Thursday, April 28, 2011

A touch of Karma?

I know many of you saw my last posting, about one of the most horrific things I have ever seen on film. The video of a dog being thrown from a roof in Egypt has literally gone viral, with thousands posting, reposting, and posting again to draw attention to the gross animal neglect we see in Egypt. The petition that was launched less than 48 hours ago already has thousands of signatures, we still need more! Check here to find out where to sign the petition, or for the link to the video. [Warning...the video is very graphic]

hen the video of the dog went viral on April 25th, many were shocked, fuming, astounded that not only could this be allowed to happen, but that it was filmed and posted on facebook. The incident occurred three weeks ago, and Karma has come full swing. 

ESMA of course led the charge to see this dog served justice. Through a little innovation, ESMA got a hold of the phone number of the boy who had posted the video. The number was promptly given to ESMA's vet, Dr. Ahmed Hesham. It turns out that there were three involved, and the dog was simply seen as expendable. As one of the boys was quoted saying, "he bit my brother, and he is not pure [purebred]." 

Dr. Ahmed was also able to track down where they lived. It was by visiting the boys that he discovered that the dog in the video had died a few weeks previously. Worse still, we know that her death was not instant.  

What also became clear was the fact that these boys had thrown other animals from the building, although they claim "not from the roof, only the first floor." More frightening, in their apartment were living two more dogs. Dr. Ahmed immediately set the wheels in motion to rescue the two animals inside. 

It was one of ESMA's volunteer "rescue workers" that was able to get inside the house. He claims upon entering the first dog ran away. The second dog however, had not moved due to her two back legs being broken. I dread to imagine how they were broken. 

And here is where Karma comes into play. The dog, now named 'Rahma' which means mercy in Arabic, is safely in the ESMA shelter. 

Her companion's death will not go in vain it seems. The plight of these two dogs has finally resulted in people standing up and paying attention to animal neglect in Egypt. 

ESMA's two co-founders, Mona Khalil and Susie Nasser, are at this minute sitting in the DA's office in Cairo, with the two boys in police custody. The DA is looking for what can be done in terms of legal prosecution, I will keep you all updated here. 

Even if the boys who have been reprimanded (two boys - the third boy, who was also the "cameraman," claims to have no involvement other than filming the incident) are not charged legally, they will certainly never forget the harrowing hours spent in an Egyptian jail cell. Nor will the world forget the fight of one small animal rights organization to put animal rights in Egypt on the tip of everyone's tongue. 

If you are reading this, and you have not yet done so, please visit Cat Bless You on facebook. They have pledged 25,000 $ US to ESMA, if they can reach 25,000 likes by May 15th. 

Take a few minutes of your time to "like" the page, and make sure Rahma's story can continue. Make sure that ESMA can continue saving the animals in Egypt that so desperately need rescuing. 

Below are some pictures of the very cute, and very sweet Rahma. 

Her eyes tell her story better than we ever could

ESMA co-founder, Susie, with Rahma

Amazing the difference a few days can make

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We need to start doing something NOW

I am re-posting this note from Tanja Sarwat. It discusses a case of animal cruelty so unnecessary, it highlights how badly Egypt needs animal rights legislation. I am too distraught to write anymore about this.

A couple of days ago this video of a dog thrown off a roof in egypt was found on the net: WARNING SHOCKING

ESMA (egyptian society for mercy with animals) started to investigate. They found the boy responsible on facebook. An undercover animal activist started flirting with him, was added and came to chat with him. Numbers were exchanged so that they could meet.

The number was given to Dr. Ahmed Hesham who promised to keep ringing until he got answer. The boy got terrified by the postings against him on facebook (as his account was made public on the net). So he agreed to meet with Dr. Ahmed Hesham, who offered him protection as long as he could lead the ESMA activists to the boys whose terrible act he had filmed. To excuse himself, the boy answered he just filmed and postet it for "awareness" which of course is a lie. The boy took Dr. Hesham to the precise place where it happened and was recorded committing.

The boy who dragged the dog over the roof said it was because the dog had bitten his brother. And because it was not a "good" dog (not purely bred) !!!!!!!! His friend (the one who shot the video) told him not to throw the dog but he continued saying "No, im bugged".

When asked if the dog was alive he said "Yes, but his teeth were broken. It died 3 weeks ago". When asked why he didnt give the dog away instead of throwing him, he had no answer. He was asked if he had done this before, he smirked saying "yes, but sometimes only from the 1st floor where the animals didnt really get hurt". He confirmed doing it to cats before, too. When asked if he was planning to do it again he said "no". Throughout the interview he was calm and emotionless.

This was on sunday april 24th. Dr. Ahmed Hesham said there were 2 other dogs still with the boys. So much for planning not to do it again! ESMA sent a car with 2 men to the location, to extract the remaining dogs. One of them ran as soon as the door was opened and was not found again. The other one was found with broken legs, unable to run, so it was carried back to the shelter.

These horrible boys spoke with total indifference, unaware that this was punishable. They were ambivalent in their answers and there was no regret.

But now ESMA has concrete evidence and will report the act on wednesday april 27th. They will do it as a large group so they wont be ignored. In the meantime an online petition can be signed to support them. Big media exposure is prepared so that this case wont be without consequences!

Here´s the link to the petition:

Thanks for signing & helping!
**If you want to see this video, click the link below. WARNING. IT IS GRAPHIC**

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter!

As the Egyptian government has announced a bank holiday for this coming Sunday and Monday, Hurghada is again getting crowded. As Karim told me today "he never thought he'd see the day when Hurghada is more polluted than Cairo." Haha! Although to be fair, it's really just all the dust in the air from the endless construction.

All that aside, Hurghada will be crowded these next few days! I know I personally have a couple friends coming down this weekend, should be exciting.

To all my Egyptian readers, I wish you all a happy Shams el-Nessim Feast!

For everyone else, may you have a blessed Easter. Will be back in a few days with lots of stories to blog about, I am sure.

Remember that this is the time of year to be thankful for things that you have in your life, as Christians we know that Easter Sunday is representative of the sacrifice that Jesus made for our own salvation, and His resurrection to the Heavens. Take this time to reflect on how you are making sacrifices for those around you. Go out this weekend, and do one good deed for someone else. If one person were to do one good thing every day, wouldn't our world be a better place?

In the spirit of Easter, help your neighbour with their heavy groceries, give up your seat to the elderly couple on the train; just be thankful.

So from me to you, Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Giza Protest II

Animal rights in Egypt have long been a bone of contention for many that come to visit this country. I remember when I first moved to Egypt, across the street from my bedroom window I could see my neighbours roof. On this roof lived a puppy, permanently tethered and with little to no human contact. My sister and I tried everything to get the dog, including talking to the building's doorman in an attempt to get to the owner, and offer to take the dog off of his hands. Unfortunately, it was a quick lesson in Egyptian animal rights.

The puppy was a purebred boxer, and of course a dog that constitutes a status symbol. Many purebred animals in Egypt are bred repeatedly not out of love for the animal, but out of love for the status symbol that they become.  Owning a pure German Shepherd, or Husky, can be in the minds of many the equivalent to driving a BMW or the newest Mercedes. The thought of actually purchasing an animal as a companion is an alien idea to many dog and cat owners here.

Sadly, the condition of dogs and cats in Egypt are not isolated cases. Zoos throughout the country exhibit some of the more egregious examples of animal cruelty.

On the Alex desert road sits an "animal sanctuary," known as the Lion park. Here, you can walk in and cuddle with lion cubs and tigers, and for the right bidder, even take one home. These animals are kept in small cages, with minimal room to move about, underfed, and evidently lacking adequate veterinary care.

Giza Zoo, located in the bustling city of Cairo, is no exception to this general rule. The zoo has long been the focus of animal rights groups who will point to the violations of animal rights within the zoo. The irony? CITES, the government arm that is meant to regulate animal trade, welfare, and rights, has their main office located within the zoo. Gives you warm fuzzy feelings inside to know that the people who are meant to be helping the animals in this country witness gross neglect on a daily basis, and do little to nothing to prevent it.

My most recent encounter with CITES involved the illegal transport of four bottlenose dolphins into the Hurghada Airport. CITES reported that 3 of these dolphins came from inside the country, and that their papers were all in order. Sources have told me that this couldn't be further from the truth. Of the four dolphins, only one had its papers correct; the other three were illegally smuggled into the country with the full knowledge of CITES officials. Just goes to show, pay a little money into the right pockets, and you can do anything in Egypt. [see more here.]

Dolphins in Hurghada drew the spotlight a few months back when it was uncovered that they were being held in a compound and shut away inside a villa's pool, where they were meant to wait out their quarantine period. 4 dolphins, stuck in a pool with no filtration system, that measured a measly 5 metres x 5 metres. Again, CITES washed their hands of the situation. [See more here.]

The Egyptian Revolution lit a fire in many people, animal rights activists included. This past Saturday, April 16th, a group of Egyptian animal welfare activists banded together to protest the outrageous cruelty witnessed in the Giza Zoo. Consisting of the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF), and the Animal Welfare Awareness Research (AWAR), protesters took to the Giza streets to raise awareness, and try to push the Egyptian government towards finally enacting legislation to help protect animal rights in the country.

Mona Khalil, co-founder of ESMA, told reporters:

“The way Egypt treats animals is a shame. The Giza zoo is a national disgrace, Egypt has become known as a hub of the international illegal trade in wildlife, and the municipal policy of controlling street animal populations by shooting and poisoning is deplorable.

“Pet breeding and pet shops are part of an unregulated and illegitimate industry in which humans exploit animals for commercial gain, yet do not pay taxes or benefit the Egyptian economy.

“At the root of all this is a not only systemic corruption but also policy failure, as Egypt is lacking even the basic animal welfare legislation that would enable the prosecution of violators. Some will say that now is not the time to ask for animal’s rights, when human rights are still being violated. But actually there is no better time, as Egypt is trying to build a more just and humane society for all its inhabitants.” [source]

Protesters were able to get inside the Zoo and snap some photos of the abuse in action. This included allowing people into the Elephant enclosure for a "picture opportunity" (Seen below) until the activists were forced to put their camera's away by the zoo's management. 

What was the aim of this protest? Simply to present to the Giza Zoo management a list of request on how to improve the situation inside the zoo, as well as raise awareness of the plight of animals in Egypt. Susie Nasser, co-founder of ESMA, states that "Management refused to accept the document we wanted to deliver for the changes we want....we had a follow up meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and voiced our demands, there will be follow up meetings with his staff.. We hope we have made leeway!"

We hope so indeed. 

So what's next for these activists? For now, online campaigns and awareness, until a new movement can be organized in the Red Sea. The objective? Bring to people's attention the fact that the four dolphins currently housed in the Makadi Bay dolphinarium were in fact illegally smuggled into this country, and illegally caught from the wild. Activists will work to push people to boycott the dolphinarium, as it is only by ridding them of their revenue that we can hope to effect change. Sadly, there is little that can be done for the four dolphins inside now, but may their tragic story of being caught in the wild and forced to live in degradation in a backyard swimming pool, ending up as slaves for human entertainment serve as a vivid reminder of the atrocities committed within Egypt, all for the sake of seeing a dolphin jump through a hoop. We're on the Red Sea, go and see them in the wild. It's what nature intended.

The elephant enclosure, measuring little more than 6 metres by 25 metres 

This elephant has been chained for 25 years in the Giza Zoo
Before activists were chased off, they were able to capture this image showing
people being allowed into the Elephant Pen for a photo op. Pictured in yellow is
the zoo's "official photographer."

This Camel is kept tethered day and night, because according to zoo officials, it "does not get along with the pony it shares its enclosure with"
Close up of the Camels foot

Bear Cage, and yes, this is the full size. It is common practice for visitors to the
Zoo to feed the bear through the bars, and poke it with sticks

Placards held by the protesters outside the zoo

This image speaks for itself

Appealing to the religious sentiments

Protesters handed out leaflets in traffic advocating animal rights

Protesters braved the heat to spread their message

Representatives of the Animal Welfare organizations pictured with the
Egyptian Minister of Agriculture

Rising harassment in Egypt

I read an article in Al-Masri al-Yawm today that discusses the increased incidents of harassment during the Egyptian Revolution. In the article it documents incidents of alleged harassment, ranging from inappropriate touching, to cat calls, to indecent exposure. Let it be said, that I do not think 'cat calls' should count as harassment, as if that's the case imagine what percentage of men in the West have harassed women. 

The indecent exposure and groping however, is just sad. People taking advantage of a situation that they should not be able to take advantage of. 

For women living in Cairo, or Egypt in general, the Web site mentioned below is one to bookmark. It frequently posts updates from women throughout the city on harassment, including taxi drivers who have inappropriately approached women, etc. 

In addition, ladies out on the streets take your safety into consideration at ALL times. A few simple rules can help reduce your chances of experiencing harassment on the streets. These include: 

  1. Do not make eye contact with men in the streets. This is seen (particularly when it's coming from a Western woman) as an invitation by many men here. 
  2. Pepper spray is not found in Egypt. However it is easy to make. All you need is 2 tbsp of hot red pepper or habanera pepper, 1 cup of vinegar OR rubbing alcohol, and a drop of Baby oil. Mix together all three (the pepper must be ground into a fine powder), and empty into a spray bottle. When sprayed into an attacker's eyes, the spray will temporarily blind him giving you the opportunity to get away. 
  3. Carry your keys in your fist, with the jagged edges pointing out between your fingers. This way, if anyone tries to approach you, one swift hit with your fist will hurt them immensely, if not cut their face. 
  4. No matter what the cat calls, do NOT engage these men. Doing so will only aggravate them further, and may end up putting you in a potentially dangerous situation. 
  5. Always walk with your purse facing away from the road. This will help protect you from purse snatching and/or groping in an attempt to snatch your bag. 
  6. NEVER ride in the front of taxis. I have heard far too many stories of taxi drivers copping a feel from an unsuspecting girl who sat in the front seat. 
  7. If you are inappropriate touched, report it to the police. Although many people believe that the police will do nothing, one of the reasons that sexual harassment in Egypt goes unpunished is because women will not report it. In Middle Eastern cultures, rape and sexual harassment is generally seen as being brought on by the woman herself. As such, the shame women feel often prevents them from ever pursuing any justice. If you do not want to report it to the police, at least post on the website
  8. Remember that you are in a Muslim country. Dress appropriately. This means no cleavage, no daisy duke shorts, no skimpy outfits, etc. Dress the part, and you'll find your experiences in Egypt are much less stressful. 

These few simple tips can make a world of difference in avoiding harassment in the streets in Cairo. Even here in Hurghada harassment is up, despite the return of tourists to the town. Men here are simply capable of getting away with more, and accordingly push the boundaries further. Remember that you have the power to help prevent harassment. 

And without further ado, here is the article from Al-Masri al-Yawm. 

Photographed by other

Statistics gathered by an organization dedicated to decreasing sexual harassment in Egypt showed an increase in harassment during the revolution.

Egypt experienced a weak security presence during the 25 January revolution, which has since gradually reversed.

HarassMap is an organization and website created by female activists to shed light on dangers of harassment. The website,, compiles complaints from women and girls via SMS or the internet, creating an online map of harassment cases.

The map showed Cairo had the biggest number of cases, followed by Alexandria and Upper Egypt.

In downtown Cairo, Maadi and along the corniche, the map compiled 39 incidents of harassment by touching.

Other cases included 20 cat calls, 22 incidents of ogling and nine cases of indecent exposure, in addition to other incidents.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Giza Protest I

Just a quick note to keep everyone updated on the recent protests in front of Giza Zoo. The protest was held on Saturday, 16th April, and although did not see as big a turn out as was originally hoped, there were some developments made. Watch for further details in tomorrow's blog. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Please don't forget the horses!

Let me post again another follow-up to the feeding posts I've been doing for ESMA. This one however, is so much more important than previous postings in light of the announcement made yesterday by The Brooke animal sanctuary.

According to The Brooke's statement, "The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism has announced tourists are returning to Egypt and the industry is slowly recovering. Animal owners are therefore able to start earning an income again and the overall situation for animals has stabilised...The Brooke has assessed the situation carefully, and together with The Donkey Sanctuary and Egyptian Society for Animal Friends (ESAF) – two organisations we have been working closely with, we have agreed the current emergency programme will come to an end on 21 April."

Firstly, I would like to be directed as to where exactly the Ministry of Tourism announced that travel in Cairo was back to normal? I have only seem them promoting tourism and reporting an increase in tourism in the Red Sea areas, and the Sinai. In fact, the most recent comments that I have heard is that flights into Cairo International Airport have returned to 70 % of their pre-revolution level, whereas "Activity is expected to gradually return to normal starting in June, when expatriate Egyptians typically return for summer vacations and when Muslims often travel for pilgrimage." [Source] So according to The Brooke, tourists are returning to Cairo in such a number that the aid for the horses is no longer necessary. Yet I seem unable to find ANY source to verify this claim. I would ask that they send me their sources directly, because they are obviously so obscure that nobody else can find them. 

Having spoken to people in Cairo directly, who just this past weekend went out to a horse feed, I can attest that the struggle is far from over. The idea of this blog is not to discredit one animal rights organization or another, simply to point out that the dire situation with the horses has a long way to go before it can return to satisfactory, and more importantly, sustainable levels. 

ESMA feed, Saturday 9th April 

The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals have tirelessly been sending out teams of volunteers each and every weekend to distribute feed to the animals in the worst condition. Volunteers from ESMA note that "there are still hundreds of animals starving, and not enough tourists to provide business." While furthering education campaigns to help the horse owners understand the responsibility of horse ownership is of course vital, in the meantime how many of these animals have to die before these education campaigns take effect. 

There remain so many cases that are in desperate need of help

ESMA has established a routine for the weekly feed. Run out of a large garden, the horses in the worst condition are supervised while they receive their food. It is an unfortunate truth that were ESMA simply to hand out the feed to the stable owners, many of the horses would never see it. 

The horses are supervised as they receive their feed

ESMA volunteers carefully record and track each horse that is given feed to ensure that they are not fed twice. Not only do they receive feed, they are also given a check over by ESMA's dedicated team of vets, who spend all day in the sun helping out the horses. 

ESMA volunteers mark horses that have received their feed

Horses with open wounds on their back receive emergency care
Many of the horses that are seen by ESMA have open wounds or sores. When the owners were asked why the situation got so bad, their response is shocking and disturbing. The government vets, that are meant to provide services free and medical supplies at a discounted price, will overcharge their patrons. This results in most of the owners simply being unable to afford to get their horses treatment. It's a vicious cycle. 

This is a plea to remember that the situation is not over. Don't forget about these horses that are suffering and dying every day around the pyramids. The tourism industry in Cairo has not returned to a level that provides enough income for these stable owners. Please, if you can, donate to ESMA, mark it down as a donation for the horses, and do your part in helping these animals see a brighter future. For additional information on how to donate, click here. You will also find here a more detailed post on what it is that is being done to help put an end to this mass starvation of animals.

If you haven't yet, check out this post to find how just a few seconds of your time could end up making a world of difference for the neglected and abused animals in Egypt!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Avoid Amazon Pet Shop

This blog is directed towards residents of Hurghada, however anyone reading this can garner a valuable lesson.

Amazon Pet Shop is located on Sherry Street, near the main road Shara Sheraton that runs directly through downtown Hurghada.

Amazon used to have a twin pet-shop on Shara Central, which thankfully has been shut down.

I have been into this pet shop on a number of occasions, and it seems that every time I go in there, the conditions have worsened. The last time I was in there, I managed to snap some pics with my phone. Apologies for the poor quality, but at least you can see the decrepit conditions that these animals are kept in.

The most egregious abuse of animals I have seen in this shop was a gorgeous 5 month old husky puppy, who was in a crate inside the store. The crate that she was kept in was so small, that she was forced to lie in her own feces and urine. I actually watched her try to find a place to relieve herself that she wouldn't have to step in, and she couldn't. Barely even able to spin circles in her crate, this poor husky was going for a high bid of 7,000 LE (current exchange rate puts that at 1,174 US $). Worse than the fact she was in a crate about 4 times too small for her, was that next to her stood a crate that was MORE than large enough. Inside this crate? A cat. I wish I was joking. When I inquired from the employee in the shop why he didn't move the husky, his response was that "she made too much noise trying to escape from the larger crate." Ok, brilliant, so we'll just keep her in conditions that she can't even move in. No problem right? It took all my self-control not to thump the guy in his head, as he would have deserved.

This picture below shows one of the cages that the dogs are kept in. Although I know that the picture quality make this difficult to see, but what you are seeing inside are FOUR Shepherd pups, plus one Griffon. FIVE DOGS in this small cage. Climbing all over each other in their own excrement. In the cage above them sit two cats, the cream one was a Persian cross, whose eyes had so much gunk around them that she couldn't even open them.

You can see the cage is quite small

4 Shepherd pups and 1 Griffon shoved together

Animal rights groups would swarm into a pet shop in the West if these violations were witnessed. At least 70 percent of the cats that they have for "sale" inside this pet shop are evidently sick. With mucous coming out of their eyes, and clearly lethargic, the employee will actually tell you with a straight face that they are "just tired," and that the problems with their eyes is "not because they are sick, but because they have been sleeping." Walk into this pet shop on any given day, and you will find purebred labs, Belgian shepherd pups, I've even seen a dalmatian for sale inside. All of these purebred dogs will carry a price tag of no less than 3,000 LE (except for the recent batch of shepherd pups which are going for 1,500 LE - guess the market is suffering!). Most of these dogs are the product of breeders, who will recklessly breed any animal that looks pure simply to attach a price tag to its head. I heard of a breeder who lives near me who has pit bull pups for sale. When I asked if they are kept outside, I was told that they are kept in an apartment, with no less than 7 animals inside. Unfortunately I have not been able to personally go and see this apartment, but I dread to think of what it looks like on the inside. It is people like this that are providing this pet shop with their animals for sale, who do not care in the slightest about the health of their animals, it's all about the paycheque at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, for me to go in and actually purchase some of these animals will only further the breeding trade. To actually change these disgusting conditions requires a boycott of Amazon pet shops, and pet shops in similar conditions throughout Egypt.

This poor pup (about 4 months old) didn't even have the
strength to get up and say hi. She's kept leashed like this day and night. 

In addition to a boycott of similar pet shops, it is now the time to work towards implementing legislation in Egypt that will prevent similar shops from cropping up. I am not naive enough to think that this will happen overnight. It will require an education campaign, alongside actual enforcement. It is a long road, but with the increasing activism being witnessed in Egypt these days, it is no longer just a dream but an actual possibility that animals in Egypt may one day be protected.

I have not been able to independently verify this information, however have been told from a number of sources that Amazon pet shop was owned by two European women, one from the UK, and one from Russia. Whether or not they are still in charge, since the end of the revolution, I am not sure. I welcome any hints and/or tips that will help me in firstly figuring out who owns this disgrace of a pet shop, and where they are getting their animals from. Until that point, I urge everyone to BOYCOTT Amazon pet shop.

If you are in Hurghada and are looking for a decent pet shop, I recommend Doolittle Zoo. Located on the road just behind Metro Market on Shara Sheraton, the owner, Mr. Esam, has grown up around animals and you can evidently see inside his pet shop that the animals are well cared for. Yes, he has pups for sale, but they are not caged, they are in their own play pen area, and are evidently healthy. To compare one shop to the other really shows that Amazon is an absolutely disgusting example of a pet shop. Doolittle also offers imported pet products for sale. Mr. Esam is there most days throughout the week, and is always more than willing to offer advice and help with animal issues. I get all of my supplies from Doolittle for Orien :).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Violence in Tahrir again

Well..the honeymoon is officially over. Large protests have again erupted in Tahrir square, demanding that former president Mubarak be made stand trial, the removal of Tantawi, and clearing out any of the old regime.

Photos and video have been released that show army officers joining with the protesters. According to Al-Ahram online, several sources have "claimed the officers who appeared in the videos were retirees living abroad who were seeking vengeance on Egypt’s military institutions." The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in their second official statement today said that there were civilians "claiming" to be military officers.

Regardless, the violence that erupted in Tahrir this morning around dawn has left at least 2 dead according to news sources, although the Egyptian Health Ministry claims only 1 dead. Many more are injured, as protesters in Tahrir were again subjected to brutal use of batons, tear gas, and bullets.

Yesterday saw one of the largest protests in recent weeks, which I think for many living here was rather surprising. Coined the "Cleansing Friday," it saw reported figures numbering in the tens of thousands flocking to Tahrir square. I would have imagined that the week following the recent vote on constitutional amendments would have prompted large protests, but it didn't. Instead many who I spoke to said that it was the "natural progression of democracy and they would not return to the streets to protest the results." So what's changed? Why are they back in the streets now?

The minimal changes that have taken place since the fall of the past regime are the underlying reason. Tantawi has long been seen as Mubarak's lapdog, even nicknamed "Mubarak's Poodle," so to demand his resignation as the natural progression of the Revolution is normal.

What will happen next is unsure. What is certain, is that many have returned to Tahrir in response to the violence exhibited this morning by Army forces. A few of my friends who were in Tahrir from the beginning have again returned, and are prepared to camp out if necessary.

Here is a good story posted by The Guardian including the viewpoints of Egyptians who were in Tahrir today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So what's keeping the youth protesting?

I was sent this article by a friend of mine, which basically provides an overview on what it is that the Egyptian youth are still looking for in the post-revolutionary period. It's a series of 26 questions that they feel have yet to be addressed by the Army, which is undermining the impact of the revolution. I, however, do not agree with all the points raised herein, and will put my comments in Italics between the questions.

Let me first say, in my opinion people have come to believe that Egypt can, and should, change overnight. This is an entirely unrealistic approach, who expects from 30 years of dictatorial rule that a country will instantaneously become a democracy overnight and thereby eliminate all of the factors that kept the people suppressed for the past three decades. To successfully rebuild a country requires time, and trust. Trust is the huge factor that is absent in Egypt at the moment. While the recent elections would make it appear that an overwhelming majority of Egyptians are prepared to amend the constitution, rather than scrap it entirely, trust in the ruling regime is waning rapidly. When the Army first came onto the streets, people felt that things would improve, that the Army would readily support the will and wishes of the people. Yet as time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that many of the youth are realising that although Mubarak has gone, his regime and the elements that kept him in power for so long are still around. As such, the trust in the Army is waning. I believe that it will take an entire generational span to effectively change this country around; with the revolutionary youth implanting their beliefs in the upcoming generation, only then will we begin to see the prospect of a real civil shift within Egyptian society.

So here is the article, from The Daily News Egypt.

CAIRO: In an ironic numerical coincidence, 67 days after the January 25 outbreak of the popular revolt that toppled Egypt’s 30-year regime and its dictator ex-president Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians have returned to Tahrir Square to “save the revolution,”

For some, the connection between 67 days and the Naksa is all too poignant. In the 1967 Naksa (setback) Egypt lost a six-day war against Israel which cost it the entire Sinai Peninsula and during which Israel annexed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Many who went to Tahrir on Friday were feeling, perhaps with little reasonable justification, that a similar setback is “stealing the revolution,” a phrase frequently used to describe a potential disaster scenario where after the dust settles and the euphoria of getting rid of Mubarak subsides, everything will go back to the way it was before, the only difference being in the names and faces.

While I personally do not believe that Egypt will ever return to the horror of its black pre-Jan. 25 reality, many Egyptians do, and here are 26 questions they’re asking:

1. Why aren’t Mubarak and his family in court until now? If sources are correct, Mubarak has already fled the country. Given his long-standing friendly ties with many Western nations and his deteriorating health, it is unlikely that Mubarak will ever see the inside of a court-room. A troubling fact indeed. 
2. Why is ex-interior minister Habib El-Adly still not being tried for his involvement in the killing of peaceful protesters in the early days of the revolution?
3. Why did the Prosecutor General wait over a month and a half before imposing a travel ban on the icons of the past regime, 21-year House Speaker Fathi Sorrour, National Democratic Party (NDP) and Shoura Council Speaker Safwat El-Sherif, ex-chief of presidential staff Zakaria Azmy and former housing minister Mohamed Ibrahim Soliman? Sadly, not surprising seeing as how ousting Mubarak did little to shift the power-house that allowed him to remain in power for so long.
4. Why has the National Democratic Party not been dissolved? A better question would be, why is the NDP being allowed to head up the constitutional amendments and plans for the upcoming elections in November?
5. Why are former NDP leaders still allowed to participate in the political transition to democracy, despite the clear conflict of interest? My comment remains the same as with question 3.
6. Why is the state of emergency still in place? Because Egypt remains in a state of emergency? Security in the country is dwindling on a daily basis with the crime rate skyrocketing. Would it really be prudent to remove this legislation now? In time, of course it should be lifted. When stability returns to the country. 
7. Why have governors and heads of local councils appointed by the previous regime not been replaced?
8. Why have leading figures in the Egyptian Radio and Television Union not been removed from their positions despite inciting violence against protesters and spreading disinformation during the uprising? This is sadly evidence that the old regime maintains a stronghold on power. From my own sources within the Middle East News Agency (MENA), I know that they struggled to overthrow their "corrupt" editor in chief, without success. 
9. Why is there a media blackout on the severe human rights violations committed by members of the military police against Tahrir protesters on March 9? Similarly, why are the attacks on women protesters in Tahrir square on International Women's Day not being investigated?!
10. Why is there a similar media blackout on violations by the army including the use of cattle prods, to disperse Cairo University students demanding the removal of the dean on the Faculty of Mass Communication?
11. Why has the army maintained a monopoly over all decisions, while staging an unnecessary referendum which cost the state coffers LE 200 million when, in effect, all its decisions have been unilateral?
12. Why doesn’t the constitutional decree recently announced by the army shrink the powers of the president?
13. Why is the army insisting on fast legislative elections, even though all indicators signify that they can only lead to an overwhelming majority for Islamists and ex-NDP members? it even remotely possible that the army does not actually WANT real democratic change in Egypt? 
14. Why is the army being secretive in its drafting of vital laws that will see the country through the transition, such as the much debated law regulating the establishment of political parties?
15. Why did the Illicit Gains Authority only just approach the EU to demand the freezing of assets by leading members of the former regime?
16. Why has the government not set a minimum wage until now? This, I believe, is an irrational goal to believe should have been fulfilled by now. The Egyptian economy is still struggling to recover, until stability returns to the financial markets, where is the extra cash to cover the new minimum wage meant to come from? 
17. Why is Cabinet attempting to intimidate workers by proposing a ban on workers’ strikes in a blatant violation of International Labor Organization standards?
18. How can we trust investigators and prosecutors that were all part of the previous state machinations?
19. Why hasn’t the ruling army council set up a special tribunal of known judges and prosecutors untainted by connections with the previous regime to probe the corruptions cases?
20. Why is the army council side-lining the young activists who sparked the revolution?
21. Why has there been no official investigation into the attack on presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei on referendum day?
22. What is the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians trapped in Libya?
23. Why haven’t all political detainees been released? Yes, some detainees should be released, particularly those who were incarcerated purely for expressing their ideals that differed from those of the state. But all detainees? All at once? 
24. What is the mandate of new Interior Ministry arm — National Security —that has replaced the notorious State Security apparatus?
25. What is the Interior Ministry doing with the State Security files?
26. What is the government doing about the rising domination of the Salafi discourse threatening a bigger role of religion in politics?

Many of these questions betray a deeply engrained lack of trust between the people and authorities, which is slowly poising [poisoning] some peoples’ image of the army as a just arbitrator and protector.

However, when it comes to the constitutional decree announced Wednesday, I share the view of Amr Hamzawy, researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in a column in Al-Shorouk Friday, that despite a few critiques, hats off to the army for not abusing its current position by giving itself more powers in the interim phase and promising to pass on all legislative authorities to the PA as soon as it is elected.

All other changes like shrinking the president’s sweeping powers, for instance, or canceling the Shoura Council, will be in the hands of the constituent assembly charged with drafting a new constitution.

Since we have chosen the path of democracy, we must accept that democracy takes time, but that only vigilance, self-education, political awareness, persistence and transparency will guarantee that we’re on the right track.

For now we must also accept that chaos too is part of the transition and that the only way to avert descending into absolute chaos is to move the tug-of-war between the will of the people and the power of the state from the street to the dialogue table. We don’t want the million man protests to lose their impact, who knows when we’ll seriously need them again.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Pharaoh has left the Country

According to preliminary reports on al-Jazeera, ousted President Mubarak has fled the country.

Mubarak had been staying in Sharm El-Sheikh under house arrest since he stepped down from office on February 11.Sources tell Al Jazeera that Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, has left the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh on a flight headed to Germany, possibly for medical treatment.
However, Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Cairo, said that military sources deny the story and the Egyptians are holding the military to the promise of keeping Mubarak in the country to stand trial for alleged crimes under his presidency.
Media reports earlier this month indicated that Mubarak, who is said to be suffering from cancer, was receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia.
And in February, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported that Mubarak's trip to Germany would be part of a long-term plan hatched by the US as an exit strategy for Mubarak.
The United States government's scenario for an end to the political chaos in Egypt appears to be this: President Hosni Mubarak travels to Germany for a "prolonged health check" that would offer the 82-year-old a dignified departure.
Mubarak was outsted by a populist revolution after 30 years of rule.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Professor's War

Brilliant commentary on the U.S. ongoing role in Libya.

The Professor's War
Obama is obsessed with handing over command in Libya
By Charles Krauthammer

President Obama is proud of how he put together the Libyan operation. A model of international cooperation. All the necessary paperwork. Arab League backing. A Security Council resolution. (Everything but a resolution from the Congress of the United States, a minor inconvenience for a citizen of the world.) It's war as designed by an Ivy League professor.

True, it took three weeks to put this together, during which time Moammar Gaddafi went from besieged, delusional (remember those youthful protesters on “hallucinogenic pills”) thug losing support by the hour — to resurgent tyrant who marshaled his forces, marched them to the gates of Benghazi and had the U.S. director of national intelligence predicting that “the regime will prevail.”

But what is military initiative and opportunity compared with paper?

Well, let’s see how that paper multilateralism is doing. The Arab League is already reversing itself, criticizing the use of force it had just authorized. Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, is shocked — shocked! — to find that people are being killed by allied airstrikes. This reaction was dubbed mystifying by one commentator, apparently born yesterday and thus unaware that the Arab League has forever been a collection of cynical, warring, unreliable dictatorships of ever-shifting loyalties. A British soccer mob has more unity and moral purpose. Yet Obama deemed it a great diplomatic success that the league deigned to permit others to fight and die to save fellow Arabs for whom 19 of 21 Arab states have yet to lift a finger.

And what about that brilliant U.N. resolution?

*Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade.

*China is calling for a cease-fire in place — which would completely undermine the allied effort by leaving Gaddafi in power, his people at his mercy and the country partitioned and condemned to ongoing civil war.

*Brazil joined China in that call for a cease-fire. This just hours after Obama ended his fawning two-day Brazil visit. Another triumph of presidential personal diplomacy.

And how about NATO? Let’s see. As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. Italy hinted it might deny the allies the use of its air bases if NATO can’t get its act together. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who the hell is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning.

And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is. Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gaddafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.” Approach, mind you.

In any case, for Obama, military objectives take a back seat to diplomatic appearances. The president is obsessed with pretending that we are not running the operation — a dismaying expression of Obama’s view that his country is so tainted by its various sins that it lacks the moral legitimacy to . . . what? Save Third World people from massacre?

Obama seems equally obsessed with handing off the lead role. Hand off to whom? NATO? Quarreling amid Turkish resistance (see above), NATO still can’t agree on taking over command of the airstrike campaign, which is what has kept the Libyan rebels alive.

This confusion is purely the result of Obama’s decision to get America into the war and then immediately relinquish American command. Never modest about himself, Obama is supremely modest about his country. America should be merely “one of the partners among many,” he said Monday. No primus inter pares for him. Even the Clinton administration spoke of America as the indispensable nation. And it remains so. Yet at a time when the world is hungry for America to lead — no one has anything near our capabilities, experience and resources — America is led by a man determined that it should not.

A man who dithers over parchment. Who starts a war from which he wants out right away. Good God. If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.