This Week in Egypt – February 23, 2013

Port Said.jpg

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

The Coming Parliament: A New Crisis

Looking forward to the parliamentary elections, and at the Shura Council’s decision to pass the electoral law, Yussef Auf reminds EgyptSource readers that we have to look back at the constitution once again:

“Article 177 of the constitution which requires that draft laws for administering  all types of elections (presidential, parliamentary, and local) must be presented to the Supreme Constitutional Court before they are issued in what is known as prior judicial review (i.e. prior to the law’s promulgation). The court will determine whether these articles are constitutional, and the SCC’s decisions in this regard are binding. Article 177 also states that these laws are not subject to any constitutional review by the SCC after they are promulgated. The central goal of this newly created provision is to prevent the SCC from exercising judicial review over the election laws after they are promulgated.”

With President Mohamed Morsi announcing parliamentary elections for April, Egypt’s second post-January 25 parliament is set on a similar trajectory to the first:

“This would lead the SCC to exercise its right of subsequent judicial review after the new House of Representatives is seated, and to declare the House of Representatives Law unconstitutional, resulting in the invalidation of House elections, and the body’s illegitimacy. This scenario would clearly have catastrophic consequences.”  

The Maddening Betrayal of Potato-Seller, Omar Salah

Amro Ali writes for Open Democracy about Omar Salah Omran, a 12-year-old potato-seller whose death almost went unnoticed. No to Military Trials activists stumbled across Salah’s story only because he happened to be laid next to activist Mohamed al-Gendi’s body at Zeinhom Morgue.

Omar was shot twice in the heart by an army conscript, dying instantly. The army, while admitting that Omar did in fact die of gunshots to the heart, they maintain that it was an accident. Omar’s father tells a story, that Amro Ali describes:

“An Egyptian army conscript walks up to 12 year old Omar Salah Omran, a sweet potato seller – outside the front gates of Cairo’s US Embassy close to Tahrir Square – and requests two potatoes from the young street vendor. Omar answers, “I’ll do so after I go to the bathroom”. The allegedly untrained soldier retorts with a mix of cockiness and jest that he will shoot Omar if he doesn’t comply immediately. On Omar’s reply, “you can’t shoot me” – the conscript, on the alleged presumption that his weapon was not loaded, aimed two bullets piercing through Omar’s heart. He died instantly. (Based on Omar’s father’s television interview with host Mahmoud Saad. While not present at the scene, he later spoke to eyewitnesses).”

A death that could have easily gone unnoticed, Omar had the misfortune of coming into the limelight only in his death:

“Omar comes out staggeringly alive in his death. A spectrum of colours is added to his socially-perceived black and white life…Omar’s tragedy highlights, once again, the catastrophic extent to which Egypt’s poor are put up on the frontlines as cannon fodder to bear the worst of Egypt’s unforgiving socio-economic terrain and lawlessness – a phenomenon that materialises itself in fatal train crashes, building collapses and “accidental shootings.”


Mahmoud Salem writes for Daily News Egypt, using the analogy of a building on fire to describe Egypt’s current state:

“Two days ago there was an apartment on fire in a building at the Ard El Golf area in Heliopolis. It went on for 45 minutes until two of my friends, who lived in the adjacent building, called the fire department. Two minutes later, to their surprise, the fire truck arrived, only to park in front of the building, with the firefighters standing outside watching the fire and doing nothing to stop it.

Ten minutes later, two more fire trucks arrived, and instead of joining the first one in taking out the fire, their crew started fighting with the crew of the first fire truck. The civilian bystanders decided that the fight was more fun than the fire, which was sort of waning on its own, so they joined the fight as well.”

Salem sees each of Egypt’s political players in one of the roles of the people gathered around the burning building – yet no one does anything to put it out. Instead, they are quick to place the blame on someone else.

“The blame game is fun, but it never works. Recent research shows that people who blame others for their mistakes lose status, learn less, and perform worse relative to those who own up to their mistakes (please feel free to cite whichever favourite report you’ve recently read that places Egypt in a worse ranking than it was two, thirty, forty, or sixty years ago). Groups and organizations with a rampant culture of blame have a serious disadvantage when it comes to creativity, learning, innovation, and productive risk-taking. Our entire country has that culture, and has had it for a very long time.”

English-language media play a vital role in telling Egypt’s story

The English-language press in Egypt took several hard hits this week, as Dalia Rabie writes for Egypt Independent. Hani Shukrallah, the editor of Ahram Online was forced out of his position, writing on his Facebook page: “The deed is done: the MB has now fulfilled its resolve to drive me out of Ahram.” At the same time, Egypt Independent is facing the possibility of closure due to budget cuts.

Abdel Rahman Hussein is quoted in the article, explaining the absolute necessity of an independent and healthy English-language media in Egypt:

“It manages to avoid the pitfalls of both the Arabic and foreign press, while offering a depth rarely afforded in the other two,” he explains. With a few exceptions, he finds local English-language media to be “the complete package,” offering in-depth news with a nuanced understanding of the political, social and cultural contexts.

“It also tends to portray the most accurate narrative of events on the ground, not the pastiche-laden narrative ubiquitous in the Arabic press, nor the nonchalant narrative processed through a different prism that is sometimes found in the international media,” he adds.

Egypt in the News


  • Egypt’s political rivals meet amid tension
  • SCC declares five articles of election law unconstitutional
  • Egypt orders Islamist detained for insulting Christianity
  • Egypt chief of staff says army will avoid politics
  • Controversial protest bill advances to Shura Council


  • Morsi’s advisory team less diverse after months of walkouts
  • Meeting with FJP’s Katatni leads to possible rift within Egypt’s opposition NSF  
  • Ratification of Egypt’s new elections law could take 45 days: Official
  • Egypt flooded tunnels to cut Gaza arms flow -aide
  • Report of sexual assaults in police stations


  • Shura Council accuses SCC of undermining lawmakers
  • Sexual harassment bill promises harsher penalties
  • Nour Party says will not seek election partners
  • NSF to reject unfair parliamentary elections
  • Jama’a al-Islamiya forms armed squads to fight thugs


  • Egypt passes electoral law, paves way for elections
  • Egypt’s military signals impatience with president
  • Committee on amending constitution formed
  • Egypt to seek IMF talks as it reveals grim economic data
  • Civil disobedience in Port Said enters fifth day, with escalations


  • Parliamentary elections set for April 28
  • FJP, Nour Party to meet ahead of national dialogue
  • Egypt imports 140,000 teargas canisters from US
  • NGO draft law to restrict freedom of association: Amnesty International
  • Protesters gather for “Trial of the Regime” demo

Photo of the week: Civil disobdience continues in Port Said (AP)

Image: Port%20Said.jpg