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The Palace’s new occupant, and all of its old ones

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The new cabinet: a space for politicians or technocrats? 3

The evolution debate hits Egypt 17

Documenting Arab musical history 19 Will the Islamists’ rise to power cause that fascist mood in society to grow?

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Issue no. 8 5 July 2012

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

The heat is on Published by Al-Masry Media Corp


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5 July 2012

News Briefs

Ahmed Elmasry

Mubarak telecoms appeal adjourned

Mubarak on his trial verdict day

Tariq al-Hidan, the United Arab Emirates’ deputy foreign minister, arrived in Cairo on Sunday to diffuse tensions between Egypt and the UAE following controversial statements against the Muslim Brotherhood made by Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan. Diplomatic sources who spoke to Al-Masry Al-Youm on condition of anonymity said Hidan would meet with Egyptian officials in Cairo to contain the crisis. His visit would last for a few days, the sources added. On Sunday, Khalfan continued to make statements against the Brotherhood on Twitter, calling members of the group “thugs.”■

Protesters continued to flock to the presidential palace in Heliopolis on Monday to voice their demands to President Mohamed Morsy. All palace gates aside from the main gate have been blocked off as a result of the protests. Security personnel allowed some citizens inside the

Salafi opposes women, Coptic vice presidents

617 the year before. The report said Canada approved the highest number of residency visa applications to Egyptians. Last year, Canada allowed 213 Egyptian immigrants into the country. The report also pointed out that 25.9 percent of Egyptian emigrants were university graduates.■

Churches, Salafis clash over constitution

Publisher Sherif Wadood

Chief Editor Mohamed Salmawy

Managing Editor Lina Attalah

News Editors Max Strasser Ahmed Zaki Osman Mostafa Abdelrazek

Production Manager Mohamed Elmeshad

Opinion Editor Dina K. Hussein

Environment Editor Louise Sarant

Culture Editor Mai El Wakil

Life & Society Editor Nevine El Shabrawy

Hossam Fadl

Lindsay Carroll Jahd Khalil

palace. One protester, who identified herself only as Shadia, said she had come to demand an increase in the monthly support provided under the Child Pension Law from LE56 to LE150, saying that the president’s office received her request and promised to respond within a week.■

Hamzawy to liberals: Stick together

Amr Hamzawy

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics noted a 13.1 percent decline in the number of Egyptians who emigrated last year, bringing the official number of Egyptians who obtained new work or residency visas to live abroad in 2011 down to 536, compared with

Dr. Kamel Diab

Copy Editors

Protesters swarm presidential palace

Protesters congregate in front of the presidential palace

cutting off telecommunications during the 25 January revolution. In May 2011, an administrative court sentenced the three defendants to collectively pay a fine of US$540 million after finding them guilty of the charges. The defendants then filed an appeal.■

Fewer Egyptians emigrated in 2011

Emirati-Brotherhood spat

Dahi Khalfan

The Supreme Administrative Court on Monday adjourned its hearing of the appeal submitted by the defense team for ousted President Hosni Mubarak, former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly against a court ruling that found them guilty of

Board Chairman

Former independent MP Amr Hamzawy called on liberal and secular parties on Monday not to join the new government. During a seminar in Alexandria, Hamzawy argued that such parties should prepare to achieve a “balance” in Parliament. He warned against the division of “civil political parties” in the upcoming elections and the consequent domination of one party. “The civil forces were wrong from the start,” said Hamzawy. “They should now admit that the votes they were expecting were split during the parliamentary and presidential elections.”■

Yasser al-Borhamy

Safwat al-Bayadi

A senior Salafi preacher issued a religious decree Monday that says women and Copts are prohibited from occupying the post of vice president. Sheikh Yasser alBorhamy, the deputy leader of the Salafi Dawah, made the decree in response to a visitor to his website who asked the sheikh about his opinion on an announcement by Ahmed Deif, an adviser to President Mohamed Morsy، who said the president was considering appointing two deputies — a woman and a Copt. Borhamy accepted, however, that women and Copts could serve as advisers to the president.■

Church representatives to the Constituent Assembly on Monday rejected the Nour Party’s threats to withdraw members from the assembly if the constitution’s second article is redrafted to state that Egypt is a “civil state,” or if the text states that the nation would be ruled by the “principles” of Sharia, as opposed to stating that Sharia will be applied outright. Safwat alBayadi, the head of the Evangelical Church in Egypt, called on prevailing political and religious forces not to marginalize others. He affirmed that the church insists on using the word “principles” in reference to Sharia law.■

Clinton: ‘Blind Sheikh’ to stay in the US The US Secretary of State has responded to President Mohamed Morsy’s call for the extradition of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, currently serving life imprisonment in the US. Hillary Clinton said the legal procedures of Abdel Rahman’s trial were correct. He was convicted in 1995 for taking part in the World Trade Center bombings in 1993 and helping to plan other attacks, including one against the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. During an interview with CNN while on a visit to Switzerland, Clinton said the evidence against Abdel Rahman, often called “the Blind Sheikh,” was clear and convincing.■

Sunita Rappai

Design & Layout Fathy Ibrahim Mahmoud El-Gamasy Ahmad Fahmy Hatem Ismael Ahmed Halawa

Cover Illustration Mohamed Andeel

Commercial Manager Assem Elbassal

Marketing Manager Yasmine El Gharably

Distribution & Printing Manager Nabil Mostafa www.egyptindependent.com 11 Gamal Eddin Abou el-Mahassen, Garden City Cairo - Egypt

Omar Abdel Rahman

Foxi football puts Egypt out of Africa Cup

Egypt manager Bob Bradley

Proofreader

Record seven-time champion Egypt will miss consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments for the first time since 1968 after being held to a 1–1 draw in the Central African Republic, Saturday. After losing 3–2 at home in a delayed first leg played behind closed doors two weeks ago, the Egyptian team fell behind midway through the first half in Bangui when captain Foxi Kethevoama scored. After winning a record three titles on the trot between 2006 and 2010, Egypt finished last behind Niger, South Africa and Sierra Leone in a 2012 qualifying group.■

Tel: +20 (2) 27926440 Fax: +20 (2) 27926332 For subscription and ads: Call our hotline 16533 subscriptions@egyptindependent.com Corporate subscriptions and ads: Ali El Maraghy +201116110697


5 July 2012

News

3

Not quite a coalition

Brotherhood may be evading its pledge for a representative cabinet By Noha El Hennawy

Sherif Abdelmonem

W

ith the swearing-in ceremony of Mohamed Morsy last week, executive powers were transferred from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to Egypt’s first democratically elected president — a milestone set to be followed by the appointment of a new Cabinet. In recent days, the debate over the type of cabinet needed has flared. Some groups insist that Morsy deliver on his electoral promise of appointing a national coalition government, while others contend that it is time to put the Islamist project to the test and have the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological allies take on the Cabinet’s responsibilities. During the run-up to the presidential election’s second round, Morsy — the outgoing president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party — made several pledges, hoping to attract secular votes and defeat his opponent, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. Among Morsy’s promises was the appointment of a coalition government led by a prime minister from outside the FJP. While the typical definition of a coalition government is an executive organ in which each political party has a specific share of ministerial portfolios corresponding to its political weight, Islamists are interpreting Morsy’s pledge differently. Hatem Abdel Azim, a former FJP representative in the now-dissolved People’s Assembly, said that both the party and the president do not envision a coalition government in the strict sense of the word. “A coalition government means a government in which all political forces are represented, but we mean here a government that all political forces can approve of,” Abdel Azim explained. Such a government would be a cabinet dominated by technocrats who can gain the support of all political forces, he said. But he added that not all the ministers would be technocrats. “The Cabinet will also include members of political parties, but at least the prime minister and some of the important ministers will be technocrats,” he said, adding that these technocrats would be expected to carry out Morsy’s electoral platform. The appointment of independent technocrats would help avoid more splits among political forces, Abdel Azim said. But civilian political forces might not be the sole players in the appointment of ministers. Several pundits maintain that the generals would seek a role in selecting the ministers who hold crucial portfolios, commonly called “sovereign” ministries. These would include the Defense, Interior, Foreign, Finance and Information ministries. “The president will not accept that,” Abdel Azim said. “There will only be consultations with [SCAF] about the defense minister.” The FJP is holding talks with the Salafi-oriented Nour Party and the liberal Wafd Party, as well as the Kefaya and April 6 Youth movements,

SCAF officially hands over power to Morsy at Hike Step military base

Nader Bakkar

to name candidates for the new cabinet, the former lawmaker said. “Some forces have suggested [Mohamed] ElBaradei [for prime minister], namely the Kefaya movement and April 6, but we have not agreed on that yet,” said Abdel Azim. Some media reports have said the Nour Party is opposed to the appointment of the longtime reform advocate because of his liberal leanings. But party spokesperson Nader Bakkar denied these reports, affirming that his party “has no objection to ElBaradei’s persona.” While Abdel Azim says that no potential candidate has been contacted yet, Bakkar says his party learned from the president’s office that ElBaradei was offered the position. In the meantime, Bakkar said the Nour Party and Morsy have already agreed on three broad criteria for the new ministers. First, the prime minister should be a technocrat with no affiliation to any political party; second, he or she should have a free hand in picking minis-

ters. “We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past and have the prime minister blame his failure on not having the freedom to choose [his ministers],” Bakkar said. He said the party does not want a prime minister who would serve as the president’s secretary. “We want him to have clear authorities and be a technocrat, to keep him away from political sensitivities between political parties,” he said. Third, Islamist parties should not be represented according to the political weight they held in Parliament — which was dissolved by a court ruling last month — but according to their executive caliber, Bakkar said. Magdy Sobhy, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said the FJP discourse on the need for technocratic ministers is meant to evade Morsy’s initial promise about forming a coalition with other political forces. “These people are joking around. They want a cabinet that they themselves appoint but in the meantime would not be seen as belonging to them,” he said. “At the end of the day, [the Brothers] will bring technocrats who they trust, which means people who are close to them,” he expected. Some secular parties have the same suspicions. “We were not given any official offers by the president, his aides or any of his party’s leaders about forming a national coalition government,” said Farid Zahran, a leader of the secular Egyptian Social Democratic Party. “There have been no serious negotiations with political parties

Several pundits maintain that the generals would seek a role in selecting the ministers who hold crucial portfolios, commonly called ‘sovereign’ ministries

about the Cabinet’s ministers or program,” he added, ruling out that the Brothers are interested in forming a genuine coalition. “The Brothers had refused to reach a consensus over the constitution, which cannot actually be written without consensus. How would you expect them to build consensus over the Cabinet?” Zahran said. Since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak last February, secular-Islamist relations have been strained over different details of the transition. The standoff reached its cli-

Mohamed ElBaradei

Given the tremendous political, social and economic hurdles, many experts say Islamists run a very high risk of failure, a fate that might discredit the Islamist project once and for all

max during the Parliament’s election of the 100-member assembly tasked with writing the constitution. While secularists accused the Brothers and Salafis of hijacking the assembly to write a constitution that would pave the way for a religious state, Islamists said the non-Islamist parliamentary minority was seeking more influence than its actual weight. However, not all secularists aspire for a genuine coalition government. Amr Hamzawy, a leader of the secular Egypt Freedom Party and a former MP, stands as one of the most outspoken opponents of the proposition. “I am against the idea of having a large coalition government because this means that the government will have no clear political platform. People need a political platform that they can hold the president accountable for,” Hamzawy told Egypt Independent in a phone interview. He said Morsy’s political project should be reflected in the Cabinet, which should be formed by his party and its allies. “As for other parties, they can form a constructive opposition. This is how things are,” Hamzawy said. Until Morsy announces the new ministers for the Cabinet, the outgoing SCAF-appointed ministers are running a caretaker government. It remains unclear when the announcement will be made. Morsy had run for president raising the banner of the Brotherhood’s Renaissance Project. The ambitious platform envisages comprehensive development modeled after that of several developing countries, including Turkey, Malaysia, Singapore and others. Governing with non-Islamist partners would put the Brotherhood’s 84-year-old political project to the test for the first time. Given the tremendous political, social and economic hurdles they face, many experts say Islamists run a very high risk of failure — a fate that might discredit the Islamist project once and for all.■


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5 July 2012

News

All the president’s men Morsy moves into Mubarak’s old office, where suspicion and secrecy rule By Mohamed Elmeshad and Omar Halawa

Ahmed Fouad

O

utside the halls of the presidential palace, where newly elected President Mohamed Morsy is still getting settled, protesters are already out in force to remind him that, unless he meets certain demands, he will face constant demonstrations. But inside the palace, Morsy will deal with another, less visible challenge: the presidency itself. The presidency is more than an office held by one person. It is an institution with a huge staff and protocols that evolved over the past 30 years to serve just one man — ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Now Morsy enters that office as an outsider. The new president has to deal with some 600 members of Mubarak’s staff while trying to introduce his own personnel. Under Mubarak’s tenure, the presidential institution was one to which only those closest to his regime were allowed access. Many are skeptical as to whether Morsy will be able to incorporate members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom Mubarak and his staff viewed with dread and disdain. “It’s expected now for Muslim Brothers to be in the presidential palace, working,” said Ali Ahmed, a former administrative executive in Mubarak’s presidential office. “The new president has every right to appoint new staff. But its success and ability to work as a team with the existing staff is the challenge.” The first signs of friction reportedly occurred during Morsy’s speech at Cairo University, after he took the oath of office. An unnamed source told the independent daily newspaper Al-Shorouk that old staff had the final say on the speech, after Morsy’s campaign team attempted to write it outright. Similarly, the fact that the president has yet to appoint an official spokesperson and information officers, despite having run the election with a full public relations team, suggests that the integration of Morsy loyalists into the presidential office has been far from seamless. So far, his campaign manager and ambitious Brotherhood Figure Yasser Ali has been his acting spokesperson. Prior to Morsy’s victory, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appointed General Mo’men Fouda, a former military adviser to Mubarak, as head of the president’s financial affairs. This could be seen as an indication that the generals want to keep their men close to the new incumbent, and in positions of responsibility. “This is expected. Change will not come overnight. The presidential office will not maintain good order unless it makes use of its experienced staff,” said Sherif Riyadh, a former secretary to the president’s chief of staff. Ahmed agrees. For him, com-

Taking over the reins: staff greet Morsy as he walks into his new office

petence and familiarity with the job are just as important as political loyalty. “Morsy needs to make sure he relies on the experienced members of the presidential office who are still in place,” he said. Morsy has begun to move some of his personnel and representatives to work in the presidential palace, according to media reports, although he has not yet named his official staff. Ahmed said some current staff members think Morsy is looking to weed out anyone who might have shown excessive loyalty to Mubarak, and who therefore might not be reliable in the future. What is the presidential office? Before the revolution, no one knew exactly how the presidency was funded, or what its responsibilities were. People only knew it was Mubarak’s fortress, an opaque and unaccountable institution. Presidential representatives provided brief statements

Zakariya Azmy

Before the revolution, no one knew exactly how the presidency was funded or what its responsibilities were. People only knew it was Mubarak’s fortress, an opaque and unaccountable institution on political decisions, but its internal mechanisms were always shielded from the public eye. The presidency comprises nine departments: general and private secretariats, a communications office, the presidential police, and departments dealing with security, supplies, transportation, palaces and fire hazards in presidential buildings. The Central Auditing Organization, which should oversee all of these departments, only had access to 10 percent of it, said Ibrahim Yosry, an official from the organization and a founding member of Auditors Against Corruption. “The last real report accounting for the institution of the presidency was in 1987,” Yosry said. This last report roughly coincided with the rise of Zakariya Azmy, who served as Mubarak’s chief of staff from 1989. Azmy ran the president’s office with an iron fist, pouring over and scrutinizing every detail. “If anyone even took a picture within the presidential palace, he would have to review it, and if he didn’t like it, your career was

over,” said a photographer for a state-run newspaper, who chose to remain anonymous. Under Azmy, the presidency became one of the least transparent institutions in the country. He played a pivotal role in decision-making and supported the accession of Mubarak’s younger son, Gamal, to the presidency. Azmy ended up in jail for seven years on corruption and illicit gains charges that were instigated after the revolution. The institution under Morsy will clearly be run very differently, simply because of Azmy’s absence. “The appearance of a new Azmy is impossible,” Riyadh said. While Azmy ran the presidency in a way that made many people afraid of him, Riyadh predicted that Morsy will be experimenting with a different approach. “Many of the old presidential staff members will deal with Morsy from a professional perspective,” Riyadh said. Cash, cars and cribs When Mubarak assumed office

Yasser Ali

For Morsy to run the institution of the presidency in a way that meets his promises, he will have to change both the practices of the institution and some of the people who will want to keep that change from happening

in 1981, its allocation in the budget was reportedly LE14 million. That figure now stands at LE286 million, according to unofficial reports. His office officially controlled up to 36 palaces and rest houses, all of which had restricted access, according to official statements. But the true figures behind the presidency are not so easy to figure out. “The funding of the presidency was supplemented through a series of at least six private funds that kept the real figures out of everyone’s reach,” said economist Abdel Khalek Farouk, head of the Nile Center for Economic and Strategic Studies. Private funds are unaudited accounts that are not incorporated into official budgets, and were associated with corruption during the Mubarak years. Under Article 20 of the laws governing the presidency, the president is allowed to establish as many private funds as he wants. Walid al-Gohary, an official from the Central Auditing Organization, said a total of more than LE40 billion was spent on the presidency during the Mubarak era. CBC channel reported that under Mubarak, the office maintained 952 cars, 12 planes and three helicopters. “If Morsy wants to show he’s serious about fighting corruption, he needs to issue a presidential decree to open up and reallocate the private funds,” Farouk said. Farouk’s research has shown that, aside from the private funds, the presidency was bolstered by systematic embezzlement from public companies such as the Suez Canal. “The budget of the presidency did not mean anything. If Azmy [or Mubarak] asked for anything, they got it. Money was not an issue — there was no ceiling for spending,” said Ahmed. This spending benefit also extended to Mubarak’s immediate family. For Morsy to run the institution of the presidency in a way that honors his promises, he will have to change both the practices of the institution, and some of the people who will want to keep that change from happening. Azmy is behind bars, but there are still 600 employees who are used to the luxury of living within the walls of Mubarak’s cashrich fortress. “The changes must be decisive and reach the core of the institution. This was one of the most corrupt institutions, and it helped the Mubarak presidency engage in unending corruption,” Farouk said. He added that an immediate change in the leadership of the presidential staff was important. Since Mubarak was ousted last February, the presidential office has been stagnant. “People are just coming in and out without doing any work,” said Ahmed, who is in touch with former colleagues. “There is no real maintenance of the place.” Now that Morsy is stepping in, it may be time to clean house.■


5 July 2012

News

5

Morsy’s ‘victory for Palestine’ Hamas optimistic about Egypt’s new leadership By Abdel-Rahman Hussein

M

ahmoud al-Zahar is a cofounder of Hamas and serves as foreign minister for the Hamas-led government in Gaza under Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Zahar spoke to Egypt Independent from Gaza about the political changes in Egypt and the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy to the presidency. Egypt Independent: How will Morsy’s victory change the Egyptian relationship with Gaza and the Hamas government? Mahmoud al-Zahar: Let us talk about the importance of a Morsy victory for Palestine as a whole, not just Gaza and Hamas. Gaza is only 2 percent of Palestinian land, and Hamas does not represent all Palestinians. Morsy comes from Tahrir Square, the square of change, where everybody supports the Palestinian cause and the resistance to Zionist aggression and the siege of Gaza. As a true representative of the revolution, the relationship will change 180 degrees because it will represent the will of the

people. The previous regime was a strategic ally of the Zionist entity — it assisted in the siege and the aggression on Gaza in 2008. Will the new president do the same? Of course not. A Morsy presidency that reflects the will of Egyptians will be beneficial to the Egyptian stance toward Palestine and therefore reinforce resistance to the Zionist occupation. This policy will help restore Palestinian rights properly, because the Egyptian people support this. EI: There is no denying the historic ties between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Has there been contact between the two? Zahar: There has been absolutely no contact between us, but that makes sense. There is still an interim cabinet in place, the fate of Parliament is perilous and the presidential team has not been chosen, so there has been no contact. But if we read the Egyptian street, we expect there to be positive change. Are the Egyptians with the siege of Gaza? Of course not — the Rafah border crossing will be opened, and it will not just be people. There are 1,500 people

Mahmoud al-Zahar

[per day] passing through the crossing at the moment, which is unprecedented. We are forced to trade with Israel to the amount of US$3 billion. Why should that not be with Egypt instead? That doesn’t mean the Brotherhood rules Gaza or Hamas rules Egypt. The Egyptian

government will be interested in Palestine, but will also be interested in Sudan, the Nile Basin countries, Libya and all countries it shares borders with. It will also be interested in Syria as an Arab issue. There are many regional issues that the Egyptian political scene will have to tackle. EI: You talk of trade at the Rafah border crossing — does this mean the end of the smuggling tunnels? Zahar: When the Rafah border crossing is opened, we will close all the tunnels from our side and ask the Egyptians to do the same. The tunnels were a necessity, but it is not our policy. It was the only way to keep people alive during the siege, with food and medicine. What we need at the crossing is not just the movement of people, but trade as with other countries, so it can be like the Salloum crossing Egypt shares with Libya or the Taba crossing [with Israel], where trade, transfer and movement takes place. We want to normalize relations between us on legal grounds and resist illegal grounds. EI: Any Egyptian government will have to deal with the Pales-

tinian issue in its entirety, meaning not just Hamas and Gaza but also the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Will the strained relations between the two of you be an impediment? Zahar: There have been two Palestinian projects from the turn of the last century, one based on negotiations — first with the British and then with Israel — and the other, based on resistance to the occupation. The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s endeavors ended with negotiations and security cooperation with the Zionist entity. The previous Egyptian regime was also for negotiations, but it was negotiations that culminated in the siege of Gaza and the loss of Jerusalem. If you see what the Egyptian people did at the Israeli Embassy, you can tell they were not happy with these results. We are now in front of real change. The old Egyptian regime did not recognize municipal and general elections that Hamas won in Gaza and the West Bank. The new presidency should look at the legitimacy of each group and decide. Ultimately, it is the Egyptian people whose will must be respected.■

Getting to know you

Morsy presidency takes US-Egypt relations into uncharted territory By Maggie Hyde

US Ambassador Anne Patterson with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Saad al-Katatny

in Tahrir Square before he was officially sworn in, Morsy said he would improve relations with Egypt’s neighbors and abide by existing international agreements. But he also pointed out that relations would be based on respect for Egypt and the will of the people. A new way of operating Under Mubarak, US-Egypt foreign policy happened almost exclusively behind closed doors, often between intelligence and military officials — rather than diplomats — from the two countries. If the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and intelligence agencies remain as intact and robust as they were in past years, Shehata said, the US could bypass the president for back channels. However, it seems both sides are ready and willing to engage with the other, according to Shehata.

Archival

M

ohamed Morsy’s presidency will usher in a new and unprecedented relationship between Egypt and its longtime ally, the US, regardless of how it shapes up. During the transitional period, top US foreign policymakers met with Muslim Brotherhood leaders only after sitting down with the country’s military leaders. The White House reportedly urged the Presidential Elections Commission to announce the results of the election “as soon as possible,” and Washington sources have said there’s an economic aid package with Morsy’s name on it if things go smoothly. Hisham Kassem, a liberal political analyst who has been in regular contact with US officials over the years, said the US Embassy in Cairo has more direct lines of communication with Brotherhood members than with liberal political players such as himself. But any relationship is still very much in the early stages. “Right now, everyone is polite. They seem to be negotiating civilly,” said Samer Shehata, a professor of Arab politics at Georgetown University in Washington. In statements, US officials have been congratulatory, stressing the importance of Morsy’s democratic election as a genuine milestone and saying that they looked forward to working with him. Under former President Hosni Mubarak, many Egyptians felt that the US pursued its own interests at the expense of bolstering a dictatorial regime. Many also felt betrayed by their own government’s alliance with Israel at the behest of the US government. In his speech to thousands of supporters

“The Americans realize there’s a new game in town,” he said. “They’ve come to the realization that they can do business with [the Brotherhood].” Brotherhood leaders are likely to take a similar approach. “They’re pragmatic and realistic,” he said. “I think these considerations will far outweigh their concerns in the short term.” The US favored a Morsy win in the first place, Shehata said, because it would mean less unrest after the results. They had been calling for a transition to a democratically elected president such as Morsy since Mubarak’s last few days in office, he added. Flash points Meanwhile, there are several points of contention that could arise between the US and Morsy. How the Brotherhood deals with the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the security situation in Sinai, and

issues of personal rights or religious freedoms could raise hackles on both sides. The possibility of a change in leadership in Washington could also shift the balance. If President Barack Obama loses his bid for a second term to Mitt Romney in elections in November, US support of Israel could grow even stauncher and be particularly hostile to any renegotiation of the Camp David Accords that Brotherhood leaders have called for in the past. Romney has spoken openly about how he would reverse the policies of the Obama administration, which he calls “pro-Palestinian.” Some in Washington see the Brotherhood as a serious threat. Many Americans have trouble believing the group has completely left behind its former use of violent tactics, which it formally abandoned decades ago. Eric Trager, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think tank, said the Brotherhood has been telling officials in DC what they want to hear, while saying something different in Arabic. Trager, who said he consults with top US officials and has conducted dozens of interviews with leading Brotherhood officials, including Morsy, criticized what he said are attempts by some US intellectuals and policymakers “to whitewash” a group with an inherently dangerous ideology. “As Americans, we don’t — and shouldn’t — let conspiracy theorists dictate American interests,” he told Egypt Independent. He said US officials need clear guarantees about the Camp David Accords before embarking on any sort of cooperation. If Morsy can’t give them, Trager said, “then the US should have to be prepared to let Egypt try and make it on its own.”■


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5 July 2012

News

What will Egypt’s democracy do for residents of Cairo’s slums?

T

he contrast is stark. On the Nile waterfront, gleaming skyscrapers shoot into the sky, containing a mall stuffed with luxury brands, an opulent hotel, and the corporate offices of some of Egypt’s leading companies. Behind them, less than 20 meters away, several hundred families live in tiny ramshackle huts without sewage or running water — just a single public pump in the shadow of the tower. Every family lives in fear of forcible demolition of their home and summary eviction on the basis of draconian laws. The towers in question form the Nile City complex, a partnership between the Egyptian Sawiris family and the Saudi Shokshobi family. The community is known locally as “the shacks”. And now, a decree by the Governor of Cairo threatens to evict the residents from their land. “No sewers, no water, no utilities. This is so that we will feel compelled to sell for a low price,” says Hammad Arabi, a resident of the area. A few years ago, he says, businessman Naguib Sawiris was offering between LE3,000 and LE6,000 a square meter, but residents wouldn’t accept the deal. They are well aware of the land’s real value, and know that unless they get it, they won’t be able to move even remotely nearby. Many residents are able to produce very old documents indicating ownership, or prove that they have established rights to be there But, days after the dissolution of Parliament, departure from the shacks seems to be mandatory. The Cairo Governorate issued a decree that ordered police to evict the shack-dwellers from their homes. There is no indication, as yet, of how residents may be re-housed, although Heba Khalil of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights believes there will be an attempt to relocate residents to the remote outskirts of the city. “It’s normal that they wouldn’t tell the people in advance of the eviction. They don’t get asked where they want to go. Once such an order is in place, the police could turn up any day, and that’s it.” In the past, such evictions have taken place within a month of the

order being issued, but the current volatile circumstances may delay its implementation. Power and patronage In 1995, Sawiris begun to purchase large portions of land on the Nile Corniche, in the neighborhood of Ramlet Bulaq, then an industrial area. The ownership of the land was unclear, but held in security, (a legal classification for property), by the Greek Kaforus family, who were friendly with the Sawirises. The al-Fass family that was renting the land since the 1960s was unwilling to give up their rights to occupy the land, and Egyptian law granted them certain rights as long-term renters of the property. But in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, power and patronage mattered more than the law. When a member of the Fass family who spoke to Egypt Independent on condition of anonymity protested to the Cairo governor, he was told that the governor had received instructions from Alaa Mubarak, Hosni’s son, to facilitate Sawiris’s project. Later, when he still refused to budge, he received a call from a man claiming to be Alaa Mubarak. After that call, he felt compelled to sell his land to Sawiris for well below its proper asking price. Between 1995 and 1998, the Fass family, with their local connections, put aside their resentment, and helped to facilitate Sawiris purchase land. There have been no purchases since then, but according to the family member, Sawiris is still interested in the land. Uncertainty created by the revolution, and the apparent need to consult with his investment partners have put the project on hold. The houses purchased during this period by Sawiris, roughly a fourth of the area, were

demolished. Now the ruins are covered in trash. Expensive land, no development Mohamed Hussein Hussam, 51, a microbus driver, received just LE5,000 for his three-room house in the shacks when Sawiris started to acquire the land in the late 1990s. “The conditions were terrible. My mother was ill and old, there were mosquitoes, we had no water,” he explains. He now pays LE600 a month for better housing a few hundred meters away. Architect and urban planner Omar Nagati estimates the land is worth in excess of LE30,000 per square meter. According to him, ironically, the lack of development in the area is precisely a consequence of its extraordinary value. “I would speculate that one of the reasons that whoever is responsible is reluctant to provide utilities is because of the “Cairo 2050” vision to turn the whole of this strip into a Dubai-like front. The land is so precious, sitting in the middle of Cairo, on the Nile waterfront, close to downtown, connected to infrastructure, that it has all of the characteristics to be a gold-mine.” It is in the interests of officials and developers behind the plan that the residents leave as cheaply and as easily as possible, and, as a result, safe housing and utilities would not only be pointless but counterproductive if the land was to be promptly developed. At one time, residents would have been deposited in new flats in desert suburbs. “If the revolution did not happen, they would have brought their bulldozers and wiped us off the map. But the revolution came and this could not take place,” says Walid, a resident. All residents that Egypt Indepen-

Once such an [eviction] order is in place, the police could turn up any day, and that’s it

dent spoke to seemed reluctant to move. There, jobs are scarce, while commuting from central Cairo can take four hours a day and eat up nearly half of a monthly salary. Families who move to the desert often move back, into other informal housing. Just as important as jobs and transport are the community and social bonds, which will be broken up. “People here look out for one another,” one mother says. “We’re like fish,” says an elderly man. “This is our water, and if you take us out of the water then we will die.” What politicians can do In the past, says Mohamed alMeshed, an expert on Cairo’s built environment, the government and MPs have backed developers to ride rough-shod over locals. Egypt Independent approached three of the area’s MPs in the week before Parliament was disbanded, to discover what promise democratic politics might hold for the impoverished residents of such valuable land. Ayman Taha was an MP of the Free Egyptians Party, largely funded by Sawiris. He was a minor official in Mubarak’s National Democratic Party and responsible for relations with local police. Taha denied that the neighborhoods lacked water and sewage. Despite the fact that his faded image still appears on tattered posters throughout the area, he seemed to have no acquaintance with the needs of the residents, suggesting that two-thirds would be relocated to the outskirts of Cairo, and the rest given better housing within Bulaq. He said he could see no reason why some might refuse to leave, “as long as I provide good living spaces for them.” He referred to a plan for the area developed by the Cairo

Sherif Hawas

By Tom Dale and Abulkasim al-Jaberi

A view of the shopping mall from the shacks

The land is so precious, sitting in the middle of Cairo … it has all of the characteristics to be a gold-mine

Tom Dale

Sitting on a gold mine Governorate, but, when asked for a copy, refused to provide one. Former MP Mohamed Abou Hamed was once a leading member of the Free Egyptians Party, but quit in March, and has recently announced his support both for the dissolution of Parliament and former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq. A resident of Bulaq Abul Ela, the greater area, told us that Abou Hamed had begun his election campaign by distributing gifts — “LE20 and a blanket” — but had changed tactics in the face of a backlash against the perceived cheapening of the new democracy. In contrast to Taha, however, Abou Hamed was aware of the issues in the area, and that residents were unwilling to leave their jobs and community for desert tenements. He agreed that the residents needed utilities, but said that their installation would threaten the current, unstable housing. Abou Hamed claimed that there was a plan developed by the Informal Settlements Development Facility for new, quality housing on the same land. However, it was not possible to verify the existence of such a plan, and the government agency’s initial 2008 report makes no mention of the area. The former MP from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mustafa Farghali, was blunt: “The government does not have a plan. The only ones who have a plan right now are the investors.” Like Abou Hamed, Farghali is opposed to the forced removal of residents, and describes such proposals as “inhumane.” Farghali revealed that the General Organization for Physical Planning is developing an updated version of the Cairo 2050 plan, Cairo 2052. “Businessmen played a big role in the formation of this plan,” he says, while MPs have not even been allowed to see it. The minister of housing had promised to present the plan to Parliament’s housing committee before implementation, and seek their consent, but now the value of that promise is unclear. For Nagati, the urban planer, everything is in flux. “A lot of these redevelopment plans have been completely put on hold, have been frozen, because people are feeling more empowered, more confident, emboldened, to protest. So now we’ll see. Maybe the balance will tip again; a new order will be established.”■


5 July 2012

News

7

The workers and the whale Employees confront Mubarak-era boss accused in ‘Battle of the Camel’ By Jano Charbel

arms, so we will twist his,” Anwar said. “We workers, at both the Ramadan and Sokhna companies, are resisting his injustices.” Ragab Hussein, a worker at the 10th of Ramadan City factory, said the timing was no coincidence. He said Abul Enein has refused to pay his 10,000 workers their June monthly wages, which was due 1 July, because of his next court hearing. Holding up signs, flags and banners, Hussein’s co-workers chanted “Abul Enein is a thief” and “If you manage to escape the Battle of the Camel trial, you will not escape the workers.” “Beyond this trial, nobody knows Abul Enein’s real intentions,” Hussein said. “He might be trying to confront President Morsy, or perhaps he’s attempting to strike a deal with the new regime to retain his economic and political influence.” Shouting in anger, two workers said Abul Enein spent LE7 million supporting Ahmed Shafiq’s presidential bid, yet was unwilling to pay his own workers’ wages. Ghareeb Salah, a worker from Ain Sokhna Company, promised that workers would escalate their protests if their demands were not met. He said workers had blocked

Al-Orouba Street that day for about half an hour. “We don’t like to resort to such actions, but we must have the authorities hear our angry voices,” Salah said. Since the revolution, thousands of Abul Enein’s factory workers have repeatedly protested. They launched their first strike at Ain Sokhna Company in early March of this year, where they demanded that the company fulfill a promise to institute profit-sharing arrangements. On 16 March, Abul Enein entered into an arbitration agreement with his workers and the Manpower Ministry. He agreed to pay his labor force its overdue profit-sharing payments. However, he has only given his workers one installment of these payments and has not fulfilled other labor demands that he had pledged to meet at the ministry. “We’re still producing at the factories, but we’re stockpiling the production and now allowing it to be sold,” Anwar said. “Until we receive our rights, we’re not allowing his trucks in at either company. We’re halting sales, distribution and export.” Abul Enein imposed a lockout on Ain Sokhna Company for 11 days in May. He then moved to impose

a lockout on the 10th of Ramadan City Company during the first week of June. The purpose of these lockouts is not known. In response, workers demonstrated and blocked highways. Thousands of workers at Ceramica Cleopatra are pinning their hopes on their newly established labor unions, while others hope the new president and his socioeconomic policies will help them. Anwar recalled that he and a delegation of workers from Ain Sokhna Company met with President Morsy in mid-May while he was campaigning for president in Suez. “Morsy listened to our demands and took note of our grievances,” said Anwar, who voted for the new president. “If Morsy neglects us or fails to uphold our rights, then we will take our protests to Arbaeen Square [in Suez] and Tahrir Square to topple him, just like his predecessor.” Unions’ role Yasser Hassan, an administrative worker at Ain Sokhna Company, said he believes labor unions might play a more important role in defending workers’ rights than the new president can. “Our primary gains at the compa-

Ahmed Elmasry

Economic clout Ceramica Cleopatra Group, Egypt’s largest producer of tiles and sanitary ware, is also a regional and international exporter. In 1983, the first of Abul Enein’s factories began production in 10th of Ramadan City, outside Cairo. Over the years, the company grew and diversified to include several additional factories and employ some 4,500 workers. Then, in 1999, the industrialist opened his second company in the port city of Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea. This company quickly became Abul Enein’s flagship enterprise, producing three times the capacity of his first company. It employs a workforce of about 5,700. Apart from ceramics, Abul Enein is also involved in agriculture, tourism, real estate and media. Neither he nor his administrators were available for comment on this article. Workers at Abul Enein’s ceramic companies say the industrialist is using his economic clout — by withholding wages and threatening his workforce with sackings and the closure of his companies — to bid for an acquittal in the Battle of the Camel trial. “This whale of a businessman is using us, and his companies, to get himself out of the trial. He’s trying to send the authorities the message, ‘If you rule against me, I’ll take my companies down with me,’” said Mohamed Anwar, secretary general of the local trade union committee at Ain Sokhna Company. But Anwar said Abul Enein would never liquidate the two ceramics companies and was just using them to “throw his economic weight around.” “Abul Enein is trying to twist our

Ceramica Cleopatra workers protest ‘unfair’ working conditions outside the presidential palace

The infamous ‘Battle of the Camel’ during the revolution

This whale of a businessman is using us, and his companies, to get himself out of the trial. He’s trying to send the authorities the message, ‘If you rule against me, I’ll take my companies down with me’ Mohamed Abul Enein

Ahmed Tarana

M

ore than a thousand Ceramica Cleopatra workers protested outside the presidential palace Monday, demanding unpaid wages, overdue bonuses and profit-sharing payments. Worker representatives met with presidential staff and newly elected President Mohamed Morsy to demand support in their battle with ceramics industry tycoon Mohamed Abul Enein. Union delegates said Monday night that the president and his staff were “seeking a resolution to this impasse within the next 48 hours, God willing.” Abul Enein had served as an MP in Hosni Mubarak’s now-defunct National Democratic Party and as chairman of the People’s Assembly Industry and Energy Committee. Now he is confronted with protests and industrial action at his two companies, located in 10th of Ramadan City and Ain Sokhna. Since the 25 January revolution, Abul Enein has been summoned for questioning in corruption cases but was never found guilty. He still faces charges of instigating the armed attacks on Tahrir Square on 2 and 3 February during the revolution, an event often called the “Battle of the Camel.” The trial’s next session is scheduled for 10 July, with Abul Enein set to appear in court the following day.

ny have been the establishment of a union and increased wages,” Hassan said. He said the union had fought for workers’ rights and managed to increase their wages from an average of LE450 per month in 2006 to the current average of LE1,300. Emboldened by the revolution, the Ain Sokhna workers established their union in April last year, while the 10th of Ramadan City workers followed suit two months later. Anwar said that the local union they had established was an affiliate of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation, but that they could switch to an independent federation if necessary. The situation at 10th of Ramadan City Company appears bleaker. Mokhtar Abdel Salam, president of the local union committee, said the company administration fired six out of seven unionists, including himself, as well as two other workers. “The eight of us have been accused of instigating unrest,” said Abdel Salem. “When we demand our rights, he refers to us as being instigators, animals and thugs. Nevertheless, we will continue to seek our rights.” Workers at Abul Enein’s factories are also demanding improved health insurance and healthcare services, and workplace-hazard compensation. Standing under the hot sun outside the presidential palace, Omar Bahtimy — a production-line worker at the 10th of Ramadan City factory — said more than 950 workers at the two companies suffer from work-related ailments. Two workers reportedly died in industrial accidents over the past decade, while about 10 are said to have lost fingers. Furthermore, Bahtimy and many other workers said the element zirconium — used in the production of ceramics — often contains radioactive impurities that could lead to cancer. “Workers, especially those in production, suffer from numerous health problems, including respiratory illnesses from the dusts we inhale, along with spinal ailments from carrying heavy loads and operating heavy machinery,” Bahtimy said.■


World Briefs

Bahrain charges police with ‘mistreatment’ Bahrain has charged 15 policemen with “mistreatment” of prisoners, the government said on Tuesday, as part of an investigation into reports of torture of protesters. Bahrain’s security forces have been working to suppress a 15-monthlong uprising demanding greater political rights from the monarchy. A commission of international legal experts reported in November that torture had been systematically used to punish and extract confessions from hundreds of protesters during a period of martial law after a crackdown on anti-govBahraini King Hamad al-Khalifa ernment protests. It also said that 35 people, mainly protesters, died during the unrest and that five of them died as a result of torture. “The latest complaints were made in June and nine of the complainants have already been questioned, resulting in three of them being referred to forensic doctors,” Nawaf Hamza, head of the Public Prosecution Special Investigation Unit, said in a statement. “As a result, 15 policemen have been questioned and informed of the charges against them. The investigation of the remaining complaints and those involved is ongoing.”■

No plan for Syria

Mass protests in Syria Syrian opposition groups on Sunday rejected a UN-brokered peace plan for a political transition in the country, calling it ambiguous and a waste of time. They vowed not to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad or members of his regime. An international conference in Geneva on Saturday accepted United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan’s plan that calls for the creation of a transitional government, but at Russia’s insistence, the compromise agreement left the door open to Syria’s president being part of the interim

administration. Syrian opposition figures rejected any notion of sharing in a transition with Assad. Syrian opposition figure Haitham Maleh described the agreement reached in Geneva as a waste of time and of “no value on the ground ... The Syrian people are the ones who will decide the battle on the ground, not those sitting in Geneva or New York or anywhere else,” he said. A wide array of Syrian opposition groups met in Cairo on Monday to attempt unity and discuss postAssad plans.■

Mali Islamists on a rampage Hardline Islamists in Mali destroyed several ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu on Saturday and Sunday. The shrines are part of a UNESCO world heritage site. The Salafi Ansar Dine group backs strict Sharia and considers the shrines of the local Sufi version of Islam to be idolatrous. Residents say the group has threatened to destroy all of the 16 main mausoleum sites in Timbuktu, despite international outcry against the

Ramallah spring?

attacks. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to the attacks. “We are subject to religion and not to international opinion. Building on graves is contrary to Islam. We are destroying the mausoleums because it is ordained by our religion,” Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesperson for Ansar Dine, told Reuters news agency by telephone from the northern city on Sunday.■

China cracks down on protest

AFP

Palestinians gather to protest Hundreds of Palestinians protested against the Palestinian Authority on Sunday in Ramallah’s central Manara Square for its meeting with the Israeli vice prime minister and for violently quashing a similar demonstration the day before. Palestinian Authority security forces, many of whom

Libya frees international officials

AFP

8

5 July 2012

receive training from the US, beat male and female protesters with batons and chains in an attempt to prevent them from reaching the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters on Saturday. Palestinian security forces made a number of arrests and many others were reportedly injured.■

No more coup trials in Turkey The Turkish parliament approved on has staged four coups in the past 52 years. Monday a reform measure abolishing the The reform, pushed through by the ruling special courts used in coup conspiracy AK Party late on Sunday night, means any cases, without touching on existing prosfuture cases concerning coups and terecutions of hundreds of military offirorism-related crimes will be heard cers that have drawn wide criticism. by regional high criminal courts, The special courts have helped not special courts. Since coming to sharply reduce the power and to power in 2002, the AK Party influence of the military, and in the has worked to clip the wings of the process have helped ensure Prime staunchly secularist military, Minister Recep Tayyip which distrusted Erdogan’s Erdogan and his moderate Islamist past, although Islamist AK Party against relations have recently any threat of a secularist improved as the army’s putsch by an army that power has waned.■ Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Chinese authorities vowed Tuesday to crack down on protesters after riot police clashed with hundreds of people demonstrating against a planned metals plant over fears about its environmental impact. The protests occurred in the small city of Shifang, which is still recovering after being badly hit in a 2008 earthquake that killed 88,000 people in the southwest of the country. The violence erupted Monday when, according to the official account, protesters attacked government offices with bricks and stones, smashed cars and clashed with police and government employees. Shifang Chinese President police warned Hu Jintao citizens Tuesday that they would be “severely punished” if they sought to continue the “illegal” protests. “Anyone who has incited, planned or organized illegal gatherings, protest marches or demonstrations, or those who have engaged in smashing and looting ... will be punished severely,” a police statement said. “Anyone using the internet, mobile text messages and other methods to incite, plan or organize illegal gatherings, protest marches or demonstrations must immediately stop their illegal activities.”■

Saif al-Islam Qadhafi

Libya released on Monday four International Criminal Court staff members who had been held for nearly four weeks on allegations that they shared documents that could harm national security with Muammar Qadhafi’s imprisoned son, Saif al-Islam, the former president’s heir apparent and the most senior member of the regime in prison in Libya. As they were released, the court’s president, Sang-Hyun Song — a South Korean judge — apologized to the Libyan government and people for the incident and promised an investigation into the allegations. Song flew to Libya for the handover. “The Libyan government gave me their version of the investigation. We will do our own separately, so the results will be known after some weeks,” Song said.■

Yitzhak Shamir dead at 96

Yitzhak Shamir

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir died on Saturday at the age of 96. Shamir, who was born in Poland, started his Zionist activities as a member of the hardline group Lehi in 1935, which launched attacks against the British colonial administration. He served as prime minister from 1983 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1992. He served during much of the first intifada, when Palestinians protested against the occupation. Shamir was known for his hardline outlook. “The Arabs will always dream to destroy us. I do not believe that they will recognize us as part of this region,” he said in 1997, after his successor Yitzhak Rabin began peace negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Shamir embraced the ideology of the Revisionists — that Israel is the sole owner of all of the biblical Holy Land, made up of Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. A funeral was held for Shamir on Monday in Jerusalem.■


5 July 2012

World

9

Courting intervention

Syrian opposition reaches contentious consensus in Cairo By Rana Khazbak

AFP

A

two-day meeting of Syrian opposition groups, considered one of the most diverse and inclusive since the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, highlighted longterm ideological disparities and mistrust between various factions. Despite fighting over their differences, however, and even coming to blows at one point, participants found some consensus, concluding the meeting Tuesday with an outline of broad modes of action. More than 200 opposition leaders, representing a broad spectrum of ideologies and affiliations, attended the meeting, hosted by the Arab League in Cairo, in an attempt to form a united opposition front to put increased pressure on Assad’s dictatorship. “All the attendees of the conference agreed that the political solution has to start with the overthrow of the regime represented in Bashar al-Assad and the icons of his power, with a guarantee to punish those implicated in killing Syrians, ” the final statement read. The statement also called for an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the Syrian regime, the withdrawal of the army, an end to the sieges on cities, and the release of all detainees. “The conference reaffirmed its support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and all forms of revolutionary movement while working on uniting all its forces and leaders to serve the revolution’s goal,” the statement read. However, some FSA members boycotted the meeting, denouncing it in a statement as a “conspiracy” that served the policy goals of Damascus allies Moscow and Tehran. The FSA, which is mostly made up of Syrian military defectors and civilian volunteers, is one of the main rebel armed forces on the ground. Its brigades formed after the outbreak of the uprising, but after well over a year of fighting it still lacks a central command. Although many opposition groups have expressed support for international action, the FSA statement signatories accused the Cairo talks of “rejecting the idea of a foreign military intervention to save the people ... and ignoring the question of buffer zones protected by the international community, humanitarian corridors, an air embargo and the arming of rebel fighters.” The opposition conference discussions highlighted contentious visions over how to force Assad’s regime out. Attendees argued over the possibility of foreign military intervention and the arming of the Free Syrian Army. “What was taken with blood must be returned with blood,” said Akram Abdul Dayem, deputy head of the Freedom and Construction Bloc, an offshoot of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which has claimed representation of the opposition movement abroad. “We want freedom and I don’t care how it comes because people

Syrian opposition leaders ponder their options at Cairo conference

We want freedom and I don’t care how it comes because people have had enough. [Otherwise] Assad will stay until he eradicates the population have had enough. If we don’t provide the FSA with the necessary weaponry, Assad will stay until he eradicates the Syrian population,” he said. Abdul Dayem coordinates with about 70 FSA brigades around the country to supply them with artillery paid for by donations from Syrian businessman abroad. He buys the missiles from Syrian army officers willing to sell them illegally to get money, Abdul Dayem told Egypt Independent. The businessman, who used to run a school in Homs, fled the violence-stricken city with his family last September after his 22-year-old son was shot in the stomach. He is now living in Cairo and plans to move to Turkey to help Syrian refugees there. The majority of groups, including the Brotherhood, the Syrian National Council and other liberal and secular organizations, advocated for foreign military intervention and supporting the FSA. “For us, intervention doesn’t mean military occupation of Syria. We envision solutions like selective military strikes on regime army bases, buffer zones and no-fly zones by an organization such as NATO,” said Khedr Sotary, speaking for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Thaer al-Haji, representative of the Syrian Revolution Coordination Union, called on Saudi Arabia to provide advanced weapons to the FSA. The Syrian regime has alleged the opposition is being manipulated by world forces, particularly Gulf countries which have long been Assad’s adversaries given his administration’s ties to Iran. The opposition groups invoked Chapter VII of the UN charter which authorizes “such action by

air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.” They also mentioned the “Responsibility to Protect” resolution passed by the UN in 2005, which acknowledges that states have the responsibility to safeguard citizens of any other country being attacked by their own government. But some opposition representatives disagree with the stances adopted by their organizations. Although the Syrian National Council is officially requesting military intervention and aid for the FSA, council member Afra Jabali told Egypt Independent she is concerned that unchecked arming of an unorganized group like the FSA could lead to more bloodshed and

possible civil wars after Assad is removed from power. “There are also members of the SNC who don’t completely back the foreign intervention,” Jabali said. “We feel it’s not even viable and we’ve put so much effort into mobilizing and campaigning for international intervention and it ended up happening at the expense of actually supporting and mobilizing Syrian civic movements and other means to bringing down the regime.” Meanwhile, the leftist Syrian National Coordination Body objected to all forms of violent solutions, despite earlier expressing support for armed resistance. “The use of violence will lead us to a long war whose winner will be unknown. There has to be a mutual agreement to halt violence from both sides and release all political prisoners,” said Haytham Mannaa, head of the group. The group also expressed acceptance of a Russian-backed plan for a joint transitional government between Assad’s regime and the op-

position as a step toward elections. The plan, which was proposed during a meeting of world leaders in Geneva last weekend, was rejected by almost all the other opposition groups. Other opposition groups have accused the Syrian National Coordination Body of collaborating with the Assad regime. “They have been paid to say that,” alleged Abdul Dayem. “The US is using the National Coordination Body to project the image that the Syrian opposition is divided. In my opinion, the US and the west want Assad to stay. All they offered was talk.” During the Cairo conference, opposition forces also discussed a nine-page national pact that laid out steps to be taken in a transition period that would follow Assad’s removal. “There is a unanimous agreement by all forces that Syria should be a civil, democratic, pluralistic state after Assad’s departure,” said Sotary, Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood representative. The pact tackled issues such as transitional justice and putting on trial members of Assad’s regime, and the formation of a National Defense Council that includes the Free Syrian Army and honorable elements of the official military not involved in perpetrating attacks against Syrians. But just before the end of the meeting, members of the National Kurdish Council burst out of the room in anger after a heated discussion over their role in a post-Assad Syria. “Scandal, scandal,” cried delegates. Women wept as men traded blows, and hotel staff hurriedly removed tables and chairs as the scuffles spread, Reuters reported. “We will not return to the conference and that is our final line. We are a people as we have a language and religion, and that is what defines a people,” said Morshed Mashouk, a leading member of the Kurdish group that walked out. Kurds are the largest ethnic minority in Syria, (the majority are Sunni Muslims) and have been subject to systematic discrimination, including the arbitrary denial of citizenship to an estimated 300,000 Syrian-born Kurds. Wahid Saqr, member of the liberal National Change Current, told Egypt Independent that the Kurdish group demands autonomy, “but we consider Kurds an inalienable part of the Syrian people. “They have the same rights and obligations as all of the Syrian citizens. We are against dividing Syria into confederations,” he said. “It is a shame to discuss such issues before toppling Assad’s regime … We are here because our people are being slaughtered in Syria,” said Saqr, who is a member of the Alawi sect, the same religious minority as Assad. Government forces continued to bombard several Syrian cities throughout the conference. The death toll has surpassed 100,000 since the uprising began on 15 March 2011, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.■


10

5 July 2012

Economy

Living on borrowed time

The new president has some costly plans, but how will he pay for them? By Nadine Marroushi

Engaging the poor, and influential The rise in allowances is a costly promise, but one that would affect many people. Said Hirsh, London-based economist at the consultant firm Capital Economics, said the move had political undertones. “It’s a way to buy support from the public sector. These institutions are supporters of the old regime and the military, so it’s a way for [Morsy] to get their support — because if he doesn’t, it could make the day-to-day running of government difficult,” Hirsh said. Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed is quoted in Tuesday’s papers as saying that the rise in the base salary for public sector workers and pensioners would cost the country LE3.5 billion. This would be paid for by the state’s recently passed budget for 2012/13 and would be applied to salaries starting this month. Armed forces’ pensioners will also get a 15 percent increase in their social allowances. Prior to Morsy’s announcement, the Cabinet had made plans to raise the social allowance by 10 percent across the board. State-run paper Al-Akhbar reported that 6.1 million public sector workers would benefit from the social allowance increase, irrespective of their wages. An additional 8 million pensioners would benefit, with a minimum increase of LE50 being applied. The social welfare assistance given to poor pensioners will also increase, from LE200 to LE300 per month. The move has prompted raised eyebrows from some influential onlookers. Magda Kandil, the US-based former executive chairwoman of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, said she was “stunned” by the rise. “Morsy is following the same path of appeasing the public at the expense of a sound economic budget. Only one-quarter of the labor force works for the government, while small- and medium-sized enterprises represent 80 percent of Egypt’s gross domestic product,” she said. Kandil suggested that instead of “pam-

The prices of oil, sugar and other commodities hang in the balance as new economic policies are unveiled pering” public sector employees, Morsy should have made the money available to such enterprises. “Who else is getting these raises at a time when the economy has been deteriorating?” she asked. “The private sector has either been cutting salaries or letting people go.” But Wael Gamal, who writes about Egypt’s political economy, disagreed. “This is a good move. It’s just above the inflation rate, so it’s not really much and can easily be covered by the budget. It’s important to give people a boost, because there’s a huge gap in people’s income,” he said. Gamal said small-and-medium-sized enterprises are important, but require a long-term strategy rather than a budgetary fix. But he said a consolidated increase in public sector allowances would continue to stimulate economic activity on an ongoing basis. “A huge percentage lives under LE400 a month,” he said. “When you give more wages to the pockets of these people, it will go directly to consumption and help local demand. This will stimulate the market by pumping money into the pockets of the poor.” Gouda, of the FJP, raised a similar point. “A lot of those who will benefit from the salary raises and increased spending live below the poverty line,” he said. But both he and Gamal worry that inflation will eat into the value of government wage raises. When former President Hosni Mubarak increased the social allowance in 2008, Gamal said, the inflation rate jumped to 24 percent because of simultaneous food and fuel price hikes. To stop this, he suggested enforcing anti-trust laws in the markets. Many of Egypt’s staple food products, such as rice, are controlled by monopolies that have excessive power to set prices. Another potential source of inflation is

Soliman ElOtafey

P

resident Mohamed Morsy is seeking to use public spending to build a base of support in diverse sectors of society, but inflation and political deadlock threaten to sink his plans. Morsy has promised a 15 percent social allowance rise to the base salary of public sector workers and pensioners, as well as a rise in pensions provided to the poor. “In the first 100 days, he wants to focus on the concerns of ordinary Egyptians to show that this is a president who is aware of their problems, and that this represents a new start,” said Mohamed Gouda, a member of the Freedom and Justice Party’s economic committee. But he acknowledged that a tough road lies ahead economically. “We can’t resolve Egypt’s economic problems in 100 days, and we are well aware that these are short-term measures,” he said.

In the first 100 days, [Morsy] wants to focus on the concerns of ordinary Egyptians to show that [he] is aware of their problems, and that this represents a new start a looming currency crisis. The slackening of the tourism industry and weak demand for Egyptian exports overseas have pushed the post-Mubarak administration to use the country’s reserves of foreign currency to buy up Egyptian money on international markets, to prevent the price of the pound from falling. But these foreign currency reserves are running low, and if the pound does lose value, imported goods — including food and fuel — will become more expensive. IMF uncertainty looms Partly for this reason, and to help with the growing budget deficit, Egypt has been trying for the last year and a half to negotiate a US$3.2 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund. But the IMF has set consensus among Egyptian political players as a condition for disbursing the loan, and this has caused discussions to stall on numerous occasions. The economy faces a shortage in liquid-

Foreign currency reserves are running low and if the pound does lose value, imported goods, including food and fuel, will become more expensive Kamal el-Ganzouri

ity, with a high budget deficit, a balance of payments crisis and looming currency devaluation. Initiatives such as the increased social allowance rely on finding a way to plug the growing hole in the budget, and help from the IMF is seen as a stepping stone to further external lending. For 2012/13, state spending is expected to rise to LE533.7 billion. Former Finance Minister Samir Radwan said in an interview with Al-Ahram’s online portal that about 80 percent of the budget is already set aside for public workers’ salaries, paying off Egypt’s debts, and food and fuel subsidies. This leaves only 20 percent for new spending. A part of this new spending will come from a reduction in fuel subsidies, which is set to drop to LE70 billion in 2012/13, from LE95 billion in the previous budget. While there have been suggestions from the government and IMF recently that talks could resume, Kandil — who now works for the IMF but was not speaking on its behalf — was skeptical. Not only did she not approve of the 15 percent increases to the social allowance, but she also believes the political direction of the country remains too uncertain for a loan disbursement any time soon. “My own impression is that the IMF is not going to be comfortable without all the elements of the political process in place,” she said. This includes consensus in Parliament, which was dissolved by a court ruling last month, and clarity on who will hold power — in the long term — of the legislative branch of government. For now, this is held by the military. “The military claims the right of legislative power, but the president claims it also. Parliament is dissolved, but some are disputing this,” Kandil said. “The IMF will need clarity on who their counterparts are in the process, and there is big uncertainty about that right now.”■


5 July 2012

Economy Briefs

Ramadan commodities at half price

Bigger pensions for all Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed said the state budget will bear the cost of increases in the salaries of government employees, and both civilian and military pensions, amounting to LE3.5 billion as of July. On his first day in office, President Mohamed Morsy ordered a 15 percent increase in the pensions of the armed forces, instead of the 10 percent that was approved by the Cabinet on Sunday. This puts them on par with government employees, whose pay increase he approved on Sunday. Acting presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali explained that the increase would be paid for without external borrowing. Saeed said the ministry is also studying ways to carry out the president’s decision to increase the social security pension from LE200 to LE300 per month, depending on the number of family members.■

Samir Radwan

More fuel for Ramadan The Petroleum Ministry announced Tuesday that it would inject gasoline into local markets to meet the seasonal rise in demand. Hany Dahy, head of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, said distribution companies had strict instructions to meet the needs of summer motorists by increasing the amount of gasoline delivered to 17,000 tons daily, up from 16,500. Dahy told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the ministry was striving to keep a stable supply for the months of July and August. He said a shipment of 33,000 tons of gasoline is scheduled to arrive in Egypt on Sunday, to be followed by subsequent imports of diesel and gasoline. The country has seen inexplicable on-again, offagain fuel shortages over the past 15 months.■

Essential commodities for Ramadan

Planning and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abouelnaga has said a US$1 billion loan from the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation, affiliated with the Islamic Development Bank, will be signed on 9 July. The loan will have a 3.25 percent interest rate. Abouelnaga told the press last Thursday that

the money from the loan would be distributed to the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and the General Authority for Supplies and Commodities. Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri had previously told the Shura Council that food commodities would be offered at half price during Ramadan.■

Ex-minister: New budget antiquated

Short on supplies

Former Finance Minister Samir Radwan said the current state budget “represents the past” and that it “would not achieve the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” speaking to the private satellite channel CBC on Monday. Radwan said he hopes President Mohamed Morsy will propose a plan for the advancement of the economic situation, and for the independence of the central bank. He also stressed the importance of increasing wages to meet the revolution’s goals of social justice.■

Egypt needs an additional US$5 billion to purchase provisions of strategic goods, Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed said on Tuesday. He added that Egypt is currently about $5 billion short of the funds needed to have sufficient supplies. The minister said he trusted the country’s new president, Mohamed Morsy, to make every effort to overcome the current difficulties facing the country in coordination with international and Arab banking institutions.■

Elsewedy expands into Niger

Zakat project on hold

Egypt’s Elsewedy Electric, the Arab world’s biggest listed cable maker, plans to enter Niger by investing about US$350 million in fiber optic and power transmission projects, the group’s vice president said this week. Elsewedy, which has operations in some 15 African countries, signed an accord with

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has dropped a draft law proposing the establishment of a “zakat institute,” a government body that would collect charitable funds to give to the poor. Mohamed Gouda, a member of the FJP’s economic committee, said the bill might be reintroduced after the

IMF deja vu

Benchmark climbs for Morsy rules. Morsy was sworn in on Saturday as Egypt’s first freely elected president. The index was at 4,931 points. The stock market continued to climb on Tuesday with a significant increase in purchases by foreign investors. Egypt Exchange President Mohamed Omran said that in the week since Morsy’s victory, the exchange had seen the largest weekly increase in its entire history.■

Mohamed Marouf

The benchmark index jumped 4.7 percent in the first few minutes of trading on Monday after newly elected President Mohamed Morsy assumed office over the weekend. A benchmark is a collection of securities, the performance of which is monitored for comparison purposes. Several stocks were suspended for half an hour after they rose above the maximum 5 percent allowed under exchange

A buoyant Egyptian Stock Exchange

Egypt will approach the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions to help get its economy back on track once President Mohamed Morsy appoints Cabinet members, a financial adviser who helped draw up his manifesto said Monday. Morsy was sworn in on Saturday as the country’s first Islamist, civilian and freely elected president, and will begin working to form a new government in the coming days. “We intend to approach the IMF again,” said Amr Abu Zeid, development finance adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which Morsy led until he became head of state. “Give him one or two weeks, so at least he has a cabinet ... these issues will not go further until they have a cabinet at least,” he told Reuters news agency.■

Momtaz al-Saeed

formation of a new government and the election of a new parliament. Gouda said the project was meant to redistribute wealth on a voluntary basis and lift the burden on the poor, and was part of the larger Renaissance Project that made up Mohamed Morsy’s platform for the presidential election.■

West hopeful for Egypt Sami Mahmoud, head of the international sector at Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism, said he had received reports from 17 offices in major global tourist markets that reflected a positive reaction to the political developments in Egypt. He added that many countries were waiting to see the new cabinet’s policy towards tourism. Mahmoud said that President Mohamed Morsy’s speech sent out positive mes-

sages to the west and added that surveys conducted in Germany, Italy, Russia, and the US were optimistic since the handover of power to a civilian president had been peaceful. The appointment of a liberal-oriented figure to the tourism ministry will further reassure foreign markets, he said. Mahmoud added that he expects incoming tourism to rise in the second half of 2012 if stability and security are restored.■

Amr Abdallah

nationalized telecoms firm Sonitel to help Niger modernize its infrastructure before a planned privatization, according to a Niger government statement. Elsewedy, which has made overtures into renewable energy in Egypt, is looking to gain new ground in emerging economies.■

11

Tourism prospects improve following political developments


12

5 July 2012

Focus File

Morsy’s tic

In his first 100 days, the president is trapped be By Heba Afify and Mohamed Adam

A few days before facing off with Ahmed Shafiq in the second round of the presidential election, President Mohamed Morsy announced a plan promising to solve some of Egypt’s most pressing problems during his first 100 days in office. The move added to the already-high

Security

Morsy promised to restore “fair security” in the street and build trust between the citizens and police. Security has been a top priority for most Egyptians, given the rising crime rates that followed the retreat of the police after the outbreak of the uprising last January. Ahmed Rabie, a 25-year-old newlywed mugged while transporting new furniture to his apartment, says he wants the new president “to make sure that such incidents are not repeated.” Some of the solutions in Morsy’s plan include increasing police salaries, launching a media campaign to reconcile the police with the people, using additional tools such as helicopters and surveillance cameras in police work, having popular committees in neighborhoods assist the police, and training law graduates to take over some police tasks. Sameh Saif al-Yazal, a former senior intelligence officer, sees Morsy’s plan as both unrealistic and insufficient. “I’d be very surprised if his plan was realized or if security was restored in 100 days,” says Yazal. Yazal says Morsy’s plan requires at least five years to solve and a large budget, uavailable now. It also overlooks some of the main security problems in Egypt, such as drugs and unlicensed weapons.■

Tourism

The tourism sector has suffered a severe drop during the last year and a half as political upheaval scared away tourists. Many in the business, which accounts for more than 12 percent of employment, have lost their source of income — and foreign currency. Mohamed Taha, a 25-year-old who was laid off from his job at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport because of the dip in tourism, hopes Morsy will work on returning tourists to Egypt. “In his first 100 days, he should set a plan for the next winter season in Sinai and Sharm el-Sheikh. In six months, tourism should return stronger than before,” says Taha. Ahmed Zoghby, the founder of Cross Egypt Challenge — a nationwide scooter marathon organized last year to encourage tourism — says that by addressing security, Morsy has addressed the main issue affecting the industry. Throughout the last year, Zoghby says, tourism went up but plummeted again with the eruption of violent clashes. “People want to come, but they need to be reassured,” he says. With the president understandably preoccupied with more urgent priorities, Zoghby says tourism companies and the Tourism Ministry should take over the mission of promoting Egypt and ensuring tourists that it’s a safe place to be.■

Traffic and transportation

Laila Shahin, a 60-year-old street tissue saleswoman is optimistic that Morsy will alleviate one of her mainsources of suffering. “Transportation: because public transport is sparse for the amount of people who need it. I also want him to improve the roads,” says Shahin. Morsy promised to achieve smooth traffic flow in major cities. His remedies for traffic include: allowing trucks on main routes only between 12am to 7am and confining road repairs to the same times, providing female-only public transportation, creating a traffic update service and building new parking lots near transit stations. Police General Yousri Elrouby, a traffic expert, says that while Morsy’s solutions may help improve the flow of traffic, they deal with the surface rather than the root of the problem. “In 100 days, we can open the blocked channels in the street for the citizen to feel a difference, but to keep them open, we need a scientific plan,” says Elrouby. That scientific approach would include educating traffic officers, increasing drivers’ awareness of traffic laws, ensuring that vehicles are well-maintained, and improving road planning, he says.■

Sanitation The inclusion of sanitation as one of Morsy’s five priorities in his first 100 days raised some eyebrows. The president suggests having Friday sermons that discourage littering, a hotline to report problems with garbage, and trash collection by both NGOs and national companies, in addition to other proposals. Abdel Halim Kandil, a political expert at

MORSY’S PR

Unemployment

Unemployment is a chronic problem in Egypt that has climbed to nearly 12.4 percent in 2012, according to government statistics. As a problem at the top of many Egyptians’ priority lists, economist Rashad Abdo says he is surprised that Morsy neglected to include solutions for unemployment in his plan for the first 100 days. “He focused on the social and security aspect and didn’t tackle the economy at all, which is a disaster. If you’re pretending to follow the crowds and the beat of the streets, then the first thing you should discuss is unemployment, prices, the budget deficit and so on,” says Abdo. Even though it’s a complicated problem, Abdo says some steps — such as facilitating business projects by offering free feasibility studies to new entrepreneurs, and encouraging locals and foreigners to invest — are fast solutions that could improve the situation. Mosaad Abdel Hamid, a 54-year-old resident of the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba, says that if Morsy opened six factories in his area that former President Hosni Mubarak closed for no reason, he would decrease unemployment in the area significantly. “These factories are still in place, and its infrastructure is there. They only need new machines and they can operate,” he says.■

PEOPLE’S EX Prices

Another economic concern that Morsy’s plan has neglected is inflation. With Ramadan approaching, families already struggling to make ends meet are wary of the price hikes that happen at this time of the year. Gomaa al-Korany is eager to see an end to the inflation. “As it is Ramadan, we pray for God to make it full of blessings and for Presi-


5 July 2012

Focus File

13

cking bomb

etween his promises and people’s expectations expectations that Egyptians hold for their first post-revolution, civilian president. The day after his inauguration, protesters surrounded the presidential palace, maintaining the pressure on Morsy to deliver on his promises. With some questioning whether the new president has set himself up for a backlash, we detail the promises made – and find out whether he can keep them.

Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says Morsy chose the issues in which improvement will be most easily noticed. “He chose the things that are very visual, so that when an improvement is realized, people can feel it, because there are other problems that he can’t solve, such as the economy and unemployment,” says Kandil.■

ROMISES

XPECTATIONS dent Morsy to decrease the prices in this holy month,” says Korany, a street vendor. Economist Rashad Abdo says there are many ways that the government can interfere to regulate the prices of vital products, such as subsidizing prices at government outlets. He also calls for cooperation between chambers of commerce and fixed price ceilings.■

Fuel

Bread

A president with powers

Detainees

The sight of cars lining up in front of gas stations has become common in recent months as a crisis in the availability of fuel inexplicably continues. As he stood in one such line, microbus driver Tamer al-Husseiny said he was sick of false promises to end the crisis. “They keep saying they’ll end the crisis, but the crisis has intensified now and become unbearable. We go everywhere to try to find gas now and it’s so tiring. Sometimes the search goes on until 3 or 4 am,” says Husseiny. In his plan, Morsy promised to make all kinds of fuel available nationwide in 100 days, by collaborating with NGOs to make butane canisters available in every household, assigning trusted state employees to accompany fuel as it is being transported to stations to eliminate black market sales and dumping, and increasing penalties for fuel smugglers.■

On the last day of the presidential election runoff, the military council issued an addendum to the Constitutional Declaration assigning some of the president’s executive powers to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, such as the right to veto the constitution and ultimate decision-making powers over the military. In Tahrir Square, Morsy made it clear that he objected to this addendum and declared that he would not give up any of his powers as president. “I reject any attempts to take away the power of the people. It is not my right to give up the powers and responsibilities that you have given me,” he said. However, since this speech, Morsy has addressed the military rulers with the utmost appreciation and complimented their role in the revolution. The Brotherhood also suspended its sit-in at Tahrir Square, which started days before the announcement of the runoff results and was supposed to continue until the cancellation of the Constitutional Declaration supplement. Politicians have interpreted the Brotherhood’s withdrawal from Tahrir as a sign that the group is willing to compromise on the addendum. Abdel Halim Kandil, the political expert, says Morsy is changing his tone into one that is more compromising and submissive to SCAF. He expects Morsy to continue to be submissive to the military council and, as a result, to be left with restricted powers that would not satisfy those who voted for him.■

To solve the problem of bread prices, which has increased in recent years, and its quality, Morsy suggests monitoring the weight and quality of the bread produced, separating production from distribution, giving incentives to encourage state employees to produce higher quality bread, and increasing penalties for those who don’t adhere to weight and quality standards. Taxi driver Mahmoud Abdel Azim is satisfied with the bread prices but not with the long lines. He has his own solution, though. “I think the bread ovens should work more to eliminate the lines,” he says. “Why don’t they work 24 hours a day?” Abdel Azim’s suggestion might not be followed, but Morsy might be able to make some progress. Nadeem Mansour, the executive manager of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, says the solutions that Morsy suggested for the crises in bread and fuel distribution could be effective if he addresses corruption inside the relevant government authorities. But Mansour adds that by choosing problems that were mostly orchestrated by the regime and relatively easily solved, Morsy has escaped addressing more deeply rooted social and economic issues.■

In a speech in Tahrir Square following his victory, Morsy conceded that the martyrs of the revolution were the ones who opened the path for a democratic transformation in Egypt, and insisted that he would continue the revolutionary path they started. “This revolution is crystallizing with an elected president who will lead this ship. He will lead this revolution and lead these revolutionaries on their path, accepting the responsibility for this revolution to continue, in front of God and [the martyrs],” Morsy declared to tens of thousands of cheering supporters. But Morsy has neglected the revolutionaries’ most pressing demand: the release of thousands tried in military trials since the start of the revolution. One group of protesters raised this demand in front of the presidential palace on Sunday. “I think the release of detainees is something that only requires a decision. It doesn’t require a budget, it just needs to be prioritized. It seems that freedoms and rights are not his priorities, and this created a big question mark for me regarding his appreciation of the current phase,” says Emad Mubarak, head of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.■


14

5 July 2012

Opinion

Morsy’s debts By Adel Iskandar

In the end, Morsy is president not simply because of the electoral win, but with a nod from the electoral council — a debt he will have to repay

F

or 16 months, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has tried to convince us we are indebted to it for the revolution. In reality, it was the military council that was indebted to us for its newfound absolute powers. Today, there’s enough debt to go around. The Salafis owe the revolution their historic political rise and escape from the noose of Hosni Mubarak’s state security. The country’s liberals owe the SCAF and the judiciary for the disqualification of ultraconservative Salafi Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail from the presidential roster. The military is indebted to the Muslim Brotherhood for its silent obedience throughout a year of violence against protesters and revolutionaries. The Brotherhood owes nonIslamist revolutionaries for kick-starting the uprising last year.  All of this debt has built up while the country is running in the red. Virtually no single political institution, party, organization, group, state apparatus or movement possesses a reservoir of absolute legitimacy in the current maelstrom.  Yet the one person whose debts are most colossal is newly minted President Mohamed Morsy. Many commentators and Morsy himself have admitted that even if he possessed executive power — which was recently stripped of him by the SCAF’s supplement to the Constitutional Declaration — the task of balancing the economy, uniting the public, managing the country’s increasingly entangled foreign policy, and most importantly enacting directives that fulfill the revolution’s goals of subsidies, dignity, freedom and social justice, appears at least insurmountable. But even all of these challenges do not obfuscate his greatest burden. Like Atlas from the Greek myth, who was condemned to carry the celestial universe (depicted in art as the earth) on his shoulders for eternity, Morsy carries into

his amputated presidential post a universe of unpayable debts. Morsy’s greatest creditor is, of course, the Brotherhood, for nurturing him throughout much of his political and professional career and for pulling him out of near obscurity to lead its charge to the presidential palace. He owes Khairat al-Shater, the Brotherhood behemoth, for relinquishing the spotlight to him and entrusting him with this task. He cannot forget the organization’s investment of tens of millions of pounds, if not more, and the dedication of tens of thousands of its loyalists to energize his campaign. He owes Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie for exercising his authority and dominion to bestow his blessings, vet and allow him to be the face of a long-awaited Brotherhood presidency. That is why we should see Morsy’s public removal from the Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party ahead of his ascendency to the presidency as a far-fetched and unconvincing gimmick. A significant proportion of Morsy’s deficit is owed to the ruling military council, with which he’s been playing a game of rhetorical brinkmanship over the past few weeks. Both have flexed their muscles ahead of a seemingly conciliatory conclusion. Lest we be fooling ourselves, the Presidential Elections Commission, which in addition to being absolute and incontestable in its rulings, was appointed by the military council. There are at least five scenarios the commission could have orchestrated to significantly disadvantage Morsy — including the disqualification of his former opponent, ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, which would have fielded an arguably more competitive contender — or barring Morsy from the race on the grounds of illegal campaigning by the Brotherhood and the FJP. But none of these things happened. At Hike Step military base on Saturday afternoon, in what was dubbed a “transfer of power”

ceremony, the SCAF reminded Morsy in not-sosubtle ways that had it not been for the generals, Egypt would not be where it is now, and by extension, neither would Morsy. So in the end, Morsy is president not simply because of the electoral win, but with a nod from the military council, a debt he will have to repay.  And if that wasn’t enough, perhaps Morsy’s greatest debt is to the electorate outside of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose support catapulted him past his contender. From revolutionary groups to individuals, from the April 6 Youth Movement to the ultras, from activist Wael Ghonim to the once-demonized Revolutionary Socialists, Morsy’s diametrically opposed camp is extremely wide and polarized, pushing him beyond his Brotherhood base. Many of these groups “squeezed a lemon over themselves” (an adage meaning bit their tongues and acted against their natural will) and voted for Morsy to defeat the old regime. They did so despite the unflattering and often counter-revolutionary record of the Brotherhood throughout the transition. This non-Brotherhood electorate, which entrusted Morsy with its vote, expects to be vindicated in their support. Asserting his revolutionary tendencies, Morsy participated in an electrifying mock swearing-in on a stage in Tahrir as if to spite the SCAF, then politely and obediently succumbed to its will the following day to get officially confirmed as president before the Supreme Constitutional Court. As the president becomes a more adept and charismatic performer with every engagement, he is also honing his ability to circumvent confrontation by speaking from both sides of his mouth. This ambivalence should force the revolution’s proponents to take heed and judge Morsy on his actions rather than his words.

Adel Iskandar is a media scholar and lecturer at Georgetown University.

With Europe in crisis, Egypt must reverse course T

By Adam Hanieh

Egypt’s exposure to the vicissitudes and crisis-prone tendencies of global capitalism was a deliberate and conscious affair

eetering on the brink of debt default, the eurozone economies have once again moved center-stage in the ongoing global economic turmoil. On 25 June, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that a euro collapse, perhaps precipitated by Greek withdrawal from the single currency or a bank run in one of the southern European economies, would likely see a 12 percent drop in the output of the eurozone. Such an eventuality — described by the magazine as both “very likely” and “horrific” — would be equivalent to a loss of more than 1 trillion euros. A predictable chain of consequences would quickly ensue: an immediate paralysis of world trade, an unprecedented contraction of financial flows and the mass bankruptcy of businesses. Of course, for millions of people, much of the likely pain of such a dire scenario is already being felt as the mantra of permanent austerity cuts deep into the living standards of the European population. Yet, much like media coverage of the 2008 US financial crash, the popular framing of Europe’s unravelling has largely sidelined its global implications. This can lead to a serious misreading of the crisis and its effects. The contemporary global economy operates as a single organism, and sickness in the core countries of North America and Europe can never be confined within state borders. Indeed, the immediate roots of this crisis are largely found in the enormous imbalances that characterized the era of ‘globalization’ and the deeply unequal manner in which virtually all nations were integrated into the world market. The dominant storyline of the last few years confirms the importance of taking this global standpoint — with the worst effects of the crisis continually being pushed onto the weakest zones of the world economy. For this reason, Europe’s crisis is of singular importance to the direction of Egypt’s unfinished revolution. More than 30 percent of the country’s exports went to the 27 countries of the European

Union in 2011 — more than six times those to the US. The effect of a contraction in the European market was sharply indicated in 2009, when Egypt’s exports to Europe fell by a hefty 26 percent as a consequence of the global downturn. A European collapse would also quickly detonate a dramatic downturn in world trade as a whole, with all of Egypt’s export markets suffering as a consequence. The problem would be accentuated by a likely drying-up of trade financing, a mechanism through which international banks provide exporters with credit until they are paid. European banks provide almost 80 percent of global commodity trade finance, yet they are becoming increasingly unwilling (and unable) to lend in the context of the eurozone crisis. There are other transmission mechanisms of the global crisis to Egypt. Remittance flows from overseas workers and tourism arrivals will certainly plunge. Foreign capital inflows are also likely to pull back as investors attempt to cover losses in the core countries, and the Egyptian government will find it more difficult and expensive to sell debt on the financial markets. Yet these potentially disastrous consequences should not be seen as merely an unfortunate or inevitable outcome of the European crisis. They are a direct — and entirely predictable — result of how Egypt was integrated into the world market through the Hosni Mubarak years. Over the last three decades, and most particularly in the latter half of the 2000s, Egypt moved rapidly along the path of liberalization. State assets were sold off, land opened up to purchase by foreign investors (mainly from the Gulf Arab states),

and the economy shifted toward a reliance on foreign capital inflows, remittances and exportoriented earnings. This trajectory was strikingly illustrated in the food sector, where Egypt became one of the most import-dependent countries in the Middle East and North Africa region and was thus laid bare to the devastating effects of global food price rises. In short, Egypt’s exposure to the vicissitudes and crisis-prone tendencies of global capitalism was a deliberate and conscious affair. It must never be forgotten that this economic path was developed in conjunction with, and widely praised by, the key international financial institutions. Indeed, Egypt was held up as the model for the Middle East, and recognized as the “Top Reformer” for the region by the World Bank for three years in a row from 2006 to 2008. These institutions’ remarkable amnesia is one further illustration of how Western states continue to deny fundamental culpability for the Mubarak dictatorship. For Egypt, the potentially catastrophic implications of a eurozone collapse points to the urgency of breaking with Mubarak-era economic policies in a substantive and genuine manner. There can be no effective protection against the impending crisis without addressing the inequalities in Egyptian society — and that means reclaiming this wealth, rejecting the disastrous course of ‘private sectorled growth,’ and setting social justice as the top priority. Finally, we must realize that Egypt is not alone. Neighboring countries, including those in southern Europe, face a similar scenario. A united front of resistance could point to a new direction for the whole region.

Adam Hanieh teaches development studies at SOAS, UK.


5 July 2012

Opinion

15

Harassment is not a novelty in our society By Akram Ismail

But the question remains: Will the Islamists’ rise to power cause that fascist mood in society to grow?

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arious news outlets circulated a story on 2 July about the killing of a young man from Suez, allegedly at the hands of bearded men who stabbed him “for walking with his fiancee.” This story comes after a series of similar news stories about bearded men attacking hairdressers and harassing unveiled women in the streets, in addition to other reports about the prevention of Copts from praying in some areas. Such stories have proliferated on the Internet in concomitance with the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy to the presidency. These stories reflect justifiable fears that Salafi-oriented Islamists might be exploiting the rise of the first Islamist president to power to spread their influence on society and exercise different forms of assault and intimidation. It might be impossible to tell which of these stories are true and which are mere rumors fueled by mounting fears of Islamic extremism among middle-class urban dwellers and lower classes. It may be said, though, that Morsy’s victory in the election has emboldened some Islamists, who now believe that “the country is theirs,” to harass people. Addressing these incidents or rumors as if they are entirely disconnected from what has been happening in several parts of the country for years — when Islamists were not in power — is misleading, to say the least. Egyptians were exposed to all sorts of harassment and violations of their freedoms during former President Hosni Mubarak’s reign. Sectarian harassment is a daily concern that millions of Copts across Egypt have to cope with. Egypt’s police state has long sponsored diverse types of harassment and sectarian violence in several popular neighborhoods and in rural areas, most especially. State security was quite aware of the sectarian sermons propagated by some Salafi

sheikhs and perhaps even supported them. After all, despotic regimes feed on the abuse and intimidation of weaker social groups, and thrive on people’s fears. In fact, the state did not spring to the defense of women and Copts throughout Egypt, nor did security bodies take a firm stance against Islamists’ harassment of students at Egyptian universities. Confrontations with Islamist groups only began after those groups went beyond their unthreatening practices of social regulation to outright defiance of the ruling power. All forms of harassment, suppression and sectarian incitement never bothered security apparatuses except on rare occasions, which the regime used to deal blows to political Islam. There is a reason why the middle and upper classes were the most reactive to the alleged incidents of harassment mentioned above, as though such incidents were a novelty to a society that is essentially linked to the rise of Islamists to power. The fact that these segments have turned those alleged incidents into public opinion cases is a legitimate defense of their pattern of life and is intended to pile pressure on the new president. My purpose here is not to defend Islamists or to absolve them of responsibility, for they are responsible for practices of sectarian incitement and for feeding the conservative, fascist mood of the public. Equally important, though, is the understanding that Islamists are a social and political product that express reactionary and conservative inclinations within Egyptian society. The problem is that Islamists embrace conservative values and despotic cultural and social structures; hence, they play a crucial role in besieging society and aborting any possibility for its liberation. That is why Islamists have never contested the nature of the prevailing socio-political authoritarianism, but have sought compromise with

the police state, which might explain their ability to survive and grow over the many years of despotism. In fact, the years of stagnation and the state’s obstruction of social mobility have created a fertile environment conducive to the Islamization of society, and perhaps also the state, and paved the way for a strong rise for Islamists. But the question remains: Will the Islamists’ rise to power cause that fascist mood in society to grow? The answer lies in the extent to which they are ready to make concessions on ideological and political levels. The pressure heaped on them by opposing political and social powers forces them to make ideological sacrifices, and the Brotherhood in particular is ready to make substantial concessions to gain more power. The real challenge for the Brotherhood, however, is the group’s ability to craft a dual discourse. The first is directed at the middle and upper classes to assure them that their personal freedoms will not be tampered with. The second is aimed at the marginalized segments that are more vulnerable and will continue to be harassed by security bodies and Islamists as a means to discipline and control them. Besides, an alliance between the bourgeoisie and Islamists, with the aim of controlling the popular masses in the name of religion, will cause the Brotherhood to face off with a large public. The ability of the masses to achieve liberation is tied to the ability of progressive powers to work with those masses to expand their understanding of liberation as one that surpasses the acquisition of personal freedoms, and encompasses the exercise of economic and social rights in the face of the new rulers, who are expected to continue the suppression of the already repressed lower classes.■ Akram Ismail is a columnist and a member of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party.

The power of social capital for the unlucky revolutionary By Sawsan Gad

I find it quite disconcerting that the secular faction cannot engage in self-criticism that would enable it to recognize its inherent comparative disadvantage in popular mobilization

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ince Morsy assumed his responsibilities as president, public opinion has gathered across three camps. A supporting camp, another pushing him to fulfill his revolutionary promises and hoping he would fail, and a third confused camp that may have secretly regretted taking to the streets on 25 January 2011, after seeing that Egypt’s political fate ended in a catch-22 between Mubarak’s regime and an Islamist party. During the revolution, Tahrir Square was the public space that created an Agora-like democracy in which everyone was embraced and tolerated. Egyptians moved their online political debates to that physical anchor point, where they engaged with civil society, and communicated their cause. They also formed new friendships, and bonded emotionally and socially. In peacetime, political parties thrive using that same building block of the revolution: a cluster of social capital, founded on emotional, social and economic exchange. Anyone who is able to spin off such social clusters could mobilize them towards political action — and rebuild a once-toppled regime. It is loosely alleged, especially by secular political players, that the dynamics leading us into the regime-Islamist duality of the presidential elections were bread-and-sugar bribes, state-commissioned thuggery, and secret deals between the two sides. While election monitors have proved some of these allegations, I find it quite disconcerting that the secular faction cannot engage in self-criticism that would enable it to recognize its inherent comparative disadvantage in popular mobilization. To understand the dynamics of mobilization, we need to revert to the Emergency Law, operating, most especially, under Mubarak. Law 10/1914 on Crowding, recycled from the British occupation, prohibits the assembly of five persons or more if the authorities consider it

may jeopardize public peace. Law 14/1923 on Meetings and Demonstrations stipulates the necessity for prior notification to the security forces, and grants their right to ban any such meeting in advance, and monitor or disperse it. Obviously, these laws make it very difficult to mobilize or cultivate any social clusters that would create anything but a puppet opposition. The only space that was able to circumvent these crippling laws was the hall of any mosque (or church). Inside mosques, people were allowed to gather and establish friendship bonds in groups without interruption, albeit with a lot of state infiltration. The Muslim Brotherhood therefore has used and abused this comparative advantage of free access to already-existing social capital in mosque halls that they pay little, if any, overhead expenses for. Mubarak’s regime had another competitive advantage for political mobilization. Every 10 years, the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics spends roughly US$500 million of taxpayers’ money to collect census data on individuals and households. in Egypt. The data is essentially paid for and owned by the Egyptian citizen, but is undisclosed to the public on grounds of national security. The type of data gathered includes information crucial for identifying the e l e c to r ate’s needs, filling public and private service

gaps, and essentially developing a new political discourse that responds to actual citizen needs. Remnants of Mubarak’s regime, who still have access to the state’s bureaucratic body, by merit of command and not by rule of law, have a strong comparative advantage with this information, as well as the manpower and institutional capacity to use it for election mobilization purposes. As for the secular faction, there is no emotional or social bonding marker that constitutes what ‘secular’ is; no readily accessible activity, like a Friday prayer, in a space where people can meet and build social capital. There is no access, either, to a bird’s-eye view through census data and maps to gain insight on our communities. This is precisely why Egypt’s civilian and secular groups face huge hurdles when it comes to political mobilization. These are just some of the challenges that the non-Islamist and non-regime factions have to deal with while they carry the cause of the revolution forward. They should thus be aware of the fact that they need to claim their public space, their right to information, and take their time in building social capital and bonds. Only then will they be able to mobilize.■ Sawsan Gad is a cofounder and lead GIS analyst at HarassMap, an initiative that works to end social tolerance for sexual harassment.


16

5 July 2012

Environment

Getting back to basics

Through education, and tortoises, Wadi Food seeks environmental sustainability By Britain Eakin

Farmers pick olives in Wadi farm on the Cairo-Alexandria road

sive,” he says. Other obstacles have surfaced. Wadi Food once delivered organic fruit and vegetable baskets to about 300 dedicated customers, but Nasrallah says about 270 of them have left Egypt after the 25 January revolution last year. “2011 was the worst year we’ve ever seen as a group,” he says of the revolution’s impact on Wadi Holdings. “We came out of it okay, only because we’re in the food business. People have to eat. That’s the only thing that kept us going,” he adds. At some point, Nasrallah says, Wadi Food will switch to solar energy to pump water for

You’re at a disadvantage if you try to use sustainable energy. Right now, it’s very, very expensive

irrigation, which he says accounts for more than 90 percent of the company’s energy use. But for now, the company relies on diesel fuel, largely because the Egyptian government subsidizes it. “You’re at a disadvantage if you try to use sustainable energy,” he says. “Right now, it’s very, very expensive.” Despite these challenges, the company has found other ways to practice sustainability. The company supports the Wadi Environmental Science Centre on its Kilo 54 Farm, named for its distance from Cairo. The goal of the environmental center, according to its literature, “is to help redefine the relationship between students and their natural environment through outdoor environmental education.” It focuses its curriculum on various topics, including water, renewable energy, pollution, waste management, wildlife, botany, sustainability and biodiversity. Ereeny Yacoub, the elementary school coordinator at the center, says she sees some challenges to environmental education in Egypt. “It’s mainly the link to the environment that’s just not there. Also, the concept of environmental field trips is not there yet,” she says. Nonetheless, the kids still get excited and enjoy the activities at the center, Yacoub says. But, like Wadi Food, the center has taken a hit in the wake of the revolution. “In good years, we’d have 70 students per day. But the last two years have been unpredictable. Some days we don’t get any students at all,” Yacoub adds. The company also contributes to efforts to

save the endangered Egyptian tortoise, and breeds them on the Kilo 54 Farm. Nasrallah says his motivation for this comes from a sense of responsibility to give back to the land. Nasrallah works on this project with Egypt’s lead conservationist, Sherif Baha el-Din, who was part of a larger effort to protect the tortoises. Baha el-Din initially kept the tortoises on his roof, but eventually volunteered to house them on the Kilo 54 Farm. The farm currently has about 300 tortoises, Nasrallah says. But Baha el-Din says there are some problems with breeding the animals — primarily, a high mortality rate caused by the difficulty of providing proper nutrition to the animals in captivity. There is also the challenge of figuring out where to release them. “Ideally, what we should be doing is using the offspring to reintroduce them in areas where the species have disappeared. But we have a problem in terms of finding suitable areas that can be secure enough to release them and good enough to maintain them,” says Baha el-Din. He hopes they can begin to release the tortoises this winter, and says that Salloum, a small strip of land on the Mediterranean coast near the Libyan border, could support a small population. Another problem is that the animals are too small for tracking devices. This will make it difficult to monitor them after release and prevent them from being collected and sold on the illegal pet market. Yet Baha el-Din says, “Even if you’re not 100 percent certain of how they’re doing where you release them, it at least makes sense to try. It’s the best chance they have to go back to nature.” Next to the Kilo 54 farm, Nasrallah points to what he calls a “concrete invasion,” a housing development of upper-scale, cookiecutter homes that remain uninhabited. That kind of building, he says, is taking valuable land and threatening Egypt’s ability to sustain itself in the future. In contrast, he says he is proud that Wadi Food pursues environmentally sustainable practices. “Egypt has a lot of issues to deal with. We are limited in land and water, and both are being abused,” Nasrallah says. “Our number one priority should be to save what we have.”■

Egyptian tortoises bred in the farm

Britain Eakin

Freshly picked olives from the farm

Khalil Nasrallah

Nasrallah says organic agriculture is not always cost-effective and there’s not a big demand for it in Egypt

Britain Eakin Ready-to-eat olives

Britain Eakin

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group of nine men move from olive tree to olive tree beneath the scorching sun. At every stop, within a matter of seconds, they call out a number — an estimate of how many kilos of olives they think each tree will produce. The men work for Wadi Food, and they are gathered at the company’s northernmost farm in Wadi al-Natrun to estimate this year’s olive harvest. After tallying the count from the day, company co-founder Khalil Nasrallah says they estimate the farm will produce 6,600 tons of olives this year. “This farm is very special. The others aren’t so productive,” Nasrallah says of the company’s largest and newest farm, which has developed over the last five years. Wadi Food is one of the companies housed under a larger conglomeration called Wadi Holdings. Originally established by two Lebanese families in 1996, Wadi Food initially focused on olive oil production. The company has grown tremendously since then. It began with only 30 hectares of olive groves and now has 1,610 hectares of land devoted to food production. It offers more than 100 products, including table olives, pickles, olive pastes, pasta sauces, balsamic vinegar, capers and honey, according to its website. The company also exports to the Middle East, Asia, North America and Europe. Nasrallah says his father came to Egypt after his poultry business, along with the family’s apartment, was destroyed during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Nasrallah joined the family business after obtaining a master’s degree in horticulture in Canada. “When I first came to Egypt, I wanted to do something that was good for the economy and good for Egypt,” he says. His company aims to produce innovative, healthy and high-quality foods for the Middle Eastern market, Nasrallah says, adding that the company also places a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability. The Wadi al-Natrun farm has 450,000 olive trees and is the company’s only completely organic farm. It uses the Trichogramma wasp to deal with pests. The wasp eggs are enclosed within little white cardboard satchels that hang from some of the trees. Once hatched, the female wasps insert their own eggs into the eggs of agricultural pests, destroying them. “It’s excellent. It’s better than anything we’ve ever used, and it’s better than pesticide,” he says. “It’s fully organic and it’s cheaper.” But Nasrallah says organic agriculture is not always cost-effective, and that there’s not a big demand for it in Egypt. “Organic crops will yield 20 to 30 percent lower, and organic certification is expensive. The compost and fertilizers are also expen-


5 July 2012

Science & Technology

17

Darwin’s evolution: ‘Just a theory’

The idea that man came from apes does not sit well in Egyptian classrooms By Hazem Zohny

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he theory of evolution is atheism, said Ahmed Shafiq, a 15-year-old schoolboy who happened to share the name of the former presidential candidate, standing outside a secondary school in Agouza. “You want to say we came from monkeys or what? Well, maybe he did, actually,” Shafiq said, with sweat streaming down from his temples. He pointed to a sullen schoolmate as he said this, earning a round of approving laughter from surrounding friends. Haven’t scientists accumulated mountains of evidence supporting the theory? “But that’s just it,” Shafiq retorted, with a confidence beyond his years. “It’s just a theory.” Research on Egyptians’ perception of evolution is scarce, but the few surveys on it conducted over the years paint an unsympathetic picture. A 2007 survey by sociologist Riaz Hassan found that only 8 percent of Egyptians accepted evolution as “true or probably true,” with more than 50 percent saying it could not possibly be true. Such antagonistic attitudes were reflected at a more regional level in October 2009, when Al Jazeera Arabic published an article on the discovery of “Ardi,” a 4.4 millionyear-old hominid fossil. Rather than describing how the fossil brought scientists closer than ever to finding a common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees, the news item boasted that Ardi “proves Darwin’s theory is wrong.” The local press in Egypt enthusiastically picked up on the story, with several major papers running headlines that declared “the end of Darwin.” They based the conclusion on the apparent observation that the finding refutes “the assumption that humans evolved from monkeys” — humans having originated from monkeys being an all-too-common misconception about evolutionary theory. Research by Saouma BouJaoude, a professor of science education at Lebanon’s American University of Beirut, has consistently found that this misconception was a recurrent reason used by students in the Middle East to reject the idea of evolution. But, as BouJaoude’s research points out, Egypt is unique in the region because its national curriculum includes a compulsory unit on evolution, despite a previous Al-Azhar decree against the theory. Yet it’s clear the curriculum hasn’t busted the basic myths that continue to haunt Charles Darwin’s theory. There is also evidence that while teachers might cover evolution in class, they supplement the material with their own, not-so-scientific opinions. “Yes, I teach it,” said Maha Samy, a middle-school biology teacher who’s worked

How do the people teaching one of the most basic pillars of science justify this blatantly cherry-picked version of Darwin’s theory? at both public and private schools. “But I tell my students not to believe it — at least not when it comes to humans.” This attitude is not uncommon among some teachers in the region as a whole. BouJaoude found in a 2010 study that a significant proportion of Muslim biology teachers reject evolution and often remove human evolution from the syllabus. That approach is consistent with patterns in Egypt, even in Cairo University’s zoology department. “Of course evolution is taught here,” said one of the department’s professors, who asked that his name not be used. “There is no problem with that. But we do not cover human evolution. That’s different. The students wouldn’t have that, no. Evolution is concerned only with animals.” This raises a perplexing question: How do the people who are supposed to be teaching one of the most basic and best-supported pillars of science justify this blatantly cherrypicked version of Darwin’s theory?

As Samy, the biology teacher, put it: “You have to remember: It’s just a theory.”

Charles Darwin

A different perspective Another common misconception is what a “theory” entails in a scientific context. Throughout his research, BouJaoude said, students interviewed consistently said a theory was something that had not yet been proven, and that only scientific “laws” were proven. To them, a theory was not much different from an idea. In reality, a scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world. However, in the Arabic-speaking world, this misconception might be exacerbated by the fact that the Arabic word for theory is rooted in the word “perspective.” It is possible that this predisposes Egyptian students and teachers — and possibly Arabic speakers in general — to understand this term as little more than a person’s perspective. But even if a more robust understanding of evolution and the terms

associated with it could be achieved, the question is whether the theory would still be resisted based on a debatable association with atheism. Salman Hameed, an associate professor at Hampshire College in the US, has extensively researched the relationship between evolution and Islam. He said he believes equating the theory with atheism is completely wrong — in fact, his research suggests that many Muslims around the world have no problem accepting evolution. He said that after interviewing Muslim physicians in several Muslim countries, his research found that many consider evolution a matter of science, independent from religion. “For them, evolution is the method by which God created life on the planet,” Hameed said. Nevertheless, instances of cognitive dissonance are not uncommon. One Pakistani medical student conveyed this tension to Hameed. “I accept [evolution] when I’m in the hospital and reject it when I go home,” the student said, according to Hameed. Hameed suggested that this conflict could be largely resolved if believers understood evolution as the natural mechanism used by God that led to the diversity of animals and plants. He compared the process to the formation of stars and galaxies. “We refer to gravity as the key mechanism behind this physical process,” he said. “We do not just say that our sun and its planets suddenly appeared one day.” Yet using gravity as an explanation is not necessarily equivalent to atheism, he said, and to that extent, neither is evolution. Still, most believers who accept evolution would likely argue that humans evolved due to some divine necessity that is part of a purposeful plan. But if we are to accept unadulterated natural selection as the mechanism behind evolution — without any tweaking here and there — it’s hard to still insist that humans would have evolved without resorting to some form of intelligent design. And so, is a purposeful God truly compatible with the blind purposelessness of evolution by natural selection? It’s not so clear. Ultimately, researchers like Hameed believe opposition to evolution will go away. “When the earth-centered universe was challenged, it took a few centuries for people to change their perceptions,” he said. Hameed suggested that, while physics dominated the 20th century, biology would dominate the 21st. Egypt is trying to increase its scientific output, but with opposition and muddled appreciation toward evolution, there is concern it will seriously lag behind. “The question is whether Muslim countries will be at the forefront of this change or be behind a few decades, if not centuries. This is a question that remains to be answered,” Hameed said.■


18

5 July 2012

Culture

Up close and personal One woman’s account of the Syrian uprising makes for a compelling read By M. Lynx Qualey

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any have criticized the “hasty” Arabic literature that has emerged in the last 16 months, blossoming in both bookstores and online during the ongoing Arab revolutions. Young Tunisian novelist Kamel Riahi has argued that literature should not be chained to politics, while celebrated authors Sonallah Ibrahim and Elias Khoury have suggested that is is impossible to create literature about events that are still taking place around us. And yet there is something about the intersection of literature and real life that compels readers to keep searching for books that resonate with, and expand beautifully, on the current moment — without cheapening either the literature or the moment. Syrian novelist and TV host Samar Yazbek’s “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution” is one of these rare books. It was certainly assembled in haste, published in Arabic in 2011 and in English in July 2012. This haste shows in the book’s cracks and edges, its repetitions and omissions. But “A Woman in the Crossfire” is elevated beyond politics or reportage by Yazbek’s intimate style and her willingness to reveal and involve herself in the book. The book is made up of both testimonies Yazbek gathered and events she experienced during Syria’s first four months of struggle, before she was forced to flee the country. Translator Max Weiss calls these months “the early, heady days” in his afterword. Despite this, “A Woman in the Crossfire” never succumbs to unguarded optimism. Violence is omnipresent, and — though Yazbek argues passionately for a nonsectarian Syria — the threat of civil war lurks everywhere. Yazbek describes how, from the earliest days, the ruling regime fomented sectarian tension. In the regime’s narrative of events, Sunni protesters — who the regime conflates with Salafis — are inexorably pitted against Alawites and Christians. Yazbek is from the ruling Shia Alawite sect, and she likens

Yazbek describes how, from the earliest days, the ruling regime fomented sectarian tension

Violence is omnipresent, and ... the threat of civil war lurks everywhere the use of her sect to the creation of “human shields” to protect the regime. But while Yazbek takes a clear and unapologetic stance on Bashar al-Assad’s regime, “A Woman in the Crossfire” is a literary act rather than a political one. Ultimately, the book is not about any particular party or movement, but about freely telling Syria’s stories. It is a stand against all the forces silencing and misrepresenting Syrians.

In what could be seen as a metaphor for the treatment of Syrian protesters, Yazbek tells of a minority Alawite protester who was beaten so much that he could no longer speak. After some struggle, authorities finally took him to a hospital. There he was wheeled around, still unable to speak, while onlookers were told he was a Salafi terrorist and were invited to spit on him. Weiss writes in the afterword that he would not have “been able

to bear the emotional toll of the project without the support of many people.” A similar emotional toll affects the reader. In the book’s most horrible moments, in which humanity is stomped on and brutalized, our brains distance us; we experience these sections as we would fiction. Indeed, Yazbek describes herself as doing the same when she is faced with grave danger and humiliation. It is instead the smaller moments

Critic’s pick

Reham Alaa’s first exhibition breaks the rules By Nevine El Shabrawy

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eham Alaa, a 27-year-old painter, launched her first solo exhibition on 26 June. Despite the rundown venue of the Cairo Atelier and the small room in which her paintings — all untitled — line the walls, Alaa’s work jumps out at the viewer, from the splashes of primary colors in her signature piece to the deep hues tinted with gold leaf in her larger works. Alaa’s subjects are multi-layered,

both texturally and conceptually. Trapped in vivid moments — a light bulb in a dim room, eyes loaded with expression, a headdress of minute details — the artwork boasts not only a mastery of technique and pattern work, but also the ability to effortlessly break the rules as colors mix and forms come to life. An arch and steps shadowed in hues of blue, deep red, black and gold reach out from a painting on one wall, showing one level of serenity. Another has an asymmetrical view of a tree,

with brown leaves against a greenishyellow canvas. Other striking pieces include a sultry painting of a woman encircled in gold leaf, painted from the back on three pieces of wood, her hair pulled up in a loose bun, and an older work by Alaa consisting of a woman’s face made up of small squares — a technique the artist has used and perfected over the years. The paintings are on display on the top floor of the Cairo Atelier until 7 July.■

before which the reader is helpless, such as when an Alawite protester tells Yazbek that a friend came to see him. “He had been crying. I thought it was because he believed the Alawites had beaten me up for being sectarian. I told him I wished he wouldn’t talk to me like that. It wasn’t the Alawites who beat me up. It was the authorities. Then he clarified that he was actually crying because the ones who beat me up were his cousins,” Yazbek writes. The account is, for the most part, straightforwardly and plainly told, with occasional leaps into startling, poetic language. But despite these moments, “A Woman in the Crossfire” remains very much a diary rather than a shaped narrative. The book eschews most devices that generally hold a reader’s attention, such as dialogue and rising action. Instead, the reader’s attention is fixed by the need to listen, the urgency of these stories and how much those telling them want to be heard. Most of the Syrians who give their testimonies to Yazbek are nameless. There are only a few reappearing “characters,” and it is mainly Yazbek and her adolescent daughter who hold the book together. Yazbek’s daughter, in particular, grabs the reader’s heart. She is furious at her mother for putting them in danger, and “said bitterly that the only way I could make her feel better was to appear on state television and proclaim my loyalty to the president.” Yazbek also fears for her daughter, and describes a night when she wakes up screaming, convinced that her daughter had been kidnapped. Throughout the book, it is unclear where Syria is headed. But it is clear how Yazbek is changing: “I have somehow become more fragile and stronger at the same time.” Many people, including Yazbek, risked their lives to bring us this book. “A Woman in the Crossfire” is thus an act of fierce resistance against the forces of silencing and simplification. It is anything but an effortless read, but it does wedge open a space wherein, for a moment, it feels possible to genuinely listen.■


5 July 2012

Culture

19

Let the music play on Arab music from the turn of the century finally finds a home

AMAR’s music archive has expanded to include thousands of old music records

of composition, in religious inshad (religious chanting), but often with profane themes. It was passed on from one musician and composer to the next, and with every transfer, there was improvisation and experimentation. The developments were, however, mostly inspired from within the musical heritage of the region. What followed from the 1940s onwards, Said explains, was the domination of a westernoriented approach to musical development, through the importing and fusing of regional music with western sounds. But AMAR does not seek to discredit musical fusion, nor is it inspired by a sense of Pan-Arabism. Instead, it aims to provide another approach to developing Arab music, not so much an alternative but an option that can exist side-by-side with fusion.

“Music is primarily a language,” says Said. “In terms of our musical system, there are several styles and languages from surrounding regions that have not influenced us, although they are much closer to our own. Our idea is to open up a space to develop our music from the inside. In the 19th century, people listened to both Sayyed Darwish and Aboul Ela Mohamed although their approaches were very different. Now, we only have one approach because the past has been dismissed and destroyed,” he says. “When Arab hip-hop artists, for instance, listen to music from this period, they are fascinated, and ask, ‘why haven’t we heard this before?’.” Much of the second Nahda’s music was, in fact, composed, performed and recorded in Cairo. The Egyptian capital was a hub for pho-

AMAR

In the mountainous Lebanese village of Qurnet al-Hamra is a musicians’ haven: a state-of-the-art studio specialized in digitizing, researching and archiving forgotten treasures of Arab music. As for Arab music lovers who can not make it all the way up there, a free online radio service will soon be available. The Foundation of Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR) was an idea, and dream, of Egyptian musicologist Mustafa Said for many years. It only began materializing when he met Lebanese businessman Kamal Kassar, who shared his interest in Arab music from the turn of the 20th century, a period known as the second Nahda (Renaissance). After numerous discussions and planning sessions, AMAR — halfresearch institution, half-academy — finally opened its doors in August 2009. “Music [of the Nahda period] is very different from everything I had ever listened to before,” says Said, founding member and director of the project, “and distinct from all that followed: what is now regarded and taught as the classics of Arab music paved the way for Arab pop music. “People think that [Arab] music started with the innovative [Mohamed] Abdel Wahab and the iconic Om Kalthoum, and if they happen to go back a bit further, then there is Sayyed Darwish. Before that, they know nothing,” he explains. Whereas pop and contemporary music exist side by side with classical music in most countries of the world from India, Iran and Turkey to European cultural capitals, most music academies teach Arab music as starting shortly before the 1950s. This short popular history of Arab music bedazzled Said for a long time. In his teen years, he would sit in his bedroom listening to late night shows on the Egyptian Radio Service and record them. Said emphasizes that they were “the very late night shows”, those that were aired too late for most people to actually listen to. It was through this that he learnt about long-forgotten singers and musicians like Dawood Hosni (1870-1930), and the popular singer Fatheya Ahmed (18981975). The sound of the recordings he listened to was mostly poor. Still, the music was fascinating to him for many reasons. For a start, it had a very different system from all that followed, one that was originally rooted, in terms

AMAR

By Mai Elwakil

An Abdel Hay Hilmy record, a key figure from the second Nahda

The period that came after the military coups of the 1950s and 1960s destroyed [earlier musical recordings] as the heritage of a ‘bygone era’ nograph record production until the 1930s; when the National Radio Service was launched in May 1934, it was the first and most important in the region. Still, finding musical recordings from this period is very difficult. Said collects them from private collections, old houses, used record stores, antique sellers and, sadly, junk yards. He believes that this period’s music has been systematically destroyed: “The period that came after the military coups of the 1950s and 1960s destroyed it as the heritage of a ‘bygone era’.” He recounts how he would go to the archives of the state radio service to find that they had recorded a football game over an old concert. The same can be said for Syrian and Lebanese radio. So AMAR resorts to alternative approaches in its research. Said has been contacting people who recorded programs and concerts aired on the radio back in the 1940s

to make digital copies of their records. The foundation seeks to collect and digitize the shared musical heritage produced at the turn of the 20th century. This is complemented with relevant manuscripts, books, catalogues and musicians’ contracts that provide historical context to the scene at the time. From the catalogues, researchers at AMAR learn when the musical pieces were recorded and released; by listening to the recordings, they identify the musicians and singers from their style, carefully connecting pieces of information to offer a musical historiography. Their purpose, however, is not to create a museum for musicians. “Heritage is not a holy book, [people] do have the right to develop and build on it,” says Said. He describes the way people have been dealing with Arab music as “musical Salafism,” treating it as heritage that should not be tampered with. Consequently, musicians and composers looking for inspiration are alienated. AMAR wants to make the records accessible for free, and create discussion forums around them. So far, the foundation has been hosting workshops and opening up its space for researchers. But it also wants to engage the wider public. It released a book and 10 records for the centenary of Egyptian singer Sheikh Youssef al-Manialawi (18471911); now they are working on a similar project for the humorous yet controversial Egyptian singer Abdel Hay Hilmy (1857-1912), as well as programming of the online radio service. Stay tuned.■

A dash of culture ■ At the 15th Ismailia International Film Festival for Documentary and Short Films, “The Virgin, the Copts and Me” received the Best Film Award in the long documentaries category. Directed by the Egyptianborn, French-raised Namir Abdel Messeeh, it tries to humorously investigate and

recreate an incident in the late 1960s when a group of Coptic Egyptians claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary. The Jury Prize went to “On the Road to ... Downtown.” In the documentary, Egyptian filmmaker Sherif El Bendary draws a portrait of downtown Cairo through personal narratives of its inhabitants.■

■ Ramy Essam, dubbed the “Singer of the revolu-

“On the Road to ... Downtown”

tion” in the early days of the January revolution, released his second music album, “Al-Massala” (The Obelisk) this week. The 28-year-old Essam has been passionately celebrated for “providing the soundtrack for the street protests” as he sang revolution-themed songs at Tahrir Square during the sit-ins of the past 16 months. The two albums he has released so far have reflected on the revolution. But, in “Al-Massala,” Essam experiments more with the Dubstep electronic music genre.■

“The Obelisk” music album


20

5 July 2012

Life & Society

The future is orange

A sneak peek at this season’s runway trends Twenties dominate, with flapper dresses, skullcaps and dangly glass beads representing the new soiree trend. Another echo of the past this season is a fashion surprise: high-waisted ‘grandma’ bikinis. Hit the beach with glam — metallic colors and shimmering materials are especially popular this season. As for makeup and beauty, thick, un-tweezed eyebrows are definitely the look to go for. Bold eye color is the real deal, and aqua blue seems to dominate the fashion world. Although not always flattering, warm, copper eye shadows and soft, smoky, golden eyes are also taking the runways by storm. But be careful — such hues can have a negative, dramatic effect. This summer, tainted red lips, often a wintery trend, are very present, paired with artistically drawn eyes like that of the late singer Amy Winehouse. For hair, the catwalks featured slick and cleanly combed ponytails. Accessorized updos are also in, especially for parties and weddings. Braids and wet twists also made their way into this season’s fashion shows. They’re perfect for the beach and make hair easy to manage.■

By Amany Aly Shawky

T

he world of fashion and glam changes color as the seasons turn. As tangerine and most hues of orange remain the dominant colors from last spring, mint green is also slowly joining most international catwalks. Last spring’s bronze shades turn gold this summer — match them with black, white or gray to decrease their intensity. Pastels continue to dominate the runways, and layering pastel hues all at once seems to show the dreamy side of this season’s fashion. Maxi seems to be the name of the game this season, with lengthy skirts and colorful, pleated midis making a comeback. Chiffon maxi skirts seem to be the new fad, available in Zara, Mango and most other highstreet fashion stores. Oversized hats are still in from last summer, so head to Accessorize or Women’s Secret and get yourself a floppy boater. The two-piece women’s suit is also still in. Fitted jackets with ruffles around the waist and figure-hugging pencil skirts represent the chic formal items in this summer’s wardrobe. For evening wear, the Roaring

How to keep your cool With something for every budget in our must-have guide, there’s no excuse for not looking fabulous this summer

Below LE100

LE100–300 Keep your skin naturally fabulous with PrimRose Ice Cream Body Scrub (LE60). The sea salt and sugar provide shine, and the almond and olive oils provide much-needed moisture.■

Pick up a ring with a message — everything from “I heart chocolata” to “Keep calm and eat cupcakes” — to give your summer accessories a little punch (LE65–85).■

Multicolored and printed Shibshibi flip-flops (LE100) are one of this summer’s basics and can be found at Zafir in Zamalek, as well as online at the BungalowH and Style Treasure websites.■ To keep your hair healthy and fresh, opt for a Fusio dose of made-to-measure professional hair-care treatment (LE125). Hairdressers Kriss and Mohamed al-Sagheer offer it at their salons around the city. The hair treatment is custom-made for your hair needs, and the repairing potion is prepared right in front of your eyes at the salon.■

LE300–500

By Lisa jellies (LE350) are still a hot favorite this season. The designer keeps the general design from last summer but adds beads and colorful stones for decoration. Go for bright neon colors to make a statement.■

Zara’s long, colorful jersey skirt with splits (LE399) is elegant yet daring, with the short lining giving it a funky flavor. It’s perfect for summer gatherings by the beach.■


5 July 2012

Life & Society

21

One voice, many mosques

As call to prayer is unified, muezzins defy government orders By Maurice Chammah

Rumors come true One Thursday in August 2010, engineers from a government-contracted company, the Arab Agency for Production, arrived at a number of mosques in Heliopolis. They carried small black boxes with the words “Endowments Ministry” printed on them in white letters. It was the second day of Ramadan, so no one had eaten since early that morning, and the imams were busy preparing for special, longer prayers in the evening. The muezzins greeted the engineers and watched as they installed the boxes. The muezzins had been hearing rumors for years that their voices would be replaced by a single call to prayer beamed out by Radio Cairo, but few believed it would really come to pass. They watched as the engineers installed the radio receivers, politely explaining that they would turn on and off by themselves and would not need to be touched. The call to prayer would be unified across Cairo, and Heliopolis was just the first stage. “We found out from the newspapers,” one muezzin recalled. “Nobody told us.” The plan was meant to address what thenEndowments Minister Hamdy Zaqzouq had called a “war of the microphones.” For the past century, the noise level in Cairo had been growing steadily along with the number of buildings and cars. Muezzins stopped climbing the minarets to recite the call and instead mounted loudspeakers connected to microphones inside the mosques. Cairo’s dusty air clogged many of the speakers, creating a dense and distorted cacophony at prayer times.

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F

ive times a day throughout Cairo, a group of mosque employees unplug small black boxes. Depending on who you ask, they are either breaking the law or resisting an unfair government imposition. These muezzin — men who recite the call to prayer — are fighting an effort by the Endowments Ministry to unify Cairo’s call to prayer, forcing every mosque to accept a centralized radio signal and each muezzin to stop reciting a ritual that has been repeated for generations. The ministry hopes that a unified call will reduce Cairo’s infamous cacophony, but some muezzins worry about losing their jobs. They express sadness at no longer being able to do what their fathers and grandfathers have done ever since the early days of Islam, when a freed Ethiopian slave named Bilal ibn Rabah first inaugurated the practice. “There are those who will continue to feel a longing for performing the call to prayer, and being spiritually rewarded for it,” said one muezzin at a mosque in Heliopolis. “As the Prophet said, ‘Muezzins will have the longest necks on the Day of Judgment.’”

A muezzin makes the traditional call to prayer – but how long will it last?

Some found it beautiful. Anthropologist Charles Hirschkind called the multitude of voices a “heavenly interference pattern.” Others found it ugly. A college student named Sama Mustafa told me in 2009 that the call to prayer in Cairo was “annoying” and “screeching” and made her “want to tear [her] skin off.” The Endowments Ministry, which oversees many of Cairo’s mosques, decided in 2005 that the calls to prayer had become too loud, and that too many amateurs were blasting their own call from small corner mosques without any oversight. “Unfortunately, we have unpleasant voices in our community of muezzins,” said Salam Abdel Galil, who oversees the project. “Some of them start the call to prayer earlier than others, leading to confusion.” Galil, a deputy minister, has weathered the reshuffles to the Cabinet brought on by the revolution. He sported a light beard and wore an impeccable blue-gray galabeya with matching pants. “The muezzins did not want this project to succeed because they want to do the call to prayer themselves,” he said. “But after the first tests, the audiences — both Muslim and non-Muslim — began to encourage it.” The receiver box in each mosque costs about LE170 to make and install. The entire project, which aims to reach about 3,000 mosques, has reportedly cost between LE600,000 and LE1 million. If the budget allows, the ministry hopes to bring the project to Alexandria and other governorate capitals. Abdel Galil said he thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“Thank God, it faces no problems culturally or politically,” he said resolutely. Abdel Galil admitted that since the parliamentary elections, some “worshippers who belong to the extremist Salafi movement” have neglected to enforce the unified call. But he said most muezzins are “satisfied with the new situation.” Unifying voices Opposition to the plan began almost as soon as the ministry made it public in 2004. A scholar at Al-Azhar University blamed “American hands” for the idea and said the Hosni Mubarak regime was trying to “muzzle religion.” In 2009, an imam in Zamalek told me he worried the unification of the call to prayer would be the first step toward unifying Friday sermons, forcing every imam to give up his voice as well to the ministry. Abdel Galil said these fears are unfounded. “Unfortunately, some of the people are not able to imagine the project and think that we will stop the call to prayer,” he told me. “And naturally, human beings are enemies of the unknown. But when they get to know the project, they will accept it.” He said muezzins would not necessarily lose their jobs, and would continue to perform the iqama, or the beginning of prayers. They would also be trained to take the imam’s place leading prayers in case of sickness or absence. “There was some nervousness when the project was first being implemented, but those fears no longer remain,” he said. Several weeks ago, a muezzin at a mosque near the Citadel greeted me warmly and we sat down on the carpeted floor. When I asked about the unification project, his mood changed. “It’s going to put me out of work,” he said. We stood up and he took me to a small office off the side of the main area for prayer. There was a tall stack of technological gadgets with small lights blinking on and off, green and red, and a tangle of wires holding it all together. He pulled a small black box out from the stack.

“Many of the Radio Cairo muezzins have ugly voices,” he said. “So what do you do?” I asked. He grinned. “I just unplug the box.” “And nobody catches you?” “Nobody has come back to check on this since they installed it.” “Is this common?” “Oh yes. We all do it.” We left the room and he invited me to sit down on the carpet again. It was 3:30 pm, time for Asr prayer. The speakers, mounted in two corners of the room, clicked on. A disembodied voice began the call to prayer: “God is great, God is great. There is no god but God.” The muezzin disappeared into the office and a moment later, the voice stopped. He walked over to a microphone and unhooked it from the stand. He tilted his head back, holding the microphone in one hand and cupping his ear with the other. He recited the call to prayer. It was long and clear, each word pure as it left his mouth and slightly grizzled as it left the cheap speakers, with the echo of other muezzins drifting in like ghosts through the windows. When he finished, he walked back to the office and plugged the box back in, just in case anyone from the ministry might come by to check. Abdel Galil said nobody checks to make sure everyone is using the boxes unless a member of the community files a complaint. Evidently, nobody has complained near the Citadel mosque I visited. A few days later, I visited another mosque, located across the street from the first. I asked the muezzin there about the unification project. He said that after the revolution, and with the presidential election and other political issues, no one’ was working on the project now. “They installed a box here before the revolution,” he said, “but then after a few months it broke, so I perform the call to prayer now.” I asked about the other mosque, the one across the street. We locked eyes. “His box broke just like mine,” the muezzin said. “It’s broken — really?” I asked, hoping to communicate that I knew it wasn’t true. He winked. “Yes,” he said. “Many of them are broken, so we have to perform the call to prayer ourselves.”■


22

5 July 2012

Travel

Get away from the hustle and spoil yourself in Gouna By Soraya Morayef

T

he Red Sea town of Gouna feels like a world apart from the rest of Egypt. Even though its architecture is distinctively Egyptian, drawing on influences such as the legendary architect Hassan Fathy with its domes, ventilation systems and rich earth tones, you still feel like you’re in a bubble far removed from reality. The seaside town is constructed so that all villas follow more or less the same architectural style. With most properties facing the man-made lagoons, and with a smattering of low-rise hotels distributed generously along the coast, the area feels less like a full-blown tourist resort and more like a comfortable, lived-in town with quality dining, a very relaxed atmosphere and luxurious accommodation. What to do Gouna can bring out the laziness in you, with endless relaxing days lounging by the lagoon and enjoying marina-side dinners, but it also has a lot to offer for adrenaline junkies. Known for being one of the best wind spots in Egypt, Gouna has plenty of kitesurfing and windsurfing centers, the majority of which are located on Mangrove Beach. Kitepower (www.kitepower-elgouna.com) comes highly recommended and offers a beginner’s kitesurfing course and full euipment that costs about 260 euros for six hours (about LE1,900). If you prefer windsurfing, you can find centers at Rihana resorts, the Steigenberger and at Mangrove. There’s also dirt biking in the desert (also available at Mangrove) and bicycling and go-karting at Gouna Village, which is a great way to spend the long, hot summer nights. If you want to spend the day by the beach, you can take a shuttle boat to Zeitouna Beach from most hotels in downtown and the marina — although its shore is somewhat rocky — or you can head to Moods by the marina. This restaurant/cafe has a beach with beanbag chairs and a LE50 charge for beach use. Towels aren’t provided, but the food is decent and you can curl up on massive wicker chairs or beanbags. The sea is admittedly not the cleanest because you’re literally swimming by the marina, so be prepared for oily waters. A few minutes away, Club 88 boasts a large pool by the sea with comfortable lounge chairs and expertly made cocktails. Pool use here also costs LE50. If you have a day to spare, Hurghada is just

The main thing people fail to tell you about Gouna is that even though it’s on the coast, it’s not a beach-friendly town 30 minutes away by car. If you’re with a large group, it’s highly recommended that you rent a boat to Mahmya Island (www.mahmya.com), a protected area off the Hurghada coast of the Red Sea where you can lounge on beanbags by pristine aquamarine waters or go scuba diving in the deeper waters. Depending on how many people are in your group, you could spend about LE150 each for the boat rental, plus lunch. Eat, drink and be merry Surprisingly for a resort town, Gouna has some of the best European and Asian cuisine in Egypt, but it is notably more expensive than your average meal in Cairo. Forget about eating cheap here unless you plan to cook at home. Even then, groceries can be pricey. In Kafr al-Gouna, Jobo’s has, hands down, the juiciest burgers in Egypt. This Swedish sports bar offers draft beer and open-air seating, and the burgers are grilled to juicy perfection. Try the classic cheeseburger (LE52) and the loaded potatoes (LE35). Shisha is served via Tamr Henna, a popular cafe across the cobblestone courtyard. A few meters away, the Clubhouse, one of Gouna’s favorite daytime destinations, is usually packed, especially on national holidays, when guest DJs play throughout the day and night. It may have a miniscule pool and tiny beach, but it’s an ideal spot to while alway your day if you want good music, cool water and good food. Try the burgers and their massive continental breakfasts, as well as the ice-cold cocktails, especially the caipirinhas. By the marina, you have plenty of great dining options: Saigon (Tel: 010-676-2329) is an old-time favorite, if only for its raw spring rolls (LE37), known as summer rolls, which are full of palate-bursting flavors. Le Garage makes creative gourmet burgers, while Le Deauville makes the best French cuisine this side of the Mediterranean — try their

Beef Fillet in Grenobloise Sauce (LE119), their scallops and their delicious Tornedos Rossini. What’s great about the marina is that all restaurants face the docked boats on open terraces, so you can split your dinner between enjoying the delicious cuisine and people watching. For drinks and a sophisticated dinner, try Pier 88, a bar and restaurant on a docked boat that usually gets crammed with Gouna regulars and the occasional celebrity on a busy night. Their shrimp pil-pil and beef fillet come highly recommended. For a more low-key affair, try Barten, a tiny space with friendly bartenders and excellently mixed cocktails. This bar gets very crowded on summer weekends, but you can always pass by for an early evening drink. Gouna has its share of seasonal parties with international DJs and musical acts, usually at Moods by the marina (call 012-0900777), but you can also check out Loco Loco (formerly Papa’s) for some outdoor dancing to admittedly cheesy house and pop music. Where to stay Gouna has a few moderately priced hotels, including Sultan Bey and Dawar El Omda, (the latter is currently offering standard double rooms at LE350 with a free upgrade). The hotels are located across from the Clubhouse as well as many restaurants and bars. The most luxurious hotels are the Movenpick and the Steigenberger, which are separated from the rest of Gouna with their own massive resort areas. The Movenpick includes a kitesurfing and windsurfing center as well as the best spa in Gouna and two swimming pools, while the Steigenberger includes a world-class golf course. While the Movenpick has better cuisine and plush rooms, the Steigenberger has a nicer swimming pool and more spacious standard rooms. A standard room at the Movenpick currently costs LE750 per night, while the Steigenberger charges LE550 per night. If you’d rather be located on the marina,

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Sun, sea and relaxation

there’s the Three Corners Hotel, Ali Pasha and Captain’s Inn. If you’re a large group of people spending more than three days in Gouna, it may be cheaper to rent an apartment or villa. Check out El Gouna Rentals on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/ elgounarentals) for details. How to get there Located four and a half hours from Cairo by car and just 40 minutes by plane via Hurghada Airport, Gouna is spread along the Red Sea coast and filled with man-made lagoons and islands. Go Bus offers daily morning and evening bus trips from Cairo to Gouna for between LE80 and LE120 (call 19567 to book in advance). The resort can be divided into two main areas: Kafr al-Gouna, also known as downtown, and the marina, where most of the restaurants and bars are located. All areas are accessible by car, shuttle bus and tuk tuk (which costs just LE5 per trip), and you can also rent bikes downtown if you want. The main thing people fail to tell you about Gouna is that, even though it’s on the coast, it’s not a beach-friendly town. Most hotels and homes face the lagoons, while the seaside beaches are often unswimmable because of the usually high winds and shallow waters. The coast is perfect for kitesurfing and windsurfing, but in terms of swimming, you’re better off at the lagoons and swimming pools. Gouna offers a relaxing and luxurious weekend by the Red Sea where you can dine, pamper yourself or indulge in adventure sports to satisfy your adrenaline craving. It’s definitely not the cheapest holiday you’ll find by the Red Sea; often the best way to have a cheap day out in Gouna is to spend it indoors. That being said, if you need a short break full of pricey but worthy temptations in a low-key, sunny and breezy town, then head straight to Gouna. For more information on Gouna, check its official website (www.elgouna.com) or call the hotline on 16444.■

The area feels less like a full-blown tourist resort and more like a comfortable, lived-in town with quality dining, a very relaxed atmosphere and luxurious accommodation


5 July 2012

AWAN Contemporary Art Space 4 Hoda Shaarawy St., off Talaat Harb St., Downtown, Cairo 0122-435-1514 awanartspace.weebly.com

Six promising young artists will showcase their work in “The Pick 5.” In its fifth iteration, the semi-annual survey of emerging artists is not curated around a particular theme or artistic discipline. Saba3aktouber, a loose collective of Cairo-based artists and writers, along with the Space for Contemporary Art and Development, selected the artists based on their practice and offered them The Townhouse Gallery space to produce new works. The featured artists are: Nazly Abaza, Gehad Enwar, Mostafa Gad, Ahmed Shawky, Mahmoud Tarek and Sama Waly. “The Pick 5” runs from 8 July until 1 August.

This month’s edition of Al-Fan Midan (Art is a Square) festival celebrates Nubian musical, literary and artistic voices. Held on the first Saturday of every month, the July edition coincides with International Nubian Day on 7 July. The program will include performances by singers Yasser al-Manawahly, and Karam Mourad, as well as a poetry reading by Omar Youssef. 5 July, 5-11 pm Abdeen Square, Downtown, Cairo

‘The Pick 5’

The Townhouse Gallery 10 Nabrawy St., off Champollion St., Downtown, Cairo 022-576-8086 www.thetownhousegallery.com

‘Harassment’ “Clothes bigger than my size, check. Nerdy glasses, check. Veil covering any hint of hair, check. Makeup-free face, check. I don’t think I can possibly look any plainer. All I need to do now is to just look straight ahead and I should make it to work without being humiliated. Right?” Wrong. With the recent resurgence of sexual harassment incidents in the city, a group of 15 artists have decided to express their opinions, ideas and experiences on the topic. The project is a collaboration between Darb 1718 and HarassMap. “Harassment” runs until 20 August.

Darb 1718 Kasr El Shamaa St., Old Cairo, Cairo 022-361-0511 www.darb1718.com

“Al-Leila Al-Kebira” Ballet

Zorba Ballet and AlLeila Al-Kebira

This weekend, the international entertainment brand Virgin Megastores is organizing a night of electronic music with DJ K-Z (Karim Zalat) and DJ Battawi on 6 July, starting at 10 pm.

For four consecutive nights, the Cairo Opera Ballet Company will be performing an act from the 1946 classic “Zorba the Greek” by Nikos Kazantzakis, as well as an adaptation of the famous Egyptian puppet operetta, “Al-Leila Al-Kebira” (The Big Night) written by Salah Jaheen and composed by Sayyed Mekkwawi. The Cairo Ballet Company will be accompanied by the Cairo Opera Orchestra led by maestro Nayer Nagy. The performances run from 6 to 9 July at 8 pm

Cairo Jazz Club 197, 26th July St., Agouza, Giza 010-6880-4764 www.cairojazzclub.com

Cairo Opera House Cairo Opera House Grounds, Gezira, Cairo 022-739-0114 www.cairoopera.org

Electro night with DJs K-Z and Battawi

23

Jesuit Independent Film Festival Throughout the month, the Jesuit Cultural Center will be showing a selection of feature-length, short and documentary films by emerging filmmakers in Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Assiut and Minya. The festival kicks off with screenings at the Garage Theater in Alexandria. Among the films being shown on 5 July is the 20-minute long “It was lemon” by Waleed Badawy, about a day in the life of an employee whose dark side shows while drinking a glass of lemonade. Screenings will take place in Alexandria from 5 to 6 July at 7 pm. Garage Theater 98 Port Said Street, Cleopatra, Alexandria, 010-0693-6148

A tribute to the Japanese Kurosawa

Dance

Funded by the British Council in Cairo and the Tarek Waly Center for Architecture and Heritage, this exhibition seeks to tackle stereotypes about the residents of informal settlements in Cairo as thugs that endanger the country. Through a selection of images and maps highlighting cases of urban deterioration, and a series of short documentaries through which the residents express their concerns and suggest solutions, Omnia Khalil tries to unpick the stereotypes and open a discussion. The exhibition is accompanied by two days of presentations and discussions of relevant experiences from Cairo. “Cairo Urban Action” runs from 7 to 19 July, and the talks are held on 8 and 15 July at 7 pm.

Visual Arts

‘Cairo Urban Action’

Music

Visual Arts

“Cairo Urban Action” exhibition at the Awan gallery

Al-Fan Midan celebrates Nubian heritage

Film

Music

Listings

Throughout the week, the Artistic Creativity Center is showing a selection of films by renowned filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (1910 - 1998). “Red Beard,” which tells the story of an honorable doctor, who guides a young intern through their work at a charity hospital will be screened on 6 July at 5 pm. “Throne of Blood” will be shown on 9 July at 8:30 pm. It tells the story of a Samurai commander who receives a prophecy that he will become Lord of the Castle he protects. “Throne of Blood” was described by the American literary critic Harold Bloom as “the most successful film version of Macbeth.” Artistic Creativity Center Cairo Opera House Grounds, Gezira, Cairo 022-739-0114 www.cairoopera.org

Akira Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood”


24

Issue no.8 5 July 2012

............................................................................................................................................................................................................

WORD ON THE STREET Faraeen ‫فراعني‬

That guy

]fara’een[

Translation: Pharaohs (irregular plural) Idioms: Faraeen channel 1. Pharaohs are always used to evoke a false sense of patriotism 2. If you have a group of mediocre employees, say newscasters, call them faraeen to make it seem like they are not incompetent

Printed by Al-Masry Media Corp

3. When actual history is irrelevant, use this word as a shoddy pretense for invoking glories past Context: That guy on Faraeen channel who once called Mubarak a saint blabbers for hours everyday spewing lies about the revolution. Why hasn’t Faraeen channel been shut down by now?

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