The target of the Egyptian police, that day in November 2015, was the street vendors selling socks, $2 sunglasses and fake jewelry, who clustered under the arcades of the elegant century-old buildings of Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb. Such raids were routine, but these vendors occupied an especially sensitive location. Just 100 yards away is the ornate palace where Egypt’s president, the military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, welcomes foreign dignitaries. As the men hurriedly gathered their goods from mats and doorways, preparing to flee, they had an unlikely assistant: an Italian graduate student named Giulio Regeni. He arrived in Cairo a few months earlier to conduct research for his doctorate at Cambridge. Raised in a small village near Trieste by a sales manager father and a schoolteacher mother, Regeni, a 28-year-old leftist, was enthralled by the revolutionary spirit of the Arab Spring. In 2011, when demonstrations erupted in Tahrir Square, leading to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, he was finishing a degree in Arabic and politics at Leeds University. He was in Cairo in 2013, working as an intern at a United Nations agency, when a second wave of protests led the military to oust Egypt’s newly elected president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and put Sisi in charge. Like many Egyptians who had grown hostile to Morsi’s overreaching government, Regeni approved of this development. ‘‘It’s part of the revolutionary process,’’ he wrote an English friend, Bernard Goyder, in early August. Then, less than two weeks later, Sisi’s security forces killed 800 Morsi supporters in a single day, the worst state-sponsored massacre in Egypt’s history. It was the beginning of a long spiral of repression. Regeni soon left for England, where he started work for Oxford Analytica, a business-research firm
Tag Archives: Egypt
The new capital of Egypt has no residents. It doesn’t have a local source of water. It just lost a major developer, the Chinese state company that had agreed to build the first phase. You might say the planned city in the desert 45 kilometers east of Cairo doesn’t have a reason to exist. Urban planner David Sims told the Wall Street Journal, “Egypt needs a new capital like a hole in the head.” 1What the project has going for it is a president who likes to talk big. Five million inhabitants big. An amusement park “four times the size of Disneyland” big. Seven hundred hospitals and clinics, 1,200 mosques and churches, 40,000 hotel rooms, 2,000 schools — that kind of big. 2 Yes, and fast, too. Standing with the Emir of Dubai beside a model of the new city, in March 2015, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi declared that construction would proceed immediately. “What are you talking about, ten years?” He turned to his housing minister. “I’m serious. We don’t work that way. Not ten years, not seven years. No way.” 3
Source: The Anti-Cairo
Egyptian President al-Sisi is employing militia in the Sinai – a sign of how desperate his war against Isis has become
Counter-insurgency wars – struggles against “terrorism” – always breed corruption and counter-murder. And now the Egyptian army is following the same contaminated path as many of its neighbours by using a killer-militia in its war against Isis in Sinai. Most armies have proxy allies who can act as informants and treat civilians with brutality. The Syrians, the Iraqis, the Turks – and the Israelis when they co-opted their own Lebanese militias between 1976 and 2000, and the Americans in Iraq – all ended up shamed by the cruelty of their supposed allies.
But now Egypt – whose own President staged the original military coup which overthrew the country’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi – is employing uniformed militias in the Sinai, where Isis has taken over many areas of the peninsula. It is a sign of just how desperate the military situation has become in the battle with Isis that the Egyptian Army, whose former field marshal and commander, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, is now the president, should be resorting to such measures. Egyptian police and soldiers are now attacked daily and civilians are disappearing, either for fear of Isis or because they are seized by the army’s “collaborators” (for so they are of course called) who are also executing ‘suspects’.
Just as Pope Francis was holding a mass for 25,000 Coptic Christians in a Cairo stadium this weekend, around 30 Muslim schoolgirls arrived at the Coptic Museum in the old centre of the capital. They took photographs of each other and selfies against the facade of the museum. For the front wall of this magnificent building was constructed by Marcus Simaika Pasha in 1910 to resemble the facade of a mosque. This was a quite deliberate decision by Simaika: his idea was to illustrate in stone how intertwined are Egypt’s Christians and Muslims, not only in religion but in culture.
But that was then. It was, of course, the Pope’s message this weekend, along with that of the Sheikh of al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb. Their message of peace was broadcast around the world. Their far more striking remarks – in almost identical words – about the evils of arms manufacturers who sell their products to the Middle East, was predictably ignored. Journalists understandably went for the most obvious story: both Muslim and Christian leaders condemned (no name mentioned, of course) the Isis ‘Caliphate’ – which Pope Francis excoriated in the memorable phrase “the incendiary logic of evil” – and the attacks on Christian churches by the Egyptian variety of the Isis cult. Yet the problems of Egypt’s Christians go rather deeper than this.
So it’s back to Egypt’s ghastly prisons, no arrest warrants, fearful interrogations, and a presidential state of emergency which brings the army back onto the streets. But it’s also a frightening prospect for President al-Sisi in the aftermath of the church attacks and the slaughter of 45 Coptic Christians – for it means that Isis has “crossed the canal”, something which his army has been trying to prevent for months.
Donald Trump may think that al-Sisi has done “a fantastic job in a very difficult situation” but in fact he’s done a deplorable job, presiding over multiple disappearances of anyone the police don’t like, allowing torture to resume in police stations (we should not forget the Italian student found tortured and murdered beside a highway outside Cairo), and pretending that the Muslim Brotherhood, whose government he overthrew in a coup d’etat, is Isis.
Long before the advent of the “migration crisis,” Italy signed a series of deals with Libya’s Colonel Muammar Qadhafi designed to stop thousands of mostly African migrants from reaching the shores of Europe.Between 2006 and 2011, Qadhafi took billions in development money and, in return, enforced Europe’s borders. Tens of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants were held in detention facilities where human rights groups reported physical abuse, torture and, in some cases, the use of lethal force.
This is the one thing Donald Trump, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and President al-Sisi in Egypt have in common
We reporters love crowd figures. The bigger the mob, the better the story. Politicians love them too. The greater the masses, the greater the popularity. Ask not who said: “I’m like, wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out, the field was, it looked like a million, million and a half people.” Ah, those millions.Back in 2011, the crowds in Tahrir Square were in their hundreds of thousands. A million Egyptians – that’s the figure Al Jazeera went for. Or maybe it was a million and a half people in central Cairo. They helped to overthrow Hosni Mubarak – with the help of the army, of course, the people’s protector. Experts thought 300,000 was the greatest number of Egyptians you could cram into the Tahrir district. But what the hell? It was a revolution.
To interview a jihadi is one thing, to live among jihadis quite another. To share their prison cells and their jail trucks on the way to a dictatorship’s trials is both a journalist’s dream and a journalist’s nightmare. Which makes Mohamed Fahmy a unique figure: in a prison bus, he hears his fellow inmates rejoicing at the beheading of a captured journalist in Syria. “They won’t let us out,” a voice shouts at Fahmy in Egypt’s ghastly Tora prison complex. “We haven’t seen the sun for weeks.” And he hears the rhythmic voices of prisoners reciting the Koran.
I first heard the name Ahmed Naji at a PEN dinner last spring. I looked up from my dessert to a large projection of a young Egyptian man, rather handsome, slightly louche-looking, with a Burt Reynolds moustache, wearing a Nehru shirt in a dandyish print and the half smile of someone both amusing and easily amused. I learned that he was just thirty and had written a novel called Using Life for which he is currently serving a two-year prison sentence. I thought: good title. A facile thought to have at such a moment but it’s what came to mind. I liked the echo of Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual—the coolness of that—and thought I recognized, in Naji’s author photo, something antic and wild, not unlike what you see when you look at pictures of Perec. You could call it judging a book by its cover: I’d rather think of it as the readerly premonition that this book might please me. If he had written a book called Peacocks in Moonlight and posed for one of these author portraits where the writer’s head is resting on his own closed fist, I would have been equally shocked and saddened to hear he was in prison, but perhaps not as keen to read it.
After a US presidential campaign conducted, for the most part, in the gutter, and the spectacle of national newspapers branding three top judges in Britain “enemies of the people” for a judgement which did not suit their cause, Britons and Americans are in no position to lecture Arabs on “democratic principles and liberal values”.