Morsi

Are Egypt’s Estranged Revolutionaries Moving Out?

“I’m counting the number of very close friends planning to move away next year and so far the toll is at 5. I really can’t bear it.”

Picture taken by Nadia El-Awady on February 11, 2011, the day Mubarak was ousted

Picture taken by Nadia El-Awady on February 11, 2011, the day Mubarak was ousted

These were the words of one of my friends on a Facebook status a few days ago.

Another wrote just one day earlier, “I am currently witnessing the largest mass emigration of friends and family from Egypt.”

The subject has become a common topic of conversation among family and friends. People leave, others announce they are leaving, yet others talk of their desire to leave.

Egyptians have been emigrating out of Egypt in large numbers since the early 1970s. According to the EU Neighborhood Migration Report 2013 published by the European University Institute, the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, and the Migration Policy Centre, there were 6.5 million Egyptian immigrants living in different parts of the world in 2009, 74 percent of whom were temporary migrants. Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar were the highest receiving destination countries of temporary migrants that year while the U.S., U.K., Italy, France, and Canada were the highest receiving countries of permanent Egyptian migrants.

How these demographics are statistically changing after the January 25, 2011 Revolution and then later in 2013 as political upheaval has overtaken the country is yet to be seen. Yet it is clear that a change is indeed happening, if not in sheer numbers then in the reasons that are causing Egypt’s revolutionary youth to leave.

I asked several of my friends who have left or who are actively in the process of leaving Egypt – all active participants in the January 25, 2011 Revolution – to write a couple of paragraphs each, explaining their reasons for wanting to leave. I had originally planned to incorporate some of their words into an article on Egyptian emigration post-Revolution. But after reading their words I have decided to leave them as is (albeit translated from Arabic). You will see why. (more…)

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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…)

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…)

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…)

The Requisite January 25 2nd Anniversary Post

I almost feel obligated to write the requisite “January 25 2nd Anniversary Blog Post”. I’ve been thinking about this for the past few days: what do I write and how do I really feel? All I’ve been getting back from the Little Man in My Head is, “blah” and sounds of someone on the verge of vomiting.

I often think about those 18 days, the hardships we faced, the fun times we had, and the accomplishments we achieved. Sitting here in the UK where I’m spending three months, it all seems like something I must have watched in the movies. I no longer hold the same sense of pride and accomplishment I had in the days following February 11. I still believe we did what we had to do. I still believe that Egypt now has a chance for a better future. And I still think it might take a generation or two to happen.

But truth be told, I’ve found myself feeling nostalgic for the days when the majority of Egyptians couldn’t care less about politics. (more…)

The Day Egypt Got Its First Civilian President

I left work early yesterday, June 24, just as most everyone in Egypt did. I was concerned that once the election results were announced – regardless who won – it would be difficult for me to get back home. My work is within five minutes walking distance from Tahrir. I was anxious throughout the drive home. Cairo was going through an intense heat wave. The roads were jam-packed with everyone trying to get home before 3pm when the announcement was due to be televised.

As I inched through Cairo’s traffic, I began worrying that I might not make it home in time to watch the announcement. I turned on the radio to make sure I didn’t miss anything in case I didn’t make it. I also decided that if the announcement was made early or if I didn’t reach home in time, I’d park the car in front of the nearest coffee shop and watch with hundreds of others set to do the same. (more…)

The Day of Presidential Elections: I Chose the Revolution

It is done. And I chose the revolution.

When the results of the first round of presidential elections came out, I blogged that I had decided to vote for the Muslim Brother (MB) candidate, Mohammed Morsi. It was a straightforward choice for me at the time. If I only had one of the two to choose from, I would not choose the man who belonged to the former regime. I left my home and my children and risked my life along with millions of others for 18 days to remove that regime. I would not bring it back again with my own two hands. I do not want the MB ruling my country. But I was going to bring them in and then watch them like a hawk. In an Arabic language video blog a few days later I said, “If the MB make one single mistake when they come into government, just wait and see how the Egyptian people will make the ‘day of their father black’ (an Egyptian saying meaning it will be a dark day for them).”

Between then and now, only a matter of days, many things have happened in Egypt. A second attempt was made to put together a committee that would draft Egypt’s constitution. The committee stunk of sectarianism. Then parliament was dissolved. We are in a country with no constitution and no parliament after we spent months going through a prolonged process to have both, which included people going to the polls. And we end up with neither. (more…)