Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Egypt's State of Emergency Continues

According to the Daily News Egypt, The cabinet has approved the establishment of a fact-finding committee to investigate the violence occurring on June 30th and subsequent weeks.  Egypt’s interim Prime Minister, Hazem al-Beblawi, explained that the state of emergency was extended due to security issues, and cited several acts of violence and terrorism. The cabinet has further stated that the Prosecutor General specifically carried out the startling number of arrests, and that those detained were charged with  criminal offenses. The interim cabinet has commissioned the National Council for Human Rights to collect and record data from the events that followed Morsi’s ouster, including several violent altercations.

There is growing unrest related to the extended state of emergency. The April 6 Youth Movement  called for a protest, scheduled in Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo on Monday evening. This is amid increasing calls for the release of what are perceived as random arrests and for stopping military trials for civilians.The Muslim Brotherhood has also issued statements condemning the extended state of emergency.

While the Presidential spokesman, Ihab Badawi, has stated that there was full support for the continuance of the state of emergency, several political figures have voiced concerns over a potential abuse of power, and human rights violations that may have occurred within this volatile timeframe. Interim President issued Presidential order 532 on Thursday stating that the state of emergency will continue for at least two months. The abolition of the law, which has been in force on and off since 1958, was one of the key demands of the 2011 Revolution. 

It remains unclear how the work of the National Council for Human Rights committee will impact this dialogue, however, their research, particularly the rehashing on several deadly clashes, may serve to further intensify this debate.

Another hot issue: Some of the latest in Egypt is related to the land dispute between Nile University and Zewail City for Science and Technology.  Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif gave a plot of land over to Nile University in 2006 that had had been designated for the Zewail City of Science and Technology project in 2000. After the January 25th revolution, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf granted the land back to Zewail City  and moved Nile University over to Smart Village instead. However, the Nile University campus was already built in that space and ready for use. Nile University students have hosted sit-ins at the campus, demanding use of the facilities.  A short-term solution for what has been deemed "the Nile University crisis" has been rejected. The disputed land now hosts two hotly contested buildings. Nile students have not yet been granted access to the disputed buildings. Zewail City accepted 300 students into the contested buildings at the beginning of its first academic year on Sunday.

Many thanks to my wonderful GA, Neena. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Egypt Independent Says Farewell in a blaze of Glory

Coming up on about a week now, it was announced throughout the world that Egypt’s main independent English language news source, Egypt Independent, was to stop publication. 
This loss is particularly painful for me. I wrote several editorials for the Egypt Independent, and it was an important location for me both physically and intellectually during the Revolution and beyond. I am heartbroken .. . . 
American news outlets such as New York Times and the Wallstreet Journal spoke of the media outlet positively, citing that as it’s name suggested, was the country’s only true independent voice that reflected the expression of the revolutionary voices (Stack, 2013). In the last four years, Stack explains, the staff chronicled the waning days of the Mubarak regime, the outbreak of revolution in their own country and across the Arab world, military rule and most recently the administration of the first democratically elected Islamist leader of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. The staff, which has been notably critical of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, believes that it was shut down by the self-censorship of its sister paper Al-Masry Al-Youm (Habib, 2013). Investors of the paper and the sister company’s chairman, Abdel Moneim, cited financial difficulties for the reason of the closure and has not commented about the accusations that the closure was political. The Muslim Brotherhood also declined to comment on the situation (Habib, 2013). Egypt Independent is the second independent English-language publication to shut down in Egypt in the past year as The Daily News Egypt abruptly closed after a seven year run when investors also claimed unbearable financial losses (Stack, 2013).
On April 23, 2013 the latest edition of the paper, in fact it’s 50th edition, was sent to the presses and Al-Marsy Al-Youm “pulled the plug”, which the outlets editor in chief Lina Attalah stated she believed it was due to the editions’ scathing critiques of not just the government, but criticism of the parent company’s management and self-censorship (Habib, 2013).  Since President Morsi has taken office, the prosecutor general has summoned several journalist on charges of “insulting” the president. The administration is accused of intimidating reporters and inciting violence against them (Habib, 2013). This is not the first major incident of censorship or confrontation between the two media companies. In late 2011, Egypt Independent then referred to as- “Al-Marsy Al-Youm English Edition” broke partially away from its then-parent company as its content was “squashed” for being too critical of the government. During this confrontation, Egypt Independent announced the break and expressed they felt the revolution was incomplete and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule was increasingly heavy handed. Supporters of the newspaper expressed their dismay of the recent closing. “After the revolution there was a flood of people who expressed what they wanted…but we’re beginning to see that this change wasn’t real and that we were fooled,” said Habiba Effat, 22 year old from Cairo (Habib, 2013).  
In a short statement called “Egypt Independent 2009-2013” the news outlet explained that they were not going down without a fight and pushed their last issue online and in PDF format.  The explained that this issue continued their standards of critical journalism, discussing issues that reflected the county’s challenges as well as those facing Egyptian media.
“Four years after the birth of Egypt Independent, the management of Al-Masry Media Corporation has informed our editorial team that our print and online news operation is being shut down. Because we owe it to our readers, we decided to put together a closing edition, which would have been available on 25 April, to explain the conditions under which a strong voice of independent and progressive journalism in Egypt is being terminated. The management, however, withheld the printing of this edition. While the print house received the final proofs on 23 April, management ordered a last-minute stoppage after scrutinizing the issue’s content. In keeping with our practice of critical journalism, we use our final issue to reflect on the political and economic challenges facing Egyptian media, including in our own institution” (Egypt Independent, 2013)
The articles in the last edition were understandably full of anger but also reflection. The staff spoke about the vision of the paper that denoted a commitment to professionalism and civil rights. They explained they were trying to be more than a “mouth-piece” for the state and the political parties (Stack, 2013). Attalah and other Egypt Independent discussed the closure via social media. Attalah that she considered one of the key questions for professional journalists to be, “How do we become active mediators as opposed to silent vehicles of information?” (Stack, 2013). Attalah promised that her staff would continue their work in some new form and that their leaders had not seen the last of them.

More news on the shutdown


Monday, April 1, 2013

Women's status, unrest in Cairo, and weakened protest rights

The Muslim Brotherhood has responded negatively to a newly ratified United Nations (UN) declaration, which seeks to end violence against women. They reject the declaration deeming it as misleading and deceptive and stating that it contradicts the principles of Islam and would destroy society. The National Council for Women (NCW) has dismissed the Brotherhood’s statements insisting the declaration advocates for law enforcement to execute plan to combat violence, while stressing equality in education, health, and human rights. Further, they state the claims made by the brotherhood that it violates Sharia are a “misuse of religion, and an attempt to tarnish the UN’s image in order to quash women’s rights.” Other groups see the “showdown” between the two groups as a stage due to Egypt signing the declaration, meaning the ruling party (Brotherhood) signed it, keeping appearances both internationally and locally.   Is the Brotherhood feigning a feud with the women’s council? By Dalia Rabie March 25, 2013)

The "Strong Egypt" Party launched an initiative in January called “Transportation that respects women” in an effort to alleviate sexual assault and other issues women face while in public. The microbuses are provided to offer an alternative to public transportation system that “is failing to provide a basic, respectable method of transport that meet women’s needs.” In a study conducted in Cairo and Monufiya universities, 68% of women said they had been subjected to either physical or verbal abuse. Private taxis are too expensive so many women are happy this new alternative is available to reduce the risk of harassment. However, some women’s-rights groups are concerned that it encourages gender discrimination and only treats the symptom of an overarching problem. ( Women only: Will a segregated transport system solve or perpetuate a problem? by Heba Helmy March 27, 2013) 

Meanwhile, two years after the revolution, street violence remains high, and the rule of law seems weak. 

At least 90 people were injured during clashes on Friday the 22nd between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and opponents. The opponents ransacked three of the brotherhood’s offices including their headquarters in Cairo. The Brotherhood’s spokesman said opponents attacked women who were holding mother's day commencements. Riot police defended the headquarters but did not interfere to break up the sides a few blocks away. The opposition demanded Morsi to be tried for the killings of protestors just like Mubarak. (Dozens injured as clashes erupt in Egypt  by Al Jazeera March 22, 2013)

Last week, a new round of clashes erupted in cities in northern Egypt, and protestors rallied in Cairo in the latest demonstrations against President Morsi. The clashes in Alexandria occurred between citizens, those who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, and those who oppose the group. At another location, anti-government protestors threw stones at offices that used to be home to the Brotherhood’s office before it was stormed a few weeks back. This halted train traffic for a few hours. In the Nile River Delta, protestors and riot police clashed in front of the office of Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah. Early this week, Egypt’s prosecutor general issued warrants for five of Egypt’s most prominent advocates stating they instigated the violence over the past few months where hundreds have been injured. A few weeks ago members of the Brotherhood beat activists, including women, who were spray-painting anti-brotherhood graffiti outside their headquarters. Earlier this week, Morsi gave a speech calling his opposition thugs and warned foreign nations that are interfering in their domestic issues. “No one in our neighborhood wants this nation to stand on its feet. I will cut off any finger that meddles in Egypt.” ( Protestors rally in Cairo, clashes erupt in 2 other Egyptian cities in latest wave of unrest by Mohammed Khalil March 29, 2013)

Despite this tough talk by Morsi about foreign meddling, perhaps Morsi should work on cleaning his own house. 

Amnesty International is criticizing the Egyptian government for failing to protect Coptic Christians, the largest minority group in the country. There has been a rise in tension in religious communities and authorities have done little to relieve it. In February a Muslim woman was reported “missing” and accused a church of converting her to Christianity. Protest erupted demanding she be returned and the Coptic Christians leave the community. “Let the Christians die from fear” were common chants that were paired with anti-Christian leaflets distributed throughout public areas. After a week of protest and violence (shut down Christian stores and beat anyone who resisted), on March 25, a large group of Muslim men threw Molotov cocktails inside a Christian church and set fire the local priest’s car. Muslim and Christian elders met for a “reconciliation meeting” which agreements to allow Christian stores to reopen and for the missing woman to be returned by April 24 were made. Amnesty International state the response is poor and “reconciliation” should not be a replacement for prosecution of offenders of sectarian violence.    (Amnesty Slams Morsy for failing to protect Copts by Egypt Independent March 27, 2013)

Freedom of speech is increasingly restricted in Egypt. A draft that restricts the right to demonstrate has been approved by the Shura Council. The bill prohibits citizens from organizing protests that “pose a risk to the nation’s security.” To enforce this law, the police must approve all demonstrations three days in advance. All demonstrations must be 200 meters away from all governmental building. Anyone who violates this law will be sentenced to prison and a hefty fine.   (Shura Council passes law curbing protest rights Egypt Independent March 26, 2013)