June 30

The Fall of a Revolution – Or Can It Still Be Saved?

On January 28, 2011, after killing hundreds of revolutionaries, the Egyptian security forces retreated from the scene, suffering a huge emotional defeat after revolutionaries took over important squares all over the country. During the months to come, they would rarely appear on the streets of Egypt’s major cities, seemingly hoping that the country would descend into chaos.  It would appear, however, that instead of mere moping, they spent the months between February 2011 and June 2013 regrouping. Now, under the leadership of General Al-Sisi, a leader even more ruthless than ousted President Mubarak if that is even possible, the Egyptian security forces have staged a comeback as no other. The twist is that they now have the support of a large portion of the Egyptian population.

The telltale signs of Mubarak’s former regime are all there:

  • Churches are burning and sectarian violence has returned.
  • The fear of the Shiites is stronger than ever in the hearts of Sunni Egyptians.
  • Opposition media have all been shut down while the majority of remaining media organizations are towing the military’s line.
  • Men in civilian clothing are present with the Egyptian security forces during all standoffs, standing with and shooting from among their ranks.
  • Claims of a need to clamp down on terrorists are being used to impose control over a whole country through martial law and curfews.
  • Egypt’s jails are overflowing with political prisoners.
  • Every kind of rumor imaginable with barely any evidence to back it is making the rounds among the Egyptian public.

And today we hear news of Mubarak’s imminent release after judges cleared him from a second corruption case.

When the good times arrive, they arrive in a flood. (more…)

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When It’s All Right to Be Judgmental of a Whole Country and the Zombies Who Occupy It

For a few years now I have prided myself on being a non-judgmental person.

Until yesterday, that is, when I wrote a blog post implying that a significant portion of the Egyptian population was brainwashed.

It wasn’t my blog post that made me stop and think. The blog post was actually quite a hit and I received lots of positive feedback about it from Egypt and around the world. What got to me were comments I received from two people on two separate occasions in the past three days. One told me I needed to calm down. The other told me to give myself space to have a “clearer head”.

Calm down?? I thought. CALM DOWN?? I’M THE F#$%ING CALMEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE BLOODY COUNTRY! Clear head?? IT LOOKS LIKE I’M THE ONLY PERSON IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY WHO HASN’T BEEN BRAINWASHED YET!!

“A bit patronizing of you,” I responded to the second person.

That is when I stopped to think. (more…)

Egypt’s Road to Hell

I feel compelled to write. It feels as if it is my duty. But my brain is frozen. What is there left to say?

I spent part of today sending notes to friends trying to make sure they were still alive and unharmed. This wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. Over the past three years there have been many times when I have had family members or friends in the direct line of fire. When things began getting really bad just after the protests of June 30, 2013, I spent several days making sure that the remaining members of my direct family who were still in Egypt came to stay with me for a while in the UK. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in a sort of mad frenzy to get my family out of our country.

When they all got out, I convinced myself I would stop caring about what happened in Egypt. “Now that my family is with me, Egypt could go up in flames for all I care,” I found myself saying. It wasn’t true. I still obsess over news from Egypt. (more…)

War Is Seemingly Being Declared on the Brotherhood But Are They Deserving of It?

An American journalist friend of mine got in touch with me just after the 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists won a majority of seats.

Were the Muslim Brotherhood extremists? he asked.

He was hearing this and similar things from friends and the media and told me that this was not his understanding. He asked for my insight on the matter.

I sent him a long answer. Here are two short excerpts:

“They are not the type of group that would force women to wear the head scarf or force people to practice a certain form of Islam. My expectation is that they will focus on building the country rather than on building a religious society.”

“…in my opinion it’s not a disaster. I would have liked to see a wider representation of society [in parliament]. I’d like to see Egypt becoming more liberal. The liberals and secularists in Egypt are not strong. They are not united. They have very small followings. And very little experience on the ground with charitable services and politics. It’s going to take time for political parties to grow and have an impact so that they do get followings. We just need to give it some time.”

In the 20 months since that exchange of emails, much has changed, including my own perceptions. (more…)

Where Are We Taking Egypt?

It is hard being Egyptian these days.

I remember how I felt just after the 2011 Revolution. I had a business trip to the US just two days after we toppled Mubarak. I walked through the airports with my Egyptian flag waving, my head held high. At the international conference in which I was an invited speaker on science journalism, I instead talked about the amazing achievements of the Egyptian Revolution to standing ovations of large audiences. I had never felt prouder to be an Egyptian.

Now, I just hang my head in confusion and despair. I knew our road to democracy was going to be hard. But I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now that light completely eludes me.

The last three years in Egypt have been, for lack of a better word, shit. (more…)

Time Stops for Egypt

Time stops for Egypt.

Lives stop for Egypt.

The world stops spinning for Egypt.

We all stand frozen, arms outstretched, faces flattened against an invisible barrier, all looking inwards to Egypt, every sense focused on it in its lonely time warp.

Sometimes, Egypt seems to move so slowly that our eyes twitch as they stress to detect the slightest movement.

Others, Egypt spins faster and faster and faster and faster until it reaches a dizzying speed and our eyes see no more than a continuous streak of blinding light. Then, with little warning, the Egyptian time warp explodes and we are hurled away, slowly, stunned by the high-intensity time waves, into a temporary oblivion.

But most times we watch with confusion, fascinated nonetheless, as Egypt yawns and stretches, jokes and laughs, boils and broils, hates and loves, gives life and taketh it away.

Time stops for Egypt. Lives stop for Egypt. The world stops spinning for Egypt. And Egypt, alone in its time warp, moves, at once slowly, then rapidly, then almost normally. Almost. Always almost.

Oh, Egypt.

 

Why the June 30 Protesters Do Not Represent Me

Tens of thousands – perhaps millions even – of Egyptians took to the streets once more yesterday, June 30, 2013. Some claim yesterday’s protests were the largest in human history.

I was not among them. Neither were most of my close friends and family, all of whom participated in the January 25 Revolution.

I have spent months following what has been happening in Egypt and, like so many others, perhaps the majority of Egyptians, I have been getting increasingly frustrated with Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

Their performance in parliament before its dissolution, along with other Islamists, was abysmal. They were unorganized, they failed to focus their attentions where they were most needed, and there was almost a complete lack of a participatory spirit with the rest of the country. They wanted things done a certain way and that was what they were going to do.

Of course, this is what ruling parties do all over the world, not only in Egypt. The difference in our case is that we are in a process of establishing the ground rules for Egyptian democracy. For this process to be successful, all elements of Egyptian society must participate and have a voice. Islamists did everything in their power to dampen or even stifle that voice.

I did not want a Muslim Brotherhood president. (more…)