Top News: Egypt Says State Department Human Trafficking Report Lacks Credibility

Egypt’s Justice Ministry denounced in a statement on Wednesday the annual report issued by the US Department of State on “Trafficking in Persons,” describing it as lacking credible sources on actual efforts taken by the government to combat the problem. The report said “Egypt is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.” The Justice Ministry statement challenged the numbers reported by the US State Department, which estimate there are 200,000 to 1 million street children in Egypt. Citing statistics from the Egyptian National Council for Social and Criminal Research—also a source for the State Department report—the Justice Ministry estimated that the total number of homeless children in Egypt is 16,000. “The US State Department report has totally turned a blind eye to all the efforts made by the Egyptian government towards the legislations that it has issued to criminalize human trafficking, prostitution; [the passage] of the child law, anti-money laundering law, labor law, the law regulating human organ transplants, and Law No. 64 of 2010 on combating and preventing the trafficking in human beings,” the Justice Ministry statement said. The Justice Ministry also rejected State Department claims that individuals from Arab Gulf States—Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait—purchase Egyptian women and girls for “temporary” or “summer” marriages with the purpose of prostitution. The Justice Ministry described the claims as “untrue,” adding that the report did not support its hypothesis with any statistics. [Ahram Online, 11/18/2015]


Ismailia parliamentary candidate withdraws after son kidnapped; Electoral silence begins Friday
A parliamentary candidate in Ismailia has withdrawn from the race after his eleven year old son was kidnapped. The father said he received a call in which the kidnappers demanded a ransom of EGP 500,000 ($63,800) or that he withdraw his candidacy. He added that he and security forces are looking for his son. The second phase of Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary elections, meanwhile, is scheduled to kick off abroad on November 21, and on November 22 in thirteen governorates, including Cairo, with 27.5 million eligible voters. The electoral silence period will start Friday at noon. Arab League Assistant Secretary General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh said that the Arab League has sent 100 observers from eighteen Arab countries to the thirteen governorates to monitor the elections. “The mission will also follow up the ballot abroad through the Arab League offices in various cities worldwide including Moscow, Berlin, New Delhi, Berlin, and New York,” she added. [Cairo Post, 11/19/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egyptian women in parliament polls: Hopes and hurdles | Ahram Online
  • Female voters’ turnout more than men in  first stage of parliamentary elections says NCW Head | DNE
  • Election a matter of life and death in Egypt’s North Sinai | Reuters
  • Sabbahi says new parliament ‘weak’ | Cairo Post


Businessman and founder of Al-Masry Al-Youm Salah Diab referred to criminal court
Egypt’s Giza prosecution referred business tycoon Salah Diab on Thursday to criminal court on charges of possessing unlicensed firearms. Giza prosecution decided last week to release Diab on EGP50,000 bail after his lawyers presented reports of his chronic medical conditions. His son Tawfik, who is facing charges in the same case, was released as well on EGP10,000 bail after both family members spent three nights in detention. [Ahram Online, 11/19/2015]

Cairo’s Ramses rail station to get own court
To crackdown on thieves, beggars, fare-dodgers, and general harassment, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Transport have given the go ahead for a court to be established inside Cairo’s main train station in Ramsis. “The decision has been taken and it’s going to happen in the coming months,” Nagwa Albert Habib, the Director of Presidency Affairs at the Egyptian National Railways, told Reuters. “For fare-evaders and anyone else who violates any rule inside the station, they will be judged right away.” Currently, it’s up to the railway police to nab any wrongdoers. But Habib said the legal procedures were drawn out and people were too often let go. It is also not uncommon for people to bribe their way out of trouble in Egypt. “Once we have our own judge, they will be able to issue fines to people right away and there will be quick justice. There will be many fewer problems,” she said. [Reuters, 11/18/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Trial of ‘Air Defense Stadium’ survivors resumes | DNE
  • Egypt’s administrative court orders health ministry to treat ill school drop-outs | Ahram Online
  • Reporters barred from attending first session of former MP Fakharany’s trial | AMAY


Despite expansion, Egypt’s Suez Canal revenue drops for ninth consecutive month in October
Despite its expansion, Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues dropped by 6.9 percent in October for the ninth consecutive month, reaching US$449.2 million compared to $482.3 million in the same month last year, according to the Suez Canal Authority. The canal’s revenues declined 4 percent during the first ten months of 2015, reaching US$4.34 billion, compared to $4.52 billion in the same period last year. [Egypt Independent, 11/19/2015]

Head of Russian firm arrives to Cairo for near-end negotiations on Dabaa nuclear plant
Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Russia’s state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom, arrived in Cairo Thursday to resume negotiations related to building Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear plant, state owned MENA news agency reported. Kiriyenko and a Russian delegation are to meet a number of Egyptian officials to discuss final procedures related to the project. According to Mada Masr, the agreement over the nuclear plant will be signed on Thursday. Ahram Online, Mada Masr, 11/19/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Egypt to issue $1.75 billion 1-year T-bill | Reuters
  • Egypt’s central bank holds pound at 7.7301 per dollar | Reuters
  • Investor confidence rises to highest level in years says Sisi | DNE
  • Egypt stocks rebound after World Bank loan announcement | Ahram Online
  • Almost 800 Kuwaiti companies with $7 billion capital operating in Egypt | DNE
  • Vodafone says 25 percent decline in demand for international services because of political crisis | DNE
  • Cabinet agrees on tariff of buying electricity from waste by EGP 0.92/kWh | DNE
  • Average yield on Egypt’s 182-day treasury bill steady, marginally rises on 357-day bill | Reuters
  • Egypt’s new wheat subsidy could cut future wheat harvests | Reuters
  • Egypt, China sign $31.5 million grant agreement | SIS
  • Egypt makes another step toward solar, but energy experts worry political will isn’t there | Mada Masr


Dar al-Ifta uses Facebook to confront terrorism
Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s foremost authority on issuing religious edicts (fatwas), created a Facebook page entitled “Not in the name of Muslims” as part of their initiative to tackle Islamophobia in the West, following the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the Russian plane crash. Dar al-Ifta announced the campaign in an effort “to clarify the tarnished image of Islam across the globe” in a press conference on Wednesday. According to the religious body, the initiative targets non-Muslims and aims to explain the correct teachings on Islam. Grand Mufti advisor Ibrahim Negm said Muslims and Arabs should communicate the real image of Islam to the West. On its Facebook page, the campaign says it “does not only seek to exonerate the name of Islam” from the terrorist group’s acts, but also to condemn them. Dar al-Ifta scholars will go on tours to Europe “to communicate the real message of Islam,” and denounce false fatwas, which Grand Mufti Shawqy Allam says is one of the main reasons behind extremism and terrorism. The Facebook page will publish content in English, French, and German.  [DNE, 11/18/2015]

Low turnout in Student Union elections
After a two-year halt, Student Union (SU) elections are being held at Cairo and Ain Shams Universities, but are still on hold at Al-Azhar University. Mohamed Zalat, a candidate in the Art Committee at the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences at Cairo University told Daily News Egypt that voter turnout in the SU elections this year was no more than 15 percent. “The low turnout is probably due to the current midterms in the faculties in Cairo University,” he said.  Al-Azhar University students, often stereotyped as “belonging to Islamist groups” when they study religion, witnessed a large numbers of arrests and suspensions over the past two years, ending with the suspension of the SU elections this week. “The Brotherhood affiliated students are a minority and unpopular,” former head of Al-Azhar’s SU Ahmed Mamdouh told Daily News Egypt. He expressed concern over the absence of the SU as an alternative to protesting, saying it provides “activities where students can be more expressive.” [DNE, 11/18/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Reproductive health in Egypt neglected, must be incorporated in curriculums says Population Council| DNE
  • #Alaa_is34 trends as social media users celebrate activist’s birthday | DNE
  • Real estate HQ partially collapses in Alexandria | Cairo Post


Cooperation with Egypt’s friends needed to defeat terrorism, Sisi tells military council
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi held a meeting on Wednesday with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to discuss issues related to the fight against terrorism as well as security arrangements on the borders. “President al-Sisi stressed in the meeting that the attacks being carried out by terrorist groups outside the Middle East are considered unholy operations, and they require strengthening security cooperation with Egypt’s foreign friends through building a comprehensive approach to defeat of terrorism and eradicate extremist ideology,” the presidency’s statement read. SCAF members outlined the military’s latest security measures and their plans to purge both Sinai and mainland Egypt of all terrorist members to guarantee nationwide security, state-owned Al-Ahram reported. Sisi reportedly praised both the police and military for their joint efforts to weed out terrorists. Sisi also met on Wednesday with Minister of State for Military Production Mohamed al-Assar. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said that Assar reviewed his ministry’s plan to meet the Armed Forces’ needs for weapons, ammunition, and equipment. He also outlined plans to develop the ministry’s production lines and products. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 11/18/2015]


ISIS reveals bomb it says downed Russian passenger jet
The official magazine of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) carried a photo on Wednesday of a Schweppes soft drink can it said was used to make an improvised bomb that brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last month. The photo showed a can of Schweppes Gold soft drink and what appeared to be a detonator and switch on a blue background, three simple components that if genuine are likely to cause concern for airline safety officials worldwide. In the magazine, the group said it initially planned to bring down a plane from one of the countries taking part in the US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq but changed the target to a Russian jetliner after Moscow began its airstrikes in Syria in September. It also said it “discovered a way to compromise the security at the Sharm al-Sheikh International Airport,” without providing details. Russian media reports have said the bomb was probably brought on board by personnel at Sharm al-Sheikh airport and set off by a timer. Russian families may take legal action against the airport if it is proven that poor security procedures led to the planting of the bomb, James Healy-Pratt, specialist in airline disasters and aviation accidents, told Ahram Online. Egyptian media, meanwhile, has been critical of the government’s handling of the Russian announcement that a bomb brought down the plane. In related news, the British government said Thursday it is working “actively and urgently” to resume flights to Sharm al-Sheikh. A delegation of British aviation and counter-terrorism experts spent the past two days meeting Egyptian authorities in Cairo to work out how best to tighten security and allow flights to and from the Red Sea resort to resume. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, 11/19/2015]

Israel warns against trimming peacekeepers in Egyptian Sinai
Israel issued an unusually blunt warning on Wednesday against proposals to restructure the US-led peacekeeping force in the insurgency-wracked Egyptian Sinai next door, saying any drawdown of the foreign troops would “reward terrorism.” With the review proposals on the agenda for Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) talks that opened with Israel, Egypt, and the United States in Rome on Wednesday, a senior Israeli military officer played down the danger to the peacekeepers from the insurgents – including the Sinai State, the Egyptian affiliate of Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). “They are not interested in attacking the MFO. If they were interested, they could be killing them every day,” the officer told Reuters on condition of anonymity, echoing MFO staff who believe the roadside bomb was intended for the Egyptian army. But any dismantling of MFO positions, the Israeli officer said, would risk emboldening harder-line insurgent elements. The officer said the MFO had removed peacekeepers from two Sinai observation outposts after the roadside bombing and had yet to return to them – something Israel would raise objections to at the Rome talks, which conclude on Thursday. An MFO official confirmed the two positions had been vacated, and declined to comment further on the Rome meeting except to say: “We will, as always, hear out our partners in Israel, Egypt and the United States.” An Egyptian diplomat said Cairo, like Israel, regarded the MFO as “essential” and opposed any reduction of peacekeepers. [Reuters, 11/18/2015]

Also of Interest

  • Grand Ethiopian Dam meeting postponed | Ahram Online
  • Bomb threat that caused Egypt-bound Polish plane to divert was hoax, airline says | Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya
  • Armenia warns against travel to Egypt | Egypt Independent
  • What will Russia’s appeal to UN Charter “right to self-defense” Article 51 mean for Egypt? | Aswat Masriya