Egypt

Egypt generals must rein in security forces

Amnesty calls for an end to the brutal crackdown on Tahrir Square protesters…

 

Prosecute Tantawi © Gigi Ibrahim

 

Egypt’s military must urgently end the brutal and deadly response to protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in Alexandria, Amnesty International said today.

Some two dozen people reportedly were killed and hundreds were injured in the violent clashes that erupted in Cairo and Alexandria Saturday. Security forces appeared to fire buckshot and rubber bullets into the crowds. Bodies in the Cairo morgue reportedly showed head and chest wounds from live ammunition, including shotgun wounds. The public prosecutor has ordered a forensic examination of the bodies.

Philip Luther, acting director for the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International, said:

This bloodshed over the weekend is utterly unacceptable. The violence yet again calls into question the orders given to security forces,

We hold the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) responsible for the lives and the safety of demonstrators and voters in next week’s elections.

Protesters gathered in Tahrir Square over the weekend after riot police used force to disperse a sit-in organized by a group of people injured in the January uprising. The protesters had camped in Tahrir Square last week to call for the SCAF to hand over power to civilian rule and to provide them with adequate reparations for their injuries.

In their attempt to regain control of Tahrir Square and surrounding streets, security forces beat protesters with sticks and used tear gas recklessly to disperse the crowds. Some protesters retaliated by hurling stones and, in some instances, Molotov cocktails. Some 120 people were arrested and referred to the public prosecution for investigation.

“The violent policing seen over the weekend is reminiscent of the repression during the ‘January 25 revolution’ and security forces relied on the same old patterns of abuse as under the three decades of Mubarak’s rule,” said Luther. “While the Egyptian authorities have a duty to maintain law and order, they must not use excessive force to crack down on peaceful protests, something that poses a severe threat to Egyptians’ rights to assembly and freedom of expression.”

 

Dispatches from Cairo: #7

British writer Lucy Emmerson blogs from Cairo on events taking place in post-revolution Egypt…

 

Tahrir Square protests © Lucy Emmerson

 

The largest protests since February have rocked Downtown Cairo over the last few days, leaving at least 3 dead and 800 injured. Events began on Friday, when Islamists mobilised to occupy Tahrir Square, their numbers in the tens of thousands. Since this relatively peaceful beginning the protests have broken down into chaos, with pockets of violence concentrated in several side-streets.

 

© Lucy Emmerson

Most businesses Downtown have entirely shut down, many people unable or unwilling to brave the violence to get to work. I, with a friend, spent the afternoon in Tahrir handing out Pepsi-soaked tissues to protesters to counteract the burning of the tear-gas.

People continued to gather throughout the afternoon, brutal fighting taking place less than 50 meters in front of us. Motorcycle ambulances carried the injured to hastily-constructed field hospitals. Many people had been rendered unconscious by the intensity of the tear gas, while still more were bleeding from head wounds.

 

© Lucy Emmerson

The protests were initiated to protest against SCAF’s recent controversial constitutional principles declaration which would give them unprecedented control over the new constitution, possibly even outweighing those of the elected legislature and president. There are also concerns that the decision to not hold presidential elections until 2013 is to allow SCAF the time to prepare a candidate themselves, possibly even General Tantawi himself.

Although the document has now been amended, the protesters on the streets have smelt blood, and show no signs of backing down. Their demands now include assurances from the armed forces that they will hold presidential elections by April 2012, and thereafter withdraw entirely from the political sphere. People currently feel that the armed forces have hijacked their revolution, and that the current regime is the same as Mubarak’s but with a different face.

 

© Lucy Emmerson

At the time of writing the armed forces, apparently having learned nothing from the events of Maspero several weeks ago, are attempting to forcibly clear Tahrir square, and protests have spread to cities across the country. SCAF appear to have lost the trust of the people, and their actions today will do nothing to improve their image. Egyptians are determined to not allow their revolution to become a military coup, and will not leave Tahrir without a fight.

 

Lucy Emmerson is a British writer and political commentator based in Cairo, focusing on the Arab Spring and other key developments in the region. You can follow her blog here 

Archive:- Dispatches from Cairo 

 

Free speech on trial in post-revolution Egypt

Military trials in Egypt continue to be used to prevent free speech…

 

The people vs. the army? © Gigi Ibrahim

 

Bloggers and freedom of speech and human rights defenders are holding their breath as Egypt’s military courts decide the fate of two bloggers today. Maikel Nabil Sanad’s trial continues today. Also, a military court judge will decide whether Alaa Abd El Fattah will be released or will spend another 15 days behind bars, pending investigations on what defenders say are trumped up charges.

Both Sanad and Abd El Fattah refuse to acknowledge the military court trying them. Sanad was arrested days after Hosni Mubarak stepped down as the president of Egypt, and was sentenced in April to three years in prison for posts he published on his blog.

The charges against Sanad are insulting the armed forces, publishing false information on his blog and disturbing public security. Last month, the Supreme Military Court of Appeals annulled the conviction but continued to hold Sanad, who had started a hunger strike, transferring him to a mental health facility.

Back in prison, Sanad continued with his hunger strike and his defiance to accept being subjected to the trial of a military court, a stance similar to Abd El Fattah, who was detained on October 30, after refusing to be interrogated by the Military Prosecutor, in protest against its legitimacy. Abd El Fattah is accused of inciting violence against the military, overtaking armed forces weapons and damaging military equipment.

Since January 28, more than 12,000 civilians have been put on military trials in Egypt.

Amira Al Hussaini 

Read more at Global Voices

 

 

Egypt military court refuses blogger’s appeal

Appeal filed by Egyptian blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah denied by military court…

 

Alaa Abdel Fattah

 

Abdel Fattah was detained on October 30 for 15 days after refusing to be interrogated by a military court, and insisting on his right to be investigated before a civilian court.

Abdel Fattah’s lawyers argued, among other things, that he was a no-flight risk since he was originally in San Francisco when the court summoned him, and he returned a few days later to appear before the court the next day.

It is therefore evident that he is not trying to escape trial. Instead, he insists on his civilian right to being tried before a civilian court, especially that the military is itself accused in the Maspero case for which he is being investigated.

Following the denial of appeal, Abdel Fattah was transferred to Tora prison, which has much better living conditions than the appeals prison he was originally in. He had published an article in Al Shorouk newspaper [in Arabic] and the Guardian [in English] in which he explained that the conditions at the appeals prison are simply inhumane, and declared that his imprisonment is a return to the post-revolution Mubarak days. Abdel Fattah had previously been detained under Mubarak for 45 days in 2006 after participating in a protest in support of an independent judiciary.

A second blog post by Abdel Fattah [a translation of which is available here] was published on the award-winning blog Manal and Alaa Bit Bucket (manalaa.net), which is maintained by the blogger and his wife as one of the first and most popular blogs in Egypt and the Arab world. In his second post from behind bars, Alaa said he was offered and refused a deal to be released if he stops attacking Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Egypt’s current ruling authority.

On a more personal note, Alaa reveals a graceful self-embarrassment at having asked to be transferred to a more humane prison, thus having to leave other cell mates behind. He tells his readers that although he was brave enough to face imprisonment, he wasn’t brave enough to hear the opinion of his nine-month pregnant wife, Manal, in his decision to remain silent before the military prosecutor, which they knew would probably lead to detention. He knew she would support him anyway, he says. He ends his blog on a note of gratitude, crediting any bit of courage that he has to the influence of his mother, his younger sisters, and his wife, whose being separated from is the hardest part of detention.

Rasha Abdullah is a communications professor at the American University in Cairo.

This article originally appeared at Global Voices

HSBC accused of helping Egyptian generals

The global bank is helping the military to stifle dissent in Egypt say campaigners…

 

Protester holds Field Marshal Tantawi poster © lilianwagdy

 

Democracy and social justice campaigners in Egypt say that HSBC bank is colluding with the Egyptian military generals currently running the country, in order to intimidate them and stifle their legitimate activities.

A range of NGOs and human rights groups say the global banking giant has been contacting them over the last two months, requesting information and documents relating to their work and activities in Egypt.

Nawla Darwiche of the New Women Foundation, says the group was asked to provide a list of all planned future projects:

They also said they could release our accounts to the government if they were asked,

This is very serious.

The suggestion is that the military, increasingly at odds with the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, are using such channels to stifle attempts to investigate military abuses and related issues.

Omnia Samra, HSBC Bank Egypt’s head of communications, said the bank had an obligation to reply to the Central Bank of Egypt (also accused) “on a wide range of queries”, adding:

We are not in a position to advise the nature of such queries to third parties,

Read more at The Independent

 

The era of the Arab strongmen is over

Events in the Arab world this year show that the era of the Arab strongman is all but over…

 

Mubarak burns © FM

 

The now dead Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi gave a prophetic speech to the Arab League in 2008. As an audience including Syria’s Bashar al-Assad laughed at Gaddafi’s typically rambling performance, he said:

A foreign power occupies an Arab country and hangs its leader while we all stand watching and laughing,

Your turn is coming soon!

He was talking about Saddam Hussein, but little did he realise how his words would come true. Mohammed Bazzi of the Council of Foreign relations, says that the era of the Arab strongmen, many once considered ‘revolutionaries’ themselves, has now all but come to an end:

They are not laughing now. Qaddafi was the last of the old-style Arab nationalist strongmen, and his death…marks the end of an era. His contemporaries were the likes of Saddam and of Assad’s father and predecessor, Hafez al-Assad — military men from poor families and hardscrabble towns who fought their way to the top, riding the wave of revolutionary sentiment that swept the Middle East in the 1960s and 1970s.

Their inspiration was Egypt’s charismatic military officer, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who overthrew the British-backed King Farouk in 1952. Nasser’s rousing speeches, heard across the region via the newly invented transistor radio, kindled visions of Arab unity. It was a time of upheaval, in which the merchant and feudal elites — the allies of the old European colonial powers — were losing their grip. At first, Saddam, Qaddafi, and Assad seemed to embody a promising new era of populist reform.

However Bazzi says that there is a key difference between the revolutions led by the likes of Gaddafi, and those that are taking place in the Arab world today:

The current Arab revolutions are different from those of the mid-twentieth century in one crucial way: They are not top-down movements like those that brought the autocrats to power. They are not being led or instigated by military men or charismatic figures. The age of the Arab strongmen is over, and although it remains unclear who or what will ultimately take their place, today’s revolutionaries are redefining Arab nationalism by making it more populist and grassroots.

Read it at Foreign Affairs

 

What now for the Arab Spring?

Tunisia has held democratic elections this weekend, while Libya has celebrated its liberation and the fall of Gaddafi, but what is next for the Arab awakening?

 

The Arab Spring on The Rise © Khalid Albaih

 

When fruit-seller Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in a Tunisian fruit market last December, no one could have predicted how one act would send shock-waves throughout the Arab world.

Less than a year later, Tunisia has held democratic elections, Egypt has seen the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and Libya has declared its freedom following the death of Col Gaddafi.

Syria and Yemen meanwhile have been in a permanent state of uprising for many months, while Bahrain’s democracy movement was crushed but still simmers.

Other countries in the region have also been hit by protests, with reforms for more representative government being implemented in Morocco and Jordan, and unease prompting gestures even in regional powerhouse and Western ally Saudi Arabia.

But what now for the Arab Spring?

Read a country by country analysis at the Independent on Sunday

 

 

The re-birth of a liberal world

Political leaders should ignore worldwide discontent at their own peril…

 

Franklin Roosevelt Memorial © Scott Ableman

 

History is a constant repetition of peaks and troughs, like a double helix raising and falling over time. It used to be that we measured these peaks by emperors and kingdoms, with the interceptions of the lines being marked by wars and invasions.

Of course these lines do not run symmetrically but alter, with every interception forever changing the paths of those that follow and with the end of imperialism as was known in ancient antiquity and the middle ages and the birth the industrial revolution, capitalism, and in the post-war era we mark history through social movements, economic catastrophe, and cultural change.

At this moment in time we are experiencing the fall of one history and the rise of a newly liberal and economically responsible era.

The collapse of the financial sector in 2007 saw a global catastrophe not seen for generations. Poor practises in the financial sector led to international disaster, forcing governments to save their financial institutions to save the investments of their constituents whilst simultaneously paying for the bailouts with their taxes and cutting on mass government spending whilst the institutions with whom the responsibility truly lies are left to continue the practise of rewarded risk that led to the situation we face.

As we know this did not happen without consequences. Dictators fell in Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya, with Syria maybe soon to follow, revolution in Iceland, and occupations in New York, Madrid, London, and Athens

This was not unforeseeable. Since the time of President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher the general precedent has remained the same, allow the rich to improve their wealth and the society will benefit. This general belief meant a decrease in public spending and corporate responsibility, whilst reducing income tax and capital gains to increase competition amongst ‘job creators’ a belief that has long outlives the former President to become an almost religious belief in the United States, less so in the United Kingdom but still prevalent throughout New Labour.

Inevitably this lead to the situation we find ourselves in now with the richest taking liberty with their newfound freedom, creating vast economic growth amongst those at the top of the economic chain and some growth amongst those beneath. This system led to collapse that left the top relatively unharmed whilst the middle classes took the burden of the collapse through lost savings and investments, higher unemployment and cost of living and austerity cuts rather, cuts which could have been spared by those responsible taking responsibility for their actions.

All these protests are looking for this exact aim. People have realised the true consequences of unfair government policies and their blind following of economic growth. No longer do people want a government whose only focus is the economy and growth but whose focus is on the living standard of all their people, economic equality, and an end irresponsible banking practise.

In 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented his New Deal. These focused on his three R’s: Relief for the unemployed and poor, Recovery for the economy, and Reforms of the financial sector. The people of today are looking for the same and the longer our leaders resist, the stronger the forces against them will grow. We are creating a newly liberal world and our leaders would be fools not to follow.

 

Thomas Baron is a freelance journalist specializing in the Middle East, Over Population, and Enviromentalism. See his blog at TheArsenalofDemocracy