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Suffering from thirst in Egypt

Filed under: Egypt

Life in Egypt is hard for most people. Lower middle class families have to live on $50, $70 per month. They cannot afford Evian! Egypt's economy seems to be on the right track (rising exports, real estate investors) but the beneficiary of this boom is the elite. The rich get richer and the poor poorer. There are few things that best describe Mubarak's government: martial law since 1967, institutionalized corruption, repressive security forces, poverty, unemployment and the restless run to jail the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) members&supporters. Accountability, social responsibility, political openness are not of interest for the current leadership.

Add to thirst hunger. People that get out of prison ask to be jailed again; not because they love to be tortured and imprisoned but because they cannot provide for themselves and their families.

In an interview with Al Dr Najeh Ibrahim, a member of the Islamic Group Shura Council explained the situation as:"Some came out of detention forty or fifty years old. They hold high degrees but found life to be very difficult and discovered they had no job opportunities. None in the private sector agreed to higher them and some jobs require bribes. This has reached a point where it would cost 10, 000 Egyptian pounds (approx $1, 800) to get a job as a janitor in a mosque." Excuse me?? One needs to bribe to be a janitor?! What a great country Egypt is!

Five out of 26 governorates are currently suffering from thirst. For the first time in the history of Egypt people have taken to the streets to ask for water and have protested in front of the state's main directorates.

Read more about the water problems here, here and here.

Update: Mahdi Akef, General Guide of the MB told the Lebanese As Safir this week that the number of the MB detainees reached 550 people

P.S. I stand corrected (thanks Cynic) - Mubarak come to power in 1981. But since 1967 the emergency laws have been in effect almost continuously. After Saddat was assassinated (October 1981) the martial law took again effect in Egypt.

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Can dignity be truly found in killing and revenge ?

Filed under: Egypt


"Palestinian to interviewer: 'By my life, I don't know if the shell that fell on us was from Israel, from Fatah or from Hamas!", Source: Akhbar Al-Yawm, Egypt, May 20, 2007

Not long ago, in an editorial Fadhil Rashad explained that the mentality of Al-Jahiliya (pre-Islamic culture) of killing and revenge continues to dominate the Arab Muslim mind. This type of mentality has horrific consequences for all parties involved. Can't they say enough is enough?!

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The Saudi Initiative - A Genuine Opportunity

Filed under: Egypt ~ International Institutions ~ Middle East ~ Palestine

The famous Israeli diplomat Abba Eban once quipped that "the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity [for peace]." With Israel's refusal to-date to accept the recently re-tabled Saudi Peace initiative offering Israel peace with the entire Arab World, it seems that it may be Israel this time that is guilty of Abba's charge. For years there has been no substantive progress concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Israeli position has been that there is no "viable" partner from the Palestinian side to negotiate with. It seems as though the tide has changed in dramatic fashion over the course of the past few months.

Much of this is due to the assertion of the Saudis as the regional diplomatic powerhouse. In February, Saudi King Abdullah helped facilitate the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas that put an end to the internecine factional violence between the two parties. The Arab League summit, hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reinvigorated the previously inert Saudi Initiative.

This is a window of opportunity that Israel must seize; all 22 Arab countries are willing to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Arab territories it occupied since 1967.

So what is the problem? Israel is not willing to negotiate with the new Palestinian Unity Government that includes Hamas because it has yet to meet the Quartet’s (composed of the E.U, U.N., U.S., and Russia) conditions (recognize Israel, renounce violence, respect all previous agreements). Furthermore, despite some positive pronouncements, Israel refuses to accept the Saudi Initiative because of clauses regarding the Palestinian refuges and borders.

This refusal is unwarranted because while the Initiative does call for a sovereign, independent Palestinian state with its capital in Arab East Jerusalem, it does so on the basis of the internationally recognized 1967 borders. In terms of the Palestinian refugees, it calls for a "just" and "agreed upon" solution to the refugee problem. Equally critical, the Arab League Initiative has stated that as long as Israel accepts the Initiative "In Principle", then everything is open for negotiations

Israel's refusal to negotiate is contradictory to American economic interests and Israeli security interests. By achieving regional peace, Israel can finally be fully integrated into the Middle East. The Palestinians will have their state and the Israelis the security they have been unable to achieve since Israel's establishment. One need only look at the Recent G.C.C. (the Gulf Cooperative Council) involvement in major economic outreach programs with Asian countries, such as India and China, to realize the economic potential of peace. Billions of dollars are flowing back and forth between the oil rich Gulf States and Asia.

Instead of exploiting the new opportunity for peace presented by the Saudi Initiative, for peace in the region and a new epoch of economic prosperity for all parties involved, Israel is sitting on its diplomatic hands waiting for the ever important "pre-conditions" to be met. The onus is often put on increasing weakness of the Olmert administration and its lack of political capital. Yet, a majority of Israel citizens desire a two-state solution. There is no other act that an Israeli Prime Minister could perform to galvanize more internal support.

For the U.S., a serious and meaningful role as an honest mediator in the peace process could repair its dwindled and demonized image in the Middle East and Muslim world, with all the attendant benefits of Arab cooperation on Iraq. King Abdullah is not calling for the Israelis to simply sign the Saudi Initiative. Negotiations are expected over the Palestinian refugees, East Jerusalem and final borders before a final agreement is reached.

Israel's continuous claim that it wants peace stands tested by whether it accepts the Saudi Initiative in principle as the framework for a regional peace agreement. The U.S. stands at a fork in the Mid-East and the path it chooses will have serious ramifications on its national security and future economic opportunities in the region. Using our influence with our number one ally in the Middle East to reconsider the Saudi Initiative is our best hope today for securing both our interests and peace.

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Egypt's democracy for the bureaucracy

Filed under: Egypt ~ Middle East

Today's "referendum" in Egypt on proposed constitutional changes passed by with a dismal, low turnout as most people there already know that the outcome is predetermined. Yet while most people are stuck in traffic or sitting down for a meal, there are some strident believers in Egypt's democracy who cannot allow for such leisures. Meet the Egyptians bureaucrat who, known for an average of five minutes of productivity a day, is working overtime to make sure that Mubarak's changes go through. In fact, they seemed to be the only ones, and not even under the clearest of consciousness. Read on:
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights said that in the southern Asyut governorate it had monitored local municipality cars broadcasting loudhailer warnings that those not voting would be fined 100 Egyptian pounds (about 17,5 US dollars).

Observers also said public buses were being used across Cairo to take civil servants and workers to vote in the referendum, which has been met by indifference among large sections of the population.
At one polling station in a Giza school, several dozen teachers and civil servants reported difficulties with voting procedures.

'My name and the names of my colleagues were enlisted against our will,' said one public school teacher. Another civil servant said she was told her salary would be halved for a month if she did not vote for the amendments.
Vote or die? Mubarak seems to have taken P. Diddy's advice too strictly. In Egypt, you vote or you lose your job! The only only opinion that counts is that of the bureaucrat or high-ranking party member, and this so-called election shows that their opinion is universal. Will we see a 99.99% approval as we did in Anwar al-Sadat's days, or will Mubarak shave a few percentage points off to placate the United States?

Does it matter?

Marc Lynch has the smartest and snarkiest quotables: "Most Arab outlets are reporting that Condoleeza Rice softened her criticisms of the referendum after meeting with Mubarak. How humiliating, how predictable. Abou el-Gheit is spooning out the terrorism angle - we must do this to protect ourselves, just as you did with your Patriot Act - and Rice (and at least some of the media) seems to be eating it up whatever the flavor. Yes, how could Egypt possibly fight its great terror menace while judges are supervising elections?" Zing!

Also, check out Sandmonkey, who writes about his own experience just yesterday with the riot police putting down a demonstration that he participated in.

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Mubarak has Rice by the...

Filed under: Egypt ~ Middle East

Just days before Egypt is set to falsify "elections" on its latest constitutional reforms, which by all stretches of the imagination can be nothing more than a great leap backward, Condoleezza Rice hopped on a plane over there. The purpose? To smack President Mubarak around a bit and let him know that the United States has had enough of his despotic shenanigans, that he will not be receiving $1.3 billion in military aid next year, and that the country's people will have America's full support for their democratic aspirations. Take a look at her full comments:
"We have had a discussion. I have made my concerns known as well as my hopes for continued reform here in Egypt," Rice told a news conference after meeting with Mubarak. "The process of reform is one that is difficult. It's going to have its ups and downs. We always discuss these matters in a way that is respectful, mutually respectful. But I have made my concerns known, and we have had a good discussion," she said.
Oh wait, I guess I figured that wrong. The change of tone is mighty different compared to what she was saying in 2005. Just take a look:
Ladies and Gentlemen: In our world today, a growing number of men and women are securing their liberty.

And as these people gain the power to choose, they create democratic governments to protect their natural rights.

We should all look to a future when every government respects the will of its citizens — because the ideal of democracy is universal.

For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.

Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.
And now: we are not doing anything! Why? Because we can't. In 2005, the elections in Iraq and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon made the march of democracy seem unstoppable. Now, with persisting problems in Lebanon due to Syria's domination and sectarian strife in Iraq, Arab leaders are relating these problems to democracy itself and asking their people if they want it. The answer, of course, is no.

So regimes like that of Egypt are strengthening themselves on the knowledge that they have convinced their public that American ideas of democracy cannot apply to them. Even though they aren't happy at all with the way things are now, many think it would only get worse with democracy. This really limits how much pressure we can put on Mubarak, consequently leading to such lame statements like Condi was making this weekend.

Chalk it up to another defeat on the PR front.

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