The Week in Egypt [October 20, 2014]

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

Quotes of the Week

“While my colleagues and I have been unable to put an end to the plague of sexual violence in Egypt, our efforts have brought these horrific crimes to the agendas of both the government and civil society. Winning this award means that our efforts are working, and gives me hope that one day we can create a public space in Egypt that is safe for all.” – said Egyptian women’s rights activist Kholoud Saber Barakat as she received the 2014 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty. [Human Rights First]

“The current environment in Egypt is not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation. I hope that Egyptian authorities will reverse recent steps that limit the rights of association and assembly and restrict operations of Egyptian civil society groups.” – said former US President Jimmy Carter as the Carter Center closed its Egypt office amid increasing restrictions. [Carter Center]  

“The sloppier we get; the more we degrade public support for our business, the more excuses we give to governments to limit and control what we do.” – The keynotes of Imprisoned journalist, Peter Greste, was read at the Frontline Club Awards ceremony. [Al-Jazeera]

Egypt in the News





In-Depth Analysis

“Egypt’s Conservative Nationalism: Discourse and Praxis of the New Regime” | Amr Adly, Jadaliyya
Amr Adly observes an emerge of conservative nationalism in Egypt, warning that this discourse does not resolve the government’s legitimacy crisis.

“Current nationalism in Egypt combines Nasserist anti-Western undertones with explicitly anti-Islamist overtones. Here the local fight against the Brotherhood and Jihadi militant groups in Sinai is portrayed in terms of fighting and aborting a Western scheme aimed at dividing Egypt and embroiling it civil strife. This position gained credence by Western reticence to openly support the ouster of the Brotherhood-backed president in July 2013.”

“Economically, conservative nationalism invokes a nationalist rhetoric based on the need to sacrifice one’s economic gains for the sake of the nation. The state uses this rhetoric to justify fiscal restructuring in the form of subsidy cuts and more taxes, and hence imposing more pressure on the broad base of middle and poor social strata.”

“Politically, this stripe of nationalism is equally conservative as it largely serves the counter revolutionary stance aimed at containing the January revolution and the reestablishment of the authoritarian paternalistic state. It is basically antagonistic to political and social change at large. Instead, it practically yearns for the reproduction of some viable version of authoritarianism be it that of Mubarak for some or ideally that of Nasser for others.”

“Yet, conservative nationalism has its own limitations. Whereas it may prove to be a valuable tool for the newly-established regime in the short-term, it is not likely to furnish a strong ideological platform adequate enough for the longer-term process of reestablishing political authority and regaining legitimacy.”

“On the one hand, conservative Egyptian nationalism cannot feed for too long on solely anti-Islamist overtones or anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian undertones. It will prove more and more difficult to claim its descent from earlier, more established and more legitimate historical versions of Egyptian nationalism that have been essentially anti-imperialist.”

“On the other hand, conservative nationalism has hardly any social progressive content. Unlike Nasserism of the 1950s and 1960s for instance, the current version of conservative nationalism is at its heart pro-capitalist and in harmony with neo-liberalism.”

“A Wounded Egypt” | Sally Toma, Mada Masr
Sally Toma argues the Egyptian people is facing societal trauma as the population experienced torture and frustration. The lack of healing capacity is accelerating the severeness of this problem.

“Societal traumas — such as conflict, systematic torture, rape and injustice, and a struggling uprising as the one Egypt has been facing since 2011 — can impact the entire population, and inflict enduring pain and suffering. Most of the time, the damaging traumas are not recognized by the wounded culture itself as a whole. Those suffering often feel alone and isolated despite the fact that trauma has become ingrained in their culture.”

“Based on the current reality of impunity, torture, injustice, corruption and media manipulation under the auspices of “Big Brother,” Egypt can be psychologically diagnosed as a stagnant nation imprisoned by trauma. Without addressing this traumatic stagnation, there appears to be no prospects for healing. By dismissing the fact that we are traumatized, we are in fact maintaining the trauma.”

“In Egyptian media, we are daily subjected to the narrative of the importance of forgetting atrocities committed by the military, police or even the judiciary so that the nation can unite and focus on fighting terror.”

“As a consequence of defending or rationalizing the actions of those committing atrocities — whether intentionally or not — the healing process can be delayed or even negated. Social scientist and trauma and healing researcher Duane Elgin suggests that some of the traumas following this pattern include ‘genocide, slavery, religious persecution, colonialism and gender oppression.’”

“Acknowledging that Egypt is in fact a “traumaland” is a first step toward healing. A good understanding of such collective illness will open an outlet for creative alternatives to transforming future challenges nonviolently, and stop the endless cycle of violence and polarization.”

“As we have seen from the experiences of countries such as Cyprus, South Africa, Armenia and many more that addressed the issue of collective trauma as key to transitional justice and healing, there are no easy solutions for healing from deep traumas. … Elgin Duane supported this notion and argued, ‘It may seem unwise to bring the dark side of humanity’s past into the light of day, but, unless we do, this unresolved pain will forever pull at the underside of our consciousness and diminish our future potentials.’”

“Did Al-Jazeera Uphold its Responsibility to its Staff?” | Mohannad Sabry, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy
Egypt has handed harsh sentences to Al-Jazeera journalists because of their independent and critical reports. It is a result of the government’s political maneuver, but the journalists are also paying the price of Al-Jazeera’s intentional negligence of its responsibility to its staff. Mohannad Sabry revealed his findings about Al-Jazeera’s misconduct.

“Time and time again Al-Jazeera representatives have failed to directly account for the accreditation of their staff, despite evidence that they are still employing reporters under cover in Egypt.”

“While I personally, as well as everyone I have interviewed for this report, agree with Negm’s statements that jailing journalists for administrative infractions is an egregious abuse of the law, I have come to the shocking conclusion that Al-Jazeera failed to protect its employees despite ample warning of risk from employees, lawyers, and others. In the course of my investigations, I have received no response from Al-Jazeera’s top officials to suggest otherwise.”

Al-Jazeera’s long time lawyer Fathi Farag, who also handled the journalists’ case, quilted half way through the trial. “I quit because my client [Al-Jazeera] is not keen on the release of their employees, which contradicts my job and ethics of working to prove the innocence of a defendant,” Fathi said in the resignation request filed to the court.

“Fahmy told me that I am harming him. I told him I am not and said that I am alerting him to the fact that Al Jazeera wants him in jail, it’s a major political card for them with which they would continue to attack Egypt,” said Fathi.

“It took them [Al-Jazeera] more than a month to issue the letter, while they played the news of Badr Eddin’s arrest every day. He was finally released when the letter that we demanded on day one was issued more than a month later,” said Khaled Al-Balshi, a prominent Egyptian journalist and member of the board of directors of Egypt’s Press Syndicate, who believes that “Al-Jazeera inexplicably failed to protect the detained employee and seemed as if it wanted to use the detention of its worker for its own interests.”

“Al-Jazeera continues to employ a number of people without any permits and uses the content without any regard to their safety,” added Al-Balshi, who has decided to boycott the network due to their “highly politicized and biased content.”

On Twitter: Egypt’s air strike in Libya


Video of the Week

The Front Line Defenders released a video on October 16, presenting testimonies of many Egyptian human rights activists against the increasingly restrictive environment in Egypt. They all expressed concerns about the government’s decision to force NGOs to abide by the regulations, resulting in the violation of NGOs’ role as watchdogs that put checks and balances on governments. They said that all human rights groups have become the government’s targets. In addition to direct oppression, the government is using every tool that it has to change the public sentiment toward the depiction of human rights activists as spies who coordinate with “outsiders” to destabilize the Egyptian internal system.  

Cartoon of the Week

Source: Shorouk
Doctor Makhlas
[On blackboard] “How to spy on your classmates and write security reports.”
[On desk] “Some student reports.”

This Week’s Interviews

No lists of those barred from universities: Falcon Executive Director | Sherif Khaled, DNE
Students protested against the private security firm, the Falcon Group, as the new academic year started. According to reports, Falcon claimed it has suffered financial losses worth of EGP30,000. Daily News Egypt interviewed Falcon’s executive director, Sherif Khaled, on this incident. Khaled affirmed that the firm’s security personnel has all been trained professionally, and does not carry weapons on duties. He said that the majority of Al-Azhar students were very cooperative on the first day of school, but some students made “irresponsible” statements against the security presence. He admitted that the Falcon coordinates with the Ministry of Interior in case of protests, adding that it is required to check every student’s ID and belongings. As many complained about the crowds before university gates, Khaled responded that the situation will be better soon as all students will have their proper identifications. He further noted that the contract with universities lasts one year, and the firm seeks to expand, as more universities signed contracts with it. He added, “The company also equips personnel with the most modern security equipment and clothing to prepare them both in terms of security and appearance.”

Interview with Ana Ana director | TYCI
Ana Ana (“I am me” in Arabic) is a documentary film by Corinne van Egeraat and Petr Lom, showing testimonies of four young Egyptian women against a backdrop of women’s rights in the Egyptian society. TYCI interviewed Petr Lom as this firm is entering the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Lom explained he wanted to bring to light the women’s inexpressible emotions inside their hearts, as we learn from the “universal nature of the desire to form one’s own identity in freedom and dignity.” Asked whether he has learned anything from these women, Lom affirmed, “I learned from them about the power of courage, and that freedom can never be stamped out.” The inspiration of Ana Ana was Lom’s experience making his first film Back to the Square, which included a story about a young woman named Salwa, “who was one of the women subjected to forced virginity tests in March 2011 while protesting in Tahrir square right after the revolution.”

Image: Visually impaired children touch an installation depicting the Golden Death Mask of Tutankhamun at the Children's Museum as part of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo October 16, 2014. The Egyptian Supreme Council for Antiquities opened its doors to the museum, equipped for the visually impaired, and arranged activities for the children to create an awareness of their heritage. The event was held to mark White Cane Safety Day which fell on October 15. (Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)