by Patrick Kingsley
‘Egypt is suffering its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a former finance minister of the country and one of its leading economists have warned.
In terms of its devastating effect on Egypt’s poorest, the country’s current economic predicament is at its most dire since the 1930s, Galal Amin, professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, and Samir Radwan, finance minister in the months after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, said in separate interviews with the Guardian.’
by MARJORIE OLSTER
‘The International Monetary Fund said Thursday thatEgypt’s financial situation is deteriorating and the lending agency won’t move ahead with a $4.8 billion loan until receiving updated economic information and reform plans from President Mohammed Morsi’s government.
Negotiations have dragged on for more than a year for the crucial funding, which is expected to usher in unpopular austerity measures. But by building confidence, the money could open the door for more loans and investment.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters that the agency was working with Egypt to ensure that the loan package would successfully address “rising fiscal and balance of payment imbalances” and lead to broad economic growth.
Strains in Egypt’s economy include a widening budget deficit and shrinking foreign currency reserves.’
by Tarek El-Tablawy, Mariam Fam & Salma El Wardany
‘[...] “Fear is big business nowadays,” Hussein said. “People buy the guns because they’re afraid. People buy the guns because they want to scare others. We’re in a jungle now.”
More than two years after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, the proliferation of weapons and a spate of vigilante killings, violence and sexual attacks are eclipsing the hope born from the revolt. Fueled by political deadlock and economic stagnation, the security breakdown threatens to put solutions beyond the reach of President Mohamed Mursi.
A growing number of Egyptians think that “you can actually achieve your goals using violence,” said Ezzedine Choukri Fishere, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo. Beneath that lies the “dashed expectation and hope of the youth,” he said.’
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Mursi is set to announce a cabinet reshuffle, a presidential aide said on Saturday, but it is unlikely to meet opposition demands for a complete overhaul of the government.
Mursi wrote on his Twitter account that he would make “a ministerial change” and replace provincial governors, adding the posts would go to “those who are most qualified.”
A senior presidential aide said Mursi may announce the changes by the end of the week, which in Egypt will be on Thursday.
“There will be six to eight ministers, and wide-ranging changes among [provincial] governors,” he said.
A high-ranking Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood official has linked the deadly Boston attacks to the U.S.-backed French war in Mali.
Essam Elerian, vice chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), wrote in a statement posted in Arabic on his Facebook account that the “events began with the sending of French battalions to Mali in a war against organizations that are said to be part of al Qaeda.”
Elerian expressed sympathy with the families of the victims, but said the attacks “do not stop us from reading into the grave incident.”
“Who interfered in democratic transformations, despite the difficult transition from despotism, corruption, poverty, hatred and intolerance to freedom, justice, tolerance, development, human dignity and social justice?” he asked. “Who created Islamophobia through research and media? Who funded this violence?”
Earlier, Elerian’s FJP party published a statement in English condemning the “heinous attacks in Boston,” which killed three people and wounded more than 170 others.
The party said it “offers heartfelt sympathies and solemn condolences to the American people and the families of the victims.”
“Islamic Sharia [law] strongly condemns the attacks on civilians and the terrorizing of innocent people.”
Egypt is stalling on the terms of a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan to help it fight a deepening economic crisis, and no deal is likely while an IMF team is in Cairo, diplomats said on Sunday.
The IMF mission is set to leave on Tuesday after nearly two weeks of talks, and negotiations may continue on the sidelines of this week’s IMF ministerial meetings in Washington, they said.
An IMF program could help stabilize Egypt’s economy in the rocky transition to democracy since the 2011 overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak, unlocking up to $15 billion in aid and investment to improve a dismal business climate.
But diplomats and politicians say Islamist President Mohamed Mursi had yet to endorse required tax increases and subsidy cuts that prompted him to halt implementation of an earlier IMF deal in December, two weeks after it was agreed in principle.
[...] One Western diplomat said that after securing $5 billion in stopgap finance from Qatar and Libya last week, Egypt no longer felt the same sense of urgency to conclude the IMF negotiations.
[...] Egypt’s economy has deteriorated significantly since the November IMF agreement stalled. Tourism and investment have dwindled due to political turmoil in the Arab world’s most populous country, where 40 percent of the 84 million citizens live on less than $2 a day.
[...] Diplomats said the ruling Muslim Brotherhood was reluctant to impose unpopular tax and fuel price increases before parliamentary elections provisionally due to start in October.
Nevertheless the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is pushing through parliament new tax laws apparently linked to the IMF deal. Opposition politicians accuse the government of trying to impose its will without dialogue.
Planning Minister Ashraf El Araby warned last week that Egyptians would face worse austerity without an IMF deal. Ministers fear a long, hot summer of power cuts and possible fuel and food shortages that could spark unrest.
by Yasmine Saleh and Maggie Fick
The retrial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was aborted on Saturday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case and referred it to another court, causing an indefinite delay that sparked anger in the courtroom.
Lawyers said that while the transfer would give prosecutors more time to draw on new evidence in an unpublished fact-finding commission’s report into the repression, it could delay the case by months, increasing the risk that Mubarak, 84, may never be finally convicted and sentenced.
“Egypt cannot close the door on the former regime until there is justice for the martyrs of our revolution,” said Mohamed Rashwan, a prosecution attorney and member of the Egyptian Lawyers’ Union, which had petitioned to have the judge removed from the case. Two years had passed since Mubarak’s fall and justice was taking too long, Rashwan said.
“The people demand the execution of Mubarak!” frustrated relatives of demonstrators killed in the 2011 uprising that overthrew him chanted in court after presiding Judge Mustafa Hassan Abdullah announced the decision at the opening session.
Qatar’s prime minister says the Gulf nation will give Egyptanother $3 billion to bolster its ailing economy and help rebuild key industries.
The pledge on Wednesday adds to Qatar’s previous promises to invest up to $18 billion in Egypt over the next five years. It also highlights a critical economic lifeline for Egypt’s governing Muslim Brotherhood, which has close ties with Qatar’s rulers.
Qatar’s prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, also said that the Gulf state will increase natural gas shipments to Egypt in the summer to help its overburdened energy networks.
Egypt‘s armed forces participated in forced disappearances, torture and killings across the country – including in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum – during the 2011 uprising, even as military leaders publicly declared their neutrality, according to a leaked presidential report on revolution-era crimes.
The report, submitted to President Mohamed Morsi by his own hand-picked committee in January, has yet to be made public, but a chapter seen by the Guardian implicates the military in a catalogue of crimes against civilians, beginning with their first deployment to the streets.
The chapter recommends that the government investigate the highest ranks of the military to determine who was responsible.
More than 1,000 people, including many prisoners, are said to have gone missing during the 18 days of the revolt. Scores turned up in Egypt’s morgues, shot or bearing signs of torture.
A disturbing video uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday shows what appears to be an angry Muslim crowd in Upper Egypt beating and stripping two Coptic Christian women in broad daylight in a rural area.
The video opens with a crowd shouting “Nasara” (Christians) before the two women are set upon by this crowd. The video shows many passers-by having no visible reaction to the events. The accents of the attackers seem to support claims that the attack happened in Upper Egypt.
After the video was circulated, some said the incident occurred in Farshout in Qena Governorate in 2009, following accusations that a Coptic Christian, Girgis Baroumi Girgis, had raped a Muslim girl. The accusation sparked widespread sectarian clashes, with Muslims burning and destroyed dozens of shops belonging to Copts in Farshout’s al-Koum al-Ahmar village.
However, Amir Saraf, a journalist from Qena, denied that the attack in the video happened in Farshout.
by Amr Hamzawy
After a visit to Washington in the spring of 2012 and multiple meetings with American politicians and researchers, it has become clear to me that the American administration built its policy towards Egypt after the revolution on a strategic bet on the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). In the American view, the Brotherhood is one side of the equation for “governing Egypt,” and the military establishment is the other.
Washington now looks to the Brotherhood’s Guidance Office and FJP leaders to take the place of the former regime’s elite. Washington expects a “positive contribution” from the Brotherhood in protecting its interests, namely, Israel’s security, oil supply, securing the Suez Canal from terrorism, and good economic and trade relations. Indeed, Washington’s expectations for the “effectiveness” of the Brotherhood exceed those of the former president. This strategic bet on the Brotherhood is part of a regional American bet that parties and currents of the Arab religious right will come to power – with the exception of the Gulf – and that they will be able to lead the Arabs to an experience like that of the Turkish Justice and Development Party without threatening US interests.
In recent months, Egypt has experienced a wave of public lynchings targeting suspected criminals. In one particularly extreme case, two young men accused of stealing a motorized rickshaw in a Nile Delta town were stripped naked by a mob of 3,000 people, hung by their feet from the roof of a bus station, and beaten to death. Meanwhile, police have refused to intervene in the attacks. When one witness called local police to break up a lynch mob in Sharqiya, he was told, “After they die, call us back.”
Two years after a revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s police state, Egypt’s security vacuum is being filled by armed vigilantes whose version of justice is based on Islamic law, not the constitution. As President Mohamed Morsi’s embattled government struggles to contain lawlessness, increasingly violent anti-Brotherhood protests, and nationwide police strikes, nostalgia for the days of military rule is on the rise, with a recent opinion poll indicating that 82 percent of Egyptians want the army to return to power. The fact that so many Egyptians are willing to trade their hard-won freedom for martial law is an alarming indicator of the state’s inability to enforce order. With public confidence in the official law enforcement agencies and justice system at an all-time low, hardline Islamists are exploiting an opportunity to fill the void with vigilante militias that Egypt’s own Justice Minister has described as “one of the signs of the death of the state.”
Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, a formerly militant Islamist group still designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization, is pioneering an effort to legalize a security force of vigilante police units that it euphemistically refers to as “popular committees.” In a draft law proposed to Egypt’s legislature, al-Gamaa has called for the creation of citizen militias that would be empowered to patrol communities and arrest suspected criminals.
Although al-Gamaa insists that the committees would be unarmed and subject to the supervision of Ministries of Defense and Interior, human rights activists and lawyers fear that the proposal would create a parallel vigilante police force whose allegiance is to Islamic law, not Egypt’s constitution. The ultraconservative Salafi Nour Party recently proposed new legislation that would allow the application of Islamic “haraba” punishments, a tenet of Sharia law that allows for the public execution or corporal punishment of murderers and thieves. Although the haraba draft law is separate from the proposed bill on popular committees, the fact that Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament is contemplating the legalization of vigilantes alongside an expansion of Islamic criminal law is deeply disturbing to the liberal opposition.
by Dan Murphy
It was a perilous time for Egypt. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was demanding subsidy cuts in exchange for a loan Egypt’s leaders desperately wanted. So they complied, cutting subsidies on the bread, cooking fuel, and gasoline average citizens relied on to live.
Within hours, workers were pouring off the docks in the Suez Canal zone and Alexandria and out of the factories in the Nile Delta, and attacking symbols of the government everywhere – furious about the sudden rise in the price of daily staples.
In Cairo‘s Tahrir Square, angry youth tore up sidewalks to hurl stones at riot police when they ran out of Molotov cocktails; the police responded with tear gas and baton charges. By the time the smoke cleared, at least 80 Egyptians were dead in the worst rioting the country had witnessed in a generation.
The Egyptian government restored the subsidies.
While this probably sounds familiar, it describes the 1977 bread riots that almost brought down the government of Anwar Sadat and left ransacked the home of his young vice president, Hosni Mubarak. This history should be top of mind for the current president, Mohamed Morsi, who is facing decision time on a national financial crisis that dwarfs the one Sadat faced 35 years ago.
President Morsi’s government recently announced a rationing plan for subsidized bread that it claims won’t affect the poor. But few are convinced that the plan won’t either jack up prices or reduce availability of the bread that is now sold at one-quarter to one-fifth of its production cost.
Beyond the bread, more tough choices lie ahead. Morsi’s room to maneuver, however, is shrinking. Political turmoil has frozen high-level decisionmaking, even as the Egyptian pound has plummeted and foreign creditors look askance.
While it’s been a long-held theory that Islamist movements like Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood can easily come to power in Muslim-majority states, they often lose public support as they fail to manage the economy to their citizens’ satisfaction.
“In one way, what’s happening might be good, so people can see that they’re inept, they’re politicians like everyone else, and they get booted out,” says Erin A. Snider, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University in Middle Eastern political economy. “But it’s going to be very ugly in the interim … and it’s going to make them incredibly resistant to admitting defeat.”
by Jason Ditz
Tensions between the Obama Administration and Egypt’s ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) seem to be on the rise today, after the FJP issued a statement condemning the US State Department, accusing them of “meddling” in internal matters by criticizing the Youssef case.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the arrest of Youssef, a TV satirist accused of insulting Islam, saying that the arrest was about his public criticism of President Morsi, and saying Egypt is not “even-handed” in its application of the law.
The FJP shot back in their statement that the arrest was entirely about the question of insulting Islam, a serious crime in Egypt, and that the US shouldn’t interfere while the legal process plays itself out.
The FJP added that Nuland’s “imprudent” comments would leave Egyptians with the impression that the US “welcomes and defends contempt of religion by the media.”
The US comments are noteworthy because historically they have looked the other way when Egypt, considered an important ally, overtly detained political dissidents en masse during the Mubarak government, and only seem to be “deeply concerned” now that it is the post-Mubarak government doing so.
Jon Stewart sparks Twitter fight between U.S. Embassy and Egyptian president’s office ~ Washington Post
by Max Fisher
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has earned a reputation for being awfully active on Twitter, where it often engages critics directly and, at times, even jabs at Egypt’s most powerful people and institutions.
The embassy’s official Twitter feed took a bit of a swipe at Egyptian President Mohamamed Morsi today, linking to a “Daily Show” segment in which Jon Stewart lambasted Morsi for his government’s arrest of Bassem Youssef, a hugely popular TV political satirist who is sometimes compared to Stewart himself. Youssef, now released on bail, was imprisoned briefly this weekend for “insulting Islam” and “belittling” Morsi.
The searing “Daily Show” segment portrayed Morsi as clownish, hypocritical, abusive and insecure. “When you are actually powerful, you don’t have to be petty,” Stewart said, talking directly into the camera. “For someone who spent time in jail yourself under [former President Hosni] Mubarak, you seem awfully eager to send other people there for the same non-crimes. And just like you, they will emerge stronger and more determined.” At one point, he referred to Morsi as a “crazy guy.”
Within a few hours, the official Twitter feed of the Egyptian president’s office responded directly, tweeting back at the embassy, “It’s inappropriate for a diplomatic mission to engage in such negative political propaganda.” Strong words, chastising the embassy and calling its tweet, and perhaps the Daily Show segment itself, “negative political propaganda.” This is not Morsi’s personal Twitter account, but it does represent his office and is marked as “verified” by Twitter.
Both Youssef and Stewart were included on the entire Twitter exchange. But it’s hard to imagine either of them responding. Ironically, these two TV hosts each have a far, far larger online following than either the U.S. Embassy or the president’s office.
Update: Late on Tuesday, the official Twitter account of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood posted a video alleging that Jews control the U.S. media, an apparent swipe at Stewart for his segment. On Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Cairo briefly deleted its Twitter feed outright, later reinstating it under apparent pressure from the State Department in Washington.
by Alaa al-Aswany
During the clashes that erupted last Friday [March 22] between the Muslim Brotherhood and protesters in Mokattam, the Brotherhood arrested left-wing activist Kamal Khalil and detained him inside a mosque. He saw a number of demonstrators stripped of their clothes and brutally flogged in the mosque, to the point that most of them lost consciousness. Brotherhood members were using a big whip to strike their victims. Khalil asked the flogger [about it], who replied: “It’s a Sudanese whip. I soaked it in oil a while ago. … A single strike can cut through skin.”
Luckily, Khalil recognized his neighbor from among the Brotherhood members, who intervened and prevented him from being tortured. Yet, Khalil posted his testimony about the Brotherhood’s slaughterhouse on the website of Al-Bedaiah newspaper. Soon after, the testimonies from victims published in newspapers confirmed that they had been brutally tortured. Amir Ayad, a demonstrator, revealed that when the Brotherhood found out that he was a Copt, they increased the severity of his torture, pushing him to the brink of death as they called him a “Christian dog.” The Brotherhood committed the same heinous crimes in Mokattam that they had carried out in front of the Ittihadiya Palace.
As I read the testimonies of the Brotherhood’s victims, I was thinking that the Brotherhood member who was proud of his Sudanese whip — along with his colleagues who flogged their victims to the point of unconsciousness — are believers who diligently pray, fast and refrain from any forbidden or even detestable acts. How did they become torturers? We must remember that committing crimes in the name of religion has happened in all religions. The Catholic Church, for instance, which offered to the world the esteemed values of love and tolerance, is the same church that launched the Crusades, carried out the Inquisition, and killed hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims. Any correctly understood religion elevates us as human beings, while interpreting it fanatically leads us to commit crimes. The question is: How can a believer turn into a torturer? I believe any true believer cannot commit such crimes. Yet an extremist can transform into a torturer through the following steps.
First: Monopolizing the truth
Second: Distinguishing oneself through the practice of religion
Third: Restoring the glory of religion through holy wars
Fourth: Dehumanizing opponents
Fifth: Denial of anything that threatens their virtual world
Egypt’s naval forces captured three scuba divers who were trying to cut an undersea Internet cable in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, a military spokesman said. Telecommunications executives meanwhile blamed a weeklong Internet slowdown on damage caused to another cable by a ship.
Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali said in a statement on his official Facebook page that divers were arrested while “cutting the undersea cable” of the country’s main communications company, Telecom Egypt. The statement said they were caught on a speeding fishing boat just off the port city of Alexandria.
The statement was accompanied by a photo showing three young men, apparently Egyptian, staring up at the camera in what looks like an inflatable launch. It did not further have details on who they were or why they would have wanted to cut a cable.
Egypt’s Internet services have been disrupted since March 22. Telecom Egypt executive manager Mohammed el-Nawawi told the private TV network CBC that the damage was caused by a ship, and there would be a full recovery on Thursday.
Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.
Such stories have become increasingly common as tensions between Egypt’s Muslims and Copts mount, but in the latest case, mosque officials corroborated much of the account and even filed a police report. Demonstrators, some of whom were Muslim, say they were taken from the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in suburban Cairo to a nearby mosque on Friday and tortured for hours by hard-line militia members.
“They accompanied me to one of the mosques in the area and I discovered the mosque was being used to imprison demonstrators and torture them,” Amir Ayad, a Coptic who has been a vocal protester against the regime, told MidEast Christian News from a hospital bed.
Ayad said he was beaten for hours with sticks before being left for dead on a roadside. Amir’s brother, Ezzat Ayad, said he received an anonymous phone call at 3 a.m. Saturday, with the caller saying his brother had been found near death and had been taken to the ambulance.
“He underwent radiation treatment that proved that he suffered a fracture in the bottom of his skull, a fracture in his left arm, a bleeding in the right eye, and birdshot injuries,” Ezzat Ayad said.
Officials at the Bilal ibn Rabah Mosque said radical militias stormed the building, in the Cairo suburb of Moqattam, after Friday prayers.
“[We] deeply regret what has happened and apologize to the people of Moqattam,” mosque officials said in a statement, adding that “they had lost control over the mosque at the time.”
The statement also “denounced and condemned the violence and involving mosques in political conflicts.”
The latest crackdown is further confirmation that the Muslim Brotherhood’s most hard-line elements are consolidating control in Egypt, according to Shaul Gabbay, a professor of international studies at the University of Denver.
“It will only get worse,” said Gabbay. “This has been a longstanding conflict, but now that the Muslim Brotherhood is in power, it is moving forward to implement its ideology – which is that Christians are supposed to become Muslims.
“There is no longer anything to hold them back,” he continued. “The floodgates are open.”
An international organization that promotes the use of agricultural biotechnology ranked Egypt third in terms of the commercialization of genetically modified crops in Africa, in its 2012 annual report on the use of biotech crops worldwide.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) — funded by multinational biotechnology companies Monsanto and Bayer AG, as well as US government agencies USAID and the US Department of Agriculture — found that South Africa was the biggest biotechnology enthusiast on the continent, with 2.9 million planted hectares of genetically modified maize, soybeans and cotton, followed by Burkina Faso, Egypt and Sudan.
The ranking may worry some in Egypt, as controversy remains over the health and economic implications of genetically modified crops.
Although the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry made public its decision to destroy a 40-ton shipment of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize after it entered the country in January last year, the ISAAA reports that 1,000 hectares of the crop were actually planted. Monsanto is a US-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation.
Osama El-Tayeb is a microbiology and immunology professor at the 6th of October University Faculty of Pharmacy and an adviser on biosafety issues. He says the shipment was imported without the formal approval of the Ministry of Environment, the ministry in charge of approving genetically-modified organisms’ import into the country.
Instead, the people who signed the custom papers to let the shipment in were advisors to the agriculture minister — which is why the Ministry of Agriculture seized the shipment and had to destroy it. He is not certain the entire shipment was destroyed but does have information that some of the seeds were destroyed in various governorates.
Back in 2008, the Egyptian government made a deal with Monsanto to import, grow and sell the company’s genetically modified maize. A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is an organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered by inserting foreign genes to give it specific traits such as insect, pesticide or drought resistance, to improve yields and reduce pesticide consumption.
For MON810 maize, the plant’s DNA has been genetically engineered to resist insect attacks by secreting an insecticide. When the insects feed on MON810, the introduced Cry1Ab gene ruptures their stomachs.
After reviewing the ISAAA report’s conclusions, Ahmed el Droubi, sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace, expressed concerns over the inconsistencies between the report’s findings and the Agriculture Ministry’s official statements.
“This is a big question mark,” says Droubi. “If the ministry indeed discarded the 40-ton shipment, why haven’t they contradicted the ISAAA’s report? If they haven’t destroyed it, someone from the ministry needs to be held responsible.”
Tayeb is familiar with the ISAAA and says he is suspicious about the veracity of their yearly reports because they receives a good chunk of funding directly from Monsanto. “The ISAAA cannot associate itself with scientists unless they buy them first,” he says. “It’s a piece of crap.”
Greenpeace is urging the Egyptian government to divulge information on the current status of genetically modified maize plantations in the country. For Droubi, “it is a crime for Egypt to allow the commercialization of GMOs at this phase of our development. It shows the interest of a small group of people against the interest of the rest of the population,” he says.
As a signatory of the Cartagena Protocol on Biodiversity in 2003, Egypt is requested to create its own national biosafety law to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of GMOs. In 2004, a committee of representatives from ministries including Agriculture and Environment, as well as Chambers of Commerce officials and scientists, drafted a law that would regulate genetically modified crops, but the law has still not been passed.
The draft requires a risk management assessment of any GMO that enters Egypt, close monitoring of the conditions of shipment, and the creation of detection labs to examine the imported GMO shipments’ components.
“The most important aspect of the draft is that the developer, in this case Monsanto, is liable for any environmental damage caused by its product,” says Tayeb, who was a member of the drafting committee.
Droubi emphasizes the importance of transparency.
“The Egyptian people are entitled to know what is planted on our land and what we are eating,” he says.
Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi on Tuesday defended an arrest warrant for five activists on charges of using social media to incite attacks against Mr. Morsi’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood that took place last Friday.
One of the five surrendered Tuesday and was released without bail. The others are still at large.
In a Twitter message sent during Friday’s battle that was cited by Morsi supporters, one of the accused, Hazem Abdel Azeem, called Brotherhood members “sheep” because of their pledged obedience to the group and said he would pay “an old shoe” at an auction for Mr. Morsi’s “scalp.”
But Mr. Azeem, a former official in the government of President Hosni Mubarak who was injured in the fighting Friday, was responding to a Twitter posting from an Islamist group threatening him. He also sent other messages urging nonviolence.
Supporters of Mr. Morsi also cited a four-month-old message from another accused activist, Ahmed Douma, that appeared unrelated to Friday’s attacks but that explicitly called for the destruction of the group’s headquarters. “Burning the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters is a revolutionary act that is no different from burning the headquarters of the National Democratic Party in the early days of the revolution,” Mr. Douma wrote online in late November.
He equivocated the next day. “Consider it backing down, or cowardice or whatever you want: I apologize for my statements about the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters even though I believe in them,” he wrote, “and I call on all the youth for a peaceful sit-in in preparation for a civil disobedience to topple the regime.”
After he was stabbed in the face during a long street fight with the Islamists on Dec. 5, Mr. Douma wrote, “I won’t mourn any Muslim Brotherhood dog that died, but grieve over the remaining who didn’t.” And he appeared to threaten Mr. Morsi with a wound in a “sensitive” body part.
But in other messages Mr. Douma also disavowed violence, trying to associate it with the Islamists alone: “Let us teach them how to respect the humanity and dignity that the revolution broke out for,” he wrote, adding, “If we turned into ‘monsters,’ be sure that the Brothers have won.”
by MAYY EL SHEIKH and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
The sheer number of women sexually abused and gang raped in a single public square had become too big to ignore. Conservative Islamists in Egypt’s new political elite were outraged — at the women.
“Sometimes,” said Adel Abdel Maqsoud Afifi, a police general, lawmaker and ultraconservative Islamist, “a girl contributes 100 percent to her own raping when she puts herself in these conditions.”
The increase in sexual assaults over the last two years has set off a new battle over who is to blame, and the debate has become a stark and painful illustration of the convulsions racking Egypt as it tries to reinvent itself.
Under President Hosni Mubarak, the omnipresent police kept sexual assault out of the public squares and the public eye. But since Mr. Mubarak’s exit in 2011, the withdrawal of the security forces has allowed sexual assault to explode into the open, terrorizing Egyptian women.
Women, though, have also taken advantage of another aspect of the breakdown in authority — by speaking out through the newly aggressive news media, defying social taboos to demand attention for a problem the old government often denied. At the same time, some Islamist elected officials have used their new positions to vent some of the most patriarchal impulses in Egypt’s traditional culture and a deep hostility to women’s participation in politics.
The female victims, these officials declared, had invited the attacks by participating in public protests. “How do they ask the Ministry of Interior to protect a woman when she stands among men?” Reda Saleh Al al-Hefnawi, a lawmaker from the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, asked at a parliamentary meeting on the issue.
The revolution initially promised to reopen public space to women. Men and women demonstrated together in Tahrir Square peacefully during the heady 18 days and nights that led to the ouster of Mr. Mubarak. But within minutes of his departure the threat re-emerged in a group attack on the CBS News correspondent Lara Logan. There are no official statistics on women attacked — partly because few women report offenses — but all acknowledge that the attacks have grown bolder and more violent.
By the second anniversary of the revolution, on Jan. 25, the symbolic core of the revolution — Tahrir Square — had become a no-go zone for women, especially after dark.
The timing suggested a possible quid pro quo, coming five days after Egypt complied with a months-old Libyan request to round up for possible extradition at least three prominent loyalists of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s who had been living openly in Cairo.
The $2 billion deposit was first reported by the Anatolia news agency of Turkey on Sunday, citing information from the Libyan ambassador to Cairo, Mohamed Fayez Jibril.
The Libyan government had pleaded for months for the extradition of dozens of former allies of Colonel Qaddafi’s who are wanted for trial in Tripoli. But Egypt appeared willing to allow them to remain at liberty in Cairo. It has become a gathering point for Qaddafi loyalists who fled the revolution in Libya.
Egypt, however, is now acutely short of hard currency. Tourism revenue and new foreign investment have collapsed during the tumult that has followed the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
Egypt’s reserves have fallen to less than $14 billion, from about $36 billion before the revolution, depressing the value of the Egyptian pound and raising questions about the government’s ability to import essential commodities like fuel and wheat. Egypt is in talks with the International Monetary Fund over a $4.8 billion loan package that could reassure other potential lenders about Egypt’s creditworthiness. But the negotiations have stalled over how much Egypt must raise taxes and cut subsidies.
The Libyan deposit is tantamount to an open-ended loan to Egypt. In similar arrangements, the depositor retained the right to withdraw the money, allowing Egypt to use it temporarily to pump up its currency supply.
In Libya, the reports of the arrests appear to be bolstering the popularity of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who is struggling to retain the support of Libya’s fractious transitional Parliament. Many Libyans resent the Qaddafi allies for the abuses and corruption under the former government, and some suspect them of working from Cairo to try to destabilize the new government.
Those arrested include Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, a cousin of Colonel Qaddafi’s; Ali Maria, the former Libyan ambassador to Cairo; and Mohamed Ibrahim, the brother of a Qaddafi spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim.
by Jason Ditz
Hamas officials have complained to Egypt that Israel has reneged on a key portion of the recent ceasefire deal, saying that suddenly, Israel is refusing to allow Gaza fishermen to travel five miles from shore, and have trimmed it back to only three, the pre-war level.
Egypt confirmed the complaint, and a separate complaint from Israel about a rocket strike, which appears to have precipitated the sudden fishing restriction. This, in spite of Hamas apparently having nothing to do with the rocket strike, and a Salafist faction called Magles Shoura al-Mujahedeen, a rival of Hamas, claiming credit for it, adding it was designed to embarrass President Obama for funding the Iron Dome system that Israel insists stops most such rockets, but experts say almost certainly doesn’t work.
A densely populated coastal enclave, Gaza would ideally get a large amount of its food from the sea, but a sandy, polluted shore means that there are few fish in the area immediately around the strip, forcing fishermen to move out to deeper waters.
In late February, Gaza fishermen caught a massive number of devil rays in the deeper waters, one of the biggest hauls in years. Fishermen report that now, just three weeks later, most of the fresh fish in Gaza markets was actually smuggling in from Egypt.
Egyptian protesters have clashed with supporters of President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and ransacked three offices nationwide including the group’s headquarters in Cairo, leaving at least 90 people injured.
The group’s spokesman Ahmed Aref said on Friday that men assaulted women in the office who were holding an event commemorating Mothers’ Day, and then forced them into bathrooms before they destroyed the office’s contents.
Thousands of activists thronged to the building and battled Brotherhood supporters with birdshot, rocks, knives, sticks and their fists Friday.
Gunshots were also heard ringing in the neighbourhood.
Young men threw stones and wielded tree branches and broken bottles as they chanted against Morsi near the Brotherhood’s headquarters in Cairo. One sign held aloft by a protester outside the headquarters read: “Who is ruling Egypt?”
Riot police stood guard around the building but did not interfere to break up the two sides fighting a few blocks away, although they fired tear gas at protesters who approached the headquarters later in the evening.
Black plumes of smoke billowed after protesters torched buses that had ferried Brotherhood members to the site, and security officials said at least 90 people were injured.
Fatima Khalifa, 30, said she was demonstrating to send a message to the Brotherhood that they are the aggressors.
“Morsi must be tried for killings of protesters just like Mubarak,” she said.
Two Brotherhood offices in the second-largest city of Alexandria and in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla were also attacked.
Anger first erupted last week when Brotherhood members beat journalists and liberal and secular activists during a protest outside the group’s Cairo headquarters.
During that protest, journalists claimed they were beaten after being suspected of conspiring with activists by spraying anti-Brotherhood graffiti, allegations that they have denied.
by Jason Ditz
Max Weber defined the state as an agency which successfully claims a “monopoly on the legitimate use of violence”. The Egyptian state has used plenty of violence over the past couple of years, in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolution, and the legitimacy in either case has been a hotly debated topic.
The monopoly part however is the focus today, with Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki saying that the growing number of lynchings by civilians against people perceived to have violated the law is ruining this monopoly and therefore means “the death of the state.”
In some of the cases, the lynchings have focused on hanging thieves or kidnappers, or “revenge killings” against accused rapists. A disquieting number of killings however have been by Islamist factions enforcing a strict interpretation of Sharia, including a university student slain for sitting in a park with his fiancee, which the killers argued was against Islamic law because she wasn’t his wife yet.
The ruling Muslim Brotherhood is blaming the police for the growth of vigilantism in the country, saying they are allowing security to deteriorate to the point that civilians feel the need to “deal with” problems on their own. Some accused the police of taking bribes to look the other way while remnants of the Mubarak regime “create chaos.”
Opposition factions are blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, saying the ruling party is so desperate to protect its own headquarters’ from being burned to the ground by protesters that they are ignoring security elsewhere.
by Michelle Nichols
Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood warns that a U.N. declaration on women’s rights could destroy society by allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband’s approval and letting her control family spending.
The Islamist movement that backs President Mohamed Mursi gave 10 reasons why Muslim countries should “reject and condemn” the declaration, which the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women is racing to negotiate a consensus deal on by Friday.
The Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party propelled Mursi to power in June, posted the statement on its website, http://www.ikhwanweb.com, and the website of the party on Thursday.
A recent offer by Qatar to ‘rent’ Egypt’s national treasures in exchange for 200 billion US dollars has attracted harsh criticism from the Ministry of Antiquities, Egyptologists, activists, and the Egyptian population.
The Ministry of Antiquities, which rejected Qatar’s bid and the Ministry of Finance’s proposal, stated in a press release that Egypt will never accept the possibility of compromising or allowing the exploitation of its cultural heritage and civilization. Adel Abdel Sattar, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that it is impossible for Egypt to rent its monuments, “This is our heritage…our roots.”
The Ministry of Finance and high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood officials believed that the rental of Egypt’s treasures to Qatar or international companies would be a quick solution to Egypt’s financial woes. Egypt’s GDP is said to have dipped below 200 billion US dollars in 2013, and the funds generated from the rental of monuments would almost surely end the country’s financial crisis. In fact, renting the monuments for $200 billion would dwarf the $4.8 billion IMF loan that President Morsi and his government have been chasing after since late 2012.
The financial benefits are clear – Egypt’s economy and future can be saved. Other benefits include better management of Egypt’s historical sites (as I wrote in a previous article on the Pyramids, the management has been very poor since the revolution), the introduction of new ideas, and the potential to spread Egypt’s culture to a wider audience.
Nevertheless, to what extent do any of those benefits outweigh the dignity and pride of Egypt?
The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World took over 15 years to construct and has remained standing for over 3,700 years. Throughout that time, the Pyramids and other historical sites have reflected Egypt’s pride and glory. Most importantly, Egypt’s national treasures have embodied the strength of the Egyptian people – they are a reminder that though Egypt has endured invasions, plagues, famine and other adversities, the Egyptian people have always prevailed.
Millions of foreign tourists flock to Egypt, hoping to stand in the shadows of the monolithic statues of Pharoah Ramsees II at Abu Simbel. Egyptologists have spent thousands of hours studying detailed paintings on the inner-walls of Egyptian monuments that reveal the daily-life scenes of ancient Egyptians. Tourists come to experience Egypt’s culture, traditions, and its treasures. They flock to museums across the globe whenever ancient Egyptian exhibitions are launched. In schools around the world, children are taught about the great ancient Egyptian civilization.
Yet, in just seven months of being in power, President Morsi and his incompetent Islamist government want to sell Egypt’s civilization to the highest bidder.
The Pyramids, Abu Simbel, and other historic sites are the Egyptian people’s source of inspiration. Taking that away would wipe out any hope for a better future.
Yesterday in a Press Conference held at the ministry of interior , the minister of interior Ahmed Ibrahim claimed boldly that the police has not used live ammunition against protesters since 25 January and that those responsible for the death or the murder of young protester Khaled Mostafa were other protesters.
Unfortunately his excellency did not see Sky News Arabia footage showing Khaled Mostafa shot down by police last Friday.
This footage was recorded live.
There is also extended version from two clips including that clip above and another clip showing the body of Khaled on the ground closer.
Just pay attention to the red circles. The photos of Khaled were shocking last Friday.
A great deal of reporting on the political unrest in Egypt offers simple explanations fully comprehensible to readers in London, Paris, or New York, couched in the political expressions that those audiences are accustomed to hearing. Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi has been depicted as an Islamist with an Islamist agenda who is also an inept leader unable to solve any of Egypt’s manifold problems, most particularly its shrinking economy. This in turn is producing a revolt of the middle class—which supported genuine reform after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak—as well as of the proletariat and working class, which have seen declines in already marginal standards of living and have been on the receiving end of brutal police crackdowns that have included well-documented instances of torture both in Cairo and in the economically significant governorates adjacent to the Suez Canal.
But the conventional wisdom may not be completely accurate. Washington has evidence that as much as a billion dollars has been clandestinely introduced into Egypt since the June presidential election. The money has gone to some organizers of the riots taking place, including junior Army officers in mufti, to force the regime to react with excessive force and lose what little legitimacy it retains—which is precisely what has happened. A fatally weakened Morsi government might well have to accept a new regime of national unity that would include the military, which would become the dominant force in the arrangement without having to risk the opprobrium involved in actually forming a government. The primary objective of the new alignment would be to restore order, further enhancing the military’s status. On January 29, the Egyptian Army’s commanding general, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, not surprisingly suggested that the army might have to intervene if the civilian government proves incapable of suppressing the rioting.
So who is behind the unrest? The money fueling the confrontation comes from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, none of which are enamored of the Muslim Brotherhood or Morsi. They fear that the untidy democracy, such as it is, in Egypt and elsewhere amid the Arab Spring could spill over to their states, and they desire a return to something like the military-backed regime of Mubarak, which was politically reliable and dedicated to suppressing political extremism and even dissent in all forms. A government of national unity, backed by the army, that would give lip service to democratic institutions would be just fine.
The U.S. government is aware of how the money flowing into Egypt is being used, and it too disapproves of the messy democracy in Egypt. There is some sentiment on the U.S. National Security Council and in the White House favoring a return to something like the Mubarak rule in Egypt, if that could be arranged “democratically,” without sparking a wider conflagration.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.