SCAF giveth and SCAF taketh away
The prodigal son returns ... now vote for him!
Issue no. 6 21 June 2012
Where the desert ships dock
Caution to the wind 17
War of the roses: Generals and Brothers
Published by Al-Masry Media Corp
12 - 13
Egyptâ€™s next president couped up
Militants who crossed into Israel from Egypt’s Sinai Desert fired on Israelis building a barrier on the border on Monday, killing one worker before soldiers shot dead two of the attackers, the Israeli military said. Israel later launched air strikes killing four Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including two militants from the Islamic Jihad group on a motorcycle. Two other militants were killed while trying to fire a rocket, Israel said. The Sinai attack, launched soon after the Muslim Brotherhood declared victory in Egypt’s presidential election, raised Israeli concerns about lawlessness in the area since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak last year.■
Birds of a feather
Not on the list
Security guards at the Parliament building prevented the former head of the People’s Assembly Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee Mahmoud al-Khodairy and his deputy, Mohamed al-Omda, from entering the building on Monday, enforcing a court verdict that dissolved Parliament on Thursday. The guards told the pair they were following instructions, according to the staterun newspaper Al-Ahram. The two former MPs were planning to attend a committee meeting to discuss a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court, which dissolved the legislature on the basis that the parliamentary elections law unconstitutional.■
Two lawyers have filed lawsuits with the State Council’s administrative court on Monday demanding the dissolution of the Shura Council — the upper house of the Egyptian Parliament — said state tv. Lawyers Saad Eddin Naguib and Assem Omar said in the lawsuit that the Shura Council must also be dissolved. Earlier this week, the Supreme Constitutional Court annulled the law that governed the elections of the People’s Assembly — the lower house of Parliament — on the grounds that it was unconstitutional for political parties to field candidates for seats that were designated for independents. This same law was in effect for the Shura Council elections.■
Three Iraqi Kurds were arrested on Monday by military forces in Mansoura while filming military vehicles and secure areas. According to a military source, the commander of the Second Field Army referred Zad Abdel Halim
Mohamed, 25, Siwa Mohamad Hama, 23, and Kurda Abdul Aziz Mahmoud, 25, to the military prosecutor for investigation. The Mansoura police department filed a report against them.■
An inch from death
Ahmed Abdel Zaher
An association of Egyptian workers in Italy commissioned a law firm on Monday to defend 70 workers who were fired without prior notification, according to reports sent to Ahmed Abdel Zaher, head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation. The leader of the Egyptian workers association in Italy, Eissa Iskandar, said the protesting workers had been sacked without prior notification and did not receive the financial compensation owed to them. Secretary General of the World Federation of Trade Unions George Mavrikos, who also heads Italy’s trade union federation, urged immediate intervention to solve the problem of the workers, who have ended a five-day sit-in.■
Dr. Kamel Diab
Publisher Sherif Wadood
Chief Editor Mohamed Salmawy
Editorial Team Lina Attalah Max Strasser Mohamed Elmeshad Lindsay Carroll Ahmed Zaki Osman Mostafa Abdelrazek Dina K. Hussein Louise Sarant Mai El Wakil Nevine El Shabrawy Ben Parisi
Design & Layout Hatem Mahmoud Fathy Ibrahim
Hand it over The United States urged Egypt’s military on Monday to move swiftly on plans to transfer full power to an elected civilian government and suggested failure to do so would prompt a review of US ties, which includes billions of dollars in military and civilian aid. Both the State Department and the Pentagon — which oversees the close military links between the two countries — voiced concerns over moves by Egypt’s generals to tighten their grip on power despite a presidential vote aimed at sealing the country’s democratic future. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Egypt was at a critical juncture and the United States was “concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power.”■
Death on the border
21 June 2012
Hosni Mubarak transferred to prison
Ousted President Hosni Mubarak was transferred on Tuesday night from Tora Prison Hospital to Maadi Military Hospital in South Cairo following a stroke. The same night, the state-run news agency MENA reported that Mubarak was clinically dead on arrival to the hospital, before the news was officially denied. Farid al-Deeb, Mubarak’s
attorney, lauded the military leadership for transferring Mubarak to the military hospital. Since Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison on 2 June for failing to prevent the deaths of protesters during the 18-day uprising that resulted in his ouster, he has suffered from high blood pressure, respiratory problems and deep depression.■
Ahmad Fahmy Hatem Ismael
Cover Photos Virginie Nguyen
Commercial Manager Assem Elbassal
Marketing Manager Yasmine El Gharably
Distribution & Printing Manager
None of the above Five political parties announced Sunday that they would form a new bloc named the “Third Current” to stand against the “tyranny” of the Muslim Brotherhood and attempts to reproduce the former regime. The founders of the bloc included the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Free Egyptians Party, the Karama Party, and the Democratic Front
Party. In a statement, the parties described the results of the presidential elections as “disappointing.” The move came against the background of the runoff presidential elections, in which Mohamed Morsy, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, was expected to defeat former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.■
Constituent Assembly gets a head Hossam al-Gheriany, head of both the Supreme Judicial Council and the Court of Cassation, won the presidency of the Constituent Assembly on Monday. Gheriany was nominated to the position during the assembly’s first meeting, presided over by Hassan al-Shafie, representative of Al-Azhar and the eldest of the assembly members. “You have chosen me and I hope you do not regret your choice,” Gheriany said to the assembly after his appointment. “I miss the faces in the assembly composition who are not in attendance. I hope they do not refuse to be here. This is the time to serve the country, and this is not the time for procrastination in serving the nation,” he continued.■
Nabil Mostafa www.egyptindependent.com 11 Gamal Eddin Abou el-Mahassen, Garden City Cairo - Egypt
Tel: +20 (2) 27926440 Fax: +20 (2) 27926332 For subscription and ads: Call our hotline 16533 email@example.com Corporate subscriptions and ads:
Ali El Maraghy +201116110697
21 June 2012
The generals make ultimate power-play with more clauses As millions of Egyptians were glued to their television screens watching votes in the presidential runoff be counted, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a new decree broadening their jurisdiction, potentially giving them the upper hand over Egypt’s first constitution after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and reinforcing assumptions about a full-fledged soft military coup. On Sunday night, a new issue of the Official Gazette was published with a set of amendments that the SCAF had introduced to the interim constitution, known as the Constitutional Declaration. These modifications grant the generals, Egypt’s de-facto rulers, absolute authority to run the affairs of the armed forces independently from the new president, who is expected to be sworn in by 30 June. In the meantime, the elected president can only decide to go to war with SCAF’s approval, according to the decree labeled “the Complementary Constitutional Declaration.” With SCAF’s approval, the president can also call on the armed forces to uphold the rule of law and security operations in the country alongside the police, if need be. The new decree also returns legislative powers to the generals, after last week’s verdict by the Supreme Constitutional Court effectively dissolved the People’s Assembly. The new decree is expected to widen the divide between the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood. “This is an attempt to militarize the state and the political life and hamper the peaceful handover of power to civilians,” said Hatem Abdel Azim, a former lawmaker in the dissolved Parliament representing the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. Abdel Azim’s party, which stood as the largest bloc in the dissolved Parliament, still refuses to acknowledge the court verdict and insists that the Parliament could only be dissolved by a public referendum. The group holds that the generals have no right to reclaim legislative powers, which they held until January when the dissolved People’s Assembly was sworn in. “The SCAF infringement on legislative powers is not acceptable and this constitutional declaration is not acceptable,” Abdel Azim told Egypt Independent. The new Constitutional Declaration is more of “a preemptive measure” to tighten the grip of the generals if the presidential race fails to bring to power a candidate who belongs to the military establishment, said Abdel Azim. “They must have realized that [Mohamed] Morsy will win the presidential race,” added Abdel Azim. According to preliminary results, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsy has defeated his competitor Ahmed Shafiq, a former commander of Egypt’s air force and Mubarak’s last prime minister, by garnering almost 52 percent of the votes. But as of press time, final results have not been officially announced yet. “SCAF puts itself in an authority higher than the president, and that is not heard of in any democratic system,” he added. Besides the dissolution of the Parliament, suspicions that a military coup was underway were aroused by a recent government decision granting Military Police and Military Intelligence personnel wider authorities to arrest civilians. Many observers expected that Shafiq’s ascent to power would be the last episode of the generals’ reclaim of power. However, the count proved otherwise. “Morsy’s victory, [that of] the revolution candidate, may change the balance of power and weaken the SCAF’s ability to proceed with the coup,” held Abdel Azim. However, the new decree may assure the military junta more structural gains than just the presidency. Sunday’s declaration tightens the generals’ grip over the first post-Mubarak constitution. After months of Islamist-secular
By Noha El-Hennawy
SCAF members Mohamed al-Assar and Mamdouh Shaheen
feuds over the makeup of the Constituent Assembly tasked with writing the Constitution, the SCAF’s decree gives it the right to potentially appoint its own assembly if the current one fails to complete its mandate. Earlier this month, the dissolved Parliament elected a 100-member assembly amid allegations from secular forces that Islamists had secured themselves the lion’s share of seats. A lawsuit was filed with an administrative court to knock down the assembly, reviving memories of a similar case that effectively dissolved the first Islamist-dominated assembly in April on grounds of unconstitutionality. Some legal experts hold that the second assembly may face the same fate as the first one. Yet having the military decide who will write the constitution is not welcomed by many. “Any democrat or liberal cannot support the idea that the Constituent Assembly falls in the hand of the rulers especially if these rulers come from the military,” said Ayman al-Sayyad, editor in chief of the monthly political magazine Weghat Nazar. Sayyad contended that the constitution should be drafted by an elected body. “The rule is that elections are more democratic than appointments,” he added. Under the decree, the generals, the president, the prime minister, the Supreme Judicial Council, or one-fifth of the Constituent Assembly have the right to contest any clause issued by the constitution’s architects if “it is in opposition to the goals of the revolution or its basic principles ... or the common principles of Egypt’s past constitutions.” In this case, the assembly would have to revisit the contested clause or clauses within 15 days, and if contention holds, the Supreme Constitutional Court should have the final word. “This is a huge flaw in the constitutional declaration,” said Sayyad about granting the court the right to rule over contentious clauses in the would-be constitution. “The Supreme Constitutional Court is in charge of determining the compatibility of laws with the constitution but in that case what constitution would it base its decisions on? There is no constitution.” The court’s verdicts last week that dissolved the Parliament and upheld Shafiq’s bid for president have raised skepticism that the court might be collaborating with the gener-
The Supreme Constitutional Court is in charge of determining the compatibility of laws with the constitution but in that case what constitution would it base its decisions on? There is no constitution als. If true, Egypt might be headed towards the Turkish model, where a tacit agreement between the court and the military allowed the latter to further their political and ideological interests by using the law against its adversaries. Sayyad agreed with this reading. The empowerment of the SCC comes in light of attempts “to reproduce that model with all its details,” he said. On a few occasions, SCAF members have unveiled their flirtation with how the Turkish model regulates civil military relations. “The reproduction of the Turkish model of Ataturk is very clear in all SCAF behaviors since March 2011,” said Sayyad. “It is a model where the military establishment will have a higher position than all branches of government.” Several other pundits have also held that Egypt’s military junta is attempting to mimic the Turkish model of the past when the generals had wide powers, rather than the current one, where elected civilians had managed to trim the wings of the military establishment. Sayyad also dismissed the clause requiring the court to decide whether a constitutional article is in accordance with “the goals of the revolution or its basic principles or the common principles of Egypt’s past constitutions” for its “vague” and “insignificant” wording. “What past constitutions does it mean?” he wondered. “We had a constitution that said Egypt is a monarchy, another that said Egypt is part of the Ottoman Empire and another
SCAF puts itself in an authority higher than the president, and that is not heard of in any democratic system
that said Egypt is a socialist state.” The new decree also modified an old clause stipulating that the president shall be swornin before the Parliament. In light of the verdict nullifying Parliament, Mubarak’s first elected successor will take the oath before the constitutional court. Tahani al-Gebali, a vice president on the court, responded to the Muslim Brothers’ claims that the military has no right to issue any new constitutional declaration. “The actual power is still in the hands of SCAF. The SCAF still holds the right to issue constitutional declarations. No party or organization has the right to refuse that,” she said. She defended the new text, arguing, “it had filled a number of loopholes related to the relations between different branches of government until the new constitution is issued.” Gebali denied that the decree infringes on the president’s authorities vis-à-vis the armed forces. “The SCAF has maintained its right to run the armed forces until a new constitution is laid out. This is a matter of national security,” she said. “The president should not have power over the armed forces but to act as a partner with the SCAF [over military-related matters],” Gebali added. On Monday, SCAF revived the National Defense Council, which according to the March Constitutional Declaration, is a civilian-military formation that looks at issues of national security. According to the Official Gazette on 14 June, the council would be made up of 16 members, ten of who would reportedly be SCAF members. Its decisions are passed by absolute majority. The Complementary Constitutional Declaration did not challenge most of president’s executive powers, laid out in the 2011 Constitutional Declaration, such as his right to appoint a cabinet or relieve it of its duties, represent the state domestically and abroad, sign international treaties and agreements, promulgate and veto laws, accredit foreign political representatives and pardon or reduce punishment. Regarding the requirement of the council’s approval before a declaration of war, Gebali said the decision to wage war should not only rest with the president. Finally, Gebali hailed the stipulation that the Supreme Constitutional Court shall resolve differences over the new constitution as a “positive” step that many “advanced countries” had implemented, listing Germany and South Africa. “A lot of countries provide their [high courts] the right to revise a new constitution or a constitutional amendment to ensure the organic consistency of the constitution,” she said.■
21 June 2012
Stability in question Restoring order will be a massive challenge for the next president By Heba Afify
We want order, but not the old one Since the police withdrawal on 28 January 2011, security has never been completely restored and criminal activity has increased dramatically. The political upheaval has also spawned economic hardships across the board. The revolution is often blamed for the mess. Despite the insecurity, ideas of stability are changing; the revolution demonstrated to many that the order and safety they want doesn’t necessarily equate to a Mubarak-style security state. “We had stability before, but we weren’t living, we want the country to evolve, we don’t
Morsy will have to struggle with a hostile security apparatus, which won’t succumb to his command easily as it is still loyal to the old regime
omemaker Mona Hamed was maybe a bit too hopeful as she took to the polls on Saturday. Like many, Hamed hoped that the president she’s electing would end the confusion that has reigned since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and would immediately create a better postrevolution Egypt. “We want stability, we want to be a normal state, like the ones we see in Europe and advanced countries,” says Hamed, after she cast a vote for Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq. But with the troubled road to electing a president may not necessarily have a happy ending, experts say.
Street fighting, unrest and crime persist throughout the political transition
want to have fears,” says Khaled al-Shahat, a driver. The Mubarak regime’s legacy is one of prioritizing its security apparatus and mobilizing public discourse around the administration’s success in guaranteeing stability. Safwat al-Aleem, a political media professor at Cairo University, says that Mubarak gained the image of state protector as a result of his long tenure, during which people grew accustomed to depending on and trusting him to maintain security.
Aleem says that Mubarak used the media to amplify the importance of each of his actions, creating an illusion that he, singlehandedly, held the country together. He also frequently exaggerated the threats facing the country, warning of the growth of terrorist powers in the region and portraying Egypt as the target of conspiracies. “Stability starts to be used as a justification to stay in power,” Aleem says. A study released by the International Center for Future and Strategic Studies in March revealed that Mubarak’s police apparatus costs Egypt US$14 billion dollars annually, constituting 1.2 percent of Egypt’s income, and an additional $5.9 billion in losses caused by security failures. According to the study, Egypt spends more than six times as much as the United States on its police when compared to national income. Illusions of security “The misleading media and a deliberate security void put the people in a position where they are hanging on to the hope that the election will solve the situation,” says Ashraf El Sherif, political science professor at the American University in Cairo. But Sherif argues that the transitional period, which many hope will end with the election of a president, hasn’t even started. “We are still in the Ahmed Shafiq old regime, which is trying to regenerate itself,” Sherif says. When the SCAF came to power in February 2011 following Mubarak’s ouster, it announced that it would hand over power within six months and leave the country with an elected president, parliament and a new constitution. More than a year after, the SCAF reclaimed legislative power after Parliament was dissolved, and took control over the constitution-writing process. The move raised ire within the Brotherhood, which found itself losing the Parliament, as well as influence over the constitution. “Due to the mistrust between the political powers in Egypt, I don’t think there could be stability soon,” says Mostafa Kamel ElSayed, political science professor at Cairo University. With the military maintaining an upper hand in politics and given its ongoing conflict with the Brotherhood, a Morsy win, which preliminary results support, does not hold
much promise for long-awaited stability. Sherif adds that Morsy will also have to struggle with a hostile security apparatus, which won’t succumb to his command easily as it is still loyal to the Mubarak regime. Without that support, restoring order will be all the more challenging. As for Shafiq, a candidate with strong ties to state institutions, his victory is not automatically conducive to the reestablishment of stability. Sherif says that while a Shafiq victory would make the ruling powers more homogeneous, it would provoke public anger. While he might provide a sense of security, Sherif says that Shafiq will not carry out the necessary structural changes needed in the security apparatus to enable it to function effectively without resorting to oppressive measures. Neither a Morsy nor a Shafiq victory change the strengthened position that the SCAF has earned itself for the country’s political future. “Believing that the SCAF will hand over power is delusional. Mohamed Morsy They issued a constitutional declaration to legalize taking over legislative powers. This proves that power is snatched and not transferred by election after a revolution,” says Ahmed Ezzat, a human rights lawyer and member of the Revolutionary Socialists group. Accordingly, he says that the revolutionary forces have to unite, reject the power structure being formed now and present themselves as an alternative to this regime, rather than an opposition force. t, however, believes that revolutionaries will have trouble mobilizing for street action now that the general population values stability over change. “The situation on 25 January 2011 differs from the situation today, people were looking to change the regime, now they want security and stability and there’s now animosity towards the revolution,” says Kamel. Yet, it is this fabricated sense of stability that the revolutionaries should unpack, according to Ezzat who believes that the SCAF is using people’s hunger for security to remain in power. “The SCAF wants stability under its rule or no stability at all. This is oppression that we shouldn’t tolerate,” he says, “we have to convince people that the current authority is the reason for instability and not the revolution.”■
21 June 2012
Now the hard part If he rises to the presidency, Morsy may find the position answerable to another group If the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy is officially announced victorious on Thursday, his name will go down in history as Egypt’s first civilian president elected democratically. However, his potential presidential mandate is surrounded by much uncertainty. The 61-year-old Islamist leader, widely known for his incontestable loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood, is expected to be torn between a military junta reluctant to concede full power to him, as a president from outside the barracks, and a mother organization with its own agenda. At press time, the official results had not yet been announced, but preliminary results showed that Morsy had garnered roughly 51 percent of the nearly 25 million votes, defeating Ahmed Shafiq, ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and a former commander of Egypt’s air force. “A dark future awaits Morsy as president,” contended Magdy Saad, a 34-year-old member of the Muslim Brotherhood. “He will have either to surrender completely to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which means he will be committing political suicide, or resist.” Like many observers, Saad believes that the security apparatus, the military, and the bureaucracy, widely labeled as “the deep state,” will conspire to derail Morsy’s presidency and convince the masses that he is responsible for their unsolved daily problems. “We will face daily shortages in basic commodities such as fuel and food supplies. Eventually, people will take to the streets against Morsy,” added Saad, who froze his activities within the group due to his disenchantment with its politics since the revolution. Morsy’s victory comes in the midst of glaring attempts by the generals to tighten their grip on power at the expense of civilian forces, namely the Muslim Brotherhood, the nation’s most powerful political group. Last week, the Brotherhood-SCAF tension heightened following the Supreme Constitutional Court’s verdict that dissolved the Islamist-dominated Parliament. Three days later, the SCAF issued a new decree that returned legislative powers to the military and denies the newly-elected president any right to interfere in military matters. Additionally, the decree, known as the Complementary Constitutional Declaration, gave the generals the right to appoint a new Constituent Assembly, if the existing one fails to perform its duties. This clause challenges the Islamist-dominated assembly that Parliament had elected shortly before its dissolution. The Brothers had voiced their opposition to both the verdict and the military decree and warned that a military coup was underway. On Tuesday, they called for a millionman march in Tahrir Square to protest the generals’ recent decisions. “Morsy stands between a rock and a hard place. He is squeezed between the SCAF that has already constrained his will with the [Complementary Constitutional Declaration] and the Muslim Brotherhood, which insists on acting independently [from other civilian forces],” argued Saad, one of the group’s critical young voices. Since Mubarak’s ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood has been vehemently criticized for acting unilaterally and antagonizing other political groups. Secular and revolutionary forces were long under the impression that the Brothers had already struck a powersharing deal with the SCAF, which prevented them from taking confrontational positions
Ahmed El Masry
By Noha El-Hennawy
The ties that may have gotten Mohamed Morsy to power could hurt him in office
He will have either to surrender completely to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which means he will be committing political suicide, or resist on military brutalities against protesters. Later on, the Brothers’ insistence on filling the majority of the Constituent Assembly’s seats alongside Salafi political parties alienated secular parties further and aroused fears that the group seeks to write a constitution that secures an Islamist hegemony over politics. The generals have capitalized on the secular-Islamist divide to interfere in laying out further phases of the transitional period. Meanwhile, the group’s credibility was shaken after it went back on initial pledges to compete over no more than a third of parliamentary seats and not to seek the presidency. All these assurances that the group would not take over the state were reversed when it decided to run for more than half of the legislative seats and to nominate a candidate for the presidency. Such policies, coupled with Islamist parliamentarians’ inability to address people’s daily concerns, are believed to have affected the group’s popularity in a few short months. In the first round of the presidential race, the group garnered nearly 25 percent of the votes, versus more than 40 percent during the parliamentary elections. For Saad, Morsy might have a better chance standing up to the generals if he builds a large coalition with all political forces and grooms himself as a leader of “all Egyptians.” He needs to “substitute the Egyptian people with the Muslim Brotherhood and to in-
clude political leaders from different groups in his inner circles.” “Morsy’s popular support should not be dependent on orders handed down by Muslim Brotherhood leaders to their followers so that they take to the streets. But all the [12.8 million] people who voted for him should take to the streets. At the end of the day, the actual size of the Muslim Brotherhood’s organization does not exceed 150,000 members,” argued Saad. In the lead up to the runoff, Morsy promised to resign from his post as president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and affirmed that he would be loyal to the Egyptian people rather than just the Brothers if he ascends to the nation’s highest executive post. But Ashraf El Sherif, an American University in Cairo political scientist and expert on the group, said Morsy would not distance himself from the Brothers. “Morsy would not consider himself independent from the organization,” said Sherif. “All his life, Morsy has been very loyal to the group. He also lacks the imagination to take the initiative or act independently.” Shater’s protégé Morsy was born in 1951 in the Delta province of Sharqiya. He studied engineering at Cairo University before he went to the University of Southern California to pursue a doctorate. According to his resumé, posted on a Muslim Brotherhood website, Morsy worked as
Morsy’s legacy does not emanate from many years of imprisonment or decades of sacrifice to the long-persecuted organization
assistant professor at California State University, Northridge in the early 1980s. He returned to Egypt in the mid-1980s to teach at Zagazig University’s Faculty of Engineering. Unlike many leading Brothers, Morsy’s legacy does not emanate from many years of imprisonment or decades of sacrifice to the long-persecuted organization. His name began to echo within the Muslim Brotherhood only in the early 2000s after his victory in parliamentary elections. Since then, his ascent has been related to his ties with influential Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater. For many insiders, Morsy’s complacent nature and unquestionable commitment to the group’s internal discipline and order gained him Shater’s support. “For Shater, being trustworthy and obedient is the most important thing,” said Abdel Rahman Ayyash, a former Brother. Shater, who always preferred to remain backstage, empowered Morsy and pushed him to the organization’s forefront. With Shater’s blessing, Morsy eventually seized the group’s most crucial portfolios, including the political and media divisions. In April 2011, the Brotherhood’s Shura Council, the group’s top decision-making body, chose Morsy as president of the Freedom and Justice Party. At that point, he resigned from the Guidance Bureau in an attempt to prove the party’s autonomy. “Shater always prefers to entrust people who are close to him with crucial positions and this is why Morsy is president of [the Muslim Brotherhood’s] party,” added Ayyash. In April, the Muslim Brotherhood decided to nominate him for president as a back-up candidate to Shater, who was later disqualified for his unresolved criminal record. Since then, Morsy has been the subject of ruthless political jokes that dismissed him as “the spare-tire” nominee. Yet, the mockery did not discourage him from continuing the race. The new president is expected to take the oath of office by 30 June.■
21 June 2012
Taking stock of a less-than-ideal transition
By Lina Attalah At the end of the first day of voting in the presidential election runoff between Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Egypt Independent met with a group of nine young activists to take stock of the revolution. Recent developments, in particular the blatant and aggressive power grabs of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), have been less than kind to those who have for the past 17 months demanded revolutionary change to the state and its institutions. But when asked if they thought the 25 January revolution’s chances of success were lost, only two of the nine replied affirmatively. The rest were sanguine, with their eyes fixed on the long term. What is happening now is the normal course for a revolution negotiating with the past, they said. And there is still much work ahead in the future. In recent weeks, court rulings, executive decrees and constitutional mechanisms have helped SCAF tighten its grip on power and, consequently, shrink the little space left for revolutionaries. The generals today hold the power of the legislature after Parliament was dissolved on 14 June. They also may be able to unilaterally appoint the authors of the next constitution. Meanwhile, a Ministry of Justice decree gives the army the right to arrest any civilians threatening public order — a move that seems aimed squarely at anyone opposing their power. The SCAF’s primary adversary these days is the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that played an important role in the 18 days of protests but has since alienated other revolutionaries by focusing on its own immediate political interests. A runoff between a pro-military Ahmed Shafiq and the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy has confirmed how the revolution is cornered between two of the most deeply entrenched institutions in
Egypt, or, as some revolutionaries have more vehemently put it, between the plague and cholera. “This is the normal development of a vanguard revolution. It will have to spend its time dealing with the forces of the past,” said Mohamed Qamhawy, a student in the Faculty of Engineering and an activist with the Social Democratic Party. “They are the past. We are the future.” The grassroots Asmaa Nour, a young activist from the working-class neighborhood of Matareya, is one of the two activists who believed the revolution has failed. “It’s great that we’re a vanguardist lot, but we failed to reach the street. We have to face it. The street is against us.” Nour’s opinion is not just based on theory. She is also a member of the Social Democratic Party, which formed after the uprising and attracted hundreds of young members, many of whom were brand new to politics. Through her late father, a Salafi sheikh, Nour learned how Islamist groups worked at a grassroots level, conducting charity work and targeting recruits. “Once you’re targeted, you’re totally absorbed and isolated from society in a military fashion,” she said. Nour has helped her party gain access to her conservative, workingclass neighborhood by organizing caravans providing medical treatment. For Nour, and other activists, the purpose of the medical caravans is to help with healthcare, while also
It’s great that we’re a vanguardist lot, but we failed to reach the street. We have to face it. The street is against us
talking about the right to it that has been neglected. “It’s about politicizing development, understanding that the political process is about bringing about one’s needs,” says Suzy Balaban, a publisher who takes part in the medical caravans. But this battle takes place over time. Balaban, Nour and others don’t feel that they have yet made a difference through the medical caravan project, which they have been running for a year. Islam Amin, a film director, did feel a difference. “I realized that we’re the ones who are in need of these caravans,” he said. The experience helped him break a lot of stereotypes and pre-conceived classifications of people. “It’s through this kind of work that I started understanding our differences and the need to uphold them, as opposed to falling into the empty rhetoric of unity.” Mohamed Qasim, one of the administrators of the We Are All Khaled Saeed Facebook page, famous for its mobilizing power before and during the revolution, says that there’s something interesting in the political lucidity displayed by people nowadays. “When I was praying at the mosque [in Matareya] a few days ago, the sheikh started promoting Morsy. People rose angrily and asked him to stop mixing religion with politics. I was pleasantly surprised. These are important details.” Similarly, Akram Ismail, an engineer and member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, revels in talking about how revolutionaries need to be attentive to the voices of the people, whose discourse, electoral choices and overall ambitions are evolving simultaneously with the political elites’. Accordingly for Ismail, the 800,000 people who voted for revolutionary parties in Parliament and the 9.4 million people who voted for presidential candidates close to the revolution need to be understood as an electoral bloc and capitalized upon. “We have to think of horizontal
models of organizing, think of Tahrir as a philosophy, an inspiration for human organizing, beyond its immediate political function, and take it from there,” said Mohamed Saif, a member of the Social Democratic Party, thinking of the need to create successful models, from economic cooperatives to political parties. Amin bets on municipal elections, as a way for the revolution to inhabit the state and move from the “national” to the “local” in politics. Saif sees the imminent death of top-down models of governance for Egyptians. “The state has no rent to buy people’s allegiance,” he says, adding, “The populist opposition model is not responding to actual needs either.” The military’s main opponent, the Brotherhood, is “doomed to fail,” said Ismail. “They are fighting with the military with the same tools and on the same grounds of the 1952 military regime,” said Ismail. Many talk about Egypt’s revolution as one that seeks to upturn the post-colonial military regime that has traded people’s freedoms for the security of the state since 1952. The elites Many consider self-critique the key to moving out of the current impasse. The most powerful political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, claim they are willing to critique themselves when necessary. “The movement has been historically conducting self-critique,” said Ali Khafagy, a youth leader in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
Every time civil forces called for the dismantlement of the institutions of the old regime, they offered no alternatives
Though Khafagy doesn’t like to talk publicly about where the party went wrong, the Brotherhood “has the right to protect itself by having these conversations internally.” “What is for sure the case is that all voices are heard and democracy is our practice,” he said. Kharfagy admitted that the Brotherhood has made mistakes over the past year, including the first formation of the Constituent Assembly, which was dissolved through a court ruling after being criticized for its Islamist control. He also said that the Brotherhood’s earlier decision not to contest the presidential elections, which it later reversed, was a mistake. Morsy gave the same two examples in a recent television interview. As for the secular forces, the few political elites who are conducting self-critique talk about how frantic they were about undoing the past without having a clear vision for the future. “Our first mistake was to pressure for the abrogation of the 1971 Constitution, without having a real alternative,” said Amr el-Shobaki, a political scientist and a former independent liberal MP in the dissolved Parliament. The replacement of the 1971 Constitution was a Constitutional Declaration issued by SCAF, which has paved the way for the current transition, dubbed troubled and bumpy by everyone. “Every time civil forces called for the dismantlement of the institutions and mechanisms of the old regime, they offered no alternatives. It’s in this void that the Islamist forces thrived,” he said. “It is not a matter of antagonizing state institutions or exacting vengeance from them. It’s a matter of reforming them in order to salvage the state.” Salvaging the state means different things for different people across the spectrum, from Islamists to leftists, reformists to revolutionaries, and others. But as much as the current moment is perceived as an impasse for many, it is also a moment for reflection, regrouping and revision.■
21 June 2012
All politics is local In the Delta, both candidates try to tap the home-field advantage By Rana Khazbak
Fouad El Garnousy
The Shafiq campaign took advantage of his party’s long held ties to Sharqiya families
didate of God and the revolution,” said Mahdi Akef, the former Brotherhood Supreme Guide, at a campaign event two days before the elections. At a press conference following the first round of elections, Essam al-Erian, deputy FJP head, declared that his party is implementing a plan that “achieves the revolution’s goals and puts a roadblock in front of whoever wants to steal the revolution,” referring to Shafiq. This revolutionary rhetoric, however, was at odds with voter sentiment in Sharqiya, where many wanted to see stability and security, not an unpredictable experiment with a new type of governance. Even the FJP realized this. “We didn’t dare mention the revolution in campaigning or else it would have back fired,” said Mohamed Sabry, a campaign leader for Morsy and a longtime Muslim Brother. It may have been Shafiq’s affiliation with the old regime that helped him secure his victory. The campaign mobilized networks that Mubarak’s party employed to drum up support for the regime’s candidates in the past, in addition to picking on the Parliament’s pitfalls to tarnish the Brotherhood and Morsy’s reputation. As he sat in Shafiq’s campaign headquarters in the
The loud voice of protesters took control, and Egypt can’t be ruled from Tahrir Square
Fouad El Garnousy
HARQIYA — Ali al-Gammal spent the first day of the presidential election runoff standing outside the gates of the Qotayfet Mubasher polling station in candidate Ahmed Shafiq’s ancestral village in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya surrounded by a group of men working to mobilize voters. “We are Shafiq’s family. He is our son, and many heads of families here spend from their own pockets on campaigning,” said Gammal, a teacher who used to be the secretary of the ruling National Democratic Party in the village, while holding two cellphones, ringing non-stop. Fourteen kilometers away in Zagazig, Sharqiya’s capital, Mohamed Morsy stood in line under a baking hot sun waiting for his turn to vote. He was mobbed by dozens of supporters, bringing the whole station to a standstill as people jostled for their moment with the candidate. “The revolution continues,” the Muslim Brotherhood candidate said before he cast his ballot. Sharqiya could have been a fierce battleground for the two candidates. Shafiq’s grandfather was mayor of Qotayfet Mubasher, and the former air force commander attended the Air Force Academy in the nearby town of Belbeis. Morsy, who was born and raised in Zagazig, represented the area in Parliament from 2000 to 2005 and taught at the University of Zagazig’s Faculty of Engineering for years. The Nile Delta is traditionally a stronghold for the Muslim Brotherhood. “Sharqiya has been the stage of intense rivalry between forces of the old regime and the Brotherhood throughout the years,” said Mohamed Salah, head of the Constitutional Law Department at Zagazig University. Many Brotherhood members are rooted in every village and district. At the same time, many powerful old regime loyalists come from the Delta province and dominate its parliament seats, he added. But as results were released, it was clear that Shafiq had repeated his victory from the first round in the governorate, winning 55 percent of Sharqiya’s two million votes while Morsy secured only 45 percent. Morsy’s use of revolutionary rhetoric didn’t resonate with a rural population yearning for stability and better economic conditions. Shafiq’s campaign promises of security and stability, however, coupled with the former ruling party’s revitalized patronage networks, helped deliver his win here. The Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary election victory in Sharqiya last January came with minimal competition from old regime stalwarts, who were held back by the impact of the revolution and anti-regime sentiment. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party secured 18 of Sharqiya’s 30 seats, while former NDP members won only seven. Former ruling party MPs mainly ran with the Wafd Party in the recent parliamentary elections. Since then, Freedom and Justice Party’s popularity has declined precipitously and residents blame a variety of factors. Many voters told Egypt Independent that they quickly grew fed up with the Brotherhood-dominated Parliament’s performance over the past five months, saying that MPs failed to deal with people’s day-today problems. “They only help their own people. They make their party and group members their priority,” said Mohamed al-Ayyat, 25. Some accuse the Islamist group of attempting to control all of the state’s institutions. “The Brotherhood, not Shafiq, was aiming to reproduce the old regime,” said Saeed Hosny, whose house in a Sharqiya village is covered by Shafiq posters. He says the Brotherhood dominated Parliament and was attempting to take a majority of seats in the committee writing the constitution, as well as the presidency. Hosny, who lives in Qotayefet Mubasher, voted for the Freedom and Justice Party in the parliamentary elections. “I wanted to try new blood but I regret it now.” While the Brotherhood’s party was able to appeal to a wide swath of Sharqiya voters in the parliamentary elections, support for Morsy shrank to Brotherhood cadres, its sympathizers and those who voted against Shafiq with a revolutionary justification, said Salah. In his battle against Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Morsy’s campaign cast their candidate as the only option for the revolution in opposition to Shafiq, who represents the counter-revolution. “Morsy is the can-
The Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy also had strong support in Sharqiya
We didn’t dare mention the revolution in campaigning or else it would have back fired
town of Ibrahemiyya, Ali Fahmy, the Shafiq campaign’s general coordinator in Sharqiya, commented on how governorate residents felt about the new divisiveness in the country. “Many people feel that the state has lost its prestige,” he said, as he received reports by phone from campaigners across the governorate. “The loud voice of protesters took control, and Egypt can’t be ruled from Tahrir Square.” “Send a car to Tarbeya neighborhood right away. Many voters need transportation to the polling station,” he told a campaigner over the phone. “It’s a very fierce competition, but we are on top of it,” Fahmy said with a broad smile. The wall behind his desk is covered in Shafiq posters. According to Fahmy, the strategies employed by the campaign include appealing to local community leaders, most of whom were appointed by the Interior Ministry, meeting with heads of families and convincing them that Shafiq will protect their interests. The campaign also uses more traditional techniques like cars with megaphones to tour villages and neighborhoods to trumpet Shafiq’s achievements and background. Some believe the state bureaucracy and military establishments are behind Shafiq, due to his military background and strong ties with the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Hussein Tantawi. Shafiq confessed in one TV interview that he asked Tantawi’s opinion before running in elections. One special aspect that helped Shafiq in elections has been his promise to legalize the currently illegal encroachments on agricultural land that have been widespread in the mostly agricultural Sharqiya since the eruption of the revolution, added Salah. On the other hand, Morsy’s campaign followed the typical Brotherhood campaign strategy that depends on its members’ personal relationships in districts and villages across the governorate. “We mainly used door-to-door campaigning and met with voters on a personal basis,” said Sabry outside a polling station in the village of Manshiyet al-Tahrir. Personal networks were important to the fight against negative campaigning by Shafiq’s supporters, who spread rumors about the Brotherhood and its candidate, he added. Rumors circulated among Sharqiya residents that Morsy has epilepsy and a dual nationality, among many others. However, the fact that Morsy was born in Sharqiya, and residents’ previous knowledge of the candidate, helped refute these rumors, said Sabry. “Morsy visited most villages and neighborhoods in Sharqiya. He personally met and shook hands with many people.”■
Greek NDP wins The conservative, pro-bailout, proEuropean Union New Democracy Party came in first place in Greek parliamentary elections on Sunday, winning enough seats to attempt to form a coalition government. New Democracy will likely form a government with PASOK, a social democratic party, which came in third. The far-left SYRIZA Party came in second place with 26.9 percent of the vote. The central question in the election was whether Greece should continue with the punishing austerity measures required in order to stay in the European Union. Greece accepted a multi-billion-euro bailout package earlier this year to deal with a fiscal crisis. Failure to adjust government policies to repay the loan could lead to Greece’s exit from the 17-country currency. Markets reacted positively to the conservative party’s victory.■
Kurdish flare-up Eighteen rebels and eight Turkish soldiers were killed after Kurdish rebels attacked Turkish military units with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades in southeastern Turkey on Tuesday. The attack drew strong condemnation from Turkey’s leader. Another 16 soldiers were wounded in a separate attack near the border with Iraq, Turkish officials said. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was determined to press ahead with the fight against the Kurdish rebels until the end. “Sooner or later, we will succeed,” Erdogan said.■
UN gives up on Syria
No deal on Iran
21 June 2012
UN observers pull out of Syria as the death toll continues to mount United Nations observers tasked with ceasefire that was supposed to take effect monitoring the violence in Syria suspendon 12 April. The UN’s departure is seen ed their activities on Saturday because as a major blow to the international peace of escalating violence. Major General plan for Syria, which has seen bloody Robert Mood said rising bloodshed posed confrontations between anti-government significant risks to the lives of the 300-odd forces and armed forces and militias observers. The observers were sent to the defending President Bashar Al-Assad’s country after international envoy Kofi Anrule. Both sides were accused of violating nan brokered a peace plan that included a the ceasefire.■
Khartoum has seen several days of protests after the government announced plans to impose austerity measures to deal with a supposed economic crisis. Sudan has faced a budget gap, a depreciating currency and high inflation since South Sudan split away a year ago, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil production — previously the main source of exports and state revenue. On Tuesday, more than 100 demonstrators
blocked a street in Khartoum and scuffled with police, chanting “No, no to inflation,” and, “The people want to overthrow the regime.” Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, eyewitnesses said. Activists said small protests broke out at two university campuses on Tuesday. One of the most contentious issues is a plan to gradually end fuel subsidies, a move many Sudanese fear will stoke even higher inflation, which hit 30 percent in May. ■
World powers and Iran failed to reach an agreement in talks about Tehran’s nuclear program on Tuesday and set no date for more political negotiations. Talks that were held in Moscow included Russia, Iran, and the US. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for 3 July in Istanbul. Iran denies that its nuclear program is for military purposes, but Israel, a regional adversary, has threatened to bomb Iran. “We have begun to tackle critical issues. However, it remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions,” said Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief. Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, said he hoped a date would be set for new political talks after the Istanbul meeting, which will address unspecified technical details.■
Pakistan pulls an Egypt Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ineligible for office on Tuesday, plunging the country into fresh turmoil as it deals with Islamic militancy, a weak economy and a crisis in relations with the United States. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party has a comfortable majority in parliament and will likely replace Gilani quickly. In April, the Supreme Court found Gilani guilty of contempt of court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. “Yousuf Raza Gilani stands disqualified as a member of Parliament,” said the chief justice. “He has also ceased to be the prime minister of Pakistan ... the office of the prime minister stands vacant.” The decision can be appealed.■
21 June 2012
Revolutions bred from poverty
Q&A with Habib Ayeb: Ties between Tunisia and Egypt By Dina K. Hussein
orn in 1954, Tunisian geographer Habib Ayeb grew up in the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Arab nationalism and socialist rhetoric. Born in the Tunisian south, Ayeb’s mountainous village was often threatened by drought and water scarcity. Against such a backdrop, Ayeb and his generation rallied around Nasser’s High dam project that laid the ideological ground for the Arab Left. In 1981, Ayeb, like many Tunisian leftists, was harassed by Habib Bourguiba’s dictatorship that barred political activism. He left for France, where he began his doctoral studies on Egypt’s High Dam project and the politics of water in the Nile Basin. Since then, Ayeb has been living between Egypt and France, the former consuming his scholarship. Since January 2011, Ayeb has been a close observer of, and participant in, both Tunisia’s and Egypt’s revolutions. On his most recent visit to Cairo last month, he explained to Egypt Independent why Egyptians should not be fooled into thinking that the Tunisian revolution, unlike the Egyptian, is realizing its goals. Egypt Independent: Talk is common about how Tunisia’s transition is heading in the right direction while Egypt’s revolution is doomed. Do you see commonalities at this point at all? Habib Ayeb: I see similar trajectories and different rhythms. The scene in Egypt now presents two alternatives, the ancient regime, which has its associations with two critical classes, the military class and the urban business bourgeoisie. The second alternative is that of the Islamists, who are no less economically liberal than the former alternative. In Tunisia, we’re getting closer to a similar configuration. Perhaps we have differences on the surface, but beneath is the same. The Islamist Ennahda is one alternative we have and the second surrounds Beji Caid Essebsi, the former prime minister who has just announced the formation of a secularist party that includes the center left as well as figures of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s disbanded Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD). Egypt may have gone down this road quickly, but we’re heading in the same direction. Social and economic demands are forgotten and so are the people who started the revolution. EI: Does this mean that the revolutions were merely motivated by socioeconomic grievances? Ayeb: Let us first set the record straight. The revolutions, whether in Egypt or Tunisia, did not erupt out of nowhere last year. There were revolutionary precursors in Egypt — and Tunisia to a lesser extent — manifested in pockets of workers’ protests and strikes that made last year’s outbursts possible. EI: Then why were the commentators on Arab affairs surprised by what was dubbed “the Arab Spring”? Ayeb: There is a structural problem in how intellectuals and scholars of the Arab world study this region. We, as native scholars, tend to read our own societies through the paradigms produced by Western scholarship. Let me explain; certain interests or problems direct Western scholarship on the region. There is a
Protests in Tunisia during the revolution to oust former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
fixation, for example, on issues related to political Islam that is driven by the problem of Arab migration that the West is grappling with. A related fixation is on the threat of terrorism; therefore, you find that issues of migration, gender and political Islam preoccupy most scholars. Even when the question of development is addressed, it is usually addressed on the macroeconomic level and framed through the colonial legacy that made the third world (ex-colonies) dependent on the core (the colonial centers). Therefore, there was rarely any attempt to localize the scholars’ gazes at the microlevel problems of Arab societies. Processes of impoverishment, marginalization, and rural issues in general are not on the top of the foreign funders’ agenda. Therefore, there is a lack of knowledge of socioeconomic problems and processes on the local level. EI: How then did this influence studies on Arab revolutions? Ayeb: In the case of Tunisia, for example, scholars did not even know where Sidi Bouzid (the site of the first clashes of the Tunisian revolution) is located on the map. Some were quick to call the Tunisian uprising, “The Jasmine Revolution,” not realizing that residents of Sidi Bouzid have probably never seen any jasmine in their lives. They were assuming that all of Tunisia is as charming as the tourist city of Sidi Bou Said — hence the reference to jasmine. What I am trying to say, really, is that the serious absence of research agendas that are derived from local issues and problems left scholars largely unequipped to provide sound analysis of the revolutions. It therefore took time for good studies on the revolution to come to life. EI: Now that enough time has elapsed since the revolutions erupted, how can we compare what happened in Tunisia on 17 December 2010 (when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire) with what happened in Egypt on 25 January 2011? Ayeb: I think the most interesting angle of comparison is to understand what both revolutions tell us about the issue of cross class alliances. In Tunisia, this cross class alliance
was most striking in the period of 17 December to 14 January (when Ben Ali fled the country). After the street vendor, Bouazizi, tragically died through self-immolation, fierce clashes erupted between Bouzid’s residents and Ben Ali’s police force. Images of the police’s brutal crackdown went viral on social media, thus mobilizing the Tunisian public (across the various classes) against the regime. This cross-class alliance, which eventually led to the ouster of Ben Ali, was temporary. EI: And how did this temporality influence the revolutionary path in Tunisia? Ayeb: After Ben Ali fled, the upper and middle classes began acting to safeguard their interests (in the garb of safeguarding the countries’ investment and tourism industry) and thus forgoing the plight of the very poor, such as Bouazizi. This is evident in the wide support for Mohamed Ghannouchi, Ben Ali’s prime minister, in January 2011, and the consequent call for banning all kinds of protests and strikes — which is very similar to what happened in Egypt in fact. The middle classes rallied for the above demands through staging demonstrations on the famous Bourguiba Avenue. In response, Tunisia’s marginalized groups (small farmers, seasonal
workers and the unemployed) occupied the Kasbah, camping outside the cabinet’s headquarters on 22 January 2011. The Kasbah protestors scribbled their anxieties on the walls: “I will not go back to sitting at the café;” “We have had enough.” The demands of the Kasbah protestors revolved around critical socioeconomic issues of housing rights, employment and social welfare. At this same moment, the Tunisian middle class was developing a parallel rhetoric, one not as “radical” as the Kasbah demands, but rather fixated on slow reform, asking for the protests to calm down to prevent the economy from “collapsing.” The middle class feared that the prolongation of the revolution in the fashion of the Kasbah sit-in would threaten their class interests. The events of the Kasbah thus signified the dismantling of the cross-class alliance we addressed above. EI: What course did this crossclass alliance take in Egypt? Ayeb: In Egypt, this cross-class alliance is still ongoing to a certain degree, thanks to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces’ mismanagement of Egypt’s transitional period, which to a great extent continues to mobilize people across the various classes to call for the downfall of military rule. In other words, SCAF did not
Some were quick to call the Tunisian uprising, "The Jasmine Revolution," not realizing that residents of Sidi Bouzid have probably never seen any jasmine in their lives Habib Ayeb
successfully bandwagon with the middle class to end this cross-class alliance. In Tunisia, after the elections of the constituent assembly, led by Ennahda, the middle class were given guarantees that their personal freedoms and political rights (such as freedom of expression, freedom of belief, women’s rights etc.) will not be tampered with. In return, the ruling coalition asked for a six-month societal “truce” or suspension of protests, deferring the fulfillment of parochial demands or socioeconomic grievances of the marginalized until the country “stabilizes.” My real fear is that the Tunisian revolution ends here. EI: And what do you hope will happen in Tunisia? Ayeb: The hope really lies in the steadfastness of the lower classes in reclaiming their revolution through the continual utilization of newfound political rights, such as mobilizing through syndicates and other venues of political participation. If we were to be optimistic, this might eventually lead to a new social welfare agreement that imposes regulations on capital accumulation, in order to improve the livelihood of the poor. EI: What about Egypt? Ayeb: The challenge in Egypt, like Tunisia, lies in whether the left-leaning groups and organizations will be able to connect with the marginalized. The real challenge that will be facing Egypt’s rulers very soon is not how to deal with the military establishment or the middle class’ demands for political rights. The real challenge is how the decision makers will deal with the poor. Those ruling Egypt will soon realize the necessity of finding ways to provide safety nets to alleviate poverty — indeed a daunting task. Eighty percent of Tunisian and Egyptian farmers are poor. How can the state deal with this problem, given that free market policies and fostering investment will not alleviate poverty? Poverty alleviation has to be the priority of the Egyptian and Tunisian decision makers and activists, if the revolutions are to really succeed. Until then, we cannot really say that Tunisia succeeded, while Egypt failed.■
21 June 2012
All excuses, no gas
Something is fishy with the petroleum authority By Maggie Hyde
Drivers queue at a Cairo gas station hoping for a taste of petrol “There’s nothing more I can do,” the manager told Egypt Independent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said he could be fired from the multi-national company for speaking to the media. “I ordered the maximum amount of gasoline previously, but it didn’t come,” he said. “And I’ve ordered the maximum amount for tonight’s delivery, but I know it won’t come either.” He said his employees have stopped showing up on days where there is no gas to pump. The manager sometimes sees them watching from afar in the morning, to see if the pumps are working. If they aren’t, they return home. “It’s hard on them, because they earn most of their money through tips,” he said. With no gasoline to distribute, there are no tips. The most recent decline in supply has lasted about four months, the manager said. During this period, the late-night deliveries of the gas he ordered usually arrive as scheduled, but with only a third or quarter of the amount he ordered. When he calls the distribution center, they tell him they’ll take down his order but they can’t guarantee how much actually arrives. He said he’s not sure how much longer the station can remain open if it doesn’t receive consistent deliveries. He also blames the local media for stoking fears of shortages, which only exacerbate the problem, as people horde fuel. The Giza station manager said he had seen customers in the upscale area his station serves wait in line for hours to top of their tanks with just a few liters. “When I ask them why, they don’t tell me, but I know it’s because they think I won’t have gas tomorrow,” he said.
Open, but without petrol On a hot June day, a privately-owned gas station in Giza opened, facing yet another day without any gasoline to sell. The service employees stood idle, only springing into action when a customer came by for a car wash.
Ali El Malky
gypt has been in the grips of an onagain, off-again fuel shortage for over a year now, with massive lines outside gas stations across the country causing headaches for drivers and sometimes even violent confrontations. It is frequently portrayed by the Petroleum Ministry as a passing trouble to be dealt with in a matter of days, but the problem, which many blame on the political unrest of the last year and a half, has much deeper roots than the government’s petroleum authority lets on. The ministry has actively worked to hide the country’s petrol shortage and may even be lying about the amount of gasoline it distributed to avoid blame for the devastating and long-term lack of fuel. In May 2011, reports emerged that Egypt’s service stations were having trouble meeting demand. The city’s microbus drivers, who use diesel fuel, were the first to feel the pinch. The summer season is typically a tight time for petrol supply, due to the gas-guzzling machines used in the cotton harvest. But the shortage, apparent from the long lines at stations throughout the country, was not officially recognized by the government until four months later. In September 2011 then-Deputy Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy told Al-Masry AlYoum that the shortage of gasoline and diesel is “a big problem.” While Beblawy acknowledged the existence of the fuel crisis, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation continued to deny the problem. It insisted that it had supplied adequate quantities of fuel to each governorate. Over the coming year, the country would see at least three more widespread shortages, slowing transportation and raising the prices of other goods and foodstuffs. This summer season, already hectic with election fever, has only seen worse shortages and longer lines, with diesel, the gasoline 80 that is commonly used by taxis, and other fuels all but disappearing from many pumps. The coincidence of the elections with the latest shortage has led to conspiracy theories that the short supply is calculated to scare voters into casting their ballot for former Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who has promised to usher in an era of stability and security. But the shortage seems to be an entirely separate cause for distress. In the Upper Egypt city of Minya, on the first day of the presidential runoff, gas stations had longer lines than polling stations. Indicators show that the fuel crisis is unlikely to be alleviated soon, no matter the result of the elections. The problem goes deeper than politics.
Delivery of gas to many stations throughout Egypt continues to lag
A problem at the source State-run gas stations have also run out of fuel in recent months. But more often they remain open, with long lines, sometimes trailing for kilometers down the road. Many of their managers are tight-lipped on any delivery problems, saying only the headquarters staff is authorized to speak. Egypt’s state-run Petroleum Company is responsible for distributing petrol to state-run stations. On a recent visit to their downtown headquarters, Head of Petrol Distribution Amr Kaak’s office was filled to the brim with petrol station managers who had come to complain that they had not received the amount of petrol they ordered. After an hour’s wait at his office, Kaak told Egypt Independent that he was not allowed to speak on the shortage and all questions should be directed to the ministry branch of the General Petroleum Corporation, which allocates the fuel. Another manager unrelated to fuel distribution said as an aside, “we really only distribute, it’s a problem at the source.” The office of the corporation’s assistant chief of operations Amr Mostafa did not respond to several requests for an interview on the subject. Misinformation from authorities The shortage has been blamed on different factors: thieves who steal the petrol to sell it on the black market, Palestinian smugglers who smuggle it into Gaza, the year’s cotton harvest, and spikes in customer demand. Fingers are pointed in many directions, but it seems that the Petroleum Ministry simply can’t get enough fuel to market.
The shortage has been blamed on different factors: thieves who steal the petrol to sell it on the black market, Palestinian smugglers, the year’s cotton harvest, and spikes in customer demand
What is missing is a root cause of the shortage and accurate information about the actual supply. The ministry has repeatedly denied responsibility for it, saying they are working at full capacity and that other government authorities share responsibility. The Finance Ministry helps pay for Egypt’s gasoline by financing 40 percent of the imports. In June, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation announced that it had received US$200 million from the Finance Ministry to finance imports. Mostafa told AlMasry Al-Youm that the ministry needs $1.3 billion per month to meet import needs. On 31 May, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abouelnaga said the fuel crisis would be resolved in a matter of hours, due to the arrival of 105,000 tons of imported gasoline, to be added to 22,000 tons that have been locally produced. But the statements rang hollow, and seemed simply untrue, to drivers who continued to wait in lines and gas station managers with empty pumps. In early June, Hatem Abdel Azim, a Freedom and Justice Party MP for Fayoum, said he discovered Ministry of Petroleum documents that directly contradicted the ministry’s announcement that it had doubled the amount of gasoline and diesel sent to stations, independent newspaper Al-Shorouk reported. The documents showed the ministry had sent vastly less than it had said. “The Ministry of Petroleum claims it sent to the province 1,694 tons of gasoline 80, while the Directorate of Supply said that it has received only 1,032 tons only,” Abdel Azim said, citing even greater discrepancies with diesel supplies. “The Ministry of Petroleum is still lying, and trying to back-up their lies,” he said. Not that there couldn’t be abundant reasons for explaining the General Petroleum Corporation’s failure to get enough petroleum. A lack in domestic production or refining, as well as dwindling funds and foreign currencies with which to purchase imports, have likely made it more difficult for the ministry to get the necessary gasoline. But whatever the reason, the ministry seems determined that it not be released. It’s clear, the Giza station manager said, that he doesn’t see the big picture. “There are so many factors, it’s impossible for us to know,” he said. “But I’m sure there is something in higher circles that we don’t know about.”■
21 June 2012
Fitch downgrades Egypt’s bonds
Political fears rock markets
The Egyptian stock market fell by 3.42 points on Monday, the day after the runoff election for the country’s next president and the announcement of amendments to the constitutional declaration. The stock exchange lost nearly LE1.6 billion of its market capital within the first minutes of trading based on fears of political unrest in the wake of the Muslim Brotherhood announcing the victory of their candidate, Mohamed Morsy, and the military council’s issue of a supplementary constitutional declaration. The total market capital for shares of listed companies was LE319.7 billion, down from LE332.1 billion when the market last closed. Meanwhile, performance indicators varied. The main market index, the EGX 30 fell nearly 0.9 percent to 4,378.82 points. The broader EGX 100 fell 0.22 percent to 676.12 points. The president of the stock exchange, Mohamed Omran, denied that the market had reacted adversely based on preliminary election results. He said the announcement of the next president would have little effect on the market. “Egypt has been living in uncertainty for the past year and half,” Omran said. “We have to take another path, we now have problems with a budget deficit and liquidity due to government borrowing crowding out private borrowing.” The Egyptian Pound also fell by 2 piasters against the dollar, 13 pisatres against the Euro and 14 piasters against the British pound since the beginning of the week, as of Monday.■
Former MPs denied access after court ruling
delaying the likely implementation of the comprehensive macroeconomic and structural reforms needed to kick start
Treasury bills’ yields spike
Fitch Ratings said it had downgraded Egypt’s long-term foreign currency rating from BB- to B+ with a negative outlook because of increasing uncertainties over the political future of the country. The rating means that the agency sees the country’s currency as likely to further devalue amid political instability. It also downgraded the long-term local currency rating from BB to B+, also with a negative outlook, while affirming the short-term foreign currency rating at B. The downgrade and negative outlooks “reflect increased uncertainties surrounding the political transition following the 14 June ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court to annul parliamentary elections and dissolve parliament,” a statement said. Whatever the outcome, “The political and policymaking process has been complicated,
recovery and ease financing strains,” said Richard Fox, head of Middle East and Africa sovereigns at Fitch.■
Back to the IMF? International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokesperson Gerry Rice said on 15 June that the fund is ready to support Egypt during the transitional period and plans to restart discussions once the presidential election is over. In a press briefing in Washington, Rice described the talks with Egypt over the requested loan as “constructive.” Earlier this year, Egypt requested a US$3.2 billion IMF loan, but the failure to reach a political consensus in Egypt had a negative impact on the negotiations.
Talks between the IMF and Egypt over the loan request began in January but stopped before the presidential election began in May. The IMF halted the process because of concerns about social and political discord over the loan, Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed said in May. The IMF had set political and economic consensus as a condition for the loan in light of the Islamistdominated Parliament’s criticism of Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri’s government.■
Yields on short-term treasury bills have hit record highs in the last month as the government turns increasingly to domestic banks to finance a budget deficit that has widened over the past year. The average yield on 182-day treasury bills rose to 15.359 percent at an auction on Thursday, the highest in at least a decade. After taxes, this translates into an effective yield of around 12 percent. The high yields have spilled over into the interbank market, pushing overnight rates (the interest rates at which banks borrow from one another) to between 10.0 and 10.1 percent in recent weeks. This comes close to the 10.25 percent rate charged by the Central Bank for overnight borrowing and exceeds the 9.75 percent banks can get through the Central Bank’s repurchase system. A spike in domestic borrowing by the government typically precipitates a higher interest rate overall.■
Govt cash for wheat, petrol
The Finance Ministry announced Monday that it had allocated a total of LE7.5 billion for the purchase of local wheat. Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed attributed the large amount, far greater than that paid for domestic wheat in past years, to the Domestic Supply Ministry’s purchase of large amounts of wheat after a large harvest. Saeed also said that the ministry gave another US$100 million to the Ministry of Petroleum to purchase more gasoline to meet the country’s energy needs.■
Short-term solution for liquidity
Arab bank opens its pockets The Arab Monetary Fund said on 17 June it was arranging a US$65 million credit facility for Egypt to help the country trade with other Arab states, as political instability threatens Cairo with a balance of payments crisis. The credit line will be extended through a trade-financing program run by the AMF, central banks and other financial institutions in the region, said the fund, a multilateral lending body with 22 member countries.
Egypt’s balance of payments deficit ballooned to $11 billion in the first nine months of its 2011/2012 fiscal year, more than double a year ago, as capital inflows largely dried up. Farouk al-Oqda, Egypt’s Central Bank governor, said at a meeting of the fund and regional central bank officials in Abu Dhabi on Sunday that the capital and revenues of Egyptian commercial banks were strong. “We are in a better position now,” he said without giving figures.■
Predictions of sluggish growth Egypt’s economic growth will slow to below 2 percent this year, from 2.5 per cent last year, because of political turmoil, Egypt’s Central Bank governor said on 17 June. “We have a revolution,” Farouk al-Oqda told Reuters when asked why growth would slow. He did not elaborate.
Oqda was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of officials from the Arab Monetary Fund and central banks in the region. In April, the International Monetary Fund forecast Egypt’s GDP growth would slow to 1.5 percent in 2012 from 1.8 percent, the figure which it estimated for 2011.■
Egypt’s Central Bank
Egypt’s Central Bank will introduce 28-day repurchase agreements, known as repos, on 10 July, in a move one banker said was designed to add liquidity to a market drained of funds due to soaring interest rates on treasury bills. Repo agreements are shortterm IOUs governments can take out from investors to meet short-term capital needs. The Central Bank of Egypt introduced seven-day repos in March 2011 to manage short-term interest rates after the political and economic unrest that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. It offers the repos to banks once a week at an interest rate of 9.75 percent. “As part of its monetary policy framework, the Central Bank of Egypt has decided to introduce a 28-day repurchasing agreement starting 10 July 2012,” the Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee said in a statement after a meeting on Thursday. It said the 28-day repos would be variable rate tenders with a minimum bid equal to its seven-day repo rate. “They’re trying to ease the market, because in recent weeks liquidity has been tightening,” said the banker, who works in the treasury of a Cairo-based bank.■
21 June 2012
Brothers and generals see alliance cru
29 February At least 33 Muslim Brotherhood leaders escape detention after prison doors are opened on the Friday of Anger, 28 February 2011. Many were arrested on 27 January as a precaution. Essam al-Erian, a member of the group’s Guidance Bureau, was one such figure, and said that he left prison after nearly a day without food or water. Erian, along with many of his peers appeared in Tahrir Square in a triumphant moment for the Brotherhood.
3 and 4 March Former President Hosni Mubarak’s Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq resigns a day ahead of a million-man demonstration called by the Muslim Brotherhood and other forces to protest his government.
19 March Brotherhood-led Islamist forces mobilize supporters to vote “yes” for the militarydesigned Constitutional Declaration, creating a divide as secular, liberal and left-wing forces launch a “no” campaign. Banking on their expectations for parliamentary elections, Islamists favor the declaration as it puts elections ahead of the constitution-writing process and charges Parliament with electing a Constituent Assembly. The declaration passes with 77 percent of the vote.
May – July The Brotherhood does not join secular and revolutionary groups on 27 May, the “Second Friday of Anger.” A group statement spurns the rallies as aiming to divide the people and the army. Protesters demand the speedy trial of Mubarak and his sons, a presidential council, and a constitution before parliamentary elections. The Brotherhood refrains from joining protests with similar demands on 1, 8 and 15 July.
1 February The Muslim Brotherhood issues a statement saying it holds the Interior Ministry and supporters of the Ultras, hardcore football fans, responsible for a massacre that resulted in the death of 74 after a football game at Port Said Stadium. In the statement, the Freedom and Justice Party says it considers the massacre a deliberate attempt by members of the former regime to keep Egypt in a constant state of crisis, and delay the transfer of power to an elected government.
11 March Parliament decides to begin steps toward withdrawing confidence from Ganzouri’s military-appointed government.
18 November Tens of thousands of protesters gather in Tahrir Square, demanding the resignation of Field Marshal Tantawi and insist that the military council hand over power to a civilian government. Protesters, who are mostly Islamists from the Brotherhood and other groups, object to the supra-constitutional document, dubbed the Selmy Document.
31 March The Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy Supreme Guide, Khairat al-Shater, announces that he is leaving that position to run for president. This goes against earlier statements by the Brotherhood that they would not field a presidential candidate. Brotherhood leaders say the about-face was due to “a serious threat to the revolution,” the candidacy of personalities that represent Mubarak’s regime and a government that has failed to express the will of the people.
14 April 13 April The Muslim Brotherhood, along with other political groups, protest Suleiman’s presidential bid in Tahrir Square.
Mohamed Morsy takes over as the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for the presidency after the Presidential Elections Committee disqualifies Shater.
Protesters take to Tahrir Square for the “Save the Revolution Friday” called for by the Brotherhood and other revolutionary forces demanding the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak and his associates for killing protesters during the uprising. On 8 April, the Brotherhood takes to Tahrir for the “Friday of Purging” to demand the resignation of remnants of the old regime from the government.
29 July The Brotherhood and Salafis take to Tahrir Square en masse to protest demands by liberal and leftist secular forces to draft a constitution before the parliamentary elections. The Brothers demand the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ transitional schedule be respected.
Parliamentary elections kick off. The elections result in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party winning more than 40 percent of seats. On the second day of voting, Erian argues in an interview with the New York Times that the high turnout shows a popular demand for more civilian control over the government. He says the new parliamentary majority, and not the generals, should choose a new prime minister, and that any government needs a vote of confidence from Parliament.
Parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee approves a draft law submitted by the Wasat Party prohibiting former regime figures, like intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, from running for president.
12 June 23-24 May The first round of presidential elections takes place. Results over the next few days reveal that the runoff will be between Morsy and Shafiq.
Parliamentary speaker and Brotherhood member Saad al-Katatny announces the composition of the 100-member Constituent Assembly tasked with writing the constitution. This is the second attempt by Parliament to form the assembly, but a number of liberal parties’ MPs withdraw for the second time, due to continued opposition to Islamist domination.
21 June 2012
umble throughout 15-month transition
11 February Major General Mohsen al-Fangary reads out the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ third statement of the year, the second of the day after Vice President Omar Suleiman had formally announced Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. At this point, the military council is in charge of the country and declares that it will begin “thinking about” the people’s call for fundamental change. Despite Fangary’s salute of the revolution’s martyrs, the SCAF thanks Mubarak for his services to the country in peace and war. It also appreciates Mubarak’s decision to step down in a “patriotic” gesture, saying he was “putting the country’s high interests first.” Fangary said that the council would be issuing more statements to keep citizens up to speed. He affirms that the junta would not replace the legitimate government that the people would call for. Over 100 statements are released throughout the year.
19 March The SCAF puts forward a public referendum on a roadmap for the transition in the form of an interim constitution. The SCAF had formed an eight-member committee headed by Vice President of the State Council Tarek al-Bishry and including Sobhi Saleh, a lawyer and member of the Brotherhood, to write the 63-article document. The declaration replaces the 1971 Constitution, gives Parliament no authority to sack the cabinet and gives legal immunity to the Presidential Elections Commission.
1 March Ganzouri’s government lifts a travel ban on the foreign suspects accused in the NGOs case, in which 43 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers were charged with being illegally funded and operating without a license. Allowing the suspects to travel before the case’s conclusion was seen as a transgression on the sovereignty of the Egyptian judiciary.
25 April The Supreme Presidential Elections Commission accepts an appeal filed by Shafiq against its previous decision to exclude him from running for president. It also announces that the Political Isolation Law would be brought before the Supreme Constitutional Court to determine its constitutionality, as requested in the appeal.
The supra-constitutional principles document is released by Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Selmy. It creates a 100-member Constituent Assembly, 80 of whom are from outside Parliament, and 20 of whom will be MPs, with a maximum of five members from each party. The SCAF would select the members from outside Parliament. The document also grants the junta the sole right to review the military’s budget, to oversee all matters related to the military, and to approve legislation concerning the military, putting the generals outside civilian and judicial oversight. The document also discusses the formation of the National Defense Council, in charge of discussing issues of national security and composed of some SCAF members and top senior executive figures.
14 November The Supreme Administrative Court overturns a ruling that barred members of the now-dissolved National Democratic Party from contesting elections. The decision frees former members of Mubarak’s political party to run in the parliamentary elections. The ruling is applied nationwide and cannot be appealed.
24 November The SCAF offers to move presidential elections up to June 2012, and appoints Kamal Ganzouri as the new Prime Minister, provoking public outcry. Ganzouri was Mubarak’s prime minister from 1996 to 1999.
14 April 6 April Suleiman, the former vice president, spy chief and close ally of Mubarak, announces that he will run for president, despite saying only two days earlier that he would not join the race.
4 June The Justice Ministry passes a decision giving the military sweeping arrest powers. The decision will not be made public until 13 June.
The Supreme Presidential Elections Commission disqualifies Suleiman, Brotherhood leader Khairat al-Shater, and a number of other candidates. Suleiman lacked the requisite number of signatures from the governorate of Assiut, and Shater had a criminal conviction that prevented him from running.
23 April The SCAF ratifies the Political Isolation Law passed by Parliament on 12 April. The law stipulates that any individual who served as president, vice president, prime minister, or a high ranking NDP official, during the 10 years prior to Mubarak’s resignation, would not be eligible to run nor hold public posts for ten years, effective 11 February 2011. The law disqualifies presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq.
17 June 14 June The Supreme Constitutional Court rules that the Parliamentary Elections Law is unconstitutional due to the election of both partisan and independent candidates for the one-third of Parliament reserved for single-winner seats. Consequently, the court dissolves Parliament The court also rules that the Political Isolation Law is unconstitutional, permitting Shafiq to run in the second round of the Presidential elections.
As the Brotherhood’s candidate appears to be leading the race, the military issues amendments to the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration, which limits the powers of the president, and gives the military broad authorities over its own affairs, legislative powers and the formation of the Constituent Assembly. Speaker of the dissolved Parliament, and senior Brotherhood figure Saad al-Katatny says he rejects the amendments to the Constitutional Declaration, and that the decision to dissolve Parliament is unconstitutional.
21 June 2012
In search of a new political language By Joel Beinin
A successful third bloc would invent a new language and style of politics that awakens Egypt from the nightmare of the past
In the first round of the 2012 presidential elections, over 39 percent of Egyptians voted for candidates representing neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the Hosni Mubarak regime. The combined vote of Hamdeen Sabbahi and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, the biggest winners in this category, together with that of the leftist candidates Khaled Ali and Abul Ezz al-Hariry, is substantially more than those who voted for Mohamed Morsy or for both Ahmed Shafiq and Amr Moussa combined. Some have argued that this sector of the electorate comprises a “third bloc” — a political force representing the “revolutionary” alternative to the game of “Islamists vs. the Mubarak security apparatus” that paralyzed Egyptian politics for decades. These voters oppose both political Islam and the “deep state” which maintains the structure of the Mubarak regime. But, they do not automatically constitute a forward-looking political alternative with a common program. In the best of circumstances, it would have been difficult to forge such a program in the less than a year and a half since the fall of Hosni Mubarak. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ mismanagement of the post-Mubarak transition made this even more difficult. Like the Mubarak regime, the SCAF incited sectarian tensions. Electing the first parliament (now ruled unconstitutional) by a combination of party lists and personal candidacies favored established, previously organized forces. Attempting to elect a parliament and a president before writing a new constitution postponed the most important political debates. But not all the obstacles to building a united,
forward-looking political force were due to mismanagement of the transitional process. After 60 years of autocracy, many Egyptians are unfamiliar with ways of discussing politics that supersede the limits of the “Islamists vs. security apparatus” framework. Sabbahi and Abouel Fotouh have been political activists since the 1970s. They have had enough time to formulate some serious ideas about Egypt’s problems. But many of their statements have been vague or repeated stale, out-of-date formulas. Many Nasserists and leftists cling to what they imagine are “constant principles” (althawabit) and resist opening the political field to new ideas. Re-nationalizing recently privatized enterprises, for example, may address some egregious cases of corruption and abuse of workers. But this alone will not increase capital investment, productivity, and competitiveness in industry or provide secure jobs at a living wage for working people and young graduates, or overhaul the dysfunctional educational system. These are the most urgent problems Egypt faces. Detailed proposals to address these issues were not centerpieces of the campaigns of any of the most popular presidential candidates. These candidates also failed to address exactly how respect for Islam would be harmonized with liberal principles. How would a democratic Islamic outlook ensure individual rights — freedom to worship, not worship or convert, as well as freedom of speech, press, expression and scholarship? Is there an Islamic program for guaranteeing and promoting women’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society on an equal basis with men?
Many opponents of the Mubarak regime had a great deal to say about foreign policy issues such as the alliance with the United States and Israel and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But they rarely spoke frankly about how to address the regional and international constraints Egypt faces. Does an anti-imperialist foreign policy in the 21st century mean the same thing it did in the 1950s and 1960s? While foreign policy is not unimportant, it was not at the top of the agenda of the millions of workers who engaged in strikes or other protest actions during the decade and a half before Mubarak’s ouster. Intellectuals belatedly discovered the workers’ movement after the December 2006 strike at Ghazl al-Mahalla, and Islamists were largely absent. Although a few heroic intellectuals devoted themselves to workers’ issues, there was no concerted campaign to link up with the labor movement. This would have required intellectuals to approach workers with respect and humility and to ask for workers’ opinions before offering their own. It would have required returning again and again and keeping in touch even when nothing dramatic was happening. A successful third bloc of democratic Islamists, secular liberals, and leftists would need to address such issues by inventing a new language and style of politics that awakens Egypt from the nightmare of the past that weighs down on the brains of the living.■ Joel Beinin is Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History at Stanford University. From 2006 to 2008 he was director of Middle East Studies at The American University in Cairo.
Nayef’s demise: Relief for the Brothers? T
By Sultan al-Qassemi
At a time when the future of the Muslim Brotherhood themselves hangs in the balance, the group will probably welcome one less regional adversary
he demise of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef will have significant repercussions not only in the Gulf but also on the whole region, including Egypt. Over the past 18 months, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt have seen major developments: the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, the death of former Saudi Crown Prince Sultan, a new Egyptian Parliament and its recent dissolution, presidential elections in Egypt and now the death of the second Saudi crown prince. While one country has seen changes induced by a popular uprising, the other was the result of divine intervention. While eyes were fixated on the Egyptian ballot box in the presidential runoff, the news coming from Saudi Arabia was still significant. After all, Saudi-Egyptian relations are multilayered, deep and complex. As of 2011, Saudi Arabia had investments totaling US$10 billion in Egypt with bilateral trade exceeding $3.5 billion annually. The pace of financial aid from Saudi Arabia to Egypt picked up significantly following a high profile visit led by the Muslim Brotherhood to apologize to Saudi leadership in the aftermath of protests against the Saudi government in Cairo. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia approved $430 million in project aid to Egypt, in addition to a $750 million line of credit to import petroleum products. This came a few days after a separate $1.5 billion was transferred from Riyadh to Cairo as direct budget support. The Saudi government has recently financed large infrastructure projects in Egypt including “$60 million for supplying drinking water to the Cairo district of Nasr City, $80 million to renew and replace irrigation pumps and $90 million to build seed storage silos,” according to a statement by the Saudi embassy in Cairo to Reuters. Amid all these financial strings between the two countries, it is quite significant that the late Crown Prince Nayef had vocalized his suspicion of Egypt’s major political player, the Muslim
Brotherhood. In 2002, Prince Nayef was quoted as saying, “Without any hesitation I say it, that our problems, all of them, came from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Additionally, immediately following the fall of Mubarak, the Saudi government withdrew public school books that included references to the Muslim Brotherhood founder, Hassan al-Banna, claiming they “incite violence”. Probably in an attempt to mend ties with Nayef, the leader of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Mohamed Morsy, issued an official statement last November congratulating the late crown prince on his appointment. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is believed to host up to one million Egyptian expatriates. In last month’s first round of the presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Morsy won almost 90 percent of the Egyptian expatriate vote in the Saudi capital of Riyadh alone. In a reflection of the significance of the Saudi-
Egyptian relations, both presidential contenders sent condolences for the demise of the crown prince. Egyptian social media users also took a break from following the polarizing presidential election runoff to comment on the passing of Prince Nayef with one user referring to him as the “Omar Suleiman [former intelligence chief] of Saudi Arabia.” In fact, Prince Nayef publicly received Suleiman last November in Riyadh. At a time when the future of the Muslim Brotherhood hangs in the balance, the group will probably welcome one less regional adversary. Not only was Nayef hostile to the Brotherhood, his potential replacement could be highly agreeable to the group. Prince Nayef ’s younger brother, Salman, a former governor of Riyadh, will likely be appointed as the new crown prince. Salman, 76, is well known in diplomatic circles, having received countless ambassadors and delegations over a career spanning several decades. Additionally, Prince Salman’s sons’ business interests include the Saudi Research and Marketing Group media empire that publishes a number of newspapers including Asharq Al-Awsat. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood may find it much easier to work with a Saudi crown prince and future king who is more business-minded rather than one who was known for building Saudi Arabia’s daunting security force that crushed dissidents. This is particularly the case since the Muslim Brotherhood has repeatedly stressed that investments and private sector commerce are priorities in their vision for Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s immediate public reaction to Prince Nayef ’s passing may have been to issue a statement of condolence - but internally the group is probably breathing a sigh of relief.■ Sultan al-Qassemi is a UAE-based commentator on Arab affairs.
21 June 2012
And the winner is… By Ahmad Shokr
Today we’re paying the price for a deeply flawed process that was intended from the start to safeguard the prerogatives of the military council, not to facilitate a genuine transition to civilian democracy
any observers have declared that last week marked the death of Egypt’s democratic transition. First, there was the dissolution of an elected Parliament, ordered by a court and enforced by the army. Then, an arbitrary military decree gave the ruling generals control over the new constitution and restricted the powers of the next president. With this “coup by judicial means” casting a dark shadow over the fate of Egyptian politics, one wonders how much the presidential election result actually matters. No doubt, a Mohamed Morsy presidency would mark a victory over lingering elements of the Mubarak regime — exruling party officials, old patronage networks, media figures, and state bureaucrats — that rallied around Ahmad Shafiq in a desperate attempt to thwart the Muslim Brotherhood’s ascent to power. But that’s not the case for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or the enemies of the Brotherhood in other government institutions. The military council’s new Constitutional Declaration, which complements an earlier one decreed in March 2011, grants the generals farreaching powers that will circumscribe the muchanticipated handover of power on 30 June. They will retain full control over all military matters, including army appointments and the decision to go to war. They will continue to legislate until the election of a new Parliament. The generals can also form a Constituent Assembly if the current one fails, and they can veto any provision in the new constitution, a right also shared by the prime minister, the president, the chief justice, and one-fifth of the Constituent Assembly. But most disturbingly, as Nathan Brown has pointed out, the SCAF will continue to function in its current form, i.e. not under the leadership of the new president, thereby giving it the status of an institution independent of the three traditional
branches of government — the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. In short, the declaration shields a powerful military council from the oversight of elected civilians, while ensuring the new president’s authorities are limited and vulnerable to revision. The military’s power grab should not come as a surprise — nothing about it represents a major departure from the cynical transition that the SCAF has been guiding since February 2011. The generals have ruled arbitrarily for the past year and a half, with little respect for democracy or the rule of law. Their original Constitutional Declaration, a 63-article document laying down the legal framework for Egypt until a new constitution is complete, was designed and enacted with minimal public input or approval. Eight months later, the generals tried to implement the controversial “Selmy Document” to ensure the protection of their financial and political privileges in the new constitution, but the proposal was revoked under popular pressure. In key respects, the new declaration resembles the Selmy version — it gives the SCAF full control over military affairs, and the final word over the constitution. Additional decrees have encroached further onto civilian authority, like a recent one forming a military-dominated National Defense Council responsible for all matters related to “national security.” And so, one year and a half after Mubarak’s fall, Egyptians find themselves in a stark confrontation with an uncomfortable truth: a military establishment that has been intent, since February 2011, on entrenching its power under a civilian façade. Accepting a so-called democratic transition under military rule was a serious error of judgment on the part of civilian political forces. Today we’re paying the price for a deeply flawed process that was intended from the start to safeguard the prerogative of the military council not to facilitate a genuine transition to civilian de-
mocracy. While the SCAF is the biggest culprit in this predicament, civilian political leaders from across the spectrum deserve their share of the blame too. They have failed to adopt a common platform on how the transition should proceed, or to unify their efforts in confronting the military council’s actions. As a result, the SCAF has successfully manipulated the divisions between civilian forces to its advantage. The SCAF seems to be winning for now. But it’s still too early to predict how the final configuration of power will look. Will the generals’ maneuvers set the stage for a showdown with a victorious Muslim Brotherhood? Or, will it usher in another round of bargaining between the two sides over a power-sharing deal? In their recent statements, Freedom and Justice Party officials have clearly rejected the dissolution of parliament and the military’s attempt to seize the constitution-writing process. To what extent they will follow through is still unclear. The new declaration does grant the president some powers — the ability to form a new cabinet and influence over the state budget — which the winner may choose to accept in return for operating under clear restrictions. The Brotherhood’s history of unilateralism and closed-door negotiations with SCAF does not bode well. They may prefer to split the cake rather than defend democratic principles. Moreover, the Brotherhood has numerous challenges ahead — the parliament, the new declaration, and the constitution — and may choose their battles with caution. As the official announcement of the election result nears, the Brothers may finally have the chance they’ve been waiting for. It remains to be seen how they will play the cards they have been dealt.■ Ahmad Shokr is a doctoral candidate in Middle East history at New York University. He is based in Cairo.
SCAF strikes from the legal trenches By Amr Adly
The irony is that the revolution was left to achieve its goals through the very legal and institutional settings it was originally bound to destroy and replace
ays after the breakout of the 25 January revolt and before the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, his chief spy, Omar Suleiman, proposed a long and detailed legalistic plan to solve Egypt’s political impasse. Suleiman was planning tot buy time until Mubarak’s official term expired in six months. The proposal included the introduction of constitutional amendments and the dissolution of Parliament by enabling the Court of Cassation to invalidate the fraudulent membership of the MPs. The idea behind Suleiman’s proposal was simple: deny any form of revolutionary legitimacy and subject any political demands to legalistic and procedural measures set by the regime itself. In one word, it was a practical move to contain the upheaval of the revolution. Fortunately enough, the people in Tahrir Square were adamant on killing Suleiman’s plan, especially after the Battle of the Camel. Mubarak had to consequently step down in a move that effectively annulled the 1971 Constitution. Mubarak and Suleiman faded politically, but their plan lingered on, only to be utilized by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The junta’s implementation of Suleiman’s proposal started with the March 2011 constitutional referendum, which caused a deep chasm within the revolutionary bloc by dividing it into an Islamist majority and a secular/civil minority. Shortly afterwards, the SCAF issued the Constitutional Declaration, acquiring a legitimate cover for its de facto ruling of the country. From then on, the junta directed the transitional period single-handedly by issuing laws and decrees that regulate political freedoms and rights. The SCAF’s legalistic approach to the power grab was supported by the Islamists in general and the Brothers in particular, who saw the junta’s stalling of the transitional period as an opportunity to hold elections before the drafting of a permanent constitution. Their bet on the SCAF-led process contributed to deepening the
split within the revolutionary bloc. Meanwhile, the SCAF dismissed any proposals of special or political courts for the members of the ousted regime. They rather opted for regular prosecutions and courts, deferring a series of criminal cases against former regime figures, which included no political charges, to the judiciary. Egypt’s civilian political powers, including the Brothers, were slowly drawn into the web of legalistic and procedural entrapment set up by the military. They were required to play by the old regime’s rules, which have always been antipolitical and often substituted politics with a legal labyrinth. Only through this debunking of the SCAF’s manipulation of the legalistic terrain can we really understand how Parliament was recently disbanded by the Supreme Constitutional Court. This also explains how both the judiciary and bureaucracy scrutinized presidential candidates and could easily exclude influential ones like Khairat al-Shater and Hazem Abu Ismail without much
fuss. Various political forces, including the Brothers, subscribed to the legalistic approach proposed by the military to shape the post-Mubarak order. They chose willingly to play according to rules that they had no say in shaping or implementing, and that were legislated by their very rivals, who had vested interests in fending off the old order. The current moment seems to be quite critical for the future of the Egyptian revolution. On the one hand, Egypt’s burgeoning political sphere is likely to be regulated for a long time to come through authoritative interventions by the junta, the bureaucracy and the judiciary. The disbanding of the Parliament and the issuance of the Complementary Constitutional Declaration by SCAF are two serious precedents. Such setting is likely to be codified in Egypt’s upcoming permanent constitution that will be covertly drafted by the military. On the other hand, the presidential elections pose a real and potentially lethal threat to the continuity of the revolution. The Brotherhood’s candidate seems to be running against the state, which happens to be the one regulating the elections. Hence, the state stands as both the rival and the arbitrator in an unfair game. If Ahmed Shafiq wins in seemingly free and fair elections — similar to what happened in the first round — the old interest groups will have won themselves democratic legitimacy. This would lead to the reproduction of old power and wealth networks, and thus the virtual end of the revolution in an open political battle based on free elections. If this happens, the destiny of post-revolution Egypt will be approaching the Romanian scenario where the old guard rid themselves of Nicolae Ceausescu and his clique only to save the regime.■ Amr Adly is director of the Social and Economic Justice Unit at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and has a PhD in political economy.
By James Purtill In Upper Egypt, near the border of Sudan, 15 years of drought threaten to extinguish indigenous botany. “Most desert plants have disappeared,” says Aswan University professor Abdel Aziz Tantawi. Species that once thrived with desert rains have become scarce. Endangered species are under greater stress. In the Dongal Oasis, 180 km southwest of Aswan, some of the last wild specimens of the argun palm could vanish. For the nomadic Beshari and Ababda societies, the changing climate is just one of many changes that have occurred almost simultaneously. Record-high commodity prices have brought new mining tenements and jobs. Governmentsponsored settlements have encouraged a sedentary lifestyle. Mobile phones shorten the distance that once separated the oasis from the rest of Egypt. Meanwhile, the population continues to grow, supported by modern medicine. This new generation has grown up without their parents’ knowledge of plants, says Dr. Hoda Yacoub, a researcher for Aswan University’s Environmental Studies and Development Unit. The settlement of Wadi Allaqi, 180 km north of Aswan on the eastern shore of Lake Nasser, is a case study of environmental and social
Leaving more than tradition Changing climate threatens precious Bedouin plant knowledge, researchers say
21 June 2012
Bedouin men in the settlment of Wadi Allaqi
lake shores, and the wadi was named a protectorate in 1989 and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993. In 1998 the waters reached their highest level, flooding 50 km up the wadi, or 182 meters above sea level. Gippsland, an Australian mining exploration company, has recently established mining tenements over 15 percent of the biosphere reserve, adding to existing mining operations at Sukari Hill and Hamash near the Red Sea town of Marsa Alam. The quarries and mines provide income for the Bedouin, Yacoub explains, as they guard the machinery through summer when it is too hot to work and the mines are abandoned. “On one hand, people are losing culture. On the other, they are comfortable and being educated,” says Ahmed Ebaid, an Ababda from the Red Sea coast working as researcher for the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency in Aswan. The development issue is problematic. “With the smallest advantage you provide, you take away traditions.” Ebaid’s parents began working for the government as guides, then settled in the Red Sea town of Quoseir, where he was born. He identifies strongly with the Ababda, but acknowledges that his urban upbringing has been very different than his parents’. Indigenous knowledge is pragmatic, and constantly being changed as the environment does, but recent changes are larger than before.
Argun palms in Aswan University desert garden
Regretting this loss is not wholly sentimental or scientific. There are urgent medical and economic reasons too, says Professor Tantawi. Wadi Allaqi supports possibly the highest floristic diversity in the Eastern Desert. So far, 127 species have been recorded, nearly half of which are of known medicinal value. Desert plants growing in harsh conditions develop extra phytochemicals, which often have anti-inflammatory or pain-relieving properties and can treat cancer and stroke. Extracts of the bark of the Balantines Aegyptica tree, which grows in the wadi, for instance, is used to rid the body of parasites such as the guinea worm. Researchers at the Environmental Studies and Development Unit are studying an endemic species of acacia for alleopathic potential — its ability to hinder or accelerate the growth of other species. Ultimately, their findings could be used for weed control in farming. The rare Argun Palm also has commercial potential. Its phytochemicals radically inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria — samples found in pharaonic tombs are strangely well preserved. The Desert Garden was set up in 1997 by two Aswan University professors, Irina Springuel and Ahmed
Belal. Fleets of scientists struck out for remote desert oases, planning each trip to gather seeds from a single species. “About 80 percent of trees and 20 percent of herbs from the surrounding desert are represented,” says Tantawi. The pride of the collection is 20 specimens of the Argun Palm, including three females. Of the 31 wild specimens in Egypt, only two are female, and since 1998, wild specimens in the Dongal Oasis have dropped from 36 to 25. University botanists and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency are scrambling to establish an Aswan ex-situ desert garden, where endangered plant species can be studied outside of their natural habitat. However, this store of genetic diversity — concentrated on a sandy patch near lecture halls — has been threatened recently by university expansion plans. But shifting conservation from re-
changes squeezing traditional lifestyles. Since 2000, the government has provided free government housing, along with water and electricity. About 600 Beshari and Ababda have swapped their goat-hair tents for cinderblock shacks. Here they cultivate crops and graze their animals at the river shore, some 16 km away. Bedouin men will take goats and camels and follow the rain into the desert in the summer, says Yacoub. Children are initiated into the desert lore of plants and water holes. But since the rains have diminished, the Wadi Allaqi Bedouin have become more sedentary, relying on Nile water and new kinds of food such as powdered milk and canned tuna. The changes are recent. As late as 2000, Yacoub met 60-year-old Bedouin women that had never been out of the wadi, the largest in southeastern Egypt. “They were normally uncomfortable talking with strangers. It took three to four years for them to say with conviction, ‘My name is Hoda and I don’t want anything from you.’” Now the women join the dabuka camel trains and truck convoys into the city — where they go to the doctors and share in social events such as weddings and funerals. Some have TVs featuring the latest Turkish melodramas and Ramadan soap operas. Wadi Allaqi has been occupied since ancient times. Inscriptions from the Fifth Dynasty confirm the region fell on a caravan route and that stone for sarcophagi was quarried there. Its ancient gold mine, Um Gareiyat, was used until the early 20th century. Since the 1960s, Lake Nasser has poked a wet finger into the dry ecosystem. The Beshari and Ababda gravitated to the salt cedar-edged
On one hand, people are losing culture. On the other, they are comfortable and being educated. With the smallest advantage you provide, you take away traditions
mote oases to the city carries its own problems. The Environmental Studies and Development Unit has had to fend off university plans to expand into its 12,000 square-meter area on the campus outskirts. Given that many of the trees are over ten years old, and well-grown, relocation is not an option. There are conflicting ideas on the role of the garden. Staff from the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency officially complained to the university about its policy of pruning limbs to “tidy” the canopy. The garden is a scientific and educational resource, the staff say, not a pleasure park. In Sinai’s St. Catherine Protectorate, where drought has also affected flora, populations of medicinal plants have improved. The Medicinal Plants Conservation Project rewards Bedouin who grow the plants, reversing the effect of years of overgrazing and overharvesting. Project Manager Adel Soliman is proposing a national registry of local plant knowledge as a bulwark against the loss of local knowledge of plants’ uses. The registry, which has been established on a small scale in St. Catherine, could charge a fee for access by corporations and institutions. The proceeds would be passed on to local residents. The project has also celebrated the first 15 graduates of its school of medicinal plants. “The boys and girls from the school can now name the uses of 150 species,” Soliman says. He hopes the concept might be applied to other Egyptian protectorates.■
Lake Nasser has poked a wet finger into the dry ecosystem From left: Haitham Ibrahim, Professor Abdel Aziz Tantawi, Magdi al-Sayed
21 June 2012
Science & Technology
Sails to the wind
A visit to Egypt’s largest wind farm shows an industry getting on its feet
Having been built in various stages since 2000, the 120 square kilometer site is now home to 700 wind turbines that produce a total capacity of 550 megawatts (MW). Though this is less than 3 percent of Egypt’s total capacity of just under 25 gigawatts (GW) or 25,000 MW, it is a significant development for the region. Zaafarana saves Egypt 332,000 tons of fuel a year, and reduces annual carbon emissions by approximately 834,000 tons, according to a presentation by the New and Renewable Energy Authority during the visit. Though the initial vision was to produce 7,200 MW of renewable energy by 2020, it is expected that without significant economic and political change, development will increase at the current rate of about 150MW every two years. The authority’s presentation also stressed the significant value of the Gulf of Suez’s wind energy potential, both nationally and globally. A wind map of the region showed steady, northern wind speeds of approximately 8-9 meters per second (28.832.4km/h), translating to investment returns potentially 2.5 times higher than that of wind farms in Europe. These facts have lead to considerable interest from renewable energy investors in Europe. In fact, almost all of the funding for the Zaafarana wind farms was provided from abroad through bilateral agreements. Galal Osman, president of the Egyptian Wind Energy Association, said it is important to look at otherwise unappealing sites differently. “It’s important to start seeing these hot
Zaafarana saves Egypt 332,000 tons of fuel a year, and reduces annual carbon emissions by approximately 834,000 tons
We must start valuing energy properly so that it is respected instead of expected”
windy locations in terms of their energy value in the modern world, in the same way one would if they discovered oil,” he said. The students learned about the technical details of the mechanical engineering aspects of the turbines, and visited the control room where turbines are individually monitored by computer. Beyond education, another major purpose of the Global Wind Day excursion is to grant Egyptian engineering students access to experts and renewable energy businesses. Mohamed Zakareya, an engineering student at Cairo University interested in specializing in renewable energy, said that the “experience of visiting these locations and meeting wind energy experts is a dream come true, as access to this type of knowledge is difficult in Egypt.” To end the day, attendees toured the Zaafarana wind farm, which was to no surprise, inexplicably hot and windy. Standing underneath wind turbines is fascinating, but also slightly frightening. Despite the region’s potential and steadily increasing interest from European investors, experts say that there are two crucial factors holding the region back from realizing its full potential. Osman said that the first crucial step is to relieve the country of energy subsidies. “We must start valuing energy properly so that it is respected instead of expected,” he said. “Economic policy changes must take place so that subsidies are removed for those who can afford it so the market can pick up and investor returns are maximized.” However, Eissa added that most importantly, Egypt must reach political and economic stability, but that “perhaps realizing the potential of renewable energy nationally and for export could be significant in reaching this stability, too.”■ Ahmed Amir
In the words of Faisal Eissa, the managing director of Elsewedy for Wind Energy Generation, Global Wind Day is “a perfect opportunity for hundreds of organizations around the world to share hands-on knowledge about wind energy between experts and a curious public,” in an attempt to realize the power of wind energy and its potential to transform the world. Eissa’s company was the recipient of the 2011 World Wind Energy Award for the it’s leading role in introducing wind power on a large scale in the Middle East and North Africa. In celebration of the event, held annually on 15 June, Elsewedy, the Egyptian Wind Energy Association and other groups organized an excursion to the Gulf of Suez to visit Egypt’s largest wind farm in Zaafarana and Elsewedy Towers, the first wind turbine tower construction site in the Middle East and North Africa. Dozens of engineering students and several experts, university professors and businessmen gathered for the day’s excursions. En route to the sites, plentiful dialogue concerning renewable energy in the region went uninterrupted. “It’s wonderful to know that right now thousands of others around the world are also celebrating wind energy at the same time, in their own way,” Eissa said. The first stop at Elsewedy Towers, located near the Ain Sokhna tollgate, granted attendees access to the factory producing the turbine towers. Professors and students were able to witness towers being built in various phases. Mohamed el-Sokky, the chief engineer on site, gave a tour of the process in which metal is cut into massive rectangular sheets, bent into circular shapes of various sizes, welded together, and then grinded, deoxidized, and painted. According to Eissa, Elsewedy Towers, established in 2010, was strategically located near Ain Sokhna to allow easy transportation to the Zaafarana farm a few kilometers south, and to the Suez canal for global exportation to the MENA region, Europe, and the United States. Building wind turbines is a three-step process involving the construction and assemblage of towers, engines and blades. Towers are made at Elsewedy’s facility, engines are imported from an Elsewedy factory in Spain, and blades are bought on the global market. Ideally, an integrated wind turbine construction site has all three stages in close proximity to one another. The 2011 award was instead awarded to Elsewedy for the leap of developing the first site in the Middle East and North Africa. Eissa added that additional sites are to be built as the local markets pick up. The second stop for Global Wind Day was at Zaafarana wind farm, a few kilometers south of ElSewedy Towers and 190 km southeast of Cairo. Zaafarana wind farm is by far the largest in Egypt, and one of the ten largest wind farms in the world.
By Steven Viney
Participants in Global Wind Day excursion included engineering students, experts and businessmen
21 June 2012
Telling a Tehrani story Zahra’s Paradise communicates with the world By M. Lynx Qualey
Courtesy of Amir and Khalil
ahra’s Paradise,” a graphic novel released last September, was inspired by the energy and hope of the 2009 Iranian uprising. The project documents both Iran’s mass protests and their aftermath; and although its characters are fictional, it pays serious attention to historical detail, and thus is not unlike Joe Sacco’s documentary graphic novel, “Palestine.” But, “Zahra’s Paradise,” written between 2009 and 2011, is unique in that it was produced both rapidly and “live”: Amir and Khalil published their work on a website (www.zahrasparadise.com), in a dozen languages, three times a week. Khalil, an acclaimed Algerian-American comic artist, is the project’s illustrator. Amir, an IranianAmerican who has worked in academia and human rights, is the author. For various reasons, they have chosen not to go by their full names, but by the joint moniker “Amir and Khalil.” The book is now coming out in print editions, language by language, with the newest edition, Turkish, scheduled for release in September. It disappointingly has not yet appeared in Arabic. Arabic was one of the 12 languages in which it appeared online, but the work is yet to be published in a full, thorough Arabic edition. Khalil was particularly interested in an Arabiclanguage version, as he considered it part of his “mission as an Arab to educate the Arabs, who thought they knew what was going on in Iran.” He continues his search for an interested publisher. Both author and illustrator spoke to Egypt Independent at the recent Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, where they were welcomed by an enthusiastic reception. They spoke of what inspired “Zahra’s Paradise,” and how putting together a graphic novel, a form that was still new for both Amir and Khalil back in 2009, could be democratic. The pair was spurred to produce the graphic novel after watching the mass protests in Iran and the brutal crackdown that followed. They felt a wave of energy, Khalil says, and “we definitely jumped ... It was just an instinctive reaction on the part of Amir.” After that, they quickly found a publisher, and it was the publisher’s idea to serialize the comic. Translators then came on board. Comments on the website, particularly from Iranian readers, spurred Amir and Khalil to continue. The collaboration began, Khalil says, because they felt “Tehran was so desperate to communicate with the world.” Both had a love for the Iranian people and felt connected to all the bloggers, human rights workers, and citizen journalists who were working to document Iran’s complex story. “We were part of that chain of communication, and thus the birth of this work,” he adds. “We feel we are the co-authors of this book. The people in Iran are really the authors.” “The heart of the effort was an act of solidarity with the Iranian people,” Amir adds. “Zahra’s Paradise” follows the search for Mehdi, a (fictional) young protestor who disappeared during the 2009 protests. His mother and brother refuse to let him go, however, and try to follow
A scene from “Zahra’s Paradise”
his path through harrowing scenes of rebellion and repression. Amir and Khalil felt, almost immediately after the events in Iran in 2009, that the graphic novel medium was the best way to communicate this story. “In a way,” Amir says, “the graphic novel is the fastest, easiest, cheapest way to communicate.” Khalil says that the entire process was collaborative. “It takes several waves,” he says. “We can see the rough story, the rough words. We come back with the fine-tooth comb, make it a little tighter ... it becomes very precise after a while. Only then, when we have something that is put together very tightly, can I do the drawings.” In the end, the words and the drawings cannot be separated, Khalil says. “I like to compare the medium ... to what a good song does. It is hard to separate the music from the words. A good graphic novel is also a good alchemy, a good chemistry between [images and text.]” The project took approximately two years of work. For those two years, both Amir and Khalil worked as fast as they possibly could, sorting through mountains of historical and political documents, videos, and testimonies. Although their work is a fiction, they felt it was important
We feel we are the co-authors of this book. The people in Iran are really the authors that it be rooted in real events. “It was very hard physically, because it was constant, constant, constant,” Khalil says. “No weekends, no breaks, for really two years.” But, Amir adds, on the positive side, “I think the pressure we were under forced a certain economy of thought.” The graphic novel format was so successful, they say, because comics have a way of breaking through a reader’s hardened expectations. The story in “Zahra’s Paradise,” Khalil says, has really touched readers in the West. “I’m talking about today, when we are supposed to have a clash of civilizations. It transcends all the barriers that are there.”
Both Amir and Khalil called the graphic novel a compellingly democratic medium. They point to other author-artist endeavors with both “fictional” and “documentary” aspects, such as graffiti on downtown Cairo’s walls. Graphic novels also might have a particular role to play in revolutions, Amir says. “Look at the power of the pamphlet in the French Revolution. Look at the power of it as an instrument for communicating news, and the speed at which news traveled around France at the time.” Khalil says that, in the last several years, the standards of comic strips have been lowered. This has opened the space to many more would-be artists. This is not necessarily a bad thing, he says. It allows more people to work faster and to reach larger audiences. What is important is not to have a perfect drawing, he says. “What is important is being able to tell your story.” For now, Amir and Khalil are working on a second graphic novel collaboration. According to Khalil, the second book begins in Istanbul, where “Zahra’s Paradise” ended. “We’ll see ... what sort of reverberations the ‘Arab Spring’ will have on our characters.”■
‘The children who aren’t Mahmoud’ By Mai Elwakil Mahmoud worked in the fields of the Nile island of Dahab. He seemed to have rarely got off the island. What captured Spanish artist Miguel Ángel Sánchez’s attention was the innocence and timidity he maintained. But Mahmoud refused to have his picture taken, so Sánchez photographed five other boys instead. “The Children who aren’t Mahmoud” group portrait was shown at the Palace of the Arts in December. It was part of Sánchez’s “El Alma del Mundo” (The Soul of the World) photographic series. Attempting
to create a portrait of Egypt’s 80 million people, Sánchez shot 80 portraits of people around the city, from the very famous Zahi Hawass and Hamdeen Sabbahi to the jasmine flower sellers on Cairo’s Streets. The artist would befriend his subjects for weeks, and then try to tell their story through the careful composition of his photographs. All of the portraits were staged in his flat, deploying a highly aestheticized baroque painting style. The dramatic use of light decontextualizes the subjects; but the symbols and colors used retell their stories as seen through Sánchez’s eyes. This has brought Sánchez much praise and criticism. The portraits come off as beautiful paintings.
Many also dismissed them for over-aestheticizing their subjects, possibly with an Orientalist view. The impressions the portraits give lie somewhere in between. When viewers manage to overcome the initial impression of stereotyping, they would find a personal story in each and every portrait. Children on Dahab Island would occasionally make fun of Mahmoud because of his scarred face, calling him “deformed.” The child believed he was ugly. Mahmoud was, nevertheless, excited to stand behind the camera with Sánchez as he created his portrait, by photographing the very children who bullied him. ■
21 June 2012
The state of Egypt’s public art education system For Dessouky, the very question of profession after a fine arts education is a source of annoyance, and reflects the frustrating fact that many students go into the Faculty of Fine Arts without any serious interest in art.
By Helen Stuhr-Rommereim
cies over the past few decades. The plan also raises the cultural budget to 1.5 percent of the state’s total budget. As part of its long-term vision, there would be more integration between cultural and educational policies, as well as ensuring freedom of expression. The committee had decided to form a workgroup, comprising representatives from the National Group for Cultural Policies, Par-
liament, NGOs, and the Culture Ministry, to discuss methods that could feasibly implement the plan. Culture Resource was to work with legal experts on tweaking it. Until it is clear whether the dissolved parliament’s decisions will remain in effect, the National Group for Cultural Policies will continue to raise support for the initiative, working with cultural activists and the Culture Ministry. ■
What is this education for? This development addresses an understandable anxiety among students about what follows fine arts education, and the incorporation of new technological processes is an essential development for many programs. For Yehia and his classmates, for example, it is a problem that the architecture department does not teach students how to use essential new computer modeling software. But in other contexts, the emphasis on professional training moves the fine arts education into a problematic direction. “I think there is some confusion in our faculty in terms of what we want to be doing,” says Shazly. “Are we trying to make these courses to teach students how to be graphic designers? Or are we training artists?”
A sculpture student works on her final project
Rumblings of reform For Shazly, the biggest issue with aging professors is their lack of will to work on improving the faculty, combined with the fact that they nonetheless hold positions of power. When 44-year-old Sayed Qandil recently became the very first elected dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the youngest person to ever hold the position, Shazly was happy. “Because he is young, he wants to achieve more,” says Shazly. “Former deans did not have any will to change anything.” Qandil is indeed setting about on a path of reform. He has been directing funds toward providing a much-needed update in classroom technology, and working on providing more support and training for teachers. “We need more room for students to use new equipment; we need more Internet. We need to update the system,” says Qandil.
Are we trying to teach students how to be graphic designers? Or are we training artists? Virginie Nguyen
An aging system Maryam Labib, a student of painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts says her greatest frustration as a young art student comes from a sense of her own inability to interact with society. “Society is not engaged with art, so as artists, it makes it difficult for us to engage with society. We are in a prison of academic art,” she says. The traditional academic program of the Faculty of Fine Arts is strictly medium-based, focused almost completely on technical training, and provides little flexibility or potential agency for students. “It is a very academic style of education, and it is very old,” says Ahmed Yehia, a student in the architecture department who is also the faculty’s first elected head of the student union. Students often work with only one professor for the duration of their education. Marwa el-Shazly, a young professor of painting at the school, describes stark generational separations within the faculty that contribute to making the institution difficult to reform. Upon hiring, professors are guaranteed their jobs for life, and often continue working long past typical retirement age, until the age of 70 or 80, continuing to exert influence as elder statesmen of the university,
The limits of the system The very issue of how and why students choose to go to the Faculty of Fine Arts is a source of difficulty. Selection for government institutions is based on grade point average. Art institutions require a high grade point average, but not as high as such fields as engineering or medicine. So students finishing school find themselves faced with a certain array of choices for where to attend university based on their grades, and often the final decision results from a number of arbitrary factors, not a desire to study fine arts. “The whole disaster is in the system,” says Shady el-Noshokaty, a professor in the Department of Performing and Visual Arts at the American University in Cairo who graduated from the Helwan Faculty of Art Education and taught there for many years. Noshokaty has essentially given up on the state educational system, and feels the only way to move forward is by constructing parallel pathways that include conceptual education along with technical training. He is opening his own alternative education institution, ASCII, in Ard al-Lewa later this year. ASCII will focus on new media work while incorporating contemporary art history as well as art theory, all absent from the public art education curriculum. A renewed focus on commercially applicable skills at the Faculty of Fine Arts is consistent with Noshokaty’s sense of the system. “The ideology of the system is based on the history of crafts. The artist is the craftsman, it is not about creating ideas,” he says, “To create something in this structure is impossible.” Some students do find ways to use their education to create, but often not with much help. What third year painting student Fady Galal appreciates most about his education is that it provides time and space to work. “There is some freedom, we can do what we want, and we have free time,” says Galal. Doa Aly attended the Faculty of Fine Arts and went on to become a successful practicing artist. Reflecting on her own experience in university, Aly remembers, “It gave me space, lots of it. I think it was important in that respect, because there was a lot of contemplation and thinking about what I was doing and what I wanted to do.” But it still left something lacking, “I think I was just looking for someone to talk to, who would say something besides ‘do this’ or ‘do not do that’ — an education, basically.”■
while younger professors attempt to gradually take on the aging generation’s responsibilities. “A student in the painting or sculpture departments could have the same professor for five years,” Shazly explains.
As a part of this update, he hopes to adapt the curriculum at the Faculty of Fine Arts to better respond to the needs of a commercial market, with plans to adjust departments such as Graphic Arts to cater more to graphic design, and include more marketfriendly projects like puppet and mask-making in sculpture curriculum
hen Ibrahim el-Dessouky, a professor of painting at Helwan University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, wanted to teach his class a lesson on how to draw flesh, he had to do so with an advisory note. “I wanted to explain the history of a certain kind of painting, a Courbet painting of a vagina and how Lucien Freud and other artists used it later,” explains Dessouky. “I gave it to the students with a note, telling them it is anti-Islam, and if they want, they can look at it.” It is not the ideal way to conduct a class, but such stories are commonplace at the Faculty of Fine Arts today, and at this point, the situation is familiar. Nude models have long been banned from painting and sculpture classes, and it was five years ago that a conservative dean removed the Venus statue once situated on the faculty grounds. Every Ramadan, some students cover other small statues on campus. But in conversation with professors and students at the faculty, it becomes clear that these changes are not what concerns them, nor are they particularly worried about the consequences of one group or another’s ascendance to power in government. On their minds are more basic issues of supplies and facilities, of structure and curriculum in an institution strapped for cash, unequipped and unsure of how to prepare students to confront the changing world they live in.
Third year students are working in the painting atelier at the Faculty of Fine Arts
work. Many of Qandil’s hypothetical curricular reforms reshape the Faculty of Fine Arts in the form of Helwan University’s Faculty of Applied Arts.
A dash of culture One of the last decisions made by the recently dissolved Egyptian Parliament was a cultural one. On 14 June, the People’s Assembly Culture, Information and Tourism Committee, headed by former MP Mohamed al-Sawy, approved a plan submitted by the National Group for Cultural Policies. It became effective on 21 June. The National Group for Cultural Policies, a group of artists, univer-
sity professors and specialists in cultural management and spearheaded by the regional NGO Culture Resource, submitted its proposal to parliament in March. The plan, in the works for two years, seeks to restructure the Culture Ministry, making it less centralized, and redirect the state’s role to focus more on funding and facilitation rather than artistic production, a significant shift in the ministry’s cultural poli-
21 June 2012
Life & Society
A day in the life of a camel at the Birqash camel market
By Joanna Mikhail
he day begins before dawn for most camels. In fact, many of them barely sleep. The journey from Daraw camel market in Aswan is long and bumpy. Camel elbows and camel knees tangled in the truck beds jab into camel bellies and camel sides. Some camels cannot bear the journey, and are so ill by the time they arrive at the Birqash camel market 35 km northwest of Cairo that their day ends before the sun rises, and they are slaughtered. Their carcasses are left to the flies, a sobering reminder for the rest of the camels of the “survival of the fittest.” Survival that is, until they meet their own inevitable end. The Birqash camel market is a market primarily for butchers. These camels aren’t being sold for their beauty, as pack animals or for the to-and-fro of tourists. The camels of Birqash are being sold for their meat. A male camel can weigh about 400 kg, and the meat sells at about LE45 per kilogram, a price cheaper than beef. The preferred cuts of meat are the brisket, ribs and loins, though the fatty hump is considered a delicacy. Elizabeth Shoghi, a Swedish chef and nutritionist working as a consultant in Egypt, says, “Camel tastes of wilderness. The flavor is very robust, it dominates everything else on the dish.” Shoghi recommends camel carpaccio with some red wine or a balsamic reduction served with arugula. Butchers selling camel meat are not found everywhere in Cairo. Even just outside the Birqash camel market, the butcher was only selling beef. However, many of the camel butchers are located in Imbaba where the old camel market used to be, until its relocation to Birqash in 1995. But this is the end of a camel’s day, let’s return to the camel market. The camel-laden trucks rumble into Birqash kicking up clouds of dust. The camels are unloaded and each camel trader takes care of his camels as he sees fit. The lucky camels are kept in walled courtyards and are free to roam about. The not-solucky camels have their legs tied at
the knees to keep them from wandering. This method only impedes them slightly, because the camels have mastered the art of galloping on three legs. From time to time, a group of camels bolt off from their herd in an awkward three-legged gallop-hop with one or more young camel traders running after them, brandishing sticks. One group of camels is serenely eating alfalfa out of an old metal bathtub. Hajj Marbrouk, their congenial Nubian trader, explained why they were not tied up. “They are happy because they are eating, and these are Somali and Sudanese camels, they are much quieter.” Indeed, the difference between the Somali and Sudanese camels and the Egyptian camels is evident
immediately. The Egyptian camels are much larger and taller, and their humps are more defined with a small tuft of fur on the top. The Somali and Sudanese camels are shorter and stouter, their bellies are rounder and they have more fur on their humps and backs. They seem much more docile, whereas the Egyptian camels seem rather rambunctious and hard to control, perhaps on account of the long journey through the desert that the Somali and Sudanese camels made to reach Egypt. The Somali and Sudanese camels have to walk 40 days through the desert from their breeding and grazing grounds in Somalia and northern Sudan to reach the Daraw camel market in Aswan. Camel traders like Hajj Mabrouk buy the camels
in Daraw and bring them by truck to Birqash, a journey that takes one day and one night. The camels are given alfalfa and peanut stalks to munch on while they wait for customers to arrive. As the sun rises, the butchers fill the market. There is not a man in sight who is not wearing a galabeya. The butchers stand in a large throng and the camels are paraded out in front of them. One camel is brought out at a time. The traders surround the camel and brandish sticks at it, beating it from every direction in order to keep it in place long enough for the butchers to get a good look. The camel protests loudly by yelling and prancing about. Sometimes the camel will fall to the ground and refuse to get up. When this happens, the traders
The butchers look bored and unimpressed. They have their poker faces on… As for the camels, they look confused and frantic.
resort to beating it more in order to get it up. It all seems like great sport for the traders. At one location, the traders chant and sing as they wave their sticks. Their faces glow with the good humor of a man who is doing business. The butchers look bored and unimpressed. They have their poker faces on, ready to haggle prices with the camel traders. As for the camels, they look confused and frantic. Finally, when a camel is chosen or the butchers have seen enough, one decisive blow is administered on the camel’s backside and it is allowed to gallop off, out of the crowd of onlookers. When a camel is chosen, some haggling and bargaining ensues. Occasionally this will get quite passionate, while the camel sits quietly by, for once getting a rest from the drama. This time, the camel is the one with the unimpressed look on its face. Once the sale is made, the camel is spray painted with the initials of the buyer’s name to seal the deal. All sales are either made in cash or on credit. If the buyer is a butcher, he has eight days to slaughter the camel, sell the meat and return to Birqash with the money. Camel traders receive cash on the day they sell their camels. A small 8-year-old camel sells for about LE5,000, a large camel for about LE11,000. Once the camels are sold, they are loaded back into trucks to be taken to their final destinations for the day, and for life. The loading process is quite arduous for everyone involved. The camels have to be loaded into pickup trucks. Getting a long-legged animal to hop onto the bed of a pickup is not quite as easy as it sounds. Some animals are dragged, some are pushed, some are pulled and some are lifted. All of this happens while the camel protests with loud groans. But once the camels are successfully tucked into the bed of the pickup truck, they sit quietly, and only have to endure one last journey. The rest of the time in the camel’s day will be spent standing around because of inevitable delays, trying to escape, breathing in dust, and stuck in traffic, all of these, familiar activities that fill our human days in Cairo. ■
21 June 2012
Life & Society
Small but significant
A closer look at Egypt’s Armenian community
menians as enemies of Islam, a counter-fatwa was issued by Al-Azhar. Mohamed Rifaat El-Imam, a local expert on the community and author of “The Armenians in Egypt,” notes that this episode caused tension between Istanbul and Ottoman Cairo. In 1915, Ottoman authorities began a genocidal campaign against the Armenians. Those who survived the massacres sought asylum in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. What Egypt had that other countries lacked was a pre-established community able to aid, advocate for, and employ the influx of refugees. Average Armenians donated medicine and clothing to the survivors, while industrial leaders provided employment — Armenian cigarette factories alone hired thousands. The destitute newcomers were often skilled craftsmen; jewelers, cobblers and tailors, who began anew in the workshops of fellow Armenians. The Armenian General Benevolent Union, founded in Cairo in 1906 with Boghos Nubar at its helm, aided Armenians across the region. In 1915 it founded a school for 1,000 children in Port Said refugee camp, which sheltered over 4,200 refugees. Nubar and the union headquarters later moved to Paris, where he advocated for Armenian statehood at the 1919 Peace Conference. However, the betrayal of the Allied Powers, the formation of modern Turkey, and the Soviet takeover of the short-lived Armenian republic dashed lingering hopes for return. Their exile would be permanent A community once composed of elite statesmen and merchants absorbed thousands of refugees, whose presence made Armenian identity more salient than ever. In cosmopolitan Alexandria and Cairo, lives were rebuilt around schools, churches and clubs.
Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate on Ramses Street
Although we will not say it out loud, we are whispering about the elusive ‘Plan B’ for leaving Rival Armenian political parties, with divergent views on the newlyformed Soviet Armenia, published daily newspapers and fought fiercely for seats on the community council. Refugees, who spoke Turkish in their native provinces, attended Armenian schools. Plays, once performed in Turkish, were now strictly in Armenian, according to Imam. Armenian theatre, dance troupes and music thrived, while individuals like portrait photographer Van Leo and caricaturist Saroukhan rose to national prominence. The overall prosperity of Egypt’s Armenians made them less susceptible than other diaspora communities to a 1946 campaign encouraging resettlement in Soviet Armenia. Of the 150,000 from the Middle East who went, only 4,000 came from Egypt. Saroukhan, who instructed a friend to send word on life behind the iron curtain, received a glowing report — but it was written in red, the color they had agreed would indicate distress. Stalin deported nationalist Dashnak party members to Siberia on arrival. As Armenians secured a foothold in the Egyptian economy, they left their original neighborhoods of Bayn al-Surein and El-Dahir, for upscale downtown and Heliopolis. The community peaked at 17,188 people in 1917, according to government figures; church data puts their number at 40,000 in 1947. To stay or to go The 1961 nationalization program of President Gamal Abdel Nasser jolted the community, the majority of whom were engaged in the private sector. The size of the community dwindled in that period, but not all felt compelled to leave, choosing instead to adapt to the new landscape. Among them was Joseph Matossian, then-chairman of Egypt’s Chamber of Tobacco, who Nasser greeted with a hug at a cigarette exposition in 1961. Nasser, an ardent smoker of illegallysmuggled Kents, said if Matossian could make him a similar cigarette, he would be their best client. “Mr. President, your wishes are our
orders,” he replied, creating what is still Egypt’s most-consumed, cheap cigarette, The Cleopatra. “All the people who stayed here succeeded, and succeeded brilliantly, especially after 1975 when the country opened,” says Hratch Mikaelian, whose family business, the Reader’s Corner, evolved from a publications distributor to a framing shop. “The ones who left still have nostalgia for Egypt,” says Armen Mazloumian, a physician. “They even have an Association of Armenian-Egyptians in Canada and celebrate Sham al-Nessim.” Others point out that those who left never returned, and emigration slowed, but never stopped. Of a 40person choir from the late 1980s, Gassia Deuvletian, a pianist, says, “Now more than half are not here.” Gerald Papazian, an ArmenianEgyptian living in Paris, argues this nostalgia has nothing to do with modern Egypt. “It was their Egypt, their clubs, and the way Egypt was at that time.” Integrating but not assimilating The most important tradition Armenians keep is their language, its biggest gaurantor of identity. Many parents urge their children to marry an Armenian — whether from Egypt, the Levant, or Armenia — but intermarriage with Christian Egyptians is generally accepted. “The Egyptian community evolved also. There is a very cool, open Egyptian youth, and they integrate very easily with us, Mikaelian says. “That’s why the risk of having mixed marriages increases.” Children of such unions can and do learn Armenian through community institutions. Sirarpi, a kindergarten teacher, points out that children who don’t come from Armenian-speaking homes anxiously strive to catch up with their peers.
With the emergence of independent Armenia and the Internet, many Egyptian-Armenians find it easier to reconnect with their roots. Today, a half-century after Armenians’ mass exodus from the country, the community is again taking stock of its place in a changing Egypt. “Although we will not say it out loud, we are whispering about the elusive ‘Plan B’ for leaving,” Aline Kazanjian blogs. She says her decision will not be based on alcohol or dress codes, but opportunities for her children. “It’s important for Egyptian-Armenians to stay in Egypt ... It’s part of our identity,” says Arto Kalishian, one of a handful of young Armenians involved in political campaigns, whether for liberals or moderate Islamists. “To be public and active is tough for Armenians because we are a small community. It’s up to the individual,” he says. The community generally avoids politics, an aversion stemming not only from previous persecution, but also gratefulness to the countries that welcomed them. Parsegh Kezelian, a jeweler, recalls his father’s advice: “Never be against the government — any government.” During parliamentary elections, some Armenians were shocked their peers didn’t know they were citizens. Many say the double-edged sword of being foreigner keeps the community intact. “We are born in Egypt, we have the identity cards, we serve in the military — nothing remains. But how you feel matters,” says Zaven Lylozian, editor of an Armenian newspaper. “I am not Ahmed or George — I am Zaven. The name is the address of your identity. You are not Egyptian.” Turkish-born Nubar Pasha, Sabit’s ancestor, after serving five Egyptian rulers over five decades, spent his final years between Paris and Cairo, ever a foreigner to the Egyptian people. Yet the final passage of his 18421879 memoirs strikes a chord, perhaps now more than ever: Whatever future awaits Egypt — whether it gains independence or continues as a colony — justice will remain standing between the ruler and subjects...[The peasant’s] country is not one of slavery and his house is no longer that of a slave.”■ From Sunday 24 June – Thursday 28 June we will be publishing the rest of our community series at www.egyptindependent.com - the Greek, Jewish, Italian and Levantine communities are next.
Boghos Nubar, the diplomat, philanthropist and businessman
Armenian General Benevolent Union
It ended with the Ottomans In the second half of the 19th century, the “Armenian Question” was raised as Armenians in Ottoman Turkey demanded reforms. Sultan Abdel Hamid II, fearing rising nationalism and European encroachment, ordered pogroms against the minority. When Istanbul’s mufti issued a fatwa supporting the massacres, labeling Ar-
Primary school children attend the Sisvan School in the Port Said refugee camp
Alison T Meuse
At a time when the citizenship of a candidate’s mother can disqualify him from the presidency, it is nearly impossible to imagine an Armenian holding the post of Egyptian prime minister. However, Armenians made many important historical contributions to Egyptian society. Mohamed Ali hired them as diplomats, commercial agents and technicians. Armenians and other Ottoman citizens flocked to Egypt for opportunity under the ambitious new ruler. “Egypt was like the Gulf is today as far as traveling there to work,” says Thomas Zakarian, a teacher in Heliopolis’ Nubarian School. The reign of Mohamed Ali was not a unique chapter of diversity in Egyptian history. Like the Ottoman period, the Fatimid and Mamluk eras involved significant contributions of foreign peoples. Armenians were builders of Bab Zuweila and seamstresses of the Kiswah, the Kaaba’s covering; court photographers of Mohamed Ali and jewelers to King Farouk. Today, they are a tight-knit community, integrated in the fabric of Egypt. Under Ali’s auspices, Armenians founded colleges of accounting, engineering and translation during the mid-19th century. Mastery of Ottoman Turkish and European languages made Armenians suitable intermediaries to the West and favored as chieftranslators by Ali. “Armenians were viewed as outsiders, but not as Europeans,” says historian Mahmoud Sabit, who is of Armenian ancestry. They had a knack for diplomacy and warfare; Fatimid and Mamluk armies employed Armenians as heavy-armored cavalry. Others were expert stonemasons. Armenian-Muslim Badr al-Gamali, one of seven Armenian Fatimid viziers, commissioned his kin to build Bab al-Futuh, Bab al-Nasr and Bab Zuweila. “The world then was not based on ethnicity, which is why outsiders could have easily integrated in it,” Sabit said.
Armenian General Benevolent Union
By Alison T. Meuse
21 June 2012
The souq is ours Life after tourism in Aswan’s souq If they were British, we said ‘Our shop is cheaper than Asda,’” says Haitham Ibrahim, as we stroll through Sharia al-Souq on a busy summer night. “If they were Australian, we said ‘Captain Cook.’ If they were Italian, we said ‘Mafioso.’” Ibrahim is reminiscing about his student days, when he worked part-time touting Aswan’s famous tourist market, while studying for a Masters in Biology. The pick-up lines he deployed range from threadbare to piquant: “If they were French,” he says, “we said ‘how many camels did you pay for your beautiful wife?’” Ibrahim has graduated, and now works as a civil servant and the open-air office of bon mots has also changed. As in the rest of Egypt, tourism is down. Though we have to push our way through drifting shoppers, evade erk sous (licorice juice) sellers, and dodge barreling watermelon carts, the owners of the souvenir shops stand in the doorways, hands-in-pockets. Since the events of 25 January 2011, the money has been flowing next door, to the shop selling bakeware, electric kettles, sacks of rice and underwear. The dime-a-dozen vendors of alabaster pyramids and pharaonic amulets — knocked together in Cairo warehouses and trucked south — have been forced to adapt, says Ibrahim. Gone are the cash-happy days of greenbacks and pound sterling. Instead, the shopkeepers are competing for Egyptian pounds and piasters. The ancient souq is changing its spots. Near the river-end of the souq, just shy of the
Shop assistant Amr, Mohammed Ali Yassin and Haitham Ibrahim
corniche and its twin rows of hotels, Ibrahim points out his old employer, the Nubian Smile. His old boss is still there, too. Fifteen years ago, Mohamed Ali Yassin earned a bachelor of social sciences, but, unlike Ibrahim, chose to stick with the tourism industry. The going was good. He started out with just 5 kg of silver, Yassin says, but expanded every two to three years. He now sits on at least 70 kg. “This man used to be working with tourists,” Yassin says, gesturing across the thoroughfare, to a man behind a step-pyramid of kitchen
glassware. “I know shopkeepers selling their home appliances for money to eat.” No one is buying silver anymore. Overall, Yassin estimates, business is down 70 percent. Colored vases, cow-horn elephants, terra-cotta scarabs and cheap Tag Heuer watches gather dust on the shelf. Instead, Yassin has gone into spices and flipflops. Yasmiena Fresh Spices is adjacent to the Nubian Smile, while the new flip-flop stall lies on the other side of the thoroughfare. Its vendor, Shady, sits on his own on a wooden stool. His shop is a lot simpler, and consists of rub-
By James Purtill
Gone are the cashhappy days of greenbacks and pound sterling. Instead, the shopkeepers are competing for Egyptian pounds and piasters
ber footwear imported from China strung on a grid. Yassin’s assistant, Amr, working on a 30 percent commission, keeps well away from these new down market establishments. Instead, the bachelor of social work translates the phrases in foreign languages stenciled on the walls of the souvenir shop: “Entrez tranquilles,” “Schamon Sie Ganz In Ruhe.” “We welcome Visa. We prefer Master Card.” “I forget the languages,” says Yassin, who is fluent in five. “What will I do if tourists don’t come back? I don’t know.”■
This new group exhibition presents the work of three artists, Deena Fadel, Rossana Corrado and Wael A. Sabour. The artists seek to find harmony through their work in societies, in cities, and within themselves. “Encounter” runs until 4 August. Tache Gallery S-139 Sahara District, Designopolis, Cairo-Alexandria Road +201222168420 www.tacheart.com
‘Supermarket’ “Supermarket” is a collective exhibition organized by a group of independent artists in cooperation with Studio Khana for Culture Development. The exhibition will examine the behaviors and thoughts that are a part of the consumerist society that the artists feel dominates Egyptian life. “Supermarket” runs until 4 July. Gezira Art Center 1 al-Sheik al-Marsafy St., Zamalek, Cairo +20227373298
2ufuky Music Festival
2ufuqy Music Festival To celebrate World Music Day, al-Cabina is offering 2ufuqy, a five-day program of concerts and biographical films about musicians and artists. It kicks off on 21 June, screening the French film “La Vie en Rose” about the life of French singer and cultural icon Édith Piaf, followed by a concert by Wasla Band and Meshwar Band. 21 June, 5 pm
“Supermarket” exhibition at the Gezira Art Center
Classic Guitar Week The Cervantes Institute, along with the Cairo Opera House are offering music lovers a series of concerts throughout the week. Cuban guitarist Eliana Matos will play in the first concert scheduled on 24 June. Concerts are held every night at 8 pm until 27 June. Cairo Opera House, Small Theater Cairo Opera House Grounds, Zamalek, Cairo +20227398144 www.cairoopera.org
Winners of ‘Recontres de l’Image’ Ahmed Ibrahim’s “Noor” and Ahmed Ghoneimy’s “Bahari,” the winners of the 12 “Recontres de l’Image” festival will be screened at the French Cultural Center this Thursday. 21 June, 7 pm French Cultural Center 5 Shafik al-Deeb St., Ard al-Golf, Heliopolis, Cairo +20224174824 www.institutfrancis-egypte.com
Jazz Bio Film Week Cinema al-Fourn is offering its audience a week of jazz bio-pic films, focusing on influential American Jazz artists. The program starts on 24 June with a screening of the 1988 “Bird” about the life of legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker. Films are screened every night at 7:30 pm until 27 June. Darb 1718 Kasr al-Shamaa St., Old Cairo +201001467544 www.darb1718.com
power of art. 27 June, 7 pm Townhouse Gallery 10, Nabrawy St., off Champollion St., downtown, Cairo www.thetownhousegallery.com
8 Utopia Theater
The festival runs until 25 June. Al-Cabina 11 Saint Saba St., Alexandria +2001223672329
The Sawy Culture Wheel workshop is hosting “8 Utopia Street,” which was produced in a recent workshop. The play is written by Mostafa Hamdy and directed by Ahmed Seif. 24 June, 7 pm Sawy Culture Wheel, Wisdom Hall 26th July Street, Zamalek, Cairo +201000999994 www.culturewheel.com/eng
Curated by Mahmoud Hamdy, “The Vision” showcases the work of 11 artists tackling the term “world view” as coined in German philosophy. Participating artists include: Khaled Hafez, Hany Rashed, Mohamed al-Masry, and Aida Khalil. “The Vision” runs until 19 July. Karmet Ibn Hanie Cultural Center Ahmed Shawky Museum 6 Ahmed Shawky St., in front of the Giza Zoo, Corniche al-Nil, Giza +20335707960
“Carry On” is a group show that exhibits work emerging from the Arab Collaboration Project, a ten-week group residency bringing together six artists from across the Arab world. “Carry On” runs until 26 June. Artellewa 10 Mohamed Ali al-Eseary St., Ard al-Lewa, Giza +201288107770 www.artellewa.com
Last chance to see ‘Carry On’
21 June 2012
Novelist and critic Mahmoud al-Ghitany will hold a discussion with author Amr al-Qady about the latter’s first collection of short stories, “25 Stories.” The collection, written in Sufi style, is inspired by the 25 January revolution, but does not seek to document or tell any of the familiar stories from Tahrir Square. 21 June, 7 pm Abgadeya Bookstore 11 Talaat harb St., downtown, Cairo 0151594587
Hossam Sadfawy’s “Blind Bird”
Filmed over nearly three years, “Waste Land” follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Director Lucy Walker and co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley offer stirring evidence of the transformative
Hossam Sadfawy is launching his new collection of poems “Teir Kafeef ” (Blind Bird) this Wednesday. Sadfawy will discuss his approach with the audience. 27 June, 7 pm Alef Bookstore 132 al-Merghany St., Heliopolis, Cairo +0224192396 alefbookstores.com
Issue no.6 21 June 2012
WORD ON THE STREET
Translation: solution, dissolution Idioms: hal magles al-shaab (dissolution of the People’s Assembly) al-Islam howa al-hal (Islam is the solution) 1. A go-to word when facing an unwanted situation, because then you can either claim to have solved it, or just diluted it. 2. The only viable option or solution…unless you’d rather go to hell! 3. It’s what happens to an organization or institution if it’s based on faulty grounds.
Printed by Al-Masry Media Corp
Context: Don’t look now! While thinking of the hal of who to choose in the presidential elections, the courts made the decision of hal of the parliament. The hal is a quite convenient way for SCAF to maintain its grip and put its own hal on how to run the country, perhaps the hal of all of its opponents. You are still thinking of who to vote for? Islam is the hal you moron, how will you meet God having chosen anything else?