North Africa, West Asia

This week's window on the Middle East - March 3, 2014

Arab Awakening's columnists offer their weekly perspective on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East. Leading the week, Four reasons for throwing down a gauntlet to El Sisi.

Arab Awakening
3 March 2014
  • Four reasons for throwing down a gauntlet to El Sisi
  • Today's Egypt in a song: Emperor Rima's clothes
  • Political violence and state repression in Egypt
  • The Egyptian media’s non-campaigning campaign for Sisi
  • Journalism is not terrorism
  • Four reasons for throwing down a gauntlet to El Sisi

    By Mina Fayek

    Now that it seems imminent that Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi will run for Egypt's presidency, some argue that it’s a done deal and that there’s no need to compete with him, especially due to the overwhelming support he is getting from both state institutions and media outlets, and others argue that anyone else’s participation in the elections would only be for decorative purposes, only further legitimizing the whole process.

    Last week left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabbahi officially announced his presidential bid. Khaled Ali, the youngest presidential contender in 2012 may also announce his intent to run soon. The Tamarod (Rebel) movement, known for backing the military, is split over which candidate to support. Two of its three leaders support Sabbahi, while the third supports Sisi. This is excluding two other contenders, namely Sami Anan and potentially Ahmed Shafik, both military men, as they are very unlikely to gain support from any kind of progressive camp.

    The political scene is not encouraging many to engage, especially with widespread arrests, unfair competition and the consolidation of power by state bodies. However, I would argue that there are several legit reasons to take the risk and challenge El Sisi in the upcoming presidential elections.

    The snowball effect

    Some might argue that the hope of having a civilian president has, to a great extent, receded after former president Morsi’s failures. The majority now prefer a military candidate over a civilian one. Nevertheless, the revolution itself was triggered by thousands who joined a Facebook event that was widely ridiculed and underestimated by Mubarak and his advocates. On 25 January 2011, small groups of defiant Egyptians took to the streets demanding the reform of the Ministry of Interior. Three days later, the numbers of protesters grew considerably and demands leapt to, “The people demand the fall of the regime”, which continued until Mubarak was ousted.

    It doesn't take much to calculate how long it will take before people start to realize that the current “new-old” authorities will not fulfil their economic and stability aspirations. In fact, frustration at Sisi has already set in, especially among the working classes. In this video, a group of protesters blame Sisi for being conned into voting ‘yes’ in the January 2014 constitutional referendum. “Why did we vote for him?” one woman shouts, “We voted for him because we were promised we would gain our rights by doing so! Where is Gen. El Sisi?” As irrelevant as it may sound, everyone in this video understands very well who is in charge and who to blame.

    Fady Samir, a Copt, was recently arrested in a protest and accused of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. His father appears in this video saying: “El Sisi is not eliminating terrorism but rather eliminating the youth.” The young man provides yet another example of how the regime is losing its allies, this time the Coptic community, who were perceived as being key supporters of El Sisi. However, this support is steadily dwindling.

    As time passes, more and more factions of society realize the facts and are slowly starting to make demands. When these factions reach this point they need to find a competent political substitute who can further persuade them off the old regime’s arena back into the 'revolutionary' as opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood camp.

    The no-alternative pretence

    Mubarak’s regime had often argued that there is no alternative and that chaos will prevail the moment his government leaves office. The same claim is likely to be raised with respect to Sisi, given the noticeable faction of Mubarak supporters and propagandists who support him now. If Hamdeen and/or Khaled Ali manage to secure a remarkable number of votes, possibly from young voters, this long undermining claim could be publicly refuted.

    Maintaining our voting process

    Days before the January 2014 referendum, at least seven activists from the Strong Egypt Party, including a friend of mine, were arrested while campaigning for a ‘no’ vote on the constitutional amendments. As a result the party decided to boycott the process in protest over the arrests. Had no one decided to rally for a ‘no’ vote, we wouldn’t have heard about violations committed by the police.

    These young men bravely took the risk amidst the “dissent-narrowing procedures” carried out by authorities and exposed the regime’s goal to curb pluralism. If the ballot box is one of the few gains we succeeded in attaining after the January 25 revolution, then we should be persistent in keeping it clean and corruption-free by defying any attempts at a hijack.

    Revolutionary bid

    Although he denies being 'the mantle of the revolution', Sabbahi often says the he seeks to achieve the goals of the revolution. In an interview he openly denounced regressions against political detainees and police violations against citizens. This is somewhat of an embarrassment for Sisi, who knows very well that the youth turnout was lower than expected in the referendum, which was interpreted as a sign of protest over the recent oppressive measures taken by the Egyptian authorities. The field marshal will have to embrace a more “revolution-friendly” narrative if he’s planning on winning votes from the youth, otherwise they’ll support Sabbahi or Ali. On the other hand, if he does this, he may well lose the support of his old state cronies, which puts him between a rock and a hard place.

    With increasing workers' strikes, gas shortages and daily power cuts (in winter, when the demands of electricity are a fraction of what they are in the hot summer months) in addition to a dwindling economy and tourism industry, Egypt’s next president is already up against a huge challenge. Presidential hopefuls, including Sisi, should be aware that using traditional tactics to solve Egypt’s problems is not going to work in his or anyone else’s favour. This indeed at the least will put pressure on the military strongman to translate his “no going back” promise into an effective electoral programme, or else he’s at risk of losing the support he’s secured so far and could potentially face another uprising.

    Today's Egypt in a song: Emperor Rima's clothes

    By Mamoon Alabbasi

    Yasser Elmanawahly.

    Yasser Elmanawahly.

    In Egypt, there is a new catchy tune circulating in social media pages. The song, which gives a symbolic description of current events in Egypt, is sung by an artist who is known for his strong leanings towards the 25 January 2011 revolution. Yasser Elmanawahly stayed true to his ideals even when they clashed with those who were in power following the fall of Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak. He was critical of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' (SCAF) reign and did not hold back in criticising the rule of the country's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi. 

    But today, following the coup that overthrew Morsi and the subsequent crackdown on dissent and on freedoms (of conscience and of speech), the stakes are much higher. When public and private media outlets sing the praise of the de-facto ruling military regime, and when political disagreement with that junta could have you end up behind bars, framed with trumped up charges, or simply six feet under - then now is not the ideal time to release a song about the "Emperor's Clothes."

    Which is why his debut song 'Rima' is not only a work of art in the aesthetic sense but it is also a noble act of bravery. It sings truth to power without compromising on 'form' for the sake of 'content'. There is cohesion between the melody, lyrics and video clip, which are tied up together by a folkloric flavour.

    The lyrics, written by Mohamed Elsyed, are themselves highly idiomatic where what is left unsaid is understood from the little that is said. Here is a rough translation of the lyrics:

    Rima is back (to her old ways) after the change

    With an old tale, that we've witnessed times before                         

    With raised batons and banned speech

    People are dying from bullets and hunger

    Now she is back, but why is she back?

    You see, the ill-fated one had a lamp

    And brave children that he left to decay

    He did not know how to drive without exceeding the limit

    So he crashed into a post, especially prepared for him

    Rima saw him and overthrew him

    Now Rima is back 

    You ask why Pharaoh is acting like a Pharaoh

    Rima is back (to her old ways) after the change

    With an old tale, that we've witnessed times before

    You see, the ill-fated one had a lamp

    Now Rima is back with repeated words:

    'A movie hero is coming, O kids'

    'A trustworthy statesman'

    'Although he is affectionate, he is tough and brings down mountains'

    With few drummers and capitalists

    And permissible fatwas and filmmakers

    Rima is back

    Now Rima is back wearing many faces

    Covering up a crime by crying for help

    You won't fool us with your games, mean one

    We've encountered fake ones times before

    To hell with Rima!

    In a telephone interview with the lyricist, he confirmed that Rima is "a reference to the police state". The choice of name is based on the old saying 'Rima is back to her old ways'. Why is the police state back? Well, it's because Morsi, referred to in the song as the 'ill-fated one', did "not listen to the revolutionary youth". Instead, "he left them to the old regime". A combination of Morsi's mistakes and the traps set by the deep state (like deliberate electricity outages, gas shortages and other orchestrated crises as well as misleading media campaigns) is beautifully captured in the lyrics: 'He did not know how to drive without exceeding the limit / So he crashed into a post, especially prepared for him'. Even though Morsi had a 'lamp' (a reference to his presidential post) he remained 'ill-fated'.

    For those who follow current events in Egypt, the rest of the lyrics are pretty much self-explanatory: the glorification of the military by 'drummers' (propaganda praise), the idea of a superstar saviour (who is in effect a Pharaoh), the welcomed fatwas of pro-military clerics, the factitious news and the capitalists who fund the media. The lyrics are indeed powerful, which is what prompted Elmanawahly – who usually relies on his own lyrics when singing – to contact Elsyed in order to use them as soon as he saw them on the wall of the lyricist's Facebook page.

    When interviewing Elmanawahly over the phone, he stressed that "the revolution is still on-going", expressing his "full faith in today's youth" to carry on the struggle "for freedom, dignity, and real independence". He is still daring to ask, "What happened to the martyrs of the revolution?" And he also asks about all of those who have died since, including members of the police force.

    Many of the revolutionaries, he said, were "in a state of shock". But they are still committed to the path of January 25. He doesn't have to choose between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military rule, because he sees a third way. Whether that third way ever sees the light is hard to predict. But unlike many self-proclaimed revolutionaries, he hasn't sold out to the returning dictatorship. In the meantime unfortunately, as the lyrics note, 'with raised batons and banned speech / people are dying from bullets and hunger'. 

    Political violence and state repression in Egypt

    By Maged Mandour

    Political violence in Egypt has been rising steadily since the coup that removed President Morsi from power on July 3. This type of violence has had obvious manifestations, namely, the massacre of protestors during the forceful clearing of the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins last August, and the return of the police state with the usual routine of arbitrary arrests and torture.

    The purpose of this article is not to summarize what have now become routine headlines, rather to show that this is a symptom of a much wider and deeper phenomenon, namely the expansion of political violence, in the broader sense, in the realm of civil and political society, by both state and non-state actors. In the context of this article, political violence refers to the use of acts of violence and/or coercion to achieve political goals, by both state and non-state actors. Since the June 30 coup both the state and Islamist radicals have carried out violent acts.

    In the realm of civil society

    There are two forms of violence committed on behalf of the state; one is practiced in the realm of civil society, which is decentralized in nature, and the other is practiced by the state itself in the realm of political society. Civil society in this case is defined in the broadest sense, as the realm of consent, where different societal groups are solicited by the ruling classes, in this case a military/crony capitalist alliance which includes media, trade unions, schools and so forth.

    In the case of Egypt, civil society has been performing a form of self-repression; a large segment has allied itself with the state repressing other segments that oppose the military. The most obvious example is local media, which is “technically” privately owned, however actively involved in propagating conspiracy theories that border on the ludicrous, especially with regard to the root causes of the Egyptian Revolution. The recurring theme is the claim that the uprising was a foreign conspiracy to destroy the last standing Arab army, with the assertion that the activists who helped start the revolution are traitors, if not foreign agents.

    This is coupled with heavily orientalist rhetoric about the role of the Egyptian military in general, and the role of Field Marshal El Sisi in particular. Sisi is depicted as a father figure, leading his lost children - the Egyptian people - out of the abyss that they have placed themselves in. A rhetoric that shares a lot of features with the colonial’s depiction of the colonized world; people that need to be ruled with force as they are incapable of ruling themselves. Depicting Sisi the same way that the European colonialists did, and still depict themselves, as the saviours of nations. Egypt is always depicted as a helpless entity, emphasizing a typical stereotype of the east, as both feminine and servile, in need of rescue.

    This type of repression has a very peculiar characteristic, in that it does not involve the direct involvement of the state, rather the allies of the state that indirectly repress opponents. This type of repression requires the cooption of intellectuals, defined in the broadest sense, to act as direct agents of repression. Sadly, this list is rather long, and includes people who were well known for their opposition to the Mubarak regime. The clearest example is Ibrahim Eissa, the once revolutionary journalist, and the current minister of Labour, Kamal Abou Eita, one of the heroes of the Egyptian working classes. This cooption, driven by the rejection of the rule of the Brotherhood, has justified this degree of repression, especially from a critical segment of society, the urban middle classes.

    In the realm of political society

    The state coercive apparatus, namely the police, military and judiciary, practices the other form of repression – political repression – centrally. This form of repression is relatively easy to observe, and falls within our expected stereotype of mass arrests, torture and so on. However, the type of repression being practiced by the Egyptian government has a number of new features that are worth highlighting.

    First, the traditional taboos of repression that were found in a tacit agreement between the middle classes and the Mubarak regime seem to have evaporated. For example, the detention of minors in prison cells with adults, and incidents of sexual harassment of female protestors and detainees has become regular practice. It is important to note that although the Mubarak regime relied heavily on repression, it attempted not to offend middle class sensibilities, and not to cross certain boundaries. This does not seem to be the case anymore.

    Second, the purposes of direct coercion are not to repress dissent; but rather to eradicate it and to make examples of those who dare to raise their voices in opposition. The Mubarak regime used to allow certain areas for freedom of dissent as along as it did not cross a certain boundary; such as critiquing the head of the regime. Now, with all the popular support the military has, it is not tolerating even the slightest critique, and is willing to respond with disproportionate force, following the Confucian saying “Using a hammer to kill a fly”.

    Non-state actors

    On the other hand, political violence is being committed by non-state actors. A good example are the recurring bombs that have gone off across the country since the overthrow of Morsi. It is important to note that there is no concrete evidence as to who is responsible, according to local newspapers; Ansar Beit El Maqdis have supposedly claimed responsibility for a number of these attacks.

    The first feature that merits our attention are the locations of these bomb attacks. Unlike the wave of Islamic radicalism of the 1980s and 1990s, the current attacks started in the Sinai Peninsula rather than Upper Egypt (south of Egypt), which is a traditional stronghold for conservative movements and the birth place of El Gama’a El Islamiya; an Islamist group that clashed with the government in the 1980s and 1990s. This might be due to their de-radicalisation in the late 1990s, and the realization that the costs of waging armed struggle against the state outweigh the benefits by far. Upper Egypt is also a stronghold for the Brotherhood and they may be able to exert stronger control there: one only needs to look at the voting patterns of the last three years, from the presidential elections to the 2012 referendum to see their strength there.

    However, the Bedouins of Sinai have been suffering from severe state repression for years, and have been posed as a security threat to the rest of the country, which might have offered an opening to radical groups to infiltrate the local population, this of course does not imply that the entire population has become radical, rather, that a combination of state repression, as well as a historical political vacuum has allowed radical groups to establish a foothold in the Sinai Peninsula at a time of revolutionary flux.

    The second feature, is the amateurish nature of the bombs used. It seems that the devices used are homemade bombs. This means, that those “Islamist radicals”, unlike the older generation that received extensive training and combat experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere, as Fawaz Gerges discusses in his book Journey of a Jihadist, appear to be home grown radicals that have limited experience. There is also some evidence to suggest that they might be radicalized members of the Muslim Brotherhood that broke off into splinter cells, and are no longer under the control of the central command of the Brotherhood. This is shown in the confession of two bombers published in Al-Ahram and Al Masry el Youm.

    The final feature is the relatively low number of casualties inflicted. Most of the casualties are members of the security forces and a good example are the series of bombs that went off in Cairo on the third anniversary of the revolution. The goal seemed to be to send a message to the security forces and to chip away at the legitimacy of the government that promised a return to stability and security. The aim was not to alienate the civilian population, by not inflicting causalities; a qualitative change from previous violent acts practiced by radical Islamist groups.

    As the political order relies more on coercion to assert itself, the level of political violence and state repression is set to increase over the coming years. This might also signal the emergence of radical fringe groups that will take advantage of the polarized political situation. The slogan of “Egypt is fighting terrorism” is only a short-term remedy, diverting attention away from the severe economic and political crisis facing Egypt. The recent increase in civil unrest and the proliferation of strikes and other forms of protest are a sign that the Egyptian struggle is only beginning.

    The Egyptian media’s non-campaigning campaign for Sisi

    By Mohamed Elmeshad

    Demotix/Adham Khorshed. All rights reserved.

    Egyptians celebrating the 3rd anniversary of the January 25 revolution. Demotix/Adham Khorshed. All rights reserved.

    It's the oldest tactic in Egyptian politics, nay politics in general. When you really have no precedent or direct evidence that what you want to do is needed or wanted, throw out some all too obvious feelers and poorly veiled hints to the public to set the stage for an inevitable scenario. On some level it's a variant of the "Nudge theory," a behavioural science concept used in public policy, where the ruling power uses positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions in order to achieve "non-forced compliance".

    In the case of ensuring Egyptian compliance and acceptance of a presidential run/rule by "Field Marshal" Abdel Fattah El Sisi, the case has not been a nudge, so much as it has been a consistent, violent shove. Since his address to the nation in the run-up to June 30, and his portrayal as capable statesman, disciplined soldier, dear leader, saviour and doting father of the nation it is all too evident that he will be Egypt's next ruler; all the while the country's media dancing around his unannounced, yet inevitable run for presidency.

    To get things moving, opposition and supporters: just announce it already so everyone can start planning accordingly. Instead of waiting on news to leak from some Kuwaiti newspapers, we can all call things what they are. For example, when Sisi is not in military clothes, respectable journalists will not have to waste any of their time stipulating why. Coffee shops and dinner tables will be spared the frivolous musings why. It is not for want of a Sisi presidency, by any means, that I say this (quite the contrary, actually), but this is written in the stipulation of the near-certain possibility that a Sisi presidency will come to pass. 

    Everything about the Sisi "non-campaign" up until this point looks like a carefully orchestrated "checklist" in the space of a few months to make sure he has all of the credentials to be the perfect presidential candidate. The sycophantic public and private media-scape has been leading the way in this charade pretending not to know that they are the main tools for this entire "nudging." It would not be in the least bit surprising if TV presenter, Lamees El-Hadidi goes over this checklist soon with conviction just as a reminder that God has bestowed upon Egypt the gift of the perfect would-be President:

    Chummy with world leaders, a statesman... check!

    Can give tender patronizing fatherly speeches... check!

    Wears a suit...check!

    Security... check!

    First lady looking First Lady-like… check!

    Prayer mark, existent so as to portray piousness, not over imposing so as to suggest fanaticism...check!

    Masses asking him (delegating to him) to run for presidency i.e. public supra-electoral mandate...check!

    The result the media is so obviously building towards, is that the image of Sisi will continue to be inflated until it is so big, it dominates the horizon of anyone looking to the future for political signs. Former MP and (political yo-yo) Mohamed Abu-Hamid took this to another level by writing to a declared candidate, Hamdeen Sabbahy, that his candidacy is an "affront to the will of the people." Somehow it has been acceptable to scoff (or attack) just the mere expression of a thought regarding the presidency that is not predicated on the formula that Sisi = leader. At the same time - as any follower of Bassem Youssef’s show knows - the same media outlets put a lot of effort in the “who will be Egypt’s next president” performance.

    During his trip to Moscow for a weapons deal, El-Sisi and Russian President Vladimir Putin found time for an intimate photo-op, where Putin expressed support for Sisi's potential bid for presidency. It was just the latest in the surrealist landscape that is Egyptian "politics." Sisi wears a Soviet style winter coat, emblazoned with a large Red Star, receiving the blessings of one of the two most powerful men in the world, after negotiating an arms deal, which even though it is not with the Americans, is still funded by America's most important ally in the region, Saudi Arabia.

    It is the second time in recent memory that a presidential candidate from one country took his campaign outside the country’s borders. The first, being Mitt Romney's trip to Israel. But unlike Romney's trip, this felt like the first of many projected visits as head of state. Putin could just as well have said, "I'll just keep this seat warm for you." It's not even really feeling like a nudge or a shove anymore, so much as a bludgeon to the head. Any Egyptian following the media is being put through a Sisi vortex, where the only possible outcome for that person, is to come out of it believing that Sisi will -and must!- be president.

    On top of the hints and the association games being played by the pro-Sisi media camp, we are also treated to their lab rat experiments where the media throws the bait, and sees how people respond. For one, the rumour mill is working over-time providing constant “leaks” that Sisi will definitely run for presidency”... “Sisi, hours away from announcing candidacy”...”Sisi to respond to the will of the people and announce presidency.” Sometimes, the media takes it yet a step further by giving their own obvious bait mixed with nudges. “Sisi will only run for president if the Egyptian people go out in the streets and demand it,” said TV presenter Mostafa Bakry, who always seems to speak with confidence when speaking of anything to do with the military.

    Mass media has even treated us to metaphysical baiting vis-à-vis the leaked tapes of a Sisi-like voice discussing multiple dreams that foreshadow his role as a leader of the people. Through “unintentional leaks” the media tested the penchant of Egyptian people to believe in the ecclesiastic apparitions of a man some have gone public to equate with the prophets and saints.

    The more this process drags out, the more the run-up to the presidential elections will seem like a coronation at the end of a red carpet, rather than a swearing-in at the end of a campaign, complete with a platform, debates and actual competition. 

    As it stands, Sabbahi will be making the media rounds as a presidential candidate, finding no one to debate but himself. Even he will have no option but to praise everything Sisi does as the untouchable Minister of Defense and Commander of the Armed Forces. We are living in an environment where any direct criticism of either is unacceptable, and so any infringement by either is swept under the rug. Even if Sisi announces his candidacy tonight, I do not expect there to be a real contest. But perhaps a chance to begin "the discourse" that Egyptians need to see happen and participate in: picking up the pieces and moving forward.

    The question is more to Sisi: is he as oblivious (or complicit, as some say) to the grand scale of human rights abuses, torture, judicial vacuum and infringement on all rights, occurring now? Does he believe that a security crackdown on every imaginable right is actually the only way to achieve stability? Is he believing all of the hype surrounding him or is he a willing participant in the non-campaigning campaign going on for him in the media and in some public circles. As a country that seems to have succumbed to the military patriarchy: will we ever know any of the pressing answers we need to know to have any glimmer of hope for the coming period? Or will we wait and endure (some more than others) until for some it becomes unbearable, and then another revolutionary eruption happens? 

    Most importantly, does he believe that the current struggle against terrorism is the only issue facing the country now? Many of the pro-security, pro-Sisi advocates, seem to think that he is needed to keep the country together. What they all have so horribly miscalculated, is that while Mubarak held the skeleton of the country up, it has been eating up and dissolving inside to the fragmented (but still savable) situation we are in now. Does Sisi know this? If so, what will he do so it doesn’t continue to dissolve inside, while he holds up the skeleton? Up until now, there are no indications that he has any plan. Perhaps if he campaigned, he can start thinking about it. 

    People need to know his plan now. At least then before his anointment, rather than being nudged to merely comply, everyone will be nudged into mental preparedness for what's coming.

    Of course, one must not rule out the miniscule possibility that Sisi does not “run” for presidency. If that happens, this writer will be left red-faced… but I’ll take my chances.

    Journalism is not terrorism

    By Egypt Solidarity Initiative

    Demotix/Terry Scott. All rights reserved.

    Demonstration in front of the Egyptian Embassy in London. Demotix/Terry Scott. All rights reserved.

    Around 65 journalists gathered outside the Egyptian embassy in London on February 19, demanding that the military drops charges against foreign journalists who are due to go on trial in Cairo today.

    Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Mohammed Fadel Fahmy and Baher Mohammed have been detained by the Egyptian authorities since 29 December. Their colleague Abdullah Al Shami has been detained since 14 August and is in the third week of a hunger-strike. This is a letter Peter Greste wrote from his prison cell.

    Earlier this month the Egyptian authorities published a list of 20 journalists, accusing them of aiding terrorists while working in the country. Of the 20, nine are Al Jazeera staff.

    Award-winning correspondent Sue Turton – who worked for Sky News, ITN and Channel 4 prior to joining Al Jazeera – is among those on the list. She joined a demonstration at the Egyptian embassy this morning calling for an end to the trials and charges.

    Sue Turton said, 

    I am astounded that a warrant is out for my arrest because of my reporting in Egypt last year. I didn’t treat the situation there any differently to every other story I’ve reported on in almost 25 years as a TV reporter. I have no allegiance to any political group in Egypt or anywhere else and no desire to promote any one point of view.”

    National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Jeremy Corbyn MP, of the NUJ parliamentary group met the Egyptian ambassador Ashraf Elkholy to outline worldwide concern at the silencing of journalists in Egypt. 

    Michelle Stanistreet said,

    “We are here to tell the Egyptian ambassador of our outrage at the treatment of journalists in his country. In addition to our four colleagues from Al Jazeera on trial tomorrow, all journalists trying to cover an important story critical to Egypt’s history are being targeted. Six have been killed covering events, others have been injured, imprisoned or had their equipment confiscated. The international community insists that journalists should be free to do their jobs.”

    The Egypt Solidarity Initiative website was launched on 11 February 2014, the third anniversary of the fall of Mubarak, to publicise the Egypt Solidarity Initiative founding statement and campaign in defence of democratic rights in Egypt.

    Senior television executives have signed an open letter urging the Egyptian authorities to free those due to go on trial tomorrow. The signatories included: James Hardy, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, his deputy, Fran Unsworth; John Hardie ITN’s chief executive; John Ryley, the head of Sky News; John Pullman, global editor at Reuters; Deborah Turness, president of NBC News and Jon Williams, managing editor of international news at ABC News.

    Katy Clark MP said,

    “The 2011 pro-democracy protests in Tahrir Square were an inspiration to all those fighting for democracy across the world. It is therefore deeply concerning to see the current repression, intimidation and killings taking palace in Egypt. We must do all we can to ensure the victories won three years ago are not eradicated and that the country does not descend back into military rule. I therefore welcome the Egypt Solidarity initiative and wish it every success in fighting for justice, democracy and human rights.”

    Furthermore, this debate on Egypt took place in Westminster Hall on January 29.

    The trial comes at a time when journalists are under increasing attack in Egypt. The Egypt Journalists’ Syndicate issued a condemnation against the interior ministry recently after reporters covering protests in Cairo were assaulted and their equipment seized, while some were even shot at with live ammunition; 19 journalists were arrested in a single day.

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