Muslim Brotherhood

Understanding Sterlina

That was me in the mid-90s. Was I that different from Sterlina?

I often get nightmares. I used to blame them on the murder mysteries I read as a child or the police drama series I used to watch as a young adult. I stopped doing all that but the nightmares never stopped. I think my subconscious is strongly linked to my conscious. It turns all my real-life worries into horror-movie-worthy nightmares.

Last night I had nightmares of war. The part of the nightmare I remember was about me walking into a room and discovering it was full of Iraqi fighters. They were all pointing huge weapons out of a large balcony, focusing on something, people probably, not far below. I went to their leader, a rather stocky woman wearing a flowery dress with henna-painted fingernails. I was told that if I wanted to leave the room I had to have her permission. I gave her the most innocent I’m-of-no-matter-to-anyone look I could muster and told her that I really needed to go home PLUS I had to go to the toilet anyway. She looked at me very briefly, she was busy, and told me that it was dangerous out there. How was I planning on making my way home? I told her I’d walk to my father’s house which was not far away. I promised her I’d be fine. She allowed me to leave. There were many other woman in that room who were being held captive who were not as lucky. Perhaps they hadn’t tried to ask for permission like I had? Perhaps they knew too much already and could not be allowed to leave for that reason? A very young friend of mine was there. Her father’s house was close to my father’s house. She asked me to ask permission from the leader to take her with me. I woke up just as I started explaining things to the leader. I’ll never know if we both managed to leave.

When I woke up this morning, I tried to figure out what it was I was thinking about the day before that would have stimulated this nightmare. An aspect of this dream is reminiscent of the days of revolution in Cairo in 2011. But I realized that wasn’t what brought this one to the surface.

Yesterday, a friend on Facebook posted an article about an 18-year-old Dutch girl who converted to Islam, wore a face veil, and soon after fled from the Netherlands to Turkey by train, crossed the border into Syria, and married a Dutch-Turkish fighter.

Her story freaked me out.

This morning I figured out why.

Had the Internet been around when I was that age, that girl could have been me. (more…)

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The Day We Egyptians Lost Our Moment

There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we, the Egyptian people, have been outwitted.

There are very few moments in time that decide the course of history. They come every 50 years, once a century, or even furtherDSC02825 apart. Our generation’s Moment was January 25, 2011. A critical build-up of recent events amassed the emotions of an already seething Egyptian population and our Moment was born. Millions of Egyptians took to the streets for 18 days…blah blah blah… We all know the story. And we know the ugliness that followed.

Providence gave us a moment because we were able to unite as a people when it really mattered. We saw our chance and held onto it for a full 18 days. And that’s why the story ends there. If a Moment is to truly change the course of history, its people must hold onto it and never let it go. We let go after 18 days and went back to our old ways of conniving, distrusting, and power struggling. (more…)

The Day I Became a Spy

I woke up this morning to what is probably the most hilarious news I have ever read.spy

A Facebook page called Revolutions & Secret Facts posted the following in Arabic:

“I have personally seen files originating from the State Security Apparatus posted on the official website of an international organization called Global Voices. This organization is sponsored and funded by Jewish Israelis. Spies who broke into the State Security Apparatus in Egypt sent these files to the organization. The files contain secrets about the Apparatus and the types of equipment they use. These files are still published on the [Global Voices] website. We haven’t previously alluded to this information so as not to aid in spreading State secrets. Among the official publicly acknowledged members of Global Voices inside Egypt are: …”

The status goes on to list the names of 19 people, all quite well known journalists, bloggers, and social media activists in Egypt. My name was among them. (more…)

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…)

Struggling to Find My Calling in Life

It has been a very long time since I’ve known what I want to do in life.  I’ve been racking my head over it now for months, probably longer. And I’m getting absolutely nowhere.

Yesterday I came out of watching The Hobbit thinking that maybe what I need to do is spend the next two years learning Kung Fu. Then maybe I could go back to Egypt and use my Kung Fu superpowers to save the country from the evil dragons that have taken over the country. I really did decide this was going to be my calling. Those elves and their martial arts really got to my head.

Two days ago I decided that spending so much time on social media was not helping me figure out my calling. Perhaps if I cut back significantly I would be able to spend more time figuring it all out. I have been using social media quite heavily for several years now and it has definitely not helped me find my calling; the evidence being that it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. I did go through a phase where I felt that communicating through Facebook and Twitter had become my job. My husband once asked me to put down my phone and to focus on the moment that we were in – we were travelling somewhere. I replied, “But Colin. This is what I DO!” I have definitely been through phases where I have thought that my Twitter and Facebook followers were hanging on my every word. When did it become so important for me to communicate my every thought to a virtual world? Two days ago when I made my decision to cut down on social media, a thought came to my head and I struggled with myself for hours not to write down on Facebook. I told myself that if I still felt it was important later that evening then I could write it to the world then. I didn’t. The status would have read, “The women at my gym in the UK show hardly any emotion when they workout while I grimace and curse the whole time. I wonder what they are like during child birth.” Clearly this is a completely inconsequential thing to say. Before the Internet, that thought would go through my head and it would then die there. Now it comes into my head and I have to tell the world. What is that all about? I must admit that I am now relieved it is out there in the world through this blog post, though.

But no. I have decided that social media cannot be my calling.

I have not always been at a loss like this. (more…)

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…)

The Egypt I Choose to Remember

I grew up in the United States as a child and a young teenager. Even so, Egypt grew in my heart with me. My father constantly told us glorious stories of his youth, growing up in the village, living through the 1952 Revolution (although quite young at the time), and protesting against President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. He told us how Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together peacefully and how a person’s religion was almost irrelevant. Before I ever visited Egypt as a youngster, I recall seeing my father, with my five-year-old eyes, watching the news from Egypt very closely in October 1973. I had no comprehension of the war going on between Egypt and Israel at the time. Even so, I have a clear memory in my head of my father weeping with joy in front of the television set on October 6, 1973, when the Egyptian army successfully crossed Israel’s Barlev Line.

The Egypt of my youth was one of wonderful summer holidays. It was an Egypt where sheep roamed freely with people on the streets of Cairo. It was an Egypt of sun, warmth, lots of good food, neighborhood children to play with, walking along the main street of Roksy with its flashy shoe stores and then eating the best shawerma in the whole world, riding on camels in front of the Pyramids, streets with few cars, doting grandparents and uncles and aunts and extended family members who were all also called uncle and aunt…

I finally settled in Cairo in 1986 to start university at the age of 17. It was so exciting for me. (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…)

What Does It Take to Brainwash the Egyptian People?

Apparently not that much.

“If [army chief] Al-Sisi wants us to go out [to the streets], then we will go out,” wrote one female Egyptian columnist in Al-Masryal-sisi Al-Yowm daily newspaper. She was writing in response to Al-Sisi’s July 24 call to the Egyptian people to take to the streets the following Friday to give the army a mandate to confront “violence and potential terrorism.”

“Frankly, he doesn’t need to invite or order us. All he needs to do is wink… And if he wants to have four wives, we’re at his service. If he wants us as melk el-yemeen [members of his harem], I swear we aren’t above that!” said the much enthused writer.

Al-Sisi’s 40-minute speech on July 24 was reminiscent of Egypt’s first (or second, depending on who you ask) president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Speaking with dark sunglasses in his sharp military uniform, he appealed to the Egyptian people with storytelling and apparent sincerity. “I swear to God, I swear to God, I swear to God,” Al-Sisi repeated, “the Egyptian army is as united as the heart of one man,” he said in response to rumors that the army was split over the ousting of Morsi. (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…)