Page 1

Halal money-making 10 Constitution back in court


Lights out at 10pm

Seeds for the Who’s on future the right 17 20 side of the Brotherhood How much do you know about Egyptian horror? 4


Issue no.24 25 October 2012

LE5 ............................................................................................................................................................................................................

The state of play

Published by Al-Masry Media Corp

News Briefs

Another constitution

Institut d’Egypte reopened

Political parties and figures called for an interim constitution Tuesday as a way out of the Constituent Assembly crisis and the possibility of its dissolution through court cases demanding its disbandment. The call was primarily directed by former presidential candidates Hazem Salah Abu Ismail and Hesham al-Bastawisi. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party also voiced the same call through a statement. Bastawisi said he thinks the interim constitution should last for four years, during which Parliament would be elected. Similarly, former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi demanded the dissolution of the current assembly, deeming it unrepresentative, and called for a national dialogue to precede the constitution-writing process.■

Culture Minister Saber Arab opened the Institut d’Egypte Monday following the completion of restoration work. The Institut d’Egypte burned down on 17 December 2011 during clashes between military forces and protesters in front of the nearby Cabinet building, in which at least 17 people were killed and hundreds injured. Arab said the renovations took three months and cost LE6 million. There are about 25,000 books in the Institut d’Egypte, written in Arabic, English, German, French, Spanish and Italian. Books that were rescued from the fire were returned to the institute, in addition to books that were donated by libraries, institutions and individuals.■

Published by Al-Masry Media Corp Board Chairman Dr. Kamel Diab Publisher Sherif Wadood Tareq Wagih


25 October 2012

Institut d’Egypte restored

Lina Attalah Production Manager Jahd Khalil News Editors

It’s the thought that counts The Foreign Ministry has asked all Cairo-based embassies and foreign organizations, as well as Egyptian diplomatic missions abroad, not to present Egyptian officials with gifts valued at more than LE100. Ministry spokesperson Amr Roshdy said Tuesday that gifts valued at more than that amount would be transferred to the

Chief Editor

Tom Dale

Finance Ministry. He added that the new measure would apply to officials on all levels, both during foreign visits and for visiting foreign delegations. State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said Monday that the government was preparing a bill to confiscate gifts given to former regime officials and transfer them to the state treasury.■

Ahmed Zaki Osman Mostafa Abdelrazek Economy Editor Maggie Hyde Opinion Editor

Editor’s complaint

Salem investigated again

The State Council Administrative Court on Tuesday set 30 October as the date to hear Al-Gomhurriya Editor-in-Chief Gamal Abdel Rahim’s case against his suspension for printing false news about former military leaders. Shura Council speaker Ahmed Fahmy, who also heads the Supreme Press Council, suspended Abdel Rahim after the state-run paper ran a story last week alleging that former Supreme Council of the Armed Forces leaders Hussein Tantawi and Sami Anan had been banned from travel due to ongoing corruption investigations. The suspension caused an outcry among journalists against what they say are Muslim Brotherhood attempts to dominate state media.■

Assistant Public Prosecutor Adel Saeed said Tuesday that Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud ordered an investigation into whether fugitive businessman Hussein Salem evaded paying some LE90 million in taxes owed for a period of up to 15 years. The amount is due on returns from renting property in Heliopolis, the Movenpick Hotel and 18 villas in Sharm el-Sheikh. Salem did not formally notify the Tax Authority of these properties. Salem is still residing in Spain; however, an Egyptian court sentenced him in June to 15 years in prison. The Spanish Constitutional Court has suspended the extradition of Salem to Egypt until his request for asylum is answered.■

Stricter on harassers

‘Indecent’ presidential secretary

The Cabinet is preparing a draft law that would impose harsher penalties against sexual harassment, Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said Monday, adding that it was a trend that was “extraneous” to Egyptian society. “We have to address the phenomenon as a catastrophe that threatens society and is indicative of declining values,” the prime minister said on his Facebook page. Qandil noted that solutions for harassment should extend beyond harsh punishment to its roots, which include inefficient upbringing at the family, educational institutions and the social environment. Sexual harassment cases in Egypt usually surge during feasts.■

The Qalyub Prosecution referred on Sunday a secretary from the presidency for immediate trial on 24 October over charges of committing an act of public indecency. In his testimony, the defendant said he was on his way home from work when he saw a female neighbor of his on the street and stopped to pick her up, while denying committing any indecency. The woman also denied the charges. The Qalyubiya Security Department had received information that a presidential secretary was arrested with an alleged prostitute in his car. According to investigations, the woman who was in the secretary’s company allegedly has a prostitution record.■

Sun illuminates Ramses II The sun illuminated the Ramses II statue in his temple in Abu Simbel Monday morning in a phenomenon that takes place on the pharaoh’s birthday and the day of his ascension to the throne on 22 February. Ahmed Saleh Abdallah, general director for the

monuments in Abu Simbel and the temples in Nubia, said the event attracted more than 1,300 tourists, who came to witness it from around the world. Folk dancers from Ismailia, Sharqiya, Aswan and other areas performed Sunday night and until early Monday.■

Alber Saber mistreated

Alber Saber

Rights groups said Monday that a Coptic Christian on trial for posting a video online that ignited protests around the globe for mocking Islam was being fed food unfit for human consumption and held in a cell plagued with insects. Computer science graduate Alber Saber was arrested in Cairo last month after neighbors accused him of uploading parts of “Innocence of Muslims,” a film made in California deemed insulting to Islam. In a joint statement, 10 rights groups said Saber was being held in a cell where sewage had flooded nearby while on trial in connection with the film and other charges, including insulting both Islam and Christianity and running Facebook pages calling for atheism.■

Dina K. Hussein Environment Editor Louise Sarant Culture Editor Mai El Wakil Life & Society Editor Nevine El Shabrawy Copy Editors Lindsay Carroll Jahd Khalil Proofreader Sunita Rappai Design & Layout Fathy Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Gamasy Ahmad Fahmy Hatem Ismael Ahmed Hamed Cover Design Hatem Ismael

The sun illuminates the face of Ramses II on his birthday

Shafiq vs. Morsy The Facebook page of the Egyptian National Movement Party, founded by former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, wrote Tuesday that President Mohamed Morsy won the presidential election as the result of a deal between the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The party said the election result, after excluding invalid votes, was 50.7 percent for Shafiq and 49.3 percent for Morsy, but did not cite a source for this information. A lawyer representing Shafiq filed a complaint with the Public Prosecution Monday alleging numerous irregularities and violations during the presidential runoff election held in June.■

Commercial Manager Assem Elbassal Marketing Manager Yasmine El Gharably 11 Gamal Eddin Abou el-Mahassen, Garden City Cairo - Egypt

Tel: +20 (2) 27926440 Fax: +20 (2) 27926332 For subscription and ads: Call our hotline 16533

Mohamed Morsy

Corporate subscriptions and ads: Ali El Maraghy +201116110697

25 October 2012



The court, the Brothers and the constitution Constituent Assembly’s fate lies with the Supreme Constitutional Court By Omar Halawa and Heba Afify



mid an ongoing power struggle between the judiciary and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, the fate of the Brotherhood-dominated Constituent Assembly was put in the hands of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). The Administrative Court on Tuesday referred a case against the formation of the Constituent Assembly to the court. The case challenges Article 1 of Law 79/2012 empowering MPs to form the Constituent Assembly, arguing that the formation does not represent all sectors of society. The referral of the case to the court could represent another chapter of an ongoing struggle between the judiciary and the executive, and more particularly, the SCC and the dominating Brotherhood current. The most recent feud was manifest in the court’s reservations over its formation and powers in the new draft constitution. The new draft gives the president and other judicial bodies the authority to appoint the head of the court, which it sees as a violation of its independence, deeming its general assembly the only body capable of choosing its president. Many observers’ initial reaction to the court ruling was that the referral to the court would be detrimental to the assembly and its constitution, given the thorny recent history between the court and Islamists. The SCC had previously ordered the law governing the parliamentary elections unconstitutional, a ruling that led to the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated Parliament in June. President Mohamed Morsy, who is also a Brotherhood figure, attempted to reinstate Parlia-

The Supreme Constitutional Court wants independence from the executive

ment, but quickly reneged on his decree following the court’s staunch criticism of his violation of its rulings. An earlier crisis erupted between the newly elected president and the court when he resisted being sworn in before its judges, but had to eventually give in. However, the referral was not necessarily seen by Islamists as an ominous outcome. They responded joyfully to the court ruling Tuesday, chanting “God is great.” Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud, a Brotherhood lawyer, says the Administrative Court’s ruling is a “positive” one and will enable the Constit-

uent Assembly to conduct its work on time and produce the long-awaited constitution. With its fate in the hands of a body that has expressed disapproval of its work, the Constituent Assembly is racing to finalize the constitution and hand it to the president to put forward for a referendum before the court reaches a verdict. “According to the standard procedures, the SCC takes a minimum of 45 days to issue a verdict. This will be enough for us to finish the draft and hand it to the president,” says Constituent Assembly member Mohamed Mohey Eddin. Mohey Eddin says the assembly is expected to

finish the draft by the end of the year, before the court gets the chance to issue a verdict. Meanwhile, for some, the very involvement of the court in the case is questionable. Constitutional expert Tharwat Badawy says the SCC is not in a position of power. “This is not an administrative decision to be reviewed by the Administrative Court, nor a legislative one to be reviewed by the SCC. Both courts are not specialized,” says Badawy. “In the meantime, the assembly is immune according to this law.” The law challenged in court was passed by Parliament in June, but the then-ruling military council refused its ratification. After his election, Morsy passed the law in July, using his legislative powers. The law stipulates that the Constituent Assembly acquire an independent character immune from the interference of all state institutions and bodies, including the president. Badawy claims that this law gives the assembly a sovereign stature and puts it outside the jurisdiction of the judiciary. If the constitution passes a referendum before the SCC reaches a verdict, as expected, Badawy says the court would not have the power to annul the newly passed constitution. “The constitution overrules any court,” he says. In April, the Administrative Court dismantled the first Constituent Assembly formed by the now-dissolved Parliament, on the basis that the assembly — half of whose members were MPs — violated Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration, which regulated the assembly’s formation without specifying the criteria with which to choose its 100 members. The current assembly was then formed in June, with only 39 MPs.■

Constitutional controversies continue The military judiciary The ruling system committee is complaining that the drafting committee exchanged its detailed article regulating the work of the military judiciary with a vague one. The committee had drafted an article allowing the appeal of verdicts received in military courts in the courts of appeal, which was excluded from the draft. The debate also continues over whether the military judiciary should be listed in the constitution under the judiciary or Armed Forces section.

By Heba Afify


Powers of the president Many in the assembly criticize the draft for focusing power in the the president similar to the 1971 Constitution. While the current draft states that the president appoints the prime minister, some say it should require that the prime minister be from the majority party. Also under debate is a clause to force the president to step down if he puts the dismantling of Parliament to a referendum and it gets rejected. Some insist on the clause to ensure the president does not abuse his power over Parliament. Another article giving outgoing presidents permanent membership in the Shura Council is also still in debate, as some worry this would give them immunity from

Ali El-Malky

ven following the release of a first draft of the constitution, debate continues to simmer within the Constituent Assembly. Seventeen assembly members issued a statement Tuesday announcing their disapproval of the draft and saying many articles were still subject to major amendments. They accused the drafting committee of altering the articles they originally received from the different committees. Meawhile, political forces outside the Assembly have been lamenting the flaws of the current draft. These are the issues at the heart of the debate.

Demands for a representative constitution have been abundant

prosecution for crimes committed in office. Some members are also challenging the power given to the president to form monitoring bodies such as the Central Auditing Organization, arguing that this hinders their ability to supervise the executive branch properly.

tween men and women is limited to what the Sharia allows. Some liberals have suggested that the Sharia provisions are to be considered only in matters concerning personal affairs and inheritance. However, Islamists in the assembly are refusing to change the original article.

Women’s rights Liberal Constituent Assembly members are resisting a provision in the article relating to women’s rights that says the equality be-

Supreme Constitutional Court The court originally rejected the articles concerning it in the new constitution because it reduced its power and independence. How-

ever, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court recently announced its feud with the Constituent Assembly was heading toward reconciliation after the assembly adopted some of its suggestions. But some of the court’s main grievances remain unresolved. Its major concern is the power given to the president to appoint its members. The court also demands that it be self-regulating rather than subordinate to the judicial authority, in order to maintain complete independence.

Local governance The first draft of the constitution states that each local unit is represented by one council, which would include both elected and appointed members. But some Constituent Assembly members are demanding two separate councils for each unit to allow the elected council to supervise the appointed one and reserve the right for a vote of no confidence against it. The Shura Council While the draft states that the president appoints a quarter of Shura Council members, the ruling system committee insists that only a maximum of 10 members should be appointed in this way. Some members also oppose another article that would make higher education a condition for Shura Council candidates. They argue this would exclude the representation of a large portion of society.■


25 October 2012


Hawks and doves

FJP election result signals conservative trend within the Brothers By Noha El-Hennawy

Mohamed Maarouf


mid loud applause and cheers, Saad al-Katatny’s victory in the presidential election for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) was announced Friday. The 60-yearold former speaker of the now-dissolved Parliament defeated his opponent, Essam al-Erian — another FJP leader, who was long seen as a reformist — by garnering almost 67 percent of the vote. In the lead-up to the vote, many of the group’s detractors contended that the result was a foregone conclusion. They held that Katatny’s compliant nature and ties to the hawkish leaders of the mother organization would qualify him to take over the FJP leadership and hence succeed President Mohamed Morsy, who had to relinquish his party post upon his ascent to the presidency. While the result has thus come as no surprise, it has raised questions about the leverage and future of the so-called reform wing within an organization that stands as the primary political player in post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt. “Reformists have no future ... The reform trend is in agony,” says Haitham Abu Khalil, one of the former, more rebellious members of the Brotherhood. Abu Khalil, a 44-year-old Alexandriabased agricultural engineer, contends that the nomination of Erian for the FJP leadership was “a bold move” by reformers to challenge the grip of conservatives who are already in full control of the Brotherhood and its political arm. “However, they were swept away,” he tells Egypt Independent. In last week’s poll, Erian garnered just under one-third of the 866 votes of the party’s general assembly. The 58-year-old physician has long been considered one of the more progressive voices within the Brotherhood. He belongs to the generation that resurrected the nation’s oldest Islamist organization. Erian was one of thousands of Islamist university students recruited by the organization’s stalwarts when they were just released from prison in the mid-1970s. These new recruits were seen as the only hope left to rejuvenate the weakened organization. Many of those in the newly recruited batch established themselves as promising politicians capable of engaging in competitive politics in syndicate and parliamentary elections. Erian was one of these members, who remained for years a leader of the Doctors Syndicate. He joined Parliament in 1987. Meanwhile, he rose as a mediator between his group and other political parties. He also established himself as a friendly figure to the Western media, always seeking to project a moderate image of the 84-yearold organization. In the mid-2000s, reformists banked on the relative political opening induced by US pressure to voice criticism of the ruling regime and present their group as a potential democratic alternative to Mubarak’s government. In doing so, they became more vocal in expressing their full commitment to liberal and democratic values. Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, a former presidential candidate, spearheaded this trend at the time. He transcended the group’s conservatism by expressing in local and international media his support of a woman’s, as well as a non-Muslim’s, right to run for president. However, these voices were soon muted when Mubarak launched his famous 2006 crackdown on the group. Nearly 40 of the group’s leaders were rounded up and referred to military tribunals. The crackdown gave conservatives enough

Essam al-Erian (left) concedes defeat to Saad al-Katatny (center) in the Freedom and Justice Party‘s presidential election

The only option left to reformers is to break ranks with the group and take with them the largest number of young members possible. Otherwise, they will remain with no influence ammunition to silence all controversial propositions in order to maintain the group’s cohesion at that critical juncture. In his book “The Muslim Brotherhood: Pre-revolution Years,” the late writer Hossam Tammam said the group’s more hawkish members launched a campaign to delegitimize all reform ideas. The group convinced the rank and file that reformist Brothers were expressing their personal views, and that none of their unconventional ideas were approved by the organization. The group’s hardliners proved their might with the release of the infamous 2007 manifesto. In this platform, the group defied the essence of liberal democracy by adding clauses that entailed a council of clerics in charge of vetting bills to ensure their compatibility with Islamic law, and denied women and non-Muslims the right to run for president. “The final draft of the 2007 platform proved that the final decision at critical junctures falls in the hands of the conservative bloc,” wrote Tammam, an expert on the group who died in 2011. “This was the strongest and most public

blow dealt to the reform trend within the group,” he added. A year later, reformists incurred another major defeat as they lost more seats to conservatives in the 2008 Shura Council elections. However, their demise did not reach its peak until the December 2009 Guidance Bureau elections, which culminated in the exclusion of Abouel Fotouh. In January 2010, hard-line leader Mohamed Badie rose to the post of supreme guide, hitting the last nail in the reformist coffin. Sameh al-Barqy, a 37-year-old former Brotherhood member, says the group never actually had a deep-rooted reformist trend. “The word ‘trend’ implies that the group had a segment that adopted more liberal views. But the group had only a few dispersed individuals who held moderate views but did not work on building a bloc of their own,” he said. “They did not exert any effort to spread their ideas within the group whereas [conservatives] were working hard to control the group.” Reformist leaders “are to be held responsible for the current status of the group,” Barqy said. “They kept improving the group’s image outward, but, meanwhile, they did not do anything to fix the group from inside,” he added. Shortly after the revolution broke out, several reformists defected and launched their own ventures. Many young Brothers refused to join the group’s official party, and established their own, called the Egyptian Current Party. Meanwhile, older leaders split to form the Nahda Party. But the major act of defiance came from Abouel Fotouh, who decided to run for pres-

[Reformists] kept improving the group’s image outward, but they did not do anything to fix the group from inside

ident independently from the group. Shortly after, he was dismissed from the group. However, none of the new ventures has caused a major exodus from the group or managed to gain a major following. Meanwhile, a few reformist figures including Erian, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Helmy alGazzar and Gamal Heshmat chose to stay. While Beltagy has gone public in criticizing the Brothers’ policies on several occasions, the others have often adopted a more conciliatory approach. Erian, for example, has gone the extra mile to prove his loyalty to the organization by clashing with its detractors. Recently, he has even shaken his old reputation for tolerating other political groups by voicing ruthless criticism of leftist forces on his Twitter account, accusing them of receiving foreign funding, being hostile to religion and despising the masses. “Reformists who remained in the group sought to make compromises. Despite all concessions they made in order to hold the stick in the middle, they could not meet half way with [conservatives],” said Barqy, a leader of the would-be Egyptian Current Party. Most of these moderates have failed to gain the trust of the Brotherhood’s leadership. None of them have been appointed to any influential position, whether in the party or in the new government. Most empowered figures, including Katatny, are believed to be close to the group’s most influential and conservative leader, Khairat al-Shater. “The only option left to reformers is to break ranks with the group and take with them the largest number of young members possible,” says Osama Dorra, a 28-year-old former Brother whose membership was frozen after he criticized the Brotherhood’s political platform in local media in 2010. “Otherwise, they will remain with no influence.”  Dorra contends that Morsy’s ascent to the presidency complicates the situation of reformist brothers and helps hard-liners tighten their control over lay Brothers. Hard-liners would say this victory was achieved thanks to the course they chose and asked members to follow, explains Dorra, who spent almost 10 years in the Brotherhood. “Hence, there is no room for small groups to speak freely or to have any influence on the organization,” he says.■

25 October 2012



The unbelievers

Post-Alber Saber, more atheists struggle to assert their identity By Jano Charbel and Sherif Zaazaa


ive male members of an atheist group congregate in one of Cairo’s crowded downtown bars, sipping beer and Pepsi as they discuss their thoughts on religion, sex, science, culture, politics and Egypt’s new ruling regime. This group — centered on an atheist website — has been holding weekly meetings since Mohamed Morsy won the presidential election on 24 June. It consists of both former Muslims and former Christians. Mohamed, the group’s founder, says the group holds weekly gettogethers “as a forum where we can openly speak our minds.” Like the other atheists quoted in this story, his full name has not been used for his own security. Group members say they do not seek to proselytize for their beliefs. “We are not a church, nor a religion,” one says. Discussing the ongoing trial of Egyptian atheist Alber Saber on charges of blasphemy, in light of his Facebook posts, the same participant comments that this trial “makes me worried, and has made me think twice before posting my thoughts on Facebook.” Discussing atheism or criticizing religion in Egypt has typically been done in closed circles like these. Several Facebook groups about atheism have been “voluntarily” shut down over the past few weeks, and most atheists appear to be keeping a low profile since Saber’s arrest last month. On the other hand, other atheists have been coming out of the closet and expressing their beliefs — or disbelief — as openly as possible. Coming out The Internet has connected many non-believers together, introducing them to a virtual community that shares many of their outlooks. The widespread taboo of “thou shall not question” was gradually weakened with the advent of forums, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and credible research online. Before the pervasive expansion of social networks in the region, the most prominent blog among non-believers was the Network of Arab Atheists, created in March 2006, Shady, another non-believer, explains. Though it has been hacked many times, the site acted as a portal for many atheists in Egypt and the region. However, anonymity remained the norm for most members. Since then, the number of Arab atheist groups, blogs and forums has been dramatically increasing. Most sites haven’t been set up to promote atheism, as Mohamed explains, but rather as forums for likeminded people to share their thoughts. He says there’s been a massive increase in new members since the revolution. “The numbers went up dramatically, more than tenfold; it’s as if people were waiting for that space of freedom to express

Why are we hated for the way our minds are wired? Why are we scorned, looked down upon and persecuted for our personal logic themselves openly.” Offline meetings are regularly organized through his group, although the locations are never publicly advertised. What is possible or permissible — in terms of atheists’ freedom of expression — is determined not only by Egypt’s criminal law, but also by law enforcement officials and popular religious sentiment. The ‘A’ word In Egypt, atheists represent a small segment of the population that refuses to adhere to religious doctrines. This tendency has been more or less tolerated, as long as atheists keep their beliefs to themselves. On the other hand, disseminating atheistic views can be viewed as blasphemy, denigration, defamation or contempt of religion — all crimes punishable by law.

Mob violence, as in the case of Saber, is also a threat that some atheists fear. The state “does not recognize atheism, as a belief or religion, by law,” says Sherif Azer of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. Egyptians can’t put “atheist’ on their national ID cards in the space allocated for religion, Azer explains. They must choose from three religions: Islam, Christianity or Judaism. One atheist, Ahmed, says atheism “is not a religion, it is the lack of religion. I do not want it written on my ID. I don’t want to have any beliefs written on anyone’s ID.” He explains that, given the conservative nature of society, most other Egyptian atheists would probably be unwilling to have “atheist” written on their ID cards, out of fear of discriminatory treatment or abuse at the hands of officials and employers. According to the Penal Code, there are three articles criminalizing such affronts. Article 98(e) stipulates that “the contempt of heavenly religions” by written, oral or any other means is punishable by six months to five years in prison, and/or fines of LE500 to LE1,000. According to Article 160, the desecration of religious symbols is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, and/or fines of LE100 to LE500. Article 161 stipulates that mocking a religion or religious rite in public is a crime carrying the same penalties as Article 160.

Azer says the willingness to tolerate or criminalize atheism is still being tested under President Mohamed Morsy. “The Morsy government isn’t clearly against or with these freedoms. We still have the same laws and same mentalities as before,” he says. Persecute, mute, maybe execute? While it might be tolerated to one extent or another, atheism is not welcome among religious societies in Egypt. Families can go as far as disowning their own relatives, friends might turn away, and, in more conservative communities, the reactions to atheism and/or atheists can be calamitous. Neveen, at 27, is a graduate of biology school who lost her faith in religion years ago. Egypt Independent sat in on an informal discussion with her and several of her

The Morsy government isn’t clearly against or with these freedoms. We still have the same laws and same mentalities as before

friends who share a similar understanding of the world. Their stories of growing up in a country saturated with religious beliefs reveal intolerance to any mindset that deviates from the “God-sent” norms. “Why are we hated for the way our minds are wired?” she exclaims despondently, sitting with a few friends who share her beliefs. “Why are we scorned, looked down upon and persecuted for our personal logic?” She recalls being grounded for questioning a verse in the Quran that conflicted with what she had learned in biology about the stages of fetal development. The incident propelled her yearning for knowledge and her choice of career. Her friend Mohamed says he has been living a secret life, hiding his atheism from his parents since the age of 19, pretending to fast and pray when he’s called to. “I put my head down and act the way they do. I know they’ll never understand,” he explains in a somber tone. Conversely, Shady is a non-religious agnostic whose lack of participation in religious traditions like fasting and praying constantly raises the question of “Why?” — a question he refuses to answer for fear of prejudice. A lack of Abrahamic belief is often associated with an absence of morals. “Many believe the stickand-carrot dogma of religion is what creates human ethics,” Shady explains. He then recalls how a Salafi coworker responded to a mention of atheists with “Killing them would not suffice.” Yet a few atheists also express haughty and judgmental outlooks on their religious counterparts. For example, Mido says, “I personally see religious people as being mentally ill. I could still love them and befriend them, but I do feel superior to them, to be honest.” Should I stay or should I go? Abdel Aziz, an atheist and advocate for freedom of thought, left Egypt for South Africa after failing to find any common ground with the culture he was raised in. Although his family had accepted his way of life, he couldn’t deal with a society that treated him like an outcast. He recalls the day when he attempted to change the religion slot on his national ID from Muslim to vacant, which ended in a contentious, fruitless argument on both sides. Ahmed has a different opinion regarding Egyptian mentalities toward atheists. “I think [atheism] has already been spreading among the community, especially over the last decade,” Ahmed says. He thinks that “more people will come to question the fundamentals of [religion].” As for Mido, who has more recently ‘come out’ of the atheist closet, he believes that the ideas are spreading. “But I don’t see it taking over religion, especially not in Egypt ... perhaps in several hundred years,” he says.■


25 October 2012


Old news

New daily newspaper Al-Sabah struggles to make an impact By Heba Fahmy


l-Sabah, a new independent newspaper, hit the streets and cafes of Cairo on 30 September. Its recipe — sensational anti-Muslim Brotherhood headlines and dubiously sourced stories — might not be original, but precisely for that reason, its emergence says a lot about the current state of local print media. The editor-in-chief is Wael alIbrashy, who replaced prominent anchor Mona al-Shazly as host of the popular Al-Ashera Masa’an talk show, aired on the Dream 2 satellite channel. Previously, he was the editor of Sawt al-Umma weekly, a publication largely classified as yellow press. Today, he heads a team of about 150 reporters and 150 other staff. During an interview at the paper’s Dokki offices, Executive Editor Wael Lotfy claimed that despite the seemingly saturated market for daily newspapers, Al-Sabah offers something “new and different” from the “polarization in a large percentage of publications” that “follow certain political agendas.” According to media estimates, no more than a million newspapers are in circulation. In particular, Lotfy says Al-Sabah’s editorial line doesn’t take aim at the Muslim Brotherhood. But many front-page headlines tell a different story. “Israelis call for nominating [President Mohamed] Morsy for the Nobel Peace Prize,” in bold, black typeface, leads the 20 October issue. It’s a title guaranteed to aggravate many Egyptians, who can barely swallow the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and resist the idea of normalizing relations with the “enemy.” Ousted President Hosni Mubarak was considered an ally of Israel, looking after its interests in the region, a point stressed by protesters during the revolt who described Mubarak as “an agent for Israel and the US.” On page three, the story refers only to unspecified “Israelis on Facebook,” and cites the Shefa Palestine News Network — hardly a major outlet — as a source. The unnamed Israeli individuals allegedly want to give Morsy the Nobel Peace Prize, following a letter that was leaked to the media in which Morsy addressed Israeli President Shimon Peres as his “dear, great friend” and “Your Excellency.” During its short life, Al-Sabah has tended to lead with sensational front-page headlines slamming Morsy, the Brotherhood or Salafi leaders. On 11 October, the front page led with a headline in bold, red letters, representing the Brotherhood as haters of democracy who suffer from an inflated ego. “Gamal Heshmat: To hell with democracy ... the Brotherhoodization of the state is our right,” says the headline, using the Arabic colloquial expression “toz,” meaning “to hell with.” On page seven, there’s an interview with Heshmat that carries a different headline, indicating that the one on the front page is completely

misleading. The headline says, “To hell with democracy if it is used by failures [such as those who did poorly in elections] to confuse the authority [of the state].” In the interview, Heshmat says the Brotherhood does not dominate all state institutions; on the contrary, they are represented in a small fraction of them. “However, the media machine, which speaks on behalf of the counter-revolution, accuses us of dominating the state and blackmails us with the term ‘Brotherhoodization of the state,’ as if it’s a crime and not a right we received by the will of the people,” he said, according to Al-Sabah. Many other stories in the publication slam Morsy and paint him and the Brotherhood in the worst possible light. Following the Israelis story on page three is another headline depicting Morsy as eager to please military officials, unlikely to go down well with the many revolutionaries who resented the role of the military council during the lengthy transition period that followed the fall of Mubarak. “The president continues to appease the army,” reads the headline. Details in the story refer to Morsy’s “third visit” in one week to military leaders in Gharbiya area in the city of Berany in Marsa Matrouh Governorate. The visit is an attempt to ap-

pease the army after “our colleague,” state-owned Al-Gomhurriya, published an inaccurate article about Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan being investigated by the Illicit Gains Authority and banned from travel. The article also described in detail how the president was protected during his visit to Marsa Matrouh with 27 Central Security Forces trucks, five armored vehicles, 1,500 soldiers and 300 members of the National Guard. This was another subtle blow to Morsy, depicting his security arrangements as extravagant. On the same page, Lotfy’s editorial talks about how an Al-Azhar sheikh in Tahrir Square decried the Brotherhood during a Friday sermon on the 19 October clashes, during which the Brotherhood fought with anti-Brotherhood protesters. Lotfy says the sheikh hit “the heart of the truth” with his speech. The first story leading page one of the same issue is also about the 19 October protests, in which antiBrotherhood groups took to the streets to protest the group’s political dominance. The title likens the protests to the 25 January revolt that toppled Mubarak, saying, “The chants return; the people want to bring down the regime.” The article itself is more bal-

Lotfy claimed that despite the seemingly saturated market for daily newspapers, Al-Sabah offers something new and different

In particular, Lotfy says Al-Sabah’s editorial line doesn’t take aim at the Muslim Brotherhood. But many front-page headlines tell a different story anced, referring to the clashes that took place among protesters in the march from Mostafa Mahmoud Square in Mohandiseen to Tahrir, because some parties rejected the presence of the “conference party” headed by former presidential candidate Amr Moussa and the Conservative Party, which is an offshoot of the now-disbanded National Democratic Party. The protesters accused Moussa and the members of the Conservative Party of collaborating and supporting the former corrupt regime, according to Al-Sabah. The article also quotes Brotherhood Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein saying that the protesters don’t represent the Egyptian people, they only represent themselves. This point is usually neglected by other independent papers, which fail to represent the Brotherhood’s side of the story. The newspaper addresses neglected segments of society and offers coverage and print space to youth issues, women’s issues and people with disabilities, Lotfy says. The issue published on 20 October runs a story on respecting people with special needs and another on the difficulties that face elderly citizens, but the few issues

reviewed by Egypt Independent didn’t have much coverage on women’s or youth issues. On the business front, both Lotfy and Al-Sabah publisher Hesham Kessam think the market could afford to support and garner profit for a new independent publication. Lotfy says he expects to make profits within six months of the newspaper’s first issue; Kessam says publishing a daily newspaper costs from LE7 million to LE15 million a year. The newspaper has already managed to attract a few advertisers, according to Lotfy. However, the few issues reviewed by Egypt Independent only included advertisements for products owned by Al-Sabah’s investor, Bahgat Group, headed by prominent businessman Ahmed Bahgat, who owns the Dream TV channels — including the channel on which Ibrashy hosts his talk show. Lotfy says 10 different members of the group own 10 percent of the paper each, in keeping with newspaper ownership regulations. There are full-page advertisements for Dream Land and Dream Park, both owned by Bahgat Group, on the last pages of issues of 19, 20 and 21 October. Lotfy says he is negotiating with an advertising company to mediate between him and advertisers in the future. Advertisements represent the main profits for publications, as subscriptions and other forms of income barely cover costs, Kessam says. Bahgat and his group also own a minority stake in Al-Masry AlYoum group, which publishes the daily newspaper of the same name, and Egypt Independent. Lotfy refuses to disclose the paper’s circulation figures, information for which is usually scarce. ■

25 October 2012



Port in a storm Dismissed Ain Sokhna dock workers are standing firm By Jano Charbel

El-Sayed Shaker


Strikers from the Dubai Ports World company in Ain Sokhna say they will push on until their demands are met

Arabia, has stated that the strike at Ain Sokhna port has forced the company to reroute its shipments via Israel. Saudi-bound shipments, which were due to pass through Ain Sokhna, are now being redirected to the Israeli port of Haifa, and are then transferred overland via Jordan to Saudi Arabia. Kadmar officials argued that if the strike continues, the company might have to resort to canceling its export contracts from Turkey to Egypt. Abdallah explained that, in light of the Ain Sokhna strike, many shipments are being transferred to the nearby Red Sea port of Adabiya rather than Israel’s Haifa. This statement could not be independently verified, however, as Kadmar and DP World officials could not be reached for comment. Both Kadmar and DP World are claiming their businesses are being negatively affected as a result of the Ain Sokhna strike.

The government talks about protecting investors, but these are not investors they are colonizers Kadmar and DP World also point to the national economy, saying it is hurting as a result of this strike. Commenting on the millions of pounds of lost revenue, Abdallah said that if the company heeded the workers’ demands, it would cost them about LE10 million. “Instead they are resisting, and have led us to strike, and in doing so have incurred more than LE120 million in losses,” he said.

They have no other excuse with which to fire us, and they’re not willing to admit that they fired us because we helped organize an independent union at our workplace, or that we helped organize the strike

Tareq Wageh

orkers from the Dubai Ports World company in Ain Sokhna have been on strike at the Red Sea port since 13 October, in an increasingly acrimonious dispute that threatens to damage not only DP World, but the wider Egyptian economy. The strikers’ chief demand is the reinstatement of eight workers who they claim were punitively dismissed. Speaking at a press conference Monday, workers emphasized that they would push on with their strike for the sake of their rights. The 2,000 DP World workers have ceased all work at the strategic port, bringing DP World to a standstill. More than 800 are involved occupying the port in shifts, says Ayman Abdallah, one of the workers who was dismissed. Since last year, port workers have also been demanding job security, full-time contracts for full-time work, overdue profit-sharing payments, periodic bonuses, hazard compensation and improved working conditions. The failure to realize these demands, coupled with the dismissal of eight workers earlier this month, led workers to launch their open-ended strike. The fired workers explain that DP World had initially agreed to their demands, yet began reneging on them by August. The workers who were dismissed produced a memorandum of understanding signed by DP World officials, the Red Sea governor, and the Manpower Ministry, stating: “No workers are to be harassed or laid off because of the aforementioned demands.” DP World officials claim they laid off the eight workers in compliance with the Unified Labor Law 12/2003. The sacked workers disagree. Speaking at the headquarters of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Mohamed Abdel Ghany — one of the eight fired workers — commented, “We received notices from DP World claiming that we were fired due to our incompetence as workers.” “Why are we today deemed to be incompetent?” asked Abdel Ghany, who has been employed at the port for the past 16 years. “It is because they have no other excuse with which to fire us, and they’re not willing to admit that they fired us because we helped organize an independent union at our workplace, or that we helped organize the strike.” Abdallah, who has been employed at the port for 14 years, agreed. “Why did they hold on to us for more than a decade?” he asked. Abdallah argued that this was a punitive measure taken by DP World against the eight workers in light of their organizing. “Such punitive sackings are a blatant violation of the Labor Law,” he said. A third dismissed worker, Osama Saad, said they were fired because they were “the eight most vocal workers at the port.” “Our coworkers are striking in solidarity with us and demanding our reinstatement,” he said. “Yet they are striking not merely for our sake, but out of fear and a sense of insecurity that they too may be fired in the future for demanding their rights.” Regarding lost revenue, DP World officials have said the port has lost LE120 million in the first eight days of the strike alone — averaging LE15 million of losses each day. Moreover, Kadmar, a local transit company that ships Turkish goods to Saudi

Abdallah did concede that “these losses are not in Egypt’s interest.” But, he said, the strike “serves to protect the interests of Egypt’s workers.” “We the workers are the ones who are most directly affected by this work stoppage. Our families and livelihoods rely on our labor,” he said. With more than 60 terminals across six continents, DP World is the world’s third largest port operator. Media reports last week suggested the strikers were threatening to escalate their actions by burning down the port, but the dismissed workers vehemently denied these claims. “These are lies,” Abdallah retorted. “How could we possibly burn down the port that is our source of income? It is propaganda directed against us and against our peaceful strike.” “The government talks about protecting investors, but these are not investors — they are colonizers,” Saad said. They also dispel rumors that they seized ships and prevented them from leaving the port. Fatma Ramadan, executive board member of the Egyptian Federation of Idenpendent Trade Unions (EFITU), also spoke at Monday’s press conference. She encouraged the workers to stand firm, despite Manpower Minister Khaled al-Azhary saying he could not reinstate them and that they should accept the compensation being offered by the company. Abdallah agreed. “We will not be silenced for the sake of monetary compensation,” he said. “We demand our jobs and our livelihoods back. We demand the right to work, organize and strike when necessary.” So far, DP World has adamantly refused to reinstate the eight workers it had fired. The EFITU on 16 October organized a conference in solidarity with this strike in Arbaeen Square in Suez. Standing in solidarity with the strikers were workers from the Suez Fertilizer Company and Suez Nitrate Company, along with unionists from the Suez Canal Authority and the Suez Quarry Workers Association, among others.■

25 October 2012



Mission accomplished Assassins strike Lebanese intelligence chief, Wissam al-Hassan By Ana Maria Luca



Mourners throng the funeral of Lebanese intelligence chief, Wissam al-Hassan, killed in a car bomb attack allegedly by Damascus

It is clear the Lebanese people have given up on peaceful protests because they lost their faith that they can change anything at the political level involvement of Hezbullah operatives in Rafik Hariri’s murder. The March 14 politicians blamed Damascus for the assassination and asked for the resignation of the pro-Syrian government, while pro-Syrian leaders insisted that Al-Qaeda was involved. However, the assassination of Hassan, another high-ranking Sunni official, inflamed the streets in Sunni neighborhoods of Beirut, Tripoli and the northern region of Akkar, mainly inhabited by Sunnis. Mobs burned tires and blocked roads, while armed Sunnis in Tripoli battled with pro-Syrian Alawi gunmen. The armed clashes spread to Beirut after Hassan’s funeral on Sunday evening. After the funeral, a peaceful protest called by anti-Syrian politicians of the March 14 coalition asking for the resignation of the March

8 government led by Sunni Prime Minister Najib Mikati turned to violence. Scores of protesters stormed the prime minister’s office in central Beirut asking for him to step down. Gunfire soon echoed through the neighborhoods inhabited by Sunnis. Six people were wounded in exchanges of machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades between the predominantly Sunni Tariq al-Jdideh area and nearby Barbour, a neighborhood controlled by the Shia Amal Movement and Hezbullah. “This is a plan to defend Tariq al-Jdideh from Hezbullah and all Syrian proxies. It’s a plan to turn this neighborhood into a Sunni fortress just like the Shiites have their Hezbullah fortress,” a resident of the neighborhood said. “I am not scared at all. The boys in the neighborhood were around last night

We’ve been living like this since 1975. We are not going to change anything this way. It is what the Syrians want, they want us to fight each other


EIRUT— It was 2 am on Monday morning when the shooting stopped in Beirut’s Sunni neighborhoods. Scores of masked gunmen on mopeds rushed back to their hideouts, leaving the streets to the heavily deployed Lebanese Army. It was the latest episode of unrest to sweep Lebanon after a car bomb assassinated Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the intelligence branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF). The bomb went off two blocks from a central square in Beirut’s Christian neighborhood of Ashrafieh on 19 October. “We know it was Syria,” said Maroun Khoury, 78, a resident of a building damaged in the explosion, minutes after the blast. “This was a message that they want to destabilize Lebanon, to create strife among the Lebanese. Nobody has any doubt about it,” he added, stepping through the broken glass of his building. The presumption that it was a plot made in Damascus was largely accepted after the identities of the victims were released four hours after the attack. Hassan, a 43-year-old Sunni from north Lebanon, was heading the only Lebanese security agency widely perceived to oppose Syrian interests. The other three agencies — State Security, the Directorate of the General Security and Military Intelligence — are all deemed close to the Syrian regime in Damascus and its Lebanese allies. Hassan’s assassination immediately brought angry Sunnis to the streets and threatened Lebanon’s already volatile security. The intelligence chief was a key security figure, perceived as anti-Syrian and very close to former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Under his command, the ISF intelligence branch exposed and dismantled Israeli spy networks and played a key role in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. On 14 February 2005, Hariri was killed by a car bomb in central Beirut. Hassan’s latest achievement was in August, when he oversaw the dismantling of an alleged Syrian-backed terror cell planning attacks in north Lebanon. Former Information Minister Michel Samaha, a close friend of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, was arrested on Hassan’s orders in connection with the plot. According to Lebanese security sources, Hassan had been receiving death threats since Samaha’s arrest and spent two months in Paris with his family for security reasons. He had arrived at Beirut’s international airport, named for the late Hariri, just hours before the bombing. The attack on Hassan is the 15th on a Lebanese state dignitary since Hariri’s death seven years ago. His killing, attributed to the Syrian government, triggered mass protests on 14 March 2005 and led to the end of a threedecade Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the split of Lebanese parties into two political alliances. The anti-Syrian alliance, March 14, gathered Hariri’s Sunni Future Movement, the Christian Lebanese Forces and Phalange Party, as well as the Druze Progressive Socialist Party. The pro-Syrian alliance, March 8, comprising the Shia Hezbullah and Amal Movement, the secular Syrian Social Nationalist Party and Christian Free Patriotic Movement took to the streets on 8 March to support Syria’s presence in Lebanon. Assassinations and bomb attacks continued in Lebanon, targeting mostly March 14 politicians and security figures aligned with the anti-Syrian coalition. The last person assassinated before Hassan was one of his subordinates, ISF Captain Wissam Eid, a Sunni targeted by a car bomb in January 2008 after he had handed in a telecommunications report highlighting the

protecting the building. We’re safe. We keep our lights off during the fighting. This is not going to end soon,” he explained while waiting for the army to finish its raids in the area. Imad Salamey, a professor of political science and international affairs at the Lebanese American University, has no doubt that the assassination was the act of the “desperate Syrian regime,” meant not only to kill Hassan but to also create strife in Lebanon. Yet, unlike in 2005, when mass demonstrations followed the assassination of Hariri, there has been no sign of such populist street politics. “It is clear that the Lebanese people have given up on peaceful protests because they lost their faith that they can change anything at the political level,” Salamey says. “On the other hand, the Sunnis [who have mounted armed attacks on Hezbullah and March 8] feel that extreme violence is the only way. In order to confront Syria and its ally, Hezbullah, they feel they have to use the same means as the enemy,” he said. The resultant shootouts don’t approach the scale of violence that would bring the country to the brink of civil war once more, but are enough to bring old tensions to the surface again. Mikati has become the target of the protests because the Sunnis perceive him as a traitor. He is seen as Hezbullah’s prime minister. “They feel the prime minister, who is also a Sunni, is not really representing them. Sunni figures are being assassinated under the rule of a government led by Hezbullah. Mikati is Sunni, but the Sunnis perceive him as a cover up for the Iranian- and Syrian-backed government,” Salamey says. Meanwhile, in Ashrafieh, the bomb left hundreds without shelter, sitting in damaged buildings waiting for security forces to let them collect their belongings. They say they don’t feel like protesting against the government and they want the fighting to end. “They are destroying this country,” a man in his 70s with a wound on his cheek said. “We’ve been living like this since 1975. We are not going to change anything this way. It is what the Syrians want, they want us to fight each other,” he added. Another woman, sitting on the stairs of a damaged building sighs. “Haram, our Lebanon! It’s such a pity,” she said. “It was so beautiful in the 1960s. When is this chaos going to end?”■


25 October 2012


Making good money In economic flux, Islamic banking and finance are gaining ground By Amira Salah-Ahmed


he economic stagnation of the past year and a half has taken a toll on many businesses, but a fleet of Islamic investment banks in Egypt sees opportunity in the new emerging order. Ridge Islamic Capital, one such investment bank, has found a niche in the finance sector and made plans to capitalize on it. It offers Sharia-compliant investment banking, asset management and wealth management services to a market that experts say is primed for Islamic finance. Launched in late September, the firm is among a slew of banks offering, or planning to offer, Islamic investment products. Others are the National Development Bank and partners EFG Hermes and QInvest. Officials have repeatedly touted the resilience of Islamic finance, with the new government keen on broadening the industry. Officials said Egypt would introduce sukuk, or Islamic bonds, in a bid to ease the funding crisis brought about by diminished foreign reserves and a widening budget deficit. The government is looking to raise the market share of Islamic finance to 35 percent from 5 percent, according to a Bloomberg report. Ridge Islamic Capital has garnered significant attention for its quick move into the market and a promise of US$100 million in investments in the coming two years. Bank officials recently announced that they are looking to buy a local brokerage, and have so far shortlisted three from 10 that are for sale. Egypt Independent sat down with its director, Ahmed Rizkallah, to discuss the bank’s mission and plans in Egypt, and why he thinks Islamic finance could help solve the speculation ills in the world economy. Sustainable system First set up in May, Ridge Islamic Capital is the Islamic financial arm of Dubai-based regional investment company Ridge Solutions International Holding, which is part of the Angola-based Ridge Solutions Group. In Angola, the conglomerate grew famous for financing projects in the aquaculture, agriculture and industry sectors, amid the country’s real estate boom. At the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, though, the bank saw a new opportunity in the weaknesses of traditional free-market finance. “Our chairman had a vision of capitalizing on the sustainable and resilient Islamic banking and finance industry,” said Rizkallah. Bank officials saw over-speculation as one of the main causes of the financial crisis and saw Islamic finance as an anecdote, with its built-in prohibitions against speculating. “In the derivatives market, the trades and volume at one point reached $600 trillion a year, while the combined GDP of the whole world is $60 trillion,” said Rizkallah. “One type of trade and activity was 10 times the GDP of the whole world.” Less speculation means fewer market distortions.

We believe that Islamic finance, in essence, is a very sustainable system

Ahmed Rizkallah

“We believe that Islamic finance, in essence, is a very sustainable system,” he said. An untapped market The initial plan was to open an Islamic commercial bank in the region, Rizkallah said, but after some fine-tuning, the company decided to get into the specialty of Islamic investment banking. In 2011, bank officials flagged Egypt as an ideal place for this expansion because of its “strong fundamentals.” “For us, Egypt is the anchor of the region,” he said. There was also room for expansion. Despite being the region’s most populous country, it is only seventh in terms of Islamic banking assets. The smaller Gulf nations have a much larger array of Islamic financial products. Egypt’s banked population is estimated to be less than 10 percent, though it is likely slightly higher. Of that segment, even fewer bank customers use what little Islamic finance services and products are offered on the market. There are only three full-fledged Islamic financial institutions operating in Egypt, and 11 with Islamic banking operating windows, Rizkallah said.

It’s an environment poised for growth in the banking sector, and especially the Islamic banking sector, many experts say. Angus Blair, founder of the Signet Institute, a Cairo-based think tank on Middle Eastern and North African economies, said the banks currently offering Islamic investment products include Faisal Islamic Bank, Al Baraka, Bank Audi and Ahli United Bank. Other institutions have offered Islamic forms of products to clients, said Blair, but not on a large-scale level. Previously, he said, a number of offshore companies offered services to Egyptians, although these transactions are now limited due to capital controls. These customers will now have to go to local Islamic finance institutions for their banking and investment needs. In comparison, there are more than 30 conventional banks in Egypt. “The banking segment of Egypt is small but growing — there’s still a cash-based mentality — and Islamic banks have a niche they’ve been leveraging,” said Rizkallah. And it certainly seems the high rate of growth will continue. The Islamic financing industry — still nascent, compared with conventional banking — has expanded considerably in recent years, with experts putting the annual growth rate between 10 and 15 percent. “Islamic banking is considered the fastest growing segment in the global financial system,” Jose Ramos, chairman and executive president of Ridge Solutions Group, said in a statement. Modern Islamic products Ridge’s assets currently being managed weigh in at LE50 million, of which LE30 million are in the Misr Iran fund of funds, and the remaining in individual portfolios, Rizkallah said. A “fund of funds” is one that invests in a number of funds, either locally or regionally, without investing directly in the stock market. “This considerably reduces the risk to investors and gives them more diversity,” he said. The firm also plans to inject roughly $100 million into different funds and investments

After the revolution, politicians realized we need to be open for everything. We should accept anything that might benefit the country

in Egypt, and aims to place $15 million as an initial capital increase in the coming months, which Rizkallah said would be used for expansions and to support the funds under management. But, again, he sees room to grow. “Outside Egypt, there are more than 50 mature products available in Islamic banks,” Rizkallah said, but locally, “we are only trading around 15.” Islamic banking assets are about 5–7 percent, compared with banking assets in general in Egypt, he said. “The theme is modern Islamic services,” he said. “By saying Islamic, we are not alienating anyone. It’s not about stereotyping or segregating investors, it’s about showing that we have a different way of offering services.” The firm plans to soon launch a regional fund of funds with a target size of $150 million, which has already been approved by the Central Bank of Bahrain. “We’ll screen the Sharia-compliant funds in the region, filter the best performers, invest in those funds, and keep reallocating and balancing among those funds,” he said. Other products allow investors to put money in the stock market, in a Sharia-compliant way, using fixed-income securities. “The main challenge to developing such a structure in Egypt is the limited offering of Sharia-compliant fixed-income tools,” said Rizkallah. They are also looking into creating a real estate fund for investors. “Real estate in general is one of the strong projects in Islamic finance industry because it is a solid asset,” said Rizkallah. In Egypt, Rizkallah sees middle-income housing compounds as a particularly profitable segment, due to their “payback after three years and a yield of 20 or 30 percent.” Changing perceptions Locally, there’s a negative perception of Islamic finance due to previously unregulated attempts in the market to provide these services. In the 1990s, the sector was marred by several scams, which gave the niche market a bad name. “The result was people segregated into two parties: people who want Islamic because of religious reasons, without caring about the impact and regardless of the bank’s modernization [or lack thereof],” said Rizkallah. “The other party is completely against it, thinking it’s just an emotional and sentimental sort of a business.” He said residents in the Gulf, Europe and Asia have a better approach. “People look at what you’re offering them and giving them in return,” he said. “They just care about how this is going to affect their wealth.” On the political level, Rizkallah is confident that the people in power will continue to promote Islamic finance. “After the revolution, politicians realized that we need to be open for everything,” he said. “We should accept anything that might benefit the country.”■

25 October 2012



Shafiq fund freeze The Illicit Gains Authority decided Sunday to freeze the assets of former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq and his three daughters, to ban them from traveling outside the country in the event that they are in Egypt and to put them on the arrivals watch list. Justice Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Roshdy Salam told the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram the decision was based on ongoing corruption inves-

tigations of Shafiq, which have raised questions about the size of his wealth and bonds and securities in his name. The independent newspaper Youm7 said on its website that Shafiq’s frozen assets include a house in the Bitter Lakes area in Ismailia, four summer houses in the same area, a house in the upscale Fifth Settlement district of Cairo and two apartments in Hurghada, as well as stocks and bonds.■

Ahmed Shafiq

Green light for EFG and QInvest A national regulator has no objections to EFG Hermes’ plan to create a jointly owned investment bank with QInvest of Qatar, the bank said last Monday, according to a Reuters report. EFG Hermes and QInvest agreed in May to hive off EFG Hermes’ investment banking business into a joint venture in which state-backed QInvest would hold a 60 percent stake. EFG Hermes shareholders in September

Mona Zulficar, EFG-Hermes Board of Directors chairperson

reaffirmed their approval of the tie-up after demands by the regulator for more details were met. The Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority had rejected decisions approved by shareholders in June because the firm had not clarified points including minority rights. A spokesperson for the Egyptian bank said no further approvals were needed from Egyptian authorities.■

More meat imports ahead of Eid

Eid meat Egypt has imported 36,000 cattle and 30,000 camels from countries as diverse as Sudan, Brazil, Croatia and Australia in preparation for Eid al-Adha, according to Osama Selim, head of the General Authority for Veterinary Services at the Agriculture Ministry, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported last Wednesday. Additionally, four committees from the authority have traveled to Sudan and Ethiopia to import live animals for the holiday at the end of the month. The ministry’s production sector head, Mahmoud Meslehy, said beef prices have reached LE48 per kilogram and lamb LE55 per kilogram, with live sheep and cows costing LE26 and LE30 per kilogram, respectively. ■

Turkish-Egypt exchange alliance

Mohamed al-Beltagy

Stocks, Sharia-style

An Egyptian association plans to launch a list of Sharia-compliant equities next week as part of its efforts to raise awareness of Islamic finance in the country. The list will filter out companies that fail to meet religious guidelines, such as avoiding excessive levels of debt and steering clear of industries that are deemed unethical, including alcohol and gambling. “The association has put the finishing touches to a set of standards and controls for the index prior to launch,” Mohamed al-Beltagy, head of the Egyptian Islamic Finance Association, told Reuters by telephone. Details of the stock list will be announced next week, giving investors assurance about the stocks that they can legitimately buy and sell, he added. The organization’s Sharia board will approve the list, with rules based on the standards of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, a major standard-setting body.■

Dour debts Egypt was named the 10th riskiest debtor in the world in a study by CMA Sovereign Global, a research agency for unlisted stocks and capital that is part of the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency. The study, based on numbers from the third fiscal quarter, estimated that there was a 27.3 percent likeliness that Egypt could default on its debts in the coming five years. According to the study, the most dangerous government debt for investors was Greece, which researchers estimated had a 90–99 percent chance of not making good on its debts in the coming five years. Also on the top 10 black list were Cyprus, Argentina, Pakistan and Lebanon. Egypt was also in the 10th place slot in the agency’s report last quarter.■

The Egyptian Exchange is studying an alliance with the Istanbul Stock Exchange that would allow investors in the two countries to trade on each other’s markets. “A delegation from the Istanbul Stock Exchange will visit Egypt in December ... to discuss the means of joint trading between the Egyptian bourse and the Istanbul bourse,” Mohamed Omran, the stock exchange chairman, told Reuters Sunday. Under the proposal, which follows a

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

memorandum of understanding signed by the two exchanges in June, Turkish investors would be able to trade directly on the Egyptian stock exchange through Turkish brokerages and vice versa. The cooperation would mark a return for Egyptian investors’ access to foreign markets. In June, the industry regulator, the Egyptian Financial Services Authority, told local brokerages and portfolio management firms they could no longer trade in foreign securities.■

Bond rate shrinkage Average yields dipped at an auction of reopened three- and seven-year bonds Monday, continuing a steady slide that has been fueled by expectations that rates could fall further if Egypt secures a US$4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan, a Reuters report said. The yield decrease means that investors see Egypt’s bonds as a less risky buy. Al-Mal newspaper said Sunday that experts had drawn up

proposals for tax and energy subsidy changes and would present them to the Cabinet Sunday. In response to the announcement, yields fell at a sale of Egyptian treasury bills Sunday, and the yield on the country’s 10-year Eurobond reached its lowest since 2010. Investors are anticipating planned fiscal reforms that could lead to less issuance of government debt, traders said.■

France Telecom will pay Egyptian partner Orascom Telecom Media and Technology 110 million euros for taking over a management services contract for their mobile phone venture Mobinil, Reuters reported on 16 October. Egypt is a key part of France Telecom’s efforts to expand in high-growth emerging markets such as Africa and the Middle East. It bought most of OTMT’s stake in Mobinil this year for LE19 billion, lifting its majority stake to 94 percent. OTMT’s announcement of the France Telecom payment surprised some analysts, who had expected the Egyptian company simply to lose the service contract fees because of its reduced ownership of Mobinil. EFG Hermes investment bank said in a research note that it has increased its valuation of OTMT by 26 percent to 80 piasters per share, as a result of the France Telecom payment. ■

Yasser Ali

High on cigarettes Experts drew proposals for tax and energy subsidy changes and presented them to the Cabinet Sunday, Al-Mal newspaper reported, referring to policies that are part of an economic program needed to secure a US$4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan. Egypt is seeking the loan, as well as aid and loans from Gulf and other nations, to shore up its finances. The govern-

French telecom takeover

Jobs wanted ment has said any reforms would be open to national dialogue before implementation, and insists any reforms would be “homegrown,” not imposed by the IMF or others. The reform proposals, drawn up by a team of experts from seven ministries, included raising the tax imposed on cigarettes, Al-Mal said. The tax on a packet of cigarettes would rise by about 50 piasters, the paper said.■

President Mohamed Morsy is seeking to attract foreign investments to bolster the economy and create job opportunities, presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said Monday. Ali said Morsy has sought to focus on economic issues during all of his foreign visits. Last month, the government said the country’s unemployment rate is 13 percent, and that it is seeking to reduce it to 9.5 percent by 2017 and to 6 percent by 2022. Ali said Egypt needs to achieve a level of economic growth that ranges between 6 percent and 7 percent, compared with last year’s growth rate of only 2 percent. Prime Minister Hesham Qandil said this week that the government is seeking to create 700,000 job opportunities annually to keep the current unemployment rate at the same level.■


25 October 2012

Focus File

No kickoff in sight

Unresolved security and huge financial losses By Omar Halawa and Mohamad Adam


unday, a number of Egyptian football league players and sports workers besieged the Baron Hotel in Heliopolis. Staying there were the Sunshine Stars, a Nigerian team due to play against Egypt’s premier club, Ahly, in the African Champions League semifinal. The Egyptian league players were protesting Ahly’s decision to

play the match with the Nigerian team, when Ahly have supported the Egyptian Football Association’s decision to postpone this year’s Premier League season indefinitely. Ahly fans, Ultras Ahlawy, ultimately intervened to help free the Nigerian players from the chaos and allow the game to take place. The postponement of the Premier League is the second in less than two months, and follows the Port Said tragedy in February, when 74 football fans were killed after violence erupted following a game be-

Security El-Sayed El-Baz


lthough the Interior Ministry had previously mentioned that matches would be played in stadiums belonging to the Armed Forces, it issued a brief statement Tuesday in which it said it had postponed the season because the atmosphere was still unsuitable for resuming the competition. But the security problem is rooted in a deeper political feud between the police apparatus and football fans in Egypt, a feud that predates the 25 January revolution. Even though the ministry declared at the beginning of its statement that it was capable of securing the league, it appears that it is not ready to clash again with hardcore fans, particularly Ultras Ahlawy, according to some experts. Khaled Bayoumy, a former member of the Egypt Football Association (EFA) responsible for coordinating the security of the stadiums after the Port Said incident, says the resumption of the league “depends on a decision on the part of the Interior Ministry to carry out its role of securing stadiums. “It should break the barriers of fear and be firm with spectators who refuse to abide by the rules, such as being searched before entering stadiums and refraining from attacking public establishments,” Bayoumy says. He says hardcore fans have to get over their historic disagreements with the Interior Ministry, which started before the revolution. Hardcore Ahly and Zamalek fans were among the first groups to join the revolution to protest security violations, including the arrest of some of their leaders by the nowdissolved State Security Investigation Services, which always feared their mobilization abilities could be used in anti-regime protests. Even after the revolution, friction between Ultras Ahlawy and security forces continued, pushing some of their members to join protests condemning the military rule that followed the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The Port Said stadium violence created a seemingly irreversible rift in the relationship between Ultras Ahlawy and se-

Protesters demand justice for the Port Said stadium victims

curity, with Ultras Ahlawy placing the blame on the Interior Ministry for its failure to intervene to stop the tragedy, particularly after investigations revealed security was aware of potential rioting but did not cancel the match. An Ultras Ahlawy member who did not want to be identified says the state keeps putting off the season because it fears the outcome of the trials of suspects in the Port Said violence will be the same as in previous ones in which security officers were released. A series of violent clashes following the 18day uprising that toppled Mubarak left many dead, while the cases are pending in court in what has been described by human rights watchdogs as a staggering lack of accountability. In cases in which security officers were accused of killing protesters during and after the revolution, a series of acquittals cast doubts over the prospects of justice. “Even if the suspects are indicted, it will be hard for us to change the way we support our team. The grandstands are our kingdom, and the Interior Ministry should understand that,” the Ultras Ahlawy member says. “We have never invaded the pitch, but we have

the right to express our opinion and send messages to the competitors with our flares, chants and banners — activities that the Interior Ministry used to punish us for.” Last month, the Sports Ministry drafted a law on sports rioting comprising 27 articles. That law imposes financial penalties on spectators who attempt to enter a stadium with flares and fireworks in their possession. Spectators who use fireworks and intimidate other spectators or subject them to danger while inside the stadium would be sentenced to a minimum of three months and a maximum of seven months and be required to pay LE10,000. The same penalties would apply to spectators who insult players or referees during the matches. However, the law has yet to be approved by President Mohamed Morsy, who currently holds legislative powers. “If the state wants the league resumed, then it should do so without hesitation. The idea of having an exceptional law to handle rioting is not bad, but

Even if the suspects are indicted, it will be hard for us to change the way we support our team. The grandstands are our kingdom, and the Interior Ministry should understand that

the question is, why has it not been approved until now? And, if approved, is it going to be enforced?” asks Bayoumy. The Port Said incident was not the first time that fans stormed the playing field. The fans of the Mahalla Football Club did the same during a match with Ahly Club in December at the end of the first round of last year’s season. The EFA then stipulated conditions for the new season to ensure safety in stadiums. It requested electronic gates at the entrances and exits, surveillance cameras inside and outside, barbed wire between the spectators and the playing field, and a buffer zone of 15 meters between the fans of each team. Although many thought these conditions would make stadiums feel like military zones, former Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s Cabinet decided to carry out the Interior Ministry’s conditions for resuming the season, and allocated funds for the development of 14 stadiums. But Bayoumy says Ganzoury did not meet his promises, and that it was current Prime Minister Hesham Qandil’s Cabinet that spent those funds last August, allocating LE1 million to each stadium. “Cairo Stadium was the only one that was developed, with the rest not yet finished,” Bayoumy says. “The EFA will have to use the stadiums of the Armed

25 October 2012

Focus File


s pose lingering challenges to football

Forces that are already fitted to those conditions.” EFA President Gamal Allam said the resumption of the league is in the hands of the government, not his association. “We have already put down the schedule of the games, after the Armed Forces agreed to give us six stadiums,” he explains. Ahly is playing against the Tunisian Esperance team in the African Champions League final early next month. It has asked the Interior Ministry to allow spectators to attend the game. But it has not yet been determined where the game will be played.

Big business


he most popular game in the world — football — is also the mostloved sport in Egypt, and the chief source of income for Egyptian clubs.

affecting the current game: poor security arrangements in stadiums and the massive economic losses caused by the stoppage. Players and workers in the field, including the EFA, have been calling for the season to resume, emphasizing the LE1.2 billion estimated losses. But the entity responsible for securing the matches, the Interior Ministry, has refused to give the green light for the resumption of the competition, citing security concerns. Egypt Independent investigates.


tween Ahly and Masry teams, with no security intervention to stop the bloodshed. The case is still being heard in court. Meanwhile, Ultras Ahlawy say they do not object to international matches, such as the game between Ahly and the Sunshine Stars, but stand their ground on rejecting the resumption of the season. They say it should only resume after the perpetrators of the Port Said massacre have been brought to justice. The postponement has drawn attention to the two biggest issues

The postponed league season is causing significant losses

Since football became a career for many Egyptian players, several businesses tied to the game have thrived from the sale of Ahly or Zamalek flags ahead of major matches, all the way to the sale of players in millionpound deals. The halting of the football league’s season has had a negative impact on all stakeholders, starting from the EFA all the way to the clubs, advertising companies and satellite channels that benefit from the matches. “Football pays for the sports activities in clubs,” says Medhat Shalaby, a sports commentator who works for Modern Sport satellite channel. “Sponsorship and broadcasting rights are what keep clubs going. There are more than 24 different games that depend on football for money.” Amr Wahby, former marketing director at the EFA, says “every club has sponsors who fund it,” adding that when the league stops, the sponsors do not get their rights, and consequently do not give money to the clubs. The suspension of the league has also had a negative impact on the other clubs that do not play in the Premier League. Wahby says clubs that do not play in the Premier League generate revenues from their participation in the Egypt Cup competition, and that those clubs sell their players to the clubs that play in the Premier League — so, with the league suspended, everything becomes static. Wahby also says the suspension of the league season has led the Egyptian national team to slip on the FIFA

Football pays for the sports activities in clubs. Sponsorship and broadcasting rights are what keep clubs going. There are more than 24 different games that depend on football for money world football ranking to 40th position, lowering the country’s chances of playing friendly international matches against big teams and marketing the team’s matches. The Egyptian national team won the Africa Cup of Nations three consecutive times in 2006, 2008 and 2010, making its way to ninth place in the FIFA rankings, but has since failed to qualify for the same cup finals twice in a row. The EFA has also been hard hit by the season suspension. The association would have made LE104 million from the sale of matches to the state TV and satellite channels, but the suspension has caused it to only make LE38 million because the league only continued for 16

weeks. The losses are also exacerbated by the subsequent halting of the Egypt Cup. The EFA, meanwhile, has started collecting accumulating debts owed by satellite channels as screening fees, which have totaled LE29 million, of which state TV alone is to pay LE23 million. Wahby says these debts are guaranteed to be paid, adding that that it has been agreed with Al-Hayat satellite channel to pay LE4 million. Satellite channels, and more specifically sports channels, have been adversely affected by the suspended season, with some of them going out of business altogether. Others have switched to talk shows, which have high ratings in post-revolution Egypt. “The situation differs from one channel to the other. Some other channels, such as Zoom Sport and Melody Sport, have shut down, and others are not fulfilling their financial commitments toward their staff,” says Shalaby. The suspension affects a wide swath of people, he says. “A janitor at an advertising company would be affected by the suspension of the league because there are some companies that only do football advertising, so how do you think it’s going to be for those directly linked to football?” says Shalaby. “There are workers who get LE40 for every match played every week, and so the LE160 they made every month is no longer there.”■ Translated by Dina Zafer


25 October 2012


The Lebanese powder keg By Makram Rabah

[Hassan’s] killing should be perceived as a somewhat preemptive strike carried out by either Syria or its allies to neutralize his security role as well as to deal a fatal morale blow to the Lebanese Sunni community


he serenity of Ibrahim Monzer Street in Ashrafieh in the eastern suburbs of Beirut was shattered Friday when a bomb exploded, setting this predominately Christian quarter ablaze. Coincidently, just down the street, 31 years earlier, a much bigger explosion killed President-elect Bashir al-Gemayel. The first impression that spread across the country were thoughts of fear, as this explosion was perceived by many as an act of sporadic sectarian violence. These feelings, however, were shortly replaced by the horrific reality that this 70-kilogram bomb had targeted the head of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces-Information Branch, the infamous General Wissam al-Hassan. But, contrary to earlier political assassinations, it took the Lebanese authorities almost two hours to confirm the identity of Hassan and his driver, who followed a strict and almost unpredictable security procedure that made his movements unknown even to his immediate superiors. This paranoia was justified because, over the last seven years, Hassan, the pro-March 14 security guru, was successful in quelling a number of dangers targeting the country, ranging from the numerous Israeli spy rings the ISF-IB uncovered, as well as its pivotal role in assisting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) with trying suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Hassan, who was able to assemble a group of talented and educated young officers trained in the modern art of counter-intelligence, was able to trace out the communications network that the assassins used to carry out Hariri’s killing. Among these officers was the late Captain Wissam Eid, a computer engineer who was also assassinated in 2008. The STL, working closely with Hassan and his men, issued its indictment, which implicated a number of highranking Hezbullah members. This, of course, was countered by Hezbullah as being part of a Western-Zionist plot to destroy the party and put it at odds with the Lebanese at large. The group in turn revealed its own evidence implicating Israel in the Hariri assassination. Hassan’s fait accompli, however, came last sum-

mer when he was able to thwart the Michel Samaha plot. The former Lebanese information minister — under directions from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — was planning a series of bombings to sow seeds of sedition, or fitna, by targeting Sunni areas as well as the Maronite patriarch. Anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians were quick to accuse the Assad regime of Hassan’s assassination, saying that this was outright retribution for Samaha. Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt was unwavering, declaring, “There is one person to accuse, from the killing of Rafik al-Hariri to Wissam al-Hassan, and that person is Bashar [al-Assad].” However, when Jumblatt was asked about the accusation that Hezbullah was possibly involved in the killing, his answer was both enlightening and alarming. His response was that “these voices who are accusing Hezbullah are just stupid, because it will only enhance sectarian conflict. We have to target the enemy number one, the Syrian regime.” Jumblatt’s statement was extremely revealing, asserting that no internal Lebanese faction was involved in this brutal act and therefore the already existing Sunni-Shia schism was to remain dormant. Despite the fact that the majority of the anti-Syrian opposition followed Jumblatt’s lead in accusing Assad, the public refused to exonerate Hezbullah from its possible role. While it is true that Hassan had embarrassed Syria and its allies through his continuous crackdown on their activities, his killing should be perceived as a somewhat preemptive strike carried out by either Syria or its allies to neutralize his security role as well as to deal a fatal morale blow to the Lebanese Sunni community, which

has actively supported the Syrian revolution from its onset. Had the so-called Sunni street been convinced of Syria’s sole role in Hassan’s killing, it would have refrained from taking to the streets in what amounted in some areas to an armed rebellion against the Hezbullah-backed government of Najeb Mikati. Mikati’s outright accusation of Assad over the killing was unsuccessful both in quelling the agitation and silencing the voices demanding his immediate resignation. While all eyes have now turned to Jumblatt to resign from the cabinet and thus force Hezbullah to accept a national salvation government, the reality of the matter dictates otherwise. At this stage, the government is still deliberating the next electoral law, which would govern the upcoming parliamentary elections slated for this summer — an election that both Jumblatt and the 14 March coalition adamantly want to take place. Furthermore, a power vacuum that a cabinet resignation would bring about is extremely dangerous, given the events in Syria, especially with Hezbullah’s palpable role in fighting alongside Assad’s forces. Hezbullah thus far has only issued the usual ceremonial eulogy, describing “the horrible crime as an attempt against Lebanon’s stability and national unity.” However, this has not convinced the public that Wissam al-Hassan’s skillfully executed assassination could have been carried out by the same regime that a few months earlier had resorted to Samaha, its court poet, to carry out — a task reserved to individuals with profiles similar to the men indicted by the STL. This externalization of blame would defiantly avert Lebanon from the always-looming ghost of civil strife, but this, of course, requires both sides to blame Syria, something that neither Hezbullah nor its allies would adopt anytime soon. The issue thus remains in how we look at the Lebanese powder keg — half full or half empty.■ Makram Rabah is a PhD candidate at Georgetown University’s history department. Rabah is the author of “A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967–1975.”

Egypt’s killing conundrum By Mohamed Abdelaziz

In the first 100 days of Morsy’s rule, 34 people were killed at the hands of the police, 88 were tortured and 65 were arbitrarily detained


resident Mohamed Morsy decided on 6 July to form a fact-finding committee to determine legal liability for the killing of protesters. Article 4 of the decree stipulated that the committee should turn in its report within two months. So far, the committee has only produced a report calling for the retrial of ex-President Hosni Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly, but has failed to produce a report on other incidents in which protesters were killed and failed to provide the names of leaders from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces who may have incited the killings. Reasons for the tardiness of the committee were not explained, for it was neither attributed to lack of cooperation on the part of authorities or to the absence of a clear vision of its function. Asaad Heikal, the member of the secondary committee responsible for handling the case of the missing individuals during the revolution, resigned after his demand for the committee to remain non-politicized was ignored. This incident surely raises red flags. I therefore demand that the committee announce its conclusions to the public and reveal the impediments that hampered its work. It should also present its findings to Tharwat Hammad, the judge appointed by the Cairo Court of Cassation to carry out investigations, particularly since criminal responsibility on the part of military leaders is as plain as day.

The military court has reviewed several cases in which protesters were killed, and the incidents are hence proven and the investigations available. All the evidence is documented, and the charges are substantiated with technical proof, including the forcible breakup of the 9 March Tahrir Square protest, and the Balloon Theater, Israeli Embassy, Maspero and Abbasseya incidents. In all of these clashes, which were probed by the military prosecution, either the military police, special forces commandos or paratroopers took part. There are also other cases that were reviewed by civilian courts such as the incidents in Mohamed Mahmoud and Mansour streets and at the Cabinet. So now we have two civil entities carrying out investigations; the first is the above-mentioned committee appointed by the president and the second by the Court of Cassation. But I suspect the existence of a genuine political will to bring the killers to trial. This is particularly evident after Morsy said at a military celebration on 18 October that he condemns claims that former Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Sami Anan were banned from travel, and added that measures were taken against the newspaper that published this “false news” — a reference to the removal of Al-Gomhurriya newspaper’s editor-in-chief. These statements by Morsy emphasize the lack

of political will to bring criminals to justice. In fact, these statements are grave, since they constitute a flagrant and direct intervention in the work of the judiciary on the part of the highest executive authority in the country. In fact, Morsy’s statements on 18 October break all the promises he made for retribution, thus granting criminals immunity from punishment. We were expecting more from Morsy’s presidency — we hoped that amendments would be made to the legislative structure to improve the status of human rights, but instead, power circles are discussing the introduction of exceptional laws that restrict freedoms.The reality is that we are facing the same laws of the former regime, which claimed suppression was the means to addressing security challenges. Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture provides a gloomy outlook, as it states that in the first 100 days of Morsy’s rule, 34 people were killed at the hands of the police, 88 were tortured and 65 were arbitrarily detained. Besides the role of the civil judiciary, the real bet is on the public to pile pressure to bring criminals to justice and prevent the Muslim Brotherhood’s power brokers from negotiating more deals that obstruct justice.■ Mohamed Abdelaziz is a lawyer and human rights activist. This article was translated by Dina Zafer.

25 October 2012



A new pope, a new approach? By Paul Sedra

The best way the new pope can demonstrate his confidence in the community is by taking a step back - — by permitting Copts to speak for themselves, as equal citizens, in all their diversity


oughly 2,400 electors on 29 October will cast ballots to narrow the field for the papal seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church from the current five candidates down to three. Six days later, on 4 November, a blindfolded child will select the name of the successor to Pope Shenouda III from among these three candidates, at the altar of Saint Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Abbassiya. There is little question that the new pope will bear an enormous weight of expectation on his shoulders. Not only will he occupy the papal seat in the wake of arguably the most successful pope of the modern era, Shenouda, but he will still further have to reckon with the instability in sectarian relations that has prevailed in Egypt since the 25 January revolution. Thanks in large part to Shenouda’s example, as well as that of his predecessor, Kyrillos VI, the Coptic Orthodox community in Egypt now demand far more from their pope than they have at any time in the modern era. Whereas a century ago, the Coptic community had a vigorous, politically active lay leadership, the clerical hierarchy has now assumed much of the responsibility for communal leadership that once belonged to the laity. In an important sense, Kyrillos and Shenouda were the chief stewards of a fundamental shift in power within the Coptic community, as part of which the church’s temporal role in Copts’ lives has grown enormously. Arguably, the most important question the new pope will confront is whether to reverse that trend, or to continue to encourage it. Whatever the pope’s choice, there are, to my mind, six steps that the new pope could take in the temporal realm that would substantially ease the burden that Copts face in today’s Egypt. I list them here in ascending order of importance. 1. Reform the papal elections process This might seem an odd place for a new pope to begin a campaign of reform, having just received a mandate through this process. But there could be no better time to enact change, with the community just having experienced the process — and its manifold shortcomings.

Perhaps most problematic are the restrictions on participation in the Coptic “electoral college” of 2,400 members — restrictions that are rooted in socioeconomic status. By democratizing this process in the spirit of the 25 January revolution, the new pope could send a clear message to the community that, in the eyes of the law, not only are Copts equal to Muslims, but the poor are equal to the wealthy. 2. Insist on transparency in church affairs Beyond the unrepresentative nature of the “electoral college,” one of the problems that has come to the fore during the papal elections process is the lack of transparency in the administration of the ballot. Critical decisions were made within the Coptic Orthodox Church hierarchy — for instance, regarding the qualifications of candidates for the papal seat — without the slightest attempt to explain or account for them. Unfortunately, this is not uncharacteristic of the conduct of the church hierarchy. If the pope’s purview was limited to the realm of the spiritual, one could conceivably justify the lack of public accounting for significant decisions. But that the pope possesses a temporal role, and a critically important one at that, is beyond doubt. In light of this temporal role, it seems equally beyond doubt that the church hierarchy should expose its decision-making processes to the parishioners whose lives and livelihoods its decisions affect. 3. Institutionalize dialogue with a range of lay organizations Much like the electoral reforms and transparency urged above, a serious effort at dialogue with the Coptic laity would accord with the democratic spirit of the times, in the wake of the 25 January revolution. The Coptic community is currently witnessing a flourishing of activism beyond the precincts of the church, and for the church to coordinate with lay organizations would benefit both the clergy and the laity — particularly in the face of the struggles for equality in citizenship that Copts are currently waging.

4. Expand the grounds for divorce in line with the 1938 bylaw This is, to my mind, simply a moral imperative: Coptic women should not have to bear an exceptional burden of suffering in Egypt, due to strictures introduced in relatively recent memory. Nor, for that matter, should Coptic men. 5. Leave national politics to the laity Since the rise of Pope Kyrillos VI to the papal seat, there has existed a partnership of sorts between Egyptian presidents and their counterparts in the Coptic papacy. Under the terms of this partnership, presidents have regarded the Coptic pope as the chief representative of the Coptic community — in both the spiritual and the temporal realms. This practice should end, for to regard the Coptic pope as the chief representative of Copts in the temporal realm represents a failure to acknowledge the diversity of the Coptic community. The church cannot speak for all Copts, and the state should not expect it to do so. 6. Decentralize authority In a sense, this is the broad theme within which the various steps above play a part. Yet this would appear diametrically opposed to a theme that now enjoys great esteem in particular sectors of the Coptic community — that the church needs to rally from within against those threats that Egyptian Christians face within Egypt at large. All I can say, by way of response, is that I hope the new pope resists this impulse, so common in times of political unrest like that through which Egypt now passes. In resisting the impulse to centralize, the pope will afford Copts from all walks of life the opportunity to demonstrate that they are not “victims,” as they are so often designated in the press. The best way the new pope can demonstrate his confidence in the community is by taking a step back — by permitting Copts to speak for themselves, as equal citizens, in all their diversity.■ Paul Sedra is an associate professor of history at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

A message to freedom fighters: Choose a pole! By Amr Ezzat

I urge you and myself to announce to which pole we belong and declare our inclinations now - to rights and freedoms, and not to one political faction or another

To my mind, the revolution was only an escalation of the polarization between those who want change and others adamant on maintaining the status quo. In February 2011, those who chose the revolution insisted on bringing down the head of the regime to open the gates of change. Their insistence on change caused them to be accused of wanting to drive a rift in society, but those accusations did not stop them from revolting and engaging in street fights on 2 and 3 February, in what came to be called the Battle of the Camel. These battles were a perfect manifestation of that societal polarization. We now recount what happened in this infamous street battle as a crime that was committed against the revolutionaries, but, recalling the media discourse at the time, we will realize that the revolution was attacked on the basis that it was causing societal polarization and divisions. I remember that at the time I blogged, calling on people to “declare their inclinations now!” I said that I might sympathize with security forces for the wounds they suffered in the fighting, but at the moment of confrontation, I would not think twice about kicking their shield or knocking off their helmet, regardless of how evil or noble their intentions were. The Friday rally that took place on 12 October, dubbed the “Friday of Accountability,” was

reminiscent of the street battles that broke out during the revolution. But the new baton bashers should know that such shows of power will no longer be useful. If we are building a democracy, then we should supposedly abandon street fighting and recognize that there exists a broad spectrum of rights and freedoms for everyone to live in dignity, and that political powers should compete to provide alternatives that achieve justice and preserve human dignity and freedom. However, if a political faction insists on brandishing the batons of identity and religion, then by so doing it will be establishing itself as a pole that restricts freedoms and rights and concentrates power in a way that reduces society’s ability to hold officials accountable. In that context, I do not understand those who take positions shy of polarization, and fear forming an opposing pole that calls for broad freedoms, guarantees for rights and a political system that distributes powers, allows for accountability and opens the gates to change, pluralism and diversity. I therefore urge you and myself to announce to which pole we belong and declare our inclinations now — to rights and freedoms, and not to one political faction or another. I am currently clearly biased to the civil democratic powers pole, which encompasses the Popular Alliance, the Constitution and the

Egyptian Social Democratic parties, and the Popular Current. I choose this pole because I reject the Islamist powers’ belief that the world would be a better place if we eliminate diversity and strictly regulate society in the name of identity preservation or religion. The tribal conflict between Islamist and civil powers elicits feelings of contempt of the overall political scene. I do not believe that the current conflict will turn into one where fair play is observed. For that to be realized, we need to have a playing field that can accommodate everyone and that should be provided by the new constitution. The solution is not to ignore or shy away from polarization while the constitution is being drafted. The history of humanity, as well as our recent history, demonstrates that rights and freedoms are either granted by those in power to improve their image and later confiscated, or snatched away in battles and struggles. In struggles for freedom, the fighters do not fear batons of authoritative rulers or blame from pseudo-moderates who seek appeasement.■ Amr Ezzat is a columnist at Al-Masry Al-Youm and researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. This article was translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm by Dina Zafer.


25 October 2012


Wasting away As garbage piles up in canals, residents take matters into their own hands By Steven Viney

Abdel Rahman Abdallah


Cleanup work is underway and massive heaps of garbage blocking the canal are being removed

Residents began to fall ill, and crops started becoming deformed, dying and deteriorating. About 3,000 feddans of crops died during the summer LE40,000 through donations and fundraisers, and were able to hire the trucks, cranes and pumps required to clear out the canals. “We worked for almost a month straight and everyone began joining in,” says Ghoneim, who is loosely considered the head of the canal cleaning project for Shabab Abu Sir. “Even those who were too old to help out came and stood there in support.” Over a month, residents say they removed about 4,500 tons of waste from the canal, and transported it to a nearby garbage dump, a few kilometers into the Saqqara desert. They used water pumps to help get the water flowing again. A similar scenario also took place throughout many greater Cairo areas that rely on canal irrigation, such as Abul Menagga, which has a massive canal. “Residents were suffering from blocked and toxic canals, and the government was basically just saying there was nothing they could do,” says Sherine Abdu, the events

manager at Hayah Academy school, who offered to head an initiative to clean out the canals of Abul Menagga. Abdu says that after hearing about these concerns, she received a list of crucial things that the ministry lacked the resources to attend to, such as canal clearing in Abul Menagga. Abdu then began to organize walkathons and bazaars, in cooperation with local residents, to raise money. She says they also raised about LE40,000 — separately, without knowledge of the Abu Sir initiative — to be dedicated to the cleaning project. Ironically, both the residents of Abu Sir and Abul Menagga claim that once they started doing things themselves, the Irrigation Ministry and municipalities jumped on the issue, using the money raised to take over the respective projects and help out. “It just goes to show that if there’s a will and motivation, then there’s always a solution or a way,” said Laura Tabet of Nawaya. “Once they saw how quickly we could raise money

and address the issue instead of ignoring it, they quickly wanted to jump in and appear involved and concerned, even though we had been complaining for years and they had been doing nothing.” Khaled al-Hindawy, the Irrigation Ministry official responsible for the Abu Sir canals, told Egypt Independent that “the ministry has always cleaned and purified the canals and maintained their quality for years, without exception ... it is an essential part of our job.” However, after explaining that this reporter had personally seen the canals blocked and filled with garbage for months and offered to share photos, he conceded, “Sometimes, the processes and procedures take time to implement.” Ghoneim also claims that at the beginning of the cleanup initiative in Abu Sir, there was even resistance from governing bodies preventing them from taking the garbage to the respective dumps, because they didn’t have the right permits to access the dumping premises themselves. Nonetheless, residents and activists continue to be dismayed by the responses and neglect their canals receive from both the municipalities and the ministries. “People who live along the canals are Cairo’s forgotten,” says Ghoneim. “We can’t rely on them for anything, so we now have to take care of matters

Abdel Rahman Abdallah

lthough the Nile is generally praised as the country’s lifeblood, many people actually rely on its irrigation canals. But when the water started to dry up over the summer, they became a toxic mess, threatening the livelihoods of those who need them. These canals, strategically put in place decades ago to broaden fertile land — particularly around greater Cairo — are as vital for many Egyptians as the river itself. “They are our extension of the Nile, and have provided opportunities for millions of Egyptians and farmers to maintain their livelihood further from the Nile,” says Azmy Salama, an Abu Sir resident. Abu Sir, southwest of greater Cairo, and Abul Menagga, which sits in the northeast, are two locales out of many that have built entire communities around these irrigation canals. But, over the years, poor waste management facilities and resources throughout greater Cairo have led many local residents to resort to throwing their garbage into these canals. The flowing canal water would, to some degree, push the garbage along, creating a temporary, though environmentally unsustainable and toxic, waste management system. However, this summer, residents who live near and off of these canals found themselves in a disastrous predicament. A series of water cuts throughout the summer, combined with extreme heat and dryness, resulted in the canals being largely transformed into toxic garbage dumps with little to no water able to pass through. Even when water returned after lengthy cuts, it was almost completely blocked, and whatever water managed to trickle through was putrid. Residents — many of whom already live in squalid conditions — began to fall ill, and crops started becoing deformed, dying and deteriorating. About 3,000 feddans of crops died during the summer, residents say. Despite continued pleas from residents to their respective municipalities and ministries, they say they have received no active response, partly due to an admitted lack of resources by the governing bodies. “The Irrigation Ministry would claim that garbage dumping is the job of the municipality, but then the municipality would claim that since it is in the canal, it’s the Irrigation Ministry’s responsibility, and round and round,” says Ezzat Ghoneim, another Abu Sir resident. But about a month ago, through a combination of desperation and communal pride, local residents, activists and organizations decided to take matters into their own hands and clean the canals themselves. The timing was crucial — new crop rotation seasons were nearing at the end of the summer, and farmers needed to plant and sufficiently water their new crops to ensure financial security for the coming season. “The ministries complained that they didn’t have the resources to address this, so we said ‘Fine, we’ll get the resources,’” says Ghoneim. In Abu Sir, NGOs such as Nawaya, as well as a collective loosely called Shabab Abu Sir (Abu Sir Youth), got together to raise money to battle the issue. They quickly raised about

Residents say 4,500 tons of waste have been removed from the canals

Residents were suffering from blocked and toxic canals, and the government was basically just saying that there was nothing they could do

ourselves, which we’ve proven we can do.” However, Sarah al-Sayed, also a member of Nawaya, adds that it is difficult to rely on governing bodies for issues such as canal cleaning, as it requires constant communication and cooperation between governing bodies, institutions and residents, which is something the country in general is still struggling to achieve. Tabet, also dismayed with governmental inaction, says governing bodies must take a more active role in preventing these problems from occurring in the first place, rather than responding to news articles and endless complaints. But unfortunately, despite the massive communal cleanup initiatives, the canals are now beginning to slowly fill up with garbage once again — generally because there still are no comprehensive waste management facilities in these areas. To counter this, residents, activists and NGOs are now in the process of creating more awareness among locals, as well as fighting to try and provide alternative solutions for residents to dispose of their garbage. “People need to be able to draw links between dumping garbage in the canal and getting sick or bad crops, but they also desperately need alternatives to throw away their garbage,” says Ghoneim. “We already have a couple of alternatives, but they require each resident to pay about LE7 a month, which honestly is too expensive for many in these areas, particularly those who lost their crops this summer, but we are working on it.” On a more optimistic note, in terms of finances and resources, a recent June 2012 project proposal by the World Bank — with which Egypt recently signed a $200 million loan in August — states that canal cleaning and protection is of considerable priority, as it creates jobs and promotes economic growth through agriculture. “Whether or not this really means funds will be allocated properly and will contribute to cleaning and maintaining the canals is yet to be seen,” says Ghoneim.■

25 October 2012



Dropping seed bombs

Virginie Nguyen

Courtesy of Bozoor Baladi campaign

Environmental campaign aims to highlight agricultural issues

Campaign organisers make sure the seed bombs are dropped on irrigated squares and parks

A spontaneous march with mostly children in Basateen and Maadi

By Steven Viney

Virginie Nguyen

Virginie Nguyen


Thousands of seed balls were rolled by volunteers ahead of the event

Virginie Nguyen

nvironmentalists, activists and bystanders gathered Saturday at various locations around Cairo and Alexandria to join a seed bombing campaign known as “Bozoor Baladi” (Seeds of My Country). Seed bombing is considered a political act of “guerilla gardening” in which small, tightly compacted balls of clay, fertilizer and seeds are thrown into public spaces and parks to create awareness about a particular agricultural cause, establish dialogue, and reclaim and beautify public spaces in the process. These seed balls sprout very quickly — some had already begun sprouting before the march had begun — making it a very efficient technique to create awareness and dialogue with skeptical onlookers. In Egypt, the particular cause was the advocacy of using local, organic seeds rather than imported, genetically modified seeds, which are both expensive and yield harmful and poor crops. Access to quality, low-priced, organic local seeds has become one of the most pressing issues facing farmers over the past years. A native seed is one that has been growing in a specific place for a very long time and that has adapted very well to this specific environment. Industrialized agriculture, and its monoculture ideal, has introduced all over the world limited varieties of standardized seeds produced by a handful of multinationals. These seeds have gradually replaced the local, organic seeds that farmers had perfected over generations, which has caused a series of problems. First, this is foreign seed and, in order to adapt to its new environment, it needs to be sprayed with large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to resist and grow. Second, these seeds are patented, meaning they are owned by these companies, which consequently have the power to demand royalties from farmers and control the market. In Egypt, organic native seeds have become a rarity, only to be found in remote small farms where farmers have been saving their seeds for years. Various environmental and agricultural NGOs, such as Nawaya, Greenpeace, and Nabta, initiated the campaign. They had been hosting workshops for several weeks to create awareness about the project and create the seed balls. “We’re calling for a reform in agricultural policy through the engagement of the street in opening the discussion about these issues, because of a lack of discussion about it in the public sphere,” says Greenpeace communications officer Hoda Baraka, who thinks hands-on seed bombing with public engagement will have a more positive effect than isolated, abstract, environmental lectures. Reem Saad, an American University in Cairo professor of social anthropology with a strong interest in rural Egypt, also joined the campaign, advocating the need to create awareness about food sovereignty rather than simply food security.

Food sovereignty is an integrated concept that emphasizes not just the quantity of food, but the quality, and the work, and the effort of the producers “Food security really relates to just having enough to feed people, but food sovereignty is an integrated concept — a comprehensive approach that emphasizes not just the quantity of food, but the quality, and the work and the effort of the producers themselves,” she says, adding

that the seed “crisis” is at the heart of the destruction of food sovereignty in Egypt. Between 8,000 to 10,000 seed balls containing seeds of bitter oranges, peas, wheat and barley were prepared for Saturday’s event, organizers say. Four specific locations were marched through and seed bombed last weekend: three in Cairo — downtown, Heliopolis and Maadi — and one in Alexandria, starting outside the Cairo train station. Organizers and participants arrived with wheelbarrows and bags full of thousands of seed balls, as well as flyers and stickers to promote the cause. Marches started at about 2 pm and were made from square to square, as seed balls were thrown apace, interrupted only by continual discussions with curious bystanders. Having joined the downtown march, which moved from Opera Square in Zamalek to Abdeen Square downtown, passers-by, homeless

children and police officers instantly congregated around the growing crowd, trying to understand what was going on. “Is this a protest against the Brotherhood?” and “Are you going to throw those rocks at people?” were among some of the initial questions floating around. However, after organizers explained the cause behind the march and event, supported by the chant, “Enta Masri! Tezra Masri!” (“You’re Egyptian! Plant Egyptian!”), onlookers and passersby became some of the most active marchers. Several young boys instantly grabbed a wheelbarrow and ran around, handing out flyers and throwing seed balls into public spaces. “We weren’t doing anything and had nothing else to do but hang out on the street. Why not join in something that is fun and active like this to promote Egypt?” one of the boys, Mahmoud, said. Many others asked if they could take bunches of seeds to use in their areas, rooftop gardens or to give to farming relatives. “My brother has a small farm, so I thought I would take some to him; let him try them and see what he thinks,” said one man who was watching the campaign unfold while sitting with his wife. As the march moved into Tahrir Square, more people continued to gather. An inquisitive police officer even praised the initiative, ironically stating how for a long time he’d been thinking about growing corn in the square to make better use of the space. “Just don’t grow things too high so we can still see over and monitor the square,” he said, before returning to direct traffic. Public reception, eventually, was overwhemingly positive. “I never knew you could grow food with a simple ball, I always thought you had to plant all the items separately at different times,” said Khaled, one impressed onlooker. Meanwhile, a worker — separate from the campaign — was simultaneously watering Tahrir Square with a hose. “At least now I have something to water and watch grow,” he said with a smile. Reports from Alexandria, Maadi and Heliopolis were also extremely positive and similar to the downtown march; however, the turnout was reported to be slightly smaller. Gameela Ismail, journalist-turned-political activist, also attended the downtown march in support, telling reporters that seed bombing is a means of protesting by example about crucial issues that aren’t given enough attention. In terms of the seed bombing campaign creating awareness and discussions about the seed issues facing Egypt, Baraka said Saturday’s seed bombing were not a one-time event and there would be follow-ups. She said organizers have already been contacted by residents of various governorates who also want to host seed bombing events in their own areas. “The media is also now on board and interested to talk to us which means the dialogue has been established, already making the event something of a success,” she said.■


25 October 2012


The great hate story ‘In Praise of Hatred’ explores an overshadowed emotion in Syria By M. Lynx Qualey


By the end of that summer," she says, ‘hatred had taken possession of me. I was enthused by it; I felt that it was saving me. Hatred gave me the feeling of superiority I was looking for"

Courtesy of Transworld Publishers

ove is a subject that has animated great poetry, novels and memoirs for a thousand years and more. Hate has been explored comparatively little. Khaled al-Khalifa’s “In Praise of Hatred,” shortlisted for the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and available in English translation in 2012, is powerfully seductive in its exploration of hate. The novel is deceptively straightforward: It is a chronological story told by a young woman who is part of a large Sunni family. Most of the action takes place in the early 1980s, when Islamist Sunnis led an uprising against the primarily Alawi Syrian regime. The echoes with the current Syrian uprising are many. Translator Leri Price notes in her afterword that she was working on a passage about arrests and interrogations at Aleppo University when she turned on the news to hear of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s purge at the same university. But the two situations are also, as the author has noted, very different: The current uprising belongs to a much wider swath of people. What remains the same is the nature of human hate. The novel, which received a warm and fluid translation from Price, focuses primarily on the lives of Aleppan women. The book in some ways represents the coming of age of its nameless adolescent narrator. She is a bright young woman raised in her conservative grandfather’s home, and her uncles and older brother are leaders in the Islamist uprising. She is as clever as any of them, but restrained by her home, her clothes and her ideas; later, she is restrained by the violence all around her, and finally by prison. The novel crams a large number of characters into each of its narrow spaces, and creates a powerful density that brings late-1970s and 1980s Aleppo to life. The narrative has a number of male characters, but focuses mainly on the lives of women. In school, the narrator finds a sharp distinction between girls who align themselves with the mukhabarat, or intelligence ser-

The novel is a seductive story about hate, with 1970s Syria as a backdrop

vices, and those who align themselves with the power of an austere Islam. The girls here have limited choices, but they are never mere

pawns. Instead, they are agents in a complex landscape. In navigating this territory, the narrator finds that hate gives her

The current uprising belongs to a much wider swath of people. What remains the same is the nature of human hate

The pick A poem for the holiday By Aisha El-Awady To celebrate Eid al-Adha, we present a translated excerpt of “Eid Morning” by the late Egyptian poet Fouad Haddad. The days come round again my loved ones May all your years be good ones The new oranges and tangerines Are red on Eid mornings Yafawi oranges will soon appear We await their appearance year after year No matter how far or wide they roam On Eid, our loved ones will come back home On this day, in everything fun we will dabble Both East and West on Eid we shall travel■

the ability to rise above it all. The narrator is charmed by her beautiful schoolmate Ghada, who is having an affair with a senior mukhabarat officer, but chooses to join the severe Alya. “By the end of that summer,” she says, “hatred had taken possession of me. I was enthused by it; I felt that it was saving me. Hatred gave me the feeling of superiority I was looking for.” Although she continues to desire Ghada’s companionship, the narrator can never really have her. But through hatred, she can have power. “We need hatred to give our lives meaning,” the narrator thinks as she celebrates her 17th birthday alone. Hatred is what the narrator does to define herself, to sublimate her loneliness, and to lift herself above others. Hatred becomes even more necessary when Aleppo is under siege, caught between two sects: the one leading an uprising and the other violently crushing it. Under the strain of constant anxiety, the family begins to break apart. The narrator’s mother cannot bear her eldest son’s imprisonment, and is barely available. Maryam is the most severe of the aunts, and her life is largely dry and empty. Safaa has a turbulent life, married to a mujahid who allies himself with the CIA in the Afghani-Soviet war. Only one aunt, Marwa, allows herself to fall unexpectedly in love. Unfortunately for Marwa, she comes in contact only with the soldiers who search the family

home, and she falls for an Alawi officer. When she attempts to meet her officer, her brothers order her chained to her bed. The officer finally comes to liberate Marwa, and the two of them — the only two who attempt to reject hate — must in the end flee the city, into the countryside. None of the characters are static. They often forgive one another and come tentatively back together. But the power of hate is seductive. Maryam, after visiting Marwa, at first “sounded indulgent.” However, “in subsequent days all her anger came out: she spoke disparagingly of Marwa’s removal of her veil; and of my father’s alcoholism, and the fact that he cursed my mother and Bakr and our group, and praised the other sect.” Hatred also offers a way to manage grief. When the narrator’s brother is killed during a brutal purge of one of the prisons, she “wanted to hug my mother and cry in her arms like a little child, but hatred dominated me to my very core. My extremities went cold. I felt paralysed and indifferent. I didn’t care if I ever emerged from the dark tunnel I had entered.” It is imprisonment, oddly, that unravels the narrator’s hate. After several years of being tortured in political prison, she finds herself thrown into a general women’s prison with Marxists, prostitutes and others. Here, she comes to love others from very different backgrounds and, “the hatred which I defended as the only truth was shattered entirely.” The book’s English-language ending, which is revised from the original, is somewhat abrupt. But the rest of the book is richly rewarding, thickly layered and full of fresh understanding about human motivation. The book’s density is sometimes overwhelming and stifling, but it echoes the sense of being trapped between hatreds. And while the book is very particularly about 1980s Syria, and fearlessly examines some of the nation’s most sensitive historical moments, it also transcends time and place. Just as a great love story can speak to anyone’s love, this can speak to anyone’s hate.■

25 October 2012



Quiz: A glimpse into Egyptian horror culture on Halloween By Mai Elwakil


ummies have become a worldwide horror staple, inspiring everything from the film “The Mummy” (1932) and its neverending sequels to numerous literary ex-

Like the Um Dwais jhin of the Gulf and the Moroccan Kandisha, Egyptian folk culture has al-Nadaha (The Caller), a mythical woman who enchants men. The tale goes that village men cannot resist her calls every night and are found dead the next morning. In his popular “Beyond the Natural World” series of novellas, Ahmed Khalid Tawfik shattered the myth when his autobiographical protagonist Doctor Refaat Ismail uncovered that:


a. A monstrous robot kidnaps the village men b. The village doctor drugs the men and performs scientific experiments on them c. A village outcast who has lived in the hills since her childhood is seeking revenge d. The village mayor uses this illusion to kidnap his enemies and appropriate their land

plorations. The simple mummy costume, often made of bandages, has also found its way into popular culture for many a Halloween celebration. But do mummies have the same resonance in their homeland? Not really. Horror culture in Egypt is very different, nurtured by a mix of superstition, local

myths and covert social and cultural critique. Many of the artistic explorations of the genre build on that with an occasional shift to the spiritual, or science fiction. With Halloween falling this week, Egypt Independent takes you deep inside the dark alleys of Egyptian horror. Take our quiz and enjoy the ride.

Egypt’s sole Nobel Prize in literature laureate also explored horror in some of his screenplays, this time with a social twist. Which filmmaker directed Naguib Mahfouz’z 1970 “The Choice” that was based on a psycho drama thriller rather than the mythical and fantastic:


Like filmmakers and writers, visual artists have also engaged with horror imagery, mostly in their representation of folk tales and myths of the underworld. But the 1964 “Body Falling From The Skies” stands out in its apocalyptic portrayal of a sci-fi spacecraft attacking a city. By whom was this drawing?


“The Choice”

Ahmed Khalid Tawfik’s “Al-Nadaha”

2. Al-Nadaha was a straightforward twist on the folktale. Another acclaimed writer used the myth as a metaphor to critique living conditions in the countryside and the “call” to flee to the capital, resulting in a 1975 film adaptation with the same title. The writer of the novella was:


a) Mohamed Khan b) Salah Abu Seif c) Youssef Chahine d) Ahmed Badrakhan d. Christopher Marlowe

Other films that followed and mixed horror with social critique were the 1981 “Fangs” by Mohamed Shebl and “Man and Demon” directed by Mohamed Rady in 1985. But the 1993 “Dancing with the Devil” directed by Alaa Mahgoub was among the rare films with a sci-fi twist. Nour al-Sherif starred as a scientist who returns from the Soviet Union as an atheist and performs experiments to travel back in time to meet his grandfather and find out where he hid his fortunes. The “Devil” appeared to Sherif in the film as:


“Body Falling From the Skies”

a) Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar b) Mahmud Said c) Ramsis Yunan d) Hamid Nada

Some modern artists were also writers. One even wrote a hymn in 1953 that went along with a work titled “The Hymn of the Scarabs,” and read “Behind the black walls what gathering/Rotting, stinking/Their throats rusting from ear to ear/ Their litany you hear/Howling, howling/A hymn of scarabs and of green air flies.” This artist was:


a) Abdul Hadi El-Gazzar b) Mahmud Said c) Ramsis Yunan d) Hamid Nada

She was one of the few female artists who created fearsome assemblages that commented on the rise of consumerism in the 1980s and foresaw it flourishing with poverty, death, misery and absence of hope. She was:


Magda starring in “Al-Nadaha”

a) “The Seventh Heaven” b) “The Disturbing Occurrences” c) “Room No. 12” d) “The Garden Passage”

a) Al-Nadaha b) A monster c) His alter ego d) A black dog Over the past decade, experiments in horror cinema were often inspired by Hollywood teenage movies like “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” “Alley of the 40,” a short film written by Mohamed Hefzy and directed by Ahmed Medhat, however, was different and received acclaim at the Ismailia Film festival. In the film, “Alley of the 40” refers to:


a) A house in which anyone who turns 40 dies b) Forty ghosts that haunted the alley and killed anyone who entered c) The famous Road 40 in Upper Egypt, off which the alley lies d) The 40 days people must spend in the alley before they disappear

Answer key

Best known for his almost anthropological depictions of Egyptian life, Naguib Mahfouz also ventured into the horror genre with a spiritual twist in occasional short stories, collected and published in 2005 by the American University in Cairo Press as “The Seventh Heaven: Stories of the Supernatural.” In which story did Raouf Abd-Rabbuh “die” and meet historical characters like Akhenaten, Woodrow Wilson and Gamal Abd al-Nasser in earthly trial?


Nour al-Sherif in “Dancing with the Devil”

a) Ghada Amer b) Gazbia Sirry c) Inji Aflatoun d) Noha Tobia

1. b, 2. d, 3. a, 4. c, 5. d, 6. a, 7. a, 8. a, 9. d

a. Naguib Mahfouz b. Youssef al-Qaeed c. Anis Mansour d. Yusuf Idris


25 October 2012

Life & Society

A shot in the dark

The government’s controversial new electricity scheme is likely to hit the poor the hardest

By Heba Helmy In an NDJ World ranking of the 10 cities that never sleep, Cairo, unsurprisingly ranked first. But this may change soon. In a bid to confront serious power shortages before this turns into a chronic crisis, the government is considering passing a law that will force stores to close at 10 pm after Eid al-Adha. Coffee shops and restaurants, however, will be allowed to extend working hours to midnight, while both touristic establishments and pharmacies will be exempted from the law. Egypt has been suffering one of its biggest power failures since the beginning of summer. Several Cairo districts regularly experience a temporary electricity outage due to the enormous strain imposed on the national grid during the hot season, as well as a fuel crisis that’s hit most parts of the country. Though the drafted law, which has been approved by the Board of Governors and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, has not seen the light yet, it has already been provoking widespread controversy. Ahmed El-Wakil, the head of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, condemned the bill on the grounds that the Chamber of Commerce was not consulted about the decision, as it should have been according to the law, before being implemented. The proposal draft has also been met with heavy public criticism on a range of issues, which the government turned a blind eye to. “The bill obviously lacks a studied decision-making process,” says Hussein Ismail, an employee at the Defense Ministry and owner of a supermarket. He believes the gov-

ernment has not improved its willingness to listen, as was the case during the old regime. Ismail points out that the government was supposed to conduct a survey across governorates to gain new insight into the current situation of the country and consequently devise a solution that works best for the Egyptian people. Assem Marzouq, an engineer who works the night shift in a supermarket as a cashier to increase his income, believes that the bill would hit the incomes of many poor people, keeping them out of jobs. “If this law is implemented, night shifts would be cancelled. Who would want to hire extra people and pay salaries while stores are already shutting down early and suffering a decline in revenue?” Marzouq says. He claims that officials are wringing their hands about the power shortages while lacking the willingness to work towards actual solutions to ensure a supply of electricity. In August, Qandil called on people to ration their electricity consumption by cutting down on excessive air conditioning use and wearing cotton clothing for the hot weather. The prime minister’s statements stirred the anger of many for placing the blame directly on people’s shoulders, rather than adopting remedial measures to increase the capacity of

the national grid. However, the tolls will be variable. The drafted law seemingly will not have the same level of disadvantage on higher-income people. Essam Alaa, an owner of an upscale restaurant and coffee shop in Mohandessin, says he would support the bill if it was fairly imposed on all without exemptions. “My business wouldn’t be greatly affected by closing two hours earlier than usual. Midnight usually does not drive customer traffic anyway,” he says, hoping the bill would be an effective substitute for experiencing longhours of blackout. In low-income neighborhoods, the situation of economically disadvantaged people has another face. Essam Shabaan, a waiter in a small downtown ahwa, expresses a decidedly different view. “Customers stay until the late-night hours, especially young people who have nothing to do at night. So, if I reduce my work hours, this means I’ll lose big tips, which is the main source of my livelihood,” says Shabaan, who works daily from 12 pm till 4 am for LE200 per month. The potential drawbacks of turning off the lights earlier than usual are not limited to causing economic deterioration for par-

The bill goes against the nature of Egyptians. The government wrongly puts itself first with no consideration of what benefits us better

ticular segments of society. Insecurity also poses a real threat with a troubling increase in shoplifters and other criminals; especially with the poor police presence in the streets after a security vacuum opened up in the aftermath of the 25 January revolution. “The country is already suffering from high crime rates and is in dire need of public safety, not opening the way for more criminals who might use the cover of darkness to conceal their illegal activities,” says Afaf Mourtada, a teacher.     Changing decades-long habits of latenight shopping has serious ramifications that could pose an obstacle to enforcing the proposed law, Mourtada points out. “Most people are done with work around 5 pm. So, this would definitely cause traffic paralysis after then because the streets would be packed with people to buy what they need before 10 pm.” Though the proposed law stipulates that stiff penalties for violations will be imposed ranging from fines to imprisonment, Shabaan refuses to shut down his business early saying, “If this law is implemented, I’d protest in front of the presidential palace because I have no other substitute for earning my bread,” he says. Similarly, Ismail is ready to pay a fine, but not to close early. He suggests the government provide other effective mechanisms for confronting regular power cuts. “Why doesn’t the government take extra taxes to establish more electricity stations, instead of burdening us with penalties and ruining our business?” Ismail says. “It (the bill) goes against the nature of Egyptians. The government wrongly puts itself first with no consideration of what benefits us better,” Mourtada concludes. ■

25 October 2012

Life & Society


A race for the cure

Fight against breast cancer begins with awareness and knowledge By Rana Khaled


Knowledge is our weapon against the disease. Whenever you know your enemy, you’re secured from his evil

Rana Khaled

or the first time in Egypt and the Arab world last Saturday, 40 rowers competed in a race to increase awareness about breast cancer and support those with the disease. As part of the annual International Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October, the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt, in collaboration with the Arab Contractors Rowing Club, organized the “Row for the Cure,” a half-hour race to draw attention to the disease. Rowers set off at 1:30 pm on their boats, which were decorated with pink ribbon sails as a symbol for breast cancer awareness. This was followed by a reception and speeches by event organizers, including a talk show on breast health. According to World Health Organization statistics from its 2008 GLOBOCAN project, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women and the most frequent cause of cancer deaths for women in developed and developing regions. It accounts for 23 percent of total cancer cases and 14 percent of cancer deaths worldwide. The Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt reports that the percentage of breast cancer cases among women comprises 37.5 percent of all cancer cases in the country. Dr. Mohamed Shaalan, professor of surgical oncology and chairman of the foundation, said they were hoping to change the way people looked at the disease. Many breast cancer survivors and women who continue to suffer from the disease attended last week’s event with their families. Some public figures, including singer Samo Zein, came to support the patients and help raise awareness.

Rowers were accompanied by sailboats with pink ribbon sails to raise awareness of the disease

“When a doctor tells a woman that she has breast cancer, she feels it’s the end of the world, and this is the problem here in Egypt,” Samo Zein said. Emeline Lavender, an international Zumba instructor, also spoke, focusing on the importance of dance, aerobic exercise and sport in reducing the chances of contracting the disease. Zumba is an international fitness program inspired by Latin dance moves and is now in many international programs to fight breast cancer. “In addition to getting rid of stress and pressures and maintaining happiness, practicing sports for two and a half hours a week can reduce the possibility of getting cancer by more than 13 percent,” Lavender explained. Bassant Maroof, one of the race

participants, said that in her four years of rowing, this was the first time she felt a sense of pride in her sport. When she heard about the race, she didn’t hesitate to participate. “I participated in the marathon that was held around the Pyramids in 2009, but I wished I could do something more. I decided to dedicate my time to raising funds and making people more aware. It’s the least I can do,” Maroof said. Breast cancer survivor Manal Omar attended the event to share her experience with the other patients and give hope. She said she went to the Breast Cancer Foundation of Egypt to get examined after hearing about the organization and the test on TV. Doctors told her she had breast

cancer that had developed into an advanced stage, and advised her to go through surgery. After surgery, she started her long battle with the disease through chemotherapy and radiation. “A lot of people advised me to leave work and stay at home, but I insisted on going to work daily and taking care of my little children normally,” she said. “Cancer itself isn’t painful. The depression and frustration it creates is the real pain. Try to make yourself happy and forget your pains — this is the magical healing key.” The Breast Cancer Foundation was established in 2004, after Shaalan noticed that most breast cancer patients came in at very late stages, when the chances of survival become very low and surgical mastectomy becomes

the only solution. He established the foundation to raise awareness about the disease and encourage women of all ages and social and economic backgrounds to get regular screenings. The foundation hopes to achieve its goals by printing brochures, providing medical examinations for free and offering patient support groups, Shaalan says. “We reach women’s gatherings everywhere — in villages, clubs and even workplaces — and give them lectures about breast self-examination,” he notes. “When we discover new cases, we lead them to the first step of the treatment journey. “People used to call cancer the ‘bad disease’ as they were always afraid to utter its name or face the fact of its existence,” he adds. He says certain women are more susceptible to breast cancer than others. Genetics and family medical history play a significant role. Women who don’t have children may also be more vulnerable, while breastfeeding and giving birth at an early age can help prevent the disease. Raising awareness, conducting monthly breast self-examinations and getting yearly mammograms can help doctors diagnose the cancer in its early stages, which can increase survival rates by more than 90 percent. Myths and misconceptions about cancer are also problems that hinder survival. Some men abandon their wives when they know they have breast cancer because they think they can be infected through them, and in some communities, people think women who undergo radiation can emit radiation to others. “Knowledge is our weapon against the disease. Whenever you know your enemy, you’re secured from his evil,” Shaalan advises.■

The jeweler and the artist

A new showroom features classic jewelry alongside modern artwork By Rana Khaled


ixing the classic with the modern created a unique vibe that impressed all those attending the opening night of the Dina Maghawry Design Showroom in Zamalek. A brilliant collaboration between jewelry designer Maghawry and painter Hassan Hassan, the event proved just how beautifully different arts can complement each other. Although best known for her Western designs, Maghawry decided this time to showcase the classic, traditional spirit of Egypt. “After the revolution, my love and affiliation for the country increased, and I felt it was my duty to start representing our unique culture in my work,” she says. The gallery includes four jewelry collections, each telling a different story about Egyptian heritage. In her Patrie collection, you can find Egyptian symbols, such as coins and old and new flags, while in her Fallaha collection, the long, remarkable earrings that distinguish women in villages will be the first thing to catch your eye. Also, Bedouin and Nubian styles appear in the necklaces and earrings of the Gamar Buda collection. Oxidized silver and old dia-

monds are used in the pieces presented in the Patina collection to give the impression of antique textures. As usual, Maghawry pays special attention to mixing bright colors to add a sense of joy to the pieces. She uses a wide range of gemstones including aquamarine, pearls, garnet, diamonds and quartz, which add charm and beauty to each collection. Maghawry started making and designing jewelry in 2000. She attended exhibitions and took courses to learn the techniques of creating jewelry and installing gemstones. She says she persisted with her dream until she could finally open her own jewelry workshop. Because she did it on her own, Maghawry ex-

plains, one of her main objectives is promoting young Egyptian artists who also face difficulties, especially in finding exhibition spaces. At her opening, Maghawry shared the spotlight with Hassan, whose paintings, she believes, offer a new vision. Above the jewelry display cases, Hassan’s paintings hang on the walls — their bright, joyful colors perfectly in sync with the equally colorful jewelry. With paintings such as “Odd Ball,” “Melting” and “Oops, I had a feeling,” Hassan expresses many of the issues that have concerned women over the years. Although many artists after the revolution became more focused on tackling political issues, he thinks repre-

Above the jewelry display cases, Hassan’s paintings hang on the walls — their bright, joyful colors perfectly in sync with the equally colorful jewelry

senting social issues is also important. Hassan says he was delighted to particpate in the gallery. “I liked the idea that Dina wanted to combine between different kinds of arts. This allowed us to blend the classic style she adopts in her jewelry with the modern style of my paintings,” he says. Lina Abdel Ghafar, who attended the gallery opening, says what distinguishes Maghawry from other designers is her ability to express Egyptian culture in both a funky and deep way. “I love the energy behind her designs and I love the expressive colors she uses. I bought an old Egyptian flag bracelet as it’s remarkable. I’ve never seen something like it before anywhere,” she says. On the other side of the production process, Maghawry thinks that focusing on quality instead of quantity, not copying foreign models, encouraging creativity and teaching the craft to new generations could all contribute to developing jewelry handicrafts in Egypt. She also insists on making jewelry available for everyone by selling it at reasonable prices. “Although a lot of foreigners demand my work, I want to focus more on the local market,” she says. “I intend to open galleries in Alex and Aswan soon.”■


25 October 2012


Rob Stothard

A soldier’s memorial World War II veterans visit El-Alamein for one last tribute

July were unsuccessful; however, huge reinforcements lured Rommel into a failed early offensive. By October, Montgomery had readied more than 200,000 men and a thousand tanks to challenge Rommel’s Panzer Army, which numbered half that of the 8th Army. The Battle of El-Alamein was a pivotal moment for the Allies during World War II. The defeat scuppered the Axis powers’ intentions to occupy Egypt, the Suez Canal and the valuable oil fields of the wider Middle East. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously appraised the battle. “This is not the end,” he said, “it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” As the ceremony drew to a close, a South African military piper played the bagpipes while veterans and their families laid wreaths or walked among the graves, paying what could be their final respects at the desert resting place of fallen friends.■

Rob Stothard

dral Cairo. Dignitaries in attendance included Gianfranco Fini, president of the Italian chamber of deputies, and Colonel Engelbert Theisen, the German defense attache. Reverend Parker reminded everyone of the 44,000 casualties at El-Alamein, but concluded, “Together we celebrate all that has been achieved since those days through cooperation with peoples across the world, especially our reconciliation and friendship with former enemies.” Separate national ceremonies were held at the site for Indian, South African and French soldiers. At the Italian and German cemeteries further down the Mediterranean coastline, more than 5,000 and 4,000 soldiers who died fighting for North Africa were remembered respectively. In early 1942, the fight for North Africa had swung in favor of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, whose Panzer Army Afrika was heading ever deeper into Egypt. Counteroffensive attempts by the British 8th Army in

Rob Stothard


L-ALAMEIN — World War II veterans, joined by family and wellwishers, gathered Saturday at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in El-Alamein to mark the 70th anniversary of the landmark battle there. With the majority of veterans over the age of 90, it is likely that this could be the last major anniversary attended by the men and women who fought and saw their friends die here. The day began with an Australian commemorative service at the country’s own 9th Division Memorial, a stone cenotaph that lies slightly uphill from the main gravesite. Of the 7,000 burials at El-Alamein, 1,234 of them are Australians. The 9th Division was originally tasked with defending Syria and Lebanon, but, with an attack in the Levant deemed unlikely, they were advanced into Egypt. Their contribution to the Battle of El-Alamein is held in high re-

gard, notably recognized by Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery, who stated that they “could not have won the battle in 12 days without the magnificent 9th Australian Division.” However, the veterans look back on their contributions more modestly. “Everybody talks about the 9th Division,” Edward Gordon Carter, known as Ted, said. “But after signing up and doing 12 months training, we were just were sent where we were told.” Carter, who is 93 and from Tamworth, New South Wales, ended up in El-Alamein and fought there for six months. He recalled the scorching heat of the desert with only a sheet for shade and keeping the flies at bay, before gathering for a photo below the cenotaph with the 20 other veterans that helped defeat the Germans in North Africa in 1942. An international ceremony organized by the Brtish government followed, introduced by Reverend Mike Parker from All Saints’ Cathe-

Rob Stothard

By Rob Stothard

25 October 2012


Writing for artists

The first in a series of workshops led by Amira Hanafi, artist, writer and manager of Artellewa, deals with the basics of proposal writing. Later workshops will deal with artists’ statements and letter writing. All will be taught in English with accommodation for Arabic speakers. The free workshops are limited to 12 participants on a first come, first served basis. Email artellewa@ with the subject heading “Writing for artists” to reserve a place.

Film In “Il Villaggio Cartone” (2011), 80-year old screenwriter and filmmaker Ermanno Olmi tells the tale of a group of illegal immigrants setting up their own village in an empty church.

In Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days” (2007), set in the late 1980s, two girls seek backstreet abortions. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2007, and was described by TimeOut the “most striking, original and memorable film of the event.”

25 October, 7 pm Italian Institute in Cairo 3 al-Sheikh al-Marsafy St., Zamalek, Cairo 02-2735-8791/02- 2735-5423 As part of its partnership with the Met in New York City, the Cairo Opera House will screen Giuseppe Verdi’s adaptation of the Shakespearian classic, Otello, live. 27 October, 8 pm Cairo Opera House Gezira Borg, Zamalek, Cairo 02-2737-0603/02-2735-0911

Deadly sins

28 and 30 October, 7 - 10 pm Artellewa 19 Mohamed Ali al-Eseary St., Ard al-Lewa, Giza 012-2596-3611

The Cairo Jazz Club invites visitors on Halloween to embrace their dark side and celebrate the good, bad and ugly in a costume dance party to the euphoric sounds of DJ Fahmy and Samba.

‘The Last Statement of a Revolutionary Artist’

31 October, 10 pm Cairo Jazz Club 197, 26th of July St, Mohandiseen, Cairo 02-3345-9939

This solo exhibition showcases the pioneering work of Mounir Canaan (1919-99), including


Verdi’s Otello

‘4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days’

‘The Cardboard Village’

‘Life is Beautiful’


Until 17 November Tache Art Gallery Kilometer 38 Cairo-Alexandria Desert Rd., Sheikh Zayed, 6th of October City, Cairo 023-857-2232

21 October to 29 November Al-Masar Gallery 157 B, 26th of July St., Zamalek, Cairo 02-2736-8537/010-0067-0705


“Roh” (Soul) features a collection of works by Shayma Kamel, covering the period from 2004 to date. Aside from being a reflection of her own soul, it is also her mother’s name. That same period was also the beginning of a new phase in Kamel’s life, one where she broke away from her family and began her own path of self-discovery. But, as fiercely independent as she is, Kamel’s family is the force that keeps her grounded.

the “X Condition” collection, produced post-1967, where the sign “X” represented his rejection to the circumstances at that time. Canaan passed from dimensionality to perspective, illusionary materialization, space proportions, surface texturing and academic realism.


Visual Arts

Visual Arts



This 1997 tragicomedy-drama, directed by Roberto Benigni, tells the story of a Jewish-Italian bookkeeper whose humor lands him a romantic relationship, but is also used to protect his son from the Nazi concentration camp they find themselves in. The film won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. 26 October, 7 pm Sufi Bookstore 12 Sayed Bakry St., Zamalek, Cairo 02-2738-1643

30 October, 8 pm Mosireen 19A Adly St., Downtown, Cairo 02-2395-1386

Literature, cinema and the taste of knowledge

Edward Said

Michael Woods, professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University and a long-time colleague and friend of Edward Said, will present a talk in memory of the great Palestinian intellectual. 31 October, 5pm Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Hall The American University in Cairo, AUC Avenue, New Cairo 02-2615-1281


Issue no.24 25 October 2012

Camille Lepage

Last week’s solution


A girl in her Eid outfit in front of a Downtown Cairo shoe shop. Eid is a time for shopping, but not for everyone.

Printed by Al-Masry Media Corp

7 5 6 1 9 2 3 4 8

3 1 2 8 5 4 7 9 6

4 9 8 7 6 3 5 2 1

8 3 5 9 4 1 6 7 2

6 2 1 3 7 8 4 5 9

Find the latest Egypt Independent issue here

9 4 7 6 2 5 1 8 3

1 6 9 4 8 7 2 3 5

5 7 3 2 1 9 8 6 4

2 8 4 5 3 6 9 1 7

Egypt Independent 2012.Oct.25  
Egypt Independent 2012.Oct.25  

Print Edition - 2012.Oct.25