It’s All About Crushing Egypt’s Revolution, Mr. Friedman

“On the Egyptian military’s priority list, nothing comes before crushing the revolution, not even the USA and its $1.3 billion annual aid.

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

 “Egypt’s Step Backward” is Mr. Thomas Friedman’s latest pieces on post-Mubarak Egypt.  Published in the New York Times on Feb. 21, Mr. Friedman gives his precise perspective on the current political scene in Egypt, but I wished he had scratched the surface harder and digged deeper.

Mubarak’s era, as brutal and autocratic as it has been, was much easier to read and predict than this foggy and volatile transitional period the Egyptians are currently enduring through. Therefore, I would like to throw in few clarifications on the discussed issue, as a native observer of Egypt’s political street.

This whole soap opera about Egypt NGOs and the crackdown on pro-democracy workers, including American and European staffers is but a clever move in a long series of actions in a cunning scheme to counteract the revolutionary tide on the Egyptian street and save the day for a faltering regime.

It has nothing to do with the absurd allegations of a foreign agenda playing out in Tahrir square“Mossad & CIA steering the Egyptian revolution” that the Egyptian state media and regrettably some of the foreign alternative media have been raving about.

Those allegations, while being carelessly peddled and obscenely detached from reality, are so insulting to the struggle of pro-democracy activists and to the lives that were sacrificed during the past year.

What Mr. Friedman didn’t mention, though I’m sure he is aware of, is the fact that Egypt was, and still is, a police state.

Over the last 4 decades the infamous state police apparatus has swelled and mushroomed, due to an exceedingly overdose of totalitarianism and corruption, into something more powerful than politicians, the judiciary system and even the army.

The mighty security apparatus had the power to oversee all of the country’s internal affairs except, of course, for the military’s economic empire.

Any enterprise, local or foreign, once flagged by the apparatus for any fake security concerns, which was often the case, its operations were immediately put to a halt and the people behind it somehow pursued with well knit legal traps.

Maybe Mubarak has been ousted but the president was not the regime, the state military/police apparatus is.

Fayza Abul Naga, Egypt's minister of planning and international cooperation

As much as I can understand why Mr. Friedman is picking on Egypt’s minister of planning and international cooperation, Fayza Abul Naga, whose testimony against democracy workers has bolstered the fake case before the Supreme Court, but I’m afraid there’s a lot more to this than the buried grudge of this old Mubarak’s loyalist.

Abul Naga is just a pawn in this post-Mubarak political game, she didn’t file the case against democracy workers on her own account. She was told to frame the US for the illegal funding of pro-democracy organizations and for sustaining the state of chaos in the country as well. she was told to stick Israel and the US in the testimony to make it look like a case of foreign meddling in the Egyptian sovereignty. 

After a year of endless and deadly confrontations with  pro-democracy protesters the police have reached this conclusion “ the only way to stop protesters from going back to Tahrir square is to do away, once and for all, with the pro-democracy activists, no matter who they are, Egyptians or even foreigners, and no matter what kind of strings are attached”

With Mohamed El-Baradei out of the way, the presidential race has narrowed down to a number of candidates/puppets who are likely to do business with the military behind closed doors. And those who remain loyal to the revolution and defiant to the military/police authority are currently being bullied by the state security thugs (not the CIA/Mossad agents)

As the military/state security commanders are bracing for the final battle of reinstating and securing the old regime nothing comes, on their priority list, before crushing the revolution, not even the USA and its $1.3 billion annual aid which the top brass know damn well that it is nothing more than a concealed bribe for playing friends with Tel Aviv. And therefore they are not really worried over the American threats to withhold aid payment.

This is not about national Egyptian dignity nor the American/Egyptian relations, this is all about saving the sinking ship of Egypt’s oligarchs, Mr. Friedman.

Egypt’s Step Backward
By Thomas L Friedman

SADLY, the transitional government in Egypt today appears determined to shoot itself in both feet. On Sunday, it will put on trial 43 people, including at least 16 American citizens, for allegedly bringing unregistered funds into Egypt to promote democracy without a license.

Egypt has every right to control international organizations operating within its borders.

But the truth is that when these democracy groups filed their registration papers years ago under the autocracy of Hosni Mubarak, they were informed that the papers were in order and that approval was pending.

The fact that now — after Mubarak has been deposed by a revolution — these groups are being threatened with jail terms for promoting democracy without a license is a disturbing sign. It tells you how incomplete the “revolution” in Egypt has been and how vigorously the counter-revolutionary forces are fighting back.

This sordid business makes one weep and wonder how Egypt will ever turn the corner. Egypt is running out of foreign reserves, its currency is falling, inflation is rising and unemployment is rampant.

Yet the priority of a few retrograde Mubarak holdovers is to put on trial staffers from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are allied with the two main United States political parties, as well as from Freedom House and some European groups.

Their crime was trying to teach Egypt’s young democrats how to monitor elections and start parties to engage in the democratic processes that the Egyptian army set up after Mubarak’s fall. Thousands of Egyptians had participated in their seminars in recent years.

What is this really about? This case has been trumped up by Egypt’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abul Naga, an old Mubarak crony.

Abul Naga personifies the worst tendency in Egypt over the last 50 years — the tendency that helps to explain why Egypt has fallen so far behind its peers: South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brazil, India and China.

It is the tendency to look for dignity in all the wrong places — to look for dignity not by building up the capacity of Egypt’s talented young people so they can thrive in the 21st century — with better schools, better institutions, export industries and more accountable government.

No, it is the tendency to go for dignity on the cheap “by standing up to the foreigners”.  That is Fayza’s game.

As a former Mubarak adviser put it to me: “Abul Naga is where she is today because for six years she was resisting the economic and political reforms” in alliance with the military. “Both she and the military were against opening up the Egyptian economy.”

Both she and the military, having opposed the revolution, are now looking to save themselves by playing the nationalist card.

Egypt today has only two predators: poverty and illiteracy. After 30 years of Mubarak rule and some US$50 billion (RM300 billion) in US aid, 33 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women in Egypt still can’t read or write.

That is a travesty. But that apparently does not keep Fayza up at night.

What is her priority? Is it to end illiteracy? Is it to articulate a new vision about how Egypt can engage with the world and thrive in the 21st century? Is it to create a positive climate for foreign investors to create jobs desperately needed by young Egyptians?

No, it’s to fall back on that golden oldie — that all of Egypt’s problems are the fault of outsiders who want to destabilise Egypt.

So let’s jail some Western democracy consultants. That will restore Egypt’s dignity.

The New York Times reported from Cairo that the prosecutor’s dossier assembled against the democracy workers — bolstered by Fayza’s testimony — accused these democracy groups of working “in coordination with the CIA,” serving “US and Israeli interests” and inciting “religious tensions between Muslims and Copts”.

Their goal, according to the dossier, was: “Bringing down the ruling regime in Egypt, no matter what it is”, while “pandering to the US Congress, Jewish lobbyists and American public opinion”.

Amazing. What Fayza is saying to all those young Egyptians who marched, protested and died in Tahrir Square in order to gain a voice in their own future is: “You were just the instruments of the CIA, the US Congress, Israel and the Jewish lobby. They are the real forces behind the Egyptian revolution — not brave Egyptians with a will of their own.”

Not surprisingly, some members of the US Congress are talking about cutting off the US$1.3 billion in aid the US gives Egypt’s army if these Americans are thrown in prison. Hold off on that.

We have to be patient and see this for what, one hopes, it really is: Fayza’s last dance.

It is elements of the old regime playing the last cards they have to both undermine the true democratic forces in Egypt and to save themselves by posing as protectors of Egypt’s honour.

Egyptians deserve better than this crowd, which is squandering Egypt’s dwindling resources at a critical time and diverting attention from the real challenge facing the country: giving Egypt’s young people what they so clearly hunger for — a real voice in their own future and the educational tools they need to succeed in the modern world.

That’s where lasting dignity comes from. NYT

Egyptian Revolution Songs

Egyptian Revolution Songs:

Songwriter/Performer Ramy Essam Sings: ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice'; Rappers Protest the ‘Lies of the Military’ against Backdrop of Graphic Images of Security Forces’ Brutality in crushing the Egyptian revolution.

Egypt Revolution – Tweets from Tahrir(Video)

Egypt’s youth tweeted out the 18-day ouster of Hosni Mubarak, and are still reporting the unfinished revolution.

Take a good look at those Egyptian youths as they talk in the video. With such unhesitant voices, bold and shiny eyes, educated minds and fearless souls how could the revolution not eventually win?

Despite all the marches, the long sit-ins and even the harsh crackdown and the killing this whole thing that kicked off in Tahrir square on January 25, 2011 is definitely far from over.

Egypt Military Rejects US Threats & Braces for General Strike

“A phone call from the American embassy in Cairo used to be the sure thing to straighten up such a wretched mess. But this time it wasn’t enough.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Egyptian investigative judges investigating the foreign funding of NGOs, enter a press conference at the Justice Ministry in Cairo on Feb. 8, 2012

Egypt’s ruling military council has rejected US threats to end aid payments to the country.

US-Egypt tensions have risen considerably following the decision to ban 43 pro-democracy staffers- including 19 Americans- from travel and refer them to a Cairo court on charges of violating laws regulating the operation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Among those hit by travel bans is a son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, as well as other foreign staffers of the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.

A statement released on the council’s official Facebook page stressed that Egypt is a country with a rich heritage that cannot be pressured or blackmailed into doing someone else’s bidding.

The council also added that Egypt’s international relations with the US and other countries were governed by the common interests of both parties, and that “Egypt does not bow to the domination of anyone.”

… Now, such a statement, coming out from a military that has been indulging in an obscenely large American aid (US$1.3 billion annually) for the past 30 years, is quite perplexing and calls for some contemplation.

To begin with, and to put the reader into perspective, the whole “crackdown on foreign NGOs Cairo offices” with the decision to prosecute 43 staffers is but a cheap political stunt we Egyptians have seen it so many times before but with slight variations.

The catch goes like this. …  In dealing with any foreign investment, be it in the field of industry, publishing, tourism, etc, Egyptian authorities would grant the applicant for investment, or in our case, the NGOs, a temporary permit to operate in the country until all the required paper work is completed, but of course the paper work is never completed and the final authorization is never granted for security reasons.

If things went smoothly and convenient for the authorities, nobody would bring up this final authorization issue, if not, the targeted venture/business would be suspended and its workers/staff legally convicted of breaking the regulation rules and also of illegal foreign funding.

It’s a dirty old trick, but works fine and even looks good before any court of law.

A phone call from the American embassy in Cairo used to be the sure thing to straighten up such a wretched mess. But this time it wasn’t enough.

Workers from a non-governmental organization National Democratic Institute, wait as Egyptian officials raid their office in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, 29 December, 2011

The American embassy aggressively intervened; Leon Panetta, the US defense secretary, telephoned Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and asked him to lift the travel ban on the American citizens, even a delegation from the supreme council of armed forces (SCAF) flew to Washington for negotiations over the issue.

The awfully weird thing is that SCAF grew more hostile and adamant about legally pursuing this NGOs case after the generals had cut short the visit to the U.S and returned to Cairo.

Something unusual happened back there in the Pentagon behind closed doors.  “Egypt military generals play risky game with U.S” The associated press reported … Watch the video here.

Were the Egyptian generals so naïve and stupid as to jeopardize 30 years of US alliance and support over this small NGOs’ issue … or is this a whole new deal aimed at helping the military to censor freedom of expression and silence the growing tide of dissent in Egypt?

But on the other hand, SCAF may also fear it has much more than US aid to lose if it fully embraces a democratic transition that could bring civilian oversight of its considerable financial assets and curb its long-standing domination of power.

In the meantime, Egypt’s ruling generals have deployed additional soldiers and tanks across the country in preparation for the anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from power on 11 February.

The move is seen as a warning to activists planning to mark the day with a national strike and civil disobedience campaign to demand a swifter transition to civilian rule.

Prime Minister Kamal Al-Ganzouri told a press conference that calls for civil disobedience were part of a plan to “overthrow the state” and all Egyptians should unite to get through the crises and dangers the country was facing.

Al-Azhar, a prestigious seat of Sunni Muslim learning, also criticized the calls for civil disobedience, the state-owned Al-Ahram news portal reported.

Pope Shenouda, head of the Orthodox Coptic church, said the civil disobedience was against Christian religion, according to the MENA news agency

Egypt’s de facto ruler Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, called earlier this week for plans for the first post-Mubarak presidential election, currently scheduled for June, to be completed quickly.

As Saturday will mark one year since the ouster of President Mubarak, Egyptians remain deeply divided and confused, amid increasing political fog, over how they perceive post-Mubarak Egypt.

On Its First Anniversary: Egypt Revolution Continues

“The revolutionary public opinion and demands that were created in Tahrir square needed to be politically purused by revolutionary cadres and leadership.”

Dr. Ashraf Ezzat

Mubarak wheeled into the courtroom at the latest hearing of his case.

“Mubarak is neither a tyrant nor a bloodthirsty man  …

He is a clean man, who could say no wrong. Mubarak has seriously and faithfully worked to the best of his abilities and energy for Egypt and its people and lived a life burdened by his nation’s problems” Said Fareed El-Deeb, Mubarak’s lawyer as he argued his case at a latest hearing and just days prior to the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

“Mubarak is worthy of justice and no one should discredit his efforts, question his loyalty or history. There is no evidence to prove that Mubarak gave orders to open fire on the protesters or even to prove he sealed the natural gas deal with Israel … and how could you accuse Mubarak of killing the protesters when he, in fact, supported the revolution” added El-Deeb.

Mubarak can’t be proven guilty and his lawyer hails him as a pro-democracy liberal who looked favorably on the Egyptian uprising. … It’s funny and almost surreal but that’s how Mubarak’s trial is proceeding. It’s true that Egyptians like jokes but not this kind of mockery of justice.

Field Marshal, Hussein Tantawi

Key witnesses in the deposed president’s trial, Mr. Omar Soliman, Mubarak’s vice president and former chief of intelligence and Field Marshal Houssein Tantawy, the minister of defense and the current head of the supreme council of armed forces (SCAF) declined to attest that Mubarak gave direct orders to shoot the peaceful protesters.

This Actually comes as no surprise, after all, those were Mubarak’s long time loyal aides and anyone thought or expected differently was probably living in a world of make believe.

And on the other hand any down to earth reading of a post-Mubarak Egypt would have most likely excluded the guards of the old regime out of the newborn political scene. But we’re talking here of the reality of a revolution that only managed to topple the head of the despotic regime … but not the regime itself.

The 18 days (January 25- February 11) of the Egyptian uprising have been the most fantastic story in Egypt’s modern history but unfortunately every story has to come to an end. And what we’ve been witnessing throughout an entire year is the gloomy and systematic hijacking of that revolution.

Academically, the revolution is defined as a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.

What the millions of Egyptians did in 18 days was absolutely revolutionary in every sense of the word, but the mass mobilization, a rare phenomenon in a society known for its propensity for stability and obedience , was not the only recipe for a successful regime change.

Other factors had to be incorporated; the miraculous mass mobilization in Tahrir Square the whole world was mesmerized by had to somehow turn into a political force. The revolutionary public opinion and the revolutionary demands that were created in Tahrir square needed to be politically purused by revolutionary cadres and leadership. 

The public opinion, no matter how strong, in and of itself is not capable of changing the political direction, and that is one lesson the Tahrir revolutionaries had to learn the hard way throughout the last year.

The lack of organized secular political parties that really believed in the necessity for a regime change in Egypt, that could have reflected the revolutionary tide on the street, and somehow could have offered a considerable counterweight to the Islamists, is what really crippled the Egyptian revolution and hindered its tide.

Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei

The Egyptian revolution couldn’t stay grassroots forever; Tahrir square needed a leader as powerful and vibrant as the Tahrir protests. And that is what the saga of Tahrir square critically lacked.

Indeed Mr. Mohamed El-Baradei could have made a good president for post-Mubarak Egypt- of all the presidential hopefuls he was and still is my personal choice- but unfortunately, while the man had the right vision and the most impressive portfolio of political expertise he lacked the charisma and the perseverance needed to lead the revolution out of Tahrir square and advance it into the political arena.

El-Baradei could be active on the internet social media where he communicates with the liberal and educated factions of the Egyptian society, but he has no popularity on the Egyptian street, and if the Egyptian revolution was a facebook/Twitter revolution the man could have easily secured his bid for the presidency.

With the withdrawal of El-Baradei from the presidential race, a move that relieved many in the Israeli political circles for they knew beyond doubt that a politician of his caliber could turn Egypt into a vibrant and powerful democracy, the presidential race hasn’t only narrowed but also weakened with the remaining candidates merely representing the old regime and the political Islam.

An unprecedented number of Egyptians have taken to the streets and squares of Egypt in commemoration of last year's momentous Day of Rage

The Egyptian revolution is only one year old and the situation will probably get worse before it gets better as the military eyeing to preserve its own political and economic autonomy and maintain its de facto status as a state within the state.. The first post-revolution parliament has just held its first meeting, and if it is anything it is certainly not the revolution parliament.

But we are where we are, so the next question is whether the Tahrir square revolution will actually fulfill its promise of “dignity, freedom and social justice” or whether it will simply usher in an era of extremist Islamist regimes or new forms of military authoritarianism.

The thousands of Egyptians who packed Tahrir square and other squares in Egypt’s major cities on January 25, the first anniversary of the revolution, will not be celebrating the day as most of the revolution’s demands remain unmet, but they will be protesting again, they will make it clear for all the people in power that the Egyptian revolution continues to empower its people.

BREAKING: Prominent Egyptian activist and blogger released from prison ‎

Egyptian Blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah released from prison, pending further ‎investigations into the Maspero clashes. Is it a cause for rejoicing, or is it too late to resuscitate a dying revolution?

Alaa Abd El-Fattah

Cairo: Prominent Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah has been released on Sunday. His detention on 30 October on charges that included inciting violence during the bloody attack by the military on Coptic rights protesters, in what is known as Maspero rally, on 9 October sparked outcry and condemnation in Egypt and around the world. 

Alaa also faces charges of alleged vandalism at the Maspero rally in downtown Cairo which morphed into clashes with security forces in which 27 people were killed, most of them Copts protesting over the burning of a church in the southern city of Aswan.

The young activist reportedly refused to undergo questioning by the military prosecution on the grounds that the military itself was implicated in the case.

Coptic witnesses said they were fired upon by soldiers during the protest march and that several people were killed when armored vehicles ran over and crushed them.

“Alaa will be released” his sister Mona Seif, who is also a political activist, said on Twitter.

More details to follow.

Editor’s note:

 I was riding a taxi when I read the tweets of Alaa’s release from prison, and I was so thrilled I couldn’t hide the big smile that was suddenly drawn on my face. The taxi driver, who was peeking at my smiling face in his rear view mirror, asked me with sheer curiosity “Good news sir?”

“Excellent news actually” I assuredly replied   “The military released Alaa Abdel Fattah this morning after nearly two months of detention. His release couldn’t have come at a better time; it will surely boost the morale of all political activists who have been enduring through rough times lately in Tahrir square” I enthusiastically added.

“The release of any prisoner is good news especially if he is innocent, but sir, who is this Alla abdel Fattah” the driver ingenuously asked.

“Never mind, and pull over please, I’ll get off here” I responded

It is worth mentioning that the failure- up till now- of the Tahrir square revolution to produce strong and secular political leadership is one of the main reasons why the Egyptian revolution will remain to be seen as “unfinished business”.

In the lack of political cadres, proper funding and charismatic leadership the Tahrir revolution has been stabbed in the back and served cold to the Islamists and the military.

Meanwhile, the die-hard activists and revolutionaries can only find solace in rejoicing over the release of one of more than 12000 imprisoned activists and protesters detained and tried before military tribunals since last February.

The Last and Gloomy Pages of Egypt revolution.

“Take away fear, and the battle of Freedom is half won.” – William Ralph Inge: The End of an Age

“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt” .. Thomas Merton

Warning: The video contains some disturbing scenes ..  also the footage shows military police officer shooting at unarmed protesters .. Till this moment Egypt military council denies using live ammunition against protesters .. while the new PM accuses a foreign third party for the killing of innocent civilians.