulation of Sisi’s fans, though he held back from criticising the general himself.

“Sisi has turned into… chocolate!” said Youssef, joking about the chocolate bars that have been moulded to the defence minister’s likeness in confectionary stores.

Mixed response

“I am not with the [Islamists], who attacked us and called us heretics… and publicly called for our imprisonment,” said Youssef.

Morsi’s prosecutor-general at one point issued an arrest warrant for Youssef, over allegations that he insulted Morsi and Islam, but he was later released on bail.

“At the same time, I am not with hypocrisy, deification of individuals and creation of Pharoahs,” Youssef said. “We are afraid that fascism in the name of religion gets replaced with fascism in the name of nationalism.”

Facebook and other social networking sites were rife with views both supportive and critical of the episode, with some commentators saying both camps were taking it too seriously.

Youssef had not been on air since July, when Sisi, the head of the armed forces, ousted Morsi in response to nationwide protests against his rule, fuelling speculation the show had been halted for fear of reprisals from the new government.

Youssef rose to fame with a satirical online show after the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011.

A medical doctor by profession, he regularly skewers the country’s ruling party on his wildly popular weekly programme “Al-Bernameg” (The Show), which is modelled on popular American comedian Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

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Karam Saber’s Trial Set to Resume Tomorrow Over Short-story Collection ‘Where is God’

By on October 21, 2013 • ( 0 )

In May, author Karam Saber was sentenced — in absentia — to five years in prison for alleged defamation of religion in his short-story collection أين الله (Where is God). Following protests from at least 46 Arab human-rights organizations, the case appeared again in mid-September, but was deferred until an October 22 hearing:download1Photo courtesy: Arabic Network For Human Rights InformationThus tomorrow, Saber is scheduled to appear before the Court of Misdemeanors in Biba, Beni Suef, to appeal his sentence. The appeal also calls for the punishment of the sentencing judge.

The case stems from an April 12, 2011 complaint filed by citizens in Beni Suef, which accused Saber’s short-story collection, which deals with the everyday lives of farmers and peasants, of containing statements that defamed religion. The public prosecutor in Beni Suef investigated — which apparently meant asking members of the Coptic Church and a representative of al-Azhar for their opinions on the text  – and referred the case to the Misdemeanor Court, which issued the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Some have suggested that the real story isn’t about Saber’s book at all, but — according to a report in Daily News Egypt — “a result of personal feuds by police and Ministry of Endowments representatives because of Saber’s work defending farmers’ rights.”

In any case, such a ruling is chilling. In an interview with Aswat Masriya, Saber sensibly said that a “collection of short stories is a work of literature that should not be measured using ‘religious standards,’” and that “he will continue to defend his right of expression inside and outside of the court.”

In his commentary on the case for Sampsonia Way, Egyptian novelist Hamdy al-Gazzar wrote:

By October 22, the destiny of the writer and the future of the freedom of creativity will be determined in Egypt!

More:

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information’s special section on Saber’s case

source

A run-down of terrorism in Egypt

October 08, 2013/

Nour Youssef has been trying to compile a comprehensive list of terrorist attacks reported in the Egyptian press. The problem, as she notes, is that “they keep publishing the same story under different titles, sometimes lumping a couple incidents together, throwing in an update (without saying it is an update), picking up a detail and sensationalizing it — or all of the above. The result is a flood of bad news that overwhelms readers.” After the jump, our list of reported attacks, in rough chronological order — and some jihadist videos set to really annoying music.

Sinai:

  • In Arish, masked men fired at the State Radio’s building and a bomb caused serious damage to a mosque in al-Masoura Square. Aug. 22
  • On the 26th of August, there was 9 failed terrorist attacks in one day. They arrested suspects, half of them were by Palestinians.

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