The Week in Egypt [June 30, 2014]

Catch up on the latest out of Egypt every week, with analysis, news updates, photos, videos, and more.

Quote of the Week

“I have to draw attention to at least 100 Egyptian journalists that nobody talks about. My heart goes out to them because I know what they are going through. I understand the injustice that has been inflicted upon them.”
Yehia Ghanem speaking about Egyptian journalists who have been imprisoned in Egypt over the past year. Ghanem was sentenced to two years in prison in the NGO trial for setting up a journalism training school funded by the US state department. He was in the United States at the time of the sentencing and has not been able to return since.

Egypt in the News







Al-Jazeera Trial and Sisi’s Era | Nervana Mahmound, DNE

While the [Al Jazeera] verdict is shocking, it actually fits in with the general attitude and outlook of the new Egyptian leadership. Sisi’s new Egyptian Republic is shaped on terms and conditions like power, prestige, and authority. An old Nasserite slogan has resurfaced, the “Dignity of the State.” In that context, the new leadership in Cairo views journalists, media, human rights advocates, and even revolutionaries with suspicion. They are all a threat to its authority and therefore there is no room for dissent.

The strategy being implemented by Egypt’s new president is two-fold. First, there is a show of great pragmatism, even loyalty, to the United States on regional security and foreign policy. This, in his view, may help tame any outside criticism regarding domestic policies. Second, there is a focus on the economy and social security, especially for the poor and disfranchised Egyptians, in order to garner and maintain solid support from an apolitical Egyptian public. This two-pronged strategy can wedge a gap between democracy advocates and the public while concurrently evading international pressure.

Sooner or later, however, President Sisi and his team may discover that their perfect plan is not that perfect. Turning the clock back is not as easy as it seems. Even if foreign countries swallow the verdict, and hope the case is crushed under a future appeal court, the domestic front will not tolerate the squashing of democratic values for long.

Run Mahienour run | Amro Ali, Mada Masr

In a city where you can count the key activists on your fingers, Mahienour (an activist and a lawyer) had immense influence on revolutionary Alexandria. As human rights lawyer Marianne Sedhom remarks, “Mahienour’s loud voice in a small city allowed her to have a greater impact, shape the debate, and inspire many.”

Mahienour, along with seven other activists, is currently serving a two-year sentence for defying the Protest Law, which they were protesting on the day of the retrial of the Khaled Saeed case. Saeed, as you may well know, was killed by the police on June 6, 2010. Public anger against his death by torture initiated the rapid countdown to the 2011 uprising.

Cairo activists have fared, I have found, relatively better than their Alexandrian counterparts. Up until 2011 and the changes it brought, there was a near absence of local Alexandrian NGOs and human rights organizations. This means that there were no bodies to mentor, protect and aid Mahienour. For an activist like her, Alexandria was a very lonely place.

By illuminating Mahienour’s struggle against injustice, we are making the case for those less known and forgotten detainees.

“A complete revolution or nothing at all” was Mahienour’s ultimate cry. Her call for a complete revolution may not necessarily take on the form of storming the Bastille, but, even more powerful perhaps, it takes the form of an indomitable spirit like Mahienour, who brings hope to the streets she walks, sways the hearts and minds she encounters, and leaves a trail of forgiveness, empathy and humanity in a society that lacks it.

On Twitter: #AJTrial

On Monday, June 23, the Giza Criminal Court sentenced eighteen people in the Al Jazeera trial to prison sentences ranging from seven to ten years. Included in the eighteen individuals that were convicted were Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed, who were accused of spreading false information and collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years in prison, while Mohamed was sentenced to ten years, receiving three extra years for possession of ammunition (he was in possession of a spent bullet casing that he found during a protest).

The conviction came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Egypt and met with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and after news emerged, unrelated to the visit, that the United States released about $575 million of suspended funds to Egypt. In their meeting in Cairo, Kerry acknowledged progress in Egypt, highlighting Sisi’s call to review human rights legislation. Kerry denounced the sentence on Monday, however Sisi ignored calls made by the US after the conviction to pardon the jailed journalists.

The international reaction to the conviction of the Al Jazeera journalists has been widespread, from both foreign governments and individuals. Journalists around the world staged silent protests in solidarity with Greste, Fahmy, and Mohamed, while many others turned to Twitter to express their shock.

Video of the Week: Theatre takes the anti-FGM message around Egypt

Cartoon of the Week:

“But I have a feeling that the country will settle down very soon, inshallah.”
Source: Mada Masr

This Week’s Interviews

Libyan Ambassador to Egypt speaks with Daily News Egypt
On June 23, Daily News Egypt conducted an interview with Libya’s Ambassador to Cairo, Mohammed Fayez Jibril. In addition to discussing current issues facing Libya, the interview explored current relations between Egypt and Libya, as well as threats facing Egyptians working in Libya.

A warning shot for civil society: interviews Egyptian human rights activist Gamal Eid
Gamal Eid, lawyer and human rights activist, spoke about Egyptian security forces’ recent seizure of the Arab Network for Human Right’s (ANHRI) magazine, “Wasla.” Eid, the chairman of ANHRI, discussed his reaction to the incident and the current press environment in Egypt.

Statement: MEP: EU must combat conviction journalists Egypt

Member of the European Parliament, Marietje Schaake, sees the conviction of twenty Egyptian and foreign journalists in Egypt as a new low point in human rights violations. “This is an unfair judgement and again demonstrates the fact that there is no press freedom or freedom of expression in Egypt. The current regime is further restricting the rights of the Egyptian people, while those rights have been ensured in the new constitution. The regime does not allow any dissent and every form of criticism is met with brute force. The fact that the regime is now convicting journalists for being members of a terrorist cell shows that the country has a long way to go to becoming a mature democracy.

Schaake wants EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the European member states to strongly condemn this verdict. Schaake: “The EU must take a strong position against this affront to fundamental freedoms. It is good that a number of European ambassadors were present at the verdict, but we need more. Only if we act in unity can we have an impact on the ground. In the past, the EU has reacted too mildly or not at all in response to human rights violations in Egypt. The statements the EU makes are also sometimes contradictory. The message must be crystal clear if we want to retain our credibility.”

On EgyptSource

Image: Photo: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry address reporters after a series of meetings in Cairo, Egypt on June 22, 2014. [State Department photo]