Sunday, October 30, 2005

Egyptian Justice Minister and Electoral Commission Sued Over Monitoring

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), the National Committee for Monitoring Elections (NCME) and Negad Borai - head of the Cairo-based Group for Democratic Development (GDD) filed the case on behalf of dozens of groups demanding to monitor the polls, which kick off on November 9.

Egyptians are struggling for their freedom and the regime does not want to give up years of enslaving Egyptians. It is all about control, permissions, security but nothing about citizenship rights, freedom or democracy or empowering citizens to be part of Egypt’s decision making process.

Justice Minister Mahmud Abuleil issued an order on Monday allowing local NGOs to monitor the month-long legislative polls, but insisted they get permission from the state-sponsored National Human Rights Council (NHRC).

The Egyptian press also reported that prospective monitors must meet an array of conditions, including that they be impartial, non-partisan and that they should not be involved in any way in the elections.

The suit specifically demanded that the electoral commission rescind its decision to have prospective monitors go through the NHRC.

The commission talked about allowing "visits" to polling stations and deliberately refrained from using the word "monitor" to define the work of the NGOs during the elections.

Groups were allowed to monitor the September 7 presidential vote though many organisations reported that their representatives were often denied access to polling stations and even beaten up.

The bad news that I have to break to the regime, that their language about permissions, control and security is no longer acceptable in a world where the peoples all over the world have their say to determine the course of their lives and the kind of life they want to lead. It is the PEOPLE, THE PEOPLE AND THE PEOPLE. Slavery era has come to an end long time ago. Full story. Photo by AFP .

Egypt on Wiping off Israel

The Egyptian foreign minister told reporters today about “the wiping off Israel thing by Iran" that Iran and Israel are two United Nations member states, and such a phenomenon (the disappearance of a member state) was never seen in history.

My guess is that the Egyptian regime is learning its lessons at this point in history…no more following to Syria’s wishes and agenda.

In normal cases, Egypt would have remained silent following the pursuit of many Arab neighbors. I am glad that finally we can talk international diplomatic language that rise to our peace agreement with Israel that we should honor. Photo by AFP.

No Compromise with US Security

Our security at home (US) is directly linked to a Middle East that grows in freedom and peace. The success of the new Iraqi government is critical to winning the war on terror and protecting the American people.”

While we are on the threshold of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, I would like to highlight this quote from US president Bush’s weekly radio address. It is very obvious now that the count down has started for dictatorships in Middle East to straighten up because I am not so sure the US is ready compromise its security after 9/11. This is a photo for the Egyptian MPs.

Egyptian "bawabs" make it to Boston

I found this interesting story on Cairo doormen or bawabs (As we call him in Egyptian Arabic).

The story has a cultural background as well as political dimensions. Just to explain to my non-Egyptian friends, a bawab function in Cairo is no guard man or receptionist job you think of. He is not a person sitting down at the gate of your house or building to get your guests sign on in a guest book to know who is in at the building for safety reasons.

This bawab actually is usually a tenant in the same building where you live. He must have certain characteristics. Being in Egypt and masculinity is usually how you show strength; this bawab must be a man. Usually he is no single man. He moves to the building with his wife with two kids and they end up with six. The owner of the building offers them a room for him, his wife and the six children.

And because you are Egypt and you are not considered as a full-fledged citizen who can be responsible for your social actions, you need a custodian or a caretaker represented in the Bawab.

The regime officers succeed in utilizing the bawab to collect information about citizens who are considered a threat. The Bawab could be your ultimate friend or your unavoidable enemy.

Culturally, this bawab can straighten you or help you find your way to sin. If you are an Egyptian, you better behave otherwise; everything will be reported to all neighbors who have chaste daughters whom you might hurt their feelings by bringing your girlfriend to your apartment. You might end up also with a pimp bawab who would be more than happy to bring you whatever you want.

In this huge Cairo city, security or safety is not about making sure that fire extinguishers are in place or that municipality engineers are checking on the buildings’ foundation that we only hear about when they collapse because of corruption related issues or about ensuring that buildings’ facilities have full functions that help people live without being dependent on a person to get them bread because they do not have a near by place to buy bread or they do not want to move their cars because parking lots will be taken...etc. Safety and services embodied in the bawab idea is all about making sure that citizens are behaving.

Dependency on other malfunctioning people like the bawab keeps the mouth of all Egyptian citizens shut, because some Egyptian citizens who enjoy the privilege of having a bawab, do not have to go to the post office and stand in line to get an international mail delivered or bargain about fruits and vegetables prices. It just keeps the citizens as quiet as possible so not to complain why the government is not conforming or imposing pricing regulations or providing the proper services in each district, hence holding officials responsible for doing their jobs…etc. The cycle of the bawab is completed by cooperating with the regimes’ officers or simply with other informants working as sub-informant, spying on citizens know to have certain profiles.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Saudis are applying their barbaric style of life on Egyptians

Human Rights Watch reported today that a 14 Year-Old Egyptian Boy is facing death sentence in Saudi Arabia after a flawed trial in which he was convicted for the murder of another child. Saudi King Abdullah should uphold the country's obligations to protect children and due process by commuting the death sentence.

Neither the Saudi nor Egyptian government has responded to letters onthe case that Human Rights Watch sent several weeks ago and made public today before the Eid holiday.Following a seriously flawed trial, Ahmad al-D. was sentenced todeath in July for the murder of three-year old Wala' `Adil `Abd al-Badi` in Dammam in April 2004. The families of both children areEgyptian nationals living in Saudi Arabia. Wala's parents have refusedto accept blood money (diya) from Ahmad's family, and Ahmad remains on death row in a juvenile detention facility in Dammam.

Saudi Arabia has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child,which prohibits capital punishment for offenses committed by individuals under 18 at the time of the crime and protects the rights ofall children accused or convicted of crimes.

Saudi Arabia stated in its 2004 report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that the "Islamic Shariah in force in the Kingdom never imposes capital punishment on persons who have not attained their majority" and that "a juvenile is defined under the Detention Regulation and the Juvenile Homes' Regulation of A.H.1395 (1975) as every human being below the age of 18".

At every stage of the investigation, detention, trial and sentencing, the Saudi authorities violated Ahmad's due process rights and well as international legal protections for children. He had no legal assistanceor representation during interrogation, detention and trial. Press and police accounts also throw into question his psychological stability during this period and his ability to participate in his own defense. He told the Saudi online newspaper al-Yaum al-Elektroni that he confessed only after police questioned him for the third time because"my strength dwindled and I lacked the capacity to refuse." He saidthat while in pre-trial solitary confinement for three months he "criedfrom fear and loneliness."

Killing a minor is absolute Barbarism

Egyptian Sand Monkey and Miss Mabrouk of Egypt have very interesting blogs on the execution.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

BBC confirms Arabic TV

BBC World Service announced the launch of a new Arabic channel by 2007. This is wonderful news. In the Arab world, there is a kind of monopoly by some Arab satellite channels. They tend to perform at a very high level in terms of speed and response to international and Middle East News. Most of them also use a very high technology, however, most of them tend to see the news from the same angle.

Let me explain “the same angle” thing. They seem as if they represent different opposing opinions but in fact they sell and recycle the Arab regimes ideas unconsciously like the western enemies represented in the US enemy, the crushed Palestinians, Israel that should be thrown in the sea, Egyptians who betrayed the Arabs by signing a peace agreement with Israel, Syria that is unjustly accused by the west, the occupied Iraq by the US, Saddam who is still regarded as the legitimate president of Iraq, some of them support extremism…etc.

I have no doubt that the BBC will bring the same level of proficiency in the news that we are used to in the BBC English or Arabic radio station. My hope is that it would be able not only to supply the need for non-Arab news perspective but also to drive the news to a new direction to change the people’s political perspectives. It should be able to bring new “color” to politics to replace the decaying ideology of Arab dictator regimes that supports extremism and oppression.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Disturbing News from Alexandria, Egypt

This is a story that tells you what kind of culture was adopted by Egyptians under the fascism of the totalitarian regimes like those of Egypt's military coup d’etats of July 23 1952.

It is a complete transformation to the principles and ethics that our history before 1952 taught us. I cannot believe that this is happening in Egypt that once hosted Damascus Jews after the 1844 massacre, Lebanon’s Christians after the 1860 massacres, thousands of Armenian orphans in 1915, the Greek royal family during world war II, Albanian Royal family after the 1950 coup d’etates, Al-Habib Bourqiba, Russian and Chinese princesses as well as Algerian and most African strugglers. Egypt was also sought by Prince Talal Bin Abdel Aziz and the Iranian and Libyan Royal families as a safe haven, where they all lived in safety. Let’s not forget Egyptian Jews who had to flee Egypt in a savage way under the brutal ruling of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser who gave orders to get them out of Egypt with their bedtime clothes confiscating all their properties.

Not to mention that the Mediterranean city of Alexandria before 1952 was a true European hub for all immigrating Europeans from Greece, Armenia, Ukraine, Italy…etc and nothing was mentioned about their faiths. Now it is a hub for extremists. How sad?

Now I am asking myself, why am I surprised? This is how the fascist era of the July Revolution has started; stabbing a nun now in 2005 is a normal development!

This also can tell you the amount of destruction that my Egypt is suffering under military ruling since 1952.

Time to end this era and start anew to bring back the Egypt we are all proud of. Photo by AP.

Gateway Pundit and Egyptian Sand Monkey have more on the story.
Miss Mabrouk has a story on protests after Friday Prayers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Democracy and Freedom Win More Trust among Iraqis

Last January, many Sunni Iraqis boycotted the elections believing that either Iraq can not go on without their votes or that the whole process is a hoax. Nine months later, they are not hesitant for one second to be key partners to draw Iraq’s democratic future and political process.

Even though many Sunnis want to vote to turn down the constitution, this is another sign that the election process gained credibility and Sunnis and Shiites believe in casting their ballots. It is a very positive sign. If people start to have faith in their countries political processes, they will stop terrorism and families that send their children as suicide bombers to kill innocents.

Some argue whether this is democracy or not. Many claim it is an American intervention, occupation, interests….bla bla. The reality is that Iraqis are starting a political process of democracy and freedom with the help of the United States. They will be setting a model for democracy and liberty.

Iraq’s elections uncover to what extent Arab regimes and media are in support of the Iraqi democracy. The Egyptian newspapers’ headlines are highlighting US readiness to launch military operations in Syria. Another headline says, President Mubarak in Libya to discuss pressure on Syria. We are supposed to shed tears on the Syrian regime and how the “bad” US is trying to pressure Syria. There is no mention to the high turnout of the Iraqi referendum and the great political process that is evolving with the people writing their constitution. But of course these are minor details for authoritarian regimes. Another headline says Arab League chairman did not withdraw his decision to visit Baghdad, while the story says nothing about congratulating the Iraqis on their constitution. I am not so sure that the Iraqis want to receive such a despicable person who cannot realize that he has lost touch with reality long time ago. And that he is not speaking a language that would appeal to normal humans who care about their rights and freedom. His only role is to talk about the sovereignty of Iraq without referring to the death of 300,000 Iraqis during the era of Saddam or the mass graves that continue to be unearthed or glorifying their courage to defeat terrorists. He only wants to draw the image that the Iraqis are the followers of the US and that they are getting their punishment for this with all suicide bombers that he promises will not stop until the US is out. I am taking the opportunity to congratulate the Iraqi people on the referendum of the constitution. Even if the constitution did not pass, they will work more on it which is great. I am filled with hope because this gives me hope for a future in Middle East.

It is the will of Iraq and the Iraqis to go ahead and bury years of genocide and oppression under dictatorship, but it is also the help of the world and particularly the US. Without the US protection to democracy and freedom in Iraq, the oppressive dictator regimes in the Middle East would have been capable of blowing up the Iraqi dream, hence blowing our dream for democracy in the Middle East. Thanks to the Iraqi people, thank you for your courage and taking the lead and thanks to the US sacrifice. Photo by AFP

Finally the UN is speaking Democracy and Freedom

This is wonderful news. It signals that the role of the UN is moving from realizing peace between warring countries to helping the emerging democracies and freedoms and ensuring human rights for all peoples of the world.

Just to irritate anti-freedom folks, the origins of the Fund were suggested by the George W. Bush administration. In his speech at the 2004 United Nations General Assembly, Bush declared that the Fund "would help countries lay the foundations of democracy by instituting the rule of law, independent courts, a free press, political parties, and trade unions".

The United Nations has garnered more than 42 million dollars in pledges to create a new Democracy Fund (UNDEF) that would help countries transitioning from authoritarian regimes to free societies.

Victor Arango of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) said that "the Fund will complement current U.N. efforts" and should be up and running by next year.

The Fund's main objectives are to strengthen democratic institutions and governance in countries seeking to establish or restore democracies including grants for projects to build civil society, strengthen the rule of law, establish political parties and independent courts, or develop free press and trade unions.

Simon Weber of Citizens for Global Solutions, a U.S.-based human rights
group, told that 13 countries have kicked off the funding, with the United States, India, and Australia comprising the largest contributions with 10 million dollars each.

"Thus far, only five million has actually been paid, but most observers are optimistic that pledges will be honoured," he said.

Another 26 countries have expressed support and pledges, including Britain, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Mauritius, Portugal, Qatar, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and South Korea.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed UNDEF on Jul. 4 at a meeting
of the African Summit in Libya. He told the assembled members that the Fund
would assist in alleviating the potential strain of maintaining and constructing democratic institutions.

Arango said that the Fund would "fill gaps, and respond to requests that go beyond the reach of existing mechanisms. It will work closely, in a structured manner, with other U.N. bodies to ensure coordination and avoid overlap."

He said an advisory board of "geographically diverse" member states under the secretary-general's authority will oversee the Fund and recommend proposals for funding.

The United Nations Fund for International Partnership will also be involved with the Fund by providing administrative and financial support. Other departments and agencies, such as the Department of Political Affairs, UNDP, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, are to review applications and forward recommendations to the advisory board.

In addition to the United States, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
has strongly endorsed UNDEF, signaled by India's large pledge. In his speech at the official launch of the Fund on Sep. 14, Singh highlighted his democratic ideals.

"A strong and independent judiciary, a free press, professional civil and military establishments, constitutionally empowered institutions to safeguard the rights of minorities, of women and children and an independent electoral mechanism; these constitute the veritable nuts and bolts of democracy."

Annan, also speaking at the launch, acknowledged that not all United
Nations member states were democracies. However, he maintained that all of them "accept democratisation as something desirable, at least in principle".

He also declared that "there is no single model of democracy", a
Statement echoed in the secretary-general's recent report, "In Larger Freedom". In a section titled "Freedom to Live in Dignity", Annan stated, "The United
Nations should not restrict its role to norm-setting but should expand
Its help to its members to further broaden and deepen democratic trends
throughout the world."

According to Citizens for Global Solutions, any country, non-governmental organisation, or U.N. body may apply for funding with proposals weighed on their merits.

Arango affirmed to that the Fund would not endorse any single model of democracy, nor would there be any basis of conditionality. "Under no circumstance could activities undertaken by the Fund be 'imposed' on a country. The approach will be one of collaboration and support."

The Fund is still in the formulation stages, but appears to have wide international support, as indicated by language in the outcome document signed by heads of state at the World Summit this September.

"We renew our commitment to support democracy by strengthening countries' capacity to implement the principles and practices of democracy and resolve to strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to assist Member States upontheir request. We welcome the establishment of a Democracy Fund at the United Nations."

What will be the situation if the Syrian Interior Minister was in Egypt?

Well still the murder of the Syrian minister of the Interior, Ghazi Kenaan , is a mystery. The Syrian regime investigations confirmed that he has committed suicide. But that left a big question why would such a man with his status commit suicide. It is so strange. If we compared the Iraqi officials of the Saddam dictatorship era, none of them committed suicide even when they knew that the US troops are knocking their doors while they are still in front of the press cameras claiming victory over the US troops.

If this guy was killed in Egypt, the Egyptian regime will announce that he died with a heart attack, pressuring or bribing his family to keep their mouths shut with a very elegant obituary in Al-ahram newspaper thanking the President, the PM, all the ministers and the People’s Assembly’s Speaker on offering condolences. And the man will be buried with his secret. At least the Syrian regime acknowledged that he committed suicide, even if he was killed. Because I do not see why this minister has to wait to go to his office to commit suicide? Photo by Reuters.
More on Syria here, here and here.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Iraq will Make it...

Iraq is making its history. Iraq will be a strong country with the strong will of the Iraqis. The days will come to prove. Tomorrow a new blog on Iraq Constitution Day...My heart is with you tomorrow. You deserve a better future for all the sacrifice you made.
Photo by AP

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lafif Lakhdar is threatened

Threatening someone's life because he/she thinks freedom is like planning blowing up a train or a building.

Please read Abu Khawla's article:Criminalizing Incitement to Kill: why resolution 1624 will not make it (Published on Middle East Transparency site)

Abu Khawla is the coordinator of Lafif Lakhdar International Defense Committee and former chair of the Tunisian Section of Amnesty International.

Join the campaign and defend defenders of human liberties, do not let the terrorists ideology take over.

Contact: if you can help

Also, visit Stefania's blog. She has many blogs in defence of Lafif Lakhdar.

What is happening in Syria?

AP's DONNA ABU-NASR reported today Syria's interior minister, who effectively controlled Lebanon for two decades, was found dead in his office Wednesday, days before the release of a U.N. report that could implicate high-ranking officials in the murder of Lebanon's former prime minister.

Rumors are spreading so fast that he was killed by the Syrian regime because Syria is under tremendous pressure from the international community. Other rumors say he could not take standing before international courts on the indictment of killing Lebanese Prime Minsiter Raqik Al-Hariri. He killed himself.

I really cannot wait for the UN report. I m dying to read what is in this report that might have led a regime to liquidate its most trustworthy men or lead the Syrian minister to commit suicide. Did he feel that his regime will not protect him after the report's release? Many many questions marks???
My only impression about this man's death is that the international community succeeded in shaking up one of the brutal regimes in the Middle East. Photo by Reuters

Monday, October 10, 2005

Is there a response from the "Muslim" Arab Countries to Pakistan quake?

Rescue workers on Sunday fanned out to remote areas of Pakistan even as one officials claimed over 30,000 people had died in Saturday's massive earthquake that left several thousands buried under the debris. More..

This scary natural disaster is grabbing the attention of the world on how to save some people that could be still alive under the debris as the British rescue team heard a woman who has been under the rubble for 2 days and a half with no food or drink. There could be hundreds in the same position. Help is needed from all over the world. International aid, including emergency rescue workers, began to flow in. Planes arrived from Turkey, Britain, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Russia, China and Germany also offered assistance.

Pakistan is a Muslim country, but it is not Arab. It does not fall under the Pan-Arabism project, hence not eligiable for the sympathy, out loud cries and Arab media propaganda.

Arab mass media are capable of scandalizing the US, Britian and Israel for the Palestinian and the Iraqi Muslims as the occupiers and invaders. I hope they remember that the first rescue teams that arrived in Pakistan were from India and US army bases in Afghanistan. Westesn rescue teams are frantically struggling to save the "Muslim" survivors. I hate to use Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh or Buddist, but I am using the same language of some Arab media outlets. Here is an example: "The Muslims in the Palestinian territories and Iraq are attacked and invaded by the Christian west or the Jewish Israel." Simple-minded press tend to interpret any disaster in a non-muslim country as a punishment from God, I wonder how would they call it in Pakistan?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Syria not heeding calls to keep out of Mideast affairs

Top US diplomat David Welch told reporters in Cairo that this month's release of a UN report on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri would probably be an occasion for the world to send a signal to Syria about its "misbehavior".

This is a very polite way to describe what is Syria doing? "Misbehavior". Photo by AFP

Nobel Peace Prize Standards are going Down

Well, I am a proud Egyptian. I am so proud of my people who were awarded Nobel Prize in the past, but I have to admit that picking up IAEA and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei. I knew why Naguib Mahfouz, Dr. Ahmed Zweil and President Sadat won the prize and I believe in their contribution to the humanity.

The British Guardian yesterday had this interesting story on a new document that names 300 organisations seeking nuclear and WMD technology. Now I can rest in peace and rely on the Nobel Peace Prize commission results on believing that the IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei are making the world safer. Congratulations to all of us.

The Egyptian liberals and the American conservatives

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend of mine who claims to be a liberal Egyptian on the Iraq war. In a separate coincidence, I had another meeting with another friend who also claims to be also liberal on the same topic.

Egyptian liberals are quite divided on the war in Iraq. Or it could be that the war on Iraq demonstrated sharply two streams of liberals in Egypt. The first group of Egyptian liberals agrees with the American conservatives in general. It is quite amazing how some Middle Eastern liberals are agreeing with the American conservatives. It is quite extraordinary to find the liberals and the conservatives on the same side. But yes that happened in Egypt. They are agreeing with the American conservations on what is making American conservatives the most controversial and hated. That’s the war on Iraq.

The Egyptian “pro-conservative” liberals believe in the following. There is no other way to topple dictators in power for 35 years like Saddam without war. The world was turning into pockets of terrorists. The US is the only country that decided so early to take the risk and the lead to lead the war on terror. Many should be grateful to the US for taking the responsibility of toppling Middle East dictators. No one else could do the job. We knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction WMD, but we knew that the US finally realized that the terror threat will remain as long as Middle East dictators are in power. Europe does not realize the magnitude of the destruction that happened in these countries over half a century that can pose a true threat to global security as the US does. They believe that without the US attack on dictatorship in Iraq, many peoples in the region would not have dared to start all these opposition movements in the streets without pressure from the US. In Egypt people used to be sacred to death to talk to each other about the ruling family. Now you name it you have it…Egyptians became more vocal and outspoken. This group of liberals is very sensitive to the US reactions towards the democracy march in the Middle East. They measure the US reactions inch by inch and they usually judge very harshly. They are expecting a lot more from the US administration in general. They see Iraq as free and democratic. They think the US makes mistakes but they believe in it.

The other group of the Egyptian liberals is quite controversial as well. They are anti-Islamists and anti-Iraq war, hence anti-American. They see Islamists and terrorists as a danger but they fail to explain how they can confront an ideology of fascism that wants to take the world over stamping out centuries of civilizations. This group cannot wait to see the US out of Iraq. They are against the atrocities of the war in general and they see Iraq as occupied with no sovereignty. I think because both groups have different views on the principle of non-interference or self-determination as well.

Both groups of Egyptian liberals believe in social freedom and the right to a true citizenship under democratic free state.

Thank you my friends for the enriching discussions. At least if we do not agree on how democracy should take control, we all agree on the necessity of freedom and democracy that would guarantee a free world.

Read the American story from Gateway Pundit on the same post.

I wrote this related cynical blog last August: "The B52 will take care of you".

Letter from an Egyptian journalist on Egyptian press syndicate elections

Dear...., (That's me)

...... I am proud to belong to the Egyptian Syndicate of journalists. This was what I felt after the declaration of the results of the Chairman of the syndicate's elections. What a day! It was not a battle for a post, it was a real elections that the Egyptian simple people have followed after the fake presidential elections that has happened at the same month, September 2005.

The candidates were many at the first battle. Five of them had a real chance. The first was PhD Osama El Gazali Harb, editor in chief of Al Ahram's Alsiasa Al Dawlia (international policies) magazine and member of the ruling political party's policies committee headed by Gamal Mubarak, the president's son.

El Gazali is a nice person and have good connections that may help some journalists, but still unpopular among the majority of journalists, especially for his views and political identity. The second was Ibrahim Higazy, editor in chief of Al Ahram Al Riady( Al Ahram sport) magazine and deputy chairman of the syndicate, who is known to be the loyal follower of Ibrahim Nafie, Al Ahram's establishment board director for over 25 years who was obliged to leave his post recently and is facing investigations concerning corruption.

Hegazi is so blanc and direct concerning his program. He wants journalists to stop standing on the stairs of the syndicate protesting anything or allowing Egyptian's to express their selves in that place which have turned recently to be a hid park for freedom. He asks us to shut up in return to a bribe, 80 Egyptian pounds to be added to our salaries in addition to some silly services. He wants to close all the corruption files that have been opened by the current chairman of the syndicate Galal Arif.

The third is Osama Gaith, who works at Al Ahram's research center. He is a respectable man, but not active within the Syndicate's activites. Those three are from Al Ahram establishment as you see, which is strange because Al Ahram , the biggest publishing house in Egypt usually have one candidate that most of the journalists there vote for him. This time, our colleagues at Al Ahram were feeling betrayed because they have discovered that Nafie have been getting the entire monthly that was supposed to be theirs. The man who have revealed this corruption is Mostapha Bakry, Editor in chief of the independent weekly newspaper "Al Esboo" who was the forth candidate in this elections. Bakry wrote what many Ahramians have never even dreamt of in their nightmares. This was the reason why the direct fight was between Nafie's man, Hegazi and Bakri. They started by sending SMS and papers to the 4500's members who have the right to vote at the syndicate about services in the absence of a strategic program.

Later, they started to attack each others, by sending anonymity documents revealing the black history of each other. Many questioned Bakry's timing to attack Nafie after years of being his alliance. Some said that Bakry was pushed by someone. The certain thing was that the election's was a firry one.

The fifth candidate was moving quietly but surely. Galal Arif, the Chairman who was fighting for a second term in office didn't have neither Hegazi's big campaign budget, generous promises supported by the government, nor Bakry's newspaper covering the campaign. He only have asked people to judge him for the past two years and help him to complete the opening of some files which were not opened for 20 years of pro government chairmans. Galal's program is fighting corruption and reforming journalism conditions. The election's results were a runoff between Gala Arif and Hegazy, who have got the best results.

Three days after that, Egyptian journalists came to their syndicate again for the run off elections. This time Nafie appeared to support Hegazy for their life or death battle. On the other side Gala's slogan for his supporters was "Together against Corruption". We heard about some direct bribes; laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras and apartments. I felt that our syndicate is threatened. We, journalists, had to turn to soldiers defending our syndicate. When the boxes were opened and the judges came to count the votes, I could hear my heart screaming in fear.

I was scared to death. I was not the only one who had these fears. The results came not only to calm us, but also to prove that the Egyptian journalists had awareness equal to this particular historical moment. They sent a clear message: we are not for sale. Galal didn't only win but has won by a huge margin; 800 votes difference between him and Hegazi.

I believe that the Syndicate's elections is not the end, but the real beginning of a change all over Egypt. Let us wait and see.

Yours sincerely,

............ (That's my friend)

Thank you my dear friend for your email. Elections are just a beginning on the path towards a free press. I wish you all the best.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Five wounded and two detained in a Kefaya Ramadan congregation in Damanhour City

Opposition Kefaya movement website reported that Kefaya members had to leave the headquarters of the Nassarist Party in Damanhour City where they were holding a conference, following assaults by pocket knives from thugs and police. The conference was concluded with an agreementon a gathering next Saturday in front of the Damanhour general prosecutor office.

The protest gathering where a number of Cairo Kefaya coordinators are participating will be combined with a complaint against police high officers in Beyhara governorate that provided thugs with pocket knives and protection to attack Kefaya members.

The attack injured five people.Police detained two kefaya members. Lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz who is one of the injured was attacked in his face by a pocket knife. Thugs pinched Kefaya members’ properties under the protection of the police.

Kefaya website also reported that the members were attacked by boiling water.

Following the conference attack, Kefaya came under another attack while preparing for a Ramadan banquet in a tent, a tradition held during the month of Ramadan for the poor.

Kefaya members staged a sit-in where the banquet was supposed to be take place to release their two detained colleagues. The sit-in was surrounded by thugs released by police to intimidate Kefaya.

Kefaya released a statement condemning the oppressive way of the Egyptian security apparatus in dealing with peaceful gatherings and asserting its determination on maintaining the constitutional right for all citizens. Source: Kefaya website.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

This day a peace champion was killed

Remembering Peace Champion President Anwar Sadar who was assassinated by hard-line Islamists during a military parade on 6 October 1981.

We miss your vision.

Prince Claus Award goes to Mezzo

The Prince Claus Fund 's awards set outstanding quality as an essential condition for the Fund's award. The most important consideration of the jury is the positive effect of a laureate’s work on a wider cultural or social field. The Prince Claus Fund interprets culture in a broad sense to encompass all kinds of artistic and intellectual disciplines, science, media and education.

Among 2005 laureates is Egyptian writer Lenin El –Ramly. He is a comic dramatist who audaciously questions the social conventions, hypocrisies and bigotries of both Egyptian society and the Arab world.

El-Ramly's best known play internationally is the 1991 Bel Arabi al-Faseeh (In Plain Arabic), a devastating satire of the time-honoured cultural and political project of Pan-Arabism. Although originally written in the early 1970s, the play mounted the stage only few months after the first Gulf War.

As film writer, El-Ramly received media attention, both at home and abroad, for his attack on Islamist militants in the 1994 Al-Erhabi (The Terrorist).

El-Ramly's most recent play Ekhla'o el-Aqne'a (Masks Off!) was presented on the fringe of the 2005 Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre, directed by El-Ramly himself. Set in a mythical Arab city right off The Thousand and One Nights, the play makes a subtle symbolic reference to the rise of religious conservatism in Egypt, thanks in large part to the return of Egyptian expatriates (predominantly middle-class) from their long work stint in oil-rich, ultra-conservative, and consumerist-oriented Arab Gulf states.

To congratulate, visit his website.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Beni Suef Inferno remembered in Italy

Stefania is hosting the Carnavil of Revolutions this week. She is summing up news from around the world. She picked up my coverage on Beni Suef disaster to be Egypt's share. Well Done Stefania. Victimes and their familes are still struggling to get some of their rights...But in a country where no one is held accountable it is very difficult...

Thanks Stefania for your solidarity with the victims, highly appreciated. More on the story here, here and here.

New Free Egypt

A new party named "Freedom and Justice" was formed in Egypt. I actually read their pledge and it seems to me they are calling for the basics of a state, like being all equal before the constitution. That sounds to me very normal and unquestionable. But may be Egypt reached such a stage that we really need to question the basics? Just forgive my scepticism in the political life in Egypt. I will cross this bridge when I come to it. I won't look for a platform now. I am just remembering Ayman Nour's start and what is happening to him and his party, Al-Ghad Party. His party members are trying hard to unseat him as the leader of the party

Anyway, if anyone interested to talk to those folks, here we go:

7 Al-Heggaz street Roxy, Heliopolis
Cairo , Egypt
Tel: 202-4520977
Fax: 2596622
Website: (in Arabic)
Contact: Mr. Amir Hamdy Mohamed Salem

Sunday, October 02, 2005

“This is How the World Fucked Africa”

It happened by chance that last week I saw “Hotel Rwanda” and this week I saw “The Constant Gardener”. Both films I would brand as super great and real masterpieces.

Hotel Rwanda is not a documentary about the massacre of Tutsis who were killed by Hutus in Rwanda as much it is about this hotel manager who saved the lives of 1,200 people from the Tutsis by being a very good hotel manager, based on his background of diplomacy.

The Constant Gardener is delving into the dirty business of pharmaceutical companies that manage to get approvals to use “cheap” humans as test subjects for medical experimentation without their knowledge or consent. And of course where do those “cheap” human live? The answer is Africa. The main theme of the film revolves around diplomat Justin Quayle who seeks the truth to find why his wife was murdered in Africa while he was in a mission there.

Both films successfully portray the misery and despair in which millions of people in Africa are experiencing while the world is looking away. Hotel Rwanda is based on a true story and The Constant Gardener is based on true details of how big multi-international companies can wear the mask of helping when they are exploiting innocent souls.

I will not go into details about the stories of both films but you can visit Hotel Rwanda here and The Constant Gardener here. Photos are from the same sites.

Diplomat Justin Quayle, a role played by talented Ralph Fiennes, is an example of how diplomacy can be so ineffective when put in the right traditional channels. That’s through embassies and representations. However, when the skills and dexterity of diplomacy are used for a cause, it usually achieves its goals which is quite contradictory but that's what both movies conveyed to me in a way. Those precious qualities of diplomacy functioned so well away from the classic image of diplomats.

Paul Rusesabagina, a role played by Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda revealed how high exquisite professionalism of diplomacy saved the lives of more than 1200 lives from unavoidable genocide though not through the legal traditional channels of diplomacy versus the failure of the real diplomacy to save the Rwandan people from the genocide in 1994.

Every one of us has talents and skills in one area or another and usually restricted to certain channels or circles but same talents could exemplify heroism and great courage in support of great causes like saving innocent lives from a dreadful genocide or from pharmaceutical human testing. It is never an easy mission as in both movies but such missions serve sublime goals that confirm values of our humanity.

When Justine Quayle gave up his diplomatic passport in Britain or when it was withdrawn from him, he did not give up seeking the truth behind the murder of his wife. The truth uncovered a mafia that is using innocent African lives and souls because they think it is “cheap” for drug testing. Missions are not passports. Missions are meant to believe to serve greater causes. The two movies confirm that principle of missions can be owned by anyone as long as she/he is serving an inspirational goal for humans.
I am still touched by Paul Rusesabagina from Hotel Rwanda, Justin Quayle and his wife Tessa, a role played by the pretty British actress Rachel Weisz, from the Constant Gardener. The reason why I am touched or why I cried while watching both movies, it is because they touched the very core of our existence as humans and how we should coexist. We should exist as equal human beings with the same rights. No humans are meant to exist at the expense of the lives of others. No race should exist because it is better than the other; hence the latter should be exterminated. All humans are entitled to live decently with dignity and self respect. There is no such thing as cheap or expensive humans. Qualifying some humans as priority and others as not because of discriminatory values is frightful.

I remember this statement from “The Constant Gardener” when Justine Quayle was visiting Southern Sudan seeing a raid on a refugee camp, he asked the white" doctor while trying to flee the massacre what is this. The doctor answered: “This is How the World Fucked Africa”. True both films are sincerely showing “How the World Fucked Africa” and failed many children and women in their weakness. And that’s enough. I highly encourage you all to watch both movies, because I will not be able to describe how anyone would feel, I would do both movies injust. They are true works of art.

Diplomacy should be Paul Rusesabagina, Justine Quayle and Tessa Qualye's determination to make a better life for others, trying to undo injustices to others.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mubarak promises free and fair parliamentary polls

"As I had promised for the presidential election, the upcoming legislative polls will also be free and fair and will take place under the supervision of the electoral commission and the judges," President Mubarak said.

Is this the same electoral commission that brought him to power for the fifth term to rule for 30 years until 2011? I heard it is different. Should we expect different irregularties? I also heard that the members are not judges. There is a kind of contradiction here as the story says elections will be held under judicial supervision. But anyway, these are minor details because anything can happen in our Egypt. His promise gave him 88.8% instead of 99.9% in the election results.

I am afraid I would like to see international monitors in Egypt to set the rules and get things get done right without fraud or rigging. Egypt's Parliamentary Elections is Set for 11/8 . Photo by Reuters.

Let them do their work please

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, during a one-day visit to Cairo.

After the meetings, France's leading Muslim official who accompanied Douste-Blazy in Egypt, voiced his concern over the terrorist threat in France. Dalil Boubakeur, who chairs France's Muslim Council said "I am observing with great concern the events that reveal the existence of a terrorist project in France."

When asked about Islamist networks originating in Egypt, Boubakeur said: "Everything is possible... but it is clear that the Egyptian religious authorities, including the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, do not tolerate such a form of Islam."

Am I allowed to ask the French or anyone who try to put the words into the mouth of Muslim clerics in the Middle East to let them do their work. We want to hear them condemn terrorism out loud. We want them to define terrorism. We want them not discriminate between the victims of terrorism. Insurgents in Iraq and Hamas are resistance, hence their victims deserves what is happening for them.....Please stop spoon feeding those hypocrites and let to do their work. Sharm El Sheikh will never be forgotten.

"See you Tomorrow" is leaving us

Most Egyptians are expected at least once to be at this gigantic monster in their lifetime. I personally have been there thrice.

I got so used to it that I do not know how can we survive without this amount of bureaucracy.To where the government is going to take its bloody control over our lives? What about the millions of people that work there? Will they be made redundant?

I really cannot count how many ministries are functioning from there just for ancillary business because they have their own buildings in other places. My experience there was with the ministry of heath, social affairs and the interior. I am sure there are more. Anyway...

The Washington Post is bidding the monster goodbye with us. Photo by: Hassan Jamali AP

Forget or Forgive in Algeria?

"With an overwhelming ''yes" vote to a peace plan, Algeria officially turned the page on a brutal Islamic insurgency that brought horror to this North African nation and left an estimated 150,000 dead." By Elaine Ganley on Boston Globe.

The Moor next Door is questioning whether he should Forget or Forgive? It is a great blog.

It was interesting for me to know how Arab military regimes are similar. Nouri wrote at the end of his blog that the opposition in Algeria call for boycotting the referendum. That sounds very familiar to me as an Egyptian. ...Same position for Egyptian opposition. The brutality of the Arab regimes built this distrust problem over half a century in most of the Middle East countries.

As the Egyptian regime likes to sell itself or the Islamists only infront of the world, read what Nouri wrote about the Algerian opposition... amazing..." In Algeria, nobody knows the opposition's opinion or even that they exist in some places because they never make their opinions known." Or they are not part of the regime package to be sold to the world in the first place. The regimes' control over media outlets buried different voices that are not part of the regime packages.

Image by Reuters

Showing more ugliness

Looks like the closer the UN probe report on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minsiter Rafik Al-Hariri is expected the bloodiest it is getting.

One Lebanese political source said "All indications are that Mehlis (U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis) will implicate some Syrian officials in the case.”

Perpetrators do not want to give up because they are cornered. Here is another ugly story. Lebanese security forces have seized explosives that two men intended to attach to a Christian judge's car in northern Lebanon.

A security source said neighbours spotted the men near Judge Nazim Khoury's car overnight and reported them to security forces on Saturday. Mai Chidiac remembered. Photo by AP.