I am so happy and so proud of the Egyptain people right now and their courage to stand up and make their voices heard. I am so happy that they were able to acheive their goal of overthrowing Mubarak and wish them the best of luck as they transition into a new era with a governemnt that respects and listens to them. May it exceed their expectations and lead them to prosperity and freedom. They deserve our respect. Congratulations Egypt! You can make your dreams come true.
February 13th, 2011 by asmetana · 1 Comment
February 13th, 2011 by asmetana · Comments Off on New Spirit in Egypt
Here is an article from Al-Ahram, an Egyptain newspaper, that I liked.
“No going back
A new spirit was born in Egypt as a result of the 25 January revolution, one that should be respected and allowed to grow, writes Wahid Abdel-Meguid*
The young revolutionaries that led the 25 January revolution should be proud of themselves. They should also know that the gates of reform they opened will not be closed. Thanks to them, Egypt has launched onto a new phase and its politics will never be the same again.
They should be proud of what they have done, and they should not remain hostage to one slogan or a single demand. The horizons they have opened for reform are incredibly wide, and because of them a new era is dawning upon this country, a new spirit has been born, not unlike the spirit we experienced in October 1973. A barrier has now been removed, opening the way for society to move forward, showing the government what to do, and ensuring that tomorrow will be different from yesterday.
Something new is being born in this country. You can hear it in the tone of the government. This is the real thing.
Never before in Egypt’s modern history has a prime minister apologised to the people. But Ahmed Shafik has done just that, and in full view of the international media. The new prime minister has apologised for the shameful attack on the protesters. According to Vice President Omar Suleiman, those who planned the attack wanted to spoil the impact of the president’s speech the previous Tuesday night.
Shafik’s government cannot be blamed for the attack, and yet the prime minister was willing to apologise to the nation. The attack was waged by corrupt and despotic forces wishing to take the country back to the pre-25 January era. The prime minister promised to bring the perpetrators to justice. Then he offered an implicit apology for delays in starting the dialogue. In an interview with a private television station, Shafik said that “I have this to say to those who accuse us of being late in holding the dialogue: we were wrong, and we’re going to set things right.”
A statesman who apologises to his nation is one who deserves respect and trust. It is refreshing to hear, since it has been a long time since politicians treated the public with anything but disdain. Our society had been reduced to just so many numbers, and citizens were treated as if they were a liability, not an asset, to the nation.
A government that respects its people should listen to them, and indeed thank them, when they protest. Remarkably, Omar Suleiman did just that, thanking the 25 January revolutionaries and calling them the “spark that brought reform”. He did suggest that they stop the protests in Tahrir Square, but by this he did not mean that they should just go home and disappear from the scene. What he said was that the state needs time to set things right.
The monopolistic tendencies of Egyptian officialdom are dying before our eyes. The state that acted as if its interests were more important than those of the people is now a thing of the past. The state that treated people with disrespect and that refused to heed calls for reform had set itself up for failure. The outcome could have been a revolution without boundaries, a kind of destructive chaos of frightening proportions.
The Egyptian poet Salah Abdel-Sabour once wrote, “People of our city, worse horror than this could come.” Since Abdel-Sabour wrote these lines, there have been many more such warnings, and all apparently fell on deaf ears. Instead, the regime stoked the fires of discontent, and it reaped what it had sown.
We are fortunate that the day of reckoning we all anticipated turned out to be a revolution by the young. We are lucky that the worst we feared came about in the form of an uprising that has created a new spirit in the country. The revolution by the young people of this country has protected us from the horrors that were heading our way. The revolution has spared us the chaos that mismanagement was bound to create, and it has defended us against a security vacuum that hit us almost without notice.
It is frightening to imagine what could have happened had the country’s young people not been standing by to protect the nation from such a security vacuum.
Instead, a new spirit has been born, and this spirit is what motivated the young people of this country to stand guard when their families and districts were under threat. To thank them for their actions, they deserve complete transparency from the government. They deserve to be told why such a security vacuum was allowed to happen in the first place. Transparency is the first real test for the new policy that is emerging in this country. To show respect for this country and for this nation, transparency must be upheld throughout the current dialogue.
One encouraging sign is that the prime minister has said that he would be willing to hold a dialogue with the young people of the revolution. If he does so, he would be only the second prime minister in Egyptian history to speak in person to protesters. Prime minister Ahmed Maher did so in September 1944, when he went to Cairo University, alone and without bodyguards, to speak to the students who were protesting against his policies.
One thing that I have found encouraging, despite the slow pace of reform, is that the prime minister is now fully willing to talk. In previous dialogues, students were too often only lectured at and their questions screened in advance. This is not the prime minister’s intention today. He has made it clear that he wants to meet the young people in order to “narrow the scope of differences” and get closer to them.
This is the beginning of a new era. Barriers that were once thought to be insurmountable are falling. Only a few days ago, the Muslim Brotherhood was barred from political life, at least officially. Now the vice-president is talking to the group’s leaders, even as the Brotherhood itself still has a lot of work to do.
For one thing, the Brotherhood cannot continue to mix religion with politics. It too needs to embrace the new spirit that is present in the country, and it needs to become part of the progress that is taking place. It is time that it separated political activity from religious preaching.
It is also time for the government to allow political parties to form freely. In the future, there will be a need for revised rules and regulations governing party activities, but in the meantime the formation of new parties can no longer be stifled. We need to restore political health to our society. We need to balance the interests of various trends and currents. Our young people need to bring their energy to the political scene and to help rejuvenate the political parties.
A new spirit is being born, and we need to keep it alive. Our officials need to keep up with the public, to restore their trust, to match their initiative, and to endorse their demands for genuine reforms. We need to start a credible national dialogue leading to lasting freedom and democracy.
* The writer is a political expert.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved
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January 28th, 2011 by asmetana · 1 Comment
I am very concerned for the people protesting for their freedom, voices, and future in Egypt.
The internet has been cut off nation wide, some landlines are down, Egypt’s interior ministry has said it will take “decisive measures” . I have know clue what the government will do, but it will be very violent, ending in unnecessary injuries and probably death, unless all protesters are too afraid to make it to the streets, but I find that unlikely. This moment has 30 years of build up behind it. Whatever happens, it will be very difficult for the events to be shared with the world.
In an article written for the NYT by Curt Hopkins, the following disconcerting words were written.
“CNN’s Ben Wedeman commented, “No internet, no SMS, what is next? Mobile phones and land lines? So much for stability” and asked “Will #Egypt totally cut communications with the outside world?”
That depends, I think, on whether the idea now is to disrupt communications between groups of protesters or to lay a blackout curtain across Egypt to mask a total crackdown. As many as eight protesters, three in Cairo and five in Suez, have been killed, along with one policeman. I think if landlines and mobile go, the question must become, is the Egyptian government planning a wholesale massacre?”
Will the love of power over a country really be so much greater than the love of its citizens?
There are two ways to control a county, one through forceful coercion and the other through ideology. When a “democracy” needs to use violent force against its people, it needs to reevaluate its definition, intentions, and relation with its people. Their voice cannot be brushed aside.
January 27th, 2011 by asmetana · Comments Off on Newspaper Article
This was in the NYT. I really liked it since it explains a lot about the cause of the protest, who supports it, and where it may lead.
“Egypt’s Young Seize Role of Key Opposition to Mubarak
He tolerated a tiny and toothless opposition of liberal intellectuals whose vain electoral campaigns created the facade of a democratic process. And he demonized the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood as a group of violent extremists who posed a threat that he used to justify his police state.
But this enduring and, many here say, all too comfortable relationship was upended this week by the emergence of an unpredictable third force, the leaderless tens of thousands of young Egyptians who turned out to demand an end to Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year rule.
Now the older opponents are rushing to catch up.
“It was the young people who took the initiative and set the date and decided to go,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday with some surprise during a telephone interview from his office in Vienna, shortly before rushing home to Cairo to join the revolt.
Dr. ElBaradei, a Nobel prize winner, has been the public face of an effort to reinvigorate and unite Egypt’s fractious and ineffective opposition since he plunged into his home country’s politics nearly a year ago, and he said the youth movement had accomplished that on its own. “Young people are impatient,” he said. “Frankly, I didn’t think the people were ready.”
But their readiness — tens of thousands have braved tear gas, rubber bullets and security police officers notorious for torture — has threatened to upstage or displace the traditional opposition groups.
Many of the tiny, legally recognized political parties — more than 20 in total, with scarcely a parlor full of grass-roots supporters among them — are leaping to embrace the new movement for change but lack credibility with the young people in the street.
Even the Muslim Brotherhood may have grown too protective of its own institutions and position to capitalize on the new youth movement, say some analysts and former members. The Brotherhood remains the organization in Egypt with the largest base of support outside the government, but it can no longer claim to be the only entity that can turn masses of people out into the streets.
“The Brotherhood is no longer the most effective player in the political arena,” said Emad Shahin, an Egyptian scholar now at the University of Notre Dame. “If you look at the Tunisian uprising, it’s a youth uprising. It is the youth that knows how to use the media, Internet, Facebook, so there are other players now.”
Dr. ElBaradei, for his part, has struggled for nearly a year to unite the opposition under his umbrella group, the National Association for Change. But some have mocked him as a globe-trotting dilettante who spends much of his time abroad instead of on the barricades.
He has said in interviews that he never presented himself as a political savior, and that Egyptians would have to make their own revolution. Now, he said, the youth movement “will give them the self-confidence they needed, to know that the change will happen through you and not through one person — you are the driving force.”
And Dr. ElBaradei argued that by upsetting the old relationship between Mr. Mubarak and the Brotherhood, the youth movement posed a new challenge to United States policy makers as well.
“For years,” he said, “the West has bought Mr. Mubarak’s demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood lock, stock and barrel, the idea that the only alternative here are these demons called the Muslim Brotherhood who are the equivalent of Al Qaeda.”
He added: “I am pretty sure that any freely and fairly elected government in Egypt will be a moderate one, but America is really pushing Egypt and pushing the whole Arab world into radicalization with this inept policy of supporting repression.”
The roots of the uprising that filled Egypt’s streets this week arguably stretch back to before the Tunisian revolt, which many protesters cited as the catalyst. Almost three years ago, on April 6, 2008, the Egyptian government crushed a strike by a group of textile workers in the industrial city of Mahalla, and in response a group of young activists who connected through Facebook and other social networking Web sites formed the April 6th Youth Movement in solidarity with the strikers.
Their early efforts to call a general strike were a bust. But over time their leaderless online network and others that sprung up around it — like the networks that helped propel the Tunisian revolution — were uniquely difficult for the Egyptian security police to pinpoint or wipe out. It was an online rallying cry for a show of opposition to tyranny, corruption and torture that brought so many to the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday, unexpectedly vaulting the online youth movement to the forefront as the most effective independent political force in Egypt.
“It would be criminal for any political party to claim credit for the mini-Intifada we had yesterday,” said Hossam el-Hamalawy, a blogger and activist.
Mr. Mubarak’s government, though, is so far sticking to a familiar script. Against all evidence, his interior minister immediately laid blame for Wednesday’s unrest at the foot of the government’s age-old foe, the Muslim Brotherhood.
This time, though, the Brotherhood disclaimed responsibility, saying it was only one part of Dr. ElBaradei’s umbrella group. “People took part in the protests in a spontaneous way, and there is no way to tell who belonged to what,” said Gamal Nassar, a media adviser for the Brotherhood, noting the near-total absence of any group’s signs or slogans, including the Brotherhood’s.
“Everyone is suffering from social problems, unemployment, inflation, corruption and oppression,” he said. “So what everyone is calling for is real change.”
The Brotherhood operates a large network of schools and charities that make up for the many failings of government social services. Some analysts charge that the institutional inertia may make the Brotherhood slow to rock the Egyptian ship of state.
“The Brotherhood has been very silent,” said Amr Hamzawy, research director at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. “It is not a movement that can benefit from what has been happening and get people out in the street.”
Nor, Dr. ElBaradei argued, does the Muslim Brotherhood merit the fear its name evokes in the West. Its membership embraces large numbers of professors, lawyers and other professionals as well as followers who benefit from its charities. It has not committed or condoned acts of violence since the uprising against the British-backed Egyptian monarchy six decades ago, and it has endorsed his call for a pluralistic civil democracy.
“They are a religiously conservative group, no question about it, but they also represent about 20 percent of the Egyptian people,” he said. “And how can you exclude 20 percent of the Egyptian people?”
Dr. ElBaradei, with his international prestige, is a difficult critic for Mr. Mubarak’s government to jail, harass or besmirch, as it has many of his predecessors. And Dr. ElBaradei eases concerns about Islamists by putting a secular, liberal and familiar face on the opposition.
But he has been increasingly outspoken in his criticism of the West. He was stunned, he said, by the reaction of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Egyptian protests. In a statement after Tuesday’s clashes, she urged restraint but described the Egyptian government as “stable” and “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.”
“ ‘Stability’ is a very pernicious word,” he said. “Stability at the expense of 30 years of martial law, rigged elections?” He added, “If they come later and say, as they did in Tunis, ‘We respect the will of the Tunisian people,’ it will be a little late in the day.”
Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from Cairo.”
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January 27th, 2011 by asmetana · Comments Off on Tweets about Egypt Protest
Here are some recent tweets, found from #jan25, #25jan, and #Egypt. Things are looking really serious. I am praying for peace and safety in Egypt for all her people.
Also, when reading these, one needs to keep in mind that people can write anything they want, whether or not it is true. Also, these are mainly supporters so they are presenting a more narrow coverage and cannot really show the opinions of all of Egypt and the impact this will have on things and the big picture. Yet, they are still very revealing.
–More and more people coming, people are expressing themselves. “NO MORE TORTURE NO MORE FEAR, TELL MUBARAK THE END IS NEAR” #25jan
–Aljazeera: Arrested protesters are being detained in secret camps and denied access to lawyers #Jan25 #Egypt
–Friday after-prayer protests could dwarf anything we’ve seen so far. #Jan25 #Egypt
–New VIDEO from #Suez. The burning building is the Al Arbeen police Head Quarters.http://youtu.be/ATY3Q81QW6A #Egypt #Jan25
Media and communication
–Guardian reporter beaten and arrested in Cairo: ‘People are being hauled out by police and beaten’ #news http://bit.ly/ffjc8k
— International media, #Suez is THE Egyptian #SidiBouzid! People are being massacred by police RIGHT NOW, we need coverage! #Jan25 #CNN #FB
— Al Jazeera correspondent says that even landlines in Suez are not working.. #egypt #jan25
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January 26th, 2011 by asmetana · Comments Off on 25th of January
Even though my semester in Peru is rapidly approaching (less than a week away), Egypt is still strong in my mind, especially with the mass protests taking place across the country beginning on the 25th of January. That day was dubbed “Day of Revolt” and thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in anti-government protest. The largest protest in Egypt since 1977.
This protest falls within the context of political and social satisfaction in the Middle East and a rise in protests across countries, inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” that took place in Tunisia earlier this month.
Last night for about five straight hours, I was closely following the events in Egypt. I read articles, looked up pictures, watched movies, followed twitter, and got in touch with some Egyptian friends to hear what they have to say. By the end, I just stopped since my eyes were getting tired from staring at the computer screen for such a long time. Those hours were probably the most exciting moments I have had all break.
What makes it so exciting is that I was there and I know people participating or yearning to participate, excited to have their voices heard and striving to change their country so it is more free, has accountable government officials, a place where elections actually matter, and where their voices and desires are no longer stifled. They want to see the gap between the rich and poor decrease, and economic prosperity. They want an end of security law which allows the government to arrest people with liberty. They want the Interior Minister to be kicked out for things like torture, and the President to be limited to two terms.
I also know that others watching these events with dread, knowing that there is no clear plan set in place if the government were to be dismantled. Who may have personal and business interests tied up with the current regime. They may believe that a strong government is necessary to lift the country up and keep peace within the country and between countries. They like the stability and security that Mubarak offers and admire his leadership and strength. They fear that chaos will come and things may not end on a positive note, but may even end up worse.
Then again, their are others watching with indifference, who believe that the protest will not be successful and think that the current government will continue to control the country in much of the same manner as before. The Egyptians in the protest are just following the “fad” of protests and do not fully understand the consequences of their actions and what the next step would be if they were to be successful.
It is amazing for me to think that only one month ago, I was in Egypt, walking around Cairo in the same places that were packed with impassioned protesters and cordons of police in riot gear.
For me, it is not some distance place, but very tangible and real. The outcome of these events will impact people that I know or have talked to, bought food from, or shared a metro ride with. I can see in my mind the places where the protesters were gathering, the expansive Tahrir Square, the streets through which people were walking and chanting, and the dusty buildings throwing shadows on them.
It was exciting to watch things unfold on twitter and having the ability to hear first hand accounts. I was very disappointed when Twitter was being blocked and only limited tweets from people were able to get around the block through various means.
I have been talking to some people involved. They say that it was amazing. It must have been, with the mass of people lifting their voices up together in protest who have held back for so long. I was told that people in the protest acted in a very caring and brotherly manner, offering food and support. There is a strong sense of excitement and optimism, unity, and great anger and even hatred towards the government.
People in Tahrir were planning on staying in the square for three days and sleeping there overnight. However, the police sent to “protect” the protesters instead began to use violent or forceful tactics against them. The most extreme was the use of live rounds around midnight, after twitter was blocked and the protest began to dwindle down a bit. First there were only rubber coated steel bullets, 11 of which were lodged in the body of a freelance cameraman for Al Jazeera, but later live ones were used.
The protesters have tried to keep things peaceful. At one point when rocks were being thrown between a small group of protesters and the police, the protesters near the rock throwers were chastising them, telling them that they must keep things peaceful and the rock throwing soon ceased.
A friend told me that two of the people he was with fell down during a point when everyone was running and they got stepped on. They could have been trampled to death or severely injured, but luckily they were fine. His mother was very worried about him and was crying since she had heard that three protesters had died and did not want the same fate to befall her son.
There were plans to continue the protest at 9am today, I’m not sure if that was the case or not. Also, there are plans made for mass protests after Friday’s prayer, which would definitely see a huge turnout.
It is hard to tell whether or not this protest and following protests will create massive change, and overthrow the government. Gamal and Suzanne Mubarak , the President’s son and wife, both fled the country for the UK, which is a sign of the unrest and insecurity that is being felt by the government. Yet, the protests need to be much larger for actual change to occur and there needs to be a better laid plan for what will come next. The Egyptian government is not as weak as the Tunisian government and there are many difference between the two countries that what caused a revolution in Tunisia will not necessarily cause one in Egypt.
Some problems that Egypt would face if the government is overthrown, is who would take the lead, could they successfully hold free and fair elections, would tensions between Muslims and Christians get in the way of creating a safe country, how would they address the extensive needs of those living in poverty , and more.
There was one tweet that really stuck in my mind, it was something along the lines of “Even if there is no change, at least a psychological barrier in the minds of the Egyptian people has been broken”. They are now more vocal, and more aware of their power and their ability to make demands of their government.
Hopefully, the government will look at these protests and understand that they need to reconsider their policies and make them more in-tune with the needs and desires of its people. I cannot say whether reform or revolution is better for the Egyptian people or if either is possible, only the Egyptian people can discover that for themselves. I hope they make the best decision for themselves, their country, and their future.
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December 29th, 2010 by asmetana · 1 Comment
Here are some photos from my trip to Port Said.
My friend actually lived in Port Fouad, which is across the Suez Canal from Port Said. Ever day we would take the free ferry across the canal to Port Said. The ferry can fit about 50 cars and a good number of pedestrians. People would throw pieces of bread to the birds, some of which were talented enough to snatch it out of the air before it hit the water.
My friend’s apartment had a great view at night of the Suez Canal and Port Said.
There used to be a statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps standing atop of this pedestal. De Lesseps was the French who was the developer of the Suez Canal. “His name was used in a speech by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser as the codeword to order the raiding of the Suez Canal Company’s offices on 26 July 1956, the first step to its nationalization. In the course of the raid and seizure of the canal by Nasser, the statue of de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal was removed from its pedestal, to symbolize the end of European ownership of the waterway. The statue now stands in a small garden of the Port Fouad shipyard.” (wikipedia)
I must return to Port Said now that I have eaten this fish. It was very tasty. One thing I miss about Egypt is the food and eating with my hands. Even though Egyptian food is fairly plain in comparison to other cuisines around the world, it still has more flair than American food.
December 27th, 2010 by asmetana · 3 Comments
December 26, I go to church with my family and as I pick up the booklet for the service, I can’t help but feel as though it is speaking to me. “Get up and flee to Egypt” Mathew 2:13. Not that I necessarily want to “flee”, but I do want to return to Egypt. Leaving was so difficult. I felt so unsatisfied, there were so many things I still wanted to do and see, and so many people I did not get to say good bye to properly, if at all. Throughout the entire drive to the airport, I was secretly wishing I would miss my plane so that I could spend just a little bit more time in Cairo.
I was unsatisfied too since I did not have a proper good bye to Cairo. I spent the last three days in Port Said at my friend’s place and returned to Cairo just a few hours before I needed to head to the air port. I spent those last moments buying last minute gifts and packing, and not in a quiet farewell which I would have preferred.
Despite those rushed final moments, I would not want to end my time in Egypt differently since I had a great time in Port Said and got a real Egyptian family experience for a few days. Her family was so big and warm, by the time I left I felt as though I was already apart of them.
I will return to see them someday. It is already predestined. My friend’s mom had made us fried fish and smoked fish for lunch (even though it was almost 5pm). As we were eating, she told me a common saying in Port Said. “Those that drink water from the Nile return to Egypt, and those that eat fish from Port Said, return to Port Said”. So I have no choice but to come back, hopefully sooner rather than later.
I am sorry that I haven’t kept up with my plan to post something everyday. The last week I rarely was in my room and on the computer even less. I will continue to add a few more posts about Egypt and upload more photos in the next days, or weeks, so keep checking back every once and awhile 🙂
December 19th, 2010 by asmetana · 2 Comments
December 16th, 2010 by asmetana · 2 Comments
When I text with my friends in Arabic, we use the roman keyboard. Since there are more letters in Arabic than in English and many unique sounds, numbers are sometimes used to express the Arabic letters. Here are some examples of words.
Sab27 2l ‘7eir = Good Morning= صباح الخير
3mal eh? = How are you?= عمل يه؟
bet3mal eh? = What are you doing? = بتعمل يه؟
7ag2t katyr = many things = حجات كتير
It can be difficult at times to write with the roman letters since it is tempting to pronounce things in English and this becomes an issue with vowels and which ones to use.
For example, the word many is كتير which is pronounced like keteer (with the first “e” like the “ai” in “said” and the “ee” like the “ee” in “beer”. Yet it is spelled in Arabic with a fatHa which is often associated with the letter “a”, so should it be spelled with an “a” or spelled more like the way it sounds?
Also, the “ee” represents a single letter in Arabic the, ya or ي , so should it be represented with a single letter “y” or the double “e”? And how does this affect the way that we want to pronounce these words? Should we spell in a way that each letter in the Arabic alphabet corresponds exactly with one letter/number/symbol in the roman alphabet or should it be based more on sound?
In the end, it doesn’t matter too much since the meaning is understood and the pronunciation is already known, but still I often wonder if I am spelling things correctly.