Mijn hersenspinsels en gedachtekronkels

Een democratische omwenteling in de Arabische Wereld? Deel 3 – 3 ثورة ديمقراطية في العالم العربي؟ جزء

nieuws en artikelenoverzicht van de actuele gebeurtenissen in de Arabische wereld deel 3 (zie ook deel 1 en deel 2)

 

 

Chronologisch overizcht van dag tot dag (op de site van de NOS): http://nos.nl/artikel/215322-chronologie-onrust-arabische-wereld.html

Voor de nieuwste ontwikkelingen, bekijk hieronder: 

Al-Jazeera English live

 

Palestinian Authority closes Al-Jazeera office

klik op bovenstaand logo

 

Van een paar dagen geleden:

January 31, 2011

Leading Egyptian Feminist, Nawal El Saadawi: “Women and Girls are Beside Boys in the Streets”

Nawal2

Renowned feminist and human rights activist Nawal El Saadawi was a political prisoner and exiled from Egypt for years. Now she has returned to Cairo, and she joins us to discuss the role of women during the last seven days of unprecedented protests. “Women and girls are beside boys in the streets,” El Saadawi says. “We are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system… and to have a real democracy.” [includes rush transcript]

Zie voor interview http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/1/31/women_protest_alongside_men_in_egyptian

 

Een bijdrage op JOOP waarin ik mij wel enigszin kan vinden:

 

De revolutie in Egypte en de reactie in Nederland

Wat, geen sperzieboontjes meer uit Egypte?

Voor wie de afgelopen dagen aan het beeldscherm gekluisterd naar Al Jazeera heeft zitten kijken, is het ontnuchterend de Nederlandse kranten te lezen. Het is een ontnuchtering die snel overslaat in schaamte. Wat, geen sperzieboontjes meer uit Egypte?

Al Jazeera levert een kwaliteitsjournalistiek waar CNN bleek bij afsteekt. De zender uit Quatar blijft doorvragen over de dubbele bodems in het Amerikaanse buitenlandse beleid, over de good cop, bad cop strategie van de Egyptische regering, waarbij de ene minister de knokploegen organiseert terwijl de ander zich verontschuldigt en plechtig belooft de dingen tot op de bodem uit te zoeken. Eigenhandig levert Al Jazeera zo een bijdrage aan de democratisering in de wereld, die wel eens vele malen belangrijker zou kunnen zijn dan het gehypte facebook en twitter. De journalisten van Al Jazeera weten dat ze een historisch moment meemaken en handelen daar ook naar.

verder lezen op http://www.joop.nl/opinies/detail/artikel/de_revolutie_in_egypte_en_de_reactie_in_nederland/

En nu ik toch bezig ben, deze zeer terechte (en leuke) bijdrage van Francisco van Jole:

De Nederlandse Mubarak

In Egypte proberen ze de autocratie af te schaffen, in Nederland voert een listige politicus hem in

Wat ik de afgelopen tijd toch mis bij berichtgeving over de revoluties in Tunesië en Egypte zijn de ‘echte kenners’ van de Arabische wereld. Ik bedoel de types die de afgelopen tien jaar aan ons zijn opgedrongen. Ineens zijn ze verdwenen. Ik zou bijvoorbeeld graag zien hoe Hans Jansen, de arabist die ons jarenlang mocht inprenten dat moslims geen verlangen naar vrijheid kennen, de tv-beelden zou duiden. Maar helaas, Jansen is in geen velden of wegen te bekennen. Zeker te druk met de voorbereiding van de rechtszaak tegen Wilders.

Over de PVV gesproken: Martin Bosma, de zogenaamde partijideoloog, zien we ook al niet. Die zou toch perfect kunnen uitleggen dat de naar vrijheid smachtende Egyptenaren gewoon moslims zijn die taqiyya bedrijven. Ze doen maar net alsof ze vrij willen zijn, eigenlijk vinden ze het heerlijk om geknecht te worden. 

De PVV blijft trouwens opmerkelijk buiten schot in het media-enthousiasme over de Arabische vrijheidsdrift. Is de PvdA volgens Wilders nog steeds de Partij van de Arabieren? Dat is dan een groot compliment. Hadden Rutte en Rosenthal maar zoveel lef. Zou Wilders de revolutie behandelen in Fitna 2, de film waar we al zo lang naar uit kijken? Of hoopt de PVV-leider dat de revolutie-hype snel voorbij is en hij weer over kan gaan tot de orde van de dag: z’n dagelijkse potje islamofobie presenteren aan kiezers die denken dat hij minister is (zie voor dat laatste opmerkelijke detail ook dit blogbericht van Maarten van Rossem, FS).

verder lezen op http://www.joop.nl/opinies/detail/artikel/de_nederlandse_mubarak/

The Arab world at a tipping point?

 

Egypt’s prospects look better no matter what happens at this point, but its immediate future is still uncertain.

Michael C. Hudson Last Modified: 02 Feb 2011 13:23 GMT
The fallout from the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt will shape a new geopolitical structure in the Middle East [CC – Jacob Anikulapo] 

Hosni Mubarak is still president of Egypt, but his days in power are numbered; there will be no Mubarak dynasty either. The authoritarian order in Egypt and throughout the Arab world has been profoundly shaken. The ousting of Ben Ali in Tunisia, a remarkable event in itself, now appears to have been the trigger for a far broader upheaval that is shaking regimes across the region.  

Since Mohamed Bou’azizi set himself alight in Tunisia on December 17, self-immolations have taken place in Egypt, Algeria, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Unprecedented demonstrations have since spread to Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen. Remember too that all this was taking place against the backdrop of a tense regional environment: the dangerous paralysis in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, a simmering crisis in Lebanon, continuing uncertainties over Iraq, and the Iranian nuclear issue. 

Egypt as a catalyst?

Egypt, with a population of over 80 million, is not only the largest country by far in the Arab world, it is also strategically and centrally situated astride Africa and Asia, and has exerted profound political, cultural and social influence in the modernisation of the whole region since the late eighteenth century. During the rule of the charismatic Gamal Abdel Nasser from 1952 to 1970 Egypt dominated the Arab world.

To be sure, under his successors Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, who aligned Egypt with the US, Egypt’s influence in regional affairs waned; but by virtue of its size and history this country commands a privileged place in the Arab imagination. Thus, it has served as a model of authoritarianism for the region and were it to dissolve into chaos or, preferably, a liberal democratic system similar to today’s Turkey the demonstration effect could be significant. That is why Arab ruling elites from the Atlantic to the Gulf must be losing sleep these days. 

Political scientists who until recently were pronouncing Arab authoritarianism as too deeply rooted to fail are now discovering so many reasons why Mubarak is facing the most serious challenge of his long career. There is the economic argument: despite decent aggregate growth, unemployment and a rising cost of living are fuelling popular protest. There is the administrative argument: corruption and bureaucratic mismanagement have gotten out of hand. There is the social argument: Egypt’s youth are alienated, the educational system is in decay, families and marriages are under stress. But above all there is the political argument: the president and his ruling party have become increasingly authoritarian over time. 

The respected Egyptian political scientist Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid, in a lecture at the Middle East Institute in Singapore a month before the crisis exploded, described the blatantly un-free parliamentary elections staged by the Mubarak regime, which brought its authoritarian habits to a new low. 

“Stagnation will continue if things remain as they are,” he said, “but they may not remain as they are because people’s reactions show that they do not accept it.” If the people have taken to the streets to demonstrate that they do not accept authoritarianism in Tunisia and Egypt, why should they not do the same thing in other authoritarian Arab countries?

A model for other Arab countries?

Many of the conditions that help explain the eruptions in Tunisia and Egypt are present in other Arab countries. In the non-oil rich states like Morocco, Algeria, Jordan and Yemen we see the same volatile social cocktail: a youth bulge, vast unemployment, inadequate education, and gross economic inequality. Little wonder that their rulers are belatedly trying to ease conditions that will take years to remedy. Jordan is offering subsidies; Yemen (where tax evasion is endemic!) is cutting taxes. Too little, too late? 

Will the Arab oil-rich states be immune? Perhaps so if the present upheaval is seen as being driven exclusively by economic deprivation. But there are two other powerful political factors fomenting popular anger: entrenched authoritarianism and subservience to America’s strategic agenda for the Middle East – especially its tacit support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. 

Petro-rulers as different from each other as Muammar Ghaddafi in Libya and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia have condemned the popular upheavals, with Ghaddafi voicing support for the disgraced Ben Ali in Tunisia and Abdullah excoriating the protesters on the streets of Egypt as infiltrators, who “in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilise its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition.” Might it be said, quoting Shakespeare, that “they doth protest too much?”  

Is it time to reexamine the proposition often expressed by Western observers that the oil-rich authoritarian monarchies are the ideal model for the Arab world, because they are rooted in a traditional (i.e., patriarchal tribal) culture and seem to convey an image of Islamic legitimacy?   

Where are the Islamists? 

And speaking of Islam, where are the Islamists in the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt? There is scant indication that Islamist organisations played a major role. Yet to believe the conservative US media one would understand that what we are seeing is an Islamist terrorist conspiracy. And virtually every Arab regime has fanned this alleged threat in order to win US military, financial and political support. But this is an oversimplification of the complex realities of Arab society and political culture. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has been so slow to get on board the upheaval that it risks its own credibility. As for Al Qaeda, it is nowhere to be seen. 

The fact is that the protest movement is driven less by the slogan “Islam is the solution” than by a popular revulsion at authoritarianism, corruption, poor governance, and subservience to US strategic priorities (of which Israel is at the top). Certainly the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge as a main player along with others in any new Egyptian political order, but don’t expect the Arabs to welcome an Iranian or Taliban-style regime.

Dilemma for the US and Israel
 
The Obama administration’s confused and timid reaction reflects all too clearly the dilemma it faces.  Egypt is a lynchpin of the American security architecture for the greater Middle East. Egypt helps guarantee Israel’s interests. Omar Suleiman played a key role in helping Israel seal off Gaza in their common effort to dislodge the Hamas government there. Successive administrations have poured money into Egypt to secure its regime and reinforce its client status.  
A radical Islamic takeover in Egypt would constitute the worst possible scenario for Washington and Tel Aviv. But for Israel even the evolution of a new Egypt along Turkish lines would be anathema. Once again, the US is caught between its professed ideals of promoting democracy and freedom and its perceived interest in a Middle East whose publics (and their anti-American, anti-Israeli opinions) are sidelined from political participation by friendly authoritarian rulers. 
So far the protesters in Egypt are not targeting America, and Washington has a moment of opportunity to do the right thing and get behind the transition. But its response so far is weak and hypocritical. If it comes down on the side of the old status quo its real adversaries in the region – Iran and the radical movements – will benefit. 

Whither Egypt?  Whither the Arab world?

The revolution in Egypt has begun. Mubarak is on his way out. General Omar Suleiman, pillar of the intelligence establishment and reliable friend of Washington, looks to be the man in charge of a transitional regime. But transitional toward what? Doubtless the US government, Israel, and the pro-American authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are desperately hoping that he will keep Egypt from falling into the hands of the popular opposition, let alone the Islamist currents.  

The higher ranks of the Egyptian military must share this orientation, given its historically lucrative ties with the Pentagon. But the middle and lower ranks may be another matter entirely. After all, it was middle-rank officers of Islamist sympathies who assassinated president Anwar Sadat in 1981. And it is hard to believe that the multiple strands of Egypt’s new “people power” are ready to accept Omar Suleiman as an agent of genuine change, even though some of them have viewed him as definitely preferable to a Mubarak dynasty. 

Egypt is at a turning point. If it turns toward a continuation of military-dominated leadership supported by the business elite we will not have seen the end of turmoil. Popular forces, including the Muslim Brotherhood, cannot continue to be excluded from meaningful participation. One must hope that the transitional government will do the right thing and open up the political arena for full participation and an early (and this time free) election. 

The Muslim Brothers didn’t make this revolution but they will need to be part of the new order – an order that also includes centrists, leftists, and liberals. Perhaps Mohamed ElBaradei will emerge as the revolution’s representative. 

A genuinely representative Egyptian government will reject the slavish pro-American, pro-Israeli clientelism of its predecessor. That need not mean that Egypt will become a spearhead for anti-Western, anti-Israeli projects. On the contrary, a genuinely legitimate Egyptian government could set a prominent example for non-authoritarian, participatory government throughout the region and play a decisive role in leading the Middle East out of its present dysfunctional condition. 

Michael C. Hudson is the Seif Ghobash Professor of Government and International Relations at Georgetown University. He is currently serving as the Director of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore. He has written, edited and contributed to numerous books including Middle East Dilemma: The Politics and Economics of Arab Integration (Columbia University Press), Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy (Yale University Press) and The Precarious Republic: Political Modernization in Lebanon (Random House).

This article first appeared in the Strait Times (Singapore).

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

 
Source:
Al Jazeera
 http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/20112275944781596.html

Aankondiging:

Artikel

 

What's next?

The Art of Revolution…

…Tunisia, Egypt, what’s next?

wo 09 feb aanvang: 20.00 uur VOL !

live uitzending (herhaling: 22.30 tot 11 feb – 00:00)

DIT PROGRAMMA IS HELAAS VOL GERESERVEERD!
Omdat niet alle kaartjes altijd worden opgehaald, wordt er bij de kassa een uur voor aanvang van het programma een wachtlijst geopend.
 
 
 

 

VOERTAAL: ENGELS / ENGLISH SPOKEN
Overal ter wereld kijken mensen vol verwachting toe hoe de Egyptische en Tunesische bevolking wereldgeschiedenis aan het schrijven is. Staan we aan het begin van een beweging die zich als een olievlek over de regio verspreidt – en daar voorbij? <!– [ + ] –>
Wereldleiders worstelen openlijk met het herzien van hun beleid en strategieën ten aanzien van de razendsnelle veranderingen binnen de internationale arena. Kranten, televisieprogramma’s, blogs en tweets buitelen over elkaar heen met scoops en het laatste nieuws. Zowel in de politiek als de media wordt verrast gereageerd op de huidige ontwikkelingen in Noord-Afrika en het Midden Oosten. Echter, in de artscene van zowel Tunesië als Egypte brengen kunstenaars en andere artiesten door middel van hun werk al jarenlang een afwijkend geluid ten gehore en zijn ze al jaren bezig nieuwe blauwdrukken voor de toekomst te ontwikkelen.

Wij presenteren een avond vol film, hip hop, theater, blogs, skype en discussie.

Met: Abdelkader Benali (schrijver), Frans Timmermans (PvdA), Monique Samuel (auteur), Hassouna Mansouri (filmcriticus), Sabri Saad El Haamus (artistiek leider theatergroep DNA), Amiad Bajazy (activist), Petra Stienen (auteur van ‘Dromen van een Arabische Lente’), Sami ben Gharbia (digitaal activist), Guido Kleene (artiest) en vele anderen… Houd onze website in de gaten voor een update van gasten en artiesten.Presentatie: Farid Tabarki

Dit programma is een initiatief van Neil van der Linden en Hassouna Mansouri in samenwerking met De Balie, SICA, Hivos, IKV Pax Christi/PAX it, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunsten.

***

 
 
 
 
 

 

People all over the world are watching how Tunisians and Egyptians are changing the course of history. Is this a movement that will spread throughout the Middle East and beyond?
On Wednesday the 9th at De Balie artists, activists and specialists from Egypt, Tunisia, the Netherlands and Syria will discus the outburst of the revolution, the history behind it and its consequences through the lens of the artistic (underground) scene.

World leaders are struggling with revising their approaches and strategies towards the rapid changes within North African and the Middle East. Newspapers, television shows, blogs and tweets are in a rat race for the latest scoop and the most sensational features. Both politicians and the press act surprised by the recent events. However, within the cultural scene in both countries artists have been expressing their own original, opposing and often visionary ideas for years!Balie logo Sica logo Hivos IKV Pax Christi Hassouna Mansoura Partner Amsterdams Fonds voor de kunst <!– tekst uitklappen [ + ] –>

We offer you an evening full of film, hip hop, theatre, presentations, blogs and discussion.

Op woensdag 9 februari spreken kunstenaars, activisten en diverse specialisten uit Egypte, Tunesië, Nederland & Syrië in De Balie over de revolutie. Maar ook over de voorgeschiedenis en de toekomst van zowel Egypte, Tunesië en de regio vanuit de (underground) artscene in beide landen.

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/06/egypt-omar-suleiman-talks-opposition

Egyptian opposition cautious after vice-president Suleiman opens talks

Government offers concessions to groups including Muslim Brotherhood – but critics say proposals do not go far enough

// // Monday 7 February 2011

Protesters emerge from their tents in Cairo’s Tahrir Squarefor a 14th day of anti-government demonstrations Link to this videoThe Egyptian government has offered a series of concessions at the first talks with opposition groups, including the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, in an attempt to end the mass pro-democracy protests across the country.

But opposition leaders said that Egypt’s vice-president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, did not go far enough in his proposals for greater political freedom and pledge of free elections.

In Cairo, demonstrators again packed Tahrir Square to demand President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate removal from office as a prerequisite for any deal, undermining the government’s attempts to get people back to work because of the huge economic losses caused by the crisis.

While the mood was relaxed in the square for much of the day on Sunday, with even a wedding taking place, the army fired warning shots after dark in an apparent confrontation with some protesters. There are concerns that demands by the military to remove barricades blocking roads are a move towards breaking up the demonstration.

A government statement said that Suleiman, who is apparently playing an increasingly powerful role, agreed to a number of measures including the formation of a committee of political and judicial figures to oversee changes to the constitution which would scrap provisions that limit the ability of the opposition to run for the presidency.

The government said it will also immediately release “prisoners of conscience of all persuasions” and end legal restrictions on the press. However, it gave only a partial commitment to lift the state of emergency, which gives the president considerable powers and has been used to jail opponents, saying that it will be rescinded “based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society”.

The meeting was greeted with scepticism by Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, who is now a prominent opposition voice.

“The process is opaque. Nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage. It’s managed by Vice-President Suleiman. It is all managed by the military and that is part of the problem,” he said on NBC.

Another member of ElBaradei’s group, the National Association for Change, who attended the talks with Suleiman, said they had been “positive” but did not go far enough.

“We demanded a full democratic transformation and not partial reforms,” said Mustafa Naggar. “But Suleiman responded: ‘Democracy comes in stages and I am keen that there is a peaceful transitional period and civilian rule.'”

Suleiman held separate talks with Muslim Brotherhood, currently banned by the government. The Islamist organisation said it did not regard the meeting as negotiations but as an opportunity to hear the government’s position. A Muslim Brotherhood leader, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, said it was not pleased with the results because Suleiman had failed to respond to the central demand that Mubarak resign. He also said that if the government was serious about political reform it should immediately dissolve parliament, which was elected in a tainted ballot from which the Muslim Brotherhood was banned. The group said it would meet on Monday to decide whether to continue the talks.

The Egyptian prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, has said that Mubarak would not resign before elections in September.

Washington has backed the talks, with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, “cautiously welcoming” the meeting between Suleiman and the Muslim Brotherhood. But many pro-democracy activists are suspicious of US involvement, fearing that Washington, which backed Mubarak for 30 years as a force for stability in the Middle East, is seeking to perpetuate that policy with its support for Suleiman’s oversight of the political transition.

That view was reinforced by remarks over the weekend by the US special envoy, Frank Wisner, who argued that Mubarak should stay in power through the transition to democracy. The fond tone of his comments, claiming that Mubarak “has given 60 years of his life to the service of his country” and therefore deserved a chance to shape its future, was seen as particularly damaging.

The US state department insisted the remarks, made to an international security conference in Munich, represented the personal opinion of the 72-year-old retired diplomat. But European officials said they seemed to reflect a real shift in Washington’s policy towards acceptance that the transition would be managed by the Egyptian government according to a timetable followed by Suleiman.

Egyptian banks opened for the first time in a week on Sunday, drawing long lines of people desperately short of cash for food and other essentials. But despite the government’s appeal for a return to normality, many shops and factories remained closed, and a plan to open the stock exchange on Monday was called off.

The government estimates that the crisis has cost the country more than $3bn, a large part of it because more than 1m tourists have left.

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112764216497806.html

Talks fail to end Egypt protests

 

Pro-democracy protests continue at Tahrir Square, a day after government held talks with opposition to end turmoil.

Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 20:41 GMT
Pro-democracy protesters are continuing their sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, showing no signs of being appeased by talks held a day earlier between the government and opposition groups.Demonstrators seeking the immediate ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the president, were still camped out in the square on Monday, while life was slowly getting back to normal in other parts of the Egyptian capital following a fortnight of turmoil.The protesters were to be visited by Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who had played a key role in helping the demonstrators get organised, and who was released on Monday by Egyptian authorities after having disappeared on January 27.A symbolic funeral procession was also held in the square for a journalist killed by a sniper during the unrest. The procession was led by the journalist’s wife and daughter.About two thousand pro-democracy protesters also marched in the port city of Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent there reported.The UN says at least 300 people have been killed in the violence since the demonstrations began, with Human Rights Watch, the international rights group, putting the number killed in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez at 297 on Monday.An Al Jazeera correspondent said traffic on the streets of Cairo was increasing on Monday, while businesses were beginning to reopen.

Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

“There’s a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible,” he said.

“But some of the shopping malls for example are still closed because they’re afraid of looting, and the banks yesterday were only open for a few hours.”

Another correspondent, also in Cairo, said: “There are divisions. On one side, people do agree with the messages coming out of Tahrir Square, but on the other, Egypt is a country where about 40 per cent of the population lives on daily wages.”

Tanks continue to guard government buildings, embassies and other important institutions in the capital.

The curfew in major Egyptian cities, which has largely been ignored by protesters, has now been shortened to run from 8pm to 6am local time, and the Egyptian stock market is set to reopen for trading on Sunday.

The bourse has been closed since January 27, when it plummeted 17 per cent over two days.

The Egyptian Financial Regulatory Authority, the national financial regulator, will announce new measures affecting trading, according to a statement.

Cabinet meeting

On Monday, the government announced that it was raising all public sector salaries and pensions by 15 per cent, as Mubarak chaired the first full meeting of his cabinet since unrest began on January 25, the state MENA news agency reported.

IN VIDEO
Our correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin talks abouthis detention by the Egyptian military    

Samir Radwan, the country’s new finance minister, told MENA that increasing pensions will cost the government 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($940m), while a five billion pound ($840m) fund has also been created to compensate those affected by looting or vandalism during the protests.

While the government is keen on projecting the image of stability returning to the country, however, protesters are unconvinced.

“The word ‘stability’ is a word the regime uses all the time – but … what is stability without freedom?” Dr Sally Moore, a representative of the Popular Campaign in Support of Elbaradei (one of six groups that makes the “Youth of the Egyptian Revolution” coalition), told Al Jazeera.

“We are in for the long haul. The regime is trying to play us against the people in Tahrir Square, but we always remind them they are our people, our families.

“We are talking about freedom … about lost rights for 30 years, … about torture … and I think people want radical change, not only minor reform.”

Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera online producer, reporting from the square, said relations between the protesters and the troops had been turning tense.

On Sunday night, troops stationed near the National Museum briefly opened fire.

Tensions also rose when soldiers attempted to reinforce a barbed wire fence, which the protesters resisted. Agitated protesters staged a sit-in and two of them were detained.

‘People’s revolution’

Omar Suleiman, the country’s newly appointed vice-president, began meetings with six opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in an attempt to end the crisis.

However, Salma El-Tarzi, an activist in Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera that she was indifferent to the talks.

“The political parties can do whatever they please because they don’t represent us,” she said.

“This is not a revolution made by the parties. The parties have been there for 30 years and they’ve done nothing. This is the people’s revolution.”

Some analysts have called the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in the dialogue a major concession.

The group had initially refused to participate in any negotiations unless Mubarak resigned.

“It’s important for us not to say that our own only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people”Barack Obama,US president

Essam El-Erian, a member of the MB, Egypt’s largest opposition group, told Al Jazeera that it has to participate “in any dialogue that can meet the demands of the people”.

“This process can encourage more people to be added to protesters in Tahrir Square and all over the country.

“We’ve gone to the dialogue to enforce the revolution … to add more pressure on Mubarak and his regime to leave.”

However, another member of the movement played down the meeting, saying the MB is not prepared to drop its central demand of calling for Mubarak to resign as president.

“We cannot call it talks or negotiations. The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned … that he [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase,” Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh told Al Jazeera.

Reforms pledged

According to a statement from Suleiman’s office following the meeting, the government offered to form a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments, pursue allegedly corrupt government officials, “liberalise” media and communications and lift the state of emergency in the country when the security situation was deemed to be appropriate.

But Fotouh said the government had failed to take concrete measures on the ground.

“If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved, also a presidential decree ending the emergency law”.

People gathered to pray in front of tanks to prevent the army from placing barbed wires at the square [Reuters] 

Egypt has been under emergency rule since 1981, the year Mubarak assumed power.

Barack Obama, the US president, made new remarks on the political situation in Egypt after the meeting.

He told the US television network Fox that Egyptians would not permit a repressive government to fill the Mubarak void, adding that the Muslim Brotherhood is only one faction in Egypt.

“But here’s the thing that we have to understand, there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt, there are a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that want to come to the fore as well.

“So it’s important for us not to say that our own only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people.”

In remarks made on the sidelines of a speaking enagement on Monday, Obama said Egypt was “making progress” through the ongoing negotiations.

Also on Monday, PJ Crowley, the US state department’s spokesman, said it would be “challenging” for Egypt to hold free and fair elections immediately. He said the US wants an “orderly transition”, though he stopped short of saying that he thought Mubarak should stay as president in the interim.

Our correspondent in Cairo said the pro-democracy protesters were still not pleased with Obama’s stance on the crisis.

“Protesters tell me Obama still hasn’t come up with any statement that they want to hear,” he said.

“They want immediate change and the feeling among many of them is that the way US is handling this crisis is not good for the way America is perceived both here and in general in the wider region.”

 
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112620314460519.html

Suleiman ‘panned’ Egypt opposition

 

Leaked US cables raise questions over whether vice-president can be honest broker in any talks with Muslim Brotherhood.

Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 01:05 GMT
Protests against Mubarak’s rule prompted the leader to appoint Suleiman as vice-president [Reuters] 

Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s recently appointed vice-president, has previously harshly criticised Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his communications with US officials, according to leaked US diplomatic cables.

The revelations came as Suleiman met opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, on Sunday in an bid to end a political crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in opposition to Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president.

But the leaked cables raise questions over whether the former intelligence chief can be seen as an honest broker in any negotiations.

In the cables, obtained by the Reuters news agency through the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks, Suleiman is reported to have told US officials that the Muslim Brotherhood was creating armed groups.

He is also said to take “an especially hard line on Tehran”, and in one dated January 2 2008, Suleiman is quoted as saying that Iran remained “a significant threat to Egypt”.

In a cable dated February 15, 2006, Francis Ricciardone, then the US ambassador to Egypt, reported that Suleiman had “asserted that the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] had spawned ’11 different Islamist extremist organisations’, most notably the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gama’a Islamiya [Islamic Group]”.

‘Technically illegal’

The cable, which uses the spelling “Soliman”, goes on to say: “The principal danger, in Soliman’s view, was the group’s exploitation of religion to influence and mobilise the public.”

It continues: “Soliman termed the MB’s recent success in the parliamentary elections as ‘unfortunate’, adding his view that although the group was technically illegal, existing Egyptian laws were insufficient to keep the MB in check.”

The elections referred to were those in November and December in 2005, in which the Brotherhood made substantial gains.

Egypt’s president Mubarak has long attempted to paint his rule of Egypt as a counterbalance to an “Islamist threat”.

Reuters said the cables implied that US officials were sceptical of Suleiman’s portrayal of the Muslim Brotherhood, but officials have not commented on the issue.

The news agency reported PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman, as saying: “We decline to comment on any individual classified cable.”

The inclusion of the Brotherhood in the opposition’s talks with Suleiman on Sunday are considered significant as the group is formally banned in Egypt, although its activities are tolerated.

As Sunday drew to a close, opponents of Mubarak dismissed the talks as insufficient and renewed their demands that the president step down.

 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112722535988460.html

Blogger’s release ‘reignites’ Egypt

 

Google executive Wael Ghonim speaks after release from Egyptian custody, sparking outpouring of support from protesters.

Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 01:59 GMT
 
Egypt’s demonstrations have been ongoing since January 25 as protesters call for Mubarak to resign 

Egyptian anti-government protesters have welcomed the release of a Google executive who disappeared in Cairo last month after playing a key role in helping demonstrators organise.

Wael Ghonim was released on Monday by Egyptian authorities, sparking a fast and explosive response from supporters, bloggers and pro-democracy activists on the internet. 

Ghonim’s release came nearly two weeks after he was reported missing on January 28 during protests against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

“Freedom is a bless[ing] that deserves fighting for it,” Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, wrote in a message posted on his Twitter account shortly after his release.

He said he was seized in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, late last month as he joined tens of thousands of protesters in the city’s Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests aimed at calling on Mubarak to step down from his 30-year-rule in Egypt.

Ghonim said he was picked up by three plainclothes men on the street, pushed into a car and taken off for interrogation by state security members.

‘Not a hero’

The prominent blogger spoke to Egypt’s On TV after his release on Monday, pleading with reporters not to call him a hero.

“Please don’t make me a hero. I’m not a hero. I have been asleep for 12 days,” he said.

 Part one of Ghonim’s interview with Dream TV. For part two and a translation of both, click here for our live blog. All rights to video belong to Dream TV.

“I hope that we would be able to put an end to all the rubbish in this country. The rubbish really needs to be cleaned up.”

Ghonim gave a subsequent, emotional interview to the privately owned Egyptian channel Dream TV later on Monday.

“I am not a symbol or a hero or anything like that, but what happened to me is a crime,” he told Dream TV.

“If you want to arrest me, that’s your right. But there are laws and I am not a terrorist or a drug-dealer. We have to tear down this system based on not being able to speak out.”

Ghonim said he was blindfolded during his 12 days in the custody of state security so that he could not identify his interrogators, but he said that he was not physically tortured.

He described his abduction as a “crime which we are fighting”, adding that the law that allows such actions such be changed – a reference to the country’s emergency laws.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the northern Egyptian city of Alexandria said the interview will “no doubt have a massive impact on the number of pro-democracy protesters” in the country.

“I expect their numbers to increase dramatically tomorrow and Friday because of this show,” our correspondent said.

“The show also included an interview with a former state TV presenter who dismissed her previous employers as liars and propaganda artists for Mubarak.

“The show ended with a plea from her: ‘To all the children watching this show, go to your parents, tell them: mum, dad, if you want me to have a brighter future, a good education, then take me to Tahrir square tomorrow’.”

Sparking the uprising

Activists said Ghonim was the person behind a page on the social networking site Facebook that is credited for helping spark the uprising in Egypt.

 

Twitter Reaction

Wael Ghonim’s release

lizhenry profile

lizhenry RT @Nour_han: Dad just asked me to create a Twitter account for him so that he can follow @Ghonim. =) On a side note, FML. about 1 minute ago · reply

Shaaaaady profile

Shaaaaady @Ghonim 3ayz atklm m3ak drory awy 51 seconds ago · reply

r7y6 profile

r7y6 RT @monasosh “It isn’t our fault,it’s the fault of everyone clinging to power” I hope the world is listening carefully to @ghonim #Jan25 #p2 44 seconds ago · reply

monaeltahawy profile

monaeltahawy Me talking @Ghonim, #Wisner and #Suleiman on PBS Newshour http://bit.ly/e7ogZF Thanks always Scarce #Jan25 31 seconds ago · reply

RASHADaldabbagh profile

RASHADaldabbagh RT @mmbilal: Number of protesters predicted to soar in wake of @Ghonim’s emotional interview. get the background and reaction here: http://tiny.cc/nw40l 24 seconds ago · reply

The “We are all Khaled Said” page and Facebook group was named after an Egyptian activist who rights groups said was beaten to death by police in the northern port city of Alexandria. Two officers are now facing trial in the case.

Pro-democracy protesters have continued their sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square since mass protests began on January 25. The demonstrations showed no signs of being appeased on Tuesday by talks between the government and opposition groups on Sunday.

But the number of protesters in the streets has decreased since the height of the protests on January 28, a day demonstrators billed the Day of Wrath.

However, immediately after Ghonim’s interview on Dream TV on Monday, activists asserted that the blogger had breathed new life into the protests.

“Left breathless by Wael Ghonim. InshaAllah his sincerity & patriotism, beamed into Egypt’s living rooms, will ignite this revolution #Jan25,” Twitter user Desert_Dals wrote.

“My aunt called me crying after Ghonim’s interview saying “I’m going to Tahrir tomorrow! God Bless him! He made us proud!” Twitter user MennaGamal wrote on her account.

“Ghonim just became the mayor of Tahrir Square!” Twitter user AngelSavant wrote.

DFMorrison, another Twitter user wrote, “If you feel recharged by #Ghonim for the Egyptian Revolution to reach its goals, Retweet! #Tahrir #Egypt #25Jan.”

The UN says at least 300 people have been killed in the violence since the demonstrations began, with Human Rights Watch, the international rights group, putting the number killed in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez at 297 on Monday.

Ghonim, in his interview on Monday, paid tribute to those killed.

“I want to say to every mother and every father that lost his child, I am sorry, but this is not our fault.

“I swear to God, this is not our fault. It is the fault of everyone who was holding on to power greedily and would not let it go.”

 
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
 

 

Mass protests continue in Egypt

 

Pro-democracy supporters hold fresh rallies in Cairo, just hours after the release of a detained Google executive.

Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 11:45 GMT
 
 Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reports on the camaraderie and community inside Tahrir Square in central Cairo
 

 

Protesters in the Egyptian capital are holding mass demonstrations, with a new wave of optimism reaching the pro-democracy camp following the release of the detained cyber activist, Wael Ghonim.

As demonstrations seeking an immediate end to Hosni Mubarak’s rule enter their 15th day, protesters – set up in makeshift tents in central Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square – are refusing to leave until their demands are met.

In a bid to counter the political challenge, the government offered on Monday a pay rise to public-sector workers, but the pro-democracy camp feels the government has conceded little ground in trying to end the current crisis.

“[The pay rise] doesn’t mean anything,” Sherif Zein, a protester at Tahrir Square told Al Jazeera on Tuesday. “Maybe it will be a short-term release for the workers … but most of the people will realise what this is, it’s just a tablet of asprin, but it’s nothing meaningful.”

Zein said protesters had called for mass demonstrations and he believed the crowds of Egyptians would not let them down.

Mubarak’s message has thus far clearly stated that he has no plans to leave office until his term is up in September.

However, Omar Suleiman, the country’s newly appointed vice-president, announced on Tuesday that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.

Amid this ongoing contest of wills between the government and protesters, Ghonim’s release on Monday is “highly significant” in the sense that it “could certainly push big numbers into this protest later on”, an Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo said.

Suleiman Speech
Following are the main points of announcement
  Mubarak will form a committee to review constitutional amendments.
  Mubarak will form another committee to follow up govt measures to solve the crisis, including talks with opposition.
  Third committee will investigate violent acts and attacks on protesters.
  Mubarak promised not to arrest or charge any one of those who took part in the protests.

“Protesters say [Ghonim] is potentially some sort of figurehead for them … they have been looking for a leader.”

Ghonim, a senior executive of the US internet search company Google, may be a candidate for such a position, despite comments he made on Monday saying he did not want to be seen as a hero.

Ghonim, who was responsible for setting up the Facebook page that mobilised the start of the protests, was arrested by government authorities on January 28.

Beyond Tahrir Square, life has been slowly getting back to normal in other parts of Cairo. Some shops and banks were open, and our correspondent said on Monday thattraffic on the streets was increasing.

However,  the country’s tourism sector is still suffering, with the area around the pyramids remaining closed.

“There’s a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible,” our correspondent said.

Another correspondent, also in Cairo, said: “There are divisions. On one side, people do agree with the messages coming out of Tahrir Square, but on the other, Egypt is a country where about 40 per cent of the population lives on daily wages.”

Tanks continue to guard government buildings, embassies and other important institutions in the capital.

Funeral procession

Activists in Tahrir Square held a symbolic funeral procession on Monday for a journalist killed by a sniper during the unrest.

The same day, about 2,000 pro-democracy protesters also marched in the port city of Alexandria, Al Jazeera’s correspondent there reported.

The UN says at least 300 people have been killed in the violence since the demonstrations began, with Human Rights Watch, the international rights group, putting the number killed in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez at 297 on Monday.

In Monday’s other developments, the government announced it was raising all public-sector salaries and pensions by 15 per cent.

Samir Radwan, Egypt’s new finance minister, told the state MENA news agency that increasing pensions would cost the government 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($940m), while a five billion pound ($840m) fund has also been created to compensate those affected by looting or vandalism during the protests.

Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

The government is keen on projecting the image of stability returning to the country, but protesters are unconvinced.

“The word ‘stability’ is a word the regime uses all the time – but … what is stability without freedom?” Dr Sally Moore, a representative of the Popular Campaign in Support of Elbaradei (one of six groups that makes the “Youth of the Egyptian Revolution” coalition), told Al Jazeera.

“We are in for the long haul. The regime is trying to play us against the people in Tahrir Square, but we always remind them they are our people, our families.

“We are talking about freedom … about lost rights for 30 years, … about torture … and I think people want radical change, not only minor reform.”

Omar Suleiman, the country’s newly appointed vice-president, began meetings with six opposition groups on Sunday, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood (MB), in an attempt to end the crisis.

However, Salma El-Tarzi, an activist in Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera that she was indifferent to the talks.

“The political parties can do whatever they please because they don’t represent us,” she said.

“This is not a revolution made by the parties. The parties have been there for 30 years and they’ve done nothing. This is the people’s revolution.”

Some analysts have called the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in the dialogue a major concession.

The group had initially refused to participate in any negotiations unless Mubarak resigned.

Brotherhood’s demand

Essam El-Erian, a member of the MB, Egypt’s largest opposition group, told Al Jazeera that it has to participate “in any dialogue that can meet the demands of the people”.

Another member of the movement played down the meeting, saying the MB is not prepared to drop its central demand of calling for Mubarak to resign as president.

“We cannot call it talks or negotiations. The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned … that he [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase,” Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh told Al Jazeera.

According to a statement from Suleiman’s office following the meeting, the government offered to form a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments, pursue allegedly corrupt government officials, “liberalise” media and communications and lift the state of emergency in the country when the security situation was deemed to be appropriate.

But Fotouh said the government had failed to take concrete measures on the ground.

“If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved, also a presidential decree ending the emergency law”.

Egypt has been under emergency rule since 1981, the year Mubarak assumed power. 

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112851424979539.html

Cables say Israel favours Suleiman

 

Preference for Egypt’s new vice-president to succeed Mubarak disclosed by leaked documents obtained by WikiLeaks.

Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 10:02 GMT
Mounting protests against Mubarak’s rule prompted the Egyptian leader to appoint Suleiman as vice-president [AFP] 

Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s recently appointed vice-president, has long long seen by Israel as the favoured successor to Hosni Mubarak, the current president, according to a leaked diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website, and published by the UK daily, The Telegraph.

The August 2008 cable said David Hacham, a senior adviser at the Israeli ministry of defence (MoD), told US officials the Israelis expected Suleiman, spelt Soliman in some cables, to take over.

“Hacham noted that the Israelis believe Soliman is likely to serve as at least an interim president if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated,” the cable sent from the US embassy in Tel Aviv said.

“We defer to Embassy Cairo for analysis of Egyptian succession scenarios, but there is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Omar Soliman,” the memo cited US diplomats as saying.

The cable said Hacham was full of praise for Suleiman, even noting that “a ‘hot line’ set up between the MoD and Egyptian General Intelligence Service is now in daily use”.

Suleiman was Egypt’s intelligence chief since 1993 and had been a frequent visitor to Israel and a mediator in its conflict with the Palestinians.

He was appointed Egypt’s vice-president late last month following pressure by mass demonstrators in the country calling for an immediate end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, backed Suleiman on Saturday as the best candidate to lead a “transition” government as Mubarak continues to cling to power.

Mubarak has said he only intends to leave office in September at the end of his current term. But on Tuesday Suleiman announced that Mubarak would set up a committee that would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power.

Questions raised

The Telegraph’s report followed an earlier one by Reuters news agency on Monday, which also received leaked diplomatic cables via WikiLeaks.

Reuters reported that Suleiman had previously harshly criticised Egypt’s opposition Muslim Brotherhood in his communications with US officials.

Significantly, Suleiman held a meeting with opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, on Sunday in a bid to end a political crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in opposition to Mubarak’s rule.

The leaked cables raised questions over whether Suleiman could be seen as an honest broker in any negotiations regarding the next steps for Egypt.

In the cables obtained by Reuters, Suleiman is reported to have told US officials that the Muslim Brotherhood was creating armed groups, most notably “the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Gama’a Islamiya [Islamic Group]” it said.

He is also said to take “an especially hard line on Tehran”, and in one dated January 2, 2008, Suleiman is quoted as saying that Iran remained “a significant threat to Egypt”.

‘Technically illegal’

The cable obtained by Reuters went on to say: “The principal danger, in Soliman’s view, was the [Muslim Brotherhood] group’s exploitation of religion to influence and mobilise the public.”

It continues: “Soliman termed the MB’s recent success in the parliamentary elections as ‘unfortunate’, adding his view that although the group was technically illegal, existing Egyptian laws were insufficient to keep the MB in check.”

The elections referred to were those in November and December in 2005, in which the Muslim Brotherhood made substantial gains.

The inclusion of the Brotherhood in the opposition’s talks with Suleiman are considered significant as the group is formally banned in Egypt, although its activities are tolerated.

The document’s obtained by the Telegraph also disclosed that Suleiman explored the idea of allowing Israeli troops into the Egyptian border area of Philadelphi in a bid to stop arms being smuggled to Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

Mubarak has long attempted to paint his rule of Egypt as a counterbalance to an “Islamist threat”.

“In their moments of greatest frustration, (Egypt Defence Minister) Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) would be ‘welcome’ to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling,” the cable said.

The memo later revealed that Suleiman wanted Gaza to “go hungry but not starve” and for Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs the besieged enclave, to be “isolated”.

 
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/20112882543596708.html

http://nos.nl/artikel/215322-chronologie-onrust-arabische-wereld.html :

Chronologie onrust Arabische wereld

De begrafenis van de Tunesiër Mohammed Bouazizi» De begrafenis van de Tunesiër Mohammed Bouazizi AFP

Toegevoegd: zondag 30 jan 2011, 15:31

Update: maandag 7 feb 2011, 20:19

Dat zijn zelfverbranding zoveel gevolgen zou hebben, had de Tunesiër Mohammed Bouazizi waarschijnlijk niet kunnen bedenken. Zijn actie leidde niet alleen tot protesten tegen de regering in zijn eigen land, maar ook tegen die in andere landen, zoals Egypte, Jemen, Jordanië en Algerije.

Een chronologisch overzicht van de gebeurtenissen.

2011

7 februari
In de Egyptische hoofdstad Caïro staan nog altijd tienduizenden mensen op het Tahrirplein. De demonstranten willen later deze week weer grote demonstraties houden en ze zijn niet van plan met de protesten op te houden voordat president Mubarak vertrekt. De onrust is wel afgenomen en het openbare leven komt weer gedeeltelijk op gang.
 
 
 

 

Het nieuwe kabinet in Egypte heeft een salarisverhoging voor ambtenaren aangekondigd van 15 procent. Ook de pensioenen gaan omhoog.

6 februari
In Tunesië worden alle activiteiten van de partij van de verdreven president Ben Ali opgeschort. De kantoren blijven dicht totdat justitie zich uitgesproken heeft over een verbod. De autoriteiten zeggen dat de maatregelen nodig zijn in het belang van de staatsveiligheid. Ze volgen op gewelddadige incidenten die volgens de autoriteiten veroorzaakt zijn door aanhangers van Ben Ali. Die zouden daarmee chaos in het land willen veroorzaken.
 
 
 

 

De dertiende protestdag in Caïro wordt uitgeroepen tot de ‘Dag van de martelaren’ ter ere van de demonstranten die zijn omgekomen. Het openbare leven komt weer op gang. De beurs en de banken zijn voor het eerst in een week weer open en op veel plekken wordt ook de troep op straat opgeruimd.

De Egyptische regering doet in een rondetafelgesprek toezeggingen aan de oppositie. Voor het eerst in de geschiedenis is ook de Moslim Broederschap betrokken bij het overleg. Vicepresident Suleiman belooft persvrijheid en de vrijlating van iedereen die bij de betogingen van de afgelopen twee weken is opgepakt.

5 februari
Berichten dat Mubarak aftreedt als leider van de regeringspartij NDP, worden even later weer tegengesproken. Wel vervangt hij het bestuur van de partij, onder wie zijn zoon Gamal. Hossam Badrawi wordt de nieuwe secretaris-generaal. Hij wordt gerekend tot de gematigde vleugel van de partij.
 
 
 

 

De VS willen dat president Mubarak aanblijft totdat er een overgangsregering is. Dat zegt een speciale afgezant van president Obama.

Op het Tahrirplein in Caïro blijft het rustig. President Mubarak overlegt al vroeg met enkele ministers over de staat van de economie in zijn land.

In El Kef, in het noordwesten van Tunesië, worden zeker twee mensen gedood wanneer de politie het vuur opent op demonstranten, die zich hebben verzameld bij het politiebureau. Ze eisen het aftreden van het hoofd van de politie die volgens hen schuldig is aan machtsmisbruik.

4 februari
De betogers roepen deze dag uit tot ‘Dag van Vertrek’ voor Mubarak. Minister van Defensie Tantawi spreekt op het Tahrirplein met militairen en demonstranten. Hij is de eerste vertegenwoordiger van het regime die zich in het hol van de leeuw waagt.
 
 
 

 

In Israël maakt men zich grote zorgen over wat er in het buurland gebeurt. De regering vreest voor een nieuwe vijandige moslimstaat.

Leiders van de Europese Unie roepen Egypte op om snel een brede overgangsregering in te stellen. President Obama roept Mubarak op te luisteren naar het Egyptische volk voor een orderlijke overdracht van de macht.

De Egyptische president Mubarak overleeft de ‘Dag van Vertrek’. Hij zit nog steeds in zijn paleis

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/01/egypt-tunisia-revolt

Why fear the Arab revolutionary spirit?

The western liberal reaction to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia frequently shows hypocrisy and cynicism

يمكن قراءة هذا الموضوع بالعربية
 
 
 

 

Egyptian demonstrators An Egyptian demonstrator uses his shoe to hit a picture of President Hosni Mubarak during a protest in Cairo. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty ImagesWhat cannot but strike the eye in the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is the conspicuous absence of Muslim fundamentalism. In the best secular democratic tradition, people simply revolted against an oppressive regime, its corruption and poverty, and demanded freedom and economic hope. The cynical wisdom of western liberals, according to which, in Arab countries, genuine democratic sense is limited to narrow liberal elites while the vast majority can only be mobilised through religious fundamentalism or nationalism, has been proven wrong. The big question is what will happen next? Who will emerge as the political winner?
Simon Jenkins on Egypt
  1. ‘The west’s itch to meddle is no help. Leave Egypt alone’

When a new provisional government was nominated in Tunis, it excluded Islamists and the more radical left. The reaction of smug liberals was: good, they are the basically same; two totalitarian extremes – but are things as simple as that? Is the true long-term antagonism not precisely between Islamists and the left? Even if they are momentarily united against the regime, once they approach victory, their unity splits, they engage in a deadly fight, often more cruel than against the shared enemy.

Did we not witness precisely such a fight after the last elections in Iran? What the hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters stood for was the popular dream that sustained the Khomeini revolution: freedom and justice. Even if this dream utopian, it did lead to a breathtaking explosion of political and social creativity, organisational experiments and debates among students and ordinary people. This genuine opening that unleashed unheard-of forces for social transformation, a moment in which everything seemed possible, was then gradually stifled through the takeover of political control by the Islamist establishment.

Even in the case of clearly fundamentalist movements, one should be careful not to miss the social component. The Taliban is regularly presented as a fundamentalist Islamist group enforcing its rule with terror. However, when, in the spring of 2009, they took over the Swat valley in Pakistan, The New York Times reported that they engineered “a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants”. If, by “taking advantage” of the farmers’ plight, the Taliban are creating, in the words of the New York Times “alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal,” what prevented liberal democrats in Pakistan and the US similarly “taking advantage” of this plight and trying to help the landless farmers? Is it that the feudal forces in Pakistan are the natural ally of liberal democracy?

The inevitable conclusion to be drawn is that the rise of radical Islamism was always the other side of the disappearance of the secular left in Muslim countries. When Afghanistan is portrayed as the utmost Islamic fundamentalist country, who still remembers that, 40 years ago, it was a country with a strong secular tradition, including a powerful communist party that took power there independently of the Soviet Union? Where did this secular tradition go?

And it is crucial to read the ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt (and Yemen and … maybe, hopefully, even Saudi Arabia) against this background. If the situation is eventually stabilised so that the old regime survives but with some liberal cosmetic surgery, this will generate an insurmountable fundamentalist backlash. In order for the key liberal legacy to survive, liberals need the fraternal help of the radical left. Back to Egypt, the most shameful and dangerously opportunistic reaction was that of Tony Blair as reported on CNN: change is necessary, but it should be a stable change. Stable change in Egypt today can mean only a compromise with the Mubarak forces by way of slightly enlarging the ruling circle. This is why to talk about peaceful transition now is an obscenity: by squashing the opposition, Mubarak himself made this impossible. After Mubarak sent the army against the protesters, the choice became clear: either a cosmetic change in which something changes so that everything stays the same, or a true break.

Here, then, is the moment of truth: one cannot claim, as in the case of Algeria a decade ago, that allowing truly free elections equals delivering power to Muslim fundamentalists. Another liberal worry is that there is no organised political power to take over if Mubarak goes. Of course there is not; Mubarak took care of that by reducing all opposition to marginal ornaments, so that the result is like the title of the famous Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The argument for Mubarak – it’s either him or chaos – is an argument against him.

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong’s old motto is pertinent: “There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent.”

Where, then, should Mubarak go? Here, the answer is also clear: to the Hague. If there is a leader who deserves to sit there, it is him.

Nog een ‘revolutionair clipje’

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Van de blog van Zeinobia, een van de bloggers waarvan  het protest op het Tahrirplein het moet hebben (support this blog):

Today was another a great day at Al Tahrir , a lot of photos of the days coming from the square and also from the Parliament as there are wonderful Egyptians having currently an open sit in now there till their demands are met.

Among all the photos I stopped at one or two to be accurate : When Khaled Said’s mom met Wael Ghonim , the admin of her son’s group !!

Mrs. Laila did not know that Ghonim was the true knight behind “We are Khaled Said” group just like us.

Yesterday Ghonim said that he would honored to be Khaled when Mona El-Shazly called him Khaled by mistake.

Wael Ghonim spoke today to millions of Egyptians in the square .

Khaled Said’s movement has contributed a lot to this revolution , you can consider Said as our official Mohamed Bou Azizi. Khaled Said was the Alexandrian who made the middle class go and protest his murder silently across the country for one hour standing at the corniche whether the Nile corniche and the sea coniche. History will record the role of Khaled Said movement and group in this revolution , history will record it.

Here is the word Wael Ghonim said today in video after the break :

Wael’s speech at Tahrir square

The blood of martyrs will not be wasted and Mubarak must leave , insh Allah he will leave.

Also here is Ghonim’s translated interview :

Posted by Zeinobia at 10:54 PM
Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Van de inmiddels spraakmakende facebookgroep We are all Khaled Said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12397397
8 February 2011 Last updated at 18:47 GMT

French PM Fillon says Mubarak lent him plane on holiday

French Prime minister Francois Fillon, file pic
Mr Fillon took the holiday with his family at new year
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  • French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said the Egyptian president lent him and his family a plane during a holiday in Egypt at new year.

    Hosni Mubarak, who is facing widespread anti-government protests, also paid for Mr Fillon’s holiday accommodation.

    Another French minister has faced calls to resign after saying she used a Tunisian businessman’s plane during the country’s uprising.

    Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has said she regretted her actions.

    Temple visitA statement from the prime minister’s office, released after the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the story, said Mr Fillon took the trip to Egypt between 26 December and 2 January.

    “The prime minister was put up during this visit by the Egyptian authorities.”

    Continue reading the main story

    Analysis

    image of Hugh Schofield Hugh Schofield BBC News, Paris

    The French government is mounting a spirited counter-charge after the revelations over Prime Minister Francois Fillon’s holiday in Egypt.

    It is not unusual, it states, for heads of government to use official accommodation while visiting foreign countries. Nor is it a sign of particular venality for a prime minister to accept a trip on an Egyptian government jet.

    More to the point, Mr Fillon’s trip to Egypt was at new year – more than three weeks before any sign of the popular uprising there. And he is not a prophet.

    It is true that next to the charges against Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, Francois Fillon’s transgressions (if such they are) seem less culpable.

    Ms Alliot-Marie was in Tunisia while the uprising there was in full swing – and she twice flew on the private jet of a businessman close to the Ben Ali clan.

    However the cumulative effect of the two stories is not good for the French government. The real damage is to the country’s standing in the Arab world. Those who accuse France of cosying up to dictators can claim new evidence.

    Mr Fillon, again at the invitation of the authorities, “borrowed a plane from the Egyptian fleet to travel from Aswan to Abu Simbel where he visited a temple”, the statement said.

    The prime minister “also embarked on a boat trip on the Nile in the same conditions,” meaning at the expense of the Egyptian authorities, it said.

    Mr Fillon met Mr Mubarak during the visit on 30 December in the southern city of Aswan.

    For his flight from France to Egypt, Mr Fillon travelled on a French government plane but paid for it “in accordance with the rules he has set himself and which apply to every private trip”, it adds.

    At least 300 people have been killed in two weeks of protests seeking to oust Mr Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for almost 30 years.

    Mr Mubarak has said he will not seek re-election in September, but is facing mounting international pressure to begin a political transition immediately.

    Mr Fillon has in recent days expressed support for his foreign minister as she fought pressure to step down over her alleged links with the ousted Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

    Earlier this week, Ms Alliot-Marie told French radio “it was an error” to fly on a Tunisian plane owned by Aziz Miled, a businessman with close links to Mr Ben Ali.

    Mr Ben Ali, who had ruled Tunisia for 23 years, was toppled after widespread protests against his rule.

    France had had close ties with Mr Ben Ali when he was in office, but when the long-time leader fled his country French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared he would not be welcome in France.

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    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/201128225410121154.html

    Egypt VP: Protests must end soon

     

    A day after offering sweeping concessions, Omar Suleiman expresses impatience with burgeoning pro-democracy protests.

    Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 23:34 GMT
     Egyptian vice-president said the alternative to dialogue is a coup. [EPA] 

    Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian vice-president, warned on Tuesday that his government “can’t put up with continued protests” for a long time, as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters rallied in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the sixteenth day in a row.

    In a sharply worded statement reflecting the regime’s impatience and frustration with the mass demonstrations, the newly appointed Suleiman said the crisis must be ended as soon as possible.

    Increasingly the public face of the embattled government, Suleiman said there will be “no ending of the regime” and no immediate departure for President Hosni Mubarak, according to the state news agency MENA, reporting on a meeting between the vice-president and independent newspapers.

    The immediate departure of Mubarak is a key demand for the pro-democracy demonstrators. Mubarak’s pledge to not seek another term later this year didn’t tame the angry protests.

    Meanwhile, the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon added his voice to host of countries calling for “an orderly transition” in Egypt. 

    Speaking at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Moon said Egyptian government must heed the call from its people for greater reform immediately.

    Subtle threat

    Suleiman reportedly told the editors of the newspapers that the regime wants dialogue to resolve protesters’ demands for democratic reform, adding, in a veiled warning, that the government doesn’t “want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”

    Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

    At one point in the roundtable meeting, Suleiman warned that the alternative to dialogue “is that a coup happens, which would mean uncalculated and hasty steps, including lots of irrationalities. We don’t want to reach that point, to protect Egypt.”

    Pressed by the editors to explain the comment, he said he did not mean a military coup but that “a force that is unprepared for rule” could overturn state institutions, said Amr Khafagi, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned Shorouk daily, who attended the briefing.

    “He doesn’t mean it in the classical way.”

    “The presence of the protesters in Tahrir Square and some satellite stations insulting Egypt and belittling it makes citizens hesitant to go to work,” he said.

    Egyptian military, widely hailed for professionalism and restraint, has vowed not to use force against peaceful protesters. President Mubarak, his deputy and the new prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, are all retired military officers with deep links to the institution.

    Sticks and carrots

    Suleiman warned that calls by some protesters for a campaign of civil disobedience are “very dangerous for society and we can’t put up with this at all.”

    This comes a day after Suleiman announced a slew of constitutional reforms, to be undertaken by yet to be formed committees.

    Suleiman said that one committee would carry out constitutional and legislative amendments to enable a shift of power while a separate committee will be set up to monitor the implementation of all proposed reforms. The two committees will start working immediately, he said.

    Suleiman stressed that demonstrators will not be prosecuted and that a separate independent fact-finding committee would be established to probe the violence on February 2.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies
     

     

    Een aantal foto’s die ik kreeg toegestuurd van een Iraakse vriend, van hoe de demonstranten op het Tahrirplein zichzelf beschermden tegen de rondvliegende stenen:

    Via Closer, de website van Martijn de Koning:

    C L O S E R

     

    “Now, it’s gonna be a long one” – some first conclusions from the Egyptian revolutionPosted: 08 Feb 2011 12:34 AM PST

    Guest Author: Samuli Schielke

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Today is my scheduled day of departure from Egypt. As I sit on Cairo airport waiting for my flight to Frankfurt, it is the first time on this trip that regret anything – I regret that I am leaving today and not staying. I have told to every Egyptian I have met today that I am not escaping, just going for my work at the university and returning soon. But perhaps it has been more to convince myself than them. My European friend who like me came here last Monday is staying for another two weeks. My American friend in Imbaba tells that for months, she has been homesick to go to America and see her parents and family again. But now when the US government would even give her a free flight, she says that she cannot go. This is her home, and she is too attached to the people, and especially to her husband. Two days ago, he was arrested on his way back from Tahrir square, held captive for four hours, interrogated, and tortured with electroshocks. He is now more determined than ever. How could she leave him behind? But today is my scheduled departure, and I only intended to come for a week and then return to do what I can to give a balanced idea of the situation in Egypt in the public debates in Germany and Finland. Tomorrow I will give a phone interview to Deutschlandradio (a German news radio), and on Tuesday I will give a talk in Helsinki in Finland. Right now, I feel that maintaining high international pressure on the Egyptian government is going to be crucial, and I will do what I can.

    There remains little to be reported about the beginning day in Cairo, but maybe I can try to draw some first conclusion from this week.

    The morning in Cairo today was marked by a return to normality everywhere except on Tahrir Square itself, where the demonstrations continue. Now that the streets are full with people again, the fear I felt in the past days on the streets is gone, too. If I stayed, today would be the day when I would again walk through the streets of Cairo, talk with people and feel the atmosphere.

    From what I know from this morning’s short excursion in Giza and Dokki, the people remain split, but also ready to change their mind. As my Egyptian friend and I took a taxi to Dokki, the taxi driver was out on the street for the first time since 24 January, and had fully believed what the state television had told him. But as my friend, a journalist, told him what was really going on, the driver amazingly quickly shifted his opinion again, and remembered the old hatred against the oppressive system, the corruption, and the inflation that brought people to the streets last week. A big part of the people here seem impressively willing to change their mind, and if many of those who were out on the streets on 28 January – and also of those who stayed home – have changed their mind in favour of normality in the past days, they do expect things to get better now, and if they don’t, they are likely to change their minds again. This is the impression I also got from the taxi driver who took me to the airport from Dokki. He, too, had not left his house for eleven days, not out of fear for himself, but because he felt that he must stay at home to protect his family. He was very sceptical of what Egyptian television was telling, but he did expect things to get better now. What will he and others like him do if things don’t get better?

    As I came to Egypt a week ago I expected that the revolution would follow one of the two courses that were marked by the events of 1989: either a successful transition to democracy by overthrowing of the old regime as happened in eastern Europe, or shooting everybody dead as happened in China. Again, my prediction was wrong (although actually the government did try the Chinese option twice, only unsuccessfully), and now something more complicated is going on.

    This is really the question now: Will things get better or not? In other words: Was the revolution a success of a failure? And on what should its success be measured? If it is to be measured on the high spirits and sense of dignity of those who stood firm against the system, it was a success. If it is to be measured by the emotional switch of those who after the Friday of Anger submitted again to the mixture of fear and admiration of the president’s sweet words, it was a failure. If the immense local and international pressure on the Egyptian government will effect sustainable political change, it will be a success. But it will certainly not be an easy success, and very much continuous pressure is needed, as a friend of mine put it in words this morning: “Now, it’s gonna be a long one.”

    In Dokki I visited a European-Latin American couple who are determined to stay in Egypt. He was on Tahrir Square on Wednesday night when the thugs attacked the demonstrators, and he spent all night carrying wounded people to the makeshift field hospital. He says: “What really worries me is the possibility that Mubarak goes and is replaced by Omar Suleyman who then sticks to power with American approval. He is the worst of them all.” Just in case, he is trying to get his Latin American girlfriend a visa for Schengen area, because if Omar Suleyman’s campaign against alleged “foreign elements” and “particular agendas” continues, the day may come when they are forced to leave after all.

    A few words about the foreigners participating in the revolution need to be said.. Like the Spanish civil war once, so also the Egyptian revolution has moved many foreigners, mostly those living in Egypt since long, to participate in the struggle for democracy. This has been an ambiguous struggle in certain ways, because the state television has exploited the presence of foreigners on Tahrir Square in order to spread quite insane conspiracy theories about foreign agendas behind the democracy movement. The alliance against Egypt, the state television wants to make people believe, is made up of agents of Israel, Hamas, and Iran. That’s about the most insane conspiracy theory I have heard of for a long time. But unfortunately, conspiracy theories do not need to be logical to be convincing. But to step back to the ground of reality, if this revolution has taught me one thing is that the people of Egypt do not need to look up to Europe or America to imagine a better future. They have shown themselves capable of imagining a better future of their own making (with some important help from Tunisia). Compared to our governments with their lip service to democracy and appeasement of dictators, Egyptians have given the world an example in freedom and courage which we all should look up to as an example. This sense of admiration and respect is what has drawn so many foreigners to Tahrir Square in the past days, including myself.

    Hier verder lezen

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2011/02/201129103121562395.html

    Syria: ‘A kingdom of silence’

     

    Analysts say a popular president, dreaded security forces and religious diversity make a Syrian revolution unlikely.

    AJE staff writer Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 17:18 GMT
    A key factor for stability within Syria is the popularity of President Bashar al-Assad

    Despite a wave of protests spreading across the Middle East, so far the revolutionary spirit has failed to reach Syria.

    Authoritarian rule, corruption and economic hardship are characteristics Syria share with both Egypt and Tunisia. However, analysts say that in addition to the repressive state apparatus, factors such as a popular president and religious diversity make an uprising in the country unlikely.

    Online activists have been urging Syrians to take to the streets but the calls for a “Syrian revolution” last weekend only resulted in some unconfirmed reports of small demonstrations in the mainly Kurdish northeast.

    “First of all, I’d argue that people in Syria are a lot more afraid of the government and the security forces than they were in Egypt,” Nadim Houry, a Human Rights Watch researcher based in Lebanon, says.

    “The groups who have mobilised in the past in Syria for any kind of popular protest have paid a very heavy price – Kurds back in 2004 when they had their uprising in Qamishli and Islamists in the early 1980s, notably in Hama.”

    The so-called Hama massacre, in which the Syrian army bombarded the town of Hama in 1982 in order to quell a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood, is believed to have killed about 20,000 people.

    “I think that in the Syrian psyche, the repression of the regime is taken as a given, that if something [protests] would happen the military and the security forces would both line up together. I think that creates a higher threshold of fear.”

    Demonstrations are unlawful under the country’s emergency law, and political activists are regularly detained. There are an estimated 4,500 “prisoners of opinion” in Syrian jails, according to the Haitham Maleh Foundation, a Brussels-based Syrian rights organisation.

    ‘Kingdom of silence’

    As pages on Facebook called for demonstrations to be held in cities across Syria in early February, more than 10 activists told Human Rights Watch they were contacted by security services who warned them not to try and mobilise.

    “Syria has for many years been a ‘kingdom of silence’,” Suhair Atassi, an activist in Damascus, says, when asked why no anti-government protests were held.

    2010 WORLD RANKINGS

      Democracy Corruption Press freedom
    Algeria 125 105 141
    Egypt 138 98 130
    Jordan 117 50 140
    Syria 153 127 178
    Tunisia 144 59 186
    Yemen 146 146 173
     
    Sources: Economist Intelligence Unit, Transperency International, Freedom House
     
     
     

     

    “Fear is dominating peoples’ lives, despite poverty, starvation and humiliation … When I was on my way to attend a sit-in against [the monopoly of] Syria’s only mobile phone operators, I explained to the taxi driver where I was going and why.

    “He told me: ‘Please organise a demonstration against the high cost of diesel prices. The cold is killing us’. I asked him: ‘Are you ready to demonstrate with us against the high diesel price?” He replied ‘I’m afraid of being arrested because I’m the only breadwinner for my family!”

    Fawas Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern politics at the London School of Economics, says Syria is one of the Middle Eastern countries least likely to be hit by popular protests, because of its power structure.

    He says the allegiance of the army in Syria is different than in both Tunisia, where the military quickly became one of the main backers of the president’s ouster, and in Egypt, where the army still has not taken sides.

    “The army in Syria is the power structure,” he says. “The armed forces would fight to an end. It would be a bloodbath, literally, because the army would fight to protect not only the institution of the army but the regime itself, because the army and the regime is one and the same.”

    Popular president

    But even if people dared to challenge the army and the dreaded mukhabarat intelligence service, analysts say the appetite for change of the country’s leadership is not that big.

    Many Syrians tend to support Bashar al-Assad, the president who came to power in 2000 after the death of his father Hafez, who had ruled the country for 30 years.

    “An important factor is that he’s popular among young people,” Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of Syria Comment, says.

    “Young people are quite proud of [President al-Assad]. They may not like the system, the regime, they don’t like corruption … but they tend to blame this on the people around him, the ‘old guard'”Joshua Landis, author of Syria Comment

    “Unlike Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who’s 83, Bashar al-Assad is young. Young people are quite proud of him. They may not like the regime, they don’t like corruption and a lot of things, but they tend to blame this on the people around him, the ‘old guard’.”

    A Syrian student echoes these comments. “The president knows that reform is needed and he is working on it”, she says.

    “As for me, I don’t have anything against our president. The main issues which need to be addressed are freedom of speech and expression as well as human rights. I believe that the president and his wife are working on that. New NGOs have started to emerge.

    “Also, many things have changed since Bashar came to power, whether it has to do with road construction, salary raises, etc. Even when it comes to corruption, he is trying hard to stop that and limit the use of ‘connections’ by the powerful figures in Syria. However, he won’t be able to dramatically change the country with the blink of an eye.”

    Al-Assad’s tough stance towards Israel, with which Syria is technically at war, has also contributed to his popularity, both domestically and in the region.

    Multi-religious society

    Analysts stress that Syria’s mix of religious communities and ethnic groups differentiates Syria from Egypt and Tunisia, countries which both have largely homogeneous populations. Fearing religious tensions, many Syrians believe that the ruling Baath party’s emphasis on secularism is the best option.

    “The regime in Syria presents itself as a buffer for various communities, essentially saying ‘if we go, you will be left to the wolves’,”  Houry says. “That gives it ability to mobilise large segments of the population.”

    Syria is home to many different religious sects 

    Sunni Muslims make up about 70 per cent of the 22 million population, but the Alawites, the Shia sect which President al-Assad belongs to, play a powerful role despite being a minority of 10 per cent. Christians and Kurds are other sizable minorities.

    Landis says Alawites and Christians tend to be al-Assad’s main supporters.

    “If his regime were to fall, many of the Alawites would lose their jobs. And they look back at the times when the Muslim Brotherhood targeted them as nonbelievers and even non-Arabs.

    “Then of course the Christians, who are about 10 per cent of the population, are the biggest supporters of al-Assad and the Baath party because it’s secular. They hear horror stories of what has happened in Iraq, about Christians being killed and kidnapped.”

    The proximity to Iraq, another ethnically and religiously diverse country, is believed to play a major role in Syria’s scepticism towards democracy and limited hunger for political change. About a million Iraqi refugees have come to Syria since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    “The Iraqi refugees are a cautionary tale for Syrians,” Landis says. “They have seen what happens when regime change goes wrong. This has made Syrians very conservative. They don’t trust democracy.”

    Parties banned

    Syria is essentially a one-party state, ruled by the Baath Party since 1963. Many political groups are banned. But Landis says the lack of political freedom does not appear to be a major concern among the people.

    “I’m always astounded how the average guy in the street, the taxi driver, the person you talk to in a restaurant or wherever, they don’t talk about democracy. They complain about corruption, they want justice and equality, but they’ll look at elections in Lebanon and laugh, saying ‘who needs that kind of democracy’?”

    “The younger generation has been depoliticised. They don’t belong to parties. They see politics as a danger and they have been taught by their parents to see it as a danger. They look at the violence out there, in places like Iraq.”

    Pages on Facebook have calledfor a ‘Syrian day of anger’    

    Tunisia and Egypt both have a longer tradition of civil society and political parties than Syria and Landis describes the Syrian opposition as “notoriously mute”.

    “In some ways, being pro-American has forced Egypt to allow for greater civil society, while Syria has been quite shut off from the West,” he says. “The opposition in Syria is very fragmented. The Kurds can usually get together in the biggest numbers but there are 14 Kurdish parties … And the human rights leaders – half of them are in jail and others have been in jail for a long time.”

    Facebook sites calling for protests to be held in Syria on February 4 and 5 got about 15,000 fans but failed to mobilise demonstrators for a “day of anger”. In fact, countercampaigns set up online in favour of the government garnered as much support. 

    Ribal al-Assad, an exiled cousin of President al-Assad and the director of the London-based Organisation for Democracy and Freedom in Syria, said the people calling for protests were all based abroad and he is not surprised that nothing happened inside Syria.

    “The campaign was a bit outrageous. First, they’ve chosen a date that reminds people of the uprising of the Muslim Brotherhood [the 29th anniversary of the Hama massacre],” he says.

    “People don’t want to be reminded of the past. They want change, they want freedom, but they want it peacefully. And the picture they used on Facebook, a clenched fist and red colour like blood behind, it was like people calling for civil war and who in his right mind wants that?

    “But of course people want change, because there is poverty, corruption, people get arrested without warrants, the government refuses to disclose their whereabouts for months. They are sentenced following unfair trials, a lot of times with stupid sentences such as ‘weakening the nation’s morale’ for saying ‘we want freedom and democracy’. But the only one weakening the nations moral is the government itself.”

    ‘Not holding hands with Israel’

    One Syrian who became a “fan” of a Facebook page opposed to protesting says he cannot imagine, and does not want, Egyptian-style anti-government rallies to spread to Syria.

    “I love Syria and I don’t want to see people fighting. I can’t imagine the events occuring in Egypt to happen in Syria because we really love our president, not because they teach us to love him,” he says.

    “In the formation of ministries, he’s made use of 100 per cent talent with the multiplicity of religions. There are not Alawites only. There are also Sunnis and Kurds and Christians. The president is married to Asmaa and she is Sunni. He shows the people we are brothers.

    “The Syrians, like any other Arab household today, have their TVs turned on to Al Jazeera. They’re seeing what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt. Freedom is an infectious feeling and I think people will want more freedom”Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch

    “And he is the only president in the Arab region that did not accept any offers from Israel, like other presidents. I, and most Syrians, if not all, can’t accept a president who will hold hands with Israel.”

    As in Egypt and Tunisia, unemployment in Syria is high. The official jobless rate is about 10 per cent, but analysts say that double is a more realistic estimate. According to a Silatech report based on a Gallup survey last year, 32 per cent of young Syrians said they were neither in the workforce nor students.

    Since the current president took office, the Syrian economic system has slowly moved away from socialism towards capitalism. Markets have opened up to foreign companies and the GDP growth rate is expected to reach 5.5 per cent by 2011.

    Last year, the average Syrian montly salary was 13,500SP ($290), an increase of six per cent over the previous year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

    But like in some other countries in the region, state subsidies have been slashed on various staples, including heating oil, and analysts say the poor are feeling the pinch.

    “The bottom half of Syrians spend half of their income on food. Now, wheat and sugar prices have gone up in the last two years by almost 50 per cent,” Landis says.

    “Syria is moving towards capitalism. This has resulted in a greater growth rate but it’s expanding income gaps. It’s attracting foreign investment and the top 10 per cent are beginning to earn real salaries on an international scale because they’re working for these new banks and in new industries. But the bottom 50 per cent are falling because they’re on fixed incomes and they get hit by inflation, reduced subsidies on goods, coupled with the fact that Syria’s water scarcity is going through the roof.”

    However, Forward Magazine recently quoted Shafek Arbach, director of the Syrian Bureau of Statistics, as saying there is nothing in new data to suggest a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Syria.

    ‘Reforms needed’

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal late January, President al-Assad acknowledged the need for Syria to reform and but also said his country is “immune” from the kind of unrest seen in Tunisia and Egypt.

    “We have more difficult circumstances than most of the Arab countries but in spite of that Syria is stable. Why? Because you have to be very closely linked to the beliefs of the people. This is the core issue. When there is divergence between your policy and the people’s beliefs and interests, you will have this vacuum that creates disturbance,” he said.

    But Ribal al-Assad says it is obvious that the government is worried in the light of the discontent and anger spreading in the Middle East.  

    “Right after the Tunisian uprising they reduced the price for ‘mazot’ for the heating. They were supposed to bring up the price of medicines but then they didn’t. They distributed some aid to over 450,000 families. And, today we’re hearing that Facebook has been unblocked. They should have started this process a long time ago but better late than never.”

    Houry says the lesson from Tunisia, which has been hailed as an economic role model in North Africa, is that economic reform on its own does not work.

    “It will be interesting to watch how things are going to unfold over the coming few months,” he says. “The Syrians, like any other Arab household today, have their TVs turned on to Al Jazeera. They’re seeing what’s happening in Tunisia and Egypt. Freedom is an infectious feeling and I think people will want more freedom.”

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/spotlight/tunisia/2011/02/20112845625679529.html

    Tunisia

     

    Change comes to Tunisia, slowly

     

    Ben Ali might be gone but it is still unclear how much social and economic transformation will take place.

    Yasmine Ryan in Tunis Last Modified: 08 Feb 2011 05:42 GMT
     Did the fall of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali amount to a genuine revolution? Three weeks after Tunisia’s president of 23 years, facing public protests, fled to Saudi Arabia, this is a question that ordinary people are still grappling with.Though the Ben Ali regime may be going, or gone, it is unclear to what extent the political changes will lead to the decisive social and economic transformations that protesters have been calling for – particularly in the marginalised central and southern regions.Yet the social transformations that are taking place on the streets of Tunis, whether in the commercial downtown area or the bourgeois eastern suburbs or the poorest suburbs, are undeniable.After a quiet Sunday, central Tunis was again abuzz with a steady flutter of micro-protests – once inconceivable, now daily – as the week began anew on Monday.A crowd gathered around a man who, seated on the sidewalk of Avenue Habib Bourgeiba, busily draw political drawings.Across the avenue, spray painted messages read “Thank you Facebook” and “Tunisia democratic and secular”.A group of young women approach, asking if I am a journalist. They work for the municipal council and will be holding their own protest for better salaries and employment conditions.”Come to the Casbah tomorrow at 9am to show solidarity!” they ask.Opulent lifestylesIn Gammarth, an eastern suburb which some of the most notorious members of the Trabelsi and Ben Ali families called home until less than a month ago, a steady flow of curious Tunisians are coming to see the ruins of the opulent lifestyle that their rulers led behind closed doors.Ali Abdirazak, a Tunisian who lives in Paris, was doing a round of the ravaged houses with a carload of friends on Monday afternoon.”I’ve been living it on the internet,” Abdirazak said, standing inside Mourad Trabelsi’s former living room.A man and his mother walked back to their car with souvenirs they had taken from the house.”We have always driven by this house but we had no idea how extravagant it was inside, he said, carrying a white slab of marble under one arm.”I’m keeping this for my children, to show them what the people can achieve.”The end of the Trabelsi era has also brought change in nearby Bhar Lazreg, one of the capital’s poorest suburbs.Bhar Lazreg was the stomping ground of Imed Trabelsi, the former first lady’s nephew who is the subject of an international arrest warrant for his financial dealings.

    Aside from his yacht- and car-stealing activities in Europe, Imed Trabelsi and his associates terrorised the impoverished inhabitants of Bhar Lazreg.

    Alcohol stand

    One of the symbols of Trabelsi’s tyranny was an illegal alcohol stand that people Al Jazeera spoke with said shamelessly exploited their misery.

    Now, the locals have shut down the black-market stand for good, and all that remains of the gutted building are its ashes. Few appeared sorry to see it go.

    “Everyone felt it was an intrusion, there were always drunk people in the street causing problems,” Abdelkarim Ayouni, a local man, said.

    People here have been able to reclaim land that had been “confiscated” from them.

    Trabelsi family members used fraudulent papers to trump land deeds here, as they did across the country. Corrupt [or fearful] officials would ignored legal documents, rendering locals landless without hesitation.

    There is a flurry of building as people take back their land.

    The army came in to restore order in late January, ensuring that those taking back land were the legitimate owners.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera

     

    Een betoog van Roel Meijer op Closer, waar ik mij zeer in kan vinden:

    Egypte en het gelijk van de islambashers

    9 February 2011 15 views No Comment

    Guest Author: Roel Meijer

    De Nederlandse islambashers, zoals Hans Jansen, moeten de afgelopen twee weken zich achter hun oren hebben gekrabd. Is het dan toch mogelijk dat moslims even vergeten zijn dat ze moslims zijn? Dat ze zo maar in opstand komen tegen een regime? Dat ze niet zoals altijd slaafs de bevelen van machthebbers volgen? Zijn Egyptenaren niet vergeten dat ze a) inherent passief zijn, dom, traditioneel, of nog liever, b) radicaal, haatdragend, antiwesters en gewelddadig? In plaats daarvan zijn de afgelopen twaalf dagen honderdduizenden mensen vreedzaam de straat opgegaan en hebben burgerrechten geëist: transparantie, gelijke rechten, eerlijke verkiezingen en een eind aan corruptie. Rationeler—lees westers volgens de islambashers—kan het niet.

    Maar gelukkig duurde het niet lang of de critici hadden een verklaring voor dit merkwaardige fenomeen dat al hun vaststaande ideeën over moslims bevestigde. De demonstraties zijn geen inleiding tot hervormingen, maar een voorbode van een islamitische revolutie die moet leiden tot het aan de macht komen van de politieke islam, vertegenwoordigd door de Moslim Broederschap, die gezien wordt als de bron van het islamitische terrorisme. Daarmee waren de gebeurtenissen weer makkelijk te duiden in het apocalyptische wereldbeeld van de islamhaters die de islam zien als het pure kwaad, de antithese van het verlichtingsideaal dat de demonstranten eigenlijk vertegenwoordigden.

    Eigenlijk spreken die islamhaters zichzelf op fundamentele wijze tegen. Hun gedachtegang is namelijk fundamenteel in tegenspraak met het zichzelf toegeëigende monopolie van de islamhaters op verlichting, namelijk dat je open staat voor nieuwe informatie en niet alles meteen in een goed-kwaad sjabloon plaatst. In plaats daarvan houden ze er een soortgelijke redenering op na als die van Mubarak: mij of de chaos. In feite stellen zij zich aan de kant van de autoritaire staat. Tegelijkertijd is dit ook de redenatie van Israel, die alleen interesse toont voor regimes in de regio die het vredesverdrag naleven; wat ze doen met de eigen bevolking is verder van weinig belang.

    Hier verder lezen

    Ook op Krapuul wordt enige aandacht besteed aan Hans Jansens opmerkelijke stukje op ‘Hoeiboei’, zie http://www.krapuul.nl/nieuws/24667/islamfoob-hans-jansen-vergelijkt-opstand-in-egypte-met-de-opkomst-van-de-pvv/. Wat moet ik er nog van zeggen? In een later verband zal ik nog heel uitgebreid stilstaan bij wat mijn vroegere docent Hans Jansen zoal in

    de afgelopen jaren heeft beweerd (die bijdrage gaat nog komen). Maar wel opmerkelijk dat hij de PVV vergelijkt met de demonstranten op het Tahrirplein en Konigin Beatrix, die niet zo dol is op Wilders, met Meneer Mubarak. Denk niet dat er ik hier veel aandacht aan hoef te besteden. Wat je ook van Jansens fratsen mag vinden, hij solliciteert in ieder geval niet naar een lintje :). Wel wil ik hier nog een keertje wijzen op zijn genante optreden in Pauw & Witteman, in debat met Joris Luijendijk. Een uitgebreide beschouwing volgt later. Treurig vind ik het overigens wel. In 2001 heb ik in Leiden nog een vakje bij hem gevolgd en in de pauzes stonden wij regelmatig samen een sigaret weg te paffen. In die tijd heeft hij me veel interessants over het Midden Oosten verteld, waar ik hem nog altijd dankbaar voor ben. Ik heb er toen veel van opgestoken en bovendien is het ook (naar studenten althans) een hele aardige man en kun je ook erg met hem lachen. Gevoel voor humor heeft hij zeker, al vind ik veel van zijn recente bijdragen eerder hysterisch dan grappig. Maar de Jansen van toen was toch een hele andere dan de Jansen van nu.

    Tot zover Hans Jansen. Terug naar belangrijker zaken.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/201127114827382865.html

    Opinion
     

    Suleiman: The CIA’s man in Cairo

     

    Suleiman, a friend to the US and reported torturer, has long been touted as a presidential successor.

    Lisa Hajjar Last Modified: 07 Feb 2011 14:10 GMT
    Suleiman meets with Israeli president Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv, November 2010 [Getty]

    On January 29, Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s top spy chief, was anointed vice president by tottering dictator, Hosni Mubarak. By appointing Suleiman, part of a shake-up of the cabinet in an attempt to appease the masses of protesters and retain  his own grip on the presidency, Mubarak has once again shown his knack for devilish shrewdness. Suleiman has long been favoured by the US government for his ardent anti-Islamism, his willingness to talk and act tough on Iran – and he has long been the CIA’s main man in Cairo.

    Mubarak knew that Suleiman would command an instant lobby of supporters at Langley and among ‘Iran nexters’ in Washington – not to mention among other authoritarian mukhabarat-dependent regimes in the region. Suleiman is a favourite of Israel too; he held the Israel dossier and directed Egypt’s efforts to crush Hamas by demolishing the tunnels that have functioned as a smuggling conduit for both weapons and foodstuffs into Gaza.

    According to a WikiLeak(ed) US diplomatic cable, titled ‘Presidential Succession in Egypt’, dated May 14, 2007:

    “Egyptian intelligence chief and Mubarak consigliere, in past years Soliman was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post. In the past two years, Soliman has stepped out of the shadows, and allowed himself to be photographed, and his meetings with foreign leaders reported. Many of our contacts believe that Soliman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario.”

    From 1993 until Saturday, Suleiman was chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service. He remained largely in the shadows until 2001, when he started taking over powerful dossiers in the foreign ministry; he has since become a public figure, as the WikiLeak document attests. In 2009, he was touted by the London Telegraph and Foreign Policy as the most powerful spook in the region, topping even the head of Mossad.

    In the mid-1990s, Suleiman worked closely with the Clinton administration in devising and implementing its rendition program; back then, rendition involved kidnapping suspected terrorists and transferring them to a third country for trial. In The Dark Side, Jane Mayer describes how the rendition program began:

    “Each rendition was authorised at the very top levels of both governments [the US and Egypt] … The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top [CIA] officials. [Former US Ambassador to Egypt Edward] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as ‘very bright, very realistic’, adding that he was cognisant that there was a downside to ‘some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way’. (p. 113).

    “Technically, US law required the CIA to seek ‘assurances’ from Egypt that rendered suspects wouldn’t face torture. But under Suleiman’s reign at the EGIS, such assurances were considered close to worthless. As Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer [head of the al-Qaeda desk], who helped set up the practise of rendition, later testified, even if such ‘assurances’ were written in indelible ink, ‘they weren’t worth a bucket of warm spit’.”

    Under the Bush administration, in the context of “the global war on terror”, US renditions became “extraordinary”, meaning the objective of kidnapping and extra-legal transfer was no longer to bring a suspect to trial – but rather for interrogation to seek actionable intelligence. The extraordinary rendition program landed some people in CIA black sites – and others were turned over for torture-by-proxy to other regimes. Egypt figured large as a torture destination of choice, as did Suleiman as Egypt’s torturer-in-chief. At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt — Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib — was reportedly tortured by Suleiman himself.

    Suleiman the torturer

    In October 2001, Habib was seized from a bus by Pakistani security forces. While detained in Pakistan, at the behest of American agents, he was suspended from a hook and electrocuted repeatedly. He was then turned over to the CIA, and in the process of transporting him to Egypt he endured the usual treatment: his clothes were cut off, a suppository was stuffed in his anus, he was put into a diaper – and ‘wrapped up like a spring roll’.

    In Egypt, as Habib recounts in his memoir, My Story: The Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn’t, he was repeatedly subjected to electric shocks, immersed in water up to his nostrils and beaten. His fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. At one point, his interrogator slapped him so hard that his blindfold was dislodged, revealing the identity of his tormentor: Suleiman.

    Frustrated that Habib was not providing useful information or confessing to involvement in terrorism, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a shackled prisoner in front of Habib, which he did with a vicious karate kick. In April 2002, after five months in Egypt, Habib was rendered to American custody at Bagram prison in Afghanistan – and then transported to Guantanamo. On January 11, 2005, the day before he was scheduled to be charged, Dana Priest of the Washington Post published an exposé about Habib’s torture. The US government immediately announced that he would not be charged and would be repatriated to Australia.

    A far more infamous torture case, in which Suleiman also is directly implicated, is that of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. Unlike Habib, who was innocent of any ties to terror or militancy, al-Libi was allegedly a trainer at al-Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. He was captured by the Pakistanis while fleeing across the border in November 2001. He was sent to Bagram, and questioned by the FBI. But the CIA wanted to take over, which they did, and he was transported to a black site on the USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea, then extraordinarily rendered to Egypt. Under torture there, al-Libi “confessed” knowledge about an al-Qaeda–Saddam connection, claiming that two al-Qaeda operatives had received training in Iraq for use in chemical and biological weapons. In early 2003, this was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration was seeking to justify attacking Iraq and to persuade reluctant allies to go along. Indeed, al-Libi’s “confession” was one the central pieces of “evidence” presented at the United Nations by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case for war.

    As it turns out, that confession was a lie tortured out of him by Egyptians. Here is how former CIA chief George Tenet describes the whole al-Libi situation in his 2007 memoir, At The Center Of The Storm:

    “We believed that al-Libi was withholding critical threat information at the time, so we transferred him to a third country for further debriefing. Allegations were made that we did so knowing that he would be tortured, but this is false. The country in question [Egypt] understood and agreed that they would hold al-Libi for a limited period. In the course of questioning while he was in US custody in Afghanistan, al-Libi made initial references to possible al-Qa’ida training in Iraq. He offered up information that a militant known as Abu Abdullah had told him that at least three times between 1997 and 2000, the now-deceased al-Qa’ida leader Mohammad Atef had sent Abu Abdullah to Iraq to seek training in poisons and mustard gas.

    “Another senior al-Qa’ida detainee told us that Mohammad Atef was interested in expanding al-Qa’ida’s ties to Iraq, which, in our eyes, added credibility to the reporting. Then, shortly after the Iraq war got under way, al-Libi recanted his story. Now, suddenly, he was saying that there was no such cooperative training. Inside the CIA, there was sharp division on his recantation. It led us to recall his reporting, and here is where the mystery begins.

    “Al-Libi’s story will no doubt be that he decided to fabricate in order to get better treatment and avoid harsh punishment. He clearly lied. We just don’t know when. Did he lie when he first said that al-Qa’ida members received training in Iraq – or did he lie when he said they did not? In my mind, either case might still be true. Perhaps, early on, he was under pressure, assumed his interrogators already knew the story, and sang away. After time passed and it became clear that he would not be harmed, he might have changed his story to cloud the minds of his captors. Al-Qa’ida operatives are trained to do just that. A recantation would restore his stature as someone who had successfully confounded the enemy. The fact is, we don’t know which story is true, and since we don’t know, we can assume nothing. (pp. 353-354)”

    Al-Libi was eventually sent off, quietly, to Libya – though he reportedly made a few other stops along the way – where he was imprisoned. The use of al-Libi’s statement in the build-up to the Iraq war made him a huge American liability once it became clear that the purported al-Qaeda–Saddam connection was a tortured lie. His whereabouts were, in fact, a secret for years, until April 2009 when Human Rights Watch researchers investigating the treatment of Libyan prisoners encountered him in the courtyard of a prison. Two weeks later, on May 10, al-Libi was dead, and the Gaddafi regime claimed it was a suicide.

    According to Evan Kohlmann, who enjoys favoured status among US officials as an ‘al-Qaeda expert’, citing a classified source: ‘Al-Libi’s death coincided with the first visit by Egypt’s spymaster Omar Suleiman to Tripoli.’

    Kohlmann surmises and opines that, after al-Libi recounted his story about about an al-Qaeda–Saddam-WMD connection, “The Egyptians were embarassed by this admission – and the Bush government found itself in hot water internationally. Then, in May 2009, Omar Suleiman saw an opportunity to get even with al-Libi and travelled to Tripoli. By the time Omar Suleiman’s plane left Tripoli, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi had committed ‘suicide’.”

    As people in Egypt and around the world speculate about the fate of the Mubarak regime, one thing should be very clear: Omar Suleiman is not the man to bring democracy to the country. His hands are too dirty, and any ‘stability’ he might be imagined to bring to the country and the region comes at way too high a price. Hopefully, the Egyptians who are thronging the streets and demanding a new era of freedom will make his removal from power part of their demands, too.

    Lisa Hajjar teaches sociology at the University of California – Santa Barbara and is a co-editor of Jadaliyya.

    This article first appeared on Jadaliyya.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/20112101030726228.html

    Opinion

     

    Why Egypt’s progressives win

     

    Suleiman considers the business fraternity friendly, but it is the nation’s women and youth who are driving the unrest.

    Paul Amar Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 12:30 GMT
    Women have been at the heart of organising protests in Tahrir Square [Getty]  

    On February 6, 2011, Egypt’s hastily appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, invited in the old guard – or what we could call the Businessman’s Wing of the Muslim Brotherhood into a stately meeting in the polished rosewood cabinet chamber of Mubarak’s presidential palace. The aim of their tea party was to discuss some kind of accord that would end the national uprising and restore “normalcy”. When news of the meeting broke, expressions of delight and terror tore through the blogosphere. Was the nightmare scenario of both the political left and right about to be realised? Would the US/Israel surrogate Suleiman merge his military-police apparatus with the power of the more conservative branch of the old Islamist social movement? Hearing the news, Iran’s supreme leader sent his congratulations. And in the US, Glenn Beck and John McCain ranted with glee about world wars and the inevitable rise of the cosmic caliphate.

    On that same day, an unnamed White House official told the Associated Press that any “academic type” who did not focus on the Muslim Brotherhood and see them as the principle actor in this drama “was full of sh*t”. The White House seemed to believe that Suleiman, chief of Egypt’s intelligence services, was the kind of keen mind they could depend on. Suleiman’s brand of “intelligence” was on display in his interview on February 3, in which he traced the cause of Egypt’s uprising to a conspiracy coordinated by a united front of Israel with Hamas, al-Qaeda with Anderson Cooper. Is it true that Suleiman also has a dossier revealing the sinister role played in all this by “Simpsons” character C Montgomery Burns? 

    One fraction of one faction

    In reality, the Suleiman-Brotherhood tea party turned out to be nothing more than another stunt staged by Nile TV News. This once-interesting cable service was transformed in the past week into a rather Murdochian propaganda unit, whose productions are run by the artistic genius of Mubarak’s presidential guards. Images of the Suleiman-Brotherhood tete-a-tete were broadcast at a time when Suleiman’s legitimacy and sanity were appearing increasingly shaky within Egypt – and when this particular sub-group of the Brotherhood, who represent only one fraction of one faction of the opposition, was trying to leverage an unlikely comeback.

    As reporters obsessed over which Brother was sitting with Suleiman, they continued to ignore or misapprehend the continuing and growing power of the movements that had started this uprising. Many progressives continued to think that the US was conspiring with Suleiman to crush all hope – as if America’s puny $1.5 bn in aid (which all must be recycled as purchases from US military suppliers anyway) really dictates policy for a regime that makes multi-billion dollar deals with Russia, China and Brazil every month – and that has channelled an estimated $40-70 bn into Mubarak’s personal accounts.

    Proving Nile TV and the pessimists wrong, 1.5 million people turned out on February 7 – the biggest mobilisation so far in this uprising. Commentators focusing on the Brothers had completely missed the real news of the past two days. The ruling NDP party leadership had been savaged from within. In a desperate attempt to salvage his phantom authority, Mubarak had tossed his son Gamal and a whole class of US-linked businessmen to the lions, forcing them to resign and freezing their assets. And at the same time, Egyptian newspaper El-Masry El-Youm reported that the Muslim Brothers’ Youth and Women’s Wings split from the main Brotherhood organisation – to join the leftist April 6 Movement. The men sitting around Suleiman’s table were left without much of a movement behind them.

    Below I trace the declining power of the economic and moral politics of this “Businessman’s Wing” of the Brotherhood. I map the ascendant socio-political power of a new national-development-oriented coalition of businessmen and military entrepreneurs, as well as the decisive force of micro-enterprise and workers’ organisations consisting of women and youth – a force that portends well for the future of democracy and socio-economic inclusion in Egypt.

    Bands of Brothers

    The Muslim Brothers are not a marginal force in Egypt. They are very well organised in every city – and can be credited with providing health, education, legal aid and disaster relief to citizens ignored or neglected by the state. But they are not Egypt’s equivalent of Hezbollah or Hamas. As Mona El-Ghobashy has described, in the 1990s the Society of Muslim Brothers made a definite break, abandoning its secretive, hierarchical, sharia-focused form. Today the Brotherhood is a well-organised political party – officially banned but occasionally tolerated. In the past twenty years, it has made significant inroads in parliament via alliances with other parties and by running independent candidates.

    The Brothers now fully support political pluralism, women’s participation in politics and the role of Christians and communists as full citizens. However, with the rise of other competing labour, liberal and human-rights movements in Egypt in the 2000s, what one can call the “new old guard” of the Brotherhood – those that emerged in the 1980s – have retained a primary focus on cultural, moral and identity politics. Moral-cultural conservatism is still seen by this group as what distinguishes the Brotherhood from other parties – a fact they confirmed by appointing a rigid social conservative, Muhammad Badeea, as leader in 2010.

    This turn was rejected by women and youth in the movement. This socially conservative leaning thus brings the “new old guard” more in line with the moralistic paternalism of Mubarak’s government – and set them against the trajectory of new youth, women’s and labour movements. This leads to new possibilities of splits in this organisation or for exciting revitalisation and reinvention of the Brotherhood – as Youth and Women’s wings feel drawn toward the April 6 coalition.

    The moral-cultural traditionalist wing of the “new old guard”, is composed of professional syndicate leaders and wealthy businessmen. In the 1950s-80s, the movement regrouped and represented frustrated elements of the national bourgeoisie. But this class of people has largely been swept up into new opportunities and left the organisation. The “new old guard” of the Brotherhood’s business wing has started to look like a group of retired Shriners, except that in the Middle East, Shriners have stopped wearing fez.

    In the past ten years, this political force of this particular wing has been partially co-opted by Mubarak’s government from two angles. First, Brothers were allowed to enter parliament as independent candidates and have been allowed to participate in the recent economic boom. The senior Brothers now own major cell phone companies and real estate developments – and have been absorbed into the NDP machine and upper-middle class establishment for years. Second, the government wholly appropriated the Brotherhood’s moral discourse.

    For the past ten or fifteen years Mubarak’s police-state has stirred moral panics and waved the banner of Islam, attacking single working women, homosexuals, devil-worshipping internet users, trash-recycling pig farmers, rent-control squatters – as well as Bahai, Christian and Shia minorities. In its morality crusades, the Mubarak government burned books, harassed women, and excommunicated college professors. Thus, we can say that Egypt has already experienced rule by an extremely narrow Islamist state – Mubarak’s. Egyptians tried out that kind of regime. And they hated it.

    In recent years, as described in the work of Saba Mahmood and Asef Bayat, people have grown disgusted by Mubarak’s politicisation of Islam. Egyptians began to reclaim Islam as a project of personal self-governance, ethical piety, and social solidarity. This trend explicitly rejects the political orientation of Islam and explicitly separates itself both from Brotherhood activities and Mubarak’s morality crusades.

    The military as a populist middle class

    At one time, the Muslim Brotherhood represented frustrated, marginalised elements of the middle class. But that story is so 1986! Now there are a wide range of secular – but not anti-religious – groupings that represent emergent economic patterns within the country. Moreover, these groups are swept up in a whirlwind of new political-economic energies coming from new or renewed world influences and investors – Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Israel, Dubai, China, Turkey, and Brazil – as well as the return of remittance flows into the country, as Egyptian professionals got swept up in the Emirates’ building and development boom.

    In the context of this new multi-dimensional globalisation, in which East/West divides and post-colonial patterns are radically remade, the military has come to be one of the more interesting economic mediators and success stories. The Egyptian military is one of the most interesting and misunderstood economic actors in the country.

    The military’s economic interests are split in interesting ways. Since the military has been prevented by the Camp David treaty from making war, it has instead used its sovereignty over huge swathes of desert and coastal property to develop shopping malls, gated cities and beach resorts – catering to rich and modest Egyptians, local and international consumers and tourists. Their position vis-a-vis the uprising is thus complicated.

    They hated the rapacious capitalists around Gamal Mubarak, who sold off national lands, assets and resources to US and European corporations. But the military also wants tourists, shoppers and investors to consume in their multi-billion dollar resorts and venues. The military identifies very strongly with representing and protecting “the people” – but also wants the people to go home and stop scaring away tourists. The military will continue to mobilise this in-between position in interesting ways in the coming years.  

    Suleiman’s General Intelligence Services are nominally part of the military – but are institutionally quite separate. Intelligence is dependent on foreign patrons, primarily Israel and the US, and are looked on skeptically by Egyptians. But the Air Force and Army are quite grounded in the economic and social interests of national territory. The army’s role in countering Suleiman’s lust for repression was crucial to saving the momentum of this uprising.

    On February 4, the day of the most terrifying police/thug brutality in Tahrir Square, many commentators noted that the military were trying to stop the thug attacks but were not being very forceful or aggressive. Was this a sign that the military really wanted the protesters to be crushed? Since then, we have learned that the military in the square were not provisioned with bullets. The military were trying as best they could to battle the police/thugs – but Suleiman had taken away their bullets for fear the military would side with the protesters and use the ammunition to overthrow him.

    Bullets or no, the military displaced the police, who had stripped off their uniforms and regressed into bands of thugs. Security in Cairo’s public spaces has been taken over by the military – and in residential quarters we witnessed the return of a 21st century version of futuwwa groups. As Wilson Jacob has described, in the 19th century futuwwa were icons of working-class national identity and community solidarity in Egypt.

    Futuwwa were organised groups of young men who defended craft guilds and the working-class neighbourhoods of Cairo. But the futuwwa reborn on February 1, 2011 are called Peoples’ Committees and include men of all classes and ages – and a few women with butcher’s knives, too. They stake out every street corner, vigilant for police and state-funded thugs who would try to arrest, intimidate or loot residents. Given the threat of sexualised physical violence from Mubarak’s police/thugs, there is a gender dimension to this re-imagining and redeployment of security and military power during this uprising. In the first days of the uprising we saw huge numbers of women participating in the revolt.

    Then the police/thugs started targeting women in particularly horrifying ways – molesting, detaining, raping. And when the police were driven back, the military and the futuwwa groups took over and insisted that “protecting” the people from thugs involved filtering women and children out of Tahrir and excluding them from public space. But women in this revolt have insisted that they are not victims who need protection, they are the leading core of this movement. On February 7, women’s groups – including the leftist April 6 national labour movement, as well as anti-harassment, civil rights groups and the Women’s Wing of the Brotherhood reemerged in force in downtown Cairo – by the hundreds of thousands.

    Gutting Gamal’s globalisation

    On January 28, the headquarters of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party burned down – and with it, Mubarak’s substantive authority turned to ashes. The rising military and national-capital interests then spat on those ashes on February 5. On that day, they ensured that Gamal Mubarak would resign as head of the NDP’s political office. In his place, Dr Hosam Badrawy was named the new Secretary-General of the party.

    The choice of Badrawy reflects the direction the winds are now blowing. Badrawy holds the dubious honour of being the man who founded Egypt’s first private-sector healthcare HMO in 1989. All Egyptians are constitutionally guaranteed access to free, universal health care. But Mubarak, under orders from the IMF, made draconian cuts to the public health service – beginning in the 1980s. Badrawy has championed the privatisation of health care – and has created a national private health care industry with significant capital and legitimacy.

    This industry is threatened by global competition and describes itself in nationalist, paternalist tones. Gamal Mubarak served as a vehicle for foreign investment and posed a threat to businessmen such as Badrawy. Badrawy in the past also served as the director of the NDP’s human rights organisation, a particularly contradictory job to hold during a time of mass repression and torture.

    Naguib Sawiris, the self-proposed chair of the “Transitional Council of Wise Men”, is similar in some ways to Badrawy. Sawiris is a patriotic, successful nationalist businessman. Sawiris heads the largest private-sector company in Egypt, Orascom. This firm has built railways, beach resorts, gated-cities, highways, telecom systems, wind farms, condos and hotels. He is a major Arab world and Mediterranean region financier.

    He is also the banner carrier for Egypt’s developmentalist nationalists. On February 4, Sawiris released a statement proposing a council of wise men who would oversee Suleiman and the police – and who would lead Egypt through the transition. The proposed council would be a so-called “neutral, technocratic” body that would include Sawiris, along with a couple of non-ideological members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s business wing, some strategic-studies experts, and a Nobel Prize winner. Would this Nobel winner be Mohammed ElBaradei, the peace laureate and opposition leader? Nope. They had found an Egyptian laureate in organic chemistry.

    Women, micro-businesses and workers

    In the context of the relationships described above, we can understand why we witnessed, in the first week of February, the emergence of a coalition around nationalist businessmen in alliance with the military – a military who also act like nationalist middle-class businessmen themselves. This group ejected the “crony globalisers” and “barons of privatisation” surrounding Gamal Mubarak. Would this group then cement their hold on power, to rule the country with Suleiman as their hammer? No. Other massive social forces were also at work. They are well organised. Legitimacy, organisation, new vision and economic power are in their hands. The new nationalist business-military bloc cannot develop the country without their participation and mobilisation.

    It is crucial to remember that this uprising did not begin with the Muslim Brotherhood or with nationalist businessmen. This revolt began gradually at the convergence of two parallel forces: the movement for workers’ rights in the newly revived factory towns and micro-sweatshops of Egypt – especially during the past two years – and the movement against police brutality and torture that mobilised every community in the country for the past three years. Both movements feature the leadership and mass participation of women of all ages and youth of both genders. There are structural reasons for this.

    First, the passion of workers that began this uprising does not stem from their marginalisation and poverty; rather, it stems from their centrality to new development processes and dynamics. In the very recent past, Egypt has reemerged as a manufacturing country, although under the most stressful and dynamic of conditions. Egypt’s workers are mobilised because new factories are being built in the context of a flurry of contentious global investment. Several Russian free-trade zones and manufacturing settlements have opened up, and China has invested in all parts of the Egyptian economy.

    Brazil, Turkey, the Central Asian Republics and the Gulf Emirates are diversifying their investments. They are moving out of the oil sector and real estate and into manufacturing, piece-goods, informatics, infrastructure etc. Factories all over Egypt have been dusted off and reopened, or new ones built. And all those shopping malls, gated cities, highways and resorts have to be built and staffed by someone. In the Gulf, developers use Bangladeshi, Philippine and other expatriate labour. But Egypt usually uses its own workers. And many of the workers in Egypt’s revived textile industries and piece-work shops are women.

    If you stroll up the staircases into the large working-class apartment buildings in the margins of Cairo or the cement-block constructions of the villages, you’ll see workshops full of women, making purses and shoes – and putting together toys and computer circuitboards for sale in Europe, the Middle East and the Gulf. These shop workers joined with factory workers to found the April 6 movement in 2008. They were the ones who began the organisation and mobilisation process that led to this uprising in 2011, whose eruption was triggered by Asmaa Mahfouz circulating a passionate YouTube video and tens of thousands of leaflets by hand in slum areas of Cairo on January 24, 2011. Ms Mahfouz, a political organiser with an MBA from Cairo University, called people to protest the next day. And the rest is history.

    The economic gender and class landscape of Egypt’s micro-businesses has been politicised and mobilised in very dynamic ways, again with important gender and sexual dimensions. Since the early 1990s, Egypt has cut back welfare and social services to working-class and lower-middle-class Egyptians. In place of food subsidies and jobs they have offered debt. Micro-credit loans were given, with the IMF and World Bank’s enthusiastic blessing, to stimulate entrepreneurship and self-reliance. These loans were often specifically targeted toward women and youth.

    Since economically disadvantaged applicants have no collateral to guarantee these loans, payback is enforced by criminal law rather than civil law. This means that your body is your collateral. The police extract pain and humiliation if you do not pay your bill. Thus the micro-enterprise system has become a massive set of police rackets and “loan shark” operations. Police sexualised brutalisation of youth and women became central to the “regulation” of the massive small-business economy.

    In this context, the micro-business economy is a tough place to operate – but it does shape women and youth into tough survivors who see themselves as an organised force opposed to the police state. No one waxes on about the blessings of the market’s invisible hand. Thus the economic interests of this mass class of micro-entrepreneurs are the basis for the huge and passionate anti-police brutality movement. It is no coincidence that the movement became a national force two years ago with the brutal police murder of a youth, Khalid Said, who was typing away in a small internet cafe that he partially owned. Police demanded ID and a bribe from him; he refused – and the police beat him to death, crushing his skull to pieces while the whole community watched in horror.

    Police demanding bribes, harassing micro-businesses – and beating those who refuse to submit – became standard practise in Egypt. Internet cafes, small workshops, call-centres, video-game cafes, microbuses, washing/ironing shops and small gyms constitute the landscape of micro-enterprises that are the jobs base and social world of Egypt’s lower middle classes. The so-called “Facebook revolution” is not about people mobilising in virtual space; it is about Egyptian internet cafes and the youth and women they represent, in real social spaces and communities, utilising the cyberspace bases they have built and developed to serve their revolt.

    The Egyptian Difference

    In the case of the Iranian Revolution in the 1970s, the “bazaaris of Tehran” – the medium-sized merchants and shop owners – ended up serving as the crucial “swing vote”, moving the Iranian Revolution from left to right, from a socialist uprising toward the founding of an Islamic republic. In the case of Egypt, the social and political force of women and youth micro-entrepreneurs will lead history in the opposite direction. These groups have a highly developed and complex view of the moral posturing of some Islamists – and they have a very clear socio-economic agenda, which appeals to the dynamic youth wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The progressive groups have a linked network of enterprises, factories, identities and passions. They would go to any length to prevent the reemergence of police brutality and moral hypocrisy that have ruled them for the past generation. The women and youth behind theses micro-businesses, and the workers in the new Russian, Chinese, Brazilian, Gulf and Egyptian-financed factories seem to be united. And they grow more so each day.

    Micro-entrepreneurs, new workers’ groups, and massive anti-police brutality organisations obviously do not share the same class position as Sawiris and Badrawi and the rich men in the “Council of the Wise”. Nevertheless, there are significant overlaps and affinities between the interests and politics of nationalist development-oriented groups, the newly entrepreneurial military – and the vitally well-organised youth and women’s social movements. This confluence of social, historical and economic dynamics will assure that this uprising does not get reduced to a photo opportunity for Suleiman and a few of his cronies.

    A Cheshire Cat is smiling down on Suleiman’s tea party.

    Paul Amar is Associate Professor of Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include: Cairo Cosmopolitan; The New Racial Missions of Policing; Global South to the Rescue; and the forthcoming Security Archipelago: Human-Security States, Sexuality Politics and the End of Neoliberalism.This article first appeared in Jadaliyya Ezine.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

     

     

    « Back to Home

    0 Feb 09 2011 by Charles HIrschkind
    [Image from unknown archive] [Image from unknown archive]

    While the uprising in Egypt caught most observers of the Middle East off guard, it did not come out of the blue. The seeds of this spectacular mobilization had been sown as far back as the early 2000s and had been carefully cultivated by activists from across the political spectrum, many of these working online via Facebook, twitter, and within the Egyptian blogosphere. Working within these media, activists began to forge a new political language, one that cut across the institutional barriers that had until then polarized Egypt’s political terrain, between more Islamicly-oriented currents (most prominent among them, the Muslim Brotherhood) and secular-liberal ones. Since the rise of the Islamist Revival in the 1970s, Egypt’s political opposition had remained sharply divided around contrasting visions of the proper place of religious authority within the country’s social and political future, with one side viewing secularization as the eminent danger, and the other emphasizing the threat of politicized religion to personal freedoms and democratic rights. This polarity tended to result in a defensive political rhetoric and a corresponding amplification of political antagonisms, a dynamic the Mubarak regime has repeatedly encouraged and exploited over the last 30 years in order to ensure a weak opposition. What was striking about the Egyptian blogosphere as it developed in the last 7 or so years is the extent to which it engendered a political language free from the problematic of secularization vs. fundamentalism that had governed so much of political discourse in the Middle East and elsewhere.

    The blogosphere that burst into existence in Egypt around 2004 and 2005 in many ways provided a new context for a process that had begun a somewhat earlier, in the late 1990s: namely, the development of practices of coordination and support between secular leftist organizations and associations, and Islamist ones (particularly the Muslim Brotherhood)—a phenomenon almost completely absent in the prior decades. Toward the end of the decade of the 90s, Islamist and leftist lawyers began to agree to work together on cases regarding state torture, whereas in previous years, lawyers of one affiliation would almost never publicly defend plaintiffs from the other.

    The most successful experiment at reaching across Egypt’s political spectrum came in 2004 with the emergence of what is called the Kifaya movement, a political formation that brought together Islamists, Muslim Brothers, communists, liberals, and secular-leftists, joined on the basis of a common demand for an end to the Mubarak regime and a rejection of the Gamal Mubarak’s succession of his father as president.  Kifaya was instrumental in organizing a series of demonstrations between 2004 and 2007 that for the first time explicitly called for the president of Egypt to step down, an unheard of demand prior to that moment insomuch as any direct criticism of the president or his family had until then always been taboo, and met by harsh reprisals from the state. Kifaya not only succeeded in bringing large numbers of people of different political persuasions into the street to protest government policies and actions, they were also the first political movement in Egypt to exploit the organizing potential of the Internet, founding a number of blog sites from which to coordinate and mobilize demonstrations and strikes. When Kifaya held its first demonstrations, at the end of 2004, a handful of bloggers both participated and wrote about the events on their blogs. Within a year the number of blogs had jumped to the hundreds. Today there are 1000s of blogs, many tied to activism, street politics, solidarity campaigns, and grassroots organizing. Many of the bloggers who helped promote the Kifaya movement have played key roles in the events of the past 10 days.

    One event highlighted the political potential of blogging in Egypt and helped secure the practice’s new and expanding role within Egyptian political life. It had long been known that the Egyptian state routinely abused and tortured prisoners or detainees (hence the US’s choice of Egypt in so called rendition cases). For its part, the state has always denied that abuse took place, and lacking the sort of evidence needed to prosecute a legal case, human rights lawyers and the opposition press had never been able to effectively challenge the state’s official position. This changed when a blogger named Wael Abbas, whose blog is titled al-wa’i al-masri (“Egyptian Awareness”), placed on his blog site a cell-phone recorded video he had been sent by another blogger that showed a man being physically and sexually abused by police officers at a police station in Cairo. (Apparently, the clip had been filmed by officers with the intention of intimidating the detainee’s fellow workers).

    Once this video clip was placed on YouTube and spread around the Egyptian blogosphere, opposition newspapers took up the story, citing the blogs as their source. When the victim was identified and encouraged to come forth, a human rights agency raised a case on his behalf against the officers involved that eventually resulted in their conviction, an unprecedented event in Egypt’s modern history. Throughout the entire year that the case was being prosecuted, bloggers tracked every detail of the police and judiciary’s handling of the case, their relentless scrutiny of state actions frequently finding its way into the opposition newspapers. Satellite TV talk shows followed suit, inviting bloggers on screen to debate state officials concerned with the case. Moreover, within a month of posting the torture videos on his web site, Abbas and other bloggers started receiving scores of similar cell-phone films of state violence and abuse taken in police stations or during demonstrations.

    This new relation between bloggers and other media forms has now become standard: not only do many of the opposition newspapers rely on bloggers for their stories; news stories that journalists can’t print themselves without facing state persecution—for example, on issues relating to the question of Mubarak’s successor—such stories are first fed to bloggers by investigative reporters; once they are reported online, then journalists then proceed to publish the stories in newsprint, citing the blogs as source, this way avoiding the accusation that they themselves invented the story. Moreover, many young people have taken up the practice of using cell-phone cameras in the street, and bloggers are constantly receiving phone film-footage from anonymous sources that they then put on their blogs.

    This event played a key role in shaping the place that the blogosphere would come to occupy within Egypt’s media sphere. Namely, bloggers understand their role as that of providing a direct link to what they call “the street,” conceived primarily as a space of state repression and political violence, but also as one of political action and popular resistance. They render visible and publicly speakable a political practice—the violent subjugation of the Egyptian people by its authoritarian regime—that other media outlets cannot easily disclose, due to censorship, practices of harassment, and arrest. This includes not only acts police brutality and torture, but also the more mundane and routine forms of violence that shape the texture of everyday life. For example, blogs frequently include reporting on routine injustices experienced in public transportation, the cruel indifference of corrupt state bureaucrats, sexual harassment encountered in the streets, as well as the many faces of pain produced by conditions of intense poverty, environmental toxicity, infrastructural neglect, and so on.

    Hier verder lezen

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    Saudi Arabia’s Silent Protests

    2 Jan 29 2011 by Khuloud
    [Saudis protesting their overdue land grants at Shaqra' Municipality. Image taken from www.alriyadh.com] [Saudis protesting their overdue land grants at Shaqra’ Municipality. Image taken from http://www.alriyadh.com]

    Riyadh feels a little less stale since the Tunisian people toppled their dictator-president Zine El Abidine Bin Ali on January 15, 2011. In cafes, restaurants, and salons (majalis), friends and colleagues greet me with a smug smile, congratulations, and a ‘u’balna kulna (may we all be next). On my daily afternoon walks, I overhear Saudis of all ages and walks of life analyzing the events that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian regime. Everywhere I go, people are hypothesizing on whether the same could happen to “them,” referring to the possibility of a Saudi Arabia not headed by the Al Sauds. Although most concur that it is highly unlikely, they are nonetheless more convinced than ever of the power of the people to bring about change. They know that they can no longer sit back and wait for their government to hand them their basic political, economic and to some extent, even human rights.

    It is not surprising that Saudis are jumping on the bandwagon of optimism which has swept the Arab world in the last two weeks. That they are expressing their discontent and criticism of the Saudi government in public spaces, however, is. Last week, several “gatherings” (tajamu’at) took place at government institutions in several Saudi cities. Groups of 70-100 Saudi men (no exact numbers are available) peacefully stood in front of different municipalities as well as the ministries of Education and Labor. The men were silently protesting their deteriorating living conditions, rising unemployment (in one of the strongest economies in the world), and increasingly corrupt and stagnant bureaucracy. These public protests have received little press coverage, but the fact that they have occurred for several days speaks volumes as to the increasing willingness of Saudi citizens to challenge the Saudi regime.

    At the Ministry of Labor, the protesters demanded solutions to the discrimination against Saudi nationals in the hiring practices of private companies and called for the serious implementation of Saudification in the private sector. Begun in the mid-1990s, Saudification is a policy that aims to increase the numbers of Saudi men and women in the workforce. By law, private sector companies are required to hire 30% (2006) of their employees from the Saudi labor market. Most, however, have found legal loopholes to evade this law and continue to have very few Saudis on board, and mostly in low-paying jobs. Saudi Arabia today has a 15-20% unemployment rate yet it is host to 8-9 million foreign employees. At the protests in front of the Ministry of Education, Saudi teachers demanded their long-awaited raises, salaries that matched their grade qualifications, and a freeze on the closing of educational programs. Finally, those who gathered at the municipalities were tired of years of waiting for their land grants to be processed and demanded more efficient case processing and communication.  In all three instances, the Saudi men (always men) called for transparency and accountability in dealing with their cases and an end to the very pervasive problem of wasta (favoritism and nepotism) within the Saudi Arabian private and public sectors.

    Hier verder lezen
     
    http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/201128131221271956.html
     

    Egypt: Why is Israel so Blind?

     

    The last several decades have shown that left-leaning politicos have been right about the nuances of the peace process.

    Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 11:02 GMT
    Israel’s President Shimon Peres (R) has consistently tried to show the international community that Israel is committed to peace with the Palestinians [Reuters] 

    Those of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace camp do not enjoy being proven right — although we invariably are.

    Our standard recommendation to Israel is that it should move quickly to achieve agreements with the Arab states and the stateless Palestinians before it is too late.

    And the Israeli response is that there is no urgency to make peace — except on Israeli terms — because Israel is strong and the Arabs are weak.

    The most egregious example of this phenomenon comes from Egypt, where in 1971 President Anwar Sadat offered to begin negotiations toward peace in exchange for a two-mile wide Israeli withdrawal from the east bank of the Suez Canal, which Israel had captured along with the rest of the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war.

    Learning from history

    The Nixon administration told the Israeli government to explore the idea because Sadat was intent on going to war if he did not get his territory back.

    The peace camp in Israel and its allies here urged Israel to follow Nixon’s advice and hear Sadat out. The lobby, of course, told Nixon to mind his own business.

    As for the Israeli cabinet, it told Nixon’s emissary, Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Sisco, that it had no interest in discussing Egypt’s offer. It voted for keeping all of the Sinai Peninsula and sending Egypt a simple message: no. After all, the Egyptians had shown just four years earlier that they were no match for the IDF.

    Two years later, the Egyptians attacked, and within hours all of Israel’s positions along the canal were overrun and its soldiers killed. By the time the war ended, Israel had lost 3,000 soldiers and almost the state itself. And then, a few years later, it gave up the entire Sinai anyway – not just the two-mile strip Egypt had demanded in 1971.

    The peace camp was proven right. But I don’t recall anyone being happy about it. On the contrary, we were devastated. 3,000 Israelis (and thousands more Egyptians) were killed in a war that might have been prevented if the Israeli government had simply agreed to talk.

    Reneging on Oslo

    This pattern has been repeated over and over again. The Oslo Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which gave Israel its safest and most optimistic years in its history, collapsed after Prime Ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak repeatedly refused to live up to its terms.

    During the Oslo process, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority did what it was supposed to do: it combated terrorism so effectively (Hamas had launched a series of deadly bus bombings to thwart the peace process) that Netanyahu himself telephoned Arafat to thank him. By 1999, terrorism was effectively defeated in Israel. It was an amazing time, with the free and safe movement of goods and people from Israel to the West Bank and back again – not the way it is today with a towering wall separating Israelis from Palestinians and dividing Palestinians on one side from Palestinians on the other.

    But the temporary end of terrorism did not achieve the transfer of any actual territory to the Palestinians. Netanyahu and Barak nickeled and dimed the Palestinians to death – actually, to the death of the peace process, which for all intents and purposes is now buried. By the time Clinton convened the Camp David summit in 2000, any good will between the two sides was gone.

    One could go on and on. According to President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Ehud Barak could have had peace with Syria in 2000 until, at the very last minute, Barak chickened out. He was afraid of the settlers. The opportunity for full peace with Syria, which would almost certainly also mean peace with Lebanon, as well as a lowering of tensions with Syria’s ally, Iran, came again in December 2008.

    Missed opportunity

    The Turks had brokered a deal with the Syrians that Prime Minister Olmert celebrated with a five-hour Ankara dinner with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Olmert went home. The Turks waited for Israel’s final approval.

    And then this is what happened next, according to Israeli New York University professor Alon Ben-Meir:

    To the utter surprise and dismay of the Turkish government, five days after Olmert returned to Jerusalem, Israel began a massive incursion into Gaza. Ankara felt betrayed by the Israeli action and deceived by Olmert’s failure to inform the Turkish Prime Minister of Israel’s pending operation of which he, as the Prime Minister, was obviously fully aware of and could have disclosed to his Turkish counterpart while he was still in Ankara. For Mr. Erdogan, the problem was compounded not only because he did not hear from Olmert the message of peace which he eagerly anticipated, but a ‘declaration’ of war with all of its potential regional consequences.

    It is hard to describe the depth of the Turks’ disappointment, not only because they were left in the dark, but because a major breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli peace process of historical magnitude was snatched away.

    This incident was a major first step toward the collapse of Israeli-Turkish friendship, which – along with the relationship with Mubarak’s Egypt – was the cornerstone of Israel’s sense of security.

    Who’s left? Jordan. However, Israel consistently ignores King Abdullah’s demands that it end the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

    And then there is the US. President Obama put his prestige on the line to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but all Israel did in response was to ridicule him and reject every suggestion the president made – no matter that Israel receives more US aid than any other country, by far.

    Anyone who cares about Israel at all has to be appalled by these repeated blunders – all backed by AIPAC and its cutouts in Congress.

    Future steps

    When will Israel’s supposed friends learn?

    Maybe never. In today’s New York Times, Yossi Klein Halevi, an influential Israeli journalist, expresses fear, almost terror, about the Egyptian revolution. He tells a “grim assumption”:

    It is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power. Israelis fear that Egypt will go the way of Iran or Turkey, with Islamists gaining control through violence or gradual co-optation.

    Note how Halevi conflates Turkey with Iran (a ridiculous comparison based only on the fact that democratic Turkey opposes Israel’s blockade of Gaza) and then adds Egypt to the list.

    And then there is the latest fright word, the Muslim Brotherhood. You would never know it from Halevi, but the Brotherhood is non-violent, has always opposed al-Qaeda, and condemned 9/11 and other acts of international terrorism.

    Yes, they are an Islamic organization which would prefer an Egypt based on Islamic law, much as the Shas party – a significant part of Israel’s ruling coalition – pushes for an Israel based on its extreme interpretation of Torah.

    Halevi (and other lobby types) may want the Muslim Brotherhood to be terrorists but, sadly for them, that is not true. And, besides, the January 25 revolution is not a Muslim Brotherhood revolution. They support it – almost all Egyptians do – but that does not make it theirs. Nor do they claim otherwise.

    The bottom line: I am happy for the Egyptian people, but I am sad for Israel – not because it is genuinely threatened by this revolution but because Israel’s leaders seem determined to turn the revolution against them.

    One can only hope that Israel and its lobby wake up. I hate always being proven right when it comes to Israel. I care about it too much.

    MJ Rosenberg is a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.

    The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

     

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera
     
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/02/2011210151747172928.html

     

    Egyptian army ‘torturing’ prisoners

     

    Human rights groups allege that pro-democracy protesters have been detained or tortured in an “organised campaign”.

    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 15:05 GMT

     
    Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, witnessed scenes of violence during his detention by the army  

    The Egyptian military has been secretly detaining and torturing those it suspects of being involved in pro-democracy protests, according to testimony gathered by the British newspaper the Guardian.

    The newspaper, quoting human rights agencies, put the number of people detained at “hundreds, possibly thousands,” since protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, began on January 25.

    While the military has said it is playing a neutral role in the political unrest, the newspaper quoted human rights campaigners as saying this was no longer the case, accusing the army of being involved in an organised campaign of disappearances, torture and intimidation.

    Egyptians have long associated such crimes with the country’s much-feared intelligence and security services, but not with the army.

    “Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told the Guardian.

    “It’s unusual and to the best of our knowledge it’s also unprecedented for the army to be doing this.”

    The country’s army has denied the charges of illegal detention or torture.

    “The armed forces denies any abuse of protesters. The armed forces sticks to the principle of protecting peaceful protesters and it has never, nor will it ever, fire at protesters,” an armed forces source told Reuters.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Safwat El Zayat, a retired general in the Egyptian military, categorically denied the allegations made in the Guardian report, saying that the report was “aimed at damaging the reputation of the army, which always stands by the people and not the regime”.

    ‘Foreign enemies’

    The report said that the detained included human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, and that human rights groups have “documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army”.

     Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage

    The newspaper quoted a man who said he was detained by the army while on his way to Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Cairo, with medical supplies.

    The man said he was accused of working with “foreign enemies”, beaten and then hauled to an army post, where his hands were tied behind his back.

    In addition to hitting him, the soldiers also allegedly threatened him with rape.

    Bahgat told the Guardian that it appears from the testimony of those who have been released that the military is conducting a campaign to try and break the protests.

    “I think it’s become pretty obvious by now that the military is not a neutral party,” Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Cairo, told the newspaper.

    “The military doesn’t want and doesn’t believe in the protests and this is even at the lower level, based on the interrogations.”

    HRW says it has documented 119 cases of civilians being arrested by the military, but believes the actual number is much higher, as the army does not acknowledge the detentions.

    The organisation told the Reuters news agency that it had documented at least five cases of torture, while one released detainee said he had seen at least 12 people given “electric shocks” on February 1.

    ‘Aggresive manner’

    Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo who was held by the military for several hours on February 6th, also witnessed scenes of violence during his detention.

    Mohyeldin was held by the military while trying to enter Tahrir Square when he told soldiers at a checkpost that he was a journalist.

    They questioned him regarding why he was there, and then, having tied his hands with plastic handcuffs, took him to a make-shift army post where he was interrogated and his equipment confiscated.

    “I can tell you from what I saw and what I heard that a lot of [the detained] were beaten up, the military was dealing with them in a very aggresive manner,” Mohyeldin said.

    “They were slapped, they were kicked. The military was trying to essentially subdue them.

    “In essence the military was dealing with these people as prisoners of war. These were individuals who were trying to plead for their safety, for their innocence.

    “Many of them were crying, saying that they were simply just caught up in the wrong moment, but the military showed no mercy.”

    Mohyeldin said that some prisoners were quite badly beaten, while a soldier also used a taser gun to threaten prisoners. He said others showed evidence of having been whipped.

    He said that prisoners at the post he was being held at were being treated aggresively by soldiers despite the fact that they were not being disobedient.

    Mohyeldin also described how one protester, when initially detained, had claimed that he was an active member of the pro-democracy movement against Mubarak.

    However, in just a few hours, the protester had broken down in tears and was willing to promise the soldiers that he would not return to Tahrir Square and that he was not really involved in protests.

    All detainees who were released were made to sign a document that said that they would not attempt to return to Tahrir Square unless they obtained prior permission from the military.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies

     

      

     

    Egyptian army ‘torturing’ prisoners

     

    Human rights groups allege that pro-democracy protesters have been detained or tortured in an “organised campaign”.

    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 15:05 GMT

     
    Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, witnessed scenes of violence during his detention by the army  

    The Egyptian military has been secretly detaining and torturing those it suspects of being involved in pro-democracy protests, according to testimony gathered by the British newspaper the Guardian.

    The newspaper, quoting human rights agencies, put the number of people detained at “hundreds, possibly thousands,” since protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, began on January 25.

    While the military has said it is playing a neutral role in the political unrest, the newspaper quoted human rights campaigners as saying this was no longer the case, accusing the army of being involved in an organised campaign of disappearances, torture and intimidation.

    Egyptians have long associated such crimes with the country’s much-feared intelligence and security services, but not with the army.

    “Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told the Guardian.

    “It’s unusual and to the best of our knowledge it’s also unprecedented for the army to be doing this.”

    The country’s army has denied the charges of illegal detention or torture.

    “The armed forces denies any abuse of protesters. The armed forces sticks to the principle of protecting peaceful protesters and it has never, nor will it ever, fire at protesters,” an armed forces source told Reuters.

    Speaking to Al Jazeera, Safwat El Zayat, a retired general in the Egyptian military, categorically denied the allegations made in the Guardian report, saying that the report was “aimed at damaging the reputation of the army, which always stands by the people and not the regime”.

    ‘Foreign enemies’

    The report said that the detained included human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, and that human rights groups have “documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army”.

     Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage

    The newspaper quoted a man who said he was detained by the army while on his way to Tahrir Square, the focal point of protests in Cairo, with medical supplies.

    The man said he was accused of working with “foreign enemies”, beaten and then hauled to an army post, where his hands were tied behind his back.

    In addition to hitting him, the soldiers also allegedly threatened him with rape.

    Bahgat told the Guardian that it appears from the testimony of those who have been released that the military is conducting a campaign to try and break the protests.

    “I think it’s become pretty obvious by now that the military is not a neutral party,” Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Cairo, told the newspaper.

    “The military doesn’t want and doesn’t believe in the protests and this is even at the lower level, based on the interrogations.”

    HRW says it has documented 119 cases of civilians being arrested by the military, but believes the actual number is much higher, as the army does not acknowledge the detentions.

    The organisation told the Reuters news agency that it had documented at least five cases of torture, while one released detainee said he had seen at least 12 people given “electric shocks” on February 1.

    ‘Aggresive manner’

    Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo who was held by the military for several hours on February 6th, also witnessed scenes of violence during his detention.

    Mohyeldin was held by the military while trying to enter Tahrir Square when he told soldiers at a checkpost that he was a journalist.

    They questioned him regarding why he was there, and then, having tied his hands with plastic handcuffs, took him to a make-shift army post where he was interrogated and his equipment confiscated.

    “I can tell you from what I saw and what I heard that a lot of [the detained] were beaten up, the military was dealing with them in a very aggresive manner,” Mohyeldin said.

    “They were slapped, they were kicked. The military was trying to essentially subdue them.

    “In essence the military was dealing with these people as prisoners of war. These were individuals who were trying to plead for their safety, for their innocence.

    “Many of them were crying, saying that they were simply just caught up in the wrong moment, but the military showed no mercy.”

    Mohyeldin said that some prisoners were quite badly beaten, while a soldier also used a taser gun to threaten prisoners. He said others showed evidence of having been whipped.

    He said that prisoners at the post he was being held at were being treated aggresively by soldiers despite the fact that they were not being disobedient.

    Mohyeldin also described how one protester, when initially detained, had claimed that he was an active member of the pro-democracy movement against Mubarak.

    However, in just a few hours, the protester had broken down in tears and was willing to promise the soldiers that he would not return to Tahrir Square and that he was not really involved in protests.

    All detainees who were released were made to sign a document that said that they would not attempt to return to Tahrir Square unless they obtained prior permission from the military.

     
    Source:
    Al Jazeera and agencies

     

     
     

      

     
     

     

      
     

    Hosni Mubarak ‘may step down’

     

    Ruling party officials suggest that President Hosni Mubarak may ‘meet protesters demands’, as army monitors situation.

    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 15:36 GMT

     

     
     
     

     

    Ruling party officials suggest that President Hosni Mubarak may ‘meet protesters demands’, as army monitors situation.

    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 15:36 GMT
    The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces has met to discuss the ongoing protests against the government of Hosni Mubarak, the president.In a statement televised on state television, the army said it had convened the meeting response to the current political turmoil, and that it would continue to convene such meetings.”Based on the responsibility of the armed forces and its commitment to protect the people and its keenness to protect the nation… and in support of the legitimate demands of the people [the army] will continue meeting on a continuous basis to examine measures to be taken to protect the nation and its gains and the ambitions of the great Egyptian people,” the statement, titled “Communique No. 1” said.Thurday’s meeting was chaired by Mohamed Tantawi, the defence minister, rather than Mubarak, who, as president, would normally have headed the meeting.The army’s statement was met with a roar of approval from protesters in Tahrir Square, our correspondent reported.Earlier, Hassan al-Roweni, an Egyptian army commander, told protesters in the square on Thursday that “everything you want will be realised”.Protesters have demanded that Mubarak stand down as president.Hassam Badrawi, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party, told the BBC and Channel 4 News on that he expected Mubarak to hand over his powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.Ahmed Shafiq, the country’s prime minister, also told the BBC that the president may step down on Thursday evening, and that the situation would be “clarified soon”.

    The Reuters news agency quoted Leon Panetta, the director of the American Central Intelligence Agency, as saying there was a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would quit on Thursday night.

    Labour union strikes

    The developments come as the 17th day of pro-democracy protests continued across the country on Thursday, with labour unions joining pro-democracy protesters.

    Egyptian labour unions have held nationwide strikes for a second day, adding momentum to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities. 

    Al Jazeera correspondents in Cairo reported that thousands of doctors, medical students and lawyers, the doctors dressed in white coats and the lawyers in black robes, marched in central Cairo and were hailed by pro-democracy protesters as they entered Tahrir [Liberation] Square.

    The artists syndicate and public transport workers, including bus drivers, also joined the strikes, our correspondents reported.

    “It’s certainly increasing the pressure on the government here,” Al Jazeera’s Steffanie Dekker, reporting from Cairo, said.

    “I think it’s worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square.

    “Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions.”

    Pro-democracy supporters across the country have meanwhile called for a ten-million strong demonstration to take place after this week’s Friday prayers.

    Hoda Hamid, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said that the mood in Liberation Square was “one of defiance, and if we judge by what is happening today, then I think … many more people will heed that call and turn up”.

    Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin in Cairo reported that at least five government buildings, including the governor’s office and the office for public housing, were set alight in two straight days of riots in the northeastern town of Port Said. The situation in the city had calmed by Thursday evening, he said.

    Protest investigation

    Meanwhile, an immediate investigation has been launched and possible criminal charges could be brought against the senior officer who ordered the firing on protesters during protests on January 28 protests, Moyheldin said.

    Click here for more on Al Jazeera’s special coverage 

    The ministry of interior also announced the sacking of the head of security in the New Valley governorate, Moyheldin said.

    Also on Thursday, Mahmoud Wagdy, the interior minister, announced that the police were back at work on the streets of the capital.

    Meanwhile, Suleiman, the country’s vice-president, said on Thursday that his comments to American television station ABC had been taken out of context.

    In his interview, Suleiman suggested that Egyptians were “not ready” for democracy. He had also earlier said that if protesters did not enter into dialogue with the Mubarak government, the army may be forced into carrying out a coup.

    According to a statement released to a government news agency, Suleiman “emphasised that some sentences in his remarks … were understood in the wrong way, especially his remarks regarding democratic transition in Egypt”.

    On Wednesday, Gaber Asfour, the recently appointed culture minister, resigned from Mubarak’s cabinet for health reasons, a member of his family told Reuters.

    The website of Egypt’s main daily newspaper Al-Ahram said Asfour, a writer, was under pressure from literary colleagues to leave the post.

    Asfour was sworn in on January 31 and at the time he had believed it would be a national unity government, al-Ahram said.

    International element

    There has been a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp. An internet campaign is currently under way to mobilise expatriates to return and support the uprising.

    Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

    Meanwhile, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, are reported to have been released over the past two days.

    There are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest. Rights groups have alleged that the Egyptian army is involved in illegally detaining and sometimes torturing pro-democracy protesters.

    Human Rights Watch said the death toll has reached 302 since January 28.

    Egypt’s health ministry has denied the figures, saying official statistics would be released shortly.

     
     
     

    Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign

     
    Egyptian president vows to remain in office until his term ends in September, and not bow down to ‘foreign pressure’.
    Last Modified: 10 Feb 2011 21:49 GMT
     

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