November 8th casts its shadows on Egypt

The elected president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who won his office in an internationally monitored election with an overwhelming majority of votes back in 2014 must have been planning a lot of things right.

Why else would some news outlets gear up recently, bashing the president as if there were no government, with fierce vileness obviously attempting to break down solidarity and consent within the Egyptian population, trying to make the country look like ruled by just one person,  and  most probably hoping to shy away small investors by blurring the big picture for the president’s massive reform visions and reform programs already in progress, intended to push Egypt out of that petty orbit of dysfunctional, corrupt state institutions, it’s been circling onto in reverse ever since the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1952?

 

Here is one of those pieces mentioned above [http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sisi-dead-man-walking-161590827]

I stumbled over it by chance on a friends face-book site. It sums up the propaganda counter-narrative on Egypt. Its purpose is not to report or inform its readership, but to draw the readers into believing the country is close to collapse, which according to their arbitrarily picked random facts,  interpreted in jolly distortion, would be  just a question of a few months.

While this publication, Middle East Eye [MEE], purports to be journalistic in nature, already the headline “Sisi is a dead man walking  #EgyptTurmoil” with this added hash tag begs the question: for whom does this still qualify as journalism?

(Behind the MEE is a senior executive with Qatar’s TV network Al Jazeera, who was closely involved with setting up the London news website Middle East Eye, some of whose staff have links to organizations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. [http://www.thenational.ae/uae/al-jazeera-executive-helped-to-launch-controversial-uk-website])

 

President Al-Sisi caught my attention and gained my respect for his integrity. Contrary to his opponents and related news-outlets: Al-Sisi has never made a promise he couldn’t or cannot keep. It is however important to pay attention to what he says.

When he projected the New Suez Canal extension in late 2013, the world had been a slightly different place. While the ‘Arab-Spring’ had been in ‘full blossom’, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and even Egypt had not yet to confront, what we all came to know as, the Caliphate of ‘the Islamic State’.

Most criticism with focus on ‘Sisi’s failed economies’ cling to the Suez Canal, as revenues were below anticipated gains. Who in 2013 and 2014 could actually foresee the sharpest decline in world trade activities since 2009 http://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=1230, in parts related to an existential grown battle of antagonistic economical concepts – The New Silk Road vs TTIP http://www.chinausfocus.com/finance-economy/ttip-has-a-greater-global-impact-than-tpp/? – In 2015 the dollar value of world merchandise exports declined by 14%, to US$ 16.0 trillion, as export prices fell by 15%. The dollar value of world commercial services exports also fell 6%in 2015 to US$ 4,754 billion, although the decline was less severe than for merchandise.

An in addition (as a side note) the regional advantage, i.e. Turkey would take from the ‘Islamic State’ oil trade and subsequently the complete overhaul of the whole oil market price scheme: how foreseeable had that been?

 

Improvements in Egypt‘s political stability over the time alone won’t suffice to alleviate ongoing concerns within the investors-community about the stability of the business climate in the Middle East in general as they are part and parcel of the international investment community, relying on protection where protection can be granted. – War zones carry high risks.

 

While Egypt has proved its ability, to restore law and order, and a safety in the streets I know from before 2011, there still is the looming threat, every now and then  pushed into the limelight and magnified by pundits (to justify their positions in related think-tanks I suppose), feeding into [what I call] the ‘Western Powers Caliphate Dream’, that had been harshly rejected by the people of and for Egypt through their standing up to maintain their country’s national integrity on June 30th 2013, leading to the ouster of then president Morsi, against having this very integrity taken away from the Washington fancied rule of the Muslimbrotherhood, whose predominant political establishment, as public knowledge in Egypt has it, envisions the Middle East more or less as an Entity of Islamic States, led by Sheikhs, Mullahs and Emirs. Thus the Obama administration’s relentless support, covertly and openly, for the Brotherhood, and their firm rejection, to declare the network of useful Islamists  a terror-organization.

 

While in 2011 static minds pondered the ‘unlikely’ but not impossible ‘closure of the Suez Canal’ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/egypt/suez-canal.htm, in 2014  Alsisi made his bet on the future. https://miskelayla.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/inside-egypt-the-suez-canal-the-stubborn-reality/. He projected to upgrade the Suez Canal from a mere shipping lane to a major hub of the Middle East’s shipping industry, with all related projects and industries. Computer science & shipping academies and Fish farms, maintenance firms and housing, to, in addition, structurally support the creation of a process, to decentralize the country, where still ‘everybody’ wants to live in ‘Egypt’ [as locals call the capital Cairo] or has to go to ‘Egypt’ for major administrative paper works.

 

The MEE article opens with a quote, misleadingly presented as a leak: “You want to be a first-class nation? Will you bear it if I make you walk on your own feet? When I wake you up at five in the morning every day? Will you bear cutting back on food, cutting back on air-conditioners? …People think I’m a soft man, Sisi is torture and suffering.” Fact is: this statement was on national TV and has cemented the trust, most people still have in the president, contrary to what certain new-outlets want the people to believe. The Egyptians reaction to Al-Sisi’s campaign-speech: Finally not a ‘kalamangi’ [=a person talking empty] but someone, who takes people and political process seriously plus (and that’s important!!) he has a sense of humor. ‘Sisi is torture & suffering’ is clearly connoted to the deprivations, the economical reforms will put especially the vast majority of people through, who enjoy relatively financial stability and can plan their lives accordingly, whereas the low income groups merely make it through the week.

 

The piece goes on with depicting Al-Sisi as a phony featherhead, humping from one economical adventure to the next, dotted dottled insinuations about their favorite narrative ‘The Military Coup’ while steadfastly ignoring that, which happened in Egypt in 2013 had been a people’s coup, assisted by the military, and giving  major infrastructural achievements, reinstating electricity, providing steady and reliable fuel and gas supplies, and housing projects related to evasion of slums not one single mention.

 

The investment summit in Sharm El-Sheikh is another example. Contrary to bashing pieces, the summit has been very successful. Some of the projects are already work-in-progress, while others are fighting against the bureaucracy and the regulations of the General Investment Authorities [GAFI], since parts of vital regulations changed during the Muslimbrotherhood’s Morsi tenure. The GAFI is now in a thorough rules & regulations adjustment process, hence it takes longer than one would hope for under the pressure of circumstances [= in need of investment]

The government itself has given certain projects a special legislative framework to bypass their own obnoxiously slow and hindering bureaucratic machinery. Not surprisingly, it has taken months to get parliamentarians to support the civil-servant-law to be adjusted to the needs of a modern state, citizenry and economy, rather than tolerating automated promotions and granted rewards.

And it has been this omission of crucial, sometimes only subtle differences, that shapes that part of the opposition narrative, which is unconstructive and merely intends to stir dissatisfaction, if not hoping for turmoil.

 

What hardly anyone finds important to mention: the whole new Egyptian economical agenda 2030.  Have a look at ‘The Golden Triangle’ project.  http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/15610/18/A-golden-opportunity-.aspx Having witnessed, what this government under president Al-Sisi has already accomplished through imposing a deadline-honoring system, I have not the slightest cast of doubt, The Golden Triangle will be pursued with the same efficiency.

Frequently I’m having conversations with young professionals and students. I find it interesting to hear their views on the state-of-the-country, as from them I can indulge in sometimes diametrically different views from mine on most economical related issues. Form some, all I hear is gloom & doom. I assume they are collecting ‘evidence’ as they intend to leave Egypt. If someone would listen to our conversations, they wouldn’t be able to think we’d be talking about the same country. Their case goes like this: ‘90% of all business is in the pockets of the army. People are being incarcerated, once they speak up. The government is stealing the tax money.’- Obviously  hacks have a readership.
Others are cautiously optimistic and trusting. Most don’t seem to care about politics; once the ‘Muslimbrotherhood-rule-experiment’ was over, the aftermath showed  the intention and driving forces translating into a clear message: ‘you have been toyed with’. That then has led largely to a politically disaffected Youth. Muslimbrotherhood sympathizers and socialists are however given interpretative authority, as they are airing ‘knowledge’, and reading books has not yet found back its way into academia. The political establishment has yet to convince the ‘ordinary youth’, that a revolution is not about rivers-of-blood in the streets, but about accelerating change through action. – Convincing then through visible action.-

I expect this aspect of inspiring through actions to get more focus in the new parliamentary term.

Hence crucial issues and mega projects are being found seen as ‘megalomaniac’ to cement and justify the endeavor of emigration, or frustration about the revolution’s outcome and social in-justice or complaints about the system in general.

I find it ironic though, that all steadfastly ignore that “Egypt’s economic growth [is about] pro-poor”. Though related to 2015, this is a programmatic statement about Egypt’s economic path. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/119225/Business/Economy/Egypts-economic-growth-in–will-be-propoor-Plannin.aspx

In case that isn’t answered: It’s currently the middle-class, you’ll find complaining the most.

For some families, it’s about the hardship to deny their offspring a handsome pocket-money as the utility bills and other prices are absorbing each and every Pound, they make and receive despite salary increase. Still the traditional North coast holiday – the popular summer exit for Egyptians ever since I’ve heard of it in the late 60-ies as a child from Egyptian family friends – is feasible. But not without making compromises on spending.

‘Grow first, distribute later.’ had been the economic policy guideline during the Mubarak era. Now that has changed into: “we are keen that growth is linked to social justice. First, the nature of the projects is labor-intensive and they require low-skilled workers. Second, the projects are destined to improve the services delivered to the poor, like the new system of food subsidies, or the housing projects destined for those at the lower scale of income, and to improve utilities in poor rural areas, like sewage systems and drinkable water.”

The self-understanding of making steady profits/growths is broken. What seems not have to be yet absorbed is the dimension of that the ‘reforms [are] aiming at social justice’.

– It should be understood, that I’m talking about broad scale understanding.-

Under Mubarak, in the late years as of 2008, the ‘middle-class’ had been talked into being ‘oppressed’ and ‘underprivileged’, while in reality the people yelled about the ‘corrupt dictator Mubarak’ in the streets, middle-class youth bought the newest cell-phones, new outfits every season, travelling abroad in summer was a self-understanding and the elders got one property after another.

The poor, with no voice and being helpless as most can’t even read or write sufficiently to file a complaint or get heard, had been left out. While ‘everyone’ talked about their pity for the poor, for the most, they had been taken advantage of them through making use of the inexpensive services the poor had offered as drivers, in-house-servants, cleaners, caretakers or such.

In a society like Egypt, where social status defines social conduct, the poorest hardly had the heart to speak up.- It is their hour now.

If you follow development programs in Egypt, you will notice: except for replacing slums with decent housing and extending the Underground network substantially, nothing much happens in and around Cairo or Alexandria.

Most development projects are either in Upper Egypt or in the Delta.

Egypt has to fight off a lot of ingrown problems. Some might take generations to get rid of, some only one generation, some only a few years.

One of this problems, weighting Egypt down, is corruption. While I’m not going into details: the IMF loan program is opposed and rejected by a large majority of citizens who engage in politics, and looked at with suspicion by a lot of  un-politicized bystanders.

I see the IMF-loan program in big parts as a mere tool, to confront certain civil servants and private business individuals with a transparency framework, that makes arbitrarily overstepping rules and regulations and under-the-table contracts very difficult, if not impossible.

From my personal perspective, nothing much has changed since I thought: The Future has Begun https://miskelayla.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-future-has-begun/. But since I’m having my ears and eyes open I can sense that, as November 8th approaches, the stakes are high and the camps need to make their bets: those who already pledge allegiance for Hillary Clinton as America’s next president might well get rewarded with some Clinton-Foundation-cash. How else is it, that the bashing-Egypt-hacks are back with a new impetus?  It has after all been under secretary Clinton’s foreign policy directive, that the Muslimbrotherhood got promoted into coequal policymakers status, with the support of official western media, who have lost their objectivity and are being perceived  as propaganda tools by all who know, what really happens.

The outcome of the American presidential election will be important for the whole world. From how I perceive Al-Sisi’s carefully planned policy nationally and internationally: Egypt will be prepared for either scenario.

 



			
					

Fiascoes, Foes, Friends & the Will to Surive

Well a week into the mystery, that brought down a Russian holiday-maker plane on the Sinai, where except for 3 Ukrainian nationals aboard, all passengers and crew were Russia, the media won’t stop sharing a concern that leaves little doubt about its intentions.

While Prime Minister Cameron apparently ordered his government to bring British nationals immediately back to the Kingdom, which caused major logistic stress to the comparatively small resort air-port in Sharm El-Sheik,  I’ve just read that 80.000 Russian won’t be subjected to ’emergency evacuation’. Wouldn’t logic suggest, that president Putin would have decided such a step? –

One reads about thousands of ‘stranded tourists’. – Havoc in Egypt’s most popular resort? Safety concerns are of course in place.

My annoyance and growing sense, that something is foul about the emergency-evacuations is related to the timing of the shrunk empires prime ministers reaction, an empire whose orbit is reduced to its very borders, a kingdom that survives in considerable proportions on his Middle Eastern investment partners, a state that draws his prestige from the presence of a royal family, whose financial calamities forced the sellout of most prominent properties in the city of London.

“Russia halted flights to Egypt on Friday amid growing fears that a Russian jet downed in Egypt last week was bombed.” [Ahram online today, Saturday Nov 7th, 2015]

‘Was bombed’ ?? – While a possible bomb aboard the airliner is the scenario adopted by main-stream media, which had at first been suggested from American intelligent services, pushed into the limelight  by US-media, with others quick to follow, leading – an hour after release – a couple of European airlines to halt flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh without, prior to the disaster, heeding Egypt’s calls for greater coordination to fight terrorism and not having shared intelligence with Cairo about the crash of the Russian passenger plane: the bomb-scenario has not been proven yet. It is worth pointing out here that neither British nor American experts are part of the investigation team, that consists of 47 aviation and terrorism specialists. The investigators are from Egypt, Russia, France and Ireland. The investigation core team is surrounded by  several sub-committees.

It is based on the very same spirit of assumptions, that seem sufficient these days to process political agendas, as time is becoming crucial in light of a world-wide recession, that governments prefer to sweep under the rug.

*  *  *  *  *  *

When I first noted that president El-Sisi is going to the UK to meet with Cameron, plus that prime minister Cameron had announced a crack-down on the Muslimbrotherhood, ‘things’ again made sense to me, as this announcement was in line with the UK government having send MI5 personnel over to Egypt, in the aftermath of the clearance of the ~6weeks long Muslimbrotherhood sit-ins in defiance of the ouster of short-lived- pres Morsi at two prominent squares in Egypt’s capital.- After all: the UK – ‘Brotherhood operates media center and its English website from London. 245 Brotherhood affiliates took over the notoriously extremist Finsbury Park Mosque after the removal of radical preacher Abu Hamza plus they foster relationships with numerous British Islamic organizations.'[*1] many of whom have made headlines with supporting or recruiting British nationals to fight for IS in Syria, like some Islamist groups do elsewhere in Europe.

However I kept wondering: how is the British government going to accomplish a ban on Ikhwan? Would a crack-down on the Muslimbrotherhood not upset one of his key-investors from the Gulf, namely the Emir of Qatar? As is well known in the meantime, Qatar hosts, accommodates and sponsors big calibers of the MB who fled Egypt after July 3rd. Even Saudi-Arabia had decided to label the MB a ‘terrorist organization’. “Brotherhood exiles including Hamas [a branch from MB]  leader Khaled Mashaal and spiritual leader of the MB Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi. They have found a haven in Qatar and are supported in the state owned media, Al-Jazeera. In March 2014 Saudi Arabia threatened to close its border with Qatar unless its support for the Muslim Brotherhood ends. How does big-business come to evolve? – Through lobbying.- We need to read a well researched paper on how many lobby-groups, with what kind of long-term strategy, Qatar is financing in the UK.

If I had any at hand, I would place a cartoon here, showing the British empire at a leach, of Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, while the Emir of Qatar himself is at the leach of the US-intelligent services, all three of them standing at a $-black-hole, while the Muslimbrotherhood – remember their ‘strategy-of-gradualism’ – hold the end of a supra- leach.

But they have lost Egypt..

At the point of history, where we at are for now, Egypt is still key to Qatar’s geopolitical ambitions – as a matter of fact, the only key-player next to Turkey.

That all makes me wonder: to what extent is the British sovereignty compromised, when sovereignty means more than self-declaration and protocol. To what extent are the British still in charge of their own policy? Who urged Cameron to create chaos in Sharm El-Sheikh?

Noticing the media hype followed by Cameron’s fight-restrictions I first thought ‘what a hoax’, a possibly vile act of revenge for Russia’s military initiative in Syria as most ME-pundits who occupied themselves with the disaster agreed upon – it was indecently premature to draw conclusions that would have a foreseeable devastating effect on the Egyptian tourism industry. I found no logical explanation for it other than ‘a certain foreign country persuaded Cameron to act’, because the crash caused no loss of lives of British nationals. Yet another most lamentable plane-crash in the history of civil aviation has apparently been hijacked for opaque political ends.-

*  *  *  *  *  *

Will the plane-crash, neatly established as ‘bomb’ attack – again: based on assumptions, not on investigation results – constitute a  set-back for the Egyptian economy, which was slowly about to recover?

Who is interested in Egypt’s well-being, prosperity and success? Is it legitimate to wonder who might be interested to ‘give a helping hand’ to hinder Egypt to get its place in the community of nations, where it ought to be, “to built a modern, civil society, proud of its values and cultural legacy”? – These questions emerge here in Egypt as the most logical mental response to an otherwise incomprehensible blaming campaign. I’ve read a post on Twitter with a mental nod, that when 9/11 befell the US, the whole world media shared bewilderment and compassion.

Now, that Egypt perhaps fell victim to a vile terror-scheme, the media kept focused on technicalities & bomb-scenarios, others stressing how painful the evacuation was for the tourists, how poor the Egyptian authorities provided etc. – thanks God the British ambassador had been in Sharm. He underlined the logistical challenge, the mass evacuation of holiday makers caused and made a case for the airport authorities live on camera.

For whom is it good news, if ‘the military dictatorship clique in Egypt’ is found unfit to govern?  – I think for the same people, who still try to convince the world, that only the Muslimbrotherhood had a democratically elected president.

To my delight, a long-standing friend & ally to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, raised up against the UK government amidst the flood of opinions that poured out of the media. like the unprecedented torrential rains recently that have hit parts of Egypt with extreme damages and loss of lives.

The media, backed by pundits drew a grim picture of ‘Egypt’s security as a chimera – the government was negligent and certainly under the thump of terrorists in the Sinai’. Punditism goes/went as far as claiming ‘Sinai is occupied by terrorists’. –

In that hailstorm, suddenly a warm rain fell on my soul.

Khaldoon Al-Mubarak,chairman of one of Britain’s most popular soccer clubs and close business associate of UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed urged the UK government to crack-down on the Muslimbrotherhood as Cameron announced his government intended to or else: the UAE will withdraw a multi Billion arms deal from the UK- state-portfolio. In the UAE, the Brotherhood movement is being monitored with great concern. Over 100 MB-members are awaiting trial.

In context of UK-economy, the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia should be mentioned. As for the Muslimbrothers, the new King too has no overt relations with the brotherhood. While over time, the brotherhood has adopted most of Saudi-Arabia’s Wahabism-interpretation of Islam and ‘exported’ it to Egypt, the royal court remained distant to the movement, instead of embracing and integrating it. Because?.- The Brotherhood had been listed as terror-organization in KSA, shortly after late King Abdullah might have realized, that preventing the realization of their ultimate plans – as unfolded in Egypt – necessitates a formal ban.

Saudi-Arabia too is a big spender in the United Kingdom.

Are we going to see proxy-wars soon emerging in the UK?

*   *   *   *   *

Modern societies as well as societal utopia need no septic think-tank theories who are being imposed on countries as ‘creative chaos’. But we read:  “A spectre is haunting Egypt. The spectre of a dead revolution.” Really? What then is a revolutionary goal? What does a revolution [assumed to serve the people] really want? I thought it’s about grave change of how the state handles affairs, with the main goal to bring social justice to the poorest and most ineloquent humans of the Egyptian society. The only spectre that is haunting Egypt is that of outdated ideas which prevent what they claim to stand for.

How, if not as supportive, can one read a tweet from one of the architects of the Arab-Spring, a US based key-advisor for Middle-Eastern affairs, with special assignment to Egypt, when she on her twitter account conveyed the headline of an Egyptian daily newspaper “Social media activists launched several campaigns on Facebook and Twitter to call for a new uprising on 25 January 2016.” Activists try to gather masses to ‘complete the revolution’ as the Muslimbrotherhood relentlessly demand, with an online campaign hash-tag #BackToTahrir.

Like the protest against president El-Sisi’s visit to prime minister Cameron, long prepared through online & social media campaigns prior to his trip by Ikhwan & their supporters in the UK and advertized for in Egypt too didn’t materialize into more than a hundred, [a rather high estimate] rather less, people participating on, what was probably intended to become the  ‘day-of-solidarity & resurrection’ in London on the day, president El-Sisi had been expected to be received in No.10. –

To support dissatisfaction & frustration over economical hardships of what the then 3 years of more-or-less civil-disorder left behind until the 2014 presidential elections as fertile soil for what the campaigners seek moral & financial funding  for is irresponsible from a person, whose opinion translates into politics, and who works for an organization, that claims to foster peace, while the Muslimbrotherhood have sown hated, violence and divide.

“Don’t forget that we are plagued by terrorism along our 1,000-km-long border with Libya, Sinai and around Egypt. We need stability, so the rest of Egyptian society can survive.” [quoted POE from the UK-presser]

While Egyptian citizens, me included, don’t feel the war against the foundations of the Egyptian state, as the security forces and members of the Egyptian army are mainly exposed to terror and aimed at in attacks: I reiterate: “Don’t forget that we sleep safe in our beds while others are dying on our behalves.”

When the state of emergency had been lifted in November 2013, I felt relief and grief at the same time. Relief for obvious reasons, grief for the predictable ‘streets-back-to-normal’ conditions, that would come with lifting the curfew and would prevent a brisk and efficient work-environment for security forces to rid the country of numerous ill intended individuals, who conveniently find shelter and fast escape in the ever so busy streets of Egypt.

But the economy…

To my surprise, all major limelight events passed without having been even touched by terror-attacks.

To my surprise, a sense of security has been reestablished, leaving all non-politically agitating citizens look up in awe, when the remark ‘we have a war in Egypt’ comes up in a conversation.

We might never fully get to know a convincing reason for what caused the Russian  plane to crash.

But we most certainly will all feel its implications.

We know that a healthy economy is the key to achieve social justice and care to provide the infrastructure needed for trade, big or small, to mention just one aspect.

I respect president El-Sisi for many reasons. One main reason still is: until now, he never made a promise, he could not keep. That translates to me: he takes the people very seriously. I don’t resent, that president El-Sisi has no soft-spot for activists. As activists have failed Egypt until now. – One aspect i.e.: from 2011 until 2012 they didn’t bring forward valid candidates to compete in the presidential elections, and finally gave their vote to the Muslimbrotherhood candidate Morsi, banking on his promise that he will include liberals in his government. Then in 2014 again they didn’t bring forward competitive  presidential candidates. Boycotting elections or invalidating votes had been their answer to the challenge to finally redeem the promises they made to their fellow contemporaries about their abilities and to work together for the goals of the revolution.

I certainly don’t expect those, still well funded ‘pro-democracy’ agitation NGO’s & selected individuals, financed to a vast extend  through subsidiaries on behalf of or upon order from the absolute monarch in Qatar, and to a lesser or similar extent from the notorious Soros-funded ‘pro-democracy & against national borders’ organizations, to bear results, other than that their local appointees, as they are getting if not regular wages, at least project-related salaries, having some financial relieve.-

Costs of living have climbed for external and for internal reasons. External reasons are subjected to world economy and Egypt is part of the international trade-machinery. As for the internal reasons: bizarre profit expectations are still one reason that pushed prices up. However: the chain is much more complex.

My conviction is that recycled political ideas imposed on Egyptians from Western based think-tanks will eventually be marginalized as their protagonists will continuously fail to deliver.

Because with Egyptians “it seems that there is a recurrent problem in our culture of being unable to reach people efficiently, except on some superficial level. When people say they’re ‘in tune’ with a particular segment of society other than their own, it almost always means that they deal with a minute fraction of what they assume is a sample of it. Each social class, sub-culture, or at best, building (let alone neighborhood) is so self-involved that it ends up speaking, critiquing and analyzing itself.”

While the realization, that democracy is a process, which first and foremost requires participation, might well take another generation. In the meantime the new parliament will start their sessions and who knows – … some parliamentarians might inspire discussions, that lead to a long anticipated governmental transparency and some might inspire people to care for each other.

Inside Egypt – The Suez Canal & Parallel Realities

“The bitter reality many Egyptians find impossible to admit is, that a country that is not in full control of its own territory cannot aspire to play a regional role”  – I quoted a recent argument [adapted I guess]  representative of the critical politically left-aligned movement in Egypt in an ongoing  battle over ideological superiority.- However: it lacks convincing power, as the reality is and has been already proving otherwise.

I didn’t assume the Egyptian government started building the Suez-Canal in solitary self-celebration. I saw the project more like a ‘partnership with society’. But that Egypt’s New Suez Canal conjoins the Chinese Silk Road has been good news to me.

On inauguration day we saw on the state-run Ahkbar newspaper a hand painted picture of president El-Sisi steering a boat, wearing a tie in flag-colors, behind him a few cheering people, passing by uninspiring high-rise buildings, overflowing by a merry peace-dove, carrying an olive-branch in its beak. I found the painting very intimate plus it reminded me on a time, when Egypt -still in the 90-ies -had ‘hand-painted- advertisement billboards; the foto-billboard-hype came way later. That picture had been placed in the NTY.  On a London‘s canary wharf, one could read [provided it hasn’t been photo-shopped] ‘The world thanks Egypt for boosting the economy.’ Part of the #Suezcanal hash tags, were used on Twitter by journalists & their followers who tried to promote reservations, if not downright belittlement about the whole endeavor. They were outnumbered from Shipping-companies & experts on freight navigation, plus Egyptians who wholeheartedly celebrated, what is rightfully theirs. A lot of pictures showed the festivities around the Suez Canal, some of them sharp aerial  shots, some focused on the people attending, some spotlighted El-Sisi, some ..   – Like a professor of economy from the American University said that day “Our culture can be very sentimental & this was the 1st time Egyptians have been so galvanized, it was a brilliant idea by El-Sissi – the Egyptians now own the canal”

The New Suez Canal celebrations were criticized by mostly foreign press and/or think tank representatives. Some elegized it as overly nationalistic; others ‘The Suez Canal inauguration ceremony, estimated = $30 mil (Bloomberg) could have paid the salary of: 400 full professors or 2176 public doctors for ten years’ – In case you didn’t  know: the celebrations had been fully paid for by private companies, as the president had said early on, there won’t be spend one single Pound from the state-budget for the inauguration of the Suez-Canal. The arguments of politically left aligned activists, following the slogan  ‘social justice before national security’, are appealing to the humanist gut. However: the activists still fail to let the Egyptians know how to generate sustaining state-revenues.

In addition opponents predominantly and mono-causally blame the terror attacks, Egypt is exposed to after Morsi had been ousted on, what they call ‘an oppressive regime’. “Egypt faces terrorism in the northern Sinai peninsula, but also in near Suez and on Egypt’s mainland as well as acts of sabotage on electricity towers and assassinations of public figures such as the Chief Prosecutor, the late Hisham Barakat.  In the Sinai, Egypt’s military had to cease cooperating with the limitations prevailing under the Camp David Accords by which only civil police are to operate in zone C.  While these restrictions are lifted now, that insurgency has longstanding roots going back to 2003-2004.” [Read: https://sherifazuhur.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/interview-with-sherifa-zuhur-on-counterterrorismcoin-in-egypt-and-beyond/%5D

While political scientists & think-tank analysts explain to the world outside how Egypt is a failing state, Campas, Egypt’s institute for statistics, has published that within the last 5 months, 4776 companies have set up shop. And while now, after the inauguration, new cranes with a height of 52 m and a reach of 72 m, serving vessels of up to 18,000 teu capacity, are being installed, one might be inclined to substitute ‘might bring success’ with ‘will be successful’..  Still we read articles debating on why the New Suez Canal is trivial auxiliary rather than a necessity. The answer is: ‘No, it is solely made to help pundits write and earn a living!’

The bitter reality is, that the whole Middle East is enwrapped in terror threats, and, coming back to the Suez Canal, that Egypt managed to deliver a celebration free of attacks, as many had anticipated, is owed to the strategic and tactical approach, the Ministry of Defense together with the Ministry of Interior chose to apply. While I’m not a security specialist in any way I can see that terror violence has been curbed tremendously. I’m aware that the means to efficient security operations aren’t always in line with what appeals to a mentality,  used to a social environment, in which is no room for vile intended destruction of the very same. “If the Egyptian government had fought as ruthlessly as possible, then it’s possible the conflict might be a shorter one, but as Pres. Sisi himself noted, the public concern for human rights limits the use of tactics which might eradicate such groups.” As part of his program, which El-Sisi has announced after being  inaugurated as president of Egypt, a thorough reform of the Ministry of Interior was expected to happen. Until now, we have seen a few shuffles within the ministry, the biggest one had been the replacement of the Minister himself. I keep wondering: how can a reform take place while ‘facing an enemy using extremely brutal tactics towards [the government] and civilians who are thought to be cooperating with the Egyptian military and police.’, when 90% of the assaults are being directed at state-facilities, police officers and vital institutions, while citizens are being agitated by activists through hammering ideologically distorted ‘reports’ into their heads on social media, to attain a negative attitude about controversial safety measures, finally leading to a political apathy and frustration in those, who expected fast victories.

“Security” has to be seen holistically – it also concerns preserving the safety and security of citizens and their government.   Terrorists attack civilians and symbols of the state to try to sway other citizens into treating them as a pseudo-state (thus, the very name, Islamic State).  The Egyptian government has much to overcome, but the employment of many Sinai residents in the new Suez Canal project is a boost to security, as is the awarding of reparations to those forced to leave Rafah during the buffer operation.” ‘The detachment between Egypt’s intellectual elites and the overwhelming numbers of simple minded inhabitants seem to be a constant in the struggle for change of institutions.’ President El-Sisi repeatedly pointed out, that the Muslimbrotherhood of Egypt is can be seen as the originator of the Jihad terror, which dominates the headlines in the Middle East since it culminated into, what they call a ‘Caliphate’ with a Caliph, in summer last year. – ‘Elimination of terrorism’ is, what El-Sisi aspires as a political goal, with regard to terrorism. This is very different from ‘elimination of terrorists’. Presidents El-Sisi’s holistic approach as he often elaborated – political, social and military measures – will produce results over time, some of which are already showing as the majority of citizens notices that despite the emboldened announcement of the Muslim brotherhood cadres from abroad and  inside the country, none of the Million-people-support marches for ex-Islamist president Morsi ever materialized, nor did they succeed to drag Egypt into the bloodshed, most ‘Egypt-specialists’ henchman bank on and some petty souls even hope for, as their fantasy of what a revolution is requires tens-of-thousands people dead, the countries cities burned to the grounds.

Opponents, who observe El-Sisi, will have to admit: this man never makes a promise he can’t keep.- I call this integrity. A rare, a very rare streak these days. I just read that ‘The opposition will not boycott parliamentary elections’ – that’s a piece of good news, so many people have been waiting for. May the soon to  be elected parliamentarians engage as well in this ever so complex “intellectual war on terrorism [which] has also faltered because we cannot promote freedom – freedom of thought and civil responsibility by accepting a vision of an Islamic society which is not free, but which merely eschews (rejects) violence against the state. For example, the large Salafiyya Jihad movement in the Sinai are not all involved in terrorism, but they promote a conservative social vision which is unfair to some members of society (for ex. women).”

For Egypt: the parliament won’t suffice to mediate grievance & accelerate remedial action. To get a majority of people engaging into social projects that will predominantly serve the poor & underprivileged people with little to no means to help themselves will be another pyramid to be built.

For the world outside: ‘when will the interpretative authority of Middle East issues be withdrawn from the left-wing intelligentsia oligarchy and given focus on facts on the ground?’

Water does not flow through the same riverbed twice

Egypt is in a transition. A rough one. A unique one.-

On the surface we have a battle between people fighting for outgrown concepts among opposition forces and a decisive army of people equipped with a highly entrepreneurial frame of mind to safe Egypt from the claws of Islamic fundamentalists.

I wish reporters and activists would care more for objectivity. From friends who I find trustworthy I hear that some stories are made up, facts twisted, insignificant occurrences blown up to major violations or misdemeanors, depending on the perspective. One reads a lot about torture these days.

I don’t know what and whom to believe.

In the headlines one will find reports about security forces who get shot while protecting Churches or while fighting for Egypt’s national safety, which is mostly jeopardized at its boarders through rebellious, unstable neighbor collaborators who infiltrate the country with weapons and jihadists in continuous effort to support what had begun already a couple of months ago, when “In fact, the Brotherhood had taken measures to bring back, arm and organize thousands of “mujahedeen” and release convicted terrorists from prison throughout the previous months, to use them exactly for this purpose should the Brotherhood fail to control the Egyptian state.” (4)

While individuals have the liberty to handle their private information to their own sense of what they wish their social environment to know, coping with the consequences of having disclosed their private affairs to a person neither willing nor capable of helpful and supportive sympathy or both, governments have national consequences to consider.

‘With respect to governmental information, any government may distinguish which materials are public or protected from disclosure to the public based on classification of information as sensitive, classified or secret and being otherwise protected from disclosure due to relevance of the information to protecting the national interest.’(1)

While ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers”(1) I wonder if they could foresee that the media, thought of a corrective force for the state agencies in their founding stage, would become a handy tool of mass-manipulation with an enormous roll-back effect on the governments. Other countries’ governments that is.-

We are living in an era, where the loss of credibility of journalists has become normal, as integrity apparently became a value, buried in the history of humanity and left subjected to interpretation.

On the national level media are self-muzzled since every successful editor-in-chief knows how to mute ambitious journalists or to phrase it more politely: how to make them understand what he is expected to write. In Germany we already speak about the ‘Systempresse’ which can be translated to lobby-press. From the US I hear that opinions, not serving main-stream political interests, share the same fate. In both, Germany and then the US some journalists retire to blogs and private internet-news platforms, being forced away from public mass attention. Free Press – A legally flawless arrangement.

Egypt’s opinion discourse appears overwhelmingly led by those familiar with the benefits of today’s ‘free-world’ and informed about the abstracts of the underlying value-system, however generously overlook the price it came and still comes with. Moreover and more perilously: they don’t seem to pay attention to events beyond Egypt’s borders jeopardizing Egypt’s national security.

I follow some enthusiastic and very dedicated journalists who seem to me blinded by the rainbows of dream world realities.

Inter-dependencies in the parallel Universes of the Egyptian nation where people have developed a concept-of-self independently with essentially antagonistic life-styles over decades play well into the hands of those who have ulterior self serving motives.

What drives Egyptian journalists or activists to raise their voice in support of freeing journalists of a television station [Al-Jezeerah (AJ)], a TV net-work everyone in the Middle East can know for its partisan stance on the Muslim brotherhood? Partisan to the extent that some see AJ as a Muslim brotherhood promotion channel!

As a consequence of AJ’s all too obviously fact-detached covering of Egypt’s transitional phase after June 30th, giving a very wrong and manipulative impression on ‘events on the ground’, the Egyptian government withdrew AJ’s license to operate. Instead of respecting the decision and fighting in the courts to reestablish their permit, the Qatar based management of AJ decided to have their staff remained in Egypt where they took residence in several rooms of a well known 5 star hotel. In late December 2013 the journalists got arrested. While the photographer has been released in the meantime, we see solidarity calls, locally and internationally, demanding the release of the detained journalists.

Is the question still allowed: why did the journalists not retire from a news-network that had never for a moment considered to take the chance and try to apologize for biased coverage to ‘maintain their integrity’ [as they claim to have] once there had been no doubt about the net-works propagandistic character?

A lot has changed in the past decades but life is still riding on choices. I can’t think of any media outlet or publication that can afford to oppose the ‘shareholders expectations’. The press/media have become a business like any other. – However: would journalists have had withstood the temptation of ‘soft corruption’ and resigned.. it might not have come to this.

Friday January 24th had been a day when I wished for a cancellation of the governmental promoted festive demonstration to celebrate January 25th, the day that initiated the Egyptian ‘Arab-spring’ revolution: three bomb attacks in random places throughout the day.

January 25th has become a very emotional day. Protagonists from different camps accusing each other for ‘stealing the revolution’, demonstrations, though almost marginalized, and random terror attacks with daily reports on shot police officers hinder the onset of reviving economical activities and contribute to a crawling nationwide depression.

I came across an article where a journalist was trying to  “interviewing the ‘Bride of Sisi’, as she called herself, when a crowd gathered around her [me] and another journalist and accused them [us] of working for a ‘terrorist’ news channel” [Al Jezeerah] A curious chant at Tahrir on January 25th had been: “Where’s Al Jazeera? We are the Egyptian people!” Thousands of Egyptians headed to Tahrir that day despite bomb threats announced from the Sinai based Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, a terror organization that can be linked to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim brotherhood that claims responsibility for the bomb-attacks in Sinai and Egypt’s capital. To protect the citizens who support the course of the interim government, the ‘hot-spots’ had been secured in a way able to defend war-like scenarios. 260.000 security forces and tanks had been deployed all over Egypt.

What has it been like ‘on the grounds’ on January 25th? – Hundreds, if not more, reported gathered at the Journalists Syndicate chanting against what they call the ‘military rule’. This lead to clashes in the perimeter of the Journalist Syndicate march and on near by 6 October bridge where an APC came and shot two teargas canisters in front of the Press Syndicate causing protestors to run in different directions. ‘Still marching on October bridge, road is not blocked, chants saying ‘Sisi is like Bashar’’. Birdshots by CSF towards protesters, a clash is in the making, around 400 protesters..  while in the meantime confirmation of ‘massive explosion’ in Suez had been reported with news of targeting Security Forces center. Later anti-government militants fired an Rocket Propelled Grenade at a Central Security Forces (CSF) camp in Suez and then opened heavy fire on the camp.. As a Russian official sees the terrorist acts: ‘Cairo bombings is Brotherhood’s response on new constitution and their continuous loss of followers and supporters.’(3) Meanwhile at least 6 people got arrested at Maadi metro station after “opening fire on police officers.” You heard people say: Egypt now has two variants of totalitarians: pro-Sisi and pro-Morsi. They are now fighting each other over the “right” to oppress the rest.‘All journalists please very careful. Mobs attacking journalists (even Egyptians) accusing them of being part of Al-Jazeera.’

What a day!

Weekends nowadays usually start with the announcement of tight security measurements to protect citizens from pro-Morsi protesters’ violence and end with a report of the number of protesters arrested, wounded or shot, oftentimes weapons secured and/or terror-cells detected.

January 25th 2011 has given Egypt an open political opposition. Now we have several groups who compete with each other and aggressively against the state, whereby it should be noted, that mainly the Muslim brotherhood sympathizers still cling to aggressive and violent opposition, still hoping Morsi can be reinstated.

While more differentiated Western observers can understand that the authorities show no hesitation to lock up remnants of the brotherhood regime during demonstrations, they do feel uneasy when the same happens to members of what they think of as ‘revolutionary stratum’, like socialists, activists and utopists.

‘For the uninitiated, Egypt‘s streets are split between pro-Morsi, pro-Sisi and pro-democracy activists today, each laying claim to the 2011 revolution.’ – ‘Nope – this is misinformation- it’s anti-Morsi 90%, MB 10% and of the 90% anti Morsi 80% pro-Sisi & 20%  anti-Sisi. Game over?’(2)

“When the people find they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic“ said Benjamin Franklin. Money support had been the basis of pro Morsi support all along!-  These days speculations about Qatar based and/or exiled brotherhood members circulate, rumoring about excessive funding to boost up the shrinking number of demonstrators and demonstrations since the window of opportunity might close shortly.

Getting hooked and adhering to a naïve narrative that is comfortable from a Western point of view at the expense of reality will leave the distant observer firstly with false sense of understanding for a genuine political process and eventually inept to mentally prepare himself for similar scenarios, which are looming all over the world, taking shape already in Ukraine, Thailand, South-America, and Turkey as one can observe.

As for the secular Egyptian opposition: There is a point of time when bringing forward clearly phrased goals is essential to ensure they can be included in the ongoing process. Opposition should be productive and can only be supportive if it comes with addressable aims.- They still owe Egypt a concept.

It is true. The stern state imprisons everyone ‘who asks for it’ and comes in their grip, once they are close to a demonstration, trying to mute the zombie-like call to ‘Let the revolution erupt all over! Let it express our anger towards the fascist regime!’

I remember how I myself recently thought Egypt might be heading toward ‘McCarthyism’. – A young friendly chap who stopped joining the pro-Morsi protests a couple of months ago made this thought vanish. He is sharing a flat with active pro-Morsi student-colleagues, one of whom had been arrested during a Friday protest; being worried about his own safety I found myself surprised to still find him walking free, even after he went to visit his arrested friend in prison.  According to the logic I find in news-papers and social media, he ‘should’ have been arrested by now.. – I spoke with him yesterday. He wishes for Morsi to come back. But he as well is able to acknowledge that the majority of the people currently does not support this.-

Naturally this rough system of ‘justice’ turns away many sympathizers who initially gave their full support to the interim-state. – Naturally people walk away, once circumstances get complicated and develop beyond their capacity. – Naturally men who march through life to the rhythms of a drum have no ear for the whisper of a serenade.

‘Are the Egyptians edging at a profound crisis of conscious, questioning their identity?’ – Yes of course! Is that not to be expected given the circumstances??

While the official US still supports the Muslim brotherhood, as their speaker in a recent Q&A underlines with think-tanks still strongly recommending ‘dialogue & discussion with Muslim brotherhood members’ in order to avoid “exacerbate persistent instability” giving ‘inclusivity’ the bitter taste of distortion, Egyptian columnist Wael Nawara delivered a convincing counter thesis, showing that the ‘able’ think tanks didn’t even glance on the map of the Middle East and Egypt’s neighbors. “The idea of granting terrorists, or their allies, control of a country like Egypt, with the rest of the Middle East to follow, in an attempt to pacify them is like giving your arm to a shark hoping it will spare the rest of your body.  .. The interim government in Egypt could be accused of many things. But the explosive belt around Egypt of countries collapsing and failing under Islamist militant attacks is not something of its own doing. If this or future governments manage to hold on to Egypt and cause that wave of anarcho-Islamist terrorists to be reversed, it should be applauded and supported. The United States may have seen a glimpse of terrorism horrors in 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan. But adding a failed Egypt to the equation would change everything. Egypt has often been the first piece triggering the start of that domino effect in all directions. After all, in the middle of the Middle East’s map lies Egypt.”(4)

The future however seems to have already started to take shape following the dynamics of the past months. While the official US still rants at Egypt in their habitually imperial manner, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the opportunity and secured Russia a new and important ally. Meanwhile Minister of Defense & Deputy Prime Minister Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi together with Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy went to Moscow and started to discuss military and technical cooperation between the two countries on a 2+2 scheme. It looks like that Russia and Egypt are having promising prospects for cooperation in large-scale projects.

As an Egyptian friend pointed out: ‘The great advantage Russia has over America is that it doesn’t have “think thanks” but functioning brains for its policies.’

‘Our task is not to fix the blame for the past, but to fix the course for the future.’ Continue reading “Water does not flow through the same riverbed twice”

A Recollection of The Second Stage of The Egyptian Revolution I First Phase /3

January 29th, 2011
Already last night, when we filled in papers to check into the hotel, the passengers from Cairo confirmed that Egypt had an internet-cut off and mobile services wouldn’t work.. so getting practicalities sorted out first: Land-lines were the only communication left I learned, grateful about this important piece of information.  How to get home, which was about 50 km away from the airport? Certainly the airport-limousines wouldn’t be available, would taxis? How lucky I felt, when I found my land-line number saved on my cell-phone and the ring went through..
To my surprise the airport had been a bulwark of tranquility and normalcy, except for the fact that there were hardly any travelers. You couldn’t tell from the airport personnel that the country was in turmoil! There wasn’t any single one of the emplyees behind the bank-counters or from the airport-security, who radiated even worry; impossible to guess that what took over the streets and squares of Egypt would lead to a change that would trigger a geo-political process, reconsidering and questioning traditional alliances.
         On my way home, I had been picked up from the airport from a fellow-countryman whose bravery stops at nothing if he sees someone who needs his help. On our way we received some calls, warning us to stay in Heliopolis, the district where the airport is located, since ‘thugs were on the highway high jacking people, stealing cars and at least stopping cars and violently try to get hold of the car-owners belongings’ .. the words of caution sure were meant well, but: where to go? Turning around now could be even more dangerous since it lead back to where the alleged thefts and attacks seemed in full swing. Going home seemed the better option. After a short distance we were already on one of the not so famous bypass, where hardly any cars drove. Praise to male orientation skills!
        When my savior drove to my rescue, on his way to the airport he took hitchhikers, something he had been strongly warned against, especially when they appeared to be ‘policemen’ – uniforms had allegedly been stolen and thieves, posing as policemen would abuse the trust, people had, in what they knew as protectors of their safety.-  The hitchhikers were friendly young men who were happy to have found a lift eventually and gave precious advise about bypassing highways.
         We had arrived safely. In retrospect I felt a bit silly about, upon hearing the warnings, to have taken all my rings and bracelets off and hided them in my handbag..  After all: the sun still shone over Egypt as usual, the house looked like a couple of days ago and until now all I knew about the demonstrations which seemed to have developed into a turmoil,  was still so fragmented that I was keen to get the whole picture.
Naturally I ended up switching between CNN, BBC and Al-Jezeera English. You could read it everywhere “Egypt in Turmoil”.
But the tone has shaped. “Down with Mubarak” .. –
Oh Lord!
In the meantime the army had positioned tanks at strategic points. This looked like the government was still hoping to gain control of the wildfire like clashes and crowds, arson and looting.
          Rubber bullets, water cannons and tear-gas and beatings had been brought in as means from police and central security forces to bring the people back to ‘reason’ and disperse the protests. People got killed. That in addition fueled the anger of the families of the ‘martyrs’ and raised the outrage of the protesters to an extent that as surreal as the whole catastrophe looked, as unlikely it seemed to end anytime soon. However: for how long could this go on?
          Today was Saturday. ‘Certainly the whole week one would not be able to go to work’ I thought. How could I have been so ignorant when I saw the first pictures back then, yesterday seemed like light years away, when I had considered the possibility that ‘things’ would calm down rather soon..
Already a curfew had been imposed, from 6 pm to 7 am, yet nobody cared. People went to Tahrir in huge numbers, tens of thousands, unimpressed. In province cities thousands of angry protesters joined the movement and took to the streets. In Port Said the municipal building had been set ablaze, police stations were stormed, detained protesters freed and the stations burned down.
The day before the headquarter of the National Democratic Party had been set on fire which rejoiced the hearts of the protesters and set the stage for much more to come.-
As the actions of the protesters became more and more decisive, the slogans adjusted. ‘Down with Mubarak’, ‘Go away Mubarak’, ‘Mubarak the dictator has fallen’, ‘Mubarak is a tyrant’ ‘Leave, leave, leave’..
Mubarak a tyrant? A dictator?? Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, the president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, suddenly a man, overrun with, how else could one see it, the hate of a whole nation???

 

A Recollection of The Second Stage of The Egyptian Revolution I / First Phase / 2

 

Well as I said: there had been more to it.-

Remembering the strikes in Mahalla since 2006, a province town with a governmental textile-factory where about 20.000 plus workers who, I learned to my surprise, had an active workers union, urged for better labor conditions! Then there had been Kifaya!! A grass-root pressure group that genuinely grew out of a broader dissatisfaction with ‘where things go in Egypt’. They started in the early 2000’s behind closed doors, went viral in 2004 and gained momentum in 2005. The eyes of the politically awakening people in my professional environment sparkled with enthusiasm when they started to talk about ‘Kifaya’. Apparently for the first time since the 1952 revolution the people of Egypt again felt they had a voice.

Kifaya means ‘enough’.  The voice cried for change.-

What did the people of Egypt wanted to change? You can read about Kifaya in Google. Numerous websites provide a very accurate picture, what Kifaya had, and, my personal view, always will be about, until the major demand of  the January 25th revolution, namely social justice, will be met.

Back then I did understand that it was about an increasing discomfort between the rich and their privileges and the working poor.

To name but a few issues: Public schools were free, but in such a deteriorated and wretched condition that everyone who could afford, would sacrifice for sending his children to a private school as they were mushrooming since the early 90’ies.  Housing was another key-problem. You simply couldn’t afford to buy a flat, a prerequisite for leaving your parents home and getting married on reasons of tradition. If you were working in a low-wage job, which constituted and still counts for the overwhelming majority of jobs, getting married was, for a majority of people subjected to waiting for a miracle. Corruption! I could never really see it that way! Knowing what families were expected to represent and what it took to just stay alive and keep going..  taking bribes, or to phrase it politely, asking for commission, had been, in my view, only a somewhat reasonable way ‘to make ends meet’. But as sure as Egypt is the Mother-Of-The-World: some civil ‘servants’ from the upper end of the food chain really made ‘corruption’ sound like a nickname. – However not all governmental employees took bribes. Most public-sector servants had a side-business or a second job.

Among cab-drivers one would find rather often either accountants or teachers; like i.e. in Germany where numerous university graduates from social and political science could be found driving cabs since there were no jobs for them. Only: in Egypt most cab-drivers had their morning shifts in offices or governmental bureaus.

Public schools were and still are ‘something’ that can only make one feel torn between irritation and heartbreak. Thinking to reform the whole surrounding of the complex issue leaves you asking: where to begin? Next to that the school-classes are overcrowded to minimize the facts, and that of course neither the buildings themselves, nor the equipment nor the curriculum are anywhere close to make a child looking forward to go to school, where could all the money be allocated from to improve the base necessities? As well the teachers had a disgracing salary, which lead some teachers to despair but the majority to give private classes; this way they secure themselves and their families a living.

The dynamics of the Egyptian property market should outsmart every seasoned gross-economist. If you expect to find a reliable prediction-tool to assess the economical capability of the citizens, think again. There is no balanced relation between property prices and average income.

And so it goes on..

Anyway. Back to the lounge. In the meantime I had grabbed myself another cup of coffee and was glued to the plasma-screen “BBC-World-live”, now showing what looked like thousands of people, running away from policemen, vehicles from central security forces rolling through the streets, water cans and what looked like tires set on fire..  Journalists seemed puzzled while reporting about the demonstrations. Most of their sentences ended up in question marks. Meanwhile all over Cairo and in all major cities of Egypt one learned about overwhelming chaos that emerged literally everywhere and that dominated the scenes. HELL seemed to have broken loose!! Who would not have had a hard time reporting with accuracy what had been going on? The facts were still confusing.

I lost my appetite for the buffet and sat down. I absolutely didn’t know what to make of all this. Now I started to understand why the flight would probably be postponed. Egypt was obviously under a kind of state-of-emergency.

Before I had to start worrying about where best to get lost in London, an electronically distorted voice on the speakers rang out “passengers for flight MS 778, Egypt Air, please ..”

So it wasn’t that bad after all.. what a relief. Things might look bad in Egypt from the outside but probably the media seemed to make it worse than it actually was.

I got ready, left the lounge and made my way to the departure gate, where boarding had already started. The seat-neighbor from Monday recognized me as well and immediately started the “I told you so” thread; we tried to make jokes but it was one of those moments, where reality requested full attention.  He received contradictory information through his cell-phone – some claimed the internet in Egypt was shut-off and some said it works fine. We promised each other to keep together.

All other passengers as far as I was aware of them, appeared to be somewhat clouded, mood wise, but otherwise occupied with their routine in response to boarding.

About three and a half hours later, above Greece, suddenly a male voice sounded over the speakers: “Ladies and Gentlemen. This is your Captain speaking. We apologize for the inconvenience. We shall have to land unscheduled in Athens in a few minutes time. Please take all your belongings with you. Do not leave any of your hand-baggage in the plane…”

To cut it short: Egypt hadn’t closed its air-space yet, that’s what I thought, but we had a bomb threat, as one of the cabin-stewards had let us know.

We all left the plane and were informed that we would continue our flight later this day. After having waited for approximately 5 hours in front of TV-screens, we were trying to grasp the background on how the situation had deteriorated. Egypt was now live-covered, disrupted only through advertisement-clips. What had started on January 25th as a huge demonstration called ‘Day of Revolt’ for democracy, dignity and social justice had developed into a mass-uprising with the slogan ‘Friday of Anger’ – the first people got killed in the riots and thereafter fury run the rage in the streets.

Oh Egypt..

We had been called upon eventually to check into the airport-hotel. Tourists who were on the flight had been offered to go back to their home countries. I don’t remember how serious some of them considered the offer, but I mind gamed about how I would decide. I couldn’t Continue reading “A Recollection of The Second Stage of The Egyptian Revolution I / First Phase / 2”

A Recollection of The Second Stage of The Egyptian Revolution I / First Phase / 1

London, Heathrow – Business-Class Lounge, 28th January 2011

First Phase

“Excuse me Miss,” I turned to the reception desk, “how come the flight to Cairo hasn’t been announced for boarding yet? Aren’t we due?” Checking on her computer screen the receptionist replied ”We don’t know whether the plane will go there today.” Somewhat startled I dumbly asked “What do you mean ‘We don’t know whether the plane goes to Cairo’”? – “There are some disturbances. Just go back inside the lounge. We’ll inform you as soon as we have more information.”

I was slightly irritated and went back. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the huge plasma-screen and I needed a few seconds to realize that the pictures about a burning place with fire, armed soldiers shooting and people running around I was looking at had been our Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. – Oh no. Please, dear Lord, let that not be true! ..

On my way to London on January 24th I had been sitting next to a business man from Mohandeseen with an engineering consultancy office. We came to talk about this and that, and as well we pondered about the possibility what ‘the demonstration’, which had been in the air for a few weeks now, will bring about. From him I learned that emails had been send to raise awareness and ensure participation!

That was new to me. I learned about it through my microcosmic office, all the young people were fantasying about a ‘revolution’ and were very enthusiastic about 25th January, when a big demonstration should take place. The specific date had been chosen as it was a day to celebrate the police, officially ‘National Police Day’.

Would make sense, is what I thought. But of course: I didn’t believe it would ever come to that.

So when my seat-neighbor told me about the bulk of emails he had all received I thought ‘So even the establishment?’ since he obviously belonged to the upper class; he had the means to pay for business-class, wore stylish and expensive shoes, his whole out-fit and appearance left no doubt about his privileged, social status.

So I got the idea, that I certainly should try my best to get a glance at the news the next day. –

Thinking about that a real demonstration could take place in Cairo, a mass-demonstration, the kind I was used to back then in Berlin, where ten to twenty thousand people took to the streets in the 80-ies, was an outlandish idea. But..

The youth is always rebellious and overambitious. I myself know that oh so well. I had been so  young myself. I even, at a certain point of political activism in Germany, … I was willing to die for a course!! Well..

As for the Egyptian youth who brought the mass-demonstration idea to my screen in August and with increasing fervor in late September 2010 I thought of it as ‘something, one might should have to go through’ – but left the matter otherwise aside. After all: nothing really was hinting at the possibility of the demonstration becoming ‘talk-of-the-town’, all I personally expected was disruption and people staying at home since they would be scared.  The daily life went on taking all the energy to get things going, people went places, got married, went to parties and worried about to upgrade from i-phone 4 to i-phone 4S. Besides, the ‘girls’ (in their 20ies) never really spoke about what they would demonstrate against. A few weak remarks here and there.

I was thinking what could possibly be behind?

Still the Gamal Mubarak succession question seemed to absorb some; I thought the question was already settled since it vanished from small-talk. Remind you: Mubarak, in dire need to present a successor since his poor state of health started to trigger speculations about ‘Who would do the job if the old man dies?’. Yet it seemed to me that Mubarak realized that literally nobody in Egypt would support his son. Numerous discussions and debates had been held about the matter secretly and openly. Someone said about freedom of speech in Egypt in the late 2000’s ‘You can talk about anything, but we don’t have freedom of speech.’

He had a point. Some journalists got arrested ‘for spreading false rumors’ about Hosni Mubarak’s state of health.

So yes. The expectation from the side of the Egyptian people to be presented with a successor was all so comprehensible. After all, Mubarak did not have a vice president and facts about his cancer leaked and started to worry the political decision-makers and the business community.

As well: as of 2005 a growing public discontent with the reign of the Mubarak government spread through the country. Hardly anybody with intellectual standing, who was involved and exposed to the community of normal citizens, withhold at times and according to their temper rather angry insults and accusations against president Hosni Mubarak.

All I could think then was: why are you so fiercely opposing a government that brings increasing prosperity to a vast majority, as I saw it, to the country? New jobs, great salaries, admirable projects like ‘Smart Village’ mushroomed within a comparatively short time. As of the early 2000’s the streets of Cairo had more and more posh shops opening, elegant offices, a lot of new buildings, household good could be purchased with installments so people had air-conditions, new cars and every new season a new mobile. There were times, when my staff had better mobiles than I myself! Travelling abroad seemed to have become a casual summer pass-time. So in my logic I thought: the better things become the more aggressive people get, since they discover that what they already have isn’t enough..

Yet: there was more to it.