the republic of fear

Egypt is in a fight for its existence. That seems to be the response to all questions asked about government behavior. I can understand some of that for sure – but not all of it. There are things that are totally senseless and that simply put Egypt in a very bad light. Here are a few recent examples:

1- crackdown on NGOs and civil society. The appointment of Fayza Abul Naga, a woman whose hostility to civil society is notorious, as national security consultant is a grave indication of what is to come.

2- Arrest of student for carrying Orwell’s 1984 [no indication of filming security forces as the policemen who arrested him claimed]. It is a typical case of falsification of evidence and he was released for lack of evidence.

3- Le Monde Diplomatique journalist arrested and interrogated for an hour after woman heard him with two other journalist colleagues in a downtown cafe ‘talking politics’. She yelled at them ‘you want to destroy the country’ and reported them to police who arrested them.

4- Actor Khaled Abul Naga reported to public prosecutor by lawyer who claimed he was inciting for a coup based on a tweet protesting the infamous Protest Law.


Why behave so ridiculously? why hasn’t the government embraced civil society and worked with it rather than attack it? why haven’t they embraced the youth rather than throw them in jail? I fail to understand in whose interest is that absurd behavior coupled with enmity to anything ‘foreign’ and heightened xenophobia. Why do they insist on creating a republic of fear, and then complain when people ask questions or complain about that republic’s behavior?

Egypt was outraged at the 300 questions it had to respond to at the Geneva Human Rights session early November. The questions had to do with assurances regarding Egypt’s non-violation of human rights accords. The media and the government immediately began attacking my colleague Cairo Institute’s Bahei Eddin Hassan for his report on human rights abuses in Egypt that contributed, in part, in ‘painting Egypt in a bad light.’

No – the bad light is this government’s ‘security mentality and militaristic’ behavior. There is indeed a fine balance between  maintaining security, especially if one is in a ‘war for existence’ – and between abiding by human rights principles. The Egyptian government has failed in this balance.


What irks me most is the infantilization of politics in Egypt these days. He said, she said, they said… bickering like little school children. On ALL sides. Enough already! And what irks me most is the very narrow lens that some people look through – narrow lens of their conviction, not open to even listen or think outside the box – even just a bit. The box of media propaganda and toeing the line.

This black and white of “you are either with me or against me” is a Bush Jr doctrine that has infantilized the level of public discourse.


why women – and men – are joining ISIL

I heard this excellent interview on NPR yesterday with Katherine Brown, a professor in the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London, about why American and European women are joining Islamic militants. It is the first time I understand why young women [and for that matter men] are joining ISIL. It baffled me before because explanations were not adequate enough. It’s not poverty, not faith, not vengeance, not ‘why do they hate us’… not any of that… but “because it holds a degree of simplicity..”

“I would say that the messages that ISIS is putting forward are not mainstream Islamic message at all. They’re not ones that you would find in the mosque. They’re not ones that you find ordinarily spoken. They’re definitely radical interpretations, but that also is appealing because it holds a degree of simplicity because it’s able to paint the world in black and white, and that makes it very easy to understand and believe in. Actually, like with all religions, it’s very complex. Islam like Christianity has a complex tradition of thinking, very different practices, ways of being Muslim, and ways of practicing Islam. I think what fundamentalism does is that it provides this simple black and white model that people find appealing.”

She also said:

“I think what is really interesting here is there is a naïve romanticism that we see, but it’s not just about being wooed to marry Islamic fighters in Iraq and Syria. It’s also about romanticism about being a part of a new political state. This idea of being part of a new community and being taken seriously because what we’re seeing is that ISIS takes young people seriously. They take their politics seriously, they give them a voice, they give them credit, and that has a certain amount of appeal in a society, at least in Europe, where young people are not given the credibility that they might otherwise want.”




more Ikhwan than the .. Ikhwan

 “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.
- C.S.Lewis

The cautious support that I personally gave Egypt’s President Sisi is not unconditional and will never be. I had hope because I appreciated – and still do – his removal of the Ikhwan who would not have left power otherwise. Ever. They are a non-democratic cult whose ideology is based on loyalty to their cult leader and fool people by giving lip service to democracy in order to gain power. They themselves said, when they got to power, that they were planning to transform Egypt into a Caliphate system.

But this is a different time. Now it is time to watch what this president is doing and hold him accountable.  I am not looking at results because it is too early for that, but looking at process. Currently, I am not quite thrilled with what the Sisi regime is doing in regards  to both the radicalization of the State and autocratization of its institutions. There are some disturbing indications of the continuation of the extremist mentality and allowing it to control much of the media, as well as autocratic decisions being made without due process.

Why am I – we the activists who supported Sisi – not jubilant any more? Because now we are holding Sisi’s feet to the fire. But before I mention all the indications, I need to say that first and foremost, the primary violation is that of the continuation of arrests and detention of the revolutionary youth, many of whom are currently on hunger strikes. The excuse that they broke the protest law issued by the Mehleb government by protesting on the streets does not merit those kind of prolonged sentences nor permit detention without charges [but that merits its own post].  But in addition to that, since many people are anti-revolution and anti-activists right now, there are other indications that are not only worrisome, but outright wrong. Here are some that I have been monitoring:

  • Banning books: surprisingly, three books were banned among them a book by notable writer and academic Nasr Hamed Abu Zayd even though the same books had been in circulation in Egypt for the past decade [link] [link]
  • Banning movies: PM Mehleb himself approved the banning of a film by actress Haifa Wahbi entitled Halawet Rooh. The film was banned on the grounds of immorality based on people’s demands to ban it. Also the film Noah was banned on the grounds of portrayal of a prophet on film. Al-Azhar demanded its banning and the government succumbed.  What’s disturbing is that a member of the Religious Scholars Institute said all cinemas that will be showing this movie should be burnt down!
  • Banning television programs: of course it started with satirist Bassem Yousef’s program and now there is Dancer Idol. Although Yussef himself stopped his own program, it was after myriad threats against him.  However in the case of The Dancer Idol, the Al-Azhar decided – with many signatories – to ban a program by belly-dancer Dina, modeled after American Idol where women compete for the top belly-dancer. The Al-Azhar demanded it be banned on ‘moral’ grounds. To-date, because it is broadcast from an independent media channel, that channel refused to ban it.
  • Arrests of gay people: a gay couple posted a video of their wedding on social media after one of the couple broke up with the other. Police sought them out including attendees and arrested them, accusing them of  lewd behavior .
  • Banning people from traveling: many who were on the Morsi-regime banned list of travel continue to be on it.  More recently academic-turned-politican Amr Hamzawy’s  suit against the State was upheld in a court of law that continued his banning.
  • Banning university presidents’ elections and appointing their own presidents instead. Recently a lawsuit was filed against that decision and is pending in court.
  • constitutionCampaign against the constitution: as usual such campaigns begin in the media [print and then broadcast media's so-called 'independent media'] then moves on to social media then it becomes a ‘people’s campaign’. Right now the campaign is hovering between all those three. The demand is to ‘reform the constitution‘ which was ‘written by some traitors’ [same 'traitors' who were appointed by Sisi to write the constitution], because it allowed parliament to override the president.
  • Campaign against parliamentary elections: according to the constitution, parliament has the right to override some of the president’s decisions. Some people in the media and on social networks are demanding the cancellation of parliamentary elections or its indefinite postponement.
  • Campaign against atheism: in a surprise announcement, the Al-Azhar Grand Imam said he would wage a war on atheism, following news that atheism has spread in Egypt.
  • Leaked recordings: in an unprecedented media blitz in Egypt, leaked recordings of activists and public figures continues with constant threats of exposing more. This was done through an unknown media personality who became famous for leaking those recordings. The majority of those recordings are non-incriminating but the commentary on them makes them seem criminal.
  • The Suez Canal project has been undertaken without fiscal oversight nor involvement of  appropriate consultants. This should have been done while Parliament was available for oversight. In addition, there are credible reports of 1500 families being evicted from their homes without compensation from the area in order to build the Canal.
  • Blackmailing businessmen into paying into the Egypt Fund which Sisi called for. Not only has PM Mehleb acknowledged they would blackmail people by ‘opening their old files’, but also the media went after prominent businessman Sawiris and tried to blackmail him into paying several billion into the fund. ٍThe State clearly tried to shame Sawiris into paying by announcing to the public the sum he donated, but Sawiris did not pay. It was then that Abdel Rahim Ali, the incognito media personality, decided to attack him and open his ‘black box’ [as his TV program is called].   jesus2
  • Portrayal of Sisi in the media: just as Morsi’s followers had done with him, journalists and others rushed to name Sisi everything from Jesus The Savior to the Prophet who came to reform Islam.  [original video here]. It is a clear example of using religion to appeal  to people. As part of the exaggerations as well, an Egyptian poet actually wrote a poem published in the media with a straight face, saying “Our women are pregnant with your star” نساؤنا حبلى بنجمك   Dakahliya governor said Sisi is Ahmos the Second & will vanquish the Hyksos invaders! dakahliyaExaggerations of that type are well known in Egypt, but to have them during Sisi’s time is adding insult to injury.
  • Minorities: Continuation of publishing headline news re conversions into Islam. In one instance they published news from Saudi Arabia regarding arrest of Asians for praying at home and performing their rituals, and the police found with them ‘Bibles’. The news was published in an Egyptian newspaper without condemnation or commentary as though it was really a crime to perform their rituals.
  • Sectarian strife incidents continue – for example Deir Anba Makkar monastery is again targeted by both extremists and the State, where people are claiming the land owned by the monastery is theirs rather than the monastery’s. Of course the monastery happens to be in the desert and when it was built decades ago, no one lived there.
  • Crackdown on civil society organization.

The regime is clearly doing the same dance its predecessors did with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists -  being more Ikhwan than the Ikhwan. As before, it wants to show that it is more pious than the Islamists in order to appeal to the people and is therefore permitting the hegemony of the religious institution and its moral domination. It is also defaming intellectuals and human rights activists who oppose its behavior. Because of persistent attacks on them, people now hate the term activist or anything that has to do with ‘human rights’ – a trend that is will take decades to reverse.

Is there a credible threat of the Islamists? Yes, without a doubt. However a tough president who wants the job done need not be an autocratic president. The government, and Sisi in particular, could have won people over by democratic and inclusive behavior, not by violating the constitution at every turn.

moron alert news

So I’m back with the moron alerts because moronism has become really prevalent these days. Here are the newest alerts:

- “After 4 years, there will be no electric blackouts whatsoever, not even for a second and people will be happy.”  Minister of Energy.
وزير الكهرباء: التيار الكهربائي لن ينقطع ” ولا ثانية ” بعد 4 سنوات والناس هتكون مبسوطة

- “I am not a spy for intelligence apparatus. Information comes to me while sitting at home. “
TV host Abdel Rahim Ali re accusations leveled at him that he works for intelligence. He became famous for broadcasting private telephone calls between opposition members.

عبد الرحيم على: «لست مخبرًا والمعلومات تأتي لمنزلي».

- “Magdy Yacoub’s center for heart transplant is an ‘undercover British/Israeli conspiracy to separate Nubia from Egypt’.
Economist and self-proclaimed prophet Sameh Abu Arayes.

- “Yes we do send weapons to rebels inSyria and we fear nothing and no one.”
Ikhwan leader Safwat Higazi

- “Egyptian army is an occupying force.”
Al Jazeera journalist.

- “ًWe will kill any American walking in the streets in Cairo upon sight.”
Journalist Mostafa Bakri, responding to rumors that the US plans on assassinating Sisi.
مصطفى بكري “أنه حال تعرّض المشير السيسي لأذى فإنه سيقود ثورة لذبح الأمريكان في الشوارع”

- “Anyone who does not thank Qatar [for what it's done] is a dog.”
Libya’s Mufti, 2014

- “Egyptian army succeeded in discovering material that transforms uneven roads to even ones.”
A security expert, 2014

- “We are warning you: We’ll go after your program and any traitor or enemy-collaborator.’”
TV show host Ahmed Moussa to satirist Bassem Youssef [also known as the Egyptian Jon Stewart].
أحمد موسى لـ«باسم يوسف»: لقد أعذر من أنذر وهحط على البرنامج وعلى أي خائن وعميل

- “ًWait for a new slap [meaning surprise] before 2014, and I will say something even tastier than kofta.”
Army appointee Abdel Ati who claimed he invented a HepC/HIV detection and cure method and said it was like eating kofta.
عبد العاطي:انتظروا صفعة أخرى قبل 2014 وهقول طعم ألذ من الكفتة
[I think this one needs a video to prove his moronism]

- “One pound increase in the underground ticket to modernize the underground – and also to let you listen to some music.”
Head of Underground Transportation
رئيس «الأنفاق»: جنيه زيادة في تذكرة المترو لتحديثه و«عشان نسمعك موسيقى»

And just as a tribute to Morsi the ultimate moron:
هتاف سوهاج  ضد مرسى: زغرطى يا بهية رئيسنا عباسية

from egypt to ferguson with love: mock tweets

Tired of Western intervention and sermonizing about how Egyptians should or should not behave and/or should or should not deal with their terrorists, Egyptians took to Twitter as soon as the events in Ferguson erupted. In particular many were sore about the Human Rights Watch’s report which portrayed the Muslim Brotherhood only as victims and the government as an abuser for no other reason than being an oppressive government.

For two days, Egyptians wrote mock tweets to edify Americans as to what they should or shouldn’t do in Ferguson to ‘support the ‘revolution’ – not intended as support of course but intended as a mockery of how the US supported the Egyptian revolution and Egyptians are therefore returning that support in kind. It is an amusing role-reversal in three Arabic hashtags: advice to Americans, Ferguson, and We are all Michael Brown.  It was not all making fun of Egypt’s revolution. Rather, some of it also targeted Egypt’s own army’s behavior in dispersing the protester and harshly treating journalists.

Please note that they did not intend the tweets to be disrespectful of Ferguson.  They are basically targeting the US government and its president in particular for their stances against Egypt’s methods of squashing protests. Similarities are many – such as using tear gas, random arrests on the streets, targeting journalists [two of whom were arrested in Ferguson], firing rubber bullets at protesters etc. and the list goes on.

There are the hashtags:  .

Here are some choice tweets – with translations whenever possible:

  •  - Glorious has gone to the US [Egyptians called it the 'glorious revolution']
    الشرطة تطلق قنابل الدخان لتفرقة
  •  -  ارحل يعني جو فاهم والا نو
  • هاتوا من اﻻخر و سلموها للجيش ووفروا على روحكوا سلمية مجيدة واحﻻم النهضة و الصوابع
    [Just go to the ending right away and give it to the army and save yourselves from ‘peaceful”.
  • Egypt condemns border closures and demands opening of borders [in US]  to let the poor get in.
    تشجب غلق المعابر في وجه من سرقوا المحال التجارية بفيرجسون وتطالب الحكومة بتسهيل مرورهم لأنهم معدمين!
  •  After you depose Obama you will find people telling you if you say ‘yes’ [to them in elections] you will go to Paradise. Don’t believe them.
    بعد ما يتنحى أوباما هتلاقى ناس بيقولولكم “نعم تدخلك البارادايز” .. إوعوا تصدقوهم
  •  Please take care of the American Museum [reference to Egyptian museum's partial destruction and looting during the Revolution]
    امانة تخلوا بالكم من المتحف اﻻمريكي
  •  Sisi comes out to Obama and says sternly: you MUST leave now.
    السيسي يطلع لأوباما فى بيان مقتضب ويقول له بحزم : إرحل الآن
  •  If they break into prisons and get a fat man out and tell you to elect him, don’t believe them. He’s an idiot. [in reference to Mosri]
    لو اقتحموا السجون و هرب واحد اهطل بكرش اوعوا يحكمكم …… ارموه في اقرب مصرف
  •  Those who will sing in the square will be lost. Just go the easy route right away and sing ‘Teslam el Ayadi [which is Sisi's song]
    الي هيغنوا يااااااه يالميدان هينحسوكوا مشوها تسلم الايادي عشان تنجزوا
  •  There’s a fat man who will nominate himself. Be careful – his mom is Egyptian [in reference to Egyptian presidential candidate Abu Ismail whose mother is has American citizenship]
    فيه واحد تخين وبدقن اسمه ابو سيمائين الواد دا حيرشح نفسه خدوا بالكوا امه مصريه
  •  Youth in Fergusson create a Facebook page and call it ‘We are all Michael Brown’ [in reference to We are all Khaled Said which is how the Egyptian revolution started].
    على أثر مقتله على يد شرطي شباب يدشنون صفحة ” كلنا مايكل براون “
  •  Our friends in Ferguson, continue and we are with you. [meant only as a joke]
    اصدقائنا الثوار في احنا معاكم كملوا .. خمسه رمز الصمود :))

You may view all three hashtags:

On a more serious note… it seems that the Egyptian government decided to join in the mockery in its own way. According to Retuers: Egypt urges U.S. restraint over Missouri unrest – Retuers


مواطن ومخبر وحرامى – blackmailing businessmen

Seems to me that Egypt somehow manages to jump from the kettle into the fire.


A couple of weeks ago in an interview, PM Mehleb himself said with a smile that yes they will ‘open old files‘ to essentially blackmail businessmen to pay for the “Egypt Fund” – a fund that was founded by President Sisi to help support Egypt’s new projects without accumulation of more foreign debt. Mehleb was speaking about taxes which many haven’t paid in a while or pay very little for. But then of course, that’s how Egypt was run [which is a rather different issue].

Now there is a ‘fight’ between prime businessman Sawiris and the intelligence hound-dog in the media, namely Abdel Rahim Ali. The latter is the guy who broadcast on public television, telephone calls between activists and each other, as well as any phone calls made to and from them in order to discredit them and discredit their intentions during the 25 January Revolution. He was tasked to ‘reveal’ how the Revolution youth were traitors and spies through broadcasting their recordings.  Even the most innocent of recordings was twisted into a plot against Egypt.

Recently Ali has been threatening to ‘reveal telephone calls that were recorded’ for Sawiris that promised to reveal some ‘secrets’. When Sawiris still did not pay, he went all out and said he would reveal recordings of a conversation between Sawiris and El Baradei, whom he has already established as a traitor in prior recordings.

As per intel manual, Ali also decided to start a rumor – a typical intel tactic – claiming that Sawiris ‘bought the channel that broadcast his program and closed it down’. Naturally Sawiris did no such thing. But to implicate him even further, Ali also said the original owner, Tarek Nour – another prominent businessman and media mogul – was a Sawiris’ co-conspirator, thus attacking both businessmen at once.

So why is this hound-dog suddenly set on Sawiris, a man who is known for his strong support of President Sisi?

Apparently Sawiris had promised to donate LE3 billion to the Egypt Fund – - or so it was alleged in the news about a month ago.  It seems that Sawiris hasn’t paid, or had no intention of paying, which then explains why suddenly Abdel Rahim Ali began a media attack on how he will ‘expose’ Sawiris for not paying what he promised.

Today’s news – if true – gives some further insight and behind the scenes revelations. A news headline says that ‘Sisi is not happy with the Egypt Fund donations amount’ – and adds ‘And sovereign entities are beginning to prepare ‘files’ for businessmen.’

This means extortion – pure and simple.

But the content of the article reveals what’s worse by far. It says that now there is a ‘businessmen’s cabal’ that is looking forward to taking control of parliamentary elections’ and that some consultants have advised Sisi to postpone those elections especially with the broad mandate that is now given to parliament based on the new constitution. This justifies a parliamentary postponement preventing any parliamentary oversight.

Needless to say, this does not bode well for investments in Egypt. If this blackmail policy goes into effect, then its repercussions will be far worse than the amount that will be gathered for the Egypt Fund.

It should be mentioned that Morsi’s regime had  also blackmailed Sawiris’s family into paying LE7 billion – by simply threatening their lives. It is alleged that after Morsi’s fall, the Sawiris family had stopped payments on the extortion money.

أما بقى مين المواطن ومين المخبر ومين الحرامى فلكم الإختيار …

نجيب ساويرس يكتب: أيـام ســـــوداء:

ولم ينتهي الأمر عند هذا الحد، فظللت أنا علي موقفي من معارضة حكم الإخوان من خلال حزب المصريين الأحرار وقناة أون تي في ومن خلال مقالاتي في بعض الجرائد المصرية… وظل الدكتور] مرسي[ يخصني بفاصل من الردح في كل خطبة..

كما اشرف بنفسه علي موضوع تلفيق الضرائب علي شركة أخي وأبي والضغط عليهما بمنعهما من السفر وأعلن عنه في احتفالية أكتوبر… حتي قبل ان تقوم المصلحة بالإجراءات المتبعة للمطالبة غير القانونية والتي أثبت النائب العام في تحقيقه انه لا يوجد أي تهرب ضريبي حيث تمت الصفقة في ظل القانون المعمول به في ذلك الوقت والذي يعفي الشركات المدرجة في البورصة من الضريبة والذي تم تعديله في قانون الضرائب الجديد ! و لا اريد الاستطراد لأن الموضوع أمام القضاء الآن ولأنه لا يخصني شخصيا حيث أني لا املك أي سهم في شركة الإنشاءات ولا أنا عضو في مجلس إدارتها… إلا أني أعلم أنا لدي الأجهزة الأمنية معلومات ومستندات تثبت يقينا خفايا مسلسل تلفيق هذه الضريبة وأرجو من الله أن تظهر حتي يعرف الجميع الحقيقة.

و لا أخفي سراً عندما أحكي عن كل الرسائل التي كانت تذهب لأخي «قول لنجيب أن يكف عن معارضته وكل مشاكلك تتحل… خلي نجيب يبيع محطة أون تي في وكل الأمور تمشي» لدرجة أن والدي والذي لم اعص له أمرا  ولم أرفض له طلبا أبدا قال لي:  «علشان خاطري أنا يا بني بيع المحطة»……أيام سودا عن حق