Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/6477/all cached version 31/07/2018 12:40:28 en Critical voices in critical times: Peter Mayo on Gramsci, Egypt and critical pedagogy https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-nadim-mirshak/critical-voices-in-critical-times-peter-mayo-on-g <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can the work and thought of Antonio Gramsci help us make sense of the Arab Uprisings and their aftermath? Is there a place for critical pedagogy in times of counter-revolution? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 11.59.40 PM copy.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 11.59.40 PM copy.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="252" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>This interview is part of the series “Critical Voices in Critical Times” coordinated and edited by Linda Herrera. In this interview Peter Mayo, professor at the University of Malta and renowned scholar on Gramsci and Freire, engages with Egyptian sociologist from the University of Manchester, Nadim Mirshak, in a compelling conversation about civil society, hegemony and the “Modern Prince.” They explore the challenges of doing critical work under authoritarian contexts and the need to develop a globalisation from below as an alternative to neoliberal globalisation. </p><p><strong>Interview By Nadim Mirshak</strong><sup><strong></strong></sup><strong> </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Watch the video of the interview <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8Vdhud1hww">here</a></p> <iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/A8Vdhud1hww" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">&nbsp;<strong>Video by Linda Herrera</strong></p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"><strong><br /></strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Nadim Mirshak:</strong> In this current period of post-uprising Egypt, civil society seems to be one of the few spaces left where hegemony is challenged in ways that are different from protests, sit-ins or violent demonstrations. In your book,<em> <a class="western" href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/gramsci-freire-and-adult-education/">Gramsci, Freire and Adult Education: Possibilities for Transformative Action</a></em><a class="western" href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/gramsci-freire-and-adult-education/"><em> (1999)</em></a><em> </em>you argue that civil society should not be romanticised. Can you explain what you mean?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Peter Mayo:</strong> Central to Gramsci’s notion of hegemony is that civil society is not always oppositional. Gramsci was looking at what the Germans call ‘<em>bürgerliche gesellschaft’</em>, bourgeois civil society. What he means is that if a transformation would take place within civil society and within the interstices of hegemony itself, or if a great revolution or intellectual and moral reform took place, maybe it would not remain a bourgeois civil society anymore. But it would still remain civil society nonetheless.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Nowhere in Gramsci’s writings does he use the term “counter-hegemony,” precisely because he wants to avoid this notion of binary, of being “counter” or “hegemonic.” The two are instead intertwined, dialectically if you like. One cannot be counter-hegemonic without participating within the hegemonic system. At the same time, the hegemonic system is never one hundred percent hegemonic because it is never complete. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Why was Gramsci influential for you, and particularly his ideas on education? </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> I heard a lot about Gramsci in the 1970s here in Malta because of our close cultural and geographical association with Italy. Gramsci was always there, he was always mentioned. I remember I was invited to the Communist Party’s General Conference, although I was not a member of the party. The General Secretary of the Communist Party opened with a statement by saying, “Truth is revolutionary, as Antonio Gramsci once said.” First of all, what he said is “To say the truth is revolutionary,” which is not the same as saying, “Truth is revolutionary.” I had been hearing these kinds of buzzwords from Gramsci, but buzzwords they were. [1] </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Now there was something in particular about Gramsci which attracted me. I ‘found myself’ in this. I ‘found Malta’ in the famous interrupted document Gramsci was writing at the time he was arrested in 1926: <a class="western" href="https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/blogs.uoregon.edu/dist/f/6855/files/2014/03/gramsci-southern-question1926-2jf8c5x.pdf"><em>Some Aspects of the Southern Question</em></a>. Many write about education and the Unitarian School, others write about the organic intellectual, but very few people write about the Southern Question and education. It helped me better understand the current political, cultural and educational dynamics in the Mediterranean. I began to analyse how the cultural climate was shaped on this archipelago of islands, the role of intellectuals including subaltern intellectuals, the Catholic Church and its larger networks (Catholic Action, etc.) and agents of merchant capital in this context. [2] </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Moreover, Gramsci’s notes on Italian history made me understand the situation in which my own country, an island as well, found itself. There were parallels with the missed revolution, the Neapolitan-French revolution [the Parthenopean Republic] which was considered to be a ‘passive revolution’ by Gramsci as it was not rooted in popular consciousness. So, the Southern Question was originally at the back of my mind when I was attracted towards Gramsci. I found this affinity with the Mediterranean. I am sure that you coming from Egypt will also find this kind of affinity with Gramsci’s ‘Southern Question.’</p> <h3><strong>Was it an Arab “Spring”?</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM: </strong>In your book <em><a class="western" href="https://www.routledge.com/Hegemony-and-Education-Under-Neoliberalism-Insights-from-Gramsci/Mayo/p/book/9780415812276">Hegemony and Education under Neoliberalism</a> (2016)</em>, you mention that you wanted to avoid using the fashionable term “Arab Spring”. Can you explain?</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> ‘Spring’ for me goes back to the Bratislava Spring. It was a spring in aspiration – the blooming of new flowers - a spring in vision, but in actual fact it ended tragically when the Russian tanks came in. I do not think Spring was right for 2011. Not only was it too early to suggest parallels with other movements, but it was too early to see where this was going. Was this a regeneration? It may have been a regeneration in the sense that Egyptian people who never thought it was possible, were out in the streets. A spring? Maybe a spring in the vision. You never know what the future holds. You know, spring is resurrection, reminiscent of that much exoticized aspect of Egypt –the ancient fertility deity rituals, especially the sprouting corn-god, Osiris. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> In 2011 Linda Herrera and I wrote a piece when we were intrigued by what was happening as youth accessed the internet, an instrument of hegemony, to get people out on the streets. [3] One of the things we said was not to get ahead of ourselves. This was a spontaneous uprising, but then there was the Gramscian question: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em>Was there any conscious direction? </em> </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> And then the searching question: <em>if there was, where was it coming from? </em> </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> It all goes back to the historical situation which repeats itself first as tragedy and rarely simply in farce, if I can be allowed to play around with Marx’s famous statement. You can have all the goodwill in the world when you go out on a spontaneous pouring of outrage about lack of jobs, lack of dignity, corruption, etc., and yet, if we do not have a revolutionary understanding behind this, and, more importantly, a revolutionary strategy (without guarantees), somebody else will. That somebody else can be organising below the radar. And the uprising can take a different trajectory which is at the furthest remove from what many people had in mind – people involved in the streets and squares. So basically, there was an important issue to be tackled at the outset: direction. </p><p class="mag-quote-right" lang="en-GB">The whole history of the world has been full of these false dawns</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em>Where was the direction coming from? </em> </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> In the case of Egypt, what was the role of the Military and the Muslim Brotherhood? Gramsci’s discussion around the relationship between ‘<em>spontaneit</em><em>à</em>’ and ‘<em>direzione consapevole</em>’ is quite pertinent in these situations. I would say now with the advantage of hindsight, it was a false dawn. The whole history of the world has been full of these false dawns. When we look at when Marx wrote, he was looking at situations which really gave him hope, I mean, I cannot think of anything better than the Paris <a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Commune">Commune</a>. He and Engels derived great inspiration from the Commune and that only lasted around forty days or so.</p> <h3 class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Egypt and </strong><strong>c</strong><strong>ritical </strong><strong>p</strong><strong>edagogy</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> As an Egyptian I thought that Gramsci can help make lots of sense of what is happening in Egypt. There’s a growing body of work focusing on Gramsci in relation to Egypt. There’s a book by Brecht De Smet, <a class="western" href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745335575/gramsci-on-tahrir/"><em>Gramsci on Tahrir</em></a> (2016) and Roberto Roccu’s <a class="western" href="https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137395917"><em>The Political Economy of the Egyptian Revolution</em></a> (2013) about the “failed hegemony” of Mubarak’s regime. His argument was that one of the reasons why Mubarak’s regime fell was because his neoliberal business cronies failed to gather enough consent for their project. Then there’s the older work of Peter Gran who deals with the Southern Question in relation to Upper Egypt in <a class="western" href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beyond-Eurocentrism-Modern-World-History/dp/0815626924"><em>Beyond Eurocentrism</em></a> (1996).</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> People were seeing that there was no building of hegemony by the Mubarak oligarchy. But then you have brutal force being exerted. What we have is a situation characterised by tangible evidence of a legitimation crisis. This in turn leads to recourse to the repressive apparatus of the state. Of course, there is always an attempt at ideological conditioning in these situations as distinctions between repression and consent are heuristic, though, in this situation, the process would be very much skewed towards repression as a result of the legitimation crisis. And I cannot of think of many more repressive forces than the Egyptian police or the Egyptian army. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Yes, that is definitely an issue because as an Egyptian scholar, I have lots of colleagues who are now in exile or have been arrested for taking critical stances. It is becoming more difficult to find ways to challenge the current situation. One of the things I did in my research, was to explore alternative ways to resist the Egyptian state. I focused on education. Organisations know that once you got overtly political or oppositional, there is a high chance of the Egyptian police and the state security services shutting you down. So, they started to superficially depoliticise their rhetoric. They took a more liberal tone by saying things like, “We are providing an education about democracy.” </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> For instance, one NGO would get kids aged from eight till fourteen or fifteen to build a cardboard city. The kids had to make decisions about how to run it, set up the economy, the system of voting, and system of accountability. When something goes wrong, who is to blame and so on. Through such games, the kids learned about economics, politics, democracy and human rights. The state cannot come and say, “What are you doing here? Why are you teaching kids about politics?” That’s what I was interested in: finding alternative means of bypassing the state’s restrictions. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> Linda [Herrera] pointed out that there is also the ethical question of exposing activities that are under the radar through our research. They are under the radar for a reason. On the one hand, we want to recognise and share the important work people are doing, and on the other, allow people and groups time, space and privacy to stay below the surface until they are ready to go more public.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Of course, being academics who are trying to look at the world from a critical perspective, being able to read the word and the world, is something I also grappled with back home in Egypt doing my fieldwork. When I started talking about political education and raising consciousness, some people would say, “But we do not necessarily want [a raised consciousness]. All I want is to have a job, have money, be healthy, make sure my kids go to good schools. I do not want to be involved in politics, I just want to be left alone.” Other people said, “To be honest, I have never really thought about it. I do not want to look at the world from a different angle. I do not want to ruffle feathers or cause unnecessary problems. I just want to be left alone. So, for me, political education is not important.” This is something I still am thinking about. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> Your point is very Freirean. I need to refer to Freire’s <a class="western" href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/22583/pedagogy-of-the-oppressed/"><em>Pedagogy of the Oppressed</em></a>. Freire wrote one of the most important books regarding the issue you raised. For him, political education was more a question of how to read the world. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Have you experienced something similar in Malta?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> It’s a different context. I’m not saying that there is no repression in Malta, but it is a different context than Egypt. Remember, we are talking about Paulo Freire here who wrote from a context of military dictatorships in Latin America but whose work has wider resonance. Obviously, you will have people who will tell you, and I do not blame them: “Listen, leave me alone, I want to live a tranquil life both for me and my children.” Of course, this is always going to occur, because people understand the military can be ruthless. However, indifference is encountered in many places. It was Gramsci who said ‘<em>Odio gli indifferenti</em>” (I hate the indifferent). There is always a danger when doing critical pedagogy; it is never a safe space. What is the price you are prepared to pay to do this? There is a price to be paid.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Whatever you are doing, how does that enable you to read the situation you are in? You also need to be realistic and negotiate the agendas involved in the learning setting, as people have their own agendas which need to be understood and respected. You can be as political as much as you want, but I can imagine someone saying: you can have all the emancipatory ideas that you like, but I want to learn mathematics… I want to learn coding because they are important. Now, how to do this? Michael Young talks about ‘powerful knowledge’. Critical pedagogues ignore it at their peril and much to the detriment of the learners concerned. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> This issue of powerful knowledge is important for former colonial countries that you and I grew up in. Here in Malta, you need to know English even though we have a national language, very much a national-popular language, in Gramsci’s terms. We learn English in a technical way, but we do not learn that we are second-class citizens if we do not know the language [within a global hierarchy of English knowledge production]. English is powerful knowledge over here and elsewhere. Every context has its powerful knowledge. If you lived in the Middle Ages in Europe, Theology would have been powerful knowledge, Latin would have been powerful knowledge. But if we lived in Europe post-18<sup>th</sup> century, Science would have been powerful knowledge and you cannot do away with that.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The struggle lies in how one learns this powerful knowledge. How did English come into the livelihoods of our people and communities? How was its historical condition linked to British colonialism [and later the ascendency of the US]? Today, what kind of social stratification does it create? I am talking about how you teach English critically, from a Freirean perspective if you will. Teaching English also requires teaching its political role, and that is where Freire comes in. You are reading the world. You are reading how imperialism has risen and how it conditions our lives, and how one appropriates critically elements brought about by colonialism – a very complex multifaceted phenomenon – that enable us to survive and act politically on a large scale. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> It is the same in Egypt. If you don’t speak English in Egypt [you will be at a real disadvantage]. However, people from my generation who went to international schools and learned English are making efforts to always write in Arabic, especially on social media. We need to write in Arabic in order to reach as many people as possible.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" lang="en-GB">Everything comes together: emotion, imagination, whatever connects with people’s framework of relevance and zones of being.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> Our situation in Malta is more complex because Arabic is a large language, an important political language, and a language of a major world religion. It is an achievement for a foreigner to learn Arabic. In Malta, for instance, if we have a class at a university and there are one or two foreigners present, we speak English and the discussion could be very cerebral. Once those two people leave the room and the discussion switches to Maltese, you can feel how rich the discussion becomes. It is no longer simply cerebral, but it is also emotional. Everything comes together: emotion, imagination, whatever connects with people’s framework of relevance and zones of being.</p> <h3><strong>Education and counter-Hegemony</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> You have argued in a positive way that education can help develop counter hegemonic ideas that go against the dominant ideology. But being counter-hegemonic is not in itself a virtue. These ideas carry undesirable effects at times. What are your views on this point?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> I am very tentative here, always groping and tentative. Transforming hegemony, or what I call the renegotiation of relations of hegemony – recall that counter-hegemony is a term Gramsci never used - is pedagogical. It is pedagogical in the sense that there is a consensus element involved here. I am learning to be open towards changing my position.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> First of all, a fundamental ABC of the Sociology of Education and the first thing I learned, was not to give education powers that it does not have. Education is not going to bring change on its own, but it can contribute to change. However, if you really want to change things, and a group has political power to change things and wants to transform society, it needs education because you will have to bring most people consensually on board. Hegemony is educational. Ideally the change must be rooted in popular consciousness and not be imposed from above in what would, once again, be a passive revolution.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Gramsci’s contributions to education can be found not just in his writings on the Common School, in his journalistic or cultural writings or those concerning the factory councils. His contribution is all pervasive. Education is central to the workings of hegemony. Every relationship of hegemony is an educational relationship, so we are talking about education within its broader contexts. The educator is not just the teacher, adult educator or university professor. The educator is anybody who can influence other people’s opinions. As with any kind of politics, there are no guarantees. It is ‘bread on the waters’ to adopt the title of John Fisher’s book on trade union education in what was then the T&amp;G. You do not know which fish are going to pick it up. That is what education is. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> We come from former colonies, we know this. How much have our countries invested in education without any take off? Can you explain why? Why is it that people from Malta or Egypt have been sent abroad, and end up serving the country that colonised them in the first place? The receiving country offers the right infrastructure for people to be able to operate. You then come back to your country and do not find those structures. Of course, there are other factors that contribute to this, a change in political climate in the colony or former colony with a new regime/ruling group at the helm which freezes you out. Too much investment in education from a technical perspective without investment in other sectors in the economy is basically another form of education for export because basically you will have overqualified people. There will be a push and pull factor. Either people are going to leave, or they will become frustrated. The same applies to political action for change; education in one place must ally itself with what is happening in other spaces, parties, movements forms of mobilisation etc. There are so many factors that can prevent education from contributing to social change. It cannot bring about social change <em>on its own</em>.</p> <h3><strong>Critical </strong><strong>m</strong><strong>edia </strong><strong>l</strong><strong>iteracy &amp; </strong><strong>r</strong><strong>eading the </strong><strong>w</strong><strong>orld </strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM: </strong>One of the very interesting ideas you talked about in your book was Critical Media Literacy. You write, “critical media literacy becomes an important feature of critical engagement within either the interstices of state involvement or social movements” [4]. Is having media literacy a form of this powerful knowledge that we need to have at the moment?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> ‘Critical’ here is how to understand the media and how to read the world, or the construction of the world through the media. It is this very construction of ‘reality’ by the media that constitutes the basis for much common sense these days.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Earlier you were talking about how in 2011 people used Facebook and Twitter as a way to gain critical ideas, communicate and develop networks. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult because the regime has learnt its lesson. Authoritarianism learns and has adapted to that threat. Can we think of ways to develop critical media literacy under the current repressive contexts in Egypt, Turkey or Tunisia for example? </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> Well, you got me there because I do not know those contexts well enough. You are probably more capable of answering than I am. We have got to look at tactical elements now. So, that depends on the knowledge of the context itself. How should we do that? Below the radar, as you were saying, because of surveillance. But I will never underestimate the intelligence apparatus, certainly not in Turkey or Egypt, ever so vigilant to ferret out those operating clandestinely.</p> <h3><strong>The ‘</strong><strong>t</strong><strong>ravelling’ Gramsci</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> My concern is how Gramsci is used and abused at times. I agree that we need to consider the contexts, but when thinking about Gramsci in the Arab World and the Middle East, he has been used so many times that in the process he has been misinterpreted. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> I have to say Gramsci wrote copiously on the contributions of Arab, Muslim and other cultures to the development of aspects of what we call ‘Western Civilisation’. As the scholar <a class="western" href="http://www.muslimheritage.com/authors/abdesselam-cheddadi">Abdesselam Cheddadi</a> has noted, Gramsci holds a good deal of relevance for the Arab world. I should point out, however, that Derek Boothman’s writing on this topic suggests a slippage in Gramsci, often conflating Muslim with Arab. This is amazing for a man of his intellect. This slippage notwithstanding, there is a lot in Gramsci concerning the Arab world. [5]</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> I remember reading Edward Said’s <em><a class="western" href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674961876">The World, The Text and the Critic</a> </em>(1984) and he was talking about the Travelling Theory. How theories travel, how they change. Yet when they do change and become adapted to other contexts, they do not necessarily lose their power or their analytical rigour. This is something that fascinated me in terms of using Gramsci to make sense of Egypt. I avoided using him as a framework that can be perfectly applied to Egypt as others have, it just does not work. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> It is interesting that you mention Said who considered himself to be Gramscian like Stuart Hall. Said wrote about a transformation that takes place when texts are read from the perspective of a specific society, say an English text studied by Palestinian students at Bir Zeit. The same applies to theories. You know, we were talking about the Modern Prince and the Party in Gramsci, and yet Said fell short on saying that it has to be the party at the heart of the struggle in Palestine, etc. He probably feared that his role as an intellectual would be compromised through adherence to a party or, more appropriately, any party in the Palestinian context. I recall his stating something to this effect in the Reith Lectures on representations of the Intellectual. What was very interesting about Said was that he was fascinated by the Southern Question in Gramsci. I am just thinking aloud here, but I find the point about Said and Party a classic example of how contexts work to <em>condition</em> our analysis and positions. I never use the word “determines” but “conditions.”</p><h3>T<strong>he Modern Prince(s) and alliances</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> You said something very interesting about conscious direction, which leads to a question that relates to Gramsci’s Modern Prince. Do you think the idea of a strong Communist Party is still applicable now?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> That depends on the context. In Gramsci’s Italian view, it was the Communist Party. In certain contexts, the pivotal agency can rest with a social movement which captures the rest of the country’s imagination, connecting with the aspirations for greater social justice of various groups and harmonising these desires, interests and struggles. Historically, the biggest movement I can think of in the US was the Civil Rights movement. But, in Brazil or Italy with their party system, which Gramsci and later Freire wrote about, the party was seen by both figures as the means of giving political viability to these various struggles, although in both cases they were relatively new parties at the time. </p><p class="mag-quote-left" lang="en-GB">The main agency could be a movement or network of movements</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> In another place the main agency could be a movement or network of movements. I want to steer clear of trying to prescribe a rigid form this agency can take; that would be too prescriptive. Gramsci was influenced by Machiavelli’s The <a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prince"><em>Prince</em></a>, a prince who would unify the country. Gramsci was in favour of a national-popular unity, not <a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_unification">Piedmontese domination</a> over the rest of Italy which was brutal. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> If it is a party it must be one which converges with networks, networks of agencies struggling for greater social and ecological justice. In Freire’s words, the party should do so without trying to take them over – this is key. Networks can converge in terms of forming alliances, but these can be ephemeral, because we have several cases of alliances that disintegrated once a major contradiction comes to the fore. What Gramsci spoke of was something more deeply rooted than an alliance – an historical bloc. Alliances can <em>possibly </em>lead to an historical bloc. The latter can take a long time to happen because it has to be firmly entrenched, probably over a number of years. If you belong to a movement that is part of a network, you feel that it is almost natural to act in sync with the other movements in the network having a strong affinity with yours. There is a common interest in doing this. For Gramsci, the main bloc in Italy is that involving the Northern industrial bourgeoisie and the landowning class in the South. In Freire’s Brazil, it is the landowning class in the Nord-Este and the bourgeois class in the South East. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> What I find interesting here, and I have had problems with people who try to downplay this, is the <a class="western" href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/francine-mestrum/reinventing-world-social-forum-how-powerful-idea-can-be">World Social Forum</a> where you have different interests coming together. The focus of their conversations is on global capitalism with its neoliberal ideology. Global capitalism is a structuring force that exacerbates different forms of oppression. The oppressed become represented by different social-justice oriented movements with differentiated exploitation becoming their point of focus. This is what the World Social Forum has been trying to do. However, there are no guarantees in these things. I am not going to start being doctrinaire and say capitalism will end if you do x, y, and z. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> Exactly, which is something Gramsci himself avoided.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> I believe in Socialism, but <em>without guarantees</em> to quote <a class="western" href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/019685998601000203">Stuart Hall</a>. You never know what will transpire, especially in the long term.</p> <h3 class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Globalisation from </strong><strong>b</strong><strong>elow</strong></h3> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> You emphasise in many of your writings that we need to develop a globalisation from below as an alternative to neoliberal globalisation. How could we foster stronger links between movements in the Global North and the Global South?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> I believe that there are many initiatives in this regard. I have faith in these movements. I still think that the idea of the state diminishing in importance is a big myth, a neoliberal myth. Just look at the current issues surrounding migration. It is an <em>international</em> issue which is however accorded <em>national</em> solutions – at the level of nation-states. However, social movements have taught us the importance of internationalisation and that collaboration has to extend beyond borders, regional, national, continental, etc. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> We have to recognise that what happens here in Europe has ramifications elsewhere outside Europe. If Europe subsidises its farmers, like the United States does, to the tune of billions, how are farmers in Africa and other places going to provide food on the table for their children? To be international one has to be global. How could a policy that aims to provide social cohesion or social justice here, within this region, impact livelihoods outside? </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> This is crucial for the Global South, because there is Social Europe ‘from above’, in the form of say a Social Charter, but then there is possibly, and hopefully, a social world ‘from below’ which basically involves networking at the grassroots. People may be availing themselves of funds from the EU and there is a lot of ‘NGOisation’ going on in many areas such as Migration, Lifelong Learning etc. Some NGOs are of course <em>genuinely</em> involved, but others are there to benefit from the gravy train. So, let’s not tar everyone with the same brush. It is the more genuinely involved NGOs and social-justice oriented movements who are important players in the process of working towards a social world that fosters a stronger solidarity between movements in the Global North and Global South.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>NM:</strong> It is important to wrap up on a positive note. There is hope that we can change things and there are ways in which we can collaborate and build this social world from below. When I think about Egypt, at the moment it is very repressive and the window of opportunity we had from 2011 to 2013 is not going to happen again in sometime. Yet, and like you said earlier, hegemony is never complete, it is never all-encompassing all the time. It is always contested, always challenged. There is hope. I still think, “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” I know this was not Gramsci’s own term, he took it from the French novelist <a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romain_Rolland">Romain Roland</a>.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>PM:</strong> Yes, and it was written below the masthead for the <a class="western" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Ordine_Nuovo"><em>L’</em><em>Ordine Nuovo</em></a> periodical (1919). Hope springs eternal, I keep telling myself.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">[1] "To tell the truth is revolutionary" though attributed to Gramsci, is actually&nbsp;by Ferdinand Lassalle. It was reproduced in the first issue of<em> L'Ordine Nuovo.</em>&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">[2] Carmel Borg and Mayo explore some of these themes in a chapter in their book <a class="western" href="https://www.routledge.com/Learning-and-Social-Difference/Mayo-Borg/p/book/9781594512445"><em>Learning and Social Difference. Challenges for Public Education and Critical Pedagogy</em></a>, originally produced in 2006 by Paradigm and now by Routledge.</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">[3] See Herrera, L. &amp; Mayo, P. (2012). <a class="western" href="https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/hls.2012.0030">The Arab spring, digital youth, and the challenges of education and work</a>. In <em>Holy Land Studies</em>,<em> </em>11(1), 71-78, also <a class="western" href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2011/03/04/digital-youth-arab-revolution-and-the-challenge-of-work/">Counterpunch</a> op ed version.</p> <p> [4] Mayo, Peter. (2016). <em>Hegemony and Education Under Neoliberalism: Insights from Gramsci</em>. Abingdon: Routledge, 35.</p> <p> <span class="sdendnotesym">[5] </span>Boothman, D. (2012). <a class="western" href="http://booksandjournals.brillonline.com/content/journals/10.1163/1569206x-12341268">Islam in Gramsci’s Journalism and Prison Notebooks: The Shifting Patterns of Hegemony</a>. In <em>Historical Materialism</em>, 20(4), 115-140.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-fanon-africa-decolonisation-g">Critical voices in critical times: Fanon, race &amp; politics - an interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (part 1 of 2)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-partition-of-india-lessons-le">Critical voices in critical times: the partition of India – lessons learned, an interview with Rajmohan Gandhi</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou">Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-fanon-race-politics-interview">Critical voices in critical times: Fanon, race &amp; politics - an interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (part 2 of 2) </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government Nadim Mirshak Linda Herrera Tue, 24 Jul 2018 07:55:17 +0000 Linda Herrera and Nadim Mirshak 118952 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Challenges of fieldwork in Egypt: changing/challenging theoretical leanings https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-noha-fikry/challenges-of-fieldwork-in-egypt-changingchallenging-th <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western">How can we ethnographically ground postmodern interest in human-animal relations?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4526482783_482d4608c1_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4526482783_482d4608c1_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Manshiyet Nasir, Cairo. Picture by Joseph Hill / Flickr.com. Some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).</span></span></span>This is another part in a series curated by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/mona-abaza">Mona Abaza</a> on the dilemmas and contradictions researchers encounter in undertaking research in the Middle East. The idea of listening to social scientists on the processes of the production of knowledge has been inspired from Michael Burawoy’s concept of &nbsp;‘public sociology’, which he initiated and was followed by other sociologists who carried out further interviews with social scientists in ‘Global Dialogue’. </em></p> <p class="western"><em>These articles attempt to focus on questions of methodology, equally, on the obstacles encountered by researchers when undertaking fieldwork in enduring political upheavals. It will also attempt to highlight the multiple and varied trajectories and voices which a younger generation of social scientists in the Middle East have been confronting. </em> </p> <h3><strong>Egypt = Politics?</strong></h3> <p class="western">Towards the end of my BA degree in anthropology at the American University in Cairo, I was introduced to a new body of literature, namely that which deals with human-animal relations (some of these fall under posthumanism while others don’t). I gradually came to appreciate, even fall under the spell of the animal and its worlds, and the opening of our thought and categories once we try to step outside the overused category of “human”. I felt a freshness, newness, and a breath-taking inspiration whenever I was assigned to read a book on forests, trees, dogs, or even mushrooms. Growing with the same ideas, similar views, and quite homogeneous body of literature for four years, this new theoretical oeuvre seemed very intriguing and I slowly felt that this is what I want to continue pursuing and experimenting with in my MA research/thesis. </p> <p class="western">Slowly yet surely, this infatuation with human-animal literature came to an ambivalence. Upon thinking about my topic, and coming to choose an ethnographic “field site” for my research, I came to realize how difficult it is to ethnographically ground this postmodern interest in human-animal relations. For a couple of months, I began experimenting with different ethnographic possibilities through which this interest can be realized. I began with stray animals. I followed stray cats and dogs, fed them, and tried to ask people wandering in the streets how they felt/reacted to/dealt with these stray animals inhabiting the metropolis. </p> <p class="western">The only way to structure this idea or ethnographically explore it was perhaps through volunteering in a dog/cat shelter or following an animal rescue team. For me this was a bit limited, and a bit too insincere. I was not really interested in “saving” any animals wandering the streets, nor was I ever intrigued by whether they really need to be saved or how these relations unfold. </p> <p class="western">A few months later, this proved to be a complete failure. I cannot speak anything but human, that’s the first challenge. Second challenge or rather sweeping conclusion/realization is that most of what I read under posthumanism, multispecies ethnography, or human-animal relations (with perhaps very few exceptions) are largely philosophical and rarely ethnographic. Trying to translate this interest into a fertile ground for ethnographic research proved futile.</p> <p class="western">I then gradually, and with the guidance of my mentors, chose to settle for rooftops and the human-animal relations taking place through the rearing of goats, chickens, rabbits, etc. What these rooftops offer is indeed a closed, structured, fixed ground for research, with a sustained and intimate interspecies bond. Rooftops also playfully hover over a boundary of urban/rural with the practice of rearing animals on top of buildings of/in Cairo - the grand metropolis imagined solely for modern humans and perhaps pets regarded as family or friends but indeed never as food. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Most critiques amounted more or less to a conviction that the topic is devoid of politics</p> <p class="western">My theoretical coming of age, or rather taken more lightly as an experimentation for my MA thesis, brought to the fore many criticisms, challenges, and harsh comments – all so fruitful in thought and growth, however. Since its very first moment of birth, my topic (rooftops but interspecies relations more broadly) was usually regarded as so light, apolitical, and quite bourgeois/Californian in outlook. I was repeatedly criticized for choosing this topic and this body of research to begin with. Most critiques amounted more or less to a conviction that the topic is devoid of politics (even though this was before I began fieldwork), a blasphemous choice of topic indeed. This was for me part and parcel of a wider imagination of the “Middle Eastern social scientist” as inherently interested in Politics - a term that requires serious problematization. As living breathing beings post-2011, there seemed to be an unquestionable but also non-negotiable expectation that you need to speak about politics, about surviving massacres, about questions of governmentality and Foucault and Agamben. </p> <p class="western">While this is all potentially true, what if I am not interested in this particular brand of politics? As a becoming social scientist, I was trained and raised to research with all my being, and to have a particular very intimate and personal affinity with what I research. That said, then, are we assuming that all post-2011 Egyptian social scientists have authored and survived outwardly political biographies? What if my relationship to Politics is not that straightforward, direct, or even interesting for me to research? By Politics (deliberately used in upper case) here I mean state relations, governmentality, questions of revolutions, coups, and struggles for autonomy – or that is as far as I understood. More crudely, the critique was targeting a prioritization of the devastated, depressed, crushed, state-oppressed citizen over the fluff of an animal or an interest in what an interspecies relation might offer. </p> <p class="western">Firstly, this definition and understanding of politics is quite limited, narrowly structured, and does not allow for any actual improvisation through ethnographic realities. Secondly and more importantly, this critique stems from an expectation that goes against our ideals as autonomous, personal, sincere, genuine, and postcolonial researchers of the Middle East and more specifically Egypt. The critique expects and perhaps even forces a homogeneity in how “Egypt” needs to be researched, written about, discussed, and published at the moment. Thirdly, this raises very important questions about the politics of the academy, the making and growing of academics and more specifically in this part of the world, but also the nature of what topics are/should be given attention based on how “politically sexy” they are seen to be and can be marketed as – which is again very ingenuous to how social sciences and especially anthropology have taught us to become and think of ourselves. </p> <p class="western">More important than all of the previous is actually that we can never know if a topic is “political” before we see how it unfolds on the ground. I was again trained and raised to first and foremost take people, and their lives, seriously. Our topics and researches are thus primarily shaped by our interlocutors’ worlds and livelihoods, and not our theoretical leanings, academic imaginations, or self-fulfilling prophecies of how Egypt should be narrated at one point in time. I was increasingly uncertain and insecure about my topic, and felt like such a failure. Yet as quite expected, fieldwork grounded, transformed, and took the topic completely elsewhere – with yet more challenges to face, deal with, and unpack.</p> <h3 class="western">From animals to making a living: ethnographic maturations </h3> <p class="western">Once I began fieldwork, I came to face the challenge of “translating” my interests and anthropological backgrounds to my interlocutors who are all living in impoverished, lower-middle class neighborhoods around Cairo (namely, M<em>agra il-oyoun</em>, <em>Istabl ‘antar</em>, and <em>Il-kilo 4 wi nus</em>). For the first few weeks, I was repeatedly regarded as a veterinarian or a medical student interested in viruses and how they navigate across species.&nbsp; </p><p class="western">Whenever I asked about rooftops, I was given “model answers” of how much a chicken eats, how frequently a rabbit gives birth, or how often a goat mates. I began thinking of new ways to express what I am working on and explain my research. I told them that I am interested in their lives with these animals, their memories of some of the dead ones, and why they keep rooftops in the very first place. </p> <p class="western">Given these challenges and the reactions to a “researcher interested in animals”, I never ever used any sound recorders, notebooks, or any other devices or ways of recording that gave off this aura of “academic research”. I wanted to make it clear, by verbal expression but also by doing, that I am interested in a long-term, sustained, everyday, banal intimacy through which I can further gain access to these rooftop worlds and how my interlocutors actually make meaning of their presence. Seven months elapsed and I was never able to fully express anthropology or what it is exactly that I study at the university. I stayed the “<em>duktura</em>” (the doctor), without further details needed. Gradually, however, my interlocutors did understand and fully comprehend my interest in stories, memories, relations, and intimacies, and how these give way to how they saturate their livelihoods through the presence and growth of rooftop cycles of life. </p> <p class="western">That said, however, the kinds of stories shared and “fieldwork” more broadly was quite different from what I had initially expected. I did not actually get to spend that much time on rooftops, or “build relations” with goats, rabbits, or chickens. I visited my interlocutors once per week, sometimes once bi-weekly, and stayed there for at least 4-5 hours, only 30 min of which would be spent on the actual rooftops. I realized that the relationship with these animals is not as enchanted as I wished it to be, and that most of my interlocutors spend perhaps an hour or two per day, at best, on the rooftop. This made it difficult for me to ask to stay up there for longer, since for them this was strange and unjustifiable – why would you want to stay in that hot weather, with almost no shade, with screaming goats, chickens, and rabbits, when you can stay down, drink some cool over sugared Coca-Cola (that I quitted for a year but couldn’t refuse), and listen to us telling you all the stories that you would ever want to hear?</p> <p class="western">The stories shared, however, were again very different from what I had expected. There were indeed stories of love, attachment, grief, and loss among these multispecies rooftop worlds, yet there were also stories of dystopian realities, financial challenges, and struggles to make a living. My research topic then took a turn that I never expected or saw coming, namely how rooftops are valorized as outlets of access to proper food that is otherwise absolutely impossible to obtain. </p> <p class="western">As weeks and months of fieldwork elapsed, my interlocutors across all the three homes I always frequented took so much pride in knowing where their food comes from. They would always tell me how different everything they eat tastes (cleaner, safer, and indeed tastier) since they have grown it so intimately and lovingly. It felt so empowering and liberating for them not only to have access to proteins (with an otherwise class position that allows them almost no consistent access to meat or poultry) but also to know everything that has been put in a chicken/goat/rabbit’s belly since its very first day of birth. This then becomes a matter of a particular taste culture – one that valorizes home-grown food, as opposed to perhaps those bourgeois initiatives similarly relying on a home-grown agenda yet for a more commercial and class restricted audience – but also a sense of class empowerment taking place only through one finding a way out through exhausting a set of intimate resources such as rooftops and inherited habits such as rearing animals on these rooftops available for use. </p> <p class="western">Multispecies worlds were thus here pulled to a drift towards access to food and knowing where one’s food comes from – something that I as a middle-class researcher never ever thought of or had the opportunity to examine where my food comes from or how I relate to it. Yet more broadly, and again only with ethnographic practice and fieldwork intimacies over a number of months, this was also about a very different and intimate way of perceiving and relating to one’s surroundings. Access to food, and knowing one’s chickens and meat by heart requires a fundamental knowledge of and relationship with the surrounding environment. All my interlocutors, for example, knew the origins of the trees around them, the chains of animals inhabiting their neighborhoods and how to deal with each, the change of seasons and how this affects each of the species they grow, and how their lives are implicated in broader ecological webs of relation. They have a very unique and distinctive mastery over their environment, sustained through these multispecies relations on the rooftop but also how they live in synchrony with their surrounding species of all kinds – a synchrony that might also sometimes include killings, eatings, or eradications rather than just a loving intimate relationship of live and let live. </p> <p class="western">This change/maturation as to what I am researching primarily has to do with how concepts travel and are molded differently through the ethnographic worlds we explore. Those interspecies relations that I have read about translate in Egypt very particularly and uniquely, as stories of environments and ecological relations, but also making a living and navigating a financial/class precarity, along with indeed ever problematizing our urban/rural divide through the lens of a rather distinctive case of (urban) farming taking place on rooftops. </p> <h3 class="western">The ethnographer under a microscope </h3> <p class="western">With all these stories in mind, I was also held captive as an upper-middle class researcher so frequently visiting the various rooftops I encountered (mainly through an extended familial connection). In speaking about how intimately they know what they eat, I was always made fun of and teased for being such a picky eater (I only eat chicken breasts out of every other meaty protein) but also for having no basic knowledge of where my chicken come from, what they were fed, how they were grown, etc. This is indeed very true; as a middle-class kid, I have no knowledge and never sought to know anything more than how my chicken tastes perhaps. I increasingly felt how ignorant, problematic, and fooled I am in this particular regard.&nbsp; </p><p class="western">With that in mind, the rooftop was always a bountiful space that is also quite private but also vulnerable to the evil eye (<em>hasad</em>). Before beginning fieldwork, mama repeatedly advised me to say<em> mash’Allah</em> (may God bless) whenever I see any animal or whenever I even step on the rooftop. She told me that rooftops are quite private, and usually regarded as such an (economic but also social) asset that cannot be openly shared with anyone – hence why I never took photographs nor inquired about “numbers” of chickens or animals raised on the rooftop. Yet somehow, this was never enough. After four months of fieldwork, I was once visiting while one goat was very weakly pregnant. I asked Soso, my 17-year old interlocutor taking care of the rooftop with her mom, whether this is normal and she told me that this particular goat always grows so sick whenever she is pregnant and that I will only come in a week or two to find her running around with her new kids. </p> <p class="western">The following week I called to ask if I can pass by and asked how the goat was doing. Soso went silent and told me that she will tell me once I arrive home. I went the next day to find out that the goat did deliver two kids. Two days later one of her kids passed away, followed by the other kid, and one day later the mother goat died too. Everyone was grieving, but I was also denied access to the rooftop ever since that incident. Whenever I indirectly asked if I can join Soso as she went up to the rooftop, they would change the subject or just tell me how hot it would be up there and how tiring the stairs would inevitably be. In a few weeks, I stopped trying and fully relied on sitting in the living room, eating, drinking excessive doses of tea, Coca Cola, watching TV series, and talking about rooftop news and animal stories. Although I was never directly confronted, this was quite surely about the evil eye and suspicions around me being again a researcher, hopping on every week, checking on the rooftop and asking strange questions about chickens and their relationships with their animals, while accidents of this sort take place. Some distance needed to be made and sustained.</p> <p class="western">Yet while this denied access from the rooftop was in place, I was still more than welcomed (in fact encouraged) to come visit and spend some time with them every week or two. To make up for all these meals, teas, drinks I consume every single visit with almost no return, I would buy a box of eastern sweets, cake, chocolate, makeup for Soso who is about to be married, or story books for the little children with every single visit (costing around EGP 50-80 per visit). Whenever any neighbor would pass by, I was always introduced as a relative of theirs who lives in Nasr City (a middle-class neighborhood in Cairo, a class marker for sure). These neighbors would always in turn ask how come they have a relative who is that beautiful, when Soso would immediately respond shouting that she has green eyes just like mine – a running gene in the family. </p> <p class="mag-quote-center">I was faced with this dilemma of what needs to be shared of my background and what needs to be kept rather discrete</p> <p class="western">This class differential, implicated in ways through which I was cast off as different but also a relative but also someone to show off with/through, was manifested in various other ways. Again after a few months of fieldwork, we spoke about my parents and my father’s occupation as a medical practitioner. Soso’s mother asked me to try and buy her a medication that she rarely finds. After taking the name of the drug and asking around, I knew that there is relatively no dearth of the drug at all, but that one pack costs EGP 200. At first, I did not know what to do and whether I should buy the drug or not – whether it is ethical but also genuine to do so. I decided I won’t buy it for them, and later told Soso’s mother that she can go visit my father at the public hospital he works for, and perhaps he can refer her to some nearby pharmacy that sells the drug. </p> <p class="western"> Increasingly, then, I was faced with this dilemma of what needs to be shared of my background and what needs to be kept rather discreet. Should I mention that we moved to a gated compound in New Cairo? What if they ask me where I live now? It actually happened once that Soso’s mom asked me if my older brother has an apartment of his own (which he’d later use for marriage). When I said no not yet, she immediately suggested that my father buys a piece of land in New Cairo or 6th of October and build a villa with a couple of apartments for my brother, myself, and my parents. I was astonished and shocked for indeed my father has no money to buy a piece of land, let alone build a villa for an extended family at this point in time. I made it so clear that we can never afford such a life, and that our Nasr City apartment is my parents’ marital apartment that my father worked so hard to buy upon proposing to mama 30 years ago. </p> <p class="western">That said, however, there have always been repeated jokes about how Soso should break up with her current fiancé (who is slow and late in having his apartment ready for marriage) and marry my brother instead, who would definitely buy her a brilliant house in the fanciest neighborhood in New Cairo. My reaction remains unchanged: a very strange quite neurotic smile.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nawa-giuseppe-acconcia-mona-abaza/strikes-protests-and-egyptian-nights-of-curfew">Strikes, protests and Egyptian nights of curfew</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-elena-chiti/criminal-victim-policeman-judge"> The criminal, the victim, the policeman, the judge </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-nezar-alsayyad/where-we-come-from">Where we come from</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-nada-t/multiple-entanglements">Multiple entanglements</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti-mona-abaza/ethnography-in-time-of-upheaval-egypt-before-and-af">Ethnography in a time of upheaval – Egypt before and after the ‘Arab spring’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-karim-yassin-goessinger/sitting-on-top-of-egyptian-civilisation"> Sitting on top of Egyptian civilisation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-benjamin-geer/surviving-sociology-in-egypt-and-elsewhere">Surviving sociology in Egypt and elsewhere</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Democracy and government ethnography research Noha Fikry Mon, 16 Jul 2018 12:22:51 +0000 Noha Fikry 118766 at https://www.opendemocracy.net محمد صلاح، والثورة وهزيمة مصر https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/mo-salah-revolution-egypt-defeat-arabic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p dir="rtl">مشكلة مصر الحقيقية هي أنها مكان لا يعيش فيه الأمل أبدا، لكنه أيضا لا يموت تماما. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/mo-salah-revolution-and-egypt-s-defeat"><strong>English</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="direction-rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-37096363_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-37096363_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamed Salah during the match between Russia and Egypt at the 2018 World Cup. Picture by Ricardo Moreira Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>لم يكن أمرا صادما أن تخرج مصر من كأس العالم، لكنه كان مخيبا للآمال. مشكلة مصر الحقيقية هي أنها مكان لا يعيش فيه الأمل أبدا، لكنه أيضا لا يموت تماما. جرؤنا على الأمل مرة أخرى على الرغم من أن كل شيء يقول لنا ألا نفعل. لقد الهمنا النجاح غير المتوقع لشخص شعرنا أنه واحد منا، خاض نفس المعارك التي اضطررنا إلى خوضها كي نصل إلى القمة، بالعمل والاجتهاد المستمر. كان محمد صلاح، الرجل صغير الحجم الذي تحدى العمالقة ليصبح واحدا منهم، مصدر أمل لكثير من المصريين بطرق مختلفة. </p><p dir="rtl">أردنا أن نرى فيه ممثلا لما يمكن لمصر أن تصبح عليه، لكننا كنا نعلم في أعماقنا أنه لا يمثل سوى نفسه. أعجبنا هروبه من مصير الرداءة الرهيب الذي كان سيحكم به عليه لو أنه بقي في مصر. لو أنه فقد بعد أن أصبح قويا بما فيه الكفاية.. لو أنه فقط يعود ويقاتل نيابة عنا… وقد فعل ذلك، إلا أن نجاح رجل واحد لا يكفي لإنقاذ أمة. هل قلت أمة؟ كنت أعني الفريق.</p> <p dir="rtl">أهدرت مهارات محمد صلاح لأنه بينما كان نجماً، كان في حاجة لمن حوله ليجعلوه يبرق. لا أستطيع حقا إلقاء اللوم على أعضاء فريقه كأفراد. فهم أيضا كانوا ضحايا لانعدام هروبهم. هم غير قادرين على الهروب من الرداءة المحيطة بهم. لم يكن هناك فريق. كل شيء في مصر سياسي، حتى عندما لا يبدو كذلك. كرة القدم شأن سياسي، وتجاهل السياسات المتحكمة في كرة القدم هو موقف سياسي.&nbsp; </p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="rtl">جرؤنا على الأمل، وما زلنا نجرؤ على الأمل</p><p dir="rtl">إن تحليل الخطأ الذي حدث هو أمر مجازي. تألق البعض لم ينقذ الفريق. وهو ما ينطبق على أمور أخرى كثيرة في مصر، ليس أقلها الثورة. طموحات واستقامة قلة قليلة لم تتمكن من إنقاذ الأمة، فقد كانت هناك قوى أخرى كثيرة – أكثر من اللازم – خارج السيطرة.</p> <p dir="rtl">جرؤنا على الأمل، وما زلنا نجرؤ على الأمل. بعد أن تعهدنا ألف مرة بألا نشعر بالأمل مرة أخرى، لم نستطع سوى أن نجرؤ على الأمل مرة أخرى. عندما تأتي الضربة، لا تكون صادمة، ولا مفاجئة، إنها ببساطة مخيبة للآمال. وفي آخر الأمر نسأل أنفسنا، “هل نحن أغبياء أم ماذا؟”</p> <p dir="rtl">لقد قلت لنفسي أن لا آمل مرة أخرى لأن كل شيء ضدنا، ولكن ها أن أفعلها مرة أخرى.نحن لا نتعلم أبدا.</p> <p dir="rtl">لكن رغم كل هذه الضربات، يسعدني أن هذا هو الدرس الذي لم نتعلمه. هذا هو الدرس الذي لا نتعلمه أبداً؛ هذا هو الدرس الذي لا نرغب في تعلمه أبداً. لقد التقيت بالكثيرين ممن هربوا من هزيمتنا الثورية. لقد تعهد جميعهم بطرق مختلفة ألا يترك نفسه للأمل، بعضهم بدل بيئته، وغيّر بعضهم الطريقة التي يتحدثون بها عن الثورة والبعض ينتقدها بشكل عنيف ويلعنها. ولكن في كثير من هذه الحالات، تظل تلك المسافة من الثورة مجرد واجهة رقيقة، تختفي عند الدخول في نقاش أعمق، أو بعد تناول بعض الكئوس في حفلة ما، أو من خلال أمل الفوز في مباراة كرة قدم. لا يمكن أن نتملص مما كان يمكن أن نفعله وما كان يمكن أن نكون عليه. إنها حالة مستمرة مثل المذاق المتبقي من احتساء مشروب شديد الحلاوة.</p> <h3 dir="rtl">جرؤنا على الأمل، وما زلنا نجرؤ على الأمل</h3> <p dir="rtl">لكن بغض النظر عن الثوريين، فإن الذين يقبلون بالغناء على ألحان عزف النظام يعلمون جيداً أنه رغم طبولهم وخطاباتهم الصاخبة عن النجاح والفخر، إلا أن مصر في الواقع لا تنجح. كانت كرة القدم هي الأفيون الذي يقدمه النظام لكنها خرجت عن السيطرة. كما أصبحت سبيلا للهروب من سيطرة الحكومة، مساحة من البهجة الخالصة منقطعة الصلة بالواقع السياسي. لهذا السبب، انتمت مجموعات من الشباب لفرقهم بحماس شديد ثم تحول إلى السياسة في زمن الثورة. وعندما تجاوزت كرة القدم كونها أفيونا للجمهور بدأ النظام في ملاحقة مشجعيها، فتآمر على قتلهم بداية في إستاد بورسعيد، ثم بعد ذلك في إستاد الدفاع الجوي، ثم إلقاء القبض عليهم ووضعهم تحت ظروف قاسية دون أي تهم حقيقية.</p> <p dir="rtl">بالنسبة لأولئك المصريين الذين ليس لهم مصلحة في أي مما يدور حولهم، مع ارتفاع الأسعار وتدهور الأحوال المعيشية، فإنهم سعوا إلى كرة القدم لتعطيهم نوعًا من السعادة الخالصة. عزز محمد صلاح فخرهم، لأنه كان ناجحًا بحق في جميع أنحاء العالم، وكان على استعداد للعودة، والقتال نيابة عنهم. بطريقة ما، كان هناك أمل أن لا نضطر إلى القيام بأي شيء بشكل جماعي لننفذ إلى خارج تلك الحفرة. ولكن بغض النظر عما فعله، كانت المهمة ستكون دوما مستحيلة. ذلك أن رجلا واحدا لا يستطيع أن ينقذ مائة مليون مهما كانت قوته. وبالمثل، لم يكن رجلا واحدا من زج بنا في تلك الحفرة، رغم أن الأمر قد يبدو كذلك في بعض الأحيان.</p> <p dir="rtl">يمكننا أن نتحدث كثيرا عن كيفية استغلال كأس العالم من قبل مسؤولي كرة القدم، وكيف تم استغلال صلاح دعائيا. يمكننا أن نتحدث كثيرا عن تفاصيل انهيار كل شيء بالتفصيل، ولكن في النهاية هذه التفاصيل ليست هي المهمة. نحن جميعا مسئولون بشكل جماعي عما وصلنا إليه، بغض النظر عما يتصف به بعضنا من خير أو شر استثنائي.</p> <p dir="rtl">كان العبء أثقل من أن يحمله شخص واحد، ومع ذلك فإننا نستمر في الأمل… ومثلما حدثت معجزة في 25 يناير 2011، حيث كان هناك ما يكفي من الأشخاص الموهوبين بالنزاهة والشجاعة لإخراجنا من غفوتنا، قد يأتي في المستقبل وقت يكون فيه عدد كبير من الناس اللامعين فيرفعونا بعيدا عن هذه الحفرة التي نجد أنفسنا فيها. لهذا السبب، وعلى الرغم من مرارة خيبة الأمل التي تأتي من الأمل الذي لا يتحقق، قد يكون من المجدي الاستمرار في الاحتفاظ ببعض الأمل وألا ندعه يموت. ربما يأتي اليوم الذي يحدث فيه أمر جيد، ويحيي الأمل مرة أخرى.</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>بالتعاون مع موقع <a href="http://bel-ahmar.net/?p=3436">بالأحمر</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA">تنصيب السيسي والمعارضة المصرية</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Ahmad-Maher/civil-society-elections-opinion-egypt">معترك جديد</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movement-badiou-arabic">الانتخابات وحركة ٢٠١١ في مصر: التفكير مع آلان باديو عن الوضع الحالي</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Arabic language وائل إسكندر Thu, 05 Jul 2018 13:46:32 +0000 وائل إسكندر 118727 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mo Salah, the revolution and Egypt’s defeat https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/mo-salah-revolution-and-egypt-s-defeat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western">The real trouble with Egypt is that it’s a place where hope never lives, but never truly dies. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/mo-salah-revolution-egypt-defeat-arabic"><strong>العربية</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-37096363.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-37096363.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamed Salah during the match between Russia and Egypt at the 2018 World Cup. Picture by Ricardo Moreira Fotoarena/SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>It’s no shock that Egypt is out of the World Cup, yet there is disappointment. The real trouble with Egypt is that it’s a place where hope never lives, but never truly dies. We dared to hope yet again despite everything telling us not to. We were inspired by the unlikely success of someone we felt was one of us, fought the same battles we had to in order to reach the top, ever diligent and hardworking. The small framed man who defied giants to become one of them, Mohamed Salah was a source of hope for many Egyptians in many different ways. </p><p class="western">We wanted to think of him as a representative of what Egypt can become, but we knew deep down that he only represented himself. We admired his escape from a horrible fate of mediocrity that he would be sentenced to have had he remained in Egypt. If only now that he was strong enough, if only now he would come back and fight on our behalf… and he did, but one man’s success isn’t enough to save a nation, did I say nation? I meant team. </p> <p><span class="mag-quote-left">Football is political, and to ignore the politics of football is a political statement.</span><em> </em></p> <p>Mo Salah’s skills were laid to waste because while he is a star, he needed those around him to make him shine. I cannot truly blame his teammates as individuals. They too have been victims of their non escape. They cannot escape the mediocrity around them. There was no team. Everything is political in Egypt even when it doesn’t seem to be. Football is political, and to ignore the politics of football is a political statement. </p><p>The analysis of what has gone wrong is allegorical. The brilliance of a few have not saved the team. It applies to many other things in Egypt not the least of which is the revolution. The ambitions and integrity of a few could not save a nation, there were too many other forces at play beyond control. </p><p>We dared to hope, and we continue to dare to hope. After we’ve vowed a thousand times not to have hope again, we could not help but hope again. When the blow comes, it’s not shocking, it’s not surprising, it’s simply disappointing. After it’s all said and done we ask ourselves, “Are we stupid or something?” </p><p>I’ve told myself not to hope again because everything is against us, but there I go doing it. We never learn. </p><p>Yet despite all these blows, I’m almost glad that this is the lesson we haven’t learned. This is the lesson we never learn, this is the lesson we never want to learn. I’ve met so many who have escaped our revolutionary defeat. Everyone has vowed not to have hope in different ways, some have changed their environment, some have changed the way they talk about the revolution and some are particularly critical of it and curse it. But in many of these cases, this distance from the revolution is merely a thin facade, stripped away when engaging in a deeper conversation, a few drinks at a party or through hopes of winning a football match. There is no walking away from what we could have done and what we could have been. It lingers on like the aftertaste of a bitter sweet drink. </p><p class="western">We dared to hope, and we continue to dare to hope</p> <p>But aside from revolutionaries, those accepting folk singing the regime’s tune know well that beneath their drums and loud rhetoric of successes and pride, Egypt is not really succeeding. Football was an opium that the regime administered but went out of control. It also became an escape where people escaped the government control, a place of pure joy divorced from the political reality. It is for this reason that groups of young men fanatically followed their teams and turned political at the time of revolution. It is because football became more than an opium for the people that the regime then went after supporters, first conspiring to murder them in Portsaid stadium and later the Air Defense Stadium and then arresting them and placing them under harsh conditions with practically no real charges.&nbsp; </p><p class="mag-quote-right">Football was an opium that the regime administered but went out of control</p> <p class="western">For those Egyptians who have nothing going for them as prices increase and living conditions deteriorate, they looked for football to give them some sort of unadulterated happiness. Mo Salah boosted their pride, because he was truly successful worldwide and was willing to come back and fight on their behalf. In a way it was hope that we didn’t have to do anything collectively to dig ourselves out of that hole. But no matter what he did, it was always going to be an impossible feat. One man cannot pull up a hundred million no matter how strong he had become. Similarly it was not just one man who dug us into a hole even though sometimes it appears that way. </p> <p class="western">We can go on about how the World Cup was exploited by football officials and how Salah was used as a propaganda prop. We can talk about the details of how it all went down in detail but in the end these details aren’t what matter. We are collectively responsible for where we are no matter how exceptionally good or evil some of us are. </p> <p class="western">The weight was too much for one person to lift, and yet we continuously hope… and just like something miraculous happened on January 25 of 2011, where there were enough people gifted with integrity and courage to shake us into an awakening, maybe in the future there will come a time when there will be enough brilliant people to lift us out of this hole we find ourselves in. For that reason, despite the bitterness of disappointment that comes from hope never coming to life, it may be worth it to continue to keep some hope and never let it die. Maybe one day something good may happen, and hope will live again.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/president-s-wedding-micro-politics-of-mass-mobilisatio">The president’s wedding: micro-politics of mass mobilisation in Egypt’s 2018 election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/unhappiness-and-mohamed-salah-s-egypt">Unhappiness and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/big-brother-art-of-subversion">&quot;Big Brother&quot;: the art of subversion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/return-of-ultras-ahlawy-egypt-football">The return of the Ultras Ahlawy?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society revolution World Cup football society Wael Eskandar Mon, 02 Jul 2018 18:23:23 +0000 Wael Eskandar 118656 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The president’s wedding: micro-politics of mass mobilisation in Egypt’s 2018 election https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/president-s-wedding-micro-politics-of-mass-mobilisatio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The micro-level responses, and the individual and local acts of agency still reaffirm Egypt’s longstanding tradition of subversive political humour. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35813993.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35813993.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate at Tahrir square after the presidential election results were announced, in Cairo, Egypt on April 2, 2018. Picture by Fayed El-Geziry/NurPhoto/Sipa USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Egypt’s recent presidential election saw unprecedented levels of <em>hashd</em> (mass mobilisation) in support of President Abd el Fattah el Sisi’s re-election. Ethnographic snapshots of micro-level responses, however, show not only the complex rivalries at play beneath the grand narratives of the state – but also individual and local acts of agency reaffirming Egypt’s longstanding tradition of subversive political humour. </p><p>For anyone arriving in Cairo airport in the run up to Egypt’s March 2018 Presidential election, the first overwhelming impression would have been the sheer exhilaration of the huge illuminated billboards that had gone up along the route into the city. Alongside large portraits of the benign, gently smiling ‘candidate’ they proclaimed messages such as “You are the Hope”, “The Story of Egypt” and “We began together, and together we march on”. </p><p class="western">I remarked to my cab driver that the flavour of the electoral campaign of President Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s nomination for his second term in office was clearly distinctive. He replied with a laugh:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">“You haven’t seen anything yet! The entire city is festooned with Sisi billboards and banners. One of my mates tried to keep count of the banners in support of his lone opponent – he found a total of just six. And you won’t see them anywhere prominent, they’re all tucked away in quiet corners such as by the Pyramids.”</span></p> <p class="western">Days into my visit, as the final countdown rapidly approached for the three days (26th – 28th March) scheduled for polling, I saw banners being hung from wooden poles, or hung from frontages, along the streets – all bearing the same scripted messages of support as the larger official billboards. Cairo’s choked urban landscape can be overwhelming at the best of times – but now the sheer scale of this new visual assault made it seem almost as if a sorcerer has, in a moment of berserk frenzy, waved a wand to choke every inch of breathing space with yet another banner. </p><p class="western">Alongside the visual assault came a new oral assault to add to the existing cacophony of Cairo’s roads. This took the shape of pickup trucks contracted to drive around the city carrying huge sound systems blaring out nationalist songs. These throbbed to the populist beats ubiquitous in <em>shaabi</em> (working class, connoting ‘common’) street wedding parties – as well as, more recently, in the trendy <em>leilet el-henna</em> (literally traditional ‘henna evenings’, but in reality involving something more like a Western ‘hen night’) held before weddings amongst the more privileged classes. </p><p class="western">The rickety trucks circulated around different routes with each neighbourhood of the city, driving through the congested traffic with an air of authority. Each carried as many as six huge loudspeakers, as the lads in sunshades and reversed baseball caps who had been assigned to operate the sound system waved flags, pausing only to wiggle their lower torsos each time the vehicle hit a traffic light as they basked in the din they were making as well as their self-conscious cool masculinity.</p> <p class="western">The overwhelming display of banners and music rapidly became something of <span><a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/03/28/feature/politics/sugar-rice-and-everything-nice-mobilizing-voter-turnout-in-egypts-presidential-election/">a talking point among Egyptians</a></span>, whose quick political wit dubbed the electoral campaign as <em>il-ors il- gumhurri</em> (the “Presidential Wedding Party”), or less flatteringly (though no less effusively) as Sisi’s <em>leilet el-henna</em>. These observations came together in a growing commentary about how ‘the road to Ettihadiyya’ (the Egyptian White House), a foregone conclusion in terms of its inevitable end result, had come to take on a life of its own characterised as infused with <em>farha</em> (celebration, joy). The optimistic focus associated with this reading of the political landscape was intended to animate the spirit of the nation in the collective endeavour of <em>musharka</em> (pulling together) towards the ballot box.</p> <p class="western">The fortuitous timing also fitted in with the country’s annual sequence of spring festivals, long considered to uphold the family cohesiveness of Egypt as a nation: Mother’s Day (21st March), and Shamm Il Nessim (9th April – the spring festival), the time-honoured Pharonic spring feast when families rich and poor enjoy the traditional open air picnic – especially welcome, given the ever-escalating cost of living – consisting of <em>fiseekh</em> (a special kind of cured fish), boiled eggs and raw spring onions (symbolic of the cycle of death, rebirth and new life). </p><p class="mag-quote-center">Pop-up army kiosks sprouted along pavements, selling fruit, vegetables and frozen poultry at below market prices</p> <p class="western">Along with these moves to infuse a sense of <em>farha</em> into the campaign came other efforts directed at showing the goodwill of the military, as a national institution that everybody knows in effect runs the country, towards citizens. Pop-up army kiosks (<em>akshak el-geish</em>) sprouted along pavements, selling fruit, vegetables and frozen poultry at below market prices. Food baskets were distributed to Governorates, who were ordered to hand them out as aid for disenfranchised social groups, providing reassurance that they were an integral part of forthcoming plans. With a similar aura of magnanimity, the city’s many military clubs (normally for the exclusive recreational use of those in uniform of one sort or another) opened their doors to the public for family excursions, with special rebates offered for wedding and engagement parties as a special dispensation in support of <em>el intikhabat</em> (the election).</p> <p class="western">Through all this both state-owned and private media platforms (print, broadcast, online) combined to promote a steady, uniform theme of <em>hukumit el-sot el-wahid</em> (rule/government through and of ‘one voice’). Programmes championing the 2018 election dedicated their entire air time to applauding an idealised vision of the patriotic citizen, the expression of whose voice in the ballot box constituted a <em>wagib watani</em> (‘duty to the nation’). In between talk-show interviews with widows of soldiers fallen in Sinai’s latest terrorist attacks, and discussions with experts enthusing over Egypt’s spectacular economic revival over the past four years, came short visual fillers punching home how the stability and progress achieved in the Egypt of today is a far cry from the chaos and dislocation of the 2011 revolution, and its complex, shifting and unpredictable movements for reform.</p> <p class="western">In most journalistic or scholarly accounts, descriptions of moments such as these, and their place within the macro-politics of <em>hashd</em> (mass mobilisation), tend to represent something of an end point. Even those more analytical accounts which explore high-level political-economic themes, such as neo-liberalisation and/or the role of the military, nearly always seem to gloss over, or even evade discussing, the lived space of micro-politics, and the myriad ways in which local practices of participation are woven into the grander narratives – whether underpinning or contesting them. </p><p class="western">The latter, however, also needs to be understood – as, even more pointedly, does the politics of micro-level coexistence with the state. And this needs to be done not in the way of the media’s across the board take-it-for-granted assumption of a self-explanatory ‘consensus of evaluation and validation’; nor in some analysts’ preferred framework of ‘static complicity’; but rather by documenting and analysing patterns of individual and local discourse, and the political economy that sustains forms of participation. Through these patterns the aspiration of ‘just wanting things to return to normal’ can be seen to emerge, forged through practices with nuanced meanings which call into question the necessary separation between individual citizens’ lives and those of their local communities on the one hand, and the broader political landscape of their government and its supporters on the other. </p> <p class="western">I have previously described the collection and analysis of ‘<span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti-mona-abaza/ethnography-in-time-of-upheaval-egypt-before-and-af">ethnographic snapshots’</a></span> as one effective method for capturing local and/or individual practices which shed light on micro-political issues. During this trip, my first snapshot arrived when an acquaintance who lives in the low-income, high-density Sayyida Aisha area of Old Cairo (famous for its roundabout signposting the shrine of a revered female saint) described the scene in his traditional neighbourhood as the election banners started appearing in the square: </p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">“As a rule, big pubic events of this kind attract a large crowd of people wanting to help out. We’re well-known in Sayyida for our mettle as wilad hitta (literally ‘sons of the neighbourhood’, implying brave, chivalrous, public spirited). This time the election banners came from locals directly involved in government work, who were the only ones who could afford them: we are not, after all, a super-rich neighbourhood. But it wasn’t long before competition broke out - between different traditional quarters, and different government departments – as to which district, street and roundabout could put together the most impressive display. Everybody piled in to help make their neighbourhood’s display the best. Things easily got heated in the excitement, as scuffles broke over which display angle showed <em>El Rais</em> (the President) at his best, especially since the thick oil-skin cloth is awkward to hang. I spotted an old man in rags getting so carried away by the hubbub that he knelt down on the pavement and started kissing the banner. Mind you, another bystander was quick to joke, “If the people love the Government so much, then why is everybody complaining that <em>el dunya nar</em> (literally ‘the world’s aflame’, a metaphor for the skyrocketing costs of food, fuel and other basic necessities)?”</span></p> <p class="western">From similar snapshots taken in my own neighbourhood of Heliopolis, I came to discover that our more upmarket area’s election displays came from a variety of local tradesmen and family-controlled businesses. It became a matter of local gossip as to how the more prosperous neighbourhood businesses were being approached by the representatives of the state and ‘invited’ to put up a banner in support of the drive to invigorate the <em>farha</em> atmosphere of the election. It was made clear that any business failing to accept this particular invitation could expect to face what one local shopkeeper summed up as ‘troubles not worth the headache’ including more frequent visits from tax officials, anonymous complaints made to the police station about business irregularities, or hefty fines for transgressing previously ignored regulations of one kind or another. </p><p class="western">‘Accepting the invitation’ entailed putting in a request to the local government division responsible for the organisational side of the campaign, with an enclosed monetary contribution to cover the costs of the materials used in the banner’s production. The highly centralised, rigorously controlled production process for the different banners, and the use of the same formulaic slogans on each, was explained to me as a measure to avoid supporters ‘getting their words mixed up’ - and at the same time reinforcing the homogenous and uniform style of the visual and creative landscape of all military organisations, and the ‘standards’ they require their contributors to ‘fall in line’ with.</p> <p class="western">The ‘contribution’ for a simple banner was a minimum of two thousand Egyptian pounds (a significant sum in today’s Cairo, equivalent to several months’ pay for an average salaried professional), while the corresponding amount for more ornate, generous looking specimens could easily run into many multiples of this. Once the banner had been delivered, and it was time to display it in a suitably prominent public position, its sponsor soon discovered that there were also other hidden expenses that came into unexpected view, including the daily hire charges for the wooden poles and heavy ropes involved in putting the banner up for public display, as well as the labour required for this. These rates had themselves rocketed in the face of surging market demand and the ever-escalating cost of living. These unexpected daily running costs proved, in the event, to be the main driver behind the suddenness with which almost all the banners were quickly taken down immediately after the polling booths had closed. </p> <p class="western">These <em>rasmi</em> (official) invitations instigated by state institutions revealed the high degree of surveillance and control exercised by the state in order to identify key economic and commercial targets as important resources for its campaign. However, the campaign soon led other, less successful enterprises and business people, to crowd in uninvited through the ‘back door’ in an attempt to join the parade, and compete not only with their more prosperous neighbours, but also with each other, for kudos, both official and public. </p><p class="western">This desire for ‘being seen’ by the state – and the public - to be participating and collaborating in the drive to infuse the election with a public spirit of <em>farha</em> had the effect of turning the visual manifestations of the Sisi campaign into a virtual ‘Yellow Pages’ type publicity vehicle for not only the more prominent, successful official ‘front door’ participants, but also for the entire ‘back door’ gamut of local enterprises and services, right down to beautician salons, small clothing emporia, mobile services and accessories kiosks. Despite the financial losses that have plagued such small-businesses since the chaos of the 2011 revolution, and the tightening of economic conditions since then, these enterprises were keen to make a public claim that they were on an equal footing to the ‘front door’ enterprises that enjoy leverage and are held in official regard.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Those getting their banners up first often did not stop at just a single display</p> <p class="western">Those getting their banners up first often did not stop at just a single display – in some cases the same small business (such as the free-lance business contractors) would sponsor as many as 20 or 30 branded banners, to the point where it could easily appear that the sponsor was themselves a candidate in the election. Those who arrived too late to appropriate territorial slots feared being left out in the cold, and therefore found alternative modes of participation such as dispatching small vans with a single loudspeaker to tail the official sound system trucks, publicising their own small-businesses through home-made posters blazoned with hand-written slogans such as “Survival of the fittest” and “Egypt is happy”. </p> <p class="western">Nearly all the campaign ‘contributors’, front door and back door entrants alike, were assiduous in recording their banners or music vans for continuing ‘marketing material’ purposes: cameras, videos and smartphones were in evidence everywhere these visual manifestations of support for the drive for campaign <em>farha</em> appeared. And if the drummed-up spirit of <em>farha</em> was most widely captured as a celebration of <em>el</em>-<em>ors el-gumhurri</em> (the Presidential wedding party), then the choice of metaphor proved to be ironically apt in at least two respects. <em></em></p><p class="western"><em>Shaabi</em> wedding parties in Egypt are known for their night-long boisterous hubbub. The wedding parties of more affluent Egyptians have also, of late, shown a tendency to centre around fixed-point tableaux providing carefully staged photo opportunities of the event’s iconic moments. Much as these frozen images are subsequently displayed as public statements of the resources of cash that come with status and power, they do not necessarily square with the experiences of the guests on the ground, whose take on the events might differ sharply, with critical gossip and backbiting left to simmer in social gatherings and, more lastingly, on social media. </p> <p class="western">Government agencies were as much involved in this as were private businesses. Thus Tahani, a junior staff member in a civil service office job, described to me one day the problems she was having with her line-manager, who happened to be married to a high-ranking military person, allegedly working directly in the Office of the President. </p> <p class="blockquote-new"> “It is all <em>politeeka </em>(slang for dodgy/dirty business)! Her ego has sky-rocketed because of this much spoken of connection. But now she is virtually hijacking the election as a tool to strengthen her own position in the Ministry.”</p> <p class="western">Tahani went on to describe how her superior had given Sisi t-shirts to the 30 or so cleaners, security guards and other ancillary staff to wear on their daily bus trips to and from work, the official building of the Ministry having been relocated an hour and a half’s drive from Cairo as part of the Sisi government’s grand scheme to relocate civil service offices out of the congested city. She then set up elaborate rehearsals of the staff getting on, off, and waving from the buses, so that these scenes could be photographed and video’d from the best possible angles. </p><p class="western">The expectation was that the resulting visuals would be expected to serve as a backdrop during visits by high Government officials and other VIPs to the whitewashed foyer of the Ministry’s new building. She also made it clear, again with <em>politeeka</em> threats, that on polling days all members of staff returning to work would be inspected for the pink phosphoric finger (confirmation of having voted), and woe betide any who lacked this distinguishing mark, most especially younger staff recruited under the recent government employment regulations which dictate that all recent recruits are to be on short-term contracts, with an indefinite probation period that can be terminated without notice. </p> <p class="western">Although all the incidents described above carry an air of familiarity to many Egyptians, who expect the rules of co-habitation with any authoritarian ideology to involve a mixture of compromise and collaboration in their efforts to accommodate the forces in power, the competition for space and recognition intensified to the point that one local ruefully commented to me:</p> <p class="western"> <span class="blockquote-new">“<em>El suq ghaba wi kitab maftuh</em> (the market’s become a jungle, and the book is open i.e. everyone knows what’s going on within it). It’s becoming a fight of everyone against everyone else, to the point where long accepted bonds of family, friendship and community are appearing shredded. Some of the people paying out complain loudly that they’re victims of some kind of injustice - but then you discover they themselves are also perpetrators of acts exploiting others just as much. What were previously always clear, black and white boundaries are becoming fuzzy, so that the certainty that comes from being able to make sound judgement is lost. There are now only grey zones, and it’s more difficult to read people. The subject of human complexity is the talk of the town, and relationship problems are what’s on everyone’s mind.” </span></p> <p class="western">Throughout all these developments, there were nevertheless some signs, at least, of <span><a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2011/01/03/three-decades-of-a-joke-that-just-wont-die-2/">Egypt’s long-standing tradition of subversive political humour</a></span> continuing to reassert itself in the face of the state’s relentless grand narrative of its ‘no margin for error’ <em>hashd</em> of the patriotic citizenry in support of the Candidate. Through the long years of Mubarak’s rule, and those of Sadat and Nasser before him, one could always find oneself, in urban on-the-ground spaces, coming face to face with acts of individual agency finding humour and scepticism trapped in the concrete realities of the daily struggles of ordinary Egyptians. </p><p class="western">Long seen as coping mechanisms, these tactics seek to help find the balance needed between on the one hand maintaining a critical distance from official narratives, and on the other bringing a sense of perspective to developments in one’s own surroundings on the other. Thus the sponsors of all the banners and music trucks, regardless of their official or unofficial standing, or of their commercial success and reputation, soon became known in local parlance as <em>mitbilatiyya</em> (‘drum beaters’ who are hired to perform at weddings and other celebrations, paying lip service in praise of whoever’s paying them). The term soon passed into common, unthinking usage in much the same way as, in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, all the various pro-Mubarak factions (however intense their infighting) were collectively disparaged as <em>feloul</em> (‘remnants’). </p> <p class="western">And on a more personal note, pausing one day in a street café in my neighbourhood for a cold drink, I spot the familiar face of Khamis, an elderly and reticent silversmith, who has in the habit of turning up for a game of backgammon. Getting his table ready, arranging in careful steps his hubble-bubble and game board, Khamis breaks his habitual silence to loudly recall an anecdote that had been making the rounds earlier in his working day: </p><p class="western"><span class="blockquote-new">“Did you hear the one about this old woman, who was bribed with LE 100 to wriggle her belly and shout slogans at the polling station? She cried out <em>(mimicking a shrieking female voice)</em> Sisi – Sisi – Sisi! and then <em>(beating his thighs with mirth)</em> …. dropped dead!” </span> </p> <p class="western">Laughter breaks out as we are left visualising the scene at the polling station, encircled for added security by police and army forces, and how the incident will have broken the spell of the official script. A voice further back quips, “And does that entitle her to <em>ma’ash el-wagib</em> (the special pension given only to the families of soldiers and policemen who have given their lives in the line of duty)?”. “Oh no!” comes the rapid reply from elsewhere in the café, “hasn’t he just told you? <em>Di maatit!</em> (Literally “She just dropped dead” i.e. as opposed to heroically sacrificing her life in the service of the nation)”. This is met with still louder laughter at the ill-fated <em>mitbilatiyya</em> who has lost out on her promised ‘bounty’ of 100 LE. </p><p class="western">As the laughter subsides, Khamis changes register, mimicking official rhetoric asserting that Egypt is living the democratic dream, and how these dark days of austerity and daily struggles are what will build the nation’s future. He ends with a flourish as his tone rises to one of exaggerated anxiety: “I’m <em>really</em> worried about Sisi losing the election – then what will become of us all?” The café collapses in laughter at this absurd possibility, as trays of fresh tea arrive. </p> <p class="western">On the last day of polling a YouTube video went viral (which makes uncomfortable viewing, and for ethical reasons is therefore not hyperlinked here) confirming that Khamis’ story was not in fact apocryphal, but had actually happened. I heard about the video from my Sayidda Aisha acquaintance, who tells me that his children are absorbed in playing their new game of ‘Election’, which involves mimicking the video clip’s dance movements, and then tumbling to the floor in a ‘dead’ heap. He says that this has been going on so relentlessly that his wife is “desperate for YouTube to come up with a fresh video!” I reflect on how it seems that it is not only the grand narratives of the state that are being memorialised for posterity in social media, but also their more subversive, humorous counterparts – and whether, within all this, something of Egypt’s essential humanity is not at risk of being somehow lost.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/unhappiness-and-mohamed-salah-s-egypt">Unhappiness and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/lights-camera-action-below-stairs-soap-opera-productio">Lights – Camera – Action! ‘below the stairs’ soap opera production in middle class Cairo residences</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections">Why do authoritarian regimes love elections?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Democracy and government election Leila Zaki Chakravarti Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:05:03 +0000 Leila Zaki Chakravarti 118342 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Unhappiness and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/unhappiness-and-mohamed-salah-s-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Salah is a hero of disruption, a political voice without talking politics.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/35055129_828087465965_59059055905210368_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/35055129_828087465965_59059055905210368_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamed Salah banners and merchandise - Courtesy: Amro Ali</span></span></span>“Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero,” Andrea cries in the 1938 play,&nbsp;<em>Life of Galileo</em>, by German dramatist Bertolt Brecht, to which Galileo responds: “No, unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”</p><p>Egypt can be that unhappy land, a land where farewell parties have outstripped homecoming parties. Where a young female doctor laments she wants to leave because “to give birth to a baby here feels morally wrong, it feels sort of illegal.” Where a juice seller sarcastically quips, “We no longer have time to think of anything else but survival, we don’t even have time to contemplate suicide.” When a country is mired in endless social and economic problems, and smothered in despair, the yearning grows for that&nbsp;<em>batal</em>&nbsp;(hero), that one human figure where all painful and complex abstracts will be realised within and resolved without.</p><p>Something happened in Egypt that short-circuited a sport that is often treated by governments of all persuasions as a distracting bread and circus for the masses. Something interrupted the despotic drive to stamp out the uniqueness from the flow of Egyptian life.</p><p>Enter Mohamed Salah armed with a moral code.</p><p>While Salah is seen to bring hope to many, he is an unsettling spectre that silently haunts the establishment, for he has options, international prestige and the perception of untouchability. He has grown to be more than a hero of football success. Salah is a different sort of hero, he is a hero of disruption, and a living paradox of a political voice without talking politics. Salah operates in a politics of juxtaposition in which his perceived immaculate persona is unconsciously contrasted with the familiar polluted forces of high politics.</p><p>While many of Egypt’s prominent and established figures seem to have an answer for everything, Salah shows up and we’re faced with difficult questions. Namely, why are we investing so much hope in one man? This is more than about the World Cup.</p><p>Salah is not a substitute for viable high politics. He is, after all, a football player, and a very good one at that, but his insertion into the volatile Egyptian climate sheds some light on what has gone wrong and why the current fervor around him can illuminate the question of Egyptian unhappiness. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians have had to live with binaries</p><p>Salah’s stance to steer away from politics, or from inadvertently disclosing his political leanings, has given him an amplified united base. Since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians have had to live with binaries: revolutionary versus counter-revolutionary, secular versus Islamist, civilian versus military, liberal versus hyper-nationalist, pro and anti-Brotherhood, among others. While many of these binaries have diminished under the shadow of the generals, the unity that has come in its place is a negative unity. It is almost always against something, such as terrorism, and when it stands for something, let’s say Egypt, it’s a nationalist straightjacket that is imposed, with no room for plurality of thought or voices.</p><p>Salah might just be the first figure in a while behind which pro- and anti-regime supporters can unite. In the words of an Egyptian doctoral candidate studying in California, “Salah is the reason I’m mending my relationship with Egypt.”</p><p>It has become commonplace to argue that unhappiness in Egypt is caused by high unemployment, poverty, dysfunctional education, censorship, a crackdown on independent voices, and overall human rights abuses. While there is no doubt these factors contribute to the misery of many Egyptians, there is something worse and pathological that lurks behind them all: The grim reality that new possibilities no longer emerge on the horizon. The dilution of hope that once offered the promise that unhappiness was a temporary moment, now feels for many like the ink of sadness has dried. Depression disarms you before repression even has time to put on its uniform.</p><p>For this reason, Salah is like a sudden assertion of human values within a dehumanising system. This did not arise when Salah helped defeat Congo, propelling Egypt into the World Cup last October. Astonishing football talent is not always enough to convert non-football watchers. Nor did his story of humble beginnings to stardom take hold in this moment. There was nothing original in any of these individual success stories. Perhaps because they remained just that: individual.</p><p>But then came the other, and equally decisive, side of Salah. Barely two weeks after this victory, and because of it, Salah was<a href="http://english.alarabiya.net/en/sports/2017/10/20/Mohamed-Salah-rejects-offer-of-luxury-villa-as-reward-for-sending-Egypt-to-World-Cup.html" target="_blank">&nbsp;offered a luxury villa</a>&nbsp;by entrepreneur Mamdouh Abbas. He politely declined the gift and suggested that a donation to his village Nagrig in Gharbia would make him happier. This move, along with many of his charitable acts, for non-football fans, including myself, was thunderous to say the least, and swayed us to his camp.</p><p>To put the implications of this act in a wider context: Cairo’s highways are nauseatingly choked with billboards flaunting the latest exuberant luxury real estate and gated compounds. It is an assault on the senses of millions of Egyptians who are puzzled as to how such developments take place in an era of painful austerity measures, in which they are being asked to continually sacrifice. The billboards, almost always in English and at times with white, blue-eyed European faces, loudly proclaim, “It’s time to think about you,” and, “This time it’s personal.” It is not enough that Egypt’s capitalism on crack and real estate speculation is skewing the economy, but it also ramps up hyper-individualism, greed, and various strands of self-hatred.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Egyptians have long missed looking up to someone who commands respect</p><p>Salah’s rejection of the villa was a violent piercing into a culture of the grotesque and excessive, and signified his upholding of the values born, or crystallized, during the 2011 revolution that put the common good above all. His refusal was a significant breach in the business-as-usual patronage and wheeling and dealing circles. If Salah was loved for his victory over Congo, he was now respected more for this move and the many charitable stories that emerged, making it obvious that this has been his character for a long time, and that he didn’t reinvent himself for PR purposes. Love and respect are two different beasts. Egyptians have long missed looking up to someone who commands respect, at least someone who is not in exile, in prison, or long dead.</p><p>In recent years, Egyptians have had to live with the exhausting spectacle of doublespeak in which official interpretations are often in conflict with lived realities and common sense. The train heading to Alexandria is declared to be on its way to Aswan, as veteran journalist Yosri Fouda once<a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2016/01/04/opinion/u/egyptian-journalism-is-there-shame-in-asking-a-question/" target="_blank">&nbsp;put it</a>. This war of attrition on rationality has plunged Egyptians deep into a spiral of conformity, scepticism and indifference toward each other. The idea of the higher good receded as officialdom continued, in Czech philosopher Václav Havel’s words, “not to excite people with the truth, but to reassure them with lies.” The intervention of Salah did not necessarily change all that, nor did it reverse the Orwellian trend, but he did help restore meaning to terms that had become scrambled: dignity became dignity again, principles became principles, kindness became kindness, and happiness became happiness.</p><p>Salah touched on another existential question within Egyptian state and society: the strong desire for international recognition. This phenomenon <a href="https://timep.org/commentary/what-would-people-say/" target="_blank">weaves its way</a>&nbsp;through Egypt’s modern history. There have been concerted efforts to export Sisi’s branded Egypt, for example, with the new Suez Canal project billboards dotting New York’s Times Square with the slogan “Egypt’s gift to the world.” Salah, instead, lived up to fulfilling that slogan in a much more dramatic and compelling way. In fact, Salah has arguably had more impact on the world’s positive views of Egypt than all the recent years of tourist campaigns, international conferences and mega projects combined. In light of this, mentioning Salah in conversation can give many Egyptians a feeling of breathlessness, tingling hands and a sensation of weightlessness.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/34775606_828086667565_6220950869135851520_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/34775606_828086667565_6220950869135851520_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Ramadan lanterns - Courtesy: Amro Ali</span></span></span>This in part has to do with the function of happiness and meaning. If the regime is not suffering from cherophobia (fear of happiness), it believes it can commodify happiness by<a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/minister-govt-plans-make-egyptians-among-world-s-happiest/" target="_blank">&nbsp;stating</a>&nbsp;it intends to make “Egyptians among the world’s happiest,” or through the recent<a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/initiative-aims-export-happiness-uae-egypt/" target="_blank">&nbsp;discussions</a>&nbsp;with the UAE’s Ministry of Happiness to “export” some of their cool psychedelic juice to Egypt.</p><p>Happiness is a question that spans a history of philosophical musings, from Aristotle’s&nbsp;<em>Nicomachean Ethics</em>, to Al-Ghazali’s&nbsp;<em>Alchemy of Happiness</em>, to Nietzsche’s&nbsp;<em>Twilight of the Idols</em>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<em>Antichrist</em>. All of them would shun the Anglo-inspired utilitarianism of John Stuart Mills that speaks of happiness as the ultimate net objective and has been largely repackaged for neoliberal modernity, rather than a meaningful higher life that produces happiness as a by-product. In other words, you cannot separate the attainment of happiness from respect for justice, dignity, honour, etc. It doesn’t seem to phase the authorities that happiness is meaningless without rescuing vibrant citizenship, opening public spaces, providing fair trials, encouraging pluralism, and preventing overall existential meaning from being fragmented.</p><p>Salah offers glimpses into the voids spawned by the above fractures as he communicates not only on the instrumental level of football success, but with meaningful and empathic qualities that come with an honourable character. It is no wonder that<a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/salahs-counter-drug-addiction-campaign-reaches-5-mn-facebook-viewers-3-days/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Salah was able to inspire</a>&nbsp;calls to a drug user helpline to shoot up by 400 percent.</p><p>Salah’s fame, coupled with his stance on religion, comes interestingly at a time when many Egyptians are renegotiating their faith, identity markers and boundaries. The norms of what once constituted a religious person are breaking down under the weight of the country’s endless contradictions. All this takes place beneath the purview of a state that uses religion to arbitrarily police the public space, and preachers who continue to push a baroque Islam at the expense of the religion’s humble essence.</p><p>The rise of a widespread spiritual passivity contrasts with Salah’s faith, which has come to animate his public life. He saw no need to dismiss or distil his Muslim identity, even after he achieved a turbo-charged social mobility and stardom. This is not lost on many. The sight of Salah’s veiled wife, Maggie, by his side on a green oval in a European city before the eyes of millions, is a hypnotic sight to Egyptians (and the rest of the world) precisely because it is unusual, particularly at a time of heightened anxieties toward Muslims in the west. “I respect him as he is not embarrassed nor does he try to hide his veiled wife after all that success,” an Alexandrian barber says.</p><p> <span class="mag-quote-center">Hundreds of millions of Muslims are drawn to this well-understood language of piety</span></p><p>It is for the same reasons that Salah can sprout pan-Arab and pan-Islamic wings across the Arab and Muslim world. He has made it into Lebanon’s<a href="https://twitter.com/_amroali/status/1005755848369623040" target="_blank">&nbsp;graffiti</a> scene and protest ballots in the Lebanese elections (just like Egypt) to a bizarre <a href="http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/05/30/soccer-star-mo-salah-gets-level-headed-support-from-indonesian-fans.html" target="_blank">planned peaceful protest</a>&nbsp;outside the Spanish embassy in Jakarta after the injurious tackle by Sergio Ramos. The Arab world’s traditional idea of a leading, strong, vibrant, noble and outward-looking Egypt – one that spearheads the arts, preserves the seat of intellectual Sunnism, champions pan-Arabism, and stands up for the Palestinian cause – is projected onto Salah with deafening force. Between prostrating on the grass and raising his index fingers to the heavens, hundreds of millions of Muslims are drawn to this well-understood language of piety.</p><p>But this attraction transcends culture and religion. As the western world is bogged down in neoliberal sterility, rampant consumerism, loneliness, high-level scandals, populism, xenophobia against refugees and immigrants, anti-Muslim bigotry, anti-Semitism and fake news, the multi-layered Salah – the intimately relatable footballer and loving father who kicks a ball with his daughter Makka – stands out like a moment of truth and living universality, with a<a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/mohamed-salahs-mural-overlooks-times-square/" target="_blank">&nbsp;mammoth mural</a>&nbsp;recently going up in Times Square reflecting his larger than life image.</p><p>Albert Camus wrote to an estranged German friend in 1943: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.”</p><p>Salah perhaps embodies this ideal. That love of country does not require drums and chest-beating, but grace, sincerity, modesty and charity. He is a reminder to Egyptians that there exists a better human nature in a landscape barren of prominent reverential role-models. To Egypt and even the rest of the world, Salah is the outlier that proclaims the alternative to nationalism is not treachery but civic responsibility, the alternative to stifling religious conservatism does not always have to be apathy or mockery of the sacred, but breathing faith into a sound value system, and the alternative to injustice can be forgiveness. Ultimately, people had almost forgotten what humility among those with renown looks like. Particularly, a humility that is relentless and consistent, despite being trialled under the stadium floodlights and the stars sprinkled across the Liverpool night sky.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/35130763_828087416065_647647172354899968_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/35130763_828087416065_647647172354899968_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Sidi Bishr, Alexandria - Courtesy: Amro Ali</span></span></span>Salah is the rare homecoming party Egyptians have long awaited. His face on dangling lanterns lights up dark alleyways, and his colourful posters germinate over the debris of fading election posters in a country that sees official and media-manufactured heroes reckon with publicly-anointed heroes.&nbsp;</p><p>While it cannot be implied nor expected that Salah could impact the political situation in Egypt, his animated existence spotlights entry points back into the realm of authenticity. He widens the moral imagination of an attentive public and parades the possibilities that infer that the rhythm of life involves more than birth, marriage, death and even sports. He also raises questions that many power-holders will have to grapple with eventually, someday: That, above all, there are reasons why people ache for heroes in the first place. — What have you done to make them this unhappy?</p><p><strong>This article was originally published by <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/06/12/opinion/u/unhappiness-and-mohamed-salahs-egypt/">MadaMasr</a>.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/big-brother-art-of-subversion">&quot;Big Brother&quot;: the art of subversion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/vivienne-matthies-boon/after-egyptian-elections-will-political-system-explode">Egypt&#039;s political system is a pressure cooker: it will explode</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections">Why do authoritarian regimes love elections?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/return-of-ultras-ahlawy-egypt-football">The return of the Ultras Ahlawy?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/lights-camera-action-below-stairs-soap-opera-productio">Lights – Camera – Action! ‘below the stairs’ soap opera production in middle class Cairo residences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Culture football politics society Egypt in the balance Amro Ali Thu, 14 Jun 2018 06:00:01 +0000 Amro Ali 118373 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Education and orientalist discourse https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/education-and-orientalist-discourse <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The topic of education fits neatly into the orientalist middle class rhetoric about the poor, ignoring its role as an instrument of class power and domination in an autocratic country like Egypt.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4414985239_115bf98cbb_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/4414985239_115bf98cbb_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>School in Egypt. Picture by Karen Green / Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)</span></span></span>In April 2018, the World Bank agreed to grant Egypt a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180417-500m-world-bank-loan-to-support-education-in-egypt/">loan</a>&nbsp;worth 500 million USD, earmarked for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.masrawy.com/news/news_egypt/details/2018/4/11/1322932/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%82-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%86-%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D8%AA%D8%B7%D8%A8%D9%8A%D9%82%D9%87">education reform</a>. This was followed by a publicity blitz by the Egyptian minister of education, Tarek Shawky, where he highlighted the primary features of this reform, which would involve a complete overhaul of the educational system. </p><p>On paper, these&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youm7.com/story/2018/4/16/30-%D9%85%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%B2%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%85-%D9%84%D9%86-%D9%8A%D8%B6%D8%B9/3747226">reforms</a>&nbsp;are close to a middle class, liberal fantasy. For&nbsp;<a href="https://elbadil.net/2017/12/%D9%86%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-3-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AD%D9%84-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%B5%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD-%D9%85%D9%86/">example</a>, the focus on memorization, which has plagued the school system, is to be replaced with a focus on research, as well as, creative and critical thinking. It will also involve the use of computer tablets, replacing the printed book, as well as, a complete overhaul of the grading system. The minister also highlighted the fact that the&nbsp;<a href="http://gate.ahram.org.eg/News/1898621.aspx">President himself is</a>&nbsp;supervising this project, and is prioritizing it. </p><p>The announcement was greeted warmly by many of my middle class friends and acquaintances, who viewed this development as a positive step towards creating a politically aware citizenry that is able to participate effectively in the political process. This was, usually, followed by a response that emphasized the importance of education as a solution to Egypt’s problems, explicitly condemning the poor, which is the vast majority of the Egyptians, as both, ignorant and in need of civilizing. </p><p>When placed within this context, one can see how the topic of education fits, neatly, into the orientalist middle class rhetoric about the poor, as well as, wilfully ignoring the role that the education system plays as an instrument of class power and domination in an autocratic country like Egypt.&nbsp;</p><p>Education is usually the first answer that comes to mind in conversations with my middle class friends about how Egypt can tackle its complex and growing issues. No mention is made of the impact of years of autocracy, violence, and repression on the degradation and dehumanization of the poor, nor is there any mention made that the prominent roles that the elites and their middle class supporters have played in this process. </p><p>This can be attributed to two main reasons, which can be traced to the historical genesis of the urban middle class in the Arab world in general, and Egypt in particular. This class can trace its modern roots to the devastating encounter between western imperialism and Egypt, which was followed by the latter’s failed attempts at modernization. </p><p>These attempts, driven mostly from the top, triggered a process of class formation that lead to the creation of the urban middle class, which perceived itself as the bearer of the cause of national salvation. This was to be achieved, either through wholesale adaptation of western methods, or through a rejectionist approach that promoted a return to what it described as an authentic Islam, namely, Islamism. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">I, like Nasser and Qutub, am the product of this class formation</p><p>The lines between the two factions were never clear-cut, while they borrowed from each other as they struggled for supremacy. I, like Nasser and Qutub, am the product of this class formation, as well as, the movements that they represented, namely the rise of the military strong men and the Muslim Brotherhood.</p><p>Thus, this class, which is a minority in the country, holds a paternalistic view that is heavily influenced by orientalist depictions of the rest of the populace. This is coupled by an autocratic and anti-democratic bent, which is constantly justified by the argument that the Egyptian poor are not ready for democracy, an issue that could be easily resolved through mass education programs, which will “enlighten” the people to their “real” interest. </p><p>For example, many argue that the popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood stems from poverty and ignorance, rather than authentic appeal to the core ideological values and a deeply appealing moral message to many. This, of course, ignores the fact that the mass core of the Brotherhood comes from the middle class, albeit with more of a rural hue, and that the leadership is highly educated, and in some cases extremely wealthy. The most prominent examples of this is Mohamed Badie, the general guide of the Brotherhood, who is a University Professor, as well as, Hassan Malik and Khairat el Shater, both wealthy business men.</p><p>The issues with this view on education are many folds. First, and most obvious, is the deeply orientalist overtones that this rhetoric has, which helps sustain the deeply undemocratic character of the Egyptian polity. Second, and most importantly, it completely ignores the overarching social context, which has led to the degradation and de-humanization of the mass of Egyptians, most importantly, the role that the autocracy has played in this degradation. </p><p>This misdiagnosis, which stems from the urge to justify the failure of the middle class to deliver on its self-anointed mission of modernization, explicitly shifts the blame for the failures of the democratic movement to the masses, rather than the elites, military and civilian alike, who worked to undermine it. One only needs to remember that the coup of 2013 was openly welcomed by a number of prominent opposition figures, with both leftist and liberal credentials, liked Mohamed El Baradie and Hamdeen Sabahi.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">This process of “passing the bucket” has allowed the middle class to avoid a process of self-reflection and criticisms</p><p>This process of “passing the bucket” has allowed the middle class to avoid a process of self-reflection and criticisms, which might have caused it to mature and develop. On the contrary, it has simply moved the blame to the victims, and has thrown its support behind the army generals, who, ironically, continue to follow economic policies that disenfranchises them. </p><p>The third issue with this logic is that it assumes that education operates in a societal vacuum, in essence ignoring the deeply autocratic values, which have a stranglehold over the Egyptian polity, inhibiting the development of democratic values, and most importantly, the ability to resist and to question. </p><p>Thus, any education reforms that aims at developing political participation needs to be accompanied by wide range societal changes that challenges the existing status quo, not simply an educational revamp, which even, if successful, will be met by stiff resistance by the forces of the status quo. </p><p>Finally, and most dangerously, is the total ignorance of the role that the school system plays as a tool for ideological indoctrination and spreading of the hegemony of the ruling classes, in the case of Egypt, military capitalism, which is inherently anti-democratic. As a product of the Egyptian schooling system myself, I remember how the school system was used, not only to falsify history and create a pro-military narrative, but to instil a sense of submission and respect of authority based on tradition and religious dogma. </p><p>As such, one cannot imagine a true reform of the educational system that is free from theses constraints, which would allow students to question the ideological cornerstone of the Egyptian autocracy. One needs to remember the “<a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1205733">our strength comes from our Egyptiness</a>” propaganda campaign, launched by the ministry of Education, with clear fascist undertones.</p><p>The reform of the education system is at best, a small part of the puzzle and the middle class obsession with it is, simply, a reflection of the failure of this class to drive the modernization process in the country. The current narrative, besides being steeped in orientalist symbols and rhetoric, shields the middle class from self-questioning. A necessary process in order to develop the needed social and political consciousness is shifting the blame on the shoulders of the masses, who are seen as uncivilized and corrupt. </p><p>This is very similar to the view held by the European colonialist about the Egyptians, not too long ago, and some argue, is still being held until this day. In essence, the scars of the colonial encounter, and the origins of the middle class, which is deeply intertwined with it, have led to a form of self-loathing and orientalism that is essential to the view that this class holds of itself, namely as a modernizing force that is under siege by the hordes of poor and uncivilized. An island of civility in the sea of savagery. </p><p>Without a change in this view and an embrace of the masses of the people, the development of the democratic movement is bound to be stunted and isolated. This can be best summarized by Franz Fanon, one of the great intellectuals of the anticolonial movement who said “the unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.” Let us hope that the lessons of the past are not forgotten!&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/big-brother-art-of-subversion">&quot;Big Brother&quot;: the art of subversion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/vivienne-matthies-boon/after-egyptian-elections-will-political-system-explode">Egypt&#039;s political system is a pressure cooker: it will explode</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/lights-camera-action-below-stairs-soap-opera-productio">Lights – Camera – Action! ‘below the stairs’ soap opera production in middle class Cairo residences</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections">Why do authoritarian regimes love elections?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Education Democracy Class Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Wed, 30 May 2018 07:30:15 +0000 Maged Mandour 118100 at https://www.opendemocracy.net "Big Brother": the art of subversion https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/big-brother-art-of-subversion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Art achieves its highest purpose when it questions the structures of power in a society. A goal that "Big Brother", a satirical show in Egypt, achieves.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27540521_1832105710179890_7237444260955938874_n_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Big Brother. Mada Masr"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27540521_1832105710179890_7237444260955938874_n_0.jpg" alt="Big Brother. Mada Masr" title="Big Brother. Mada Masr" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Big Brother. Mada Masr</span></span></span>On one of the many evenings when my Egyptian compatriots and I gather to watch sports, play PlayStation, and of course discuss politics, a close friend introduced me to a new satirical show on YouTube called “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0A8nmCi_1E&amp;list=PL2b4XFUJwARHx3XQJ9TH_4zzOoaQuf7vZ">Big Brother</a>”. This show is produced by Mada Masr, one of the few truly independent news outlets in Egypt.</p> <p>Even though I am not a qualified critic, I was incredibly impressed by the short video clips and felt compelled to write and highlight the possible impact these videos as well as other forms of subversive art have on the ever-tightening grip of the Sisi regime. This is one of the few true forms of revolutionary art I have seen since the eruption of the mass protests in 2011. <strong><span></span></strong></p> <p>The show revolves around the character of “Big Brother”, an anti-revolutionary man who analyses problems facing Egypt and offers solutions from a pro-regime perspective in a satirical manner. He provides a powerful critique of the regime using its own language and narrative.&nbsp;</p> <p>The brilliance of the character is in his physical appearance, the language he uses and his physical gestures. The appearance of the character is that of the rural elite, one of the primary social groups supporting the regime. Big Brother has a moustache, is always carrying prayer beads, and walks around with his mobile phone.</p> <p>The language he uses is obscene; he starts all the shows cursing at the audience, and the dialogue is filled with sexual and aggressive annotations. In essence, sharing the contempt the regime displays to the masses. The camera angle is low, allowing him to tower over the audience as he moves and gestures angrily imposing his authority.</p> <p>This is combined with a brilliant set design, which has many symbols and hidden messages of subversion and resistance. For example, in the background one can see the eagle that occupies a prominent position on Egypt’s flag and is a potent symbol of the military regime that has ruled Egypt since 1952. However, directly next to it, we can see a picture of Mubarak with what appears to be clown make up on. </p> <p>Next to this picture, one can see a toy with two balls that became known as the “<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2017/11/8/sisis-balls-egypt-cracks-down-on-popular-childrens-toy">Sisi testicles</a>”. This toy was considered to be subversive enough to merit its confiscation from a number of street vendors as well as their arrest. One can also see the portrait of Mohamed Salah, a prolific footballer, who the regime has and probably still is attempting to co-opt.</p> <p>In addition to the character of Big Brother, there is the character of the “Brown citizen”, to whom Big Brother directs his tirades and advice. This citizen fits the stereotype of your typical lower middle-class Egyptian who has been indoctrinated by years of autocracy into apathy and despair, and who accepts the ideology of the ruling elite as his own, without questioning. In other words, he becomes an obedient member of the repressed masses who also repress others.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In terms of content and topic, Big Brother offers a number of innovative solutions and views on the issues facing the Egyptian polity. One of my favourite episodes discusses the arts and television series that portray the struggles of middle class Egyptian women. </p> <p>Big Brother offers unique insight into the role art and mass media play as tools for control, distraction and mass ideological indoctrination, as well as the close connection between the security apparatus and the cinema and entertainment industry. </p> <p>He also highlights the fear the Egyptian middle class have of any forms of realistic art that portrays the actual practices of Egyptians and the reality of life, such as sexual practices and domestic violence.</p> <p>Big Brother offers an innovative solution to the problem of realistic art, which is removing dialogue and replacing it with Quran. If the artist were to object, he would subject himself to public backlash and accusations of blasphemy, since he dared to remove the holy word of God from his art. </p> <p>An age-old technique of using religious symbols to justify the repression of freedom of expression and thought. Big Brother, intelligently, exposes this process of decentralized repression where the citizenry themselves participate in stifling their fellow citizens.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Another memorable episode was “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJJ66ZrO4xY">The Beginning of the End</a>”, where Big Brother attempts to tackle the thorny issue of the presidential elections. The innovative solution he comes up with is for judgment day to occur, thus creating a distraction for the masses. But this strategy fails because the masses yearn for a strong leader who will provide deliverance from the horrors of judgment day. This is combined with a tirade against the people, as they should be grateful that their current leaders have agreed to rule them. </p> <p>Once again, Big Brother exposes the inner workings of autocracy and how apocalyptic language is used to justify its existence, using fear of social disintegration as a way to justify its existence and to garner support. &nbsp;</p> <p>Finally comes an episode where Big Brother tackles the complex issue of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L41IDHj0c54">minoritie</a>s in the broadest sense to include those that have different life styles or points of views. Big Brother highlights the function minorities play in autocratic regimes, where they allow members of the already repressed majority a sense of superiority and relief, since their level of repression is lower, comparatively speaking. </p> <p>As such, Big Brother comes up with the innovative solution of creating a new category of minority, simply called “minority”. This category creates a sense of confusion within the ranks of the majority and increases their sense of superiority to the new minorities, which results in the majority then feeling oppressed, and a sense of despair seeps into their entire psyche. In essence, all Egyptians then become a minority.</p> <p>To be fair, this is not a real critique, it is a rather a chance for me to say thank you to the staff of Mada Masr and Big Brother, who in spite of an unprecedented wave of repression remain a bastion of resistance, covering and producing material that is of both artistic and journalistic value. </p> <p>One only needs to remember that Mada Masr remains <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/25/egypt-blocks-access-news-websites-al-jazeera-mada-masr-press-freedom">blocked</a> in Egypt since May 2017.&nbsp; It is also an acknowledgement that even though I felt alone, in reality, I am not. Resistance continues through any and all means necessary, and artists like the team behind Big Brother as well as musicians and bands like Cairokee are at its forefront. </p> <p>Art achieves its highest purpose, in my opinion, when it questions the structures of power, oppression and control in society. A goal that Big Bother, among others achieve. </p><p> On a side note, the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HApFNsQ_Asc&amp;list=PL2b4XFUJwARHPwzThsif51_d0o9vsQAFj">second season</a> just started and I am looking forward to the renewed wisdom of Big Brother!</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openglobalrights/m-b/satire-as-tool-of-resistance-in-egypt">Satire as a tool of resistance in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ahmed-magdy-youssef/one-satirist-exposes-egypts-lopsided-media-viewpoint">One satirist exposes Egypt&#039;s lopsided media viewpoint</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/power-and-divine-case-of-egypt">Power and the divine: self-repression in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sarah-el-sheikh/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%86%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%81%D9%82%D9%88%D8%AF-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D8%A1">العنصر المفقود في مصر: الشعور بالانتماء</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/hazem-saghieh/egypt-escape-from-reality">Egypt, an escape from reality</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas Satire artistic activism media Social innovation Revolution Mid-East Forum Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Thu, 10 May 2018 18:53:47 +0000 Maged Mandour 117749 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt's political system is a pressure cooker: it will explode https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/vivienne-matthies-boon/after-egyptian-elections-will-political-system-explode <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Egypt will at some point explode in everyone's faces. The question is when, how and most of all, at what cost. How much more blood will flow?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35744152.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35744152.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A security member and a voter near a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, on March 28, 2018. Picture by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The results of the Egyptian elections are hardly shocking. Sisi has won his electoral "battle" with another pro-Sisi supporter popularly called "Moussa Something Moussa". The hyper nationalistic pro-Sisi musical vans and the desperate attempt to get voters to the polling booths (using monetary rewards, threats and physical abuse) were also hardly shocking. Neither was it particularly shocking to note that some US Congress men and women had knowingly or unknowingly become part of the pro-Sisi propaganda apparatus when they danced at the polling stations. Nor was the relative low turn out, particularly amongst youth, shocking.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Yet, in a different way, the elections in Egypt were shocking. Shocking and most of all absurd because of the sheer lack of political content, lack of electoral choice and lack of freedom of expression. Even in the always noisy capital Cairo, it is eerily quiet. There is no political sound or whisper.&nbsp;&nbsp;Rather, repressive political silence permeates Egypt’s busy streets in a stifling and choking manner. Political leaders and electoral candidates were arrested, and placed under house arrest or&nbsp; simply disappeared. Many political activists fled the country and others have a dark cloud hanging above them with therein the anxious question “when will it be my turn? When will I be arrested and tortured? When will I disappear”.</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">It is also shocking because within this dark grey cloud there is always still a faded remembrance, a longing for the 2011 revolution. A remembrance that has now been sullied, covered and smothered by political dissatisfaction and counter-revolutionary betrayal. The 2011 revolution was not so much a call for liberal capitalist democracy with elections – after all, this had long been Mubarak’s corrupted model of politics. Rather, it was above all a call for socio-economic change and an end to security state abuse, because only then is there a possibility for meaningful political change and openness.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" lang="en-GB">Criticising the Egyptian army is now a form of high treason, punishable by death</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">However, this dream now lies buried under a hug pile of political rubble, upon which the unsteady house of current Egyptian politics is built. Economic inequalities and security state abuses are greater than ever before. Thousands of people have disappeared, been tortured, raped or murdered. Protests or demonstrations are forbidden and even the smallest criticism of the government, military or the “Egyptian image” is viewed as a direct threat to national security. And this, for example, includes a statement that the water of the Nile River is dirty, as the pop artist Sherine recently discovered. She was sentenced to 6 months in prison for this comment.</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Criticising the Egyptian army is now a form of high treason, punishable by death. And the death penalty is now being meted out as an instrument of collective punishment.&nbsp;&nbsp;Anyone and everyone can be detained at any moment, since there is no red line anymore as to what is allowed and not allowed under the authoritarian regime. As one anonymous Egyptian activist put it</p><p class="blockquote-new" lang="en-GB">“life is superfluous. It is being thrown away and no one says anything about it. It is the deadening, repressive silence that is the worst. The silence, and waiting, when will it be my time to die?”.</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Silence and death is also pervasive in the Sinai, which has become nothing short of a militarised black hole. We will never know what truly happens in the Sinai, other than the distorted snippets of pro-state news outlets.</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">In the meantime, the internet and social media are being monitored for terrorist activities with the help of the German intelligence services under the new Egypt-German deal struck by Angela Merkel. This of course includes all human rights activities, which after all harm the image of the Egyptian nation and the regime. Furthermore, civil society has been entirely shut down by the NGO law that closed more than 47,000 organisations. And around 500 websites have been closed – amongst which news outlets such as the Huffington Post – due to terrorist activities.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">At the same time, France is shipping tons of military hardware to Egypt. And Dutch companies are collaborating in the Suez canal project, which whilemaking a loss, particularly serves to uphold the image and legitimacy of the regime. The Dutch have also risen to the 7th&nbsp;place in arms trades to Egypt, followed by Germany but superseded of course by France. And Britain’s arms trade with Egypt has nearly doubled since 2013, after Sisi got the full “red carpet treatment” during a visit to the UK in 2015.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Overall, authorised arms exports to Egypt have risen from 3bn Euro in 2013 to a whooping 19.5bn Euro in 2015. And all because international political leaders believe that the support of authoritarian leaders such as Sisi will bring them more stability within the region. The IMF also clearly shares this belief when Christine Lagarde recently praised the Egyptian government’s reforms and particularly their serious efforts to protect the poor and vulnerable, while of course at the same time pushing precisely these populations further into poverty through the devaluation of the Egyptian pound and the removal of state subsidies. Even an average&nbsp;middle class&nbsp;family cannot afford a simple packet of orange juice, and the cost of a chocolate bar has become the equivalent of a week’s wage.&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Egypt is a pressure cooker, wherein the Egyptian people are left to rot in their struggle for survival – either socio-economically or in Egypt’s prisons. This one-man-show election will not take away or alleviate those pressures. And meanwhile Egyptian securitisation will not lead to stability but greater instability. It will at some point explode in everyone's faces. The question is when, how and most of all, at what cost. How much more blood will flow?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections">Why do authoritarian regimes love elections?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/power-and-divine-case-of-egypt">Power and the divine: self-repression in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movemen">Elections and the Egyptian movement of 2011: thinking with Alain Badiou about the current situation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Democracy and government dictatorship repression freedom economics Vivienne Matthies-Boon Tue, 10 Apr 2018 07:50:07 +0000 Vivienne Matthies-Boon 117033 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why do authoritarian regimes love elections? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By the very nature of their positions, authoritarian leaders project extreme insecurity, as their legitimacy is not reaped from popular representation and democratic accountability.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35711795.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-35711795.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Young Egyptian men wear t-shirts with the picture of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Egypt, 26 March 2018. Picture by Oliver Weiken/DPA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>This might prompt further questions as to why Egypt would waste tens of millions of pounds on posters and banners for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, when his rivals have been muzzled and no credible candidate stands to challenge him? &nbsp;After all, these posters cost, according to one company I spoke with, from LE800 to LE5,000 each, mostly paid for by businesses — money that could have been better spent on hospitals and schools, or even the government’s Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) philanthropic fund. But the costly flooding of images across cities makes sense when one considers them to be a symptom of a deeper pathology, one in which<a href="https://madamirror.appspot.com/timep.org/commentary/egypt-despotism/" target="_blank">&nbsp;political despotism</a>&nbsp;elevates the ruler’s will and passion over rational action and debate and scuppers public welfare by turning the citizenry into a homogenous mass without any real representation. But even the most anti-democratic election can reveal much about the system and its key players.</p><p>Rigged elections come in all varieties: ballot-stuffing, the&nbsp;<a href="https://madamirror.appspot.com/www.madamasr.com/en/2018/02/14/news/u/human-rights-groups-egypts-presidential-election-is-neither-free-nor-fair/" target="_blank">arrest</a>&nbsp;of opposition figures, intimidation of opposition supporters and miscounting of votes, among other imaginative techniques. Yet at the heart of it all remains a consistent factor — the regime views elections not as an institutionalized mechanism within an accountable governance process, but as a carefully orchestrated event wrapped in a spectacle to reinforce the regime’s strength and test the oppositional waters.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Elections are often a safety valve to manage threats.</p><p>By the very nature of their positions, authoritarian leaders project extreme insecurity, as their legitimacy is not reaped from popular representation and democratic accountability, but from the support of elites and the security establishment. This type of support is extremely precarious, as it is not only suspended above responsible political cycles, but also makes for potentially messy endings such as coups, revolutions and imprisonment. Therefore, elections are often a safety valve to manage threats.</p><p>Such elections offer a “dignified” way for presidents to purge strong popular supporters who can emerge as a threat (even if their staunch loyalty was never in question), and reshuffle Cabinet ministers. This can give the illusion to the public that a reset is taking place, and that economic problems should be blamed solely on such ousted ministers, not the president. Elections signal to supporters why they need to be co-opted, and to opponents that broad support for the regime invites further crackdowns. The post-election period often sees security apparatuses reorganize to intimidate real and potential opponents. This is made possible in the first place because an election enables the regime to test the strength of its opposition, and to learn more about them. In an ironic twist,<a href="https://madamirror.appspot.com/www.cambridge.org/core/journals/world-politics/article/div-classtitleautocratic-electionsdiv/92A89B305ECE510E2556BB07BD9D4175" target="_blank">&nbsp;elections can prolong dictatorships</a>.</p><p>Elections signal to domestic and international audiences that a “popular mandate” has been renewed, and the establishment is united behind the head of state in question, so foreign leaders need to primarily deal with the president, not the defense minister or to flirt with opposition figures. Also, it is slightly more compelling (albeit still comical) for a president to say, “My people support me and that’s why I won the recent election,” rather than just mouthing a non-concrete, “My people support me” platitude. It is for this reason that authoritarian figures can largely end up, and often do, detached from the public. With the Arab revolutions as the backdrop, the idea of not touching base with the public is unsettling for many leaders. But rather than gain legitimate consent, which is not guaranteed, they would still prefer to manufacture it.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Staged elections also come with a huge risk</p><p>But staged elections also come with a huge risk. According to a<a href="https://madamirror.appspot.com/www.vg.no/nyheter/meninger/hviterussland/underlige-valg-i-diktaturer/a/23569544/" target="_blank">&nbsp;University of Oslo study</a>, 50 percent of regime breakdowns or “dictatorship deaths” have occurred during an election year. This is because elections act as a meeting point on which oppositional individuals and groups can focus their attention. Therefore, elections enable coordination, and amplify certain voices. In effect, the election resolves the “coordination problem” that usually plagues oppositional actors at other moments. They also reveal a regime’s vulnerability. A surprising result that shows a loss for the ruling party would lead the people to believe they had overestimated the regime’s strength. Empty voting stations and short voting queues can prove embarrassing enough to break the spell of a leader’s indomitability and allay the fears of activists. This was demonstrated in the 2014 Egyptian presidential election, which sent pro-regime media anchors into a frenzy of begging citizens to vote and the authorities had to extend voting by another two days. Elections unleash forces that cannot always be anticipated or controlled.</p><p>Biographers of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser noted that he was obsessed with jokes being made about him and was briefed daily about the latest jokes in circulation. Egyptian humor seems to spare nothing, including ancient Egyptian statues who changed confessions about which historical dynasty they were from — under Nasser’s torture. According to writer&nbsp;<a href="https://madamirror.appspot.com/www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/egypt-from-nasser-to-mubarak-rle-egypt" target="_blank">Anthony McDermott</a>, one account narrates how Nasser, unusually, intervened in a particular instance in the 1960s when mocked for his near hundred percent referendum victories. The jester in question was brought before Nasser, who reprimanded him and reminded him of his achievements and popularity by adding, “And remember, I was elected by 99 percent of the electorate.” The man replied, “I swear, this was not one of my jokes.”</p><p>If this anecdote can perhaps illuminate something, it is that the peak charade — the “election” — in a regime’s lifespan can often be its most vulnerable moment.</p><p><strong>This article was originally published on <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/03/25/opinion/u/why-do-authoritarian-regimes-love-elections/">MadaMasr</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/power-and-divine-case-of-egypt">Power and the divine: self-repression in Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movemen">Elections and the Egyptian movement of 2011: thinking with Alain Badiou about the current situation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/how-egypt-functions-in-moroccan-imagination">How Egypt functions in the Moroccan imagination </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/return-of-ultras-ahlawy-egypt-football">The return of the Ultras Ahlawy?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government dictatorship Egypt in the balance Amro Ali Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:02:09 +0000 Amro Ali 116949 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The return of the Ultras Ahlawy? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/return-of-ultras-ahlawy-egypt-football <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Are communities that are not directly political more effective today? More capable of resisting repression and able to maneuver and challenge the state’s iron fist?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30191960.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-30191960.jpg" alt="Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Feb. 1, 2016 - Cairo, Egypt - Al Ahly fans, the ''Ultras'', light flares and shout slogans in the club's training stadium, marking the fourth anniversary of killing al-Ahly fans known as the ''Port Said massacre''. Amr Sayed/Zuma Press/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The Ultras recent <a href="https://www.arab48.com/%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B6%D8%A9/2018/03/08/%D8%AC%D9%85%D9%87%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%87%D9%84%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B9%D8%A8-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%87%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8">re-emergence</a> in a football match between Al-Ahly and Monana was phenomenal. Their famous flames lit up the stadium and their famous song “<em>liberta</em>” resurrected the moribund spirit of the January 2011 revolution.</p> <p>How could such youngsters emerge again, suddenly and confidently, after years of repression? How could they sustain themselves for more than half a decade of public vilification, massive incarceration, and torturous killing? What is the secret of such extraordinary endurance?</p> <p>Social movement literature does not seem to take the Ultras seriously. The reasons are plenty; their limited political ambitions and their association over non-political grounds (football) make their struggle seem negligible. </p> <p>But amidst these suffocating political conditions, this glimpse of hope should not be overlooked. Their pioneering reemergence amidst the gloomy silence of almost everyone else encourages us to rethink our understanding of social movements and how worthy they are of serious analysis. </p><p>Might it be the case that traditional, i.e. politically-oriented, social movements like Kefaya or&nbsp;the Revolutionary Socialists, for example, are no longer the ideal model of social organization? Are communities that are not directly political more effective today? More capable of resisting repression and able to maneuver and challenge the state’s iron fist? </p><p>Should we give up our desperate hopes in traditional movements and look to new social movements such as the Ultras? </p> <p>"New Social Movements" is a term <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Nomads_of_the_Present.html?id=M08fAQAAIAAJ&amp;redir_esc=y">Alberto Melucci coined</a> to describe movements that seek not to <em>demand </em>changes in the political agenda, but to rather construct this change in-practice; to practically demonstrate alternative possibilities of social and political praxis through their very <em>being.</em></p> <p>These movements are thus less concerned with intentions than experiences, less concerned with power than resistance, less concerned with goals than actions. </p><p>They should not be analysed through traditional frames that focus on strategies, resources, and mobilisation, but new modes of analysis that take the movement’s symbolic production as seriously as its tangible strategic attainments.</p> <p>This Meluccian framework enables us to understand how such groups of teenagers can sustain their existence as a serious challenge to a regime whose political powers are incomparably superior; for the power of the Ultras, obviously, lies not in its political front, but in the social bonds that keep the group intact despite their recurrent political defeats. </p> <p>Fleshing out these bonds requires an empirical investigation that would be too challenging at this point in time given the current autocratic regime and its violent restrictions on social movement research. </p> <p>However, there are two recently published analysis that at least facilitate the imagination of how such bonds function in social action: Khalil Anani’s Meluccian <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01L008P00/ref=clair_cor__1?_encoding=UTF8&amp;cor=GB&amp;priceChange=1">analysis</a> of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ‘inside’, and Dalia Ibrahim’s <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lqqNjwEACAAJ&amp;dq=inauthor:%22Dalia+Abdelhameed+Ibraheem%22&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiMiprfq-fZAhXFI8AKHZ9QDooQ6AEIJzAA">analysis</a> of the Ultras Ahlawy. </p> <p>The first is useful for its theoretical framing of how social bonds can be a means of resistance. The second is useful for the application of such a frame on the group, despite its limited engagement with the political implications of these bonds.</p> <p>Khalil Anani explores the secret of the Muslim Brotherhood’s endurance through eight decades of regime repression. To that end, Anani draws on Alberto Melucci’s ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0521578434?selectObb=new">new social movements theory</a>’ to conceptualise the Brotherhood as a cognitive framework embedded in its members everyday activities. </p> <p>The Brotherhood, Anani argues, is one of those movements which recreate world possibilities through the implementation of their alternative agenda, not on the political level, but on the individual member: in the <em>usra</em> (fraternity), the mosque, the neighborhood, and even the family. Each member of the Brotherhood, thus, is disciplined and nurtured to become an embodiment of the Brotherhood’s ‘alternative’ order, a suggestion of an alternative way of politics. It is through such ideological embeddedness in the everyday that the movement becomes capable of keeping its members homogenous, even when they are forced through repression to cut internal connections and stop collective activity; for the Brotherhood’s collective action is ‘individual’ at its core.</p> <p>Parallels could not be more vivid. In fact, the Ultras connections are even more embedded in the everyday: whenever he watches football, discusses it with his friends, or shares it on his everyday social platforms, an Ultras member reiterates his identity as a football fan – the core identity feature of the group. </p> <p>Collective action, of course, gives spirit to this identity, reifies it, reinforces the ties that hold the group as a collective ‘we’, but in no way is it necessary for the collective to remain intact; for watching an Ahly match from his very own television automatically connects this fan to his fandom group. </p> <p>As such, the group can maintain its cohesion and prolong its lifespan through years of being abandoned access to the field where it is most vivid (the stadium). On the latent level, the group can remain – albeit hibernated – in the souls of every member: in his individual rituals, imaginations, actions, and relations to football.</p> <p>Ibraheem’s research starts from this point of departure: the individual. Fortunate to have conducted fieldwork research before the situation became this bleak, she could point out three key ideologues that tie the movement’s abstract ideology with its members lives: nationalism, fraternity, and representation. </p> <p>The first ties the individual’s ‘club’ loyalty to a higher loyalty to the nation, expressed in his superior loyalty to the national team (which comes before any club loyalties). </p> <p>The second ties the fans together as one ‘brotherhood’, in which part of being an Ahly fan is being part of this fandom community, obliged to follow its obligations and care for its fellow members. </p> <p>The third ties the fun experiences of cheering, singing, and other acts of <em>performing </em>to the presentation of the group to the public; levelling those seemingly mundane acts to the highest level of seriousness while still being part of the fun, cheerful experience that defines the group’s aspired image.</p> <p>Nonetheless, Ibraheem did not get to engage with the core meeting-point of the Ultras community, that is ‘the game!’ </p> <p>These youngsters are fans. Indeed, they take the game very seriously; but their nurtured sportsmanship makes them highly immune to the dramas of defeat. They are rather trained, through their very fandom praxis, to fall and rise again. </p> <p>This is no doubt one reason that makes their endurance plausible; they approach resistance not as a political act, but a sports game – you win, you lose, and it makes very little difference; for what matters is the experience, what matters is the game.</p> <p><em>Liberta!</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/crossing-rubicon-how-egypt-s-government-and-court-of-public-opinion-resha">Crossing the rubicon: how Egypt’s government and public opinion reshaped the Ultras legacy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/ultras-in-mourning-how-massacre-revolutionary-aftermath-and-politics-kill">Ultras in mourning: how a massacre, revolutionary aftermath and politics killed Egyptian football</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/football-s-martyrs-how-ultras-become-revolutionaries">Football’s martyrs: how the Ultras become revolutionaries </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan/sports-politics-revolution-how-hardcore-football-fan-club-impacted-egypti">Sports, politics, revolution: how a hardcore football fan club impacted Egyptian consciousness</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/whatever-is-happening-to-egyptians-pt-5-colonizing-egyptian-bodies">Whatever is happening to the Egyptians, Pt. 5: colonizing Egyptian bodies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick/whatever-happened-to-egyptians-iv-note-on-getting-sexy-for-marassi">Whatever happened to the Egyptians, Pt.4: would-be aristocrats</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/hesham-shafick-mohamed-hasan/fascist-history-of-egyptian-revolution-iii-fascism-phase">A fascist history of the Egyptian revolution III: phase two, from the numinous to the real</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government football Right to the city Revolution Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Hesham Shafick Thu, 22 Mar 2018 13:08:16 +0000 Hesham Shafick 116788 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Power and the divine: self-repression in Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/power-and-divine-case-of-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Focusing on the afterlife, the rewards of heaven for the just and hell for the unjust, keeps the masses in check and accepting of their social reality. This needs to change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_8717.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rana Magdy. Public Domain. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/IMG_8717.JPG" alt="Rana Magdy. Public Domain. " title="Rana Magdy. Public Domain. " class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rana Magdy. Public Domain. </span></span></span>To understand how power functions, one needs to examine how it penetrates and controls the daily lives of the citizenry on the micro rather than macro level.</p> <p>Of course, there are common indicators of how repressive a society is, such as freedom of the press, treatment of minorities, and the level of violence practiced by the state on its citizenry. However, this approach misses an important aspect of power, namely, how the masses are kept in line without the need to resort to mass violence. </p> <p>Ideological domination is the tool used; it is accepted by the masses as an essential component of their social reality, leaving no room for cognitive dissonance. </p> <p>In autocratic polities, one of the most critical notions of the ideology of power is lack of control, where one’s ability to influence one’s life and surroundings remains constrained and limited as an ideological construct and a fact of life. </p> <p>The mass of the populace hold the belief that their ability to affect change, even in their own personal lives, is severely limited and constrained by external powers.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The masses accept their repression and lack of freedom as a natural condition of their existence, and any defiant members become quickly ostracized and repressed by their fellows because they risk creating uncomfortable levels of mass cognitive dissonance. </p> <p>As a result, on behalf of the ruling elites, there is no need for direct intervention by the state as the populace engages in a process of self-regulation and repression.</p> <h2><strong>The role of religion</strong></h2> <p>As a student of the Egyptian polity, one of the most important ideological pillars of repression is the use of a religious construct that promotes apathy. The divine is constructed as an ever-present force in daily life. </p> <p>Decisions related to work, children and marriage, for example, are constructed as part of a pre-ordained plan by the divine, as such, one is fated to have a certain job or a certain number of children. </p> <p>Abysmal social conditions are also projected onto a divine power that is both just and above comprehension. These critical decisions are considered to be outside the realm of human control.</p> <p>This coping mechanism is adopted by the vast majority, especially with the increasingly worsening conditions in Egypt. </p> <p>If one, for example, suffers from prolonged bouts of unemployment, one appeals to the divine or believes that his/her suffering is part of a divine plan that is just, and that one will be rewarded later on in life or in the afterlife.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Suffering for redemption</strong></h2> <p>The second lag of this religious construct is the deep-seated belief in the importance of suffering as a tool for redemption, where one’s bad deeds are erased as he/she suffers injustice in this life. </p> <p>In cases of injustice, for example, patience and prayer are advised rather than active resistance. There is also a religious notion that when a person has been unjustly treated, there is a direct connection to the divine, where their prayer will surely be answered with the usual caveat that the response might be delayed until the time is right. </p> <p>Additionally, there is a direct connection made between suffering and the goodness of one’s soul, where the true believer is thought to always be inflicted by suffering as a test of fortitude by the divine.</p> <p>This ideological construct is also coupled with a conception of the divine as a force that is arbitrary and beyond comprehension, while at the same time directly involved in the details of daily life. Thus, it is not unusual that Egyptians attribute small events, like catching a bus or a train, to the direct workings of the divine. </p> <p>This sense of loss of control manifests itself in the concrete belief in magic and other super natural forces. For example, it is not unusual to hold different forms of amulets and blessed items to ward off evil spirits or even to affect the behaviour of one’s superiors. This is also reflected in the widespread belief in dreams, fortune tellers and magic. </p> <p>Even Sisi himself is reported to have had a dream that he was destined to become the president of Egypt, claiming to have seen late President Sadat, an Omega watch, and a red sword. &nbsp;</p> <p>This ideological construct has a number of obvious implications on social and political behaviour at both the micro and macro levels. </p> <h2><strong>Collective apathy</strong></h2> <p>The primary impact is that it converts the populace from subjects to objects with little control over their lives. A sense of collective apathy sets in as one suffers from self-alienation and loss of control over one’s fate. This directly leads to the acceptance of social injustices as a form of divine ordinance, rather than a manmade phenomenon that should and can be resisted and changed through acts of individual and collective resistance. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Individual agency is replaced by reliance on the intervention of the divine that is bound to correct social ills at an undetermined time in the future. </p> <p>Another direct impact is the dulling of the ability to connect between issues that one faces with the broader social context. For example, deteriorating health conditions many Egyptians face are connected to a divine test rather than rising environmental degradation, poverty, malnutrition and lack of funding in public health. &nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is self-repression that the citizenry practice against individuals who rebel against these conditions or show signs of resentment, since this is seen as a rebellion against the divine. </p> <p>The end result is that the masses are persistently engaged in a process of self-repression, without the state needing to intervene. </p> <h2><strong>Survival</strong></h2> <p>This does not mean that the issue resides solely in religious doctrines per say, nor does it lie in a legacy of brutalization and violence practiced by successive autocratic regimes. It does not even lie in poverty and superstition, which are wide spread in Egypt, it rather lies in the social conditions that make the belief in this construct a necessity for survival. </p> <p>Even though this belief system might appear irrational to the western reader, it is perfectly rational if one places it in the proper social context of mass repression, deprivation and violence. It is accepted by the general populace as a necessity for survival, otherwise life would become unbearable. Thus, this ideological construct is a coping mechanism. </p> <p>This is a necessary construct for the mass of Egyptians to accept their social reality. Focussing on the afterlife and the rewards of heaven for the just, and hell for the unjust, is what keeps the masses in-check. </p> <p>In order for social change to occur, a process of change in popular beliefs needs to take place in a manner that would resonate and have social meaning for the popular classes. Empowering changes in the popular belief system and the surrounding religious construct are essential for the revival of political life in Egypt in the time of autocracy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA">تنصيب السيسي والمعارضة المصرية</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-egypt-LGBT-arrest-prison-middle-class-sexual-morals">Sisi, the guardian of sexual morals</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-torture-and-alienation">Pain, torture and alienation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/egypt-opposition-social-class-sisi-revolution-military">Egypt: an obsession with the state</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Conflict Culture Democracy and government Religion The future: Islam and democracy Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Fri, 16 Mar 2018 12:40:39 +0000 Maged Mandour 116650 at https://www.opendemocracy.net تنصيب السيسي والمعارضة المصرية https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western" dir="rtl">في محاولة لحصر السلطة بشكل مركزي، يسعى النظام إلى خلق عدوّ موحّد هو كناية عن تحالف بين المعارضة والنخب الأمنية والمدنية المستاءة.&nbsp;<strong></strong>&nbsp;<strong><em><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">English</a></span></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-34713815_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-34713815_0.jpg" alt="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A special forces soldier stands guard in front of the National Election Authority in Cairo, Egypt on Jan. 29, 2018. The Chairperson of Egypt's Ghad Party, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, presented Monday his candidacy documents for Egyptian presidential elections to the country's election authority. Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>مع اقتراب الانتخابات الرئاسية المصرية، بدأ النظام بعملية منهجيّة لإزالة المرشحين المحتملين الذين قد يترشّحون ضدّ الرئيس عبد الفتاح السيسي.</p> <p dir="rtl">كانت البداية مع <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/75353">العقيد أحمد قنصوة</a> الذي عبّر عن نيّته بالترشح عبر فيديو على موقع "يوتيوب". أدّى إعلانه إلى اعتقاله والحكم عليه بالسجن لستّة أعوام لانتهاكه الأنظمة العسكرية ولمحاولة الترشح وهو لا يزال فعلياً في الخدمة. حاول قنصوة الاستقالة عدّة مرّات في السابق ولكنّ استقالته كانت تُرفض كلّ مرّة. </p> <p dir="rtl">تشمل الشخصيات البارزة التي ترشحت أيضاً رئيس الوزراء السابق في عهد مبارك وجنرال القوات الجوية السابق أحمد شفيق والقائد العسكري السابق سامي عنان. </p> <p dir="rtl">فور إعلانه عن نيّته بالترشح، تمّ <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/ahmed-shafiq-arrested-deported-uae-171202144736270.html">ترحيل</a> شفيق من الإمارات العربية المتحدة ووُضع في الإقامة الجبرية، ما دفعه إلى <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42597803">الانسحاب</a> من السباق الرئاسي. </p> <p dir="rtl"><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/egypt-election-sami-annan-ex-general-arrested-after-announcing-plan-to-run-presidency/">اعتُقل</a> عنان في 23 كانون الثاني/يناير 2018 بعد بيان مختصر أصدره المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلّحة واتّهم فيه عنان بانتهاك القواعد العسكرية ومحاولة إشعال الفتنة بين الشعب والمؤسسة العسكرية. المضحك في الأمر أنّ عنان كان عضواً في هذا المجلس. </p> <p dir="rtl">وسط هذه الأجواء، ما كان من المنافس الفعلي الأخير، محامي حقوق الإنسان البارز خالد علي، إلّا أن <a href="https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/2991245">سحب ترشيحه</a> في 24 كانون الثاني/يناير. تجدر الإشارة إلى أنّه كان يواجه احتمال استبعاده من المنافسة بسبب قرار من المحكمة، قيد الاستئناف حالياً، جرّاء قيامه بفعل فاضح خلال تظاهرة. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="rtl">في 26 كانون الثاني/يناير، <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1250321">أعلن</a> حزب الوفد، وهو أحد الأحزاب من عهد مبارك لديه علاقات وثيقة بالنظام، ترشّح قائده السيّد البدوي للانتخابات الرئاسية في محاولة للمحافظة على طبيعة انتخابات يشارك فيها عدّة مرشحين. </p> <p dir="rtl">ما يثير العجب هو أنّ حزب الوفد كان قد منح دعمه للسيسي <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1250566">قبل 48 ساعة</a> على إعلان البدوي ترشحه. برّر قراره بالترشح بحرصه على حماية الدولة وعلى إظهار صورة التعددية السياسية.</p> <p dir="rtl">لكنّ البدوي أيضاً أُرغم على <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2018/01/27/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%AF-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%81%D8%B6-%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%AD-%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1.html">الانسحاب</a> بسبب مواجهة داخلية في الحزب. عندها، اضطُرّ النظام إلى دعوة مرشح آخر إلى خوض السباق الرئاسي وهو قائد حزب الغد، موسى مصطفى موسى، المعروف بدعمه للرئيس. <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/29/news/u/moussa-mostafa-delivers-candidacy-papers-7-minutes-before-nea-deadline/">قدّم</a> موسى الوثائق اللازمة قبل سبع دقائق على إغلاق باب الترشح. </p> <p dir="rtl"><a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/30/news/u/the-civil-democratic-movement-calls-for-election-boycott/">ردّاً</a> على ذلك، دعت الحركة المدنية الديمقراطية، وهي كناية عن ائتلاف جديد وليّن مكوّن من شخصيات معارضة، إلى مقاطعة الانتخابات، ما أثار <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/02/03/news/u/alliance-calling-for-halting-of-egypts-upcoming-elections-expresses-concern-at-president-sisis-thinly-veiled-threats/">غضب</a> النظام، فأطلق السيسي تهديدات واضحة باستعمال العنف ضدّ المعارضة وضدّ أيّ محاولة تنظيم تظاهرات حاشدة شبيهة بأحداث 2011. </p> <p dir="rtl">حوّلت السياسة التي اتّبعها النظام العملية الانتخابية إلى استفتاء بحكم الأمر الواقع، وستكون العواقب وخيمة عليه وعلى المعارضة.</p> <p dir="rtl">أرجع هذا التطوّر النظام السياسي المصري إلى مستوى <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-2005-egyptian-elections-how-free-how-important/">انتخابات 2005 الرئاسية</a> وهي الانتخابات الرئاسية الأولى والوحيدة في حقبة مبارك التي سمحت لعدّة مرشّحين بالمشاركة، ويُقال إنّها كانت أكثر تنافسية من الانتخابات الراهنة.&nbsp; </p> <p dir="rtl">يتمّ بعث رسالة واضحة للمعارضة التي لا تزال تأمل أن تعمل قانونياً ضمن النظام في سبيل الإصلاح، ومفاد هذه الرسالة هو أنّ الإصلاح الداخلي الممكن لن ينفع. تُرفض أيّ محاولات للمعارضة للطعن بالانتخابات وتُجرّ إلى تحرّك في الشارع. </p> <p dir="rtl">ليست المرّة الأولى التي تتساوى فيها تداعيات العمل ضمن المنظومة السياسية مع الأفعال غير القانونية للمعارضة. </p> <p dir="rtl">أطلق النظام <a href="https://egyptianstreets.com/2017/12/30/more-prison-sentences-fines-against-egypts-prominent-activists-lawyers/">حملة</a> قمع للمعارضة بحيث اعتُقل <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/05/24/news/u/more-dostour-party-members-revolutionary-socialists-arrested/">عدد</a> من أعضاء الأحزاب المدنية&nbsp; لتهم مختلفة أبرزها <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/05/16/news/u/party-member-referred-to-trial-another-arrested-for-insulting-president/">إهانة الرئيس</a> والارتباط بمجموعات خارج القانون، في إشارة شبه واضحة إلى الإخوان المسلمين، ومحاولة الإطاحة بالنظام.</p> <p dir="rtl">إنّ أبرز قضية أثارت غضباً ملحوظاً داخل المعارضة هي <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/ar/2017/12/13/news/u/%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B9%D9%8A-%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%B3-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1-3-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA/">قضية إسلام مرعي</a>، أمين سرّ الحزب الديمقراطي الاجتماعي، الذي اعتُقل من منزله في 15 حزيران/يونيو وحُكم عليه بثلاثة أعوام لتهم مشابهة.</p> <p dir="rtl">عبر اتّباع هذه السياسة، لم يغلق النظام المجال العام فقط وإنّما سلب عملية المشاركة السياسية القانونية محفّزاتها لأنّ الثمن المترتّب لا يختلف كثيراً عن التظاهرات غير القانونية والاعتصامات التي يحظّرها قانون التظاهر السيء السمعة.</p> <p dir="rtl">تغيّرت إستراتيجية النظام من الخيار الثانوي المتمثل بالمعارضة المدنية في تحالف ضدّ الإخوان المسلمين إلى قمع مباشر. تستمرّ هذه العملية منذ وصول السيسي إلى سدّة الرئاسة وقد بلغت ذروتها مع قمع العملية الانتخابية لتصبح استفتاءً رئاسياً بحكم الأمر الواقع.&nbsp; </p> <p dir="rtl">تمسّ العواقب النظام أيضاً بشكل ملحوظ. بسبب التلاعب الفاضح بعملية الانتخاب، ستتبخّر أي ذرّة متبقية من الشرعية. </p> <p dir="rtl">بالتالي، سيكون وضع النظام غير مستقرّ لأنّ مصدر الشرعية الوحيد مترسّخ في قدرته على إرساء الأمن في البلاد وتطوير الاقتصاد.</p> <p dir="rtl">لكن، وسط <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/world/middleeast/mosque-attack-egypt.html">تدهور الأمن</a> وتراجع <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/analysis-egypt-economy-entered-vicious-circle-151203112708562.html">الوضع الاقتصادي</a> بسبب الهجمات الإرهابية المحبطة والصعوبات الاقتصادية المتفاقمة، من المتوقع أن يزداد استياء الشعب. أضف إلى ذلك أنّ النظام، على عكس سلفه، فشل في حشد حزب مدني ليكون الجهة الضامنة للتوازن. </p> <p dir="rtl">استبعد النظام بشكل منهجي النخب المدنية ومجتمع الأعمال إذ أنّهما من فلول نظام مبارك وكذلك المؤسستين الأمنية والقضائية. اختار النظام الاعتماد على تحالف ليّن من المستقلّين للدعم في البرلمان ضمن ائتلاف غير رسمي اسمه "تحيا مصر" الذي يفتقد إلى بنية حزبية رسمية.</p> <p dir="rtl"><a href="http://carnegie-mec.org/2015/04/15/egyptian-armed-forces-and-remaking-of-economic-empire-pub-59726">وسّعت</a> المؤسسة الأمنية نشاطها الاقتصادي بشراسة، مؤثرة بذلك على <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/06/24/military-crowds-out-civilian-business-in-egypt-pub-55996">قدرة القطاع الخاص</a> على المنافسة. من ناحية المعارضة ضمن وكالات الأمن، ظهرت تسريبات محرجة لأحاديث هاتفية مسجّلة، وعكست آخرها محاولات مسؤولين في النظام بالتلاعب بالرأي العام لتقبّل أن تصبح القدس العاصمة الإسرائيلية. </p> <p dir="rtl">بعد ذلك مباشرة، تمّت <a href="http://www.cairo24.com/2018/01/16/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%b3%d9%89-%d9%8a%d8%ac%d8%b1%d9%89-%d8%ad%d8%b1%d9%83%d8%a9-%d8%aa%d8%ba%d9%8a%d9%8a%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%b3%d8%b9%d8%a9-%d8%a8%d8%ac%d9%87%d8%a7%d8%b2-%d8%a7/">إقالة</a> قائد جهاز المخابرات العامة واستبداله برئيس أركان السيسي، <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2018/01/18/مصر-تكليف-عباس-كامل-بتسيير-جهاز-المخابرات-العامة.html">عبّاس كامل</a>، مؤقتاً، ما غذّى اعتقاد أنّ التسريبات الأخيرة جزء من صراع القوى بين السيسي وجهاز المخابرات الواسع النفوذ. </p> <p dir="rtl">كانت معارضة القضاء أيضاً صارمة وبرزت في قضية نقل تبعية جزيرتي البحر الأحمر، تيران وصنافير، من مصر إلى السعودية. </p> <p dir="rtl">برزت أيضاً بعض حالات المعارضة ضمن مؤسسة الدولة، وأبرزها <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/middleeast/egypt-hisham-geneina-jailed.html">قضية هشام جنينة</a>، الرئيس السابق للجهاز المركزي للمحاسبات، الذي أصدر تصريحات عن الفساد داخل مؤسسات الدولة في مصر.</p> <p dir="rtl">نتيجة هذا الادعاء، أُقيل من منصبه وحُكم عليه بالسجن لسنة واحدة بسبب نشره أخباراً كاذبة. تجدر الإشارة إلى أنّ عنان ذكر أنّه كان سيختار جنينة كنائب له لو فاز. </p> <p dir="rtl">هوجم <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/29/news/u/lawyer-geneina-will-not-face-charges-following-saturday-assault/">جنينة</a> بعد اعتقال عنان في حادث سير مركّب واحتُجز في محطّة الشرطة لأربع ساعات على الرغم من إصابته بحجّة إتمام التحقيق.</p> <p dir="rtl">عبر تحويل الانتخابات إلى استفتاء بحكم الأمر الواقع، أزال النظام الغطاء الأخير المزيّف عن الشرعية المزعومة. ستدفع هذه الخطوة المعارضة الشرعية بعيداً عن النظام للعمل خارج المنظومة السياسية.</p><p dir="rtl"> في محاولة لحصر السلطة بشكل مركزي، يسعى النظام إلى خلق عدوّ موحّد هو كناية عن تحالف بين&nbsp; المعارضة والنخب الأمنية والمدنية المستاءة التي إذا اتّحدت، سيكون ترويضها صعباً.</p><p dir="rtl">تم نشر هذه المقالة <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">لأول مرة</a> باللغة الإنجليزية في ٦ فبراير ٢٠١٨.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government elections Arabic language Chronicles of the Arab revolt Egypt in the balance Mid-East Forum Revolution Maged Mandour Tue, 06 Mar 2018 19:59:19 +0000 Maged Mandour 116503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Egypt functions in the Moroccan imagination https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/how-egypt-functions-in-moroccan-imagination <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A journey through Morocco as an Egyptian. Amro Ali shares his observations and insights from common spaces of discussions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/kalthoumTangier.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/kalthoumTangier.jpg" alt="lead Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Street art of legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum at the old medina, Tangier. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>I cracked a self-deprecating joke to a friend in Cairo upon my return from Morocco, “I think Moroccans have a highly favourable view of Egyptians because many have never actually met one.”</p> <p>I did not encounter a single Egyptian through my travels through Morocco. What it often means is that you might be the first Egyptian a Moroccan ever meets. A matter not unfamiliar with my colleagues who have experienced this.&nbsp; </p> <p>This was surprising given the&nbsp;<a href="http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/22416.aspx">intimate history between Egypt and Morocco</a>. Therefore, the idea of Egypt in the Moroccan worldview was not usually based on tangible encounters as much as it was based on popular arts and religious discourse.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Egyptian dynamic accentuated the already quintessential Moroccan hospitality. I was overwhelmed with the warmth and openness. From the heartfelt greetings to the insistence of staying over at people’s homes, to the complementary desserts and soft drinks at restaurants. </p> <p>Egypt’s soft power at the geopolitical level may lay in tatters, but at least it has enough spark to result in receiving free caramel tiramisu and Miranda lime.</p> <p>Facetiousness aside, I thought the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2018/01/no-longer-voice-arabs">recent Economist article</a>&nbsp;on the decline&nbsp;of Egyptian Arabic (read: Egyptian culture) over the Arab world failed to capture the complexities of how influence works. </p> <p>The article certainly makes valid points, particularly with the decline of the linguistic monopoly Egypt once held, but answers cannot be sought&nbsp;from the Dubai International Film Festival and Arab Idol. </p> <p>To neglect, for example, how Egypt functions in the lower socioeconomic strata and religious discourse in areas of the Arab world would be to distort the image.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While I am not claiming to have done a comprehensive methodological study (although I would hope to do so in the near future), I have sought to diversify the spaces I engaged with to see how Egypt themes and references operate in Rabat, Marrakesh, Fez, Chefchaoun,&nbsp;and Tangier. </p> <p>I focused on lower-socioeconomic neighbourhoods, upscale cafes, but the heaviest focus was given to mosques and coffeehouses, simply because it was the expected and common space of discussions.&nbsp;I preferred the free-flowing conversations and story-telling format, in which I extracted themes and meaning from the pattern of discussions.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, I did not spend enough time in Casablanca to gauge substantial perceptions (which I feel is a weakness in my notes given it is the largest city). While I did some questioning, it is not wide enough and deep enough to merit writing it. </p> <p>In light of the above factors, this piece should be looked upon as an essay with meaningful indicators.</p> <p>Egypt appeared to hold the strongest sway among the poor, middle class poor, and the religious streams of Morocco. This was reflective in the appeal to the popular arts, literature, or religious texts. Statements such as “Egypt is our dear brother”, “Egypt and Morocco are like this” (with hands clasped strongly together) or masculine-fueled lines such as “Egypt has real men” were commonly heard. </p> <p>There is even a cross-sectional friendly inside joke among Moroccans to the timeless Egyptian claim&nbsp;<em>Masr Um al-dunya</em>&nbsp;(“Egypt is the mother of the world”) ¸ they respond&nbsp;<em>weh Maghrib abuha</em>&nbsp;(“and Morocco is [Egypt’s] father”) or&nbsp;<em>Maghreb abuha dunya</em>&nbsp;("and Morocco is the father of the world").&nbsp;</p> <p>It was partly funny because everyone telling me thought I was always hearing it for the first time.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/2_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/2_1.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="343" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>My Marrakesh neighbours who never tired of saying “we love Egypt, and they love us”. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/3_3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/3_3.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Grafitti artists in Fez. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/4_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/4_1.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="349" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>They were mesmerised by the Egyptian dialect (Fez). Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The favourable view of Egypt begins to fragment as you move up the socio-economic ladder.</p> <p>Residents of Tangier who portrayed themselves as socially mobile, liberal, globalised and tinged with a Euro-centric view, could at times express a ridiculing view of Egypt (the above “inside” joke now takes on a different meaning) as a backwater of poverty and extreme conservatism.</p> <p>However, this alternates among these same social groups who might identify with a clear religious, Arabist or leftist bent, or have a liberal arts background. Accordingly, there was a sort of sympathetic heartbreak expressed at “what has become of Egypt,” with Cairo’s declining regional influence, harmfully erratic position on Palestine, the diminishing quality of films and a media circus gone crazy.&nbsp;</p> <p>Om Kalthoum songs could be heard in&nbsp;<em>shaabi</em>&nbsp;(common, working class) restaurants and&nbsp;AbdelHalim Hafez in the souks. What surprised me was to hear the&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/09/egypt-cairo-street-music-mahraganat-grime">mahraganat</a></em>&nbsp;music played by Chefchaoun’s disenchanted youth from their mobile phones. </p> <p>Adel Imam was still it seems the most popular actor, Ramez Galal was disdained not just for the&nbsp;<a href="https://stepfeed.com/ramez-galal-to-strike-again-for-ramadan-this-time-with-fire-5814">mindless pranks</a>&nbsp;he played in Morocco in Ramadan but may have come to symbolise the disheartening state of Egyptian entertainment. </p> <p>Egyptian authors, from Naguib Mahfouz to&nbsp;Youssef Ziedan, featured prominently in bookstores and were read by the Moroccan reading public that I encountered.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/5_2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/5_2.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="361" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Coffeeshop in Tangier. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>On the political front, not a single Moroccan had a positive view of Egyptian president Sisi when his name was mentioned. However, it was not unusual for imams and worshippers at mosques to tell me the religious precept “do not rebel against the ruler,” alluding repetitively that Egyptians would have lived “better” if they did not overthrow Mubarak.</p> <p>Gamal Abdel Nasser was surprisingly only mentioned twice (mainly in a neutral way). A&nbsp;few references were made to his era. While Morocco had a marginal role in the pan-Arabist wave of the 1950s and 1960s, it was interesting to see (or not) its lingering effect.</p> <p>University students and recent alumni developed a shared narrative with Egypt as a result of the 2011 Egyptian revolution and the Arab uprisings, but this identification has become more ambivalent over the chaotic years (This area I did not pursue in any worthwhile depth but there are studies that have explored the question of Moroccan identity after 2011).</p> <p>When it comes to religion, Egypt performs the strongest. With even children in the kasbahs mentioning Abdul Basit Abdus Samad (a prominent Quran reciter, 1927-1988) in the same breath as the pyramids. Al-Azhar was, predictably, mentioned frequently.&nbsp;</p> <p>Pharaoh Ramses II was the most commonly referenced figure in regards to Egypt. The pharaoh of the Quran and Old Testament projects an unusual hold over the imagination. </p> <p>While in urban Egypt, the use of ‘Pharaoh’ in the popular discourse can often serve no more than a superficial labeling of every dictator who shows up on the scene; he was treated by Moroccans, however, as a sort of existential question on evil and oppression.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/6_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/6_1.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tour Hassan Mosque, Rabat. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In mosques, the imams and congregants alike frequently invoked the following Quranic verses to not only frame Egypt, but, at times, to position their conversations with me.&nbsp;</p> <p>“And We revealed to Moses and his brother, saying: Take for your people houses to abide in Egypt and make your houses places of worship and keep up prayer and give good news to the believers.”&nbsp;<em>Jonah 10:</em>87</p> <p>“And the Egyptian who bought him said to his wife: Give him an honorable abode, maybe he will be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son. And thus did We establish Yusuf in the land and that We might teach him the interpretation of sayings, and Allah is the master of His affair, but most people do not know.” Jonah 12.21</p> <p>“Then when they came in to Yusuf, he took his parents to lodge with him and said: Enter safe into Egypt, if Allah please.”&nbsp;<em>Yusuf 12.99</em></p> <p>And Pharaoh proclaimed among his people, saying: “O my people! Does not the dominion of Egypt belong to me, (witness) these streams flowing underneath my (palace)? What! see ye not then?”&nbsp;<em>Zukh’ruf (The Gold Adornment) 43:51</em></p> <p>Apocryphal accounts arose when you tapped into Moroccan folklore.&nbsp;While Abdullah, a farmer in Chefchaouen, narrated some sound and verifiable stories such as&nbsp;<em>“..A big part of our community migrated to the city of Alexandria over the centuries.”&nbsp;</em>It was the tales that I found quite interesting: “<em>[Pharaoh] Ramses came here and gave Morocco its name. Yet he preferred to die in Egypt.”&nbsp;</em></p><p>The hadiths on Egypt and other matters were also quoted, but it was the below hadith by Islam’s prophet that struck me because of how it I understood its function in Egyptian discussions.<em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/7_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/7_0.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="333" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Abdullah (Chefchaoun). Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></em></p> <p>Abu Zar reported that Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) said: “You will conquer Egypt, a land where Qirat (a measure of weight and area) is used. When you conquer that land, you have to treat its people kindly since they have a right of kinship upon you.”&nbsp;[Reported by Imam Muslim Ahmad]</p> <p>I developed a different relationship to these hadiths in Egypt (here I mean mainly Cairo and Alexandria).&nbsp;When they were quoted, it was difficult to tell how much of it was clothed in nationalist sentiments. The absence of humility, at times, of narrating it did not help. </p> <p>But my concern grew at how it can be used to disarm activism and accept the status quo, as if the divine simply takes care of Egypt, the Prophet blesses it, and thus human action need not apply to better a situation, for eternity.&nbsp;</p> <p>However, voiced by Moroccans who are not entangled with Egypt’s endless political problems gave it a somewhat impartial sincerity. </p> <p>For example, Imam Ahmed, a warm and humble man at a small mosque in the mountains of Chefchaoun, repeatedly used the word&nbsp;<em>Qirat&nbsp;</em>to drill into me the gravitational importance of Egypt, at least how he understood it.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/8_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/8_0.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="285" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Imam Ahmed, his smile will brighten your day. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/9_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/9_0.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Local children at Chefchauon’s mountains. Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The religious and mosque-attending Moroccans correlated strongly with a positive view of Egypt. In fact, I did not find a single exception to this rule.</p> <p>While the Amazigh people (mainly in Fez and Chefchaoun) emphasised Islamic relations with Egypt at the expense of the Arab dimension, they did not necessarily shy away from the latter (it’s complex to explain, but I will be reductionist and say that it came down to the perceived problem being with Moroccan Arabism than the Egyptian version).&nbsp;</p> <p>Transnational groups like Islamists and Sufis had visiting relations with their counterparts in Egypt. These relations were formed either on the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, visits to key mosques or educational spaces popular with Sufis. </p> <p>For Islamists, it was not unusual for friendships to have been formed in France where they once worked (but returned to be in a “Muslim country”). Their lived experience of Egypt seems to be fundamentally shaped by these close relations.</p> <p>Some 700 years ago, the Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta narrated his encounter with Cairo.&nbsp;What is fascinating is that today’s Moroccan descriptions of Egypt can easily paraphrase his account.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I arrived at length in Cairo, mother of cities and seat of Pharaoh the tyrant, mistress of broad regions and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendour, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the halting place of feeble and mighty, whose throngs surge as the waves of the sea, and can scarce be contained in her for all her size and capacity.”&nbsp; (1326 CE)&nbsp;</p> <p>One should also take into consideration how the Moroccan imaginary of the Arab and Muslim world developed over the centuries. As&nbsp;Abderrahmane El Moudden writes in&nbsp;<em>The Ambivalence of rihla: community integration and self-definition in Moroccan travel accounts, 1300-1800</em>:&nbsp;:</p> <p>“For many centuries, the pilgrimage caravan was the most important, if not the only means of travel to the Holy Lands. On their way, Moroccan pilgrims were forced to cross the majority of Arab Muslim lands. This fact alone gives the Moroccan travels a complexity that is reflected in the texts and colours the perception of sacred space and time.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Modern Morocco is a vast social reservoir that needs to be explored further in juxtaposition with Egypt. The other side of Egyptian influence is that Morocco shaped Egypt over the centuries, among them: dynasties, architecture, religion and philosophy. </p> <p>I do not see why we cannot better examine some of their concepts and approaches to help address questions that trouble us in Egypt’s urban, social and religious settings. That is for another essay.</p> <p>Finally, the street art of Oum Kalthoum shown at the start can put matters in perspective when you see it as part of a larger mural in&nbsp;Tangier. Instead of simply the decline of Egyptian influence, it can perhaps be said the stage just got more crowded.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/10_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/10_0.jpg" alt="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." title="Amro Ali. All rights reserved." width="460" height="339" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amro Ali. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><em>This piece was first published on&nbsp;<a href="http://amroali.com/2018/02/egypt-functions-moroccan-imagination/">Amro Ali's blog</a>&nbsp;on 6 February 2018.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/kakistocracy-word-we-need-to-revive">Kakistocracy: a word we need to revive</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/burkinis-accepted-for-poor-woman-scrubbing-france-s-floors">Burkinis accepted: for a poor woman scrubbing France’s floors</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/hidden-triumph-of-egyptian-revolution">The hidden triumph of the Egyptian revolution</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/frightening-vision-on-plans-to-rebuild-alexandria-lighthouse">A frightening vision: on plans to rebuild the Alexandria Lighthouse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/what-louis-armstrong-taught-egypt-and-middle-east-about-itself">What Louis Armstrong taught Egypt and the Middle East about itself</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amro-ali/egyptian-lesson-how-to-strengthen-student-opposition">The Egyptian lesson: how to strengthen student opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Morocco </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Morocco Culture You tell us Amro Ali Sat, 03 Mar 2018 09:14:14 +0000 Amro Ali 116403 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Lights – Camera – Action! ‘below the stairs’ soap opera production in middle class Cairo residences https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti/lights-camera-action-below-stairs-soap-opera-productio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fearful of a relentless downward slide, Cairo’s middle classes generate income by renting out their private apartments for the illegal filming of TV soaps.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/379698288_6e8878f573_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/379698288_6e8878f573_o.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cairo, Egypt. Picture by Rutger / Flickr.com (CC BY 2.0). Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>What are the socio-economic forces and tensions in play – and the competition Cairo’s middle classes face from the super-rich denizens of luxury villas in the secure, gated communities springing up around the city?&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming home one May afternoon to my venerable Cairo apartment block, I find the faded elegance of its shabby foyer and central staircase suddenly transformed into the final scene of <em>Sunset Boulevard</em>, with a full film crew and camera lights, all switched on as if ready to capture Gloria Swanson’s famous final descent declaring herself “ready for her close-up”. </p> <p>The main entrance is crammed with metres of thick cables, arc lights of all shapes and sizes, cameras and other pieces of film equipment – with a dozen able-bodied men in flip-flops barring access to the site. Residents who are stranded outside inspect the litter – a messy jumble of takeaway paper bags, soft drink cans, and empty water bottles - strewn around the crew’s three lorries parked in the narrow street, each packed full of yet more equipment. Their noisy cries of <em>“fi ehhhhh?</em>’ (“What the hell’s all this then?” with the final vowel drawn out to signal irritation) are parried robustly with the single word <em>‘taswir – tasssssswiiiir - taswirrrrrrrrrr’</em> (“filming” – repeated with increasing elongation). The buzz, excitement and incipient chaos is suddenly stilled as the director’s loud call of <em>”Klakit... take....... ACTION!</em>’ resolves the tensions of the set into some semblance of order, and triggers a silent, magical moment of anticipation.</p> <p>It turns out that one of the upper floor flats in the block has been rented out for location filming of a forthcoming “Ramadan soap” – one of the many lavish TV serials made especially for nightly screening over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when audience expectations and numbers are at their peak. Over the following days, my fellow residents grow steadily more hostile towards the filming project that appears to have taken over our lives, without even the consolation of any clear deadline in sight. We become hostages in our own homes, as neighbours are forced to park their cars streets away and walk home in the blazing summer temperatures, home deliveries are delayed until unreasonable hours, and even our late nights are not spared loud hammering from the garden as the crew installs large metal gantries needed to shoot a <a href="http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/03/27/the-coverage-of-violence-against-women/">violent love scene</a> (an increasingly common component of soap opera content) on the upper floor balcony. Given the neighbours’ disapproval, I was intrigued by my neighbour’s decision to ‘monetise’ his private residence by publicly renting his flat out for use by commercial film crews. All the more so since Egyptian culture is well known for its rigid differentiation between private spaces (lovingly furnished, cleaned, and maintained) and public, shared spaces (generally treated with indifference). The tension between the external ‘pull factors’ inducements attracting him and the intrinsic ‘push factors’ driving him to strike such a Faustian bargain became a focus of the residents’ thoughts and discussions for weeks.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The pull factors appear to be rooted in recent developments in the political economy of Egypt’s film and TV industry</p> <p>The pull factors appear to be rooted in recent developments in the political economy of Egypt’s film and TV industry. Ever since the days of early black and white movies, Egypt has been known as one of the Arabic speaking world’s prime centres for film and TV production. Since the state socialism of Nasser’s revolution, the Egyptian government has controlled media production and distribution, and so gained not only political advantages, but also significant commercial returns. During the Mubarak era the government made a multimillion-Pound investment in a new, hi-tech, state of the art Media City in the trendy 6th of October district of Cairo. But as Egypt’s dominance over Arabic TV productions came under increasingly significant threat - cultural/political as well as economic - from imported, dubbed soap operas (firstly from Syria, then Turkey, India and most recently even South Korea) the new Media City’s exorbitant daily charges for filming, exacerbated by long waiting lists caused by cumbersome bureaucratic/political approval and permit procedures soon led to the spontaneous emergence of a thriving informal film production industry widely known as the <em>bir il-silim</em> (below the stairs) underground.</p> <p>Sourcing cheaper, more flexible locations is a key requirement for <em>bir il-silim</em> filming of soaps and other TV productions – and it soon became clear to me that the area in which my flat is located, the Heliopolis district in northern Cairo, has for them at least two prime attractions. The first, tangible benefit is strictly spatial. Modern Cairo is a notoriously congested and cluttered city, with families crammed into small apartments and dwellings. By contrast, the neo-classical architectural heritage of Heliopolis’ apartment blocks blesses them with wide corridors, high ceilings and spacious rooms, often divided by elegant French windows – all ideal for setting up equipment and location shooting. The second advantage, which is more intangible but at least as important, is Heliopolis’s distinctive cachet combing “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/HeliopolisHeritageInitiative/?rc=p">heritage zone</a>” prestige with the chic of what is widely perceived to be a lucrative hive of ‘out of the ordinary’ cultural and economic activity.</p> <p>When sourcing locations in which to exploit its niche advantages, the <em>bir il-silim</em> sector relies on a close-knit network of agents who possess information, access, and networks within the underground – and unregulated - private rental market. In my area, the entire neighbourhood knows Hamasa – the highly regarded local ‘Mister Fix-it’. These days almost everybody who has direct personal dealings with Hamasa finds themselves rapidly won over by his likeable character and helpful approach – my neighbours repeatedly refer to him with the heart-warming words of <em>ishta </em>(cream) and <em>fola</em> (jasmine), usually accompanied by the blowing of kisses many Egyptians are in the habit of doing to show affection. In his trendy jeans, and with his three state-of-the-art mobiles ringing simultaneously at any time of the day, Hamasa possesses an innate <em>fahlawi</em> (street-wise) mix of resilience, charm and low cunning enabling him to get things done quickly, however dodgy his methods, and to pay and get paid on time.</p> <p>These features are important survival measures in an illicit industry that needs to avoid any reports of wrongdoing reaching the authorities. Starting out as a simple <em>fakahani</em> (seller of vegetables and fruit from a stall in the local <em>souq</em>), Hamasa was headhunted to be the right-hand man for a key player in the same profession he himself now personifies, Saber, who was beginning a prison sentence for embezzlement. Saber’s stratagems to prevent his wheeler-dealing business from going under, even while he himself is locked up, have given Hamasa a more elevated and powerful profile in the neighbourhood. His breakthrough from humble<em> </em>roots to the glamorous world of media celebrities may sound like the stuff of fairy tales, but his success in the role shows that Saber has evidently chosen carefully.&nbsp;</p> <p>Hamasa’s most lucrative Heliopolis rentals are two ground floor flats, long something of a local landmark and just across from where I live, which are owned by twin siblings. When I pay Hussein a visit, I find that his flat has been subjected to a complete makeover, so that it now projects a ‘state-of-the-art’ ambience. Low slung metal-and-brown-leather furniture, potted plants, and black and white ceramics are displayed against a backdrop of reproductions of paintings brought from the museums of Paris and Vienna. Hussein tells me that many of his design ideas have been inspired by American TV thrillers and political serials such as <em>The West Wing </em>(2006), the aim being to make a viewer feel that he is “in the middle of Manhattan”. The makeover approach has also been taken up by his twin sister Salma, who, in complete contrast, has transformed her flat into the set for a monarchical Egyptian palace of the 1930s. Its <em>salon</em> is furnished with mock Gothic wooden throne style chairs, the dining room with a long, highly polished <em>belle époque</em> table surrounded by elegant <em>doree</em> (gilded) chairs, with the whole premises decorated with opulent chandeliers, larger than life wall mirrors, heavy brocade curtains, and numerous extravagant <em>objects d’art</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Many acquisitions, as soon as they are seen on a TV broadcast, become highly sought after by the new wealthy elite</p> <p>As I am taken on a tour, Salma pauses to highlight the connoisseurship that has gone into the selection of each item on display. Many acquisitions have come from the auction houses and antique markets which she frequents on a regular basis. Her <em>luqat</em> (one- off bargain ‘finds’), obtained at next-to-nothing prices, are then refurbished and presented as ‘originals’, with the collection regularly rotated to meet the differing needs of successive film crews. Her new-found knack for searching out rare period pieces has, in addition, allowed Salma to make something of a name for herself as an interior designer in her own right. She has found that many of her acquisitions, as soon as they are seen on a TV broadcast, become highly sought after by the new wealthy elite, who are in the habit of declaring them, immediately after purchase, as their own family heirlooms.</p> <p>Both twins have lost count of the soaps, films, and talk show debates shot on location in their apartments, and see themselves as pioneers of a wholly new, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/feb/26/homes">lucrative self-employed lifestyle</a>. The income generated by owners (or tenants) renting out their homes in this way is estimated to range from 8,000 to 10,000 LE a day: by contrast, in 2014 the Sisi Government set a <a href="http://www.tradingeconomics.com/egypt/minimum-wages"><em>maximum</em> wage for state employees</a> of 42,000 LE per month (equivalent to a daily income of £60). These levels of return enable renters to purchase other attractive locations within the vicinity and transform their interiors into seductive and viable new location options, thus consolidating their position in the production circuit. Yet although the increasingly cut-throat competition between <em>bir il-silim</em> filmmakers allows the residents of popular locations to demand ever higher rentals, Salma and Hussein tell me that Hamasa has been loudly complaining that filmmakers’ ever-tighter budgets are pushing him to seriously consider other more affordable locations which can meet the chaotic demands and deadlines of Ramadan soap shooting.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">Osman personifies the ‘assets rich, cash poor’ archetype of the middle-class man striving to hold on to his social status by the skin of his teeth</p> <p>Yet not all the beneficiaries of Hamasa’s fix-it skills take such positive view of having the option of renting out their private apartments in this way. For example, Osman, my neighbour renting out his private flat, explains how his decision to join the filming-rental caravan was forced on him when the collapse, under the weight of Egypt’s economic deterioration, of his ceramic business pushed him into bankruptcy. Osman thus personifies the ‘assets rich, cash poor’ archetype of the middle-class man striving to hold on to his social status by the skin of his teeth, compelled to exploit whatever resources are at hand. Hamasa’s offer was, in his own words, “a way out of the darkness”. Hussein, who has known him for a long time as a neighbour and friend, elaborates separately on this to me:&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“Osman and I go back a long way, and secrets are hard to keep between us. He distrusted the Muslim Brotherhood, and when they got elected he even gave serious thought to leaving Egypt. Then the military came to save the day, though Osman overestimated the economic prospects of Sisi’s government. The dollar situation quickly got out of control, and his two factories came to a halt overnight. He had by then even used up his son’s savings, a cruel turn of events. Other businessmen would have dropped dead when faced with this kind of ruin – but he has found a new line to get into.” </p> <p>Osman’s difficulties strike a deep chord with many middle-class families who sense that their current economic hardships might well, if not mitigated, in time see them reclassified among ‘the new poor’. Their fear is of a downward spiral to annihilation, a prospect made especially painful when compared to the security of wealthier families who have already moved to the sequestered and gated residential communities proliferating around Cairo’s desert fringes. Notwithstanding these common fears, there are nevertheless significant differences among the block’s residents, which stem from other deep running inequalities amongst them. A prime bone of contention, for example, relates to the fact that Osman is the only tenant who was previously in a promising enough financial position to take up the option of purchasing his flat from the company that owns the block. He is thus in a different league to tenants who continue to pay monthly rents.</p> <p>For while rents, originally controlled under the provisions of Nasser’s state socialism, can remain as low as LE 20 (i.e. less than £1) a month, their position as tenants is growing increasingly precarious as the company reviews their legal status under its current scheme for <em>tahdith</em> (literally ‘modernisation’, but with a wealth of sinister sub-texts). Their “continual poking into all their old legal dossiers and book-keeping records, searching for any grounds for making trouble”, as one neighbour described it to me, has made many tenants fearful of punitive eviction of anyone found to have any connection with dodgy filming work – especially since it is widely accepted that the company dispatches its spies to snoop around on a daily basis. At the least, this new surveillance of tenants’ practices could place them at a severe disadvantage within forthcoming changes expected to hit the housing market, potentially altering the system of rental controls in response to ‘market forces’. By contrast, owner-occupier Osman appears secure in terms of both the immediate and potential future returns of his <em>bir il-silim</em> filming project, as well as enviably immune to legal sanction by a rapacious landlord.</p> <p>The way in which Osman embarked on his filming project is nevertheless illustrative of how middle-class families, finding the gap suddenly widening between an economically fragile present and a yet more uncertain future, display an aversion to making long-term plans and investments, as well as a tendency to act impulsively when offers unexpectedly appear out of nowhere. So rather than channelling his efforts and leveraging his remaining resources and connections into rescuing his ceramics business, Osman instead grabbed the opportunity to plunge into the world of underground film-making. He was also entirely typical in seeking to camouflage his economic difficulties from the prying eyes of neighbours, his business associates and the wider world. His chosen stratagem for this was through the calculated move of delegating public management of his film-making contracts to his wife Zizi, thereby seeking to signal that filmmaking was merely ‘a side-line’ source of income.</p> <p>To the surprise of the neighbours, to whom she had always previously appeared as the epitome of the quiet, reticent, conservative wife of a successful businessman, Zizi leapt at the opportunity for reinventing herself as a ‘modern businesswoman’ in her own right – set, in the words of one neighbour, “to deal with the rough, shoddy characters of the celebrity world, and to get the meter ticking from the moment she steps into a world where nothing is free”. And instead of the usual middle-class female approach of pointing to one’s educational qualifications, or work experience in foreign enterprises, or even globe-trotting experience, she specifically chose behavioural and sartorial transformation as her preferred signifiers of her new role. Her previously favoured conservative Saudi-style gowns and quiet demeanour are now things of the past. Instead, dressed in tight jeans covered in a pattern of dotted sequins, and with her new, burningly bright make-up and overpowering perfumes, Zizi loudly and assertively hammers on my door one day, demanding I ‘invite’ her in for a chat. She even has two neighbours in tow, along with Hamasa, the more quickly to spread her determination to silence her critics in the block, and keep close tabs on her filming project so that nothing is derailed. Her message is unequivocal:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“All this complaining about potential damage to the building! I am here to say I will personally cover any damage that’s done to the premises – and Hamasa has agreed to be my witness. And in any case, if it wasn’t for all the cash Osman has forked out for maintenance charges for the common areas, the whole building would be crumbling away. It’s payback time now for the scrooge attitudes around here, and all the money he never managed to recoup.”</p> <p> Her register drops a level, as she continues:</p> <p class="blockquote-new">“Also, we too have had to make major adjustments for the filming to go according to plan. I myself am thoroughly frustrated with the mounting problems of living in Heliopolis. I wanted to move, and rent out the apartment as a massage and beauty parlour. Imagine the number of beds we could fit into each room – and the profits to be made!”</p> <p>And her tone softens further as she winds up the note of personal sacrifice and the need for communal solidarity in the face of common difficulties:&nbsp;</p> <p class="blockquote-new"> “But Osman is different. He has emotional ties to the flat, and all the family memories it contains. And see how tender-hearted and thoughtful he is – he said if we did that, then the noise of all the feet coming in and out would alarm the elderly neighbours in need of their daily siesta. So instead we’re not going to do that. We’re all going to pull together and put up with this filming inconvenience.”</p> <p>As she pauses to hand out contact details on her personal business cards, I am struck by how Zizi’s dramatic performance, each section carefully modulated for maximum effect on her audience, could almost be modelled on the heightened emotive registers favoured by the actors in the Ramadan soaps themselves. Yet it is striking that her subject matter – concerning the brute daily life realities of the struggling middle classes – is far removed from the actual content of any and all such productions, which are invariably period dramas from ‘another age’ (with no contemporary resonances), or whodunit/psychological crime thrillers without any social contextualisation. So if, on the face of things, the State is an absent partner in these <em>bir il-silim</em> productions, it is nevertheless evidently restricting permitted storylines to settings which are careful not to ask any of the big questions of the day, and from which any reference to the contentious real-life issues and problems discussed in endless TV talkshows can be forcibly excluded. And by converting their homes into the settings for these escapist productions, their middle classes residents are silent partners in keeping their worst anxieties temporarily at bay.</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The State is an absent partner in these bir il-silim productions, it is nevertheless evidently restricting permitted storylines to settings which are careful not to ask any of the big questions of the day</p> <p>Since 2016, when I did the fieldwork on which the above “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/leila-zaki-chakravarti-mona-abaza/ethnography-in-time-of-upheaval-egypt-before-and-af">ethnographic snapshot</a>” is based, there have been further developments in the world of <em>bir il-silim</em> film making, which both stem from, and reflect, wider socio-economic currents. The most prestigious and successful of the following year’s crop of Ramadan soaps were notable for storylines even further removed from the day-to-day realities of life in contemporary Egypt, revolving instead around escapist gothic horror stories and crime thrillers – with even those series which still fell into the ‘social drama’ category locating their action in the type of super-affluent <em>milieux</em> more typical of western TV series such as Dynasty or Dallas.</p> <p>One immediate effect of this increasingly ‘westernised’ dimension has been a shift of focus towards what the <em>bir il-silim</em> film makers call “VIP locations” i.e. luxury villas located in walled and gated communities around the city to which the super-rich have retreated for enhanced security. Hamasa tells me that he is still able to make a living from renting the ‘respectable bourgeois’ apartments of Heliopolis out for the filming of assorted commercials and less prestigious TV programmes. But the income generated from such rentals is now dwarfed by that commanded by the new competitors in their gated villas, who can now charge between LE 20,000 -30,000 a day. And as the most affluent extract ever higher financial returns and further increase their assets, those below them in the pecking order find themselves caught up in an increasingly ferocious competition over ever smaller slices of the economic cake - developments which seem somehow characteristic of Egypt’s current socio-economic predicament.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/chouaib-el-hajjaji/meet-drag-queen-Tunisia-LGBTQI-feminism-gender-sexuality">Meet the Tunisian drag queen defying the odds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/franco-palazzi-michela-pusterla/giulio-regeni-murder-transnational-memory-egypt-italy">Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/melis-behlil/presenting-absence-armenian-legacy-in-non-fiction-film">Presenting an absence: the Armenian legacy in non-fiction film</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/evi-chatzipanagiotidou-fiona-murphy/combatting-loss-refugees-employment-and-social-entrepreneurship-">Combatting loss: refugees, employment and social entrepreneurship in Turkey </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Culture Economics Leila Zaki Chakravarti Wed, 28 Feb 2018 08:15:14 +0000 Leila Zaki Chakravarti 116257 at https://www.opendemocracy.net معترك جديد https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/Ahmad-Maher/civil-society-elections-opinion-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">المجتمع المدني القوي والنقابات القوية تعني دولة قوية، ولذلك، تدعيم استقلالية المجتمع المدني وقوته، ومن ضمنه النقابات، هو تقوية ودعم للدولة، عكس ما تروجّه السلطة وأجهزتها.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-15386041.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-15386041.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="312" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> ناخبة مصرية خلال الاقتراع حول الدستور الجديد سنة 2012 Picture by AA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>على الرغم من أن المجال العام مغلق في <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2017/12/2/%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-1">مصر</a>، ومجرد الحديث في <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2017/8/15/%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B7%D8%B1-%D9%88%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%A4%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%B4%D8%A3%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D9%86%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-1">السياسة</a>، أو التعبير عن الرأي، أو انتقاد الأوضاع، قد يؤدي إلى الحبس سنوات طويلة، بتهم كثيرة، مثل نشر أخبار كاذبة، أو نشر المناخ التشاؤمي، أو التحريض، أو الانضمام لجماعة محظورة، أو محاولة قلب نظام الحكم، وإلى آخره من تلك التهم المعلبة، ولا فرق في ذلك بين أعضاء جماعة <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2015/8/24/%D8%A3%D8%B5%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%AA%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A">الإخوان</a> المسلمين أو أعضاء حركات اجتماعية أو شبابية تنتمي للتيار المدني، أو حتى أعضاء في أحزاب سياسية رسمية تعمل من خلال الدستور و<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2017/12/2/%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%A8%D8%B9-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%B9%D8%AF-%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B8%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-1">القانون</a>.</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr">أما العمل النقابي، فالكل يتابع المحاولات الحكومية الحثيثة لإعادة السيطرة والتحكم في النقابات، خصوصا المهنية منها. يعتبرون الحريات <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/society/2018/2/9/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%B7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A3%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87%D8%B1-%D9%8A%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%B6-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%87%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%86-">النقابية</a> فوضى، والنقابات المستقلة التي تم إنشاؤها بعد الثورة تعتبرها السلطة مجرد مؤامرات دولية ومخططات لتدمير مصر. إنه منهج الاحتواء الوظيفي، والفكر الناصري نفسه الذي قام بتفكيك المجتمع المدني واحتوائه، زعما منه أن الحريات النقابية مخططات غربية يجب القضاء عليها، فهذه المنظومة الحاكمة التي بدأت في خمسينيات القرن الماضي لا ترى في المجتمع المدني والنقابات سوى هيئات ومكاتب يجب أن تكون تابعة للحكومة، ولا تعمل إلا لتنفيذ الخطط والأوامر الحكومية فقط، مهما كانت فاشلة، بدون نقاش أو معارضة. وبناء على ذلك، لا يقتنع النظام الحاكم وأجهزته بأهمية المجتمع المدني الحر والنقابات الحرة، ولا يستوعب دور النقابات في الدفاع عن مصالح الفئة التي تمثلها، والمهنة التي تنتمي لها، فهذه المصطلحات هي مؤامرات خارجية، وبالنسبة لمعتقدات السلطة الحالية في مصر لا ينبغي للنقابات أن تواجه الحكومة، أو تعارض إصدار قانون أو إجراء، حتى لو كان يمثل خطرا على المهنة والقائمين عليها، فالحكومة وحدها من يعرف مصلحة الشعب، ولا يجوز معارضتها. ومن في السلطة يحاول دائما إقناع نفسه قبل ترويج أن المجتمع المدني الحر والنقابات الحرة مؤامرات غربية تسعى إلى هدم الدولة وتفكيكها.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="ltr">للمجتمع المدني عموما، والنقابات خصوصا، دور مهم في الحفاظ على الدولة والمجتمع</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr">حقيقة الأمر عكس ذلك تماما، فللمجتمع المدني عموما، والنقابات خصوصا، دور مهم في الحفاظ على الدولة والمجتمع. والمجتمع المدني القوي والنقابات القوية تعني دولة قوية، لا تنهار الدولة القوية بمجرد تغيير رأس السلطة أو بتغيير نظام الحكم، بل إن الدولة التي تتركز فيها السلطات كلها في يد شخص، أو جهاز، أو مجموعة، هي التي تنهار بسهولة، عندما يتم تغيير ذلك الشخص، أو عندما تحدث ثورة على تلك المجموعة. ولذلك، تدعيم استقلالية المجتمع المدني وقوته، ومن ضمنه النقابات، هو تقوية ودعم للدولة، عكس ما تروجّه السلطة وأجهزتها.</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr">ربما تشرح هذه المقدمة، ولو بقدر بسيط، سبب قراري فجأة تقديم أوراقي للترشح في انتخابات نقابة المهندسين المصرية 2018. ربما كان تركيزي في الأعوام الماضية على قضية التغيير بشكل عام، أو النشاط المعارض ذي الطابع الاحتجاجي بشكل خاص، ولكني لم أغب عن العمل النقابي بشكل عام، فقد كنت جزءا من مجموعة مهندسين ضد الحراسة منذ عام 2005، عن طريق مجموعة المهندسين الديمقراطيين. ربما لم أشارك بشكل كبير في العمل النقابي بعد الثورة، لتسارع الأحداث والتغيرات السياسية، ثم ظروف السجن والمراقبة. ولكن على المستوى الشخصي، وباعتباري مهندسا، بالتأكيد مستاء من تدني الخدمات النقابية وضعف دور النقابة في رعاية الهندسة والمهندسين، ومستاء من تجاهل النقابة التي يفترض بها الدفاع عن مصالح المهندسين هذا الحجم المهول من البطالة في صفوف شباب المهندسين، أو إهمال النقابة دورها في الحفاظ على النسق المعماري والتخطيط الحضاري السليم، أو إجبار النقابة على اتخاذ مواقف سياسية بعيدا عن دورها الحقيقي.</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr">لست من أنصار خلط العمل السياسي بالعمل النقابي. وأرى أن هناك حدا لا يجب تجاوزه مهما كان، هناك نقاط تقاطع بين العملين، السياسي والنقابي. لم يعجبني تبنّي نقابة المهندسين &nbsp;المصرية مواقف السلطة في أثناء فرض الحراسة عليها في عهد مبارك. ولم يعجبني دفاعها عن جماعة الإخوان المسلمين في أثناء حكم الجماعة. ولم يعجبني سفر نقيب المهندسين (الناصري) الذي تولى النقابة بعد إزاحة النقيب الإخواني، إلى دمشق، لدعم السفاح بشار الأسد. وبالطبع ضد محاولات الحكومة الحالية للسيطرة على النقابة، من خلال قوائم وزراء ومسؤولين سابقين ومهندسين عسكريين. وأيضا لست من أنصار أن تكون النقابة كيانا معارضا، أو تدخل في صراع صفري مع السلطة، فأنا من أنصار أن تكون العلاقة بين النقابات والحكومة علاقة شراكة وتعاون وتفاوض، وأن يكون الصدام والتصعيد في أضيق الحدود.</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr">ملاحظة أخيرة، لا علاقة مباشرة لها بموضوع العمل النقابي. ولكن هناك نقطة تلاقٍ، فقد كان هجوم اللجان الإلكترونية التي تؤيد السلطة، واستخدامها سلاح الشائعات والتخوين، متوقعا منذ إعلاني ترشحي في نقابة المهندسين. وكذلك لم يكن هجوم لجان جماعة الإخوان المسلمين ونشر شائعات ومعلومات غير صحيحة مفاجئا، فهو نوع من الانتقام وتصفية الحسابات، بسبب المشاركة في الحراك ضد حكم "الإخوان" وأخطائهم، في ما قبل 30 يونيو/ حزيران 2013. ولكن كان مفاجئا كل هذه الكراهية التي ظهرت في خطاب أنصار جماعة الإخوان ولجانها ضد الدكتور عبد المنعم أبو الفتوح، القيادى الإخواني السابق ورئيس حزب مصر القوية الحالي (والمعتقل حاليا)، وتحميله المسؤولية عن كل ما حدث وما يحدث في مصر، على الرغم من أنه موصوم بأنه إخواني بسبب مواقفه المعارضة <a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2018/2/6/%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%AC%D9%87-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%84-%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B0%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D8%AE%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%87-1">للنظام</a> الحالي، وعلى الرغم مما يحدث من اعتقالات في صفوف قيادات حزبه، بسبب دفاعه (الحزب) عن حقوق الإنسان، ورفضه التنكيل بـ"الإخوان" وغيرهم تحت شعار محاربة الإرهاب، فلا يزال الاختلاف عند هذه الجماعة خطيئة، والانشقاق جريمة لا تغتفر. ولذلك لا يبدو أن هناك مَخرجا مما نحن فيه في المستقبل القريب، أو حتى البعيد، وإن كان هناك حدث عظيم في يوم من الأيام فستتكرّر الأخطاء والصراعات نفسها من دون أي نقصان، إن لم تكن أكثر حدة وعنفا.</p><p class="direction-rtl" dir="ltr"><strong>نعيد نشر هذا المقال نقلا عن موقع<a href="https://www.alaraby.co.uk/opinion/2018/2/16/%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%AA%D8%B1%D9%83-%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF-1"> العربي الجديد</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Esraa-abdel-fattah/defamation-character-assassination-egypt">مصر: سلاح التشويه</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions-arabic">آلان باديو عن الثورة المصرية: حول سؤال الحركة ورؤيتها</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movement-badiou-arabic">الانتخابات وحركة ٢٠١١ في مصر: التفكير مع آلان باديو عن الوضع الحالي</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B6-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86/%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85">قروض مصر: لشراء السلاح لا التنمية</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government Egypt in the balance Arabic language أحمد ماهر Fri, 23 Feb 2018 09:06:13 +0000 أحمد ماهر 116273 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Elections and the Egyptian movement of 2011: thinking with Alain Badiou about the current situation https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For French philosopher Alain Badiou, elections pose a more important question for the movement in Egypt beyond the issue of participation. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movement-badiou-arabic">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image from “La política en cajas” (Politics in boxes) by Alfons Freire, 2010. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0</span></span></span></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“The effectiveness of mathematics in the sciences is due precisely to the fact that mathematics formalises the scientific idea. Politics equally needs the capacity to quickly formalise the analysis of a situation and the tactical consequences of this analysis.This is the sign of a strategic vitality”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2560-greece-and-the-reinvention-of-politics">Alain Badiou</a></span>In politics, time and timing of political action matter! In 2013, for example, when a genuine opposition took to the streets to contest the controversial policies of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood after one year in power, the movement was hijacked and then side-lined by the military establishment. Instead of renegotiating the social contract through democratic means, as intended by the movement, the military removed President Morsi from office by force. The timing allowed the military to claim a “second” revolution that heralded its political comeback to power, leaving many in the democratic opposition shocked, angry and with a confounding sense of failure.</p><p>Throughout the first term of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, heightened repression in the face of even mild demonstrations of dissent led many of those previously galvanized by the political possibilities of 2011 to retreat from formal politics altogether. In recent months, however, on the cusp of new presidential elections scheduled for March 2018, the prospect of contesting al-Sisi’s rule has reinvigorated political opposition. The Khaled Ali campaign for presidency, in particular, has served an important purpose. On the one hand, it has strengthened the coalition between parties, social movements, and individual activists. On the other, it has revived the spirit of 2011 movement, providing new impetus to organize, to identify the people and political aims that remain active, strengthen connections, and most importantly, ask once again “what is to be done”?</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Who is allowed to run in the elections, for how long, and with what consequences?</p><p>In this light, the timing of Khaled Ali’s recent retreat and decision not to run may seem like yet another failure for the movement working to reconvene the energy and spirit unleashed in Egypt 2011. The regime certainly hopes it will be seen this way. Yet, an alternative reading can see Khaled Ali’s retreat as moment of renewed opportunity for the movement. His decision marks an opportunity for the movement to redefine the parameters of political action, rather than submitting to an unwinnable contest in a formal political arena where the terms of action are dictated exclusively by the state: who is allowed to run in the elections, for how long, and with what consequences – how many candidates and activists will get smeared, threatened, and detained?</p><p>According to French philosopher Alain Badiou, himself a subject of the ’68 revolution in France and persistent thinker of revolutionary politics, elections pose a more important question for the movement in Egypt beyond the issue of participation. In the face of “<a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/49/alain-badiou-the-communist-hypothesis">the manifest powerlessness of any genuinely emancipatory programme within the electoral system</a>,” Badiou suggests that the major challenge for movements seeking transformative change today is the ability to decide on their own end, both in the sense of their end-point in time and their end-goal – what “victory” for the movement would look like.&nbsp;</p><p>Beyond the issue of participation, then, the 2018 presidential elections in Egypt mark a crucial moment to ask: is time up for the movement or not? Will the end of the revolutionary movement in Egypt allow the state to decide – through repression or political events like elections – on the movement’s end? Or can the movement, forged in the temporal rupture opened over the course of the 18-day event in 2011, break with the notion of time imposed by the state and insist on its own time – the time to revaluate its meaning, consolidate its aims and priorities, and decide whether it should continue and how?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It is not the first time that elections are used not for creating, correcting, or becoming of the movement, but against the movement</p><p>In the summer of 2017, a small group from Berlin initiated a discussion with Alain Badiou on the challenge of continuing revolutionary politics in Egypt today, in light of all that has happened since 2011. In&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">the first part of the discussion</a>,&nbsp;Badiou reflected on the new form the movement in Egypt in 2011 took and the difficulty of formulating and organizing around an affirmative idea rather than a purely negative demand like “Mubarak out” or “Morsi out.” In this second portion of the conversation, he discusses the meaning and significance of elections and the importance of time for emancipatory movements, starting with the question:&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What do the 2018 presidential elections mean for the movement?</strong></p><p><strong>AB:&nbsp;</strong>Clearly there is a problem concerning elections. It is not the first time that elections are used not for creating, correcting, or becoming of the movement, but against the momentum, in fact, against the movement. It has been the case for me in May '68 in France. The end of the movement has been, precisely, elections. Elections with a big majority, which was completely external to the movement and maybe, in some sense, against the movement. And so you have a problem. In some sense, we can open a new [way of] thinking concerning all of those questions. As a start, the question:</p><p><strong>To participate or not participate in the elections?</strong></p><p><strong>AB:&nbsp;</strong>Maybe the best way to tackle that question would be to distinguish between the becoming of the movement, the composition of the movement, on the one side, and the discussion concerning [whether] to participate or not participate in elections. It is a fusion of the two which creates the big difficulty. Because, in some sense, the movement can say, OK we organize discussions concerning whether to participate or not participate. We cannot escape the discussion concerning that.&nbsp;</p><p>And so [in terms of] the question of organization and that of elections. [In many senses, elections do not propose] a contradiction between the movement and the state, it becomes a contradiction between two possibilities for the state itself: Muslim Brotherhood or army, in the case of Egypt. But even in our more pacifical countries, at the end, it's a return to the conflict between classical right and classical left. And this is not better for the movement, because the movement precisely evolved largely by the idea to go beyond the classical left. In France, it was to go beyond the Communist Party, which was an old party without really a new premise for the future. And so this is why I think we have, in all situations, the same problem, in some sense, and Egypt has been a strong manifestation of that sort of problem.&nbsp;</p><p>We must create the possibility inside the new forms of the movement which have been invented in the ‘Arab Spring’. Inside that sort of movement, we must decide something like a new temporality of politics, a new form of time. Because, for the movement, we have the time of movement, which is a very specific time, one that is a creation of itself inside [general] time. But we know that this time is not at the scale, at the level of the power [of the state], because the power of the state has all the time and the movement does not. In some sense, the state can accept, for some time, that there is a movement, but, from the point of view of the movement, the question of time is a really difficult question, because we must know that, at the end, the movement finishes.</p><p>The question of the end of the movement is decisive. Either it is able to decide the end, or else the end will be imposed on it, by something external. It is not the question of organization, in the classical sense, to create a big party and so on, it's a question of the capacity of the decisions inside the movement, and the capacity of decision concerning also the end of the movement. So in that sense:</p><p><strong>Who decides on the end of the movement?</strong></p><p><strong>AB:</strong>&nbsp;Sometimes I think that the best for a movement is to decide for itself its own end, not elections, which are propositions coming from outside the movement. But the idea is that, to keep the strength of the movement, you must also decide its end because no movement can go on to eternity, and we know that. And if we don't decide the end of the movement, something else decides for us. It might be violent repression, it might be the army or the police, but it might also be something like elections. [In that case], it's the decision of the end of the movement, but it's not a decision of the movement itself. It's through the state, which decides something like that, everywhere.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The best for a movement is to decide for itself its own end, not elections</p><p>In a sense, elections are something against the movement, because it's a question of the state. For me, one lesson of the movement in Egypt is precisely the point of what is exactly the dialectics between the proposition of the state - not on repression, violence and so on, that is another problem - but the proposition to organize elections, on one side, and the destiny of the movement itself and the new ideas of the movement. So, we return to the difficulty to have in the movement something like some vision.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What is the ‘future’ of the movement itself?</strong></p><p><strong>AB:</strong>&nbsp;In fact, those questions are interesting because, within the movement, there is something very active, but also something passive too, too passive. That is the idea to continue. But why and for what?</p><p>Generally, to continue because it is a good situation, it is very nice, it is a joy! All of that is ok, it even is a necessity. But for me, it is a very new problem. Because in the classical situation of a revolutionary situation, all revolutionary situations, the movement was mostly about the idea to seize the power. And so, the question was [how] to organize the strength, which is then able to seize the power. It is a Leninist vision, something like that. Accordingly, we must have very strong organization. In some sense, an organization on a military form with hierarchy and so on. And with that, we can be inside of the state<strong>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong>If we are&nbsp;<em>not</em>&nbsp;inside of the state, the strength of the movement is unity in complete diversity, unity of diversity, something like that, and to&nbsp;<em>create a new place, a new collective situation somewhere</em>. That is the question of time. This is a new question.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>If the time now is not the time of preparation of insurrection, what exactly is this time about?</strong></p><p><strong>AB:&nbsp;</strong>There is today something like the passivity of the question of time. At the end, everybody is waiting for something to come from the state in some sense: for example, the proposition for elections or, for example, the military repression. But this time is passive in some sense. ‘No Mubarak’ is not the creation of the new situation properly. It is a symbolic negative point. But what is our proposition concerning the time? </p><p>We are waiting, in fact. We are waiting. And even here, in France, I know that there are small situations. For example, the movement in Paris against the labour law, our movement of the last year, it was accepted as a problem. Yet, the problem was that all that was dissolved in elections, after all, with Macron coming to power. The movement itself was in some sense passive, passivity concerning the end of the movement, because there is always something that comes from outside which decides the end of the movement. And if we can’t solve that sort of problem, we are engaged in repetition, of something like a cycle.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movement-badiou-arabic">الانتخابات وحركة ٢٠١١ في مصر: التفكير مع آلان باديو عن الوضع الحالي</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/giuseppe-acconcia-mahienour-el-massry/Egypt-revolution-elections-Sisi-prison-women">“From the revolution, we learned to be united”: leaving politics behind. An interview with Mahienour el-Massry</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government Ibrahim Mahfouz Allison West Dina El-Sharnouby Thu, 22 Feb 2018 07:00:22 +0000 Dina El-Sharnouby, Allison West and Ibrahim Mahfouz 116100 at https://www.opendemocracy.net الانتخابات وحركة ٢٠١١ في مصر: التفكير مع آلان باديو عن الوضع الحالي https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movement-badiou-arabic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">بالنسبة للمفكر الفرنسي آلان باديو تطرح الانتتخابات سؤالًا &nbsp;مهمًا للحركة في مصر، سؤال يتجاوز مسألة المشاركة أو عدم المشاركة. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movemen"><strong>English</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="direction-rtl" dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="329" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image from “La política en cajas” (Politics in boxes) by Alfons Freire, 2010. Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0</span></span></span></p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="rtl">“فاعلية الرياضيات في سياق العلوم تكمن تحديدًا في قدرة الرياضيات على تصوير الفكرة العلمية، بينما تحتاج السياسة بالتساوي إلى القدرة على تصوير التحليل السياسي والعواقب الخططية لهذا التحليل، فهذه هي علامة الحيوية الإستراتيجية.” الان باديو</p><p dir="rtl">في السياسية، وقت وتوقيت العمل السياسي يهم! في ٢٠١٣ مثلًا &nbsp;حينما نزلت المعارضة إلى الشوارع احتجاجًا على سياسات محمد مرسي والإخوان المسلمين المثيرة للجدل بعد عام في الحكم، سُرقت الحركة وهُمشت من قِبل المؤسسة العسكرية. فعوضًا عن مناقشة العقد الاجتماعي عبر سبل ديمقراطية كما نويت الحركة، قامت المؤسسة العسكرية بخلع محمد مرسي بالقوة. توقيت هذه الأحداث أتاح للمؤسسة العسكرية أن تعلن عن ثورة ثانية دَشنت عودتها السياسية إلى الحكم وتركت المعارضة في حالة من الصدمة والغضب والشعور بالفشل.</p><p dir="rtl">أثناء الفترة الرئاسية الأولى لعبد الفتاح السيسي ازداد القمع في وجه التظاهرات المعارضة إلى حد واسع ودفع هذا العديد من الناس الذين تحمسوا على الفرص السياسية التي جلبتها ٢٠١١ للتراجع عن العمل السياسي الرسمي بشكل تام، لكن في الشهور الأخيرة ومع اقتراب انتخابات مارس ٢٠١٨ الرئاسية قامت فكرة التصديلحكم السيسي بإيقاظ المعارضة السياسية، فأتت حملة خالد علي الرئاسية لتلعب دورًا رئيسيًا في هذه العملية. فعلى جانب، قامت الحملة بتوطيد الائتلاف القائم بين الأحزاب والحركات السياسية والنشطاء، وعلى الجانب الآخر، أعادت الحملة روح٢٠١١للحركة وأعطتها دَفعةً جديدةً لإعادة التنظيم، وللتعرف على الأشخاص والأهداف السياسية التي ما زالت نشطة، ولتقوية العلاقات، وأهم من كل ذلك لطرح مرة أخرى سؤال “وماذا بعد”؟!</p><p dir="rtl">في هذا السياق قد يبدو تراجع خالد علي وانسحابه فشلًا آخر لحركة تعمل على إعادة جمع روحها وطاقتها التي ظهرت في مصر عام ٢٠١١. فالنظام في مصر يتمنى بالطبع أن ينظر الجميع لهذا الانسحاب كفشل، لكن في قراءة أخرى يمكننا أن نعتبر تراجع خالد عليفرصة متجددة للحركة. فقراره يرسم فرصة لإعادة تشكيل إطار العمل السياسي عوضًا عن الدخول في معركة خاسرة في ساحة السياسة الرسمية، حيث تحدد الدولة قوانين اللعبة بشكل حصري: مَن يستطيع الترشح، إلى أي مدى، وبأي عواقب – وكم مرشح وناشط سيتعرض للهجوم، التهديد والاعتقال؟</p><p dir="rtl">على قول الفيلسوف الفرنسي آلان باديو الذي يعتبر نفسه نتاجًا لثورة ١٩٦٨ في فرنسا ومن المفكرين المهتمين على مدار الأعوام بالسياسة الثورية، فالانتتخابات تطرح سؤالًا مهمًا للحركة في مصر، سؤال يتجاوز مسألة المشاركة أو عدم المشاركة. فيقول باديو إن في مواجهة “ضعف أي برنامج تحرري حقيقي داخل السياق الانتخابي” يعتبر التحدي الأكبر للحركة الباحثة عن التغيير السياسي اليوم هي قدرة الحركة على إتخاذ قرار نهايتها، وهذه النهاية تعني النقطة الزمنية لنهاية الحركة، وتعني أيضًا الهدف النهائي للحركة – أي ما هو معنى “النصر” للحركة.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl">تعتبر الانتخابات الرئاسية المصرية لعام ٢٠١٨ لحظة محورية لطرح سؤالُا: هل انتهى زمن الحركة؟</p><p dir="rtl">تجاوزًا لمسألة المشاركة، تعتبر الانتخابات الرئاسية المصرية لعام ٢٠١٨ لحظة محورية لطرح سؤالُا: هل انتهى زمن الحركة؟ هل ستسمح الحركة الثورية في مصر للدولة بتحديد نهاية الحركة– من خلال القمع أو الأحداث السياسية مثل الانتخابات؟ أم هل تستطيع الحركة – التي شُكلت من خلال التهتك الزمني الذي حدث أثناء الـ١٨ يومًا – أن تهشم الزمن المحدد من قِبل الدولة وتصر على تحديد زمنها، وهو الزمن الذي سيُتخذ لإعادة تعريف معنى الحركة وأهدافها وأولوياتها وتحديد إن كانت ستستمر وكيف؟</p><p class="direction-rtl">في صيف عام ٢٠١٧ خاضت مجموعة صغيرة من برلين حوارًا مع آلان باديو حول الاستمرار في العمل السياسي الثوري في مصر اليوم في ضوء كل ما جرى من أحداث منذ ٢٠١١. في الجزء الأول من الحوار المنشور مؤخرًا تحدث باديو عن الشكل الجديد الذي اتخذته الحركة في مصر وصعوبة التنظيم والتجمع حول فكرة ايجابية وقاطعة مقارنةً بالأفكار السلبية مثل “لا لمبارك” أو “لا لمرسي”. في هذا الجزء (الجزء الثاني) يناقش باديو معنى ودلالة الانتخابات كما يناقش أهمية الزمن للحركات التحررية بدايةً بهذا السؤال:</p><p class="direction-rtl"><strong>ما هو معنى انتخابات ٢٠١٨ للحركة؟</strong></p><p dir="rtl">باديو: من الواضح أن هناك مشكلة خاصة بالانتخابات، فهذه ليست أول مرة تُستخدم فيها الانتخابات لمواجهة اندفاع الحركة بدلًا من خلق، تصحيح، أو تشكيل الحركة. كان هذا الوضع في مايو ١٩٦٨ بفرنسا أيضًا.كانت نهاية الحركة هي الانتخابات تحديدًا. انتخابات أغلبيتها الكبرى تقع خارج الحركة وبشكل ما ضد الحركة، ولهذا هناك مشكلة. لهذا يمكننا أن نطرح طريقة تفكير جديدة حول هذه الأسئلة. بدايةً بهذا السؤال:</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>المشاركة أو عدم المشاركة في الانتخابات؟</strong></p><p dir="rtl">باديو: ربما أفضل طريقة لمواجهة هذا السؤال هي التفريق بين عملية تكوين الحركة من جانب، والحديث عن المشاركة أو عدمها في الانتخابات على الجانب الآخر. فخلط الأمرين هو الذي يخلق الصعوبات الكبرى.فبشكل ما تقول الحركة فلننظم حوارات حول المشاركة أو عدمها، فلا نستطيع أن نهرب من حوار خاص بهذا الأمر، وهكذا تختلط الأمور.</p><p dir="rtl">ولذلك حول مسألة التنظيم والانتخابات، فالانتخابات لا تطرح تناقضًا بين الدولة والحركة. التناقض يظهر بين خيارين للدولة نفسها: في حالة مصر، الإخوان المسلمين أم الجيش. لكن حتى في دولنا الأكثر سلمية، يعود الأمر في النهاية إلى صدام بين اليمين التقليدي واليسار التقليدي. وهذا غير جيد للحركة لأن الحركة تطورت إلى حد كبير من فكرة تجاوز اليسار التقليدي. في فرنسا، كانت الفكرة هي تجاوز الحزب الشيوعي الذي كان حزبًا قديمًا لا يحمل تصورًا للمستقبل. ولذلك أعتقد أننا نواجه المشكلة نفسها في جميع الحالات، ومصر مثلت تجسيدًا قويًا لهذه المشكلة.</p><p class="mag-quote-left" dir="rtl">علينا أن نخلق امكانيات مختلفة داخل إطارشكل الحركة الجديد الذي اِبتُكِر في الربيع العربي</p><p dir="rtl">لذلك فعلينا أن نخلق امكانيات مختلفة داخل إطارشكل الحركة الجديد الذي اِبتُكِر في الربيع العربي. داخل هذه الحركة علينا أن نطرح زمانية جديدة للسياسة، أي شكلًا &nbsp;جديدًا للزمن. فعلى جانب الحركة هناك زمن الحركة، وهو زمن محدد جدًا، زمن نتاج نفسه، أو زمن نتاج نفسه داخل نطاق الزمن الأوسع. لكننا نعرف أن هذا الزمن لا يعمل كمقياس على مستوى الدولة وقوتها، لأن الدولة تمتلك كل الوقت والحركة لا تمتلك الوقت كله. فالدولة تستطيع لزمن ما أن تقبل وجود الحركة، لكن من وجهة نظر الحركة مسألة الوقت هي مسألة صعبة جدًا لأننا علينا أن نعرف أن في الأخير تنتهي الحركة.</p><p dir="rtl">مسألة نهاية الحركة هي مسألة محورية، لأن إن لم تستطع الحركة أن تحدد نهايتها، فالنهاية ستفرض عليها من قِبل عامل خارجي. لكن المسألة ليست مسألة تنظيم بالشكل التقليدي أي بناء حزب ضخم وهكذا، بل هي مسألة القدرة على صنع القرار داخل الحركة والقدرة على صنع القرار حول نهاية الحركة. فعلى هذا النحو:</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>من يحدد نهاية الحركة؟</strong></p><p dir="rtl">باديو: أحيانًا أعتقد أن أفضل شيء للحركة هو أن تحدد بنفسها النهاية، ولا تترك أمرًا مثل الانتخابات – كعملية أتية من الخارج – أن تحدد النهاية. فالفكرة هي أن من أجل الحفاظ على قوة الحركة عليك أيضًا أن تحدد نهاية الحركة، فلا توجد حركة تستطيع أن تستمر إلى الأبد، وهذا شيء نعرفه. وإن لم نحدد نهاية الحركة، شيء آخر سيحدد نهاية الحركة من أجلنا، قد يكون ذلك قمع عنيف، قد يكون الجيش أو الشرطة، ولكن قد يكون أيضًا الانتخابات. وفي هذه الحالة يكون القرار هو نهاية الحركة، لكن لا ينبع القرار من الحركة، بل الدولة هي تحدد هذا الأمر كما هو شائع في كل مكان. بشكل ما، الانتخابات هي شيء ضد الحركة لأنها مسألة خاصة بالدولة. بالنسبة لي، درس مهم يجب أن نتخذه من الحركة في مصر هو تساءل: ما هي تحديدًا الجدلية القائمة بين ما تطرحه الدولة – ليس على مستوى القمع والعنف وهذه الأمور، فهذه مشكلة أخرى، لكن على مستوى تنظيم الانتخابات من جهة – وبين مصير الحركة نفسها وأفكارها الجديدة على الجانب الآخر. ولذلك نعود لمعاضلة أن تكون الحركة لديها شيء يشبه الرؤية.</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>ما هو مستقبل الحركة نفسها؟</strong></p><p dir="rtl">باديو: في الحقيقة، هذا سؤال شيق لأن هناك داخل الحركة شيء شديد النشاط، ولكن هناك أيضًا شيء سلبي، شيء شديد السكون، وهي فكرة الاستمرار، أن تستمر، لكن لماذا ومن أجل ماذا.</p><p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl">تنبع قوة الحركة عن خلق مساحة جديدة ووضع جمعي جديد في مكان ما</p><p dir="rtl">بشكل عام، الاستمرار لأنها حالة جيدة، حالة جميلة جدًا، لأنها متعة! كل هذا مقبول وقد يكون ضروري، لكن بالنسبة لي هي مشكلة جديدة جدًا، لأن في الوضع الثوري التقليدي، وفي كل الأوضاع الثورية، تشكلت الحركة حول هدف السيطرة على الحكم. فلذلك كان السؤال: كيف تنظم القوة التي تستطيع أن تسيطر على الحكم. هذا تصور لينيني أو شيء يشبه ذلك، وبناءً عليه فكان علينا أن نمتلك تنظيم شديد القوة، أي تنظيم على نحو عسكري بشكل هرمي وهكذا، وبهذا الشكل نستطيع أن ندخل الدولة. لكن إن لم يكن الهدف هو أننسيطر على الدولة فتصبح قوة الحركة نابعة عن فكرة التوافق حول التنوع بكل أشكاله، التوافق حول التنوع أو شيء على هذا النحو، فتنبع قوة الحركة عن خلق مساحة جديدة ووضع جمعي جديد في مكان ما، وهذا يؤدي إلى مسألة الزمن وهي مسألة جديدة علينا.</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>إن لم يكن الزمن حاليًا هو زمن التنظيم الهجومي، فما هو الزمن تحديدًا؟</strong></p><p dir="rtl">باديو: اليوم هناك شيء يشبه تجاهل مسألة الزمن. في النهاية، الجميع ينتظر ما ستقوم به الدولة، مثلًا: اقتراح الدولة للانتخابات، أو القمع العسكري. لكن هذا الزمن هو زمن ساكن إلى حد كبير. فعبارة “لا لمبارك” لا تمثل عملية خلق لوضع جديد بشكل معتبر، بل هو قول نافي ورمزي. لكن ما هو اقتراحنا الخاص بالزمن؟</p><p dir="rtl">الانتظار. نحن مازلنا ننتظر. حتى هنا في فرنسا هناك حالات شبيهة. مثلا: حركة باريس لمواجهة قانون العمل، وهي الحركة التي ظهرت العام الماضي، فواجهتها الدولة على إنها مشكلة. لكن الأزمة الحقيقية هي أن الحركة بأكملها تبخرت مع وصول ماكرون إلى الحكم. كانت الحركة ساكنة، وسكونها كان خاص بمسألة نهايتها، فأتى شيء من الخارج وحدد نهاية الحركة.لذلك إن لم نستطع حل هذه المشكلة سنصبح جزءًا من دورة كبيرة متكررة.</p><p dir="rtl"><strong>ينشر هذا المقال بالتعاون مع موقع <a href="http://bel-ahmar.net/?p=2905">بالأحمر</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/dina-el-sharnouby-allison-west-ibrahim-mahfouz/elections-and-egyptian-movemen">Elections and the Egyptian movement of 2011: thinking with Alain Badiou about the current situation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions-arabic">آلان باديو عن الثورة المصرية: حول سؤال الحركة ورؤيتها</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government revolution elections Egypt in the balance Arabic language Ibrahim Mahfouz Allison West Dina El-Sharnouby Thu, 22 Feb 2018 07:00:21 +0000 Dina El-Sharnouby, Allison West and Ibrahim Mahfouz 116261 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Counter-terrorism: new UK strategy must learn obvious lessons https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/larry-attree/counter-terrorism-new-uk-strategy-must-learn-obvious-lessons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Since 2001, Britain has compromised its passion for the rights of people in the name of counter-terrorism, thereby undermining its national security and winning enemies faster than they are eliminated.<ins datetime="2018-02-11T19:56" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"></ins></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29909125.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-29909125.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemeni man walks by painting of US drone on the wall in Sanaa, Yemen,shortly after 25 civilians were killed in latest US counter-terror raid, January, 2017. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Five terror attacks in the UK made 2017 an <em>annus horribilis</em> for those defending the nation against terror. The UK government is about to publish an update to its counter-terror strategy, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-terrorism-strategy-contest">CONTEST</a>. </p> <p>At the recent Westminster counter-terrorism conference, a top security official affirmed that the heightened terror threat in the UK is strongly connected to conflicts overseas – especially the situation in Syria and Iraq and those inspired by Islamic State (ISIS).&nbsp; </p> <p>The new strategy needs to ensure coherent UK support for peace overseas if it is to reduce the threat at home. The <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/counter-terrorism-strategy-contest">2011 version of CONTEST</a>, however, placed no emphasis on bringing conflicts overseas to a lasting end. The new strategy must instead strongly promote effective UK engagement in peacebuilding, and break with policies that have been proving highly counter-productive. </p> <h2><strong>One job well done isn’t enough</strong></h2> <p>It isn’t possible to defend against all threats, and terror tactics are evolving to make defence harder. Despite the 2017 attacks, the UK security establishment leads the world in detecting terror plots, and taking down the individuals and networks planning them. It gets insufficient credit for a job well done.&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps because domestic counter-terror structures are so strong, the country hasn't yet elaborated a very strategic approach to the international dimensions of the terror problem. </p> <p>Yet the global picture is not pretty: from 2000 to 2016, <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf">global casualties from terror attacks</a> increased seven-fold. The ranks of violent Islamist movements are thought to have <a href="http://publications.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/3323.pdf">more than tripled</a> from 2000 to 2013. Britain’s role in the international war on terror during this period, and the evidence from very sobering British experiences in <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1031">Afghanistan</a>, <a href="http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20171123124621/http:/www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247921/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_executive-summary.pdf">Iraq</a>, <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/foreign-affairs-committee/inquiries1/parliament-2015/libya-policy/">Libya</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1032-barbed-wire-on-our-heads">Somalia</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1141-syria-playing-into-their-hands">Syria</a>, <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1033-blown-back">Yemen</a> and elsewhere, should be shaping the UK's outlook. </p> <p>Two tendencies have prevented the UK from improving its international approach. The first is the way the UK domestic debate revolves around the idea that ‘there can be no excuse for terrorism.’ This vein of thinking appears to make the very idea that better foreign policy could reduce the threat to the UK a treasonable offence. Witness the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/how-global-britain-is-helping-to-win-the-struggle-against-islamist-terror">contortions</a> Boris Johnson recently had to muster to make the simple observation that dictators are making the terror problem worse. </p> <p>Yet it is surely obvious to the British public, as to most experts, that the threat in the UK <em>is</em> deeply connected to conflicts overseas and the grievances that underpin them. Terror attacks <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2017/11/Global-Terrorism-Index-2017.pdf">overwhelmingly</a> occur in conflict zones and repressive environments, and the threat faced by the UK is increasingly connected to what is happening in these places. </p> <p>Whether we like it or not, the Palace of Westminster, Manchester Arena, London Bridge and Parsons Green attackers – and indeed the July 7 bombers – were either connected to or inspired by groups fighting in wars in which Britain has played an important role overseas –people who probably believed their actions were either part of or vengeance for these struggles. </p> <h2><strong>Improving our response strategy</strong></h2> <p>No one is claiming that the violent acts of such people can be excused. Policymakers must, however, remain open to improving their response strategy. Part of this has to be understanding conflicts that are connected to the terror threat in the UK, and working with the international community to address what drives them in a logical and principled way that actively learns from past experience.</p> <p>The second tendency is that pressure to avert domestic attacks pushes policymakers into taking short-term actions that add up to long-term failure. This underpins both attempts to eliminate violent groups without a coherent strategy for preventing their rebirth, and backing for problematic ‘allies’ to curb violent groups and stop them crossing borders. </p> <p>When the UK supports other states to build stability and fight terrorists, it often strengthens the hand of abusive, corrupt and repressive ‘allies’ whose behaviour is at the heart of the problem – and who often misuse assistance for their own ends. If they make the problem worse, they may well gain yet more assistance. </p> <h2><strong>Lessons in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Somalia</strong></h2> <p class="story-body-text">As the US tragically learnt in Vietnam, a local ally that lacks the will and integrity to get the public on board will struggle to win public support and overcome its opponents. The failure of the US, UK et al in Afghanistan rests substantially on the failure to learn this lesson. A recent New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/23/world/asia/afghanistan-military-abuse.html">article</a> reported that: ‘On 5,753 occasions from 2010 to 2016, the United States military reported accusations of “gross human rights abuses” by the Afghan military, including many examples of child sexual abuse. If true, American law required military aid to be cut off to the offending unit.’ Yet, on no occasion did that happen. </p> <p>Although for years it has been clear that the Afghan public is deeply concerned by the corruption and abuse of the post-Taliban order, foreign assistance has continued to flow into government coffers at a rate that the Afghan state could never hope to sustain in future years. It is perhaps too late to speculate on what could have been achieved with a policy of tougher love: less resources might have flowed to the state; foreign powers might have been more willing to challenge and withdraw support for abusive, corrupt individuals; civil society and communities might have been offered a greater role in challenging and shaping the post-Taliban state. But it is not too late for the UK to learn from <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/1031">Afghanistan</a>.</p> <p>After years of stabilisation and counter-terror assistance, Somalia’s 2017 elections were <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/world/africa/somalia-election-corruption.html">described</a> by analysts, investigators and some western diplomats as ‘a milestone of corruption, one of the most fraudulent political events in Somalia’s history’. This was some feat, in that Somalia is ranked by Transparency International as the world’s most corrupt country. ‘This election has been awesome for the Shabab’, as one Somali anti-corruption campaigner <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/world/africa/somalia-election-corruption.html">explained</a>. After the US-backed Ethiopian invasion to prevent Somalia becoming a hot bed for terrorists in 2007, the Somali government was put together and propped up with external backing. To this day, shaped with only limited public input, beset with corruption and delivering little to Somalia’s long suffering people, it ‘has no authority, no popular support’. </p> <p>Resting on such a shaky political foundation, Somalia’s security forces have again and again proved a fragile repository for the equipment and capacity support lavished on them. A senior official familiar with the matter told me recently that Somali security forces trained by the African Union have been deserting in large numbers with their weapons. Many of them had probably joined armed groups fighting the government and foreign forces, such as al-Shabaab.&nbsp;</p> <p>What is staggering is that this pattern occurred in <a href="https://csis-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/publication/130819_Bryden_SomaliaRedux_WEB.pdf">both of the previous decades</a>, putting thousands of weapons and other equipment into the hands of Somalia’s armed groups. In addition, abuses against civilians committed by Somali security forces trained and armed by the west with little accountability continue to provide a fertile recruitment ground for al-Shabaab.</p> <h2><strong>Dousing a fire with paraffin</strong></h2> <p>Western backing for abusive, corrupt and exclusive counter-terror partners attracts the ire of those they marginalise and oppress. The <a href="https://saferworld-indepth.squarespace.com/we-need-to-talk-about-egypt/">Egyptian</a> state continues to enjoy military and political support from the UK to counter terrorism. Egypt has branded any and all opposition to the regime – in particular supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of deposed but democratically elected president Morsi – as terrorists, incarcerating and torturing thousands of Egyptians. Civil society organisations have borne the brunt of a massive crackdown. As violence predictably spirals in reaction to the ever-more-inhuman cruelty of the Sisi regime, the blanket support offered by the UK government is irresponsible and counter-productive.&nbsp;</p> <p>The UK witnessed the unpredictable results of ‘capacity building’ for abusive foreign security forces when its initiative to train Libyan armed forces in Cambridgeshire <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/05/libyan-troops-flown-home-uk-training-camp">closed following a string of sexual assaults</a> and reportedly caused almost <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3086108/Libyan-soldiers-responsible-rape-mayhem-UK-training-programme-went-500-000-barracks-wrecking-spree.html">£0.5 million of damage to the training barracks</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, security ‘train-and-equip’ programmes that play into the wrong hands are far from the exception. In the 275 military coups between 1970 and 2009, the US trained the armed forces the year before in 165 of them. </p> <p>Despite huge US and UK support for the Iraqi army, it readily capitulated to Isis, who promptly <a href="http://www.conflictarm.com/publications/">gained huge volumes</a> of western-supplied weapons. In Yemen, where the UK played a key role in convening ‘Friends of Yemen’ to offer the country stabilisation and counter-terror assistance, then-President Saleh’s regime misused such assistance for years to suppress domestic opponents. After its cruel, corrupt rule collapsed under the weight of popular discontent, many of the state's foreign-supplied weapons ended up in the arsenals of violent rebels and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. </p> <p>Funneling money, arms, training and political legitimacy to governments at the front lines of the war on terror has proven akin to dousing a <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/05/us-military-admits-failures-to-monitor-over-1-billion-worth-of-arms-transfers/">fire with paraffin</a>.&nbsp;The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – all war on terror battlegrounds – are far from over. This is partly because the transformation in political conditions – the social contract – that people in these contexts need and deserve has never been achieved. Corruption, abuse and exclusion has enabled those who oppose state authority to maintain a considerable social base, and UK assistance has done too little to turn this picture around.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>How to avoid blowback</strong></h2> <p>What is, then, the right strategy?&nbsp;Well, it is obviously vital to detect and disrupt violent groups plotting transnational attacks, prosecuting and sentencing offenders in human rights compliant ways.&nbsp;</p> <p>There may always be violent individuals opposed to liberal democratic societies like the UK. However, it seems plausible that the UK would be much better inoculated against the general enmity of hundreds of millions of people living in repressive contexts if it lives up to its best ideals abroad.</p> <p>It may be necessary to use force judiciously at times to protect human life and prevent vicious, repressive movements taking control over people's lives. But because <a href="https://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/publications/875-dilemmas-of-counter-terror-stabilisation-and-statebuilding">violence always brings blowback</a> – especially if used indiscriminately – violence has to be the very last resort, and only ever used discriminately and accountably.&nbsp; And because past efforts to eliminate dangerous groups without addressing the conditions that gave rise to them have failed, it should become UK policy only to deploy force in the context of a coherent wider strategy that is focused on achieving peace.&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, achieving peace in conflict environments needs to be reasserted as the highest strategic aim of UK foreign policy.&nbsp;Guided by this recalibration of priorities, the UK and its allies must develop a new discipline: extending greater support and cooperation towards partners that respect human rights, that are tackling corruption, security force behaviour and political inclusion; and refusing to ally with governments whose<a href="http://journey-to-extremism.undp.org/content/downloads/UNDP-JourneyToExtremism-report-2017-english.pdf"> behaviour is the best possible recruiting sergeant for violent groups</a>. </p> <p>And in all contexts the UK must work with society to press for peaceful conflict resolution and improved governance.</p> <p>The proudest moment in British history, that has come to define its self-identity, remains its dogged opposition to the abuses of Nazism and communism. If Britain fights ISIS hand in hand with regimes that behead dissidents, and tear the fingernails from their journalists, and if it destroys whole cities while failing to provide for refugees and reconstruction in the process, then the justice of Britain’s cause is diminished, and it can expect the enmity of those who suffer the consequences of what will readily be seen as a reckless and unprincipled approach.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2001, Britain has compromised its passion for the rights of people in conflict environments in the name of counter-terrorism, and this has undermined its national security – winning enemies faster than they are eliminated. It is time to resurrect Britain’s identity as a nation that stands against repression, and for just peace for conflict-affected people. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-held/broken-politics-from-911-to-present"> Broken politics: from 9/11 to the present </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/isis-and-tunisia-iran-deeper-link">ISIS and Tunisia-Iran: a deeper link</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/wars-next-phase-isis-plus-expertise">The next war: ISIS plus expertise</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/britains-global-role-fantasy-vs-reality">Britain&#039;s global role: fantasy vs reality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/paul-rogers/how-labour-can-make-britain-secure">How Labour can make Britain secure</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/paul-rogers/wrongs-of-counter-violence">The wrongs of counter-violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/david-keen-larry-attree/after-raqqa-what-will-it-take-to-get-to-peace-in-syri">After Raqqa: what will it take to get to peace in Syria?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Somalia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Iraq </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Iraq Egypt Yemen Syria Somalia Afghanistan Libya UK Larry Attree Sun, 11 Feb 2018 20:23:35 +0000 Larry Attree 116062 at https://www.opendemocracy.net قروض مصر: لشراء السلاح لا التنمية https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/%D9%82%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B6-%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7-%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86/%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D8%AF-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western" dir="rtl">القروض فرضت على مصر&nbsp;سياسات اقتصادية تقشفية طالت كل فئات الشعب.&nbsp;المواطنين الفقراء وأبناء الطبقة الوسطى يدفعون الثمن.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-24798678.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="French Rafale fighters."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-24798678.jpg" alt="French Rafale fighters." title="French Rafale fighters." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>French Rafale fighters. ABACA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>قامت الحكومة المصرية في الفترة الأخيرة <a href="http://www.huffpostarabi.com/shareef-mansor/-_7534_b_12175014.html">بشراء سلاح</a> بمليارات الدولارات، في وقت هي ليست بحاجة ماسة لذلك، حتى ولو كان لمحاربة تنظيم الدولة والمتطرفين في سيناء، لأن الحرب في سيناء أشبه بحرب الشوارع، وقائمة على الكر والفر.</p><p dir="rtl">والقوات المسلحة المصرية لا تستطيع إدخال معدات حربية ثقيلة لشمال سيناء، لأنها بذلك تخترق معاهدة السلام واتفاقية كامب ديفيد مع العدو الصهيوني، وإنما ما تحتاجه حقيقة هو التنمية وزيادة الصادرات والاستثمار، وتقليل الديون والأعباء على الاقتصاد بدلاً من زيادته.</p><p dir="rtl">تقترض الحكومة المصرية مليارات الدولارات أدت لإرتفاع ديون مصر في سنة واحدة بمبلغ <a href="https://thearabweekly.com/egypts-growing-debts-cause-concern">قدره&nbsp;<span>٢</span><span>٣</span>.<span>٢</span><span>&nbsp;</span>مليار</a> دولار في نهاية العام المالي ٢٠١٦ / ٢٠١٧ ، ما يدفعنا للتساؤل، هل قروض مصر للتنمية أم لشراء السلاح؟</p><p dir="rtl">أغلب الديون التي تقترضها مصر هي قصيرة الأجل، أي أنه يجب سدادها بين عام وأربعة أعوام، ويكون ذلك حسب شروط كل قرض.</p><p dir="rtl">قد بلغت <a href="http://www.tahrirnews.com/posts/860960/%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86+%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1+%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%83+%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%B2%D9%8A++%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AA+%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1+%D9%85%D9%86+%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%82%D8%AF+%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%A8%D9%8A+%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86+%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AC%D9%8A+%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1">قيمة القروض قصيرة الأجل</a> المستحقة السداد قبل نهاية ديسمبر ٢٠١٧&nbsp;حوالي ١٢&nbsp;مليار دولار، وغالباً ما تستعين الحكومات بالقروض قصيرة الأجل لسداد عجز طارئ، وتكون معتمدة على مصدر دخل مرتقب لتغطية قيمة تلك القروض.</p><p dir="rtl"> ونظراً لعدم وجود مصدر دخل قوي في مصر بسبب <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/aswaq/economy/2017/10/22/%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9-%D8%A5%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%82%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%88%D9%8A%D8%B3-%D9%84%D9%80460-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%B3%D8%A8%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A8%D8%B1.html">تراجع إيرادات قناة السويس</a>، وعدم وجود سياحة خارجية، وعجز ميزان المدفوعات بسبب زيادة الواردات عن الصادرات، الذي يستطيع تغطية تلك الإلتزامات خلال هذه الفترة، ستقوم مصر على الأغلب باقتراض ديون جديدة لسداد القروض المستحقة. </p><p dir="rtl">وبسبب ضخامة المبلغ المستحق وصعوبة &nbsp;تدبيرة في تاريخ السداد، فقد أعلن محافظ البنك المركزي، طارق عامر، عن قيام البنك بمفاوضات <a href="https://www.tahrirnews.com/posts/845489/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%AC%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%B2%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%88%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9">لمد أجل سداد</a> بعض القروض المستحقة للعام القادم، في محاولة لتدارك الأزمة.</p><p dir="rtl">ضخامة حجم الديون لم يمنع الحكومة من <a href="http://www.noonpost.org/%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1/%D8%B5%D9%81%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%AA%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1%D9%8A-%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%B9%D9%8B%D8%A7">شراء السلاح والمعدات الحربية بمبالغ ضخمة</a> في السنوات القليلة الماضية. وكانت أشهر تلك الصفقات، صفقة بين مصر وفرنسا عام ٢٠١٥، تضمّنت <a href="https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2016/09/16/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AA%D8%B3%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%AD%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%84%D8%A9-%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%B3%D8%A7.html">شراء</a> مصر عدد ٢ حاملتي طائرات ميسترال و ٦ قطع بحرية جوويند وفريم، وقدر قيمة هذه الصفقة بـ ١.١ مليار دولار.</p><p dir="rtl">وبعدما تسلمت القوات المسلحة المصرية الفرقاصة الأولى من فرنسا طراز جوويند في سبتمبر الماضي.</p><p dir="rtl">تسببت هذه الصفة في جدل كبير في مصر وخاصة على شبكات التواصل الاجتماعي بين مؤيد ومعارض لتلك الصفقة، بسبب تكلفتها الكبيرة، وعدم الحاجة الماسة إليها، كونها تستخدم في الحروب البحرية، خاصة أن مصر لا تواجه تهديداً، ولم تخض حرب منذ أكثر من ٤٤ عاما، من بعد حرب أكتوبر ١٩٧٣.</p><p dir="rtl">ولم تكن تلك الصفقة هي الوحيدة لشراء مصر السلاح من فرنسا في عهد الرئيس السيسي، وإنما <a href="https://www.youm7.com/story/2015/2/15/%D8%AE%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%AA%D9%82%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%B5%D9%81%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D9%81%D9%89-%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA/2068415">اشترت</a> مصر في فبراير ٢٠١٥ عدد ٢٤ طائرة رافال بقيمة تبلغ ٥.٩ مليار دولار، لتنضم تلك الصفقة لمجموع الصفقات التي استنزفت الاقتصاد المصري.</p><p dir="rtl">بالإضافة إلى ذلك، <a href="http://www.huffpostarabi.com/shareef-mansor/-_7534_b_12175014.html">أنفقت</a> مصر على صفقات شراء السلاح من روسيا خلال العامين الماضيين نحو ١٠ مليارات دولار على أقل تقدير.</p><p dir="rtl">وبسبب إرتفاع حجم ديون مصر، ومخاطر السداد، أشارت<a href="https://www.latribune.fr/entreprises-finance/industrie/aeronautique-defense/egypte-douze-rafale-cloues-au-sol-par-bercy-755147.html"> صحيفة لا تريبون</a> الفرنسية إلى احتمال توقف صفقة شراء مصر ١٢ &nbsp;طائرة رافال جديدة، ما يعني أن مصر لم تعد في الحدود الآمنة للديون، وأن الاحتياطي النقدي هو احتياطي وهمي، لأنه لم يتم توفيره من مصادر دخل حقيقة للدولة، مثل السياحة وقناة السويس والصادرات والاستثمارات، وإنما هو جزء من الديون التي اقترضتها مصر من الخارج مودعة في البنك المركزي.</p><p dir="rtl">وقد بلغت ديون مصر ٧٩ مليار دولار حتى ٣٠ يونيو ٢٠١٧ مع نهاية السنة المالية ٢٠١٦- ٢٠١٧، <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1198450">وفقاً للتقرير الذي أعلنه البنك المركزي</a> في نهاية سبتمبر الماضي.</p><p dir="rtl">ومن المتوقع أن تكون ديون مصر قد زادت عن هذا الحد، لأنه خلال نوفمبر الماضي، <a href="http://www.aljazeera.net/news/ebusiness/2017/9/17/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%B7-%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%AC-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%A8%D9%8010-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1">صرح</a> وزير المالية، عمرو الجارحي، إن مصر تخطط لطرح برنامج سندات دولية جديد بقيمة ١٠ مليارات دولار.</p><p dir="rtl">كما أن صندوق النقد الدولي لم يكن قد سلّم مصر الدفعة الثانية من قيمة القرض، وتسلمتها مصر بتاريخ ١٤ يوليو ٢٠١٧ وقيمتها ١.٢٥ مليار دولار من قرض تبلغ قيمته الإجمالية ١٢ مليار دولار.</p><p dir="rtl">كما من المقرر <a href="https://www.alarabiya.net/ar/aswaq/economy/2017/12/21/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%B3%D8%AA%D9%84%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AD%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D8%A9-%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%B6-%D8%B5%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%86%D9%82%D8%AF-%D8%A8%D9%802-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1.html">إستلام</a> مصر دفعة جديدة بقيمة ٢ مليار دولار من قرض صندوق النقد الدولي خلال شهر ديسمبر ٢٠١٧ أو يناير ٢٠١٨، لم يتم استلامها بعد.</p><p dir="rtl">وخلال شهر ديسمبر الماضي <a href="https://arabic.rt.com/business/913867-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D9%8A-%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%81%D9%82-%D8%B9%D9%84%D9%89-%D9%82%D8%B1%D8%B6-%D8%AA%D9%86%D9%85%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D9%82%D9%8A%D9%85%D8%A9-115-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1/">وافق</a> البنك الدولي على منح مصر قرض بقيمة ١.١٥ مليار دولار. كما تمت الموافقة على <a href="http://www.masrawy.com/news/news_regions/details/2017/10/30/1181852/%D9%88%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D8%A9-30-%D9%85%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%88%D9%86-%D9%8A%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%88-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%AD%D8%A9-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B5%D8%AD%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9">قرض فرنسي</a> بقيمة ٣٠ مليون يورو، و<a href="http://www.vetogate.com/2983786">قرض ياباني</a> بقيمة ٨٨ مليون دولار خلال نفس الشهر.</p><p dir="rtl">وكل هذه القروض التي أخذتها مصر لم تحقق التنمية، إنما زادت من معدلات الفقر وفقاً للبيان الذي نشره الجهاز المركزي للتعبئة والإحصاء المصري في نهاية يوليو &nbsp;٢٠١٦، فقد كشف أن ٢٧<a href="http://www.youm7.com/story/2016/7/26/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AD%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A1-27-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9/2816823">.</a>٨<a href="http://www.youm7.com/story/2016/7/26/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A5%D8%AD%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%A1-27-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%B3%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%8A%D8%B3%D8%AA%D8%B7%D9%8A%D8%B9%D9%88%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%A7%D8%A1-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%A7%D8%AA%D9%87%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A9/2816823"> من سكان مصر تحت خط الفقر</a>، ولا يستطيعون الوفاء باحتياجاتهم الأساسية من الغذاء وغير الغذاء.</p><p dir="rtl">كانت هذه المؤشرات قبل تعويم الجنيه المصري مقابل الدولار وارتفاع أسعار السلع والخدمات. وفي أكتوبر الماضي <a href="http://elaph.com/Web/News/2017/10/1172734.html">أشارت</a> عدة تقارير أن حوالي ٣٠ مليون مصري يعيشون تحت خط الفقر.</p><p dir="rtl">كل المعطيات السابقة تقول أن لا نيّة حقيقة للحكومة لرفع مستوى التنمية والنمو الاقتصادي الموعود. فلا معدلات الفقر تنخفض ولا المشاريع المعلنة تجلب تغييراً للمواطن المصري. وعلى ما يبدو فإن الهم الأول والأخير للحكومة يكون في الاقتراض وتوقيع صفقات السلاح لشراء شرعية دولية للنظام وتمكين الجيش، على حساب الشعب.</p><p dir="rtl">بعد مرور سبعة أعوام على ثورة 25 يناير، وتظاهر ملايين المصريين مطالبين بـ"العيش والحرية والعدالة الاجتماعية"، لم تتحقق أي من هذه الأهداف التي هتفوا من أجلها، بل تدهورت الأوضاع أكثر، وأصبح الاقتصاد المصري أكثر هشاشة من ذي قبل. </p><p dir="rtl">ومن يدفع الثمن هم المواطنين الفقراء وأبناء الطبقة الوسطى من الشعب المصري، خاصة بعد قرض صندوق النقد الدولي الذي فرض على مصر سياسات اقتصادية تقشفية طالت كل فئات الشعب.</p><h2 dir="rtl"> </h2><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/ines-mahmoud/tunisia-rise-up-against-imf">Tunisians oppose the IMF</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%A7-%D8%B3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AD%D9%82%D9%88%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%A3%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%B4-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A/%D9%84%D9%8A%D8%B2%D8%A7-%D8%B3%D8%B9%D9%8A%D8%AF-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B2">أنا_سمية: التحرش في مصر، قصة لا تنتهي#</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-ahmad/egypt-sinai-terrorist-attack">مصر: جريمة مسجد الروضة قد تتكرر</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Democracy and government Economics International politics IMF austerity Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Arabic language محمد عبدالسلام Sun, 11 Feb 2018 11:33:38 +0000 محمد عبدالسلام 116020 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “From the revolution, we learned to be united”: leaving politics behind. An interview with Mahienour el-Massry https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/giuseppe-acconcia-mahienour-el-massry/Egypt-revolution-elections-Sisi-prison-women <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the occasion of the anniversary of the eighteen days’ occupation of Tahrir Square, beginning 25 January 2011, Mahienour el-Massry, lawyer and Revolutionary Socialist activist in interview.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-16161404.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-16161404.jpg" alt="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Egyptian political activists, victims and prisoners' relatives take part in a protest on 29 March 2013. AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><em>Giuseppe Acconcia (GA): It is the seventh anniversary of the </em><em>revolution bringing an end to the Mubarak regime. Can you elaborate on what those days mean to you?</em></p> <p><strong>Mahienour el-Massry (MM):</strong> One of the best moments that ever happened to the Egyptian people. It was an uprising against the injustices of the Mubarak regime and especially against the police state of that time.</p> <p>Over the years, the lack of political space, and the inclusion of public space in formal politics, resulted in an apolitical environment in Egyptian society. People preached the idea of revolution but no one thought that it would actually happen during their lifetime.</p> <p>This is why, after the revolution when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) assumed power, most of the initiatives by revolutionaries failed. The first elected president, who was from the Muslim Brotherhood, the only organized political group, did not win with a great majority. </p> <p>The problem is that when you look at the revolution itself, the Egyptian people were great at mobilising, but when you consider what should have been done afterwards, the people were at sea. We did not have one clear vision: we were divided.</p> <p><em>GA: Did this make it easier for the army to regain power after the coup of 2013?</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> Actually, the Muslim Brotherhood played their part in dividing the revolutionaries; they do not really believe in the idea of democracy. This paved the way to the 3 July coup, which was launched by the army and remnants of the Mubarak regime. </p> <p>What took place on 3 July 2013 and since can be seen as the worst time Egypt has ever witnessed. And it began with dividing the people. </p> <p>For example, among those who called themselves leftists, there were those who supported the army (they were Islamophobic and very afraid of the practices of the Muslim Brotherhood) and others who were totally against what happened after 3 July and considered it a coup against the people’s will, because the Egyptians protesting were only asking for early elections. </p> <p>The most horrific moment was the Rabaa massacre – since then, all public spaces have been closed down and the army has made it clear that no power was going to be handed to anyone except the army itself.</p> <p>Since the Rabaa massacre there has been a huge crackdown on civilian political movements. After they finished with the Muslim Brotherhood, they started going for one group after the other.</p> <p><em>GA: Egypt's Attorney General, Nabil Sadiq, has begun an <a href="https://pomed.us2.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8a185f96ecfeb10569f5120d0&amp;id=6a6f2380bf&amp;e=d6af688774">investigation</a> against 13 opposition leaders from the Civil Democratic Front, claiming their call for a boycott of the presidential elections as an attempt to "overthrow the regime." What do you think about the next presidential elections?&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> You cannot call this an election, it is a referendum. This is why I will boycott it. There is no other candidate except Sisi. </p> <p>Everyone who attempted to run against Sisi gave up. Two were from a military background: Ahmed Shafik, the prime minister at the time of the revolution; and the second was Sami Anan, former army chief of staff. </p> <p>This shows that there has been a division in the army because most of the army is backing Sisi, and only a small group, hardly revolutionaries of course, are engaged in an internal conflict within the army itself. </p> <p>In addition, there have been thousands of people who have been paid to support al-Sisi. Sisi is a lunatic dictator who would like to be the only player in these elections. His idea of “democratic elections” is to have a second candidate that will not threaten him. </p> <p>For example, a few days ago, the liberal pro-state Wafd party wanted Sayed al-Badawy to run. He refused because the party is backing Sisi. </p> <p>Hesham Geneina, a supporter of the Anan campaign, was beaten up and is hospitalised in a critical condition. Geneina was the chief of Egypt’s Central Auditing Authority and was dismissed from his position after attempting to expose the regime’s corruption. &nbsp;</p> <p>I was working on the Khaled Ali campaign prior to his withdrawal and discovered that those who filled out registration papers for Sisi are generally very poor people who did it for EGP 50. The same people told us that Sisi is a thief and a dictator. </p> <p>Sisi’s popularity has dropped and is at a turning point now. This situation is one of the weakest in which the state has ever been since 30 June 2013. And it is an opportunity for change.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p><em>GA: What’s your position on Sisi’s definition of human rights, when he argues that “western human rights” are not applicable to Egypt?</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> Sisi clearly does not believe in human rights. He said: “Talk about education or healthcare as we are poor, and not about human rights”, as if education were not part of human rights as well. </p> <p>This is how the army works. Sisi said that he is fighting terrorism; therefore, there should not be any calls for democracy, human rights or the opening of public space. </p> <p>This is how he treats Egypt, as if the main enemies are human rights and the Egyptian people.</p> <p><em>GA: You were released a few weeks ago: tell us more about your last experience in prison.</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> Last time I was imprisoned only for two months – I went to the Qanater prison as well as the Damanhour prison. It was the first time I was in Damanhour, and the conditions the prisoners are kept in are degrading. They were bad when I was first detained, but now they are even worse. </p> <p>In a cell of six metres by four the number of imprisoned women are around 32. Every person has around 30 centimeters to sit in and sleep. </p> <p>Of course, healthcare is awful. One woman was not allowed to go to the hospital and died, because the doors of the prison had been closed for the night. </p> <p>The number of detained people has increased in Egypt and capital punishment is applied, even though during the last years of Mubarak no one was executed despite having been sentenced to death. </p> <p>Since the 3 July coup, the number of executions and people sentenced to death have been steadily increasing. This also applies to political prisoners. </p> <p>Political prisoners are in solitary confinement and the number of women political prisoners is on the rise. </p> <p>Sarah Hegazy, the girl arrested for raising the rainbow flag during a concert in Autumn 2017 and later released on bail, has been in solitary confinement for a while now. While I was in Qanater, she was even threatened with a death sentence. </p> <p>Even prisoners who have been acquitted are still in prison. Four men in Cairo, for example, were released on bail a month ago but are still behind bars.</p> <p><em>GA: In this repressive context, there have been worker strikes in Mahalla al-Kubra and Alexandria. Are the workers' movements still active?</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> One of the things that the regime is doing is trying to close down public space, but actually workers’ movements have not stopped. </p> <p>In Mahalla and Alexandria, workers are trying to get their rights even though the regime is reacting brutally. </p> <p>The regime made amendments to the law on trade unions, banning independent trade unions: so a number of workers are facing trials. </p> <p>There are 21 workers from the Alexandria shipyard factory facing military trials. The government is attempting to arrest all the leaders and liquidating independent trade unions.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>GA: You were arrested for your participation in the Tiran and Sanafir movement. Can you tell us if the protests criticizing Sisi’s decision in this case have ontinued?</em></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> The Tiran and Sanafir movement was very important because it was an exceptional moment for the opposition to show everyone that Sisi is a traitor. The army and Sisi argued that the Muslim Brotherhood were supported by Qatar; however, this case showed the people that Sisi is a traitor as well. </p> <p>The people took to the streets, but this time it was kept as a judicial case. We did not use it to talk to the people about state policies and Sisi’s new liberal agenda. Because of this, I believe it resulted in a fracture within the regime. </p> <p>If people believed that the army was protecting Egypt, the Tiran and Sanafir case changed their minds and exposed the regime. For this reason, people like Sami Anan began to think about running for election. </p> <p>Tiran and Sanafir was part of a huge plan to normalize relations with Israel, which Egypt has always sought to do.</p> <p>This was a very important movement. We could have built more on it. Khaled Ali’s decision to run for president is also related to this. As a lawyer, he defended the idea of the unity of Egyptian land.</p> <p><em>GA: What is your opinion on the cuts to subsidies due to the IMF’s loan? What does it mean in terms of mobilization in Egypt?</em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> There have been more austerity measures due to the IMF loan. Cutting any kind of subsidies, while the prices of oil and gas increase, is causing huge inflation in Egypt. People are suffering. This is reducing Sisi popularity amongst the masses. </p> <p>A number of people focus more on economic conditions rather than on the political. For the past two years, the people have been feeling that they have been betrayed by the regime. Sisi is losing his allies, namely the entrepreneurs who were against the revolution in the first place, because they are also now suffering due to the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound. </p> <p>Sisi’s popularity has been dwindling across all sectors, even in the sectors considered pro-state. Already last year during the commemoration of the revolution, people were melancholic. This year the Egyptian people are thinking about how to organize themselves again.</p> <p><em>GA: There have been several protests recently in Tunisia and other north African countries. Do you think that this can trigger a new social movement in Egypt as well?</em>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>MM:</strong> When the protests erupted in Tunisia, people here were thinking: “This will affect Egypt.” I disagree, but I do think that the Egyptian people will be on the move soon.&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that the state has a firm grip on society and people are afraid of the army’s reaction. However, they are also fed up with the regime. They want to move on and have a clear alternative.&nbsp;</p> <p>Our duty now is to make a united front, if only because the people will move anyway and the state’s reaction will inevitably be violent and brutal.</p> <p>We will pay with our lives defending the things we believe in. A new society with a new social structure is coming.&nbsp; </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled">Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/nawa-giuseppe-acconcia-mona-abaza/strikes-protests-and-egyptian-nights-of-curfew">Strikes, protests and Egyptian nights of curfew</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/giuseppe-acconcia/regeni-victim-of-regime-of-fear">Regeni: victim of a regime of fear</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/giuseppe-acconcia/mahienour-elmassry-workers%E2%80%99-revolutionary">Mahienour el-Massry: a workers&#039; revolutionary </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amr-magdi/we-need-to-talk-sisi-human-rights-world-youth-forum-egypt">‘We need to talk’ about Sisi’s twisted take on human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sameh-naguib/sisi-s-neoliberal-assault-context-and-prospects">Sisi’s neoliberal assault: context and prospects</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Conflict Democracy and government elections Egypt in the balance Giuseppe Acconcia Mahienour el-Massry Thu, 08 Feb 2018 14:25:35 +0000 Mahienour el-Massry and Giuseppe Acconcia 116008 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sisi’s coronation and the Egyptian opposition https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-elections-presidential-egypt-opposition-Anan-Mousa-Khaled <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In an attempt to centralize power, the regime is in the process of creating one unified enemy, an alliance between the disgruntled security and civilian elites as well as the opposition.&nbsp;<strong><span style="text-decoration-line: underline;"><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1%D8%B6%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AA">عربي</a></span></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-34713815.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-34713815.jpg" alt="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved." title="Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A special forces soldier stands guard in front of the National Election Authority in Cairo, Egypt on Jan. 29, 2018. The Chairperson of Egypt's Ghad Party, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, presented Monday his candidacy documents for Egyptian presidential elections to the country's election authority. Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>With the advent of the Egyptian presidential elections, the regime has embarked on a systematic process of eliminating possible candidates who could run against President Sisi.</p> <p>The process started with <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/sada/75353">Ahmed Konsowa</a>, an army major who declared his intention to run in a YouTube Video. His announcement led to his arrest and six year imprisonment for violating military regulations and for attempting run while in active service. Konsowa had tried to resign on several occasions previously, only for his resignation to be rejected. </p> <p>More prominent figures include Ahmed Shafik, the last Prime Minister of the Mubarak era and an ex-air force general, and Sami Anan, a former military chief. </p> <p>Upon announcing his intention to run, Shafik was promptly <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/12/ahmed-shafiq-arrested-deported-uae-171202144736270.html">deported</a> from the UAE and placed under house arrest. He later declared his <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42597803">withdrawal</a> from the race. </p> <p>Anan, on the other hand, was<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/egypt-election-sami-annan-ex-general-arrested-after-announcing-plan-to-run-presidency/"> arrested</a> on the 23 January 2018 after a brief statement issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) accusing him of violating military rules, and attempting to create a rift between the people and the military. Ironically, Anan had previously been a member of SCAF. </p> <p>This prompted Khaled Ali, the prominent human rights lawyer, and last real contender, to <a href="https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/2991245">pull out</a> of the race on the 24 January. It is important to note that he was facing possible disqualification due to a court verdict, currently under appeal, for an obscene gesture during a protest. </p> <p>On 26 January, El-Wafd Party, one of the Mubarak era parties with close links to the regime, <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1250321">declared</a> that its head, El Sayed El Badawi, would run as its candidate in the presidential elections, in an attempt to keep the multi-candidate nature of the election intact. </p> <p>Interestingly, the party had only declared its support for <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/1250566">Sisi 48 hours</a> prior to the declaration. The decision to run was justified as protection for the state, and the need to show political plurality. </p> <p>El Badawi was later forced to <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2018/01/27/%D8%AD%D8%B2%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D9%81%D8%AF-%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%81%D8%B6-%D8%B7%D9%84%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%B4%D8%AD-%D9%84%D8%B1%D8%A6%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1.html">withdraw</a> after internal resistance within the party. This forced the regime to call on another candidate, the head of the Ghad Party, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who is a known supporter of the President. Mousa <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/29/news/u/moussa-mostafa-delivers-candidacy-papers-7-minutes-before-nea-deadline/">submitted</a> the needed paper work seven minutes before the announced deadline. </p> <p>In <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/30/news/u/the-civil-democratic-movement-calls-for-election-boycott/">response</a> to this, the Civil Democratic Movement, a new loose coalition of opposition figures has called for an election boycott. A call that prompted a furious <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/02/03/news/u/alliance-calling-for-halting-of-egypts-upcoming-elections-expresses-concern-at-president-sisis-thinly-veiled-threats/">response</a> from the regime, with Sisi issuing thinly veiled threats of violence against the opposition and any attempts of mass protests, similar to the events of 2011.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The policy followed by the regime has turned the electoral process into a de-facto referendum</p> <p>The policy followed by the regime has turned the electoral process into a de-facto referendum rather than an election and it will have grave consequences for both the regime and the opposition.</p> <p>This development has regressed the Egyptian political system to the <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-2005-egyptian-elections-how-free-how-important/">2005 Presidential elections</a>, the last and only presidential election of the Mubarak era that allowed multiple candidates to run, which was arguably even more competitive that the current election. </p> <p>A clear message is being sent to the opposition still hoping to work legally within the system to bring about reform: the possibility of internal reform is futile. The opposition is being denied any attempts to contest elections and forced into direct street action.</p> <p>It is not the first time that the ramifications of working within the system are equated with illegal acts of opposition.</p> <p>The regime has already embarked on a <a href="https://egyptianstreets.com/2017/12/30/more-prison-sentences-fines-against-egypts-prominent-activists-lawyers/">campaign</a> of repression against the opposition, where a<a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/05/24/news/u/more-dostour-party-members-revolutionary-socialists-arrested/"> number</a> of secular party members were arrested for various charges, the most prominent of which include <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/05/16/news/u/party-member-referred-to-trial-another-arrested-for-insulting-president/">insulting the president</a>, affiliation with an outlawed group - a thinly veiled reference to the Muslim Brotherhood - and attempting to overthrow the regime. </p> <p>The most prominent case that provoked considerable outrage within the opposition is the case of <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/ar/2017/12/13/news/u/%D8%A5%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%85%D8%B1%D8%B9%D9%8A-%D8%AD%D9%83%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D8%A8%D8%B3-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%B1-3-%D8%B3%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA/">Islam Maraei</a>, the secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, who was arrested from his home on the 15 June 2017 and sentenced to three years on similar charges. </p> <p>By following this policy, the regime has not only closed public space, but de-incentivized the process of legal political participation, since the costs involved do not differ much from illegal protests and strikes outlawed under the notorious protest law. </p> <p>In essence, the strategy of the regime has shifted from the co-option of secular opposition, in an alliance against the Muslim Brotherhood, into direct repression. A process that has been ongoing since Sisi came to power, reaching its apex with the regression of the electoral process to a de-facto presidential referendum.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-left">the regime has not only closed public space, but de-incentivized the process of legal political participation</p> <p>The consequences for the regime are also significant. Due to the blatant manipulation of the electoral process, any semblance of legitimacy derived from the electoral process is bound to evaporate. </p> <p>This will place the regime in a more precarious positon, since its sole source of legitimacy is anchored in its ability to secure the country and develop the economy. </p> <p>However, considering the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/world/middleeast/mosque-attack-egypt.html">worsening security</a> and <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/12/analysis-egypt-economy-entered-vicious-circle-151203112708562.html">economic situation</a>, with more devastating terror attacks and increased economic hardships, one would expect increased discontent amongst the populace.</p> <p>This is also combined with the fact that the regime, unlike its predecessor, has failed to build a mass civilian party to act as a stabilising pillar.</p> <p>The regime has systematically alienated the civilian elites and business community, previous pillars of the Mubarak regime, as well as the security establishment and the judiciary. It has chosen instead to rely on a loose affiliation of independents for support in parliament in an informal coalition called Tahya Masr with no formal party structure.</p> <p>The military has <a href="http://carnegie-mec.org/2015/04/15/egyptian-armed-forces-and-remaking-of-economic-empire-pub-59726">aggressively expanded</a> its economic activity in a manner that has <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2014/06/24/military-crowds-out-civilian-business-in-egypt-pub-55996">affected the ability</a> of the private sector to compete. </p> <p>In terms of opposition within the security agencies, there have been a number of embarrassing leaks of recorded phone conversations, the latest of which shows the attempts by regime officials to manipulate public opinion to accept the move of the Israeli capital to Jerusalem. </p> <p>This was immediately followed by the <a href="http://www.cairo24.com/2018/01/16/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%b3%d9%89-%d9%8a%d8%ac%d8%b1%d9%89-%d8%ad%d8%b1%d9%83%d8%a9-%d8%aa%d8%ba%d9%8a%d9%8a%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d9%88%d8%a7%d8%b3%d8%b9%d8%a9-%d8%a8%d8%ac%d9%87%d8%a7%d8%b2-%d8%a7/">removal</a> of the head of the General Intelligence Agency (GIA) to be replaced with <a href="http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2018/01/18/%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D9%83%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%B9%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%B3-%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%84-%D8%A8%D8%AA%D8%B3%D9%8A%D9%8A%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%A7%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%85%D8%A9.html">Abass Kamel</a>, Sisi’s Chief-of-Staff, on a temporary basis. Fuelling speculation that the latest leaks were part of the power struggle between Sisi and the powerful GIA. </p> <p>There was also stiff opposition within the judiciary, which manifested itself in the case of the transfer of the two Red Sea islands, Tiran and Sanafir, from Egyptian to Saudi sovereignty. </p> <p>There are also some cases of opposition within the state apparatus, the most notable of which is the case of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/29/world/middleeast/egypt-hisham-geneina-jailed.html">Hesham Geneina,</a> the former head of the Central Auditing Agency, who released statements regarding corruption within Egypt’s state institutions. </p> <p>This allegation led to his dismissal as well as a suspended jail sentence of one year for spreading false news. It is worth mentioning that Sami Anan had mentioned that he would have selected Geneina as his deputy, occupying the positon of Vice President, had he won. </p> <p>Geneina was <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/01/29/news/u/lawyer-geneina-will-not-face-charges-following-saturday-assault/">attacked</a> after the arrest of Anan in what appears to be a fabricated traffic incident, and was detained in the police station for 4 hours, while injured, under the pretext of completing the investigation. </p> <p>By transforming the election into a de-facto referendum, the regime has removed the last fig leaf of claimed legitimacy. This move is bound to push the legal opposition away from working within the system to working outside it.</p> <p>In an attempt to centralize power, the regime is in the process of creating one unified enemy, an alliance between the disgruntled security and civilian elites as well as the opposition. If unified, they will be hard to tame.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/egypt-sisi-police-security-farafra-oasis-insurgent-terrorism">Egypt’s faltering counter-insurgency strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-torture-and-alienation">Pain, torture and alienation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/laying-foundations-for-totalitarian-state">Laying the foundations for a totalitarian state</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/franco-palazzi-michela-pusterla/giulio-regeni-murder-transnational-memory-egypt-italy">Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Conflict Democracy and government elections Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Tue, 06 Feb 2018 17:07:13 +0000 Maged Mandour 115969 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gene Sharp: freedom is out of the bottle https://www.opendemocracy.net/manuel-serrano/gene-sharp-freedom-is-out-of-bottle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dictators will sleep better now that Gene Sharp has left. But as long as people are not afraid of dictatorships, dictators will be in big trouble<em>. </em>In memoriam.<br /><em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-12215135.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/PA-12215135.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="314" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, on December 2, 2011. Burak Akbulut/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>“<em>Liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people's ability to liberate themselves</em>.” </p><p>- Gene Sharp, From Dictatorship to Democracy</p> <p>Hardly a revolutionary, Gene Sharp will be remembered as an inspiration for countless revolutions. A lifelong advocate of non-violent resistance, Sharp believed that the road towards freedom cannot be paved with violence. His strategy, outlined in “<a href="https://thenewpress.com/books/from-dictatorship-democracy">From Dictatorship to Democracy</a>”, has been adopted by insurgents everywhere. From the <a href="https://books.google.be/books?id=fy11AwAAQBAJ&amp;pg=PT336&amp;lpg=PT336&amp;dq=burmese+resistance+movement&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=qFV1nMHStC&amp;sig=2E1VZ8I18XJeZOc6VR5k-oKPwRs&amp;hl=es&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwi837XhgIrZAhVIbVAKHbBRCSwQ6AEIZDAK#v=onepage&amp;q=burmese%20resistance%20movement&amp;f=false">resistance in the Burmese</a> jungles to protestors in <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/12/ukraines-orange-revolution/305157/">Ukraine</a>; from dissidents in <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2012/06/23/world/gene-sharp-revolutionary/index.html">Cairo</a> to activists in the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/how-free-is-freedom-in-angola">outskirts of Luanda</a>. All of them have benefited from Gene´s Sharp ability to explore dictators’ worst nightmares. </p> <p>Sharp reasoned that autocracies are vulnerable because dictators are never <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/01/31/what-trump-could-learn-from-the-late-nonviolent-regime-change-guru-gene-sharp/?utm_term=.b10e6d3f8a0e">as strong as they think</a>. And people are never as weak as they think they are. Standing on the shoulders of Henry David <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/martin-luther-king-and-gandhi-werent-only-ones-inspired-thoreaus-civil-disobedience-180963972/">Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King</a>, he suggested that non-violent action is a viable alternative to violent conflict. Not for any moral reasons, but because when we choose violence we fight with our enemy´s best weapons; <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/obituaries/gene-sharp-global-guru-of-nonviolent-resistance-dies-at-90.html">violence generates violence</a>. Far from being a pacifist, he recognized that limited violence against dictatorial forces may sometimes be unavoidable. However, we should never rely on it deliberately. &nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Hardly a revolutionary, Gene Sharp will be remembered as an inspiration for countless revolutions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The central point of his philosophy is that non-violent resistance <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/your-democracy/2013/01/gene-sharp-machiavelli-non-violence">draws its strength from human nature</a>. From our capacity to fight for what we believe in and <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/your-democracy/2013/01/gene-sharp-machiavelli-non-violence">be stubborn</a>. But he was quick to point out that there´s no such thing as a universal formula to challenge oppression. Strategies vary from region to region and from case to case. </p> <p>The tactics adopted in the Burmese jungles differed substantially from the ones used during the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/magazine/how-egypts-activists-became-generation-jail.html">pro-democracy uprising in Egypt</a>. The <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2004/12/ukraines-orange-revolution/305157/">Orange</a> Revolution in Ukraine had little in common with the Occupy Movement in the United States, which was established to <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/11/28/pre-occupied">fight a different kind of injustice</a>. Aware of the differences, Sharp <a href="https://www.aeinstein.org/nonviolentaction/198-methods-of-nonviolent-action/">identified 198 methods of non-violent action</a>, clustered according to the level of risk and preparation associated with them.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">No external forces will fight their struggle for freedom; it´s up to societies to defend themselves.&nbsp;</p> <p>These so-called non-violent ‘weapons’ depart from the assumption that dictators are empowered by the <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/your-democracy/2013/01/gene-sharp-machiavelli-non-violence">willing obedience of their subjects</a>. Every oppressed people should use them because no external forces will fight their struggle for freedom; it´s up to societies to defend themselves. This point was made several times. But no case was <a href="http://www.dw.com/pt-002/angola-a-homenagem-dos-152-a-gene-sharp/a-42438665">more emblematic for me than Angola</a>. A kleptocratic and corrupt regime, where <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/angola">elections are hardly free</a> and freedom of expression should <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/demand-release-of-luaty-beirao-and-angola15/">never be taken for granted</a>, reminded us that the best way to defeat dictatorships is to empower people. Not give them weapons.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/800px-Occupy_London_Tent.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/800px-Occupy_London_Tent.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tents in front of St Paul’s, London Sunday 16th October 2011. Neil Cummings/Flickr. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>It all started when fifteen Angolan activists <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/how-free-is-freedom-in-angola">were arrested in Luanda</a>. They were accused of attempting to disrupt public order and security. However, their real crime was reading an abridged translation of Sharp´s “<a href="http://www.aeinstein.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/FDTD.pdf">From Dictatorship to Democracy</a>”. The activists logically disputed the accusations: they were meeting to discuss politics and address the inexistent protection of human rights in Angola. For that, they were placed in preventive detention for more than ninety days, beyond the legal limit.</p> <p>I was amongst those who <a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-luaty-beirao">followed the case closely</a>. And I was one of the thousands who bought a book that apparently gives dictators nightmares. Luaty Beirão, one of the activists and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/angola-rapper-hunger-strike-luaty-beirao-interview">a child of the regime</a>, had by then read it. To protest the lack of a trial date, he <a href="http://time.com/4072627/angola-rapper-luaty-beirao-hunger-strike-ikonoklasta/">started a hunger strike</a>. Making good use of one of the techniques enumerated by Gene Sharp in his book, he soon <a href="https://www.makaangola.org/en/page/3/?s=+Luaty+Beir%C3%A3o">attracted the attention</a> of international media and <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/angola-prisoner-of-conscience-in-critical-condition-must-be-released-immediately/">international NGOs</a>.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Dictators are never&nbsp;as strong as they think. And people are never as weak as they think they are.&nbsp;</p> <p>For once, people took a closer look at the <em>real </em>Angola. They looked beyond Luanda´s gated communities. Beyond the oil and the diamonds. They looked beyond a <em>respectable autocracy</em> and found a corrupt regime willing to imprison activists for reading a book.</p> <p>The mask fell, as Luaty Beirão wrote when he <a href="http://expresso.sapo.pt/sociedade/2015-10-27-Luaty-Beirao-termina-greve-de-fome-A-mascara-ja-caiu.-A-vitoria-ja-aconteceu">ended his hunger strike</a>. Rather than frightening Angolans, the decision to imprison the activists and harass human rights defenders had the opposite effect. People lost their fear and showed their <a href="https://www.musicinafrica.net/magazine/jailed-angolan-rapper-luaty-hunger-strike-ahead-trial">support for the jailed activists</a>. And in Portugal, where politicians traditionally <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/03/angola-dissidents-portugal-protest">look the other way</a> when Angola and human rights are used in the same sentence, public figures <a href="https://www.publico.pt/2015/11/15/culturaipsilon/noticia/ricardo-araujo-pereira-julio-pomar-e-gisela-joao-leem-o-livro-que-angola-teme-1714489/amp">read fragments of Gene Sharp´s book in theatres</a> and bookshops. Suddenly, everyone cared about Angola. A book deemed subversive sent shockwaves around the world; and did more for Angolans than <a href="https://sites.tufts.edu/atrocityendings/2015/08/07/angola-civil-war/">decades of civil war and violence</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Activistas_no_tribunal,_Luaty_Beirão,_VOA_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557099/Activistas_no_tribunal,_Luaty_Beirão,_VOA_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Detained activists at the court, in the middle (behind) you can see Luaty Beirão. Coque Mukuta/Voice of America. Public Domain.</span></span></span></p><p>Their peaceful protest demonstrated that ideas and non-violent action can pierce the curtain of respectability and expose the dictators’ true nature. Angolans are yet to become free to decide what they want for their future. However, things have changed since Luaty decided to start his hunger strike. The man who ruled the country for almost <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-angola-power-transfer-20170926-story.html">forty years is no longer President</a>. And a <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/3c08d3fe-c3cd-11e7-a1d2-6786f39ef675">door for meaningful change is opening</a>. </p> <p>Gene Sharp contributed to the change we are witnessing in Angola. And changed the lives of millions of people by revolutionizing the way we think and what we do in pursuit of freedom. However, his most important teaching was not that non-violent struggle always works; but that it is when people learn how to struggle that freedom eventually appears on the horizon. As he said during his <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/even-nord-rydningen/gene-out-of-bottle-interview-with-dr-gene-sharp-author-of-from-dict">interview at openDemocracy</a>, once the genie is out of the bottle, it cannot be put back inside.</p> <p>It is the tacit or explicit agreement of people that keeps dictators in power. Not military strength. Dictators everywhere will sleep better now that Gene Sharp has left. But as long as people are not afraid of dictatorships, we can remain confident that they will still be<em> in big trouble.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/timothy-gee/remembering-gene-sharp-philosopher-of-non-violent-action">How to start a revolution - remembering Gene Sharp</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/even-nord-rydningen/gene-out-of-bottle-interview-with-dr-gene-sharp-author-of-from-dict">Gene out of the bottle: an interview with Dr Gene Sharp, author of &#039;From Dictatorship to Democracy&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/manuel-nunes-ramires-serrano/how-free-is-freedom-in-angola">How free is freedom in Angola?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/what-makes-nonviolent-movements-explode">What makes nonviolent movements explode?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/non-violence-against-nazis-interview-with-george-paxton">Resisting the Nazis in numerous ways: nonviolence in occupied Europe</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Angola </div> <div class="field-item even"> Portugal </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Egypt Portugal Angola Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano Mon, 05 Feb 2018 18:47:26 +0000 Manuel Nunes Ramires Serrano 115965 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What remains of democracy? Egypt, Italy and ‘the lesser evil’ after Giulio Regeni https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/guido-rampoldi/what-remains-of-democracy-egypt-italy-and-lesser-evil-after-giulio-regeni <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A thesis circulating for some time seeks the secret of the 28-year-old's death, not in the Al-Sisi regime, but for example in Cambridge. This is a dangerous distraction. <a href="https://www.pressreader.com/italy/il-fatto-quotidiano/20180123/281517931542206">Italiano.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25519213.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25519213.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protest demanding justice for the death of Giulio Regeni and other victims of the Al Sisi government in Egypt. Rome, Italy, on February 13, 2016. Ronchini Andrea/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Two years after the murder of Giulio Regeni, the truth finally seems at hand. Or at least we know where to look for it: in the murky academic environments of the University of Cambridge which cynically used the researcher, Giulio Regeni, to build a pro-Islamist conspiracy, perhaps even an anti-Italian conspiracy. </p> <p>The fact that Regeni was killed in Cairo and not in Cambridge might be thought to be relevant, but even on that front as well, there is good news: the Egyptian Prosecutor, spurred on by the Italian government, has forwarded important papers to Rome, thus proving – as Interior Minister Minniti avows – the will of Al-Sisi to cooperate in the quest for the truth, from which clearly Field Marshal Sisi has nothing to fear. </p> <p>This is roughly the sum of what has been read and heard in recent days, and it is enough to urgently ask the question which for two years has been hovering over this all-but-obscure affair: does Italy still have a news media, or has it decided stoically to do without? Retracing the contortions that Italian journalism has been capable of, we might well say the latter.</p> <p>The arrest and murder of Giulio Regeni are overall uncomplicated, transparent events. Apparently reported on by an informant to the Egyptian secret services out of personal revenge or due to some misunderstanding, Regeni was arrested on the day most feared by the regime – January 25, the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, later extinguished by the coup of 2013 – and in the vicinity of a highly symbolic place, Tahrir Square, where the Uprising began<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>. </p> <p>The security apparatus that held the researcher tortured him for seven days and finally deliberately ended his life (with a karate chop, as the autopsy ascertained), probably to avoid him recounting what he had suffered. It is probable that the elimination of a westerner required the authorization of al-Sisi himself. In any case, the regime has been immovable in refusing to accept blame for that death. But after many uncouth lies, when it finally decided to concoct a convincing version of events, it ended up exposing itself. At the end of March 2016, almost two months after Giulio Regeni’s death, the police blamed the murder on five Egyptians who died in a strange 'gunfight' with security agents.</p> <p>However, when the Italian embassy and the Regeni family lawyer, the combative Alessandra Ballerini, scrutinised events, it emerged that the researcher’s documents – which according to the regime had been found in the home of one of the Egyptians killed and which were thereby deemed to provide 'proof' of their responsibility – had in fact been planted there by a police officer. An officer whose name the Rome Public Prosecutor has since discovered.</p> <p>This stunning own goal forced the Italian media and its many ‘muses’ to abandon the thesis which had until then been advanced by major newspapers and news outlets: namely that Regeni had been killed by enemies of Italy and of al-Sisi in order to ruin the fruitful friendship that has been woven between Rome and Cairo. Al-Sisi himself had made this narrative his own in an interview with <em>La Repubblica </em>(Italy’s second largest broadsheet) in which he recalled the many reasons that made this friendship precious to Italy, from <a href="https://www.eni.com/en_IT/company/international-presence.page">ENI's</a> gas fields to Egypt’s influence in Eastern Libya, as well as the mutual friendship and esteem that bound him personally to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.</p> <p>At the time, almost all Italian news media aligning themselves with Renzi’s position, ENI became a great publicist, and in the eyes of many journalists al-Sisi still appeared to be the 'lesser evil', a 'pro-Western' tyrant who keeps 'the Muslims' at bay with an unavoidable brutality. The sum of these factors resulted in highly selective news, built on the refusal to acknowledge the relation between Giulio Regeni’s murder and the methods of a putchist regime which had announced itself to the world by massacring 1,200 demonstrators and butchering hundreds more within its torture chambers.</p> <p>Yet our sole interest must be confined to the death of Giulio Regeni, at least officially. So, if for example al-Sisi were to hand over three unsavoury types, we would return to greeting him, as Renzi did, as 'great friend', a 'statesman', and a 'saviour of the Mediterranean'. But since even this tactical withdrawal does not seem to be in the intentions of the regime, it is becoming complicated for the Italian government to reconcile two clearly contrasting goals, namely not to irritate Cairo while simultaneously pretending to maintain its commitment to an unfailing desire for truth.</p> <p>This is the context in which what we might call 'the Cambridge hypothesis' emerges. Espoused by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and by Foreign Minister Angelo Alfano in a thundering volley of pronouncements, it suggests that Regeni's PhD supervisor has hidden the secret of his death, now presumed to be a conspiratorial masterplan lubricated by ten thousand pounds. There are nebulous investigative accounts which allude to this, in which whatever seems certain in the first paragraph becomes highly doubtful by the third. </p> <p>Instead, even a basic knowledge of Egypt would suggest that the only context in which a conspiracy against Sisi can really take shape is at the summit of the military regime, which is certainly not within the reach of Cambridge academics. But presenting Regeni as the victim of some sort of score-settling between Egyptian secret services<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> appears to diminish the scandal of his death. </p> <p>And shifting attention to the 'university track' helps justify al-Sisi’s return as our valued interlocutor<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. In December, Italian newspapers reported without betraying even the least hesitation, that the dictator expressed to the Minister of the Interior Minniti his "sincere wish" to obtain "definitive results" in the investigation. </p> <p>In turn, Minniti stuck to the script: he reiterated that Italy "demands the truth" and hailed the delivery of new documents to Italian investigators as proof of renewed collaboration. There was little of substance in those documents, but this fact was withheld from the media’s trusting readers. </p> <p>The important thing was for the farce to continue, since nobody knows how to close it down. But when information becomes theatre by commission, when it is reduced to the recitation of texts suggested by powerful patrons, or at least a docile instrument of the system<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>, what remains of a democracy?</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Protests started in the areas surrounding Cairo’s city centre, and elsewhere across the country – protests were unprecedented both in scale and in their nationwide geographical coverage.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> One of the early ‘theories’ explaining Giulio Regeni’s death was that part of Egypt’s intelligence services wanted to discredit Sisi, and killed Regeni as a way of embarrassing him before Italian authorities (an Italian trade delegation was in Cairo the day his body was found). This theory originated in the Egyptian press, and has all the hallmarks of disinformation typically seeded by regimes like Egypt’s.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> This is a reference to the highly controversial decision by the Rome government to return the Italian ambassador to Cairo – a decision announced on August 14th, perhaps Italy’s biggest public holiday, when nearly everyone is on holiday and few people are following the news. It should be noted that the decision was announced to the Regeni family a mere 15 minutes before it was officially communicated.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> The original says “sistema-Paese”, literally “system-Country”, which here means something similar to the Arabic <em>nizaam</em> (regime, system). The meaning is a corporatist management of all aspects of a country’s economic and public life.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><em><span>This piece by Guido Rampoldi, published in its original version in&nbsp;</span></em><span>Il Fatto Quotidiano</span><em><span>, <span>on January 23, 2018, is translated into English by Andrea Teti, published here by kind permission of the author.<br /></span></span></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/franco-palazzi-michela-pusterla/giulio-regeni-murder-transnational-memory-egypt-italy">Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Italy Egypt Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Guido Rampoldi Thu, 25 Jan 2018 09:10:02 +0000 Guido Rampoldi 115815 at https://www.opendemocracy.net You've kept your power, Arab rulers, but at what cost? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/nabil-echchaibi/power-arab-revolution-middle-east-austerity-protest <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Let us never forget that those who make peaceful uprisings impossible will eventually make violent revolution irresistible.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-13824330_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-13824330_0.jpg" alt="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 15, 2012. AA/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Seven years after the Arab uprisings, the political and socio-economic conditions in many Arab countries remain dire, if not more disastrous.</p> <p>In Tunisia, the cradle of that popular revolt, impoverished youth, facing tremendous austerity measures, issue desperate calls like “Employ us or kill us”.</p> <p>Close by on the Mediterranean, hundreds of marginalized young Moroccans have been jailed for rising up against corruption, severe unemployment, and poor social welfare infrastructure.&nbsp;</p> <p>Egypt has reverted to a vicious military rule. Syria is mired in an endless bloody war. Libya is a political disaster. Yemen is in the grip of a savage war between rebels and a hawkish Saudi Arabia, and Gulf dictatorships are blissfully the same.&nbsp;</p> <p>Wherever you look, the light is dim.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This is undoubtedly a damning portrait of a region with rich human and natural resources but where hardship is a way of life.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are 105 million Arabs between the age of 15-29 but they <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/02/01/arab-fractures-citizens-states-and-social-contracts-pub-66612">face</a> an abysmal 35 percent unemployment rate, 20-40 percent illiteracy in some countries, increasing armed conflicts accounting for 17 percent of all conflicts in the world, a heightened likelihood of forced displacement, and poverty levels reaching 30 percent in some cases.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the land where a crown prince can go on a <a href="https://www.salon.com/2017/12/16/heir-apparent-to-saudi-throne-on-billion-dollar-shopping-spree/">$1.5 billion-spending spree</a> to buy a yacht, a Da Vinci painting, and a French castle in a few days while scores of poor Arabs self-immolate in public to protest their utter precarity, their dispensability, their social death.</p> <p>Between the horrid extravagance of the prince and the piercing despair of the self-immolator, life with dignity is extremely difficult, if not impossible.&nbsp;</p> <p>As we pause this month to reflect on the legacy of these historic uprisings, we must remember not to simply idolize the heroic acts of the Bouazizis of the revolution with clichéd slogans and vapid ceremonies.</p> <p>We must re-center their ultimate sacrifice and demand accountability from leaders who govern by brutal decrees and paralyzing fear.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">suicide by self-immolation in Tunisia alone has tripled since 2010</p> <p>An honest celebration of the Arab Spring means eliminating the very edifice that produces citizen suicide in the first place.</p> <p>Since Bouazizi torched himself on that fateful day in December 2010, hundreds across the Arab world have committed similar acts in public for the same reasons. According to a recent <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305417916300912">study</a>, suicide by self-immolation in Tunisia alone has tripled since 2010 and affects most frequently young unemployed men.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Seven years after the uprisings, much of the social energy of the average Arab is spent trying to cope with this dehumanization in the face of police states, lack of freedom, and poor economic prospects exacerbated by a neoliberal order that favors shopping malls to public schools and fancy resorts to hospitals.&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides the monstrous despotism in all Arab countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/17/imf-tunisia-people-rioting-2011-economic-reforms">demand</a> tighter fiscal austerity which means further wiping out the scarce social welfare benefits the poor depend on for survival.</p> <p>In Egypt, ironically, the minister of solidarity recently <a href="http://www.mepc.org/commentary/egypt-promises-austerity-imf-loan">announced</a> deep cuts in vital government subsidies on fuel and food to secure a $12-billion loan from the IMF. The same heartless calculus of global capitalism that forced millions of Arabs into city squares&nbsp;in 2011 is returning as a farce under the garb of “helpful” austerity measures.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile and with no economic or political alternative in sight, more Arabs brave the treacherous seas for a chance of salvation. According to a Carnegie <a href="http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/02/01/arab-fractures-citizens-states-and-social-contracts-pub-66612">study</a>, 17 million Arabs have left their homes. And half of the refugees in the world are Arab because 143 million people in the region live under war or occupation.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The gains of the Arab Spring are unfortunately dwarfed by the haunting memories they left behind. The chilling <a href="https://medium.com/@izzytomicoellis/two-years-after-alan-kurdi-died-i-almost-long-for-the-days-of-freezing-children-and-their-a4473177c22a">picture</a> of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian boy whose lifeless body washed out on the shores of the Mediterranean in 2015 should haunt our existence as we ponder the futility of our indignation.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf8DIlZThjg">video</a> of five-year-old Bouthania al-Rimi, a beautiful Yemeni girl who lost her mother, father, and six siblings in a Saudi overnight air strike on her residential building just a few months ago should shake us out from the idleness of our Twitter outrage. Her eyes were so bruised from the attack she couldn’t even open them to see her rescuers.</p> <p>Three entire families perished that night and the world barely noticed. More Arab kids are traumatized that a Syrian neuropsychologist recently <a href="https://www.globalresearch.ca/war-crimes-against-syrias-children-human-devastation-syndrome-syrian-doctor-coins-new-term-for-childrens-extreme-war-trauma/5577017">coined</a> a new condition to capture their boundless pain: “Human Devastation Syndrome”.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">a Syrian neuropsychologist recently&nbsp;coined&nbsp;a new condition: “Human Devastation Syndrome”</p> <p>This is how cheap Arab life has become. This is the deplorable situation of the wretched of the Arab world. How much more can the human spirit tolerate in the midst of this degradation and humiliation?</p> <p>Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe <a href="https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230584334_9">talks</a> about a new form of sovereignty he calls necropower, the capacity of a minority to decide who deserves to live and who can be left to die, who matters and who does not, who is disposable and superfluous and who is not.</p> <p>Today, rogue leaders and vile economic logics have that power to castigate people to zones of non-being, non-living. Arab life now exists mainly in bursts of pain, atrophy, and perpetual anger. Death itself is now both the manifestation of this form of domination and a desperate tool of resistance. This is unsustainable.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Arab Spring was a beautiful display of a downtrodden people peacefully rising up against this kind of cruel power. Let us not sully their legacy with silence or tamed commemoration, lest we consign them to the bins of fleeting history. And let us never forget that those who make peaceful uprisings impossible will eventually make violent revolution irresistible.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/lakhdar-ghettas/tunisian-revolution-seven-years-on">The Tunisian revolution seven years on</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/esraa-abdel-fattah/egypt-character-assassination-as-weapon">Egypt: character assassination as a weapon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sameh-naguib/sisi-s-neoliberal-assault-context-and-prospects">Sisi’s neoliberal assault: context and prospects</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/revolutionary-arena-battle-of-minds">The revolutionary arena: a battle of minds</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sameh-naguib/from-end-of-one-revolutionary-wave-to-preparing-for-another">From the end of one revolutionary wave to preparing for another</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/nabil-echchaibi/waiting-for-arab-intellectuals">Where are you, Arab intellectuals?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti-gennaro-gervasio/egypt-and-arab-uprisings">Egypt and the Arab uprisings</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Bahrain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Libya </div> <div class="field-item even"> Morocco </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Morocco Libya Bahrain Yemen Syria Saudi Arabia Egypt Tunisia Conflict Democracy and government Revolution Right to the city Violent transitions Nabil Echchaibi Thu, 25 Jan 2018 07:55:19 +0000 Nabil Echchaibi 115814 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering against the tide: Giulio Regeni and the transnational horizons of memory https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/franco-palazzi-michela-pusterla/giulio-regeni-murder-transnational-memory-egypt-italy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Two years&nbsp;after the murder of Giulio Regeni, the call for truth and justice has yet to be answered.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/13177205_1068964936483030_6630101562124441998_n copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/13177205_1068964936483030_6630101562124441998_n copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Berlin mural for Giulio Regeni, by El Teneen.</span></span></span>On January 25th, 2016 Giulio Regeni, a young Italian graduate student at Cambridge, was kidnapped by local security forces, who later tortured and killed him. Right after, a transnational campaign asking for truth and justice was launched by Regeni’s fellows at Cambridge, his family, and the Italian Section of Amnesty International, while Rome and Cairo attorneys began their investigations – which are now stuck in the mud: two years later, the call for truth and justice has yet to be answered.</p> <h3><strong>Identity</strong></h3> <p>Giulio Regeni was an Italian PhD candidate at Cambridge, who moved to Cairo for his fieldwork, researching independent trade unions, especially that of street vendors, in post-2011 Egypt. After disappearing on January 25th, 2016 — on the anniversary of the beginning of the 2011 uprisings<strong> </strong>— his tortured corpse was found on February 3rd, on the outskirts of Cairo. Despite several implausible and toxic narrations, fabricated by Egyptian investigators and reported by some Italian media, all the evidence collected so far by <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-regeni-exclusive/exclusive-egyptian-police-detained-italian-student-before-his-murder-sources-idUSKCN0XI1YU"><span>independent media investigations</span></a>, scholarly analyses, and a <em>New York Times</em><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/magazine/giulio-regeni-italian-graduate-student-tortured-murdered-egypt.html"><span> </span><span>reportage</span></a> unanimously points to the conclusion that Regeni was tortured and killed by Egyptian security services.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Political violence is one of the few available ways for the regime to show its waning sovereignty&nbsp;</p><p>Since al-Sisi’s military coup in 2013, Egypt - having a long history of human rights violations by its authorities - experienced a further increase in repressive measures, with tens of thousands of people <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/joe-stork/egypt%E2%80%99s-political-prisoners"><span>held in custody as political opponents</span></a>, a massive recourse to <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/06/egypt-torture-epidemic-may-be-crime-against-humanity"><span>torture </span></a>and <a href="https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170807-254-cases-of-enforced-disappearance-in-egypt-since-the-beginning-of-2017/"><span>enforced disappearances</span></a>, and a widespread lack of <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2016/10/20/news/u/egypt-ranks-last-in-region-for-rule-of-law-world-justice-project-index/"><span>rule of law</span></a>. The development of a paranoid and media-induced xenophobia has been part and parcel of such a process (<a href="http://ilmegafonoquotidiano.it/libri/giulio-regeni-le-verit%C3%A0-ignorate"><span>Declich 2016</span></a>: 79-84). As argued by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-and-torture-state-violence-in-egypt"><span>Mage</span><span>d</span></a><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-and-torture-state-violence-in-egypt"><span> Mandour</span></a>, the current expansion of coercive apparatuses and increasingly frequent use of torture has reached such an extent to become partly counterproductive: like a ritual display of power, the use of political violence is one of the few available ways for the regime to show its waning sovereignty (cf. <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/walled-states-waning-sovereignty"><span>Brown 2010</span></a>; <a href="http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol5no1_2006/wadiwel_blood.htm"><span>Wadivel 2006</span></a>).</p> <p>Giulio Regeni was a polyglot, well-travelled, cosmopolitan Italian citizen, and Cambridge PhD student. As we have already shown in an<a href="http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/01/a-mysterious-death-both-forgotten-and-remembered/"><span> </span><span>article</span></a> from last year, Regeni’s identity would have placed him in a high position in what, following Judith Butler (<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/112-precarious-life"><span>2004</span></a>; <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2148-frames-of-war"><span>2009</span></a>), we may call the hierarchies of grief, potentially making him a perfect martyr for the so called <a href="http://www.publicseminar.org/2015/11/for-the-last-time-the-west/"><span>w</span><span>estern </span></a>public sphere - while Egyptian victims aren’t. However, reality didn’t really confirm this expectation. Being a liminal and polyhedral figure, Regeni couldn’t fit univocal narratives and illegitimate appropriations. His leftism prevented the nationalist reduction; his “exceptionally brilliant” intellectual career abroad hampered the national-popular elaboration, while the appropriation “from the left” was prevented by the fragmentation of the Italian institutional left, the indifference of the Italian Democratic Party, and the biographical absence of Regeni from the recent history of Italian social movements.</p> <p>This difficulty of appropriation went hand in hand with one of signification. From a western perspective, Regeni’s death didn’t take place within a context of war or struggle: his family and fellows had no immediate horizon of meaning according to which to signify his death. However, there was no similar difficulty for Egyptian activists, who immediately traced the murderers’ profiles and appropriated Regeni’s death as that of “<a href="https://anotherscratchinthewall.com/2016/05/12/giulio-regeni-an-egyptian-like-us-interview-to-el-teneen-naguib-and-iahmed/"><span>one of us</span></a>”, one of the “<a href="http://amroali.com/2016/04/giulio-italians-egypt/"><span>martyrs of the Egyptian revolution</span></a>.” Nonetheless, when some awareness of the responsibility of the Egyptian government reached the Italian shores, two parallel processes of signification took place: Regeni became either a “hero” (e.g. [<a href="https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2017/09/04/paolo-virzi-dal-festival-di-venezia-rilancia-la-causa-di-giulio-regeni-la-bandiera-italiana-e-macchiata-di-sangue-lui-e-un-nostro-eroe/3834528/"><span>1</span></a>]; [<a href="http://italians.corriere.it/2016/02/09/giulio-regeni-e-un-eroe-moderno/"><span>2</span></a>]; [<a href="http://www.linkiesta.it/it/article/2017/09/23/il-caso-regeni-e-lesempio-di-questa-italia-che-chiagne-e-se-ne-fotte/35591/"><span>3</span></a>]) or “victim” (e.g. [<a href="http://www.lastampa.it/2016/02/16/italia/cronache/giulio-regeni-vittima-di-una-guerra-tra-gli-apparati-del-cairo-i-due-scenari-degli-Cn8Aml37tSZhEc73yOFXBM/pagina.html"><span>1</span></a>]; [<a href="http://www.liberoquotidiano.it/news/sfoglio/12286370/toni-capuozzo--giulio-regeni-chi-lo-ha-mandato-allo-sbaraglio.html"><span>2</span></a>]; [<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPxmqz1rBpw"><span>3</span></a>]). As a hero, he was celebrated for his academic achievements, within a “self-made man” rhetorical framework: in other words, this process created a single “hero” abstracted from the context, thus inhibiting a political understanding of his death. On the other hand, the idea of Regeni as a victim spread widely. This narrative, which was not wrong in itself, had nonetheless<strong> </strong>dangerous implications: it implemented a semantic shift, according to which the researcher was no longer a victim only because he had been tortured and killed without fault (as he actually was), but also because he had been “unable to save himself.”</p> <p>A victimisation of this kind was all but innocent, since in many cases it coincided with the reassertion of the untenable (e.g. <a href="http://www.castelvecchieditore.com/prodotto/antonella-beccaria-gigi-marcucci-morire-al-cairo/"><span>Beccaria and Marcucci 2016</span></a>)<strong> </strong>account claiming that Regeni, despite his good faith, had been used as an “<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.it/2016/04/22/giulio-regeni_n_9760078.html"><span>unaware spy</span></a>” by a vague array of subjects (Cambridge university, British secret services…) supposedly interested in <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2017/11/02/news/regeni_cambridge-179993364/"><span>collecting the information</span></a> he was putting together <a href="http://www.ispionline.it/it/pubblicazione/giulio-regeni-un-anno-dopo-la-verita-prende-forma-16254"><span>for his doctoral dissertation</span></a>. Such a narrative process (Regeni killed as a fatality of a “bigger game”) was accompanied by a process of feminisation - or at least de-virilisation - of the figure of the researcher. This shift has been made possible by a series of traits that may fall within the cultural sphere of “weakness:” his being young, intellectual, precarious researcher (therefore poor), left-wing, and victim of <a href="http://espresso.repubblica.it/internazionale/2017/02/10/news/caso-regeni-parla-mohamed-abdallah-l-uomo-che-denuncio-giulio-1.295204"><span>betrayal </span></a>(by the double-jeweler trade unionist Mohammed Abdallah). It should be added that this narration comes from people who embody in various ways its antithesis, observing Regeni with paternalistic compassion - especially in the Italian public sphere, where the leading role of Regeni’s parents implies for many people the presentation of the researcher always as “someone’s son,” and not as an autonomous subject.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The portrait painted by Egyptian activists was more faithful to his person than its Italian mainstream counterpart</p> <p lang="en-GB">While several Italian depictions of Regeni failed to truly represent his identity precisely because they abstracted his figure from the necessary background, the portrait painted by Egyptian activists was more faithful to his person than its Italian mainstream counterpart. This very fact opened the possibility of a radical remembrance, one that could simultaneously ask for truth and justice for Regeni and for Egyptians’ lives, making them grieveable — and politically meaningful — even from a western standpoint. It was there that Regeni’s case started revealing its critical potential.</p> <h3><strong>Normalisation</strong></h3> <p lang="en-GB">As early as last January <a href="http://www.publicseminar.org/2017/01/a-mysterious-death-both-forgotten-and-remembered/"><span>we noticed</span></a> how the memory of the researcher drawn up by Egyptian activists was more faithful and respectful of his figure than the sometimes grotesque distortions proposed by the Italian media. Precisely in this element we have seen the possibility of a radical use of memory - that is, of remembering Giulio without obliterating the analogous fate of the many Egyptian victims - through the notion of <em>exemplarity</em>, in the light of which the example belongs to a class, but while it exhibits and delimits it, it extends beyond its margins, thus coming to adjoin with the twin concept of exception (cf. <a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=2003"><span>Agamben 1998</span></a>: 20-27). In other words: Regeni perfectly exemplified the violence of the repressive al-Sisi regime, but at the same time its western status made him an exception in the endless list of victims. Because of this exceptionality, its exemplary nature was increased: neither his passport, nor the colour of his skin, nor his affiliation to one of the most prestigious universities in the world <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/jack-shenker/send-them-to-egypt"><span>have prevented</span></a> the ordinary violence of Egyptian security apparatuses from knocking on Regeni. Hence the evocative potential of his figure for local activists. However, since January 2016, such a possibility for a radical use of memory has been curtailed, as we have seen, on both sides of the Mediterranean. Italian and Egyptian governments and diplomacies seemed, and still seem, to ignore Regeni’s case almost as much as they ignore the local victims.</p> <p>Over the past year, a progressive normalisation of the diplomatic relations between the two countries<strong> </strong>took place. Italy’s only diplomatic action against Egypt – the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/08/italy-recalls-ambassador-egypt-talks-death-student-giulio-regeni"><span>recall</span></a> of the Italian ambassador in Cairo, Maurizio Massari, in April 2016 – was later cancelled by a <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/08/14/news/u/italy-to-return-ambassador-to-egypt-ending-diplomatic-pressure-over-regenis-death/"><span>replacement</span></a>: ambassador Giampaolo Cantini landed in Cairo on September, 14th 2017. The restoration of the <em>status quo ante</em> was explained by the members of the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNn8scjolSk"><span>Italian Foreign Affairs parliamentary Commissions</span></a> with these words: “Human rights cannot overly affect our international relations, otherwise we should review diplomatic relations with dozens of states.” The re-normalisation of diplomatic relations was also legitimised by recalling Italian economic and geopolitical interests in Egypt. The central point in this connection is the Libyan question and the so-called “European migration crisis”, as shown by the parallel evolution of the two dossiers over this last summer.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The quest for truth about Regeni’s killing is traded for the faculty to realise a work of collective amnesia on a large scale</p><p>If Renzi’s cabinet (2014-2016) had already promoted agreements to stop migratory flows through Niger, current Minister of the Interior <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/europe/italy-marco-minniti-migration.html"><span>Minniti </span></a>recently orchestrated a drastic extension of the strategy to Libya (and again Niger), also<strong> </strong>signing a neocolonial <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-italy-libya/italy-eu-prep-aid-for-libyas-fight-against-people-smuggling-idUSKBN16R1WP"><span>agreement </span></a>with Serraj’s <a href="https://sea-watch.org/en/update-evidence-for-reckless-behavior-of-libyan-coast-guards/"><span>Coast Guard</span></a>, who are <a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/11/25/libya-coast-guard-europe-refugees/"><span>quite close</span></a> to the traffickers themselves. Considering both Serraj’s weakness and General Haftar’s power in the eastern region of Libya, Italy needed Sisi to intercede with Haftar, to fully control migrant policies in Libya. Every transnational encounter between Egyptian and Italian authorities would end with some empty rhetorical words on the Regeni case: Egyptians would reaffirm their willingness to collaborate, Italians would renew their confidence in Cairo investigators. As powerfully <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/09/07/opinion/u/the-thread-between-giulio-regeni-and-italys-migration-deal/"><span>summarised</span></a> by Mattia Toaldo, “Italy gave up the search for truth about a murder to reduce the influx of migrants.” In this connection, the shocking human rights violations taking place in Libya, with the <a href="https://d21zrvtkxtd6ae.cloudfront.net/public/uploads/2017/12/12092513/rapporto-libia-en.pdf"><span>demonstrated collusion</span></a> of Italian and European authorities, show us a depressing scenario: the quest for truth about Regeni’s killing is traded for the faculty to realise a work of collective amnesia on a large scale - an amnesia of all the lives upset or lost in the Mediterranean, or at the periphery of the empire. </p> <p lang="en-GB">After the <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/11/24/feature/politics/large-scale-militant-attack-kills-and-injures-worshippers-in-sinai/"><span>Sinai mosque attack</span></a> in November 2017, the rhetorics of Sisi as an hero of the western “war against terrorism” was boosted. According to right-wing senator <a href="http://nena-news.it/giulio-regeni-procede-la-normalizzazione-tra-italia-ed-egitto/"><span>Maurizio Gasparri</span></a>, Egypt is “an ally under terrorist attack” and “it is useless and self-destructive to continue with <em>demagogic propaganda speeches</em>, while not acting in concrete support of the Egyptians” - where the <em>propaganda speeches</em> are those asking for truth and justice in the Regeni case.</p> <p lang="en-GB">In the meantime, the economic relations between the two countries continued successfully: in the first three months of 2017 they recorded a<a href="https://global.ilmanifesto.it/egypt-italy-increasing-business/"><span> </span><span>30% increase</span></a> in trade – without considering the energy sector, while Eni (once the National Hydrocarbons Authority, now a multinational company) opened the<a href="https://www.eni.com/en_IT/operations/upstream/exploration-model/zohr-egypt.page"><span> </span><span>Zohr gas field</span></a>, a huge gas site off the Egyptian coast, discovered just after Regeni’s death and worth <a href="http://espresso.repubblica.it/internazionale/2017/08/18/news/tutti-gli-affari-dell-italia-con-l-egitto-di-al-sisi-che-dopo-l-omicidio-regeni-sono-anche-aumentati-1.308232"><span>7 billion </span><span>EUR of investments</span></a>. Even the <a href="https://news.vice.com/it/article/italia-vendita-armi-egitto-regeni"><span>sale of weapons</span></a> by Italian companies to Egyptian security corps – the same ones implicated in thousands of “Regeni cases” – has <a href="http://espresso.repubblica.it/internazionale/2017/08/18/news/tutti-gli-affari-dell-italia-con-l-egitto-di-al-sisi-che-dopo-l-omicidio-regeni-sono-anche-aumentati-1.308232"><span>increased</span></a>.</p> <p lang="en-GB">The will of removing the focus from the real political and judicial responsibilities in Egypt and Italy took several forms - one of the most false, offensive, and dangerous being the accusations addressed to Cambridge university and Regeni’s supervisor, professor Maha Abdelrahman, by several Italian politicians and media (e.g. newspaper <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/esteri/2017/11/02/news/regeni_cambridge-179993364/"><em><span>La Repubblica</span></em></a>). The accusation of non-cooperation addressed to Cambridge University and professor Abdelrahman was journalistically assembled in Italy in June 2016, as <a href="https://www.valigiablu.it/regeni-cambridge-procura/"><span>shown</span></a> by Lorenzo Declich, and it is still mediatically powerful. In this regard, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/03/giulio-regeni-murder-egypt-maha-abdelrahman"><em><span>The Guardian</span></em></a><em> </em>published several letters in solidarity with professor Abdelrahman, signed by hundreds of professors and scholars: Regeni’s fieldwork followed high standard research protocols, and any accusation of ingenuity against him or his professor is nothing but <a href="https://medium.com/@palaf120/come-non-raccontare-la-vicenda-di-giulio-regeni-e265be6f0347"><span>victim blaming</span></a>. This phenomenon has even <a href="https://www.facebook.com/micpust/posts/10211271618253958?pnref=story"><span>escalated </span></a>in the occasion of Abdelrahman’s <a href="http://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2018/01/10/news/regeni_perquisizione_professoressa_cambridge-186223281/?ref=RHPPLF-BH-I0-C8-P1-S1.8-T1"><span>recent testimony</span></a> in front of Italian investigators. However, even Cambridge is not safe from any criticism. According to our sources, the university had been advised by its lawyers to keep a low profile, keeping out of the spotlight in order to protect its reputation. As professor Lucia Sorbera <a href="http://www.rai.tv/dl/portaleRadio/media/ContentItem-f716ff2a-d689-4cad-8c89-cbbf6a31bfff.html"><span>pointed out</span></a>, Cambridge, as any neoliberal university, has taken on “the posture<strong> </strong>of the corporate world, i.e. legalistic attitudes and distance from every official stance,” in continuity with the choice of outsourcing to students and precarious researchers risks and responsibilities.</p> <h3><strong>Memory</strong>&nbsp;</h3> <p>Over the past months, several efforts to erase the political potential of memory have been put in place. By re-sending its ambassador to Cairo, Italy ended the only diplomatic action it had done in the name of Giulio Regeni: contemporarily and coherently, Italy has ignited an “institutional memory” process, whose only purpose is to historicise Regeni’s figure and confine it to the past, thus discarding any political and institutional responsibility in the present. In other words, what we are witnessing is an attempt to transform the researcher into an exception without exemplary potential, a bi-dimensional icon existing in spatiotemporal isolation.</p> <p>For example, the announcement of the ambassador’s return was made on the fourth anniversary of the <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/remembering-rabaa-massacre-403188783"><span>Rabaa massacre</span></a> - in which the army, led by Sisi, killed a thousand supporters of the Morsi government. Depicting Egypt as worthy of stable diplomatic relations, Italian authorities accordingly disavowed its <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/egypt-revolution-five-years-omar-robert-hamilton?CMP=share_btn_tw"><span>bloody recent past</span></a>. At the same time, state-controlled Egyptian media have welcomed Italy’s decision as an acknowledgement of the fact that the Regeni case is now closed, and local security services had nothing to do with it (e.g. [<a href="https://ilmanifesto.it/litalia-autorizza-al-sisi-a-torturare-e-uccidere-noi-egiziani/"><span>1</span></a>]; [<a href="https://twitter.com/Extranewstv/status/897386304878632961"><span>2</span></a>]; [<a href="http://www.lastampa.it/2017/08/17/esteri/prove-esplosive-pxc2Oj2PUpY8W7FuWoiR6O/pagina.html"><span>3</span></a>]).</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The long-term objective is to historicise the figure of Regeni and relegate it to the past, thus nullifying all political responsibility in the present and in the future</p> <p>On the other hand, when announcing the return of the ambassador, Italian Minister Angelino Alfano has also <a href="https://ilmanifesto.it/alfano-egitto-necessario-la-verita-su-regeni-puo-attendere/">announced</a> the dedication of an Italian-Egyptian university and the auditorium of the Italian Institute of Culture in Cairo to the murdered researcher (both of which never took place), in addition to holding commemorative ceremonies in all Italian institutional offices in Egypt and, perhaps, the dedication of The Mediterranean Games of 2018 to him (which will probably not happen). Alfano demonstrates that he believes, at least instrumentally, in the mythopoeic function of institutions in producing memory on a national scale: on the one hand, announcing the commitment of the state in the memorial process would serve to counteract the lack of interest from the<strong> </strong>political point of view; on the other, the long-term objective is to historicise the figure of Regeni and relegate it to the past, thus nullifying all political responsibility in the present and in the future, and neutralising the radical potential of Regeni’s remembrance.</p> <p>Basically, what is being proposed is a space-time confinement of memory. Objectified within commemorations that embalm the absence of truth and justice for his death, Regeni becomes two-dimensional, iconic, without depth and specificity – therefore not waiting to receive a particular explanation for a particular destiny. It is a flat generalisation that makes any comparison impossible: if Regeni is considered a victim of human cruelty – instead of a victim of his murderers – his figure becomes abstract, decreasing the possibility for Egyptians to identify with him. On the temporal level, it is a stasis: memory is frozen, it is no longer a resource for creating alliances with victims of other crimes that occurred at other times. The ritual, in this sense, inhibits any diachronic reading in contrast with the power-imposed chronology. In this way, an apparent apotheosis coincides with a <em>damnatio memoriae</em>: the very way in which the history of Regeni is consecrated renders his biography incomprehensible exactly when it cuts the link with the political context in which it was prematurely concluded.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Italian authorities, therefore, are proposing a conservative safekeeping of memory. Such an attempt to trigger a (domesticated) national memorial process reopens, however, the question of how a radical transnational memory should act.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Not all voices and memories are silenced in the same way, nor to the same extent</p><p>First of all, in the face of such an organised form of indirect censorship, a radical view of memory should probably be an openly polemical one, challenging the purported objectivity of official memory as elaborated by public authorities – indeed, the <em>mise en scène</em> of state impartiality, its self-positioning as “the point of view overlooking all points of view” &nbsp;(<a href="http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-074566329X.html"><span>Bourdieu 2014[1990]</span></a>: 5), is a considerably ancient phenomenon, one which <em>imaginary communities</em> such as nations have been founded upon (<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2259-imagined-communities"><span>Anderson 2006 [1983]</span></a>: chap. 11). We may even say that politics is, in a sense, the way to make the unthinkable thinkable: if one of the most frequent kinds of oppression involves, in fact, the forced relegation of entire categories of people into a private, extra-political dimension - from which complaints may arise but intelligible speeches cannot<strong> </strong>– then a political narration is first of all an intervention on what can be seen and said, the inclusion of a conflict within the consensual illusion of the status quo &nbsp;(cf.<a href="https://muse.jhu.edu/article/32639/summary"><span> </span><span>Rancière 2001</span></a>: §§7-8). In this connection, it is important to notice that not all voices and memories are silenced in the same way, nor to the same extent.</p> <p>One of the most important features of exemplarity is that it can acknowledge these differences: it is activated, as mentioned above, by its rhetorically ambiguous position between the part and the whole, between exception and inclusion. This position emphasises, on the one hand, the common human vulnerability to violence and the existential core of the experience of loss (Butler<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/112-precarious-life"><span> </span><span>2004</span></a>: 20) - think of Regeni’s mother, Paola Deffendi, and her <a href="http://genova.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/03/17/news/la_madre_di_regeni_a_genova_troppe_pressioni_per_far_tornare_l_ambasciatore_in_egitto_-160798809/"><span>call </span></a>to Egyptian mothers who are in a situation similar to hers. On the other hand, it allows us not to elude the very unequal distribution that this vulnerability assumes for different people (<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2148-frames-of-war"><span>Butler 2009</span></a>: 3;43) - moreover, it requires us not to essentialise the pain deriving from suffering injustice, which can result in qualitatively different experiences for subjects with different degrees of subalternity (cf.<a href="https://muse.jhu.edu/article/389529/summary"><span> </span><span>Honig 2010</span></a>: 8-9;<a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1464700107078140"><span> </span><span>Thobani 2007</span></a>: 176-177). In other words, the example makes a series of stories identifiable as coming from the same class without making them identical.</p> <p>The choices made by the Italian government and its Egyptian counterpart have certainly attempted to lessen the possibility that the remembrance of Regeni’s fate may carry that of thousands of Egyptian victims. Undeniably, this circumstance partially defuses the dynamics of exemplarity, but it is at the same time the confirmation of its relevance, of its capacity to destabilise those in power through the creation of new alliances. Now more than ever, therefore, there are no ways of claiming justice for Regeni that can disregard the broader contours where his murder is placed. The aim of activists on both sides of the Mediterranean should be, then, to ensure that the myriad of other stories of injustice that the researcher’s death may recall do not disappear or lose their specificity. It will consequently be necessary to bring out these stories from the generic plural that in the western public sphere makes them a mere collective counterpart of Regeni’s singular experience. </p> <p lang="en-GB">An important clarification is needed at this point. We cannot fail to declare the biased perspective from which we ourselves are writing: that, among other things, of those who have the privilege of being able to discuss the repressive measures implemented in Egypt without having to fear for their own safety. Our emphasis on a conflictual declination of memory is in no way intended to minimise the material, dangerous conditions faced by those who are currently opposing the al-Sisi regime. In today’s Egypt, fear is now becoming a panoptical technique: even people who are not actually under the lens of the capillary security apparatus feel constantly observed and limit their behaviour accordingly.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left" lang="en-GB">Egyptian activists do not of course need a spokesperson, but critical allies</p><p lang="en-GB">At the same time, considerations of this sort must not lead to a bracketing of the voices of opposition that continue to rise from that country. It is certainly true that the climate of terror created by the regime pollutes the very fabric of society, permeating even the daily dynamics, but, as<a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/02/03/opinion/u/on-punishability-researching-in-egypt-after-regeni/"><span> noted</span></a> by Helena Nassif writing about field research in Egypt after the death of Regeni, the psychophysical experience of fear can become a powerful ethnographic instrument (see also <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/mona-abaza-elena-chiti/criminal-victim-policeman-judge"><span>here</span></a>), such as to make the perspective of the witness more acute than that of the mere observer (cf. also <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/20581831.2017.1322227"><span>Nassif 2017</span></a>). In other words, the Egyptian activists do not of course need a spokesperson, but critical allies - that is to say, allies by virtue of a solidarity that does not aestheticize their disobedience against the authorities through an updated form of orientalism (cf. <a href="http://www.meltemieditore.it/autore-nome-cognome/francescomaria-tedesco/"><span>Tedesco 2017</span></a>: 124-135). Only an alliance between western and Egyptian subaltern voices may be able to succeed in the quest for truth and justice for Giulio and the myriads of other activists and common people, who are victims of Sisi’s regime.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sara-verderi/regeni-and-cosmopolitanism-false-question-of-national-belonging">Regeni and cosmopolitanism: the false question of national belonging</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/gilbert-achcar/shame-on-those-who-try-to-justify-giulio-regeni-s-assassination">Shame on those who try to justify Giulio Regeni’s assassination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/north-africa-west-asia/antonio-marchesi/search-for-truth-over-what-happened-to-giulio-regeni">The search for truth over what happened to Giulio Regeni</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/catherine-gegout/giulio-regeni-egypt-and-deafening-silence-of-europe">Giulio Regeni, Egypt, and the deafening silence of Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/giuseppe-acconcia/regeni-victim-of-regime-of-fear">Regeni: victim of a regime of fear</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item even"> Italy </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Italy Egypt Giulio Regeni justice migration torture Michela Pusterla Franco Palazzi Thu, 25 Jan 2018 07:00:56 +0000 Franco Palazzi and Michela Pusterla 115654 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video] https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can the Egyptian revolution reveal clues and unlock ideas about the changing nature of politics and organization, the meaning of revolution, and notions of failure and success? <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions-arabic">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p lang="en-GB"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Tahrir rules-Mosaab copy 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Tahrir rules-Mosaab copy 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Rules of the revolutionary square in Tahrir” Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy, Tahrir Square, 2011. All rights reserved. </span></span></span><span style="font-style: normal;">The seven-year anniversary of the 25 January Egyptian Revolution, an event that captured global attention and inspired countless movements, provides an opportune moment to reflect on the state of politics today. French philosopher Alain Badiou was among the first major intellectual figures to theorize the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings and articulate their historical significance in his book, </span><a style="font-style: normal;" href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1124-the-rebirth-of-history">The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings</a><span style="font-style: normal;"> (Verso, 2012). Badiou bore witness to the unfolding of May 1968 in France, an event to which he maintains fidelity. Badiou acknowledges that with Egypt, movement based politics entered a new phase in the historical process. It remains to be seen if and how the event of the Egyptian revolution can reveal clues and unlock ideas about the changing nature of politics and organization, the meaning of revolution, and notions of failure and success.</span></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> The event of 25 January 2011 has been challenged to its core, to put it mildly. Seven years on, the promise, openness, social solidarity, explosive creativity and social experimentation exemplified by Tahrir Square, but by no means limited to it, has for many been supplanted by cynicism, if not despair, crackdowns, further hardships, and retreat. Whatever the situation and mood today, the movement offered, in the words of Badiou, “a new proposition,” even if fleeting and obscure. At the same time, the movement has been supplanted by “the circle,” a cycle whereby entrenched organized groups—the Muslim Brotherhood, the military, the economic elite—fall from power only to rise again. Does this mean, as Badiou asks, that “finally, there is no novelty?”</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> This encounter with Alain Badiou is not an interview in the traditional sense, but rather a set of reflections, propositions and questions. He reflects on the significance of Egypt for the region and the world, of the meaning of politics, revolution and social movements. He poses questions to “us”—not only us in the small group who travelled to Paris to meet and engage in discussion with him about Egypt and broader questions about movement building, but to all of us searching for a form of progressive politics in these precarious, volatile, and unpredictable, “times of riots and uprisings.” </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Watch the interview <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVaGXEbn_t4">here</a></strong></p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"><strong><br /></strong><iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/NVaGXEbn_t4" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe></p>&nbsp;<p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Video by Linda Herrera, 2018 </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"><strong>Alain Badiou</strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"><strong>Part I: On t</strong><strong>he importance of Egypt for Global Movements</strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> For me, the sequence of the movement in Egypt has been a very important one for many reasons. First, I think that in the general Middle East, Egypt is a very important point. In my opinion, a decisive point in some sense. So, what happened in Egypt is very important for me and at the level of the global political movement in the world. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right" lang="en-GB">The movement as such was a new proposition</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">Secondly, it is important because the form of the movement was in some sense something new. It was a new form. A new form which was to take the power somewhere. Not at the level of the state, but to organize some form of collective decision [making] which takes a long time for a movement to formulate. [The movement created] a new space which is between a real position and a symbolic position. This can create something which is a symbol, a political-symbol for many people. And finally, [it unified] some important differences inside the people, between the Copts and the Muslims and so on. All of that was very interesting for me. And I don’t think it was the product of old politics. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Naturally, old politics was also present. But the movement as such was a new proposition. I have called that “<a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1124-the-rebirth-of-history">The Rebirth of History</a>.” So, the destiny of all that, the becoming of all that was for me a very important question, not only the question of victory and failure. In fact, my question is: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What was exactly the possible concept of victory for that sort of movement?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> This is a very profound and difficult question. Because it is very difficult to imagine that you have a new form of a movement eventually resulting in the classical form of the movement, that is, to seize the power, or something like that. </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> In some sense, when we have a very strong experience, for me, for example, in May 1968, and for you, the movement in Egypt, very often after that you have something like a reactive situation. In France too, some years after May ‘68, the situation became in some sense ordinary, not extraordinary.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> [The Egyptian uprising] is an extraordinary history in some sense because after this extraordinary movement you have something like the return to the [old] situation. And so, it is really a question for me […] why there is the sort of cycle: Mubarak, a big movement, an extraordinary movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the return to the dictatorship, the military dictatorship. It is for me a very interesting and terrible story.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> But I think we must always think that something important [happened], even if in the end, there was something like a failure, something like a deception. And so, what is very interesting and important to find out is:</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What are the lessons of the movement many years after the event?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">We must have clear lessons concerning the movement. Why was there the failure of the movement? What are the reasons? And, was it a point of departure for something new? [It’s important] to go beyond the difficult term of failure of the movement, to overcome the purely negative feeling at the end. It is very bad to have a purely negative feeling concerning a movement. Naturally, we must be lucid, we must explain:</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"><em><strong>Why the cycle, the repetition?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> And on this precise point, I have no clear vision, no clear explanation. Maybe you have?</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou on Egypt2 copy_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou on Egypt2 copy_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alain Badiou, photo by Linda Herrera, Paris, 2017</span></span></span>The difficulty of the movement has been on the side of organization. [To recap], the military on the one side, the Muslim Brothers on the other side. [These groups] were in a position to really take the power. But the movement as such, the revolutionary part of the movement, was not in a position to really be a candidate to the power. </p> <p class="mag-quote-left" lang="en-GB">we must have an understanding of what is the goal of the movement, but not only in purely negative terms</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB">And so, the question of the movement and the question of the power was in dissymmetry. Yet, there’s something paradoxical in the result of the movement, in the form of the Muslim Brothers taking the power. It’s a very sad thing because it’s a question of organization. After all, it is a historic lesson. When we have no new form of organization, if the movement cannot create some new form of organization at the level of the state power, the result is that something which is an organization like the Muslim Brotherhood, finally takes the power. And after that we have the return to the old situation. For the military camp [this] is a lesson too: never again should something like that happen [again]!</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <strong>Part 2: The Big Questions: Vision, Change and Affirmative Ideas</strong></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> My question, at the level of the thinking of the people, is: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What was the goal of the movement?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Because you have a clear negative point: “No Mubarak!” In some sense, the unity of the movement was fixated on a negative demand which is against the existing power. But naturally, we cannot conclude that the [result] of all that will be, “no Mubarak,” but instead el-Sisi! So, when there is a new movement, we must have an understanding of what is the goal of the movement, but not only in purely negative terms - No Mubarak!, and not in classical terms, we seize the power as it is. Rather, the question is: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What is the idea of real change? </strong></em> </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What is the affirmative idea?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> I was really passionate for the Egyptian movement [which I saw] as something new in the historical sequence of today—at the level of the world, not only for Egypt. After that event, we have movements everywhere, but all of these movements are in some sense less interesting than the Egyptian movement, which was big, which was long, which had many complex compositions. So, we have a new movement [in Egypt], but we have the negative dimension of that movement which is clearly against the power, against Mubarak. And we have the circle which seems to suggest that there is no novelty, that there is not something new. My question is: </p> <p class="mag-quote-right" lang="en-GB">The birth of something is always an obscure process</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"><em><strong>What was the vision inside the movement itself? What was the vision of [what should become] of all of that?”</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> What is clear is you have something like a new form of movement at the level of the novelty of the movement itself. A question for everybody, a question of universal interest, finally, is: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"><em><strong>What is a revolution today?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB">A big question. Was this question present in the movement? What were the discussions concerning certain points? All details are of importance about that sort of question, because the birth of something is always an obscure process.</p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> What is clear is that you have something like a new form of movement which is not insurrectional, which is not of the classical type of fighting to seize power. It’s not something like that. It is also not purely localized, even if it took a place in Tahrir Square, it is a symbolic place. Personally, I was interested by the idea “We are the true Egyptians here.” “Egypt is here.” Not only for some thousands of people, but that we are, symbolically, the possibility of a new Egypt here. Yes, but beyond this symbolic vision, what were the discussions inside the movement concerning the question: </p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> <em><strong>What is the truly political vision?</strong></em></p> <p class="western" lang="en-GB"> Have you not a solution? (laughs)&nbsp;</p><p class="western" lang="en-GB"><span style="font-style: italic;">The authors would like to acknowledge and thank Allison West and Ibrahim Mahfouz who were fellow members of the Badiou reading group in Berlin, participated in the meeting with Alain Badiou in Paris, and helped transcribe the text of the two-hour encounter with him. We also thank Isabelle Vodoz for her hospitality and keen intellectual engagement during the Paris meeting. The authors have abridged and edited the transcript for better flow of ideas and clarity, while taking care not to alter the meaning.</span></p><p> This article has been co-published with <a href="http://www.jadaliyya.com">Jadaliyya</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions-arabic">آلان باديو عن الثورة المصرية: حول سؤال الحركة ورؤيتها</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou">Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti-gennaro-gervasio/egypt-and-arab-uprisings">Egypt and the Arab uprisings</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-terrorism-sinai-violence-religion-repression-sisi">Egypt: do you really want to counter terrorism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/whose-revolution">Whose revolution?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sarah-el-sheikh/on-megalomania-and-despair-is-sisi-really-nuts">On megalomania and despair: is Sisi really nuts?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt revolution jan25 movements politics Dina El-Sharnouby Linda Herrera Wed, 24 Jan 2018 08:00:01 +0000 Linda Herrera and Dina El-Sharnouby 115746 at https://www.opendemocracy.net آلان باديو عن الثورة المصرية: حول سؤال الحركة ورؤيتها https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions-arabic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB">كيف يمكن لحدث الثورة المصرية أن يكشف لنا عن أدلة ويفك ألغازًا حول تغير طبيعة السياسة والتنظيم، وتغير معنى الثورة ومفاهيم النجاح والفشل؟ <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">English&nbsp;</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Tahrir rules-Mosaab copy 2_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Tahrir rules-Mosaab copy 2_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="280" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Rules of the revolutionary square in Tahrir” Photo by Mosa'ab Elshamy, Tahrir Square, 2011. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>ترجمة: إبراهيم محفوظ</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> تمنحنا الذكرى السابعة لثورة ٢٥ يناير المصرية - التي جذبت اهتمام العالم وألهمت حركات عدة – الفرصة القَيِّمة للتفكير في الوضع السياسي اليوم. الفيلسوف الفرنسي آلان باديو كان أحد أوائل القامات الفكرية التي نَظَّرَت الإنتفاضات في مصر وتونس وعبرت عن دلالتهما التاريخية في كتابه <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1124-the-rebirth-of-history">The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings</a> الصادر في عام ٢٠١٢. باديو نفسه كان شاهدًا على تطور أحداث مايو ١٩٦٨ بفرنسا، وهو الحدث الذي ما زال ينتمي إليه. يقر الفيلسوف الفرنسي إن التطورات في مصر أدخلت السياسة المبنية على الحركة في طور جديد بالعملية التاريخية، لكننا لم نرَ بعد إذا وكيف يستطيع حدث الثورة المصرية أن يكشف لنا عن أدلة ويفك ألغازًا حول تغير طبيعة السياسة والتنظيم، وتغير معنى الثورة ومفاهيم النجاح والفشل.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> واجه حدث ٢٥ يناير ٢٠١١ تحديات حتى النخاع. فبعد سبع سنوات نجد أن الوعد، والانفتاح، والتضامن الاجتماعي، والطاقة الإبداعية المتفجرة، والتجارب الاجتماعية التي تكاثفت في ميدان التحرير لكنها لم تنحصر فيه قد حل محلها التهكم، واليأس، والملاحقة، والتراجع. فبغض النظر عن الوضع والجو السياسي اليوم، كانت الحركة قد طرحت، حسب باديو، "اقتراحًا جديدًا" حتى وإن كان هذا الاقتراح عابرًا وغامضًا. في الوقت ذاته استُبدلت الحركة من قِبل "الدائرة"، وهي حركة دورية تسقط أثناءها الحركات المنظمة والمرسخة – مثل الإخوان المسلمين، والمؤسسة العسكرية، وطبقة رجال الأعمال – فقط لتصعد مجددًا. فهل يعني ذلك، كما يتساءل باديو، أن "في النهاية، لا يوجد ما هو جديد؟"</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> هذا اللقاء مع آلان باديو لا يمثل حوارًا على النحو التقليدي بل يمثل مجموعة من التأملات والاقتراحات والأسئلة، فيها يتأمل باديو دلالة مصر إقليميًا وعالميًا وفيها أيضًا يوجه أسئلة "إلينا" – ليس فقط للمجموعة الصغيرة التي ذهبت إلى باريس لتلتقي به وتتحاور معه عن مصر والأسئلة الأوسع الخاصة بتكوين الحركة، بل أيضًا لكل من يبحث عن شكل للسياسة التقدمية في زمن متزعزع ومتقلب من "التمردات والإنتفاضات".</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><strong> شاهدوا المقابلة <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVaGXEbn_t4">هنا</a>:</strong></p><p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><strong><br /></strong><iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/NVaGXEbn_t4" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p>&nbsp; <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> الفيديو لليندا هيريرا، ٢٠١٨</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>آلان باديو</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>الجزء الأول</strong><strong>: </strong><strong>عن أهمية مصر للحركات العالمية</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> بالنسبة لي، كان تطور الحركة في مصر أمرًا في غاية الأهمية لأسباب عدة. أولًا، أعتقد إن مصر نقطة مهمة جدًا في الشرق الأوسط بشكل عام. في رأيي، هي نقطة محورية إلى حدٍ ما، ولذلك ما حدث في مصر يهمني على مستوى الحركة السياسة العالمية.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB">&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-right">الحركة في حد ذاتها كانت اقتراحًا جديدًا، وهذا ما سميته بـإعادة إحياء التاريخ</span></p><p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB">ثانيًا، الأمر مهم لأن شكل الحركة كان جديدًا من جوانب مختلفة. كان هذا شكلًا جديدًا للغاية، والشكل الجديد هو أن تأخد القوة إلى مكان مختلف، فلم يكن التركيز على مستوى الدولة، بل كان على تنظيم قالب جماعي ما لصُنع القرار، وهذا أمر يحتاج إلى زمن كي تستطيع الحركة أن تعبر عنه. الحركة خلقت مساحة جديدة تقع بين الموقف الحقيقي والموقف الرمزي، وهذا شيء يمكن أن يشكل رمزًا سياسيًا للكثير من الناس. وأخيرًا، استطاعت الحركة أن تمحي اختلافات مهمة بين الناس، مثلًا بين القبطي والمسلم وهكذا. كل هذا كان مشوقًا بالنسبة لي، ولا أعتقد أنه ناتج عن السياسة التقليدية.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> بالطبع، كانت السياسة التقليدية حاضرة، لكن الحركة في حد ذاتها كانت اقتراحًا جديدًا، وهذا ما سميته بـإعادة إحياء التاريخ". فمصير كل هذا وتحققه كان مهمًا بالنسبة لي، فاهتمامي لم يقتصر فقط على انتصار الحركة أو فشلها. في الحقيقة، سؤالي كان:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هو تحديدًا تصور الانتصار الممكن بالنسبة لحركة مثل هذه الحركة؟ </strong> </p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> وهذا سؤال عميق وصعب، لأن من الصعب تخيل وجود شكل جديد للحركة يصاحبه النتاج التقليدي للحركة، وهو الاستيلاء على السلطة أو شيء يشبه ذلك.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> بشكل ما حينما يكون لدينا تجربة قوية، مثلًا بالنسبة لي مايو ١٩٦٨ وبالنسبة لكم الحركة في مصر، يتحول الأمر فيما بعد في أحيان كثيرة إلى وضع رجعي. ففي فرنسا أيضًا، بعد بضعة سنوات من مايو ١٩٦٨ تحول الوضع إلى شيء إعتيادي، وليس شيء استثنائي.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> تمثل الإنتفاضة المصرية تاريخًا استثنائيًا لأن بعد الحركة الإستثنائية نشهد عودة إلى الوضع السابق. ولذلك السؤال المهم بالنسبة لي هو، ما هي أسباب هذه الحركة الدائرية: مبارك، حركة كبيرة، حركة استثنائية، الإخوان المسلمون، ثم العودة إلى الديكتاتورية، الديكتاتورية العسكرية. أنها قصة مثيرة ومروعة بالنسبة لي.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> لكنني أعتقد أننا دائمًا يجب أن نفكر إن شيئًا استثنائيًا قد حدث، حتى إذا كان هناك شيء يشبه الفشل، ويشبه الخداع في النهاية. ولذلك ما هو مثير ومهم لنا هو:</p> <p class="mag-quote-left" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB">لماذا فشلت الحركة؟ ما هي الأسباب؟ وهل يمثل هذا نقطة بداية لشيء جديد؟</p><p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><strong>ما هي الدروس التي يمكننا أن نتعلمها من الحركة بعد سنوات من الحدث؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> يجب أن يكون لدينا دروسًا واضحة من الحركة. لماذا فشلت الحركة؟ ما هي الأسباب؟ وهل يمثل هذا نقطة بداية لشيء جديد؟ من المهم تخطي هذا المصطلح الصعب: "فشل الحركة"، كي نتجاوز الشعور السلبي المتراكم معه. من السيء أن يكون لديك شعورًا سلبيًا تامًا بخصوص الحركة. بالطبع يجب أن نتكلم بوضوح، يجب أن نشرح:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>لِمَ هذه الدورة، لمَ التكرار؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> بخصوص هذه النقطة تحديدًا، لا أملك رؤية واضحة أو تفسيرًا واضحًا، لكن ربما تملكون أنتم إجابة؟</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou on Egypt2 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Badiou on Egypt2 copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="344" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alain Badiou, photo by Linda Herrera, Paris, 2017</span></span></span>الصعوبات التي واجهتها الحركة أتت من الجانب التنظيمي. مجددًا، ثمّة المؤسسة العسكرية على جانب<br /> والإخوان المسلمون على الجانب الآخر. هاتان المجموعتان كانا في موقف للسيطرة على الحكم، لكن الحركة نفسها، الجزء الثوري من الحركة، لم يكن في موقف يسمح له أن يكون مرشحًا للسيطرة على الحكم.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> ولذلك كان هناك عدم توافق بين سؤال الحركة وسؤال الاستيلاء على السلطة. وفي الوقت ذاته هناك شيء من التناقض بأن تكون نتيجة هذه الحركة هي وصول الإخوان المسلمون للحكم. أنه شيء محزن لأنه أمر يعود إلى سؤال التنظيم. في النهاية، هو درس تاريخي. إن لم نملك شكلًا تنظيميًا جديدًا، وإن لم تستطع الحركة أن تخلق شكلًا تنظيميًا جديدًا على مستوى الدولة، النتيجة هي وصول تنظيم مثل الإخوان المسلمين إلى الحكم. وبعد ذلك نعود إلى الوضع القديم. بالنسبة للمؤسسة العسكرية، فلديهم درس هنا أيضًا: أن لا يتكرر هذا الأمر أبدًا!</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>الجزء الثاني</strong><strong>: </strong><strong>الأسئلة الكبرى</strong><strong>: </strong><strong>الرؤية، التغيير، والأفكار الجازمة</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> على مستوى تفكير الناس، سؤالي هو:</p> <p class="mag-quote-right" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB">بعد هذا الحدث كان لدينا حركات في كل مكان، لكن جميع هذه الحركات كانت أقل إثارة من الحركة المصرية</p><p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"><strong>ما كان تحديدًا هدف الحركة؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> كان لديكم مطلبًا سلبيًا: "لا لمبارك!"، وبشكل ما تركزت وحدة الحركة على هذا المطلب السلبي الذي كان ضد السلطة القائمة آنذاك، لكن بالطبع لا يمكننا أن نستخلص من ذلك أن نتيجة "لا لمبارك" هي السيسي! إذًا، حينما يكون هناك حركة جديدة يجب أن يكون لدينا فهمًا عن هدف هذه الحركة، لكن ليس على النحو السلبي تمامًا – "لا لمبارك!"، وليس على النحو التقليدي، أن نسيطر على الحكم كما هو، بل السؤال هو:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هي فكرة التغيير الحقيقي؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هي الفكرة الجازمة؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> كان عندي شغفًا حقيقيًا بالحركة المصرية التي رأيتها كشيء جديد في التسلسل التاريخي الحالي – وهذا على المستوى العالمي وليس فقط المستوى المصري. بعد هذا الحدث كان لدينا حركات في كل مكان، لكن جميع هذه الحركات كانت أقل إثارة من الحركة المصرية التي كانت حركة كبيرة، طويلة المدى، ولديها عدة تكوينات معقدة. إذًا، لدينا حركة جديدة في مصر، لكن لدينا فقط الجانب السلبي منها الذي يعارض السلطة ويعارض مبارك، ولدينا أيضًا الدائرة التي توحي بغياب كل ما هو جديد. إذًا تساءلي هو:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هي الرؤية التي كانت داخل الحركة؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هي الرؤية التي اعتقدت الحركة أنها ستَنتَج عن كل هذا؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> من الواضح أن هناك شيء يشبه شكلًا جديدًا للحركة على المستوى الإبداعي للحركة نفسها. فنهايةً، السؤال الخاص بالجميع والسؤال الذي يهم الجميع هو:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما معنى الثورة اليوم؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> هذا سؤال كبير. هل كان هذا السؤال حاضرًا داخل الحركة؟ ما هي النقاشات الخاصة بالنقاط المحددة لهذا السؤال؟ كل التفاصيل الخاصة بهذا السؤال مهمة لأن ولادة شيء جديد هي دائمًا عملية غامضة.</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> الواضح هو أن هناك شكل جديد للحركة يختلف عن المقاومة المسلحة، أي يختلف عن الشكل التقليدي للكفاح من أجل الوصول إلى الحكم. لم يكن الأمر هكذا. ولم يكن الأمر أمرًا محليًا تمامًا حتى وإن تمركز الحدث في ميدان التحرير، لكن ميدان التحرير كان رمزيًا. أنا شخصيًا كنت مهتم بفكرة: "نحن هنا المصريون الحقيقيون". "مصر هنا". ليس فقط لأن هذا ما قاله الآلاف من الناس، بل أيضًا لأننا هنا مثلنا إمكانية مصر جديدة على النحو الرمزي. نعم، لكن تجاوزًا لهذه الرؤية الرمزية، ما كانت النقاشات الخاصة بهذا السؤال داخل الحركة:</p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> <strong>ما هي الرؤية السياسية حقًا؟</strong></p> <p class="western" dir="rtl" lang="en-GB"> أليس لديكم حلًا؟ (ضحك)</p><p class="direction-rtl">تم نشر هذا المقال بالتعاون مع موقع <a href="http://www.jadaliyya.com">جدليّة</a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-dina-el-sharnouby/alain-badiou-on-egyptian-revolution-questions">Alain Badiou on the Egyptian revolution: questions of the movement and its vision [video]</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Esraa-abdel-fattah/defamation-character-assassination-egypt">مصر: سلاح التشويه</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mostafa-bassiouny-egypt-bread-poverty-revolution-economy-sisi">لماذا لم تنتفض الجماهير ضد ارتفاع الأسعار؟</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/karim-zidan-2">نقطة اللاعودة: كيف غيّرت الحكومة المصرية والرأي العام معالم إرث الألتراس؟</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/sarah-adel">بين هوس العَظمة واليأس، هل فقد السيسي صوابه؟</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt politics movements jan25 revolution Arabic language دينا الشرنوبي ليندا هيريرا Wed, 24 Jan 2018 08:00:01 +0000 ليندا هيريرا and دينا الشرنوبي 115745 at https://www.opendemocracy.net مصر: سلاح التشويه https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/Esraa-abdel-fattah/defamation-character-assassination-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="direction-rtl">أبدع النظام المصري الحالي بكل قنواته الإعلامية وأذرعه المؤسساتية بإستخدام سلاح التشويه والتحريض علي الكراهية من أجل الإنتقام من كل معارضيه على السواء. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/esraa-abdel-fattah/egypt-character-assassination-as-weapon">English</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="direction-rtl"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34116037_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34116037_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Picture by Kremlin Pool/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>&nbsp;لم يفرق النظام بين ثوريا كان او رجلا كان فى يوم ما محسوب على نظامه او حتى رجل من جذور مؤسساته العسكرية طالما إجتمعوا " حتي من غير إتفاق " على نقده او الخلاف او الصدام معه او في بعض الأحيان مواجهته او وجود نية للتنافس معه .&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">فلم يكتف هذا النظام بحبس البعض او إخفاء مكان إحتجازهم او منعهم من السفر او التحفظ على أموالهم ، فقد خص البعض الآخر بالحملات التشهيرية وقد تفنن في إستخدام هذا السلاح بطريقة لاأخلاقية، لم يستطع اي نظام اخر حكم هذا البلد ان ينافسه بها.&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">فقد إنفرد هذا النظام بظاهرة " التسريبات " او إذاعة المكالمات الشخصية علي الهواء مباشرة وتقويلها وتحليلها كما يبغي ويريد بإستخدام رجاله من الاعلاميين بغرض تشويه المعارضة والتحريض ضدهم وتفريغ طاقة الإنتقام .&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">السؤال الذي أريد أن اطرحه هنا لماذا يلجا هذا النظام ويتفنن لهذه الدرجة فى إستخدام سلاح التشويه ضد بعض معارضيه ويخصهم بجرعات متفاوته حسب مزاجه وتقديره الذي لا نعرف معاييره ؟؟</p><p class="direction-rtl">تنوعت الإجابات علي هذا السؤال : فمنهم من يعتقد ان هناك بعض الأشخاص لا يستطيع النظام الإقدام علي حبسهم ممن لهم ثقل دولي او ما إلي ذلك ليس خشية من حسابات دولية ولكن فقط حتي لا يكون هناك حديثا دوليا او كتابات او مناشدات للإفراج عنهم فينشأ عن هذا بعض الضجيج الذي ربما يصيبه بصداع هو فى غني عنه .</p><p class="mag-quote-left">هذا السلاح يؤذي " أكثر من غيره " المدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان والمعارضة المصرية</p><p class="direction-rtl">وهناك إجابات اخري أنه لا يملك اي طريقة آخري للإنتقام منهم غير إستخدام مثل هذا السلاح اللأخلاقي فلا يملك ما هو كافي لحبسهم أو التنكيل بهم أكثر من ذلك ويرفض آخرون هذا الإتجاه معللا فٌجر هذا النظام وقدرته علي تلفيق اي تهم وحبس من يريد حبسه أراد .&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">وآخرون يرون أن هذا السلاح يؤذي " أكثر من غيره " المدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان والمعارضة المصرية وخاصة السيدات منهم ويؤثر ويقلل من رصيدهم في مجتمع يقال انه محافظ يرفض مثل هذه التصرفات حتي لو أندرجت تحت بند حرمة الحياة الشخصية . فالحبس او الإعتقال&nbsp; - كما يظنوا - يصنع البطولات اما تشويه السمعه فيقضي علي رمزيتهم التي صنعتها ثورة يناير .</p><p class="direction-rtl">وهو لا يريد ان يكون هناك رموز يسمع إليهم المجتمع واحيانا ينشط ويتجاوب مع ما يقولونه ز فهذا يعد درس من الدروس التي تعلمها هذا النظام من ثورة يناير ومن تسامح مبارك نوعا ما مع تلك " الأشكال " حسب تعبيرهم فبالتالي سنسخر كل أمكانياتنا وأدواتنا وخاصة اللأخلاقية فى القضاء علي تلك الرموز وعدم تهيئة المناخ بظهور او صعود رموز اخري . ويبقي فقط وفقط هؤلاء الأصوات المنافقة للنظام&nbsp; تتوزع علي النوافذ الإعلامية المختلفة لغسل العقول وتزييف الوعي في الإتجاه الأعمي الداعم للنظام .</p><p class="direction-rtl">&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">أيا كانت الأسباب فهذا السلاح لم يسبق لأنظمة حاكمة سابقه في مصر أن تفننت وابدعت فى استخدامه بهذا الشكل المنحط من قبل .</p><p class="direction-rtl">أيا كانت الأسباب فإستخدام هذا السلاح سيظل نقطة سوداء فى تاريخ هذا النظام الذي سجل حصريا له .</p><p class="direction-rtl">أيا كانت الأسباب فهذا ليس دليل قوة هذا النظام ولكن ضعفه وفُجره وقلة حيلته فلم يجد إلأ الحياة الشخصية وقرر ان يتجسس عنها ويسجلها صوتا وصورة حتي تكون اسلحته الرخيصة التي يستخدمها وقت اللزوم .&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">ويبقي سؤال أخير هل سيلفظ المجتمع في يوم ما مثل هذه الأسلحة الرخيصة مع تعدد إستخدامها وانحصار تأثيرها فى بضعه أيام ، ويعي ان مثل هذه الأنظمة التي تقمع معارضيها بالتجسس وإقتحام حياتهم الشخصية هي أنظمة وضيعه لا تمتلك اي شرف لمواجهة معارضيها بالمنطق والعقل وتحليل اسباب معارضتهم للنظام وتكون المواجهة بالرد علي السياسات التي ترفضها المعارضة باسلوب راقي ومتحضر دون تدليس وإنحطاط ودونيه . ؟؟!!&nbsp;</p><p class="direction-rtl">ادعوكم للتفكير تاني وثالث ورابع ،،،</p><p class="direction-rtl"><strong>تمّ نشر هذا المقال على موقع<a href="http://fakartany.com"> فكّر تاني </a>تحت عنوان <a href="http://fakartany.com/a/1434e1414590498c808ec52d8e93d47d">سلاح التشويه</a></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/esraa-abdel-fattah/egypt-character-assassination-as-weapon">Egypt: character assassination as a weapon</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-ahmad/egypt-sinai-terrorist-attack">مصر: جريمة مسجد الروضة قد تتكرر</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-terrorism-sinai-violence-religion-repression-sisi">Egypt: do you really want to counter terrorism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou">Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amr-magdi/we-need-to-talk-sisi-human-rights-world-youth-forum-egypt">‘We need to talk’ about Sisi’s twisted take on human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Civil society Democracy and government dictatorship Arabic language إسراء عبد الفتاح Mon, 22 Jan 2018 08:00:01 +0000 إسراء عبد الفتاح 115730 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt: character assassination as a weapon https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/esraa-abdel-fattah/egypt-character-assassination-as-weapon <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Egyptian regime has been resorting to defamation campaigns to target its opponents as a tactic to silence and discredit any critical voices. <strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/Esraa-abdel-fattah/defamation-character-assassination-egypt">العربية</a></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34116037.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/PA-34116037.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="284" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Picture by Kremlin Pool/Zuma Press/PA Images. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The current Egyptian regime has mobilized all its media institutions to distort the image of its opponents and incite hatred against them. It does not distinguish between a revolutionary, someone who belonged to the previous regime, or someone from within the military establishment: if that person criticizes, disagrees, or competes with it, then it will be a target.</p> <p>Not only has this regime imprisoned, dissapeared, imposed travel bans and asset freezes on its critics, but it has also launched unethical defamation campaigns against them. It has employed a unique phenomenon of "leaking" and broadcasting personal phone calls that are then picked up by its allies in the media to distort and incite hatred against those targeted.</p> <p> Why is this regime resorting to such attacks against its opponents and what are its criteria in selecting its targets? There are different answers to this crucial question.</p> <p> First of all, there are some critics that the regime may not want to imprison because they are too important or influential on the international level, and their arrest will generate too much international attention. The noise generated as a result of their imprisonment by international media, would create too much of a headache.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">Character assassination is a very effective weapon against human rights defenders and the Egyptian opposition</p><p>Second, the regime may have no other means to punish its critics than through such immoral tactics. Perhaps it has no evidence to justify their imprisonment, however many believe that the regime is easily able to fabricate any charges against anyone it wishes to imprison. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Third, character assassination is a very effective weapon against human rights defenders and the Egyptian opposition, especially women. It affects and reduces their credibility in a conservative society, even if the exposed behavior is conducted in their personal life. Imprisoning or detaining these types of activists may turn them into heroes or martyrs, whereas questioning their reputation destroys their legitimacy as well as that of the January revolution. &nbsp;</p> <p>The regime does not want to leave any space for symbols or public personalities from the January revolution that can engage and mobilize members of society. This is a key lesson it learned from the January revolution and Mubarak’s tolerance of such voices and it will not allow these personalities to create an atmosphere that can support the emergence or rise of new symbols. Only hypocritical voices are disseminated on the various media channels to falsify information and brainwash public opinion in support of the regime.</p> <p> Whatever the reasons, this weapon of character assassination and image distortion is used by this regime in an unprecedented way. It will remain a black mark on its history and it is not an indication of its strength but its weakness. Spying on critics and recording and broadcasting private calls and images is a cheap weapon.</p> <p>The final question is whether society will one day see through these tactics and realize that such regimes that suppress their opponents by espionage and intrusion into their personal lives are despicable systems that are unable to confront their opponents through honorable means, logic and reason. Rather, the confrontation should take the form of developing and responding to the policies rejected by the opposition in a decent, polite and clear manner without deceit and distortion.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/Esraa-abdel-fattah/defamation-character-assassination-egypt">مصر: سلاح التشويه</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt">The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-terrorism-sinai-violence-religion-repression-sisi">Egypt: do you really want to counter terrorism?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou">Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amr-magdi/we-need-to-talk-sisi-human-rights-world-youth-forum-egypt">‘We need to talk’ about Sisi’s twisted take on human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-egypt-LGBT-arrest-prison-middle-class-sexual-morals">Sisi, the guardian of sexual morals</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Esraa Abdel Fattah Mon, 22 Jan 2018 08:00:01 +0000 Esraa Abdel Fattah 115729 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The tentacles of autocratic regimes: the case of Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/tentacles-of-autocratic-regimes-case-of-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The process of repression is outsourced to the citizenry who indirectly secure absolute power for the regime. It is a vicious cycle with the masses being both the victims as well as beneficiaries of repression.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-25732689.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-25732689.jpg" alt="El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Streets of Old Cairo. March 2016. El-Geziry Fayed/ABACA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Autocracies, to maintain their hold on power, rely on heavy doses of repression. Their power appears to be heavily centralized in the upper echelons of the social order, however, the reality is much more complex.</p> <p>Autocracies mould their masses, who are both the victims of repression and its beneficiaries. Beneficiaries in the sense of “smaller” autocrats also repressing those below them in the social order. As such, repression is decentralised, creating fertile ground for ‘societal repression’, the main victims of which are those on the margins and the weaker segments of society such as minorities, women and the poor. </p> <p>This repression is recreated at all levels of society as well as in a number of situations at schools, the work place, and even within families and homes. With a state policy that condones this form of repression, a society with extremely limited margins of freedom is created in both the public and the private spheres, with the burden lessening as one moves up the social ladder. </p> <p>Inequality is accepted as a natural condition, as those on the social margins are dehumanized, repressed and violated. This is an essential method for the preservation and the propagation of an autocratic system.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Autocracy in the classroom</strong></h2> <p>When one looks at Egypt and the lineage of repression, which I have personally experienced, one can only see that repression penetrates all layers of society. A simple example is that of the school system, and the levels of violence children of the lower classes are exposed to. </p> <p>In 2015 a <a href="http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/child-dies-egypt-after-beating-teacher-1058061838">child died</a> due to injuries sustained from a beating by a schoolteacher. Another prominent case was in 2014, where the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29143883">manager of an orphanage</a> was sentenced to three years in prison after footage surfaced of him savagely beating orphans in his care. </p> <p>This extreme violence against children is endemic in Egypt’s schools, specifically in lower class areas. It pre-dates the rise of the neo-military regime currently ruling the country. </p> <p>The Minster of Education under Mubarak, <a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/beating-children-name-discipline/">Ahmed Zaki Badr</a>, stated that banning corporal punishment in schools would leave teachers vulnerable. Thus, this violence against students is condoned by the state. </p> <p>Interestingly, as a member of the middle class and the product of a private school system, I was spared the physical violence and repression in the classroom that the children of the poor experience. </p> <p>The weight of repression increases on the poor and the vulnerable, which is interestingly also practiced by those who are suffering the most. One only needs to remember that the average Egyptian teacher is economically marginalized and underpaid, as <a href="https://usilive.org/egyptian-teachers-protest-repressive-labour-laws-and-low-pay/">protests</a> exposed in 2015. </p> <p>Thus, the autocracy was able to recreate a miniature dictatorship in the classroom, primarily directed against the lower classes with the aim of implanting obedience and discipline in the minds of the poor, who have no recourse of protection against these practices.</p> <p>This is accompanied by the constant ideological indoctrination of the importance of obedience, the need for conformity, and the stifling of any forms of creative thought. For example, there is considerable emphasis on the memorisation of information rather than the development of analytical skills. Any deviation from the textbook is considered incorrect.</p> <h2><strong>Autocracy on the streets</strong></h2> <p>The classroom is not the only place where autocracy has recreated itself, it has also done so on the streets of the Cairo, mostly notably with homeless street children. </p> <p>These <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/egypts-street-children-forgotten-victims-cairos-crises-n178401">children</a>, who are estimated to be around 600,000 in the city of Cairo alone, are subjected to harrowing levels of sexual violence and abuse. They are not offered any form of legal protection nor social assistance. </p> <p>The level of violence only came to public attention when the bodies of a number of street children appeared in 2006 and subsequently a <a href="http://www.almasryalyoum.com/news/details/100466">gang of six</a> individuals were arrested who were supposedly responsible for the murder, rape and torture of a number of children. </p> <p>This case quickly quietened down with no notable response from the government nor a change in the public perception of street children. </p> <p>The autocracy, once again, created the space for repression, where the most vulnerable in society are being preyed upon by the more powerful, decentralizing repression and violence to the periphery and violating the basic social contract of the Leviathan, as defined by Thomas Hobbes. </p> <p>The lives of these children are not valued, not just by the government, but by more powerful segments in society. This manifested itself in the <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/104271/Egypt/Politics-/Updated-Article-proposing-idea-of-killing-Egyptian.aspx">call</a> made by an Egyptian writer, who called for the killing of these children as a solution to the problem. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Autocracy and women</strong></h2> <p>Another social group that has been subjected to <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-19440656">widespread abuse</a> and repression are women. From domestic violence, to sexual abuse and mob violence, especially during the period of the mass protests that rocked Egypt between 2011 and 2013.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/egypt-new-report-reveals-huge-extent-violence-against-women-country">UN survey</a> stated that 99.3 percent of its respondents said they were subjected to sexual harassment, either verbally or physically. In another <a href="http://www.prb.org/pdf10/spousalviolence-egypt.pdf">survey,</a> conducted in 2005, one third of women reported having been abused by their husbands, with seven percent claiming that they were beaten “often.” </p> <p>This dire situation is complicated by state policies that offer no protection for women. On the contrary, they condone this form of violence by creating hurdles for the survivors of domestic and sexualised violence. </p> <p>Based on eyewitness accounts, members of the security forces are very reluctant to take action when a woman reports a case of sexual harassment, and members of the public even attempt to dissuade her from reporting the incident. </p> <p>As for domestic violence, Egyptian law places a number of obstacles for women who wish to report cases of abuse. This, combined with cumbersome divorce laws, women are more often than not forced to remain silent and in abusive relationships. </p> <p>Women are a marginalized group that is an easy target for “societal repression” by men, who are also repressed by more powerful men, creating a reinforcing cycle of violence and repression.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Autocracy is also recreated in the home. The man, who is repressed outside the home takes up the mantle of the autocrat within the family structure, dispensing violence and repression as he sees fit with little social or legal protection given to the woman or children. </p> <p>Once again, the regime creates the space for the recreation of autocracy at the level of the family, with the male head of the house acting as the local autocrat. The brunt of this is being dealt to women from the poorer classes. Social norms provide a semblance of protection for middle and upper-class women, even though they are not immune from such abuses.</p> <h2><strong>A plethora of autocracies</strong></h2> <p>Based on the above it becomes clear that an autocratic regime does not simply have one autocrat, it has a multitude of dictators spread across all aspects of daily life.</p> <p>The autocratic regime creates the conditions that allow for the abuse of power and outsources the process of repression to its citizenry. This repression ensures the stability of the regime, as it allows its victims to repress others even though they themselves are repressed. The end result is absolute power.</p> <p>This also helps to create anti-democratic tendencies as mini-autocrats would not want to lose the power they have over their victims, who in the case of the existence of a democratic order would have both legal and social protections against such abuse. </p> <p>This constant violence and repression allows for the brutalization and de-humanization of the citizenry, and creates the necessary social conditions for the social production of autocracy. </p> <p>It negates the ideas of equality and freedom, and entrenches the notion of natural inequality as the basis of social order. Prime example being the superiority of men over women. </p> <p>Without these social conditions the autocracy would not be able to survive. In order for one autocrat to rule, the tentacles of repression have to reach all echelons of society.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-egypt-LGBT-arrest-prison-middle-class-sexual-morals">Sisi, the guardian of sexual morals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/laying-foundations-for-totalitarian-state">Laying the foundations for a totalitarian state</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-and-torture-state-violence-in-egypt">Pain and torture: state violence in Egypt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Culture Democracy and government power dictatorship autocracy human rights human rights abuses Chronicles of the Arab revolt Egypt in the balance Maged Mandour Thu, 18 Jan 2018 09:46:18 +0000 Maged Mandour 115689 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Let’s not ‘politicise’: let’s skill https://www.opendemocracy.net/andreas-karitzis/let-s-not-politicise-let-s-skill <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"We are very aware, when it comes to the whole Greek experience, that one of the problems the political left faces is … what it means to be able to implement your own ideas."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0116_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0116_preview.jpeg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Andreas in the market place of ideas, Team Syntegrity, Barcelona, June, 2017.</span></span></span>Rosemary(R): As someone based in Greece and practised in international debates around ‘</em><a href="https://www.tni.org/files/publication-downloads/new_politics_workshop_report-1.pdf"><em>new politics</em></a><em>’, what did you make of our Team Syntegrity process in Barcelona last June: did it add something to the toolbox?</em></p> <p><strong>Andreas (AK): </strong>The interesting thing about this three-day event was the fact that people with very different interests and expertise came together. We weren’t exactly focused and working together on the tools or methodologies that would achieve progressive change: we were more diverse than that. </p> <p>But every now and then it seems that it is important for all of us to check out the relevance of what we are doing in our respective fields, by becoming more aware of what is happening to the people around us working in totally different areas, and by having access to their perspectives on what is going on. I saw how people these days are approaching what is happening, and how they think they should address it. And I have kept in touch with the Greek participants and also with Ashish Ghadiali. </p> <p>I saw and heard a lot about areas of activity<span> </span>which are not priorities for me, but which appeared to me nevertheless quite crucial to bear in mind. I’m thinking of three of these: the need to find a good way to bring emotions into our calculations of social organisation and political change; secondly, the complexity that different religious backgrounds bring to the table of anyone fantasising about a global identity; and the fascinating things going on in agriculture, of which I know very little, but which turn out to be utterly relevant to the urban challenges with which I wrestle. Pavlos has given me a lot of tips in this regard, despite both of us being so busy.</p> <p>It was also good to encounter people who simply have different positions in the global division of labour. That was also nice. I have a sense of urgency; I met people who had an even greater sense of urgency; but also people who had considerably less of that sense. We are all part more or less of a global movement for progressive change that we would like to see coordinated; but it became very clear that people do not have the same experiences, the same feelings about what is going on, let alone the same commitment to how to tackle it. That is important to take into consideration.</p> <p><em>R: Those were all things you learned from your fellow participants. What about your own ability to share your concerns and priorities with the others? – sowing seeds and seeing them germinate was one of the favourite metaphors of the event.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>On that front, I have a dual response. The first is rather negative. I felt that sometimes the point I was trying to make was not well understood by my fellow-participants. I realise that this means that I have to take into greater consideration, as I said, the different vantage points of my interlocutors. You have to find a way to communicate it better. But I came to the conclusion that this was also more profoundly about my diagnosis regarding the way politics functions or rather does not function in liberal democracies today, based on my experience in Greece. Politics no longer works. It doesn’t deliver; and at the same time, it doesn’t allow a space for people to talk convivially about their institutional experience in this regard. </p> <p>But of course, the extent of the decline is not the same in all liberal democracies. So if you are discussing with people from countries where the institutional framework does not appear so obsolete, it is understandable that talking like this may seem rather bizarre. It must have seemed as if I was trying to warn them of an imminent setback, as opposed to helping them articulate their existing experience of the options before them. So I probably needed a different way of speaking. When I referred to the political functioning of liberal democracies I described it in such a way that made it sound as if it was no longer powerful enough institutionally to allow the prospect of any real political advance. But this is not an adequate description of what is going on in their countries, where it seems to people that, with whatever difficulty, they are indeed able to advance their democratic cause. So I need to find a new frame for the same sort of reasoning that I am engaged in.</p> <p>Many times, however, even if people didn’t share my perspective, I thought they did glimpse the fertility of the ideas behind what I was trying to elaborate. </p> <p><em>R: Were discussions about the UK Labour Party and Momentum’s role that I know you had with one or two of the participants an example of this sort of misunderstanding?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>I am very happy that there are people who understand the need to change our priorities and our methodology in working for progressive change. I had exactly the same convictions myself in the years leading up to 2015, when the realities in Greece became so clear. A few years back, I would have argued for the same things, based on the assessments I was making then about what sorts of prospects we faced and how things could evolve. But after 2015, this was no longer an assessment. We had the facts, the reality. </p> <p>So this has convinced me to be bolder in arguing for a different methodology, one which concentrates much more on the creation of social capital to better prepare ourselves for the forthcoming challenge in various countries. And I find people from other countries are beginning to listen to this. </p> <p>The Labour Party path seems a fruitful one. I am not a pessimist in this regard. But the UK faces very difficult problems and it will be a hard fight. I don’t have any problem with failure either. I don’t mind that, because I believe that whatever we do during a period of time is not a permanent solution to any problem: it is always an attempt to cope with the challenges that will provide valuable lessons for the future. And it’s my role to learn.</p> <p><em>R: I wasn’t trying to engage you in that sort of dreary speculation over who the winners and the losers are likely to be, which goes on ad nauseam. I suppose I was hoping to focus on your thoughts on the function of a leftwing movement in rather reactionary countries nowadays. What should they aspire to, what should they look like? This I take it was the main topic of the ‘Transforming the left’ discussion you were involved in last June.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>What you are asking for is <em>the</em> core problem we need to address: how are we going to organise socially and politically the majority of the people in order to become powerful enough to influence the course of our societies? This is the question. What we have now, if you ask my opinion, is a pretty good diagnosis in itself of what is not working. We may have the requirements, the specifications of what we need. But we have to fill in these specs with content, with various experiences and with actual processes. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0190_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0190_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity, June, 2017.</span></span></span>Maybe there are interesting things going on in Britain that I am not aware of. But here in Greece, I can tell you about a similar path that is under way. We are trying to build networks that draw people into activity, while maximising the decision-making opportunities that are appropriate to what people know how to do. These will be organisations constructed around a variety of autonomous and semi-autonomous groupings, which allow people to choose where they are best placed to learn and to contribute. We don’t have to take all the decisions together. We will take qualified decisions while maintaining a basic democratic functioning within the parts and good coordination between the parts. </p><p>So if you ask me the new model of organisation that I am describing is not a top down organisation, where people transfer the crucial decisions to those above them: but it will be a network of autonomous entities engaged in their own projects, but cooperating and coordinating together to achieve more complex tasks. That is what we are trying to do now in <a href="http://komvoshub.org/2/about.html">Komvos</a> – in its experimental phase, based on commons principles and those of a solidarity economy. </p> <p>The pilot is not a huge network, but we are using it to find out what kinds of qualities the organisers must have, what kinds of digital tools you could use to have this kind of coordination, and the kinds of institutions we need in order to support such networks on a larger scale. If you think about it, for example we need institutions that can scale up the parts of the network that are working well; mature projects for implementation – you may have a good idea and not have a clue about how to translate it into an implementation plan, and there are people who are experts and can do this for others; and we also need a strong funding component, instead of having to create small funding units within each of the cells, that can provide this service to any cell or cluster of cells that needs it. This funding component might include facilities for crowdfunding, donors, foundations, banking and investment skills, everything. It is a new institution. We also need a cultural institution. These are the features of the ‘content’ needed to fill the frame that I was referring to.</p> <p>Komvos in this sense is a facilitator of this network. We don’t want it to become the organisation itself, but rather to act as a cell that enables a group of other cells to emerge, by mediating between different parts of the network to consolidate better communications overall, and by supplying different processes that enable different cells which are autonomous and up and running already, to work out what they can do best together. These are if you like ‘second order cells’ of a network that are not themselves in the field, but that support all the cells working in the field. This is what I am thinking about and what we are working on.</p> <p><em>R: To what extent is it necessary that the members of these cell clusters, or networks, consciously espouse a shared political purpose?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>That’s a tricky question, because the people involved in setting up Komvos with me are strongly politically oriented. But we are very aware, when it comes to the whole Greek experience, that one of the problems the political left faces is the underestimation of technical aspects of social capacity, what it means to be able to implement your own ideas. This is because we tend to think that the major problems are political, and a matter of political will. This is right to a certain extent. But if that means that you become totally impotent in terms of your operational capacities, then that creates, as you can imagine, a serious problem. </p> <p>So in this phase of our actions and operations, we do not want to connect this kind of activity to any explicit political commitment. We know that if we flourish at this level, our skills will be completely essential to any emancipatory politics in the broadest sense of the term, but we don’t want to burden those involved today with political controversy and cat-fights – those are happening of their own accord quite enough anyway – but we don’t want to promote this. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to see and are not working for an indication in a few years’ time that innovative and transformed political platforms are emerging at a municipal and regional level – and why not at a national level too? But they will have been informed about what it means to become involved in politics through the activities in the network that they have been engaged in, and that I have been describing to you.</p> <p><em>R: &nbsp;That’s very interesting, because it tells me that your primary purpose is not to find a new and more productive function for the left in any given society, in this case Greece, but that your primary purpose is to build up nodes of social capacity. You may have your own political motivations for committing to the formation of a certain kind of resilience in the face of the future challenges you anticipate, but that’s it. Those motivations are not the driver for the whole, and theoretically, the skills you seek to form could and perhaps should be nurtured in many different parts of our diverse societies? In our reactionary liberal democracies there are people throughout society who have everything from entrepreneurial and technological skills to caring and ethical skills, which we shall need to bring together in any decent future fight on behalf of democracy and people power.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>Yes, that’s it. But let me add to this way of describing what I’m saying. After 2015 here in Greece, I do not have a left organisation that is a point of reference for me. It would be quite different, and I would say more or less the same things but in a rather different modality, if a vibrant left party could have emerged alive and kicking from what happened in 2015. Had that happened, then today we would have an organisational tool that maybe needed improvement and modifications, but which could help in the creation of the network that I was talking about, bringing people from different origins, with different priorities and different political identities together, and this left party could be one crucial factor in its success. We don’t have that. So I cannot say, “First I will rebuild and revive the left and then the new left will do this.” It’s not going to work like that. And so if you ask my opinion, you have to go straight to the people, to the many different people, among which leftwingers constitute only one constituency, who are going to prove useful to this project. I strongly recommend this strategy to my leftist friends, and amongst the leftist organisations, I read in their publications quite a lot of similar ideas and methodological echoes. But I would not choose to work within the left at this period of time. I’m not underestimating those ideas. I did work within those methodologies for twenty years! But I don’t think I have to begin from there to reach the many parts of the people in struggle that surround me. That seems more productive.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0248_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0248_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity discussions, June 2017.</span></span></span><em>R: Your vision reminds me of many very different organisational opportunities, from the Greater London Enterprise Board before Margaret Thatcher crushed it, to the exciting municipal experiments in the Fearless Cities network launched in Barcelona. Where, internationally, do you take your inspiration from?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>The interesting things happening now in Barcelona and Madrid and other areas in Spain are indeed a major source of inspiration and relevant ideas. Moreover, there we are talking about another European country, which means a similar political context and indeed a shared history. We witness the expansion of similar efforts in other countries. Thanks to Magda at the Team Syntegrity, I recently discovered some of the great work being undertaken by Razem, the new leftwing party in Poland, something similar to what Podemos are doing. And there are similar initiatives in Romania and also in Croatia at the municipal level. It is all at a very early stage, this way of addressing our organisational and methodological problems, but it is happening and will give us new insights. </p> <p>What is happening in Rojava and the Kurdish areas of Syria is also inspiring. The major argument that comes from there is that democracy and the decentralisation of decision-making and the coordination of equals are not luxuries that we can only aspire to after we have put paid to our enemies, but that they are crucial and essential tools if you want to survive because they are the only way to liberate in full the capacities of the people. That is an absolutely key argument. And a major breakthrough in experience that is going on there, and I use it a lot.</p> <p>Another source of inspiration comes from the enemy camp, so to speak! I admire the determination, the political conviction and the coordination of neoliberal political formations in every country. They are very dedicated, and very ready to give away their power if that is good for their cause. Take the example of neoliberal politicians who privatise. Privatisation takes away power from the political level, from <em>your</em> level if you are a neoliberal politician, and gives it to major corporations. But these corporations are the proper entities according to neoliberal ideology that should take these kinds of decisions. From our perspective, how often do you see leftwing political leaders come to power who readily give away decision-making to the social entities that their ideology seems to promote? I admire that: I like it. That’s another source of inspiration. Their determination and devotion and being ready to do things that seem to curtail their own influence to promote the wider ideological goals.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another inspiring model is the very successful, I should say, social movement, the Islamist Gulen movement in Turkey – Gulen was the former friend and now deadly enemy of Erdogan – which used to work mainly at the social level, organising various basic social functions in Turkey, cornering education and other crucial areas of society, to preserve both the ideas and activities of the people that they favoured at a very profound level. I believe, when I talk about power at the social level, that we need to be thinking about functions like that and on that sort of scale. You literally have to organise vital functions of society in a way that is autonomous, or semi-autonomous, and with several interfaces<span> </span>with the state. Hezbollah is attempting a similar process of becoming the true organisers of life at a neighbourhood level, and combining that with political power, using that leverage to empower themselves at a social level. </p> <p>That too is a very interesting reversal of priorities if you think about it. In the traditional left we want to produce social power in order to have political power, because we believe that is very crucial and no doubt it is. But in Lebanon, Hezbollah cannot take over the government even if they had the majority: war would break out the following day. So they know their political limits. And they have used the political power that they have in order to acquire a veritable social power, attained through empowering people in various areas in Lebanon. </p> <p>These are interesting versions of how you can reconfigure and combine political and social power and what kind of priorities you formulate. <span></span></p> <p><em>R: I wonder, for example, what you would make of that moment in the development of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt when there seemed to be the opportunity to develop a vibrant, pluralist youth movement, but this was never allowed to come to fruition.</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>They were also operating in a very toxic political environment, and are forced to be active at the social level of influence, as a consequence. But their fight is for other values, not for our concept of emancipation, and so that is bound to set limits. The funny thing is that all too often the left have similar self-imposed limitations even though we say to ourselves that we fight for emancipation, and this is what we promote. If you have a pluralist youth movement around you, you must not be afraid of it. You must see it in a positive light. I can see why the Muslim Brotherhood might find that impossible. But it’s more strange when leftist parties can’t deal with that.</p> <p><em>R. There is a big debate in leftist circles about ‘left populism’, and the sort of move that Jean-Luc M</em><em><span class="st"><em>é</em></span>lenchon has made to construct a monocultural French National Us, for example, from the ‘common sense of the social majority’, beyond class, race and gender differences. This again seems designed to bypass the pluralist energies which empower self-organising formations in our diverse societies? Do you see this as a major trap for progressives? &nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>I agree about the dangers of ‘left populism’. But we can find a solution to this simply by broadening our viewpoint. At this moment in time, this is not at all a problem confined to progressive movements or the left. This relates to a problem human society has encountered since the first permanent human settlement of the Sumerians. Since then, the best way that we have figured out how to take decisions in complex societies is by cutting off the majority of the population from that decision-making. In the broadest sense, this is a description of our civilizational status. Despite exceptional and brilliant moments in history, we have not solved the problem. But I strongly believe that we are living in a period over the last two centuries and increasingly, in which continuing in this manner visibly harms our societies on a huge scale.</p> <p>So we are about to take an evolutionary step, and emancipation, progressive values, I see these as the ingredients of this evolutionary step. We have to solve this sort of problem within the political left, which is the question you were putting to me, but in order to do this, we have to see the challenge as an instance of a much broader phenomenon that societies are facing. Usually the left don’t do that. We think that it is our problem, and that if we manage to solve it, we will then go on to liberate society. </p> <p>I have watched this general decline of the default position we have at hand, which is cutting other people off from the decision-making, in order to be able to control and manage complex societies. I see this in various areas of human activity, whether you are looking at surveillance or left factional in-fighting. </p> <p>But to solve this – we need a broader perspective. The core question is, how is it possible to do mass politics without leaders, leaders not in the sense of those who decide, because as I have already suggested, that is the part that won’t work, but leaders as the symbolic consolidation of values, social trends and commitments. Maybe we don’t need a symbolic consolidation, a person, a face, in order to do mass politics. But up until now we do seem to have connected differently to faces, in a way that we do not to ideas. A person can commit him or herself to ‘solidarity’ as an abstract principle, but someone who is seen to enact this will move people’s admiration in a much more direct, emotional way. This particular woman, with her eyes, and her persona – can have an enormous effect on a public, and we cannot be indifferent to this.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282_preview.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_0282_preview.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Team Syntegrity,June 2017.</span></span></span><em>R: You mentioned the centrality of the emotions, perhaps particularly to the younger participants in the Team Syntegrity. This may be a generational development, linked to the digital rise of peer group communication. Emotional literacy and the pursuit of happiness is surely a profound cultural, social and political gain, but it coincides with an era only now barely emerging from the sense that ‘there is no alternative’ to austerity. People tend to look for reassurances that they are not going to be losers before they are willing to try anything. Is that your experience in trying to organise change in Greece?</em></p> <p><strong>AK: </strong>&nbsp;What stimulated me on the subject of emotionality in Barcelona was my growing conviction that people will be able to make huge sacrifices and take on huge risks for change if they are emotionally attached to other people. That this is the crucial factor. </p> <p>I have met twenty year olds who are ultra-nationalists. But if they have the opportunity to really get to know someone from another country, and this goes well, these friends may in no time be willing to give their lives for each other. Something is happening in this area of social relations. And I don’t think we have grasped this development or have a serious assessment of what is going on. I am not talking about psychological explanations – these we do have. But I am talking about a serious political understanding of the impact of these developments. The rise of the right in so many countries has to do with this kind of emotional transference among groups of people, and we have not paid proper attention to this.</p> <p>When it comes to what motivates people to become active, for the next few decades we will probably have to cope with generations of people who implicitly assume that change can be both easy and quick, once they decide on something. Go to a few demonstrations, go and vote, participate in a few meetings, and things must change. But this is not the case. It’s not easy to tell people that they are going to have to ‘try harder’ if they want to live in a decent society. And I wouldn’t exactly want to say that anyway. It’s more a case of them being more ambitious for themselves about what they want to see and to do. People must be more engaged in ways based on their own interests. And for sure, as societies we have to try harder to find these ways.</p> <p>The ‘end of history’ mentality is so rooted in our minds, which says to us, either there are no serious challenges, or if they do exist, I will deal with these in a way that suits my lifestyle. I may look like a militant activist, but actually, my commitment is two or three hours a day maximum. This approach will not produce results, because the difficult times coming will require a different order of commitment. I’m not just talking about the hours this will take, but the nature and quality of the commitment including my own sense of my identity and interests. We will have around us as you said anxious people who want quick results. We must vote against Trump and mobilise for his impeachment and a change of president; and if we invest in our society in this way and are successful, it must change because we have been willing to do this! But this is not true. A lot of people have to do all sorts of things at all sorts of levels of society, large and small, before a society begins to change and we win the privilege of being able to say, not that we are changing, but that indeed we are influencing our societies in a better direction.</p> <p>Influencing society is a very hard job. The neoliberals poured a huge amount of effort and money into institutions, foundations, colleges and universities, working for decades to secure the changes that we witness around us. We cannot expect that demonstrating for three days out in the streets, or voting for a political change, will be enough to change the nature and direction of our societies. So this is the false expectation that we should also be thinking about more, and finding ways to overcome it.</p> <p><em>R: Thank you, Andreas. <br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Team Syntegrity 2017</p><p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/teamsyntegrity"><strong>Meet the participants</strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-results"><strong>Some results </strong></a></p> <p><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/team-syntegrity-process"><strong>Process in their own words</strong></a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ashish-ghadiali-rosemary-bechler/while-sun-shines">While the sun shines</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/noam-titelman/politics-of-feelings">The politics of feelings</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/agnieszka-wi-niewska/from-civil-society-to-political-society">From civil society to political society</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Greece </div> <div class="field-item even"> Spain </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Poland </div> <div class="field-item even"> Croatia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Lebanon </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> UK Turkey Syria Egypt Lebanon Croatia Poland Spain Greece Team Syntegrity Rosemary Bechler Andreas Karitzis Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:46:10 +0000 Andreas Karitzis and Rosemary Bechler 115597 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Egypt: do you really want to counter terrorism? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-terrorism-sinai-violence-religion-repression-sisi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the failure intentional or a result of general incompetence? Because of repression or Islamic ideology? This debate should be far from over.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-31472417.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-31472417.jpg" alt="NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>May 26, 2017 - Relatives of the victims of the bus attack taking sand mixed with blood on the way back from the funeral service, at Ava Samuel desert monastery in Minya, Egypt. Masked gunmen attacked a bus carrying Christians, many of them children, on their way to the same monastery. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>What semblance of a debate on whether Egypt’s policies combating terrorism may be effective died on 24 November 2017 when Egypt witnessed one of its deadliest ever terrorist attacks.</p> <p>Over 300 people were killed and several hundreds injured by a gang of militants inside the <a href="https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/11/30/feature/politics/rawda-village-attack-a-new-reality-for-islamic-state-in-egypt/">Rawda mosque</a> in Bir-Al-Abed in northern Sinai. </p> <p>A month prior, 54 security forces members were ambushed 135 km south west of Cairo, a clear sign of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/egypt-sisi-police-security-farafra-oasis-insurgent-terrorism">failing counter insurgency policy</a>. </p> <p>Based on the quality of policies in place, numerous analysts had <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/08/egypt-sisi-terrorism-muslim-brotherhood/401792/">predicted</a> the deterioration in the security situation in Egypt early on. Few attempted to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt, writing off earlier failures as poor execution. The debate is now over. </p> <p>There is no doubt that Egypt’s policies have failed. Sisi’s vow to use ‘<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-29/egypt-s-el-sisi-orders-brute-force-operation-to-pacify-sinai">brute force</a>’ to end extremist activity in Sinai indicates that no amount of policy advice will sway current leadership from its trajectory. </p> <p>Yet even as the outlook is bleak, a few other questions currently surround the latest terror incident and have not been as conclusively resolved. </p> <h2><strong>Repression vs ideology</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>One of the more enduring questions in Egypt (and indeed other Middle Eastern countries) centers around whether extremism is a result of repressive measures undertaken routinely by the state or whether the violence is inherently and unavoidably present within the fabric of the ideology of Islam. </p> <p>Following the Rawda Mosque attack and many previous others, some placed all the blame purely on <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/934080974773776384">ideology</a>, claiming that these violent actions come from violent ideas that are derived from violent verses. </p> <p>The claim is that violence is a consequence of ideology and Islam in particular, irrespective of repression. Others claimed it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/26/egypt-iron-fist-response-terror-attacks-never-works">repression</a> that radicalizes people and causes the extreme violent reaction.</p> <p>While the debate focuses on whether to blame the state or Islamist ideology, simplifying either side would not be accurate. </p> <p>Blaming repression for the rise of extremism can be countered by the quality of the violence that is produced. Many around the world have been repressed but have not reacted with indiscriminate violence and rhetoric that accompanies extremists who associate themselves with Islam. </p> <p>The violence is too righteous and extreme to simply be a reaction to repression. To blame Islamist ideology alone does not fully explain it because the majority of Muslims are peaceful and numerous Muslim countries have not devolved into producing such extremist groups.</p> <p>The reality is that ideology never develops in a vacuum. It largely depends on the context surrounding it. </p> <p>In order to grow in numbers whatever movement that subscribes to an ideology must be fed with new supporters. Repression is the simplest way to radicalize.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">Egypt's problem is sectarianism, intolerance, violence, uncritical support of authority, injustice and brutality.</p> <p>In Egypt, the extreme conservative Wahabi ideology is rampant enough to absorb new recruits looking to live out their radicalization.</p> <p>To simplify, Egypt's problem isn't just repression or violent ideology, it's sectarianism, intolerance, violence, uncritical support of authority, injustice and brutality. </p> <p>While the extremists can be blamed for their violent actions and the murder of innocents, we cannot blame them for being provided the perfect breeding ground for new recruits. </p> <p>That can almost certainly all be blamed on the state along with a culture of violence and the shutting down of real debate as a modus-operandi.</p> <h2><strong>State responsibility</strong></h2> <p>Another question that arises as a direct result of the Rawda massacre is whether the state is responsible for this incident in particular. </p> <p>After all, how can the state protect people praying in a mosque on a Friday with so many mosques all over the country and limited security personnel in comparison. </p> <p>This is an argument also made earlier when a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40059307">bus full of Coptic Christians</a> heading towards a monastery was stopped and many of its passengers executed in May 2017. </p> <p>With all the roads in Egypt, how is it possible to protect all of them? Besides, we cannot always blame the state for everything. Many have made that claim including a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/hossam.bahgat.140/posts/10155865380709603">leading human rights figure</a>. </p> <p>This argument raises the question, when do we accept the failed policies of a state and start holding the state accountable? Can we really isolate the incident of the mosque shooting from the general context in northern Sinai for which the state is responsible? </p> <p>Add to the mix the fact that ISIS has <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/how-an-egyptian-village-became-a-target-of-the-islamic-state/2017/11/27/359c79f0-d2fd-11e7-9ad9-ca0619edfa05_story.html?utm_term=.97094edaa9d0">issued threats</a> to the inhabitants of the town of Rawda for practicing Sufism, and no additional protection was provided to the town. </p> <p>How can one then not blame the State?</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The state’s policies offer a perfect breeding ground for radicals and vendetta.</p> <p>Days earlier the security apparatus was busy cracking down on <a href="https://www.almesryoon.com/story/1125372/حملة-اعتقالات-ضد-نشطاء-سياسيين-في-الأقصر">activists in Luxor</a> and the <a href="http://gulfnews.com/news/mena/egypt/egypt-arrests-satirist-over-illegal-group-1.2128791">owner of a satirical twitter account</a>. </p><p>These resources should have been dedicated to identifying extremists and thwarting their plans instead of cracking down on civil and peaceful opposition.</p> <p>The debate persists. The state’s policies fail to counter extremism. They offer a perfect breeding ground for radicals and vendetta. </p> <p>What appears to be a long standing policy of not investing in the development of north Sinai has also limited people’s opportunities and resources. Numerous Sinai inhabitants have been subjected to indiscriminate attacks by the state as well as <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/22/egypt-thousands-evicted-sinai-demolitions">forced evictions</a>. </p> <p>At the same time, the nature of the attack is highly difficult to control because of physical and geographical challenges. But is it possible to divorce the state’s responsibility from physical security challenges? Is it possible to view the terror incidents in isolation of the context created by state policies and actions?</p> <h2><strong>Incompetent or intentional?</strong></h2> <p>Is the failure intentional or a result of general incompetence that is ever present in Egypt’s institutions? This question is also up for discussion and not easily resolvable. While policies are far from perfect, it is unlikely that they are carried out efficiently. </p> <p>The present practices are demonstrably doing more harm than good. Is it possible that the Egyptians are unaware of this? Or is it simply, when all you have is a hammer all your problems look like a nail?</p> <p>The argument for incompetence is a strong one since Egyptian security forces are poorly trained and the top brass often resort to rhetoric revolving around conspiracy theories, such as fourth-generation warfare, as a scapegoat for their failures. </p> <p>It is also widely known that incompetence permeates all segments of the Egyptian government, and the military and police are not immune. </p> <p>However, the intentionality of maintaining a state of crisis when it comes to terrorism is not without merits. </p> <p>Sisi’s mandate came from fighting terrorism rather than elections. At a time where extremism is a threat to the entire world with the rise of the Islamic State, world leaders have been happy to turn a blind eye towards any rights abuses in exchange for a proxy to help them fight extremists.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">the continued threat of terror is the raison d’etre for Sisi’s rule.</p> <p>With poor political and economic performance, the continued threat of terror becomes the raison d’etre for Sisi’s rule.</p> <p>Indeed, before rising to power, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-army-violence-sinai-terrorism-waronterror-church-bombs-militants">Sisi displayed an accurate understanding</a> that violent policies such as those adopted by his regime can only lead to increased violence and alienation of the north Sinai population. He understood that forced evictions and indiscriminate targeting of north Sinai residents would create violence.</p> <p>Islamic State prisoners find ample opportunity within <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/borzoudaragahi/prison-fight-between-isis-and-the-muslim-brotherhood">Egyptian prisons to recruit</a>. Enforced disappearances are common in north Sinai. </p> <p>When speaking to <a href="https://dailynewsegypt.com/2015/11/01/egyptians-disappear-egypt-disintegrates/">Nabil Elboustany</a> following his release after being forcibly disappeared by the army in 2015, he recounted his experience in the Azouli prison in Ismaileya. He described how hundreds or maybe even thousands of north Sinai residents were being <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/07/egypt-investigate-allegations-of-disappearance-torture-and-extrajudicial-execution-of-four-men/">forcibly disappeared</a> by the army, mistreated and then released. </p> <p>Elboustany’s testimony was recently echoed by Ibrahim Halawa an Irish citizens who spent four years in jail before being acquitted. <a href="https://apnews.com/dd145b1cb67443369e91329a2d92918e/Freed-prisoner-witnessed-radicalization-in-Egyptian-jails">Halawa witnessed the radicalization inside prisons</a> and the strong growth of the Islamic State within its walls. </p> <p>The questions surrounding the climate of extremism and violence in Egypt are important to understand what may need to be done if a more competent and less obstinate administration were to tackle the problems of extremism and terrorism. </p> <p>Until then, more will suffer the consequences of the current context and many will be caught between the proponents of brute force.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/andrea-teti/egypt-s-predictable-tragedy-more-instability-attacks-to-come">Egypt’s predictable tragedy: more instability, attacks to come</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mohammad-ahmad/egypt-sinai-terrorist-attack">مصر: جريمة مسجد الروضة قد تتكرر</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/egypt-army-violence-sinai-terrorism-waronterror-church-bombs-militants">The Egyptian Army’s violent trail of breadcrumbs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/amr-magdi/we-need-to-talk-sisi-human-rights-world-youth-forum-egypt">‘We need to talk’ about Sisi’s twisted take on human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/egypt-sisi-police-security-farafra-oasis-insurgent-terrorism">Egypt’s faltering counter-insurgency strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/revolutionary-arena-battle-of-minds">The revolutionary arena: a battle of minds</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/wael-eskandar/battling-culture-of-inferior-copt">Egypt&#039;s Copts between terror and discrimination </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-torture-and-alienation">Pain, torture and alienation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Conflict Democracy and government ideology Religion repression security Islamic State State Violence Violent transitions The future: Islam and democracy Egypt in the balance Wael Eskandar Thu, 14 Dec 2017 18:53:56 +0000 Wael Eskandar 115326 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Critical voices in critical times: revolution without revolutionaries, an interview with Asef Bayat https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera-heba-khalil/critical-voices-in-critical-times-revolution-withou <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asef Bayat talks about revolutions and revolutionary ideas, the place of ordinary people in social transformation, and what we can learn from the “Tahrir moment.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p style="text-align: left;"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Asef Bayat- Hague copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Asef Bayat- Hague copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="472" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Asef Bayat. Picture courtesy of author. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p style="text-align: left;">Interview by Heba Khalil ; video by Linda Herrera</p><p><a href="http://www.sociology.illinois.edu/people/abayat">Asef Bayat</a>&nbsp;is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.&nbsp;In his new book,&nbsp;“<a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=26257">Revolution without&nbsp;</a><a href="http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=26257">revolutionaries: making sense of the Arab Spring</a>” (Stanford University Press, 2017), he explores the meaning of revolutionary struggle in the post-Cold War era, a “time when the very idea of revolution had dissipated.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><div>In this interview, Heba Khalil presses Bayat on questions around the history of revolutions and revolutionary ideas, the place of ordinary people in social transformation, and what we can learn from the “Tahrir moment.”</div><p><span style="font-weight: bold;">Watch the</span><a style="font-weight: bold;" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUOS8MVBhn4&amp;feature=youtu.be"> video </a><span style="font-weight: bold;">by Linda Herrera</span></p><iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GUOS8MVBhn4" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><strong>H: Your new book is provocatively titled “Revolution without Revolutionaries.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by </strong></em><em><strong>this</strong></em><em><strong>?</strong></em></p> <p>A: When I say “revolution without revolutionaries” here I mean revolutions without revolutionary ideas. Those were revolutions in terms of those spectacular mobilizations, those extraordinary protests. They were quite remarkable in terms of the tactics of mobilization – how to mobilize, resist, and manage to bring so many people to the streets. In the Egyptian case, Tahrir square became a global space, it became a model for other movements that emerged in other places later on in some 5,000 cities around the world. But revolution in terms of change, and in terms of having a vision about change, and about how to rest power from the incumbents, that to me was quite lacking. Of course, there are those who may argue that a vision might emerge in the process spontaneously; but it may or may not. I am not very convinced about that. I think some kind of ideas might emerge in the process, but really those have to be backed up and supported by deep thinking and rigorous analysis.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">One has to have some fairly good ideas about what happens the day after.</p><p>For instance, what happened in Tahrir square itself for some outside observers meant no less than a “future-in-the-present”. In other words, it was seen as a democratic space run by people, something like what Hannah Arendt called a “Greek Polis” where the people were running their own affairs democratically without a sovereign power presiding over them. This is a very interesting idea that mesmerized people like Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and others. But I think that while Tahrir was so spectacular, so inspiring, it was also exceptional, transitory. It was an exceptional moment in the long process of revolution, which happens in most of the great revolutionary transformations, when there emerge practices that navigate between the real and the unreal, between reality and utopia. But the question for me was, what happens the day after the dictator abdicates, when people go home to attend to their daily needs of bread, jobs, security, and normalcy? These are the kinds of issues I have in mind when I talk about broader visions and deep thinking, things I feel the revolutionaries should possess. One has to have some fairly good ideas about what happens the day after. How do you want to build a spectacular democratic model that people lived in Tahrir, in the society, in the state, and at national level? That is the challenge.</p> <p>And it is not just the Arab uprisings that could not provide answers to these questions. If you look at other social movements throughout the world at that juncture of 2011 such as the Occupy movements, they are pretty similar in terms of their position of not having a particular alternative vision, in the way that previous revolutions had. All one can say here is that when a revolutionary movement comes to fruition, having ideas about how power works, how to deal with it, how to alter it, and how to institute new power relations towards a more just, egalitarian and inclusive order, do matter. But going even further, not only can we think about how to tackle the question of power, but also how to tackle the question of property, in our movements.</p> <p>I want to emphasize a key difference here: The activists of the Arab Spring separated in some way the realm of the polity from the realm of the economy, as if they were two separate spheres. In fact, they didn’t do or say much about the economic relations, except for calling for “social justice.” But, it is necessary for us to ask what they meant by ‘social justice’, and did they have any institutional anchor for it? How did they propose to implement social justice, or was it based on lip service, something that came out of a reaction to the terrible inequalities and deprivations that the economic neoliberalism has unleashed on the ordinary people? How do you address these deprivations?</p><p class="mag-quote-center">They key issues raised by the Arab political class seemed to be with government accountability, democracy, and human rights.</p><p>Issues of equality were fundamental to a lot of earlier revolutionaries, but it wasn’t really picked up in the Arab revolutionaries, even though social and economic exclusion was one of the key concerns of the ordinary people. They key issues raised by the Arab political class seemed to be with government accountability, democracy, and human rights. I have to say these demands are very significant in our region, indeed. But they are often used and manipulated also by the authoritarian regimes and their western allies, who speak similar language. This language is often used to hide the ruling class linkages with social exclusion, economic deprivation, terrible inequality, and the regime of property.</p><p><em><strong>H: What </strong></em><em><strong>difference do you see between the revolutions of the 1970s and before, such as </strong></em><em><strong>in Iran,</strong></em><em><strong> Guatemala and Cuba, and the Arab Spring?</strong></em></p><p><em><strong>&nbsp;</strong></em>A: The key thing to be able to explain the differences is that they happened in different ideological times. The revolutions of the 1970s obviously were happening at the time when the Cold War was at its height, so the world was divided between the Soviet Union and its allies, the socialist world, on one hand, and then the capitalist world on the other. Then, you had a third world which Iran and Nicaragua were part of. But you still had movements, both liberation struggles and social movements that were inclined towards radical ideologies like socialism and communism, largely in the developing countries.</p> <p class="mag-quote-left">The Arab revolutions happened at the time when the very idea of revolution had dissipated</p><p>There were also very powerful anti-imperialist movements, like in Cuba, which a lot of these political groups in the developing countries upheld. In contrast to the ideological times of the 1970s, the Arab Spring came to fruition in some kind of post-ideological interval; this was the aftermath of 1989 when the anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe were to mark the very end of oppositional ideology per se. So, with the end of socialism following the Eastern European revolutions, the very idea of revolution, which was so linked to and informed by socialism, came to an end. It was as though the world had gone beyond to sense the relevance of revolutions. So, the Arab revolutions happened at the time when the very idea of revolution had dissipated.</p> <p><em><strong>H: In what ways did the absence of revolutionary avant-garde thinkers such as Trotsky</strong></em><em><strong>, </strong></em><em><strong>Guevara</strong></em><em><strong>, Fanon, or the Islamic socialist ideologue of the Iranian revolution, Ali Shariati, affect the process and the outcome of the Arab uprisings?</strong></em></p> <p>A: Revolutions almost always start spontaneously and surprise everyone, including the protagonists themselves, people like Lenin, who are in the business of making revolutions. But revolutions usually are associated with some intellectual articulation, some degree of conceptual baggage that informs the activists’ thinking, expectations, especially the strategy of revolution and the vision for transformation. These ideas act as a general guide as to how to push the revolution forward. Rosa Luxemburg, for instance, brought what she called ‘theory’ into the revolutionary praxis. People like Lenin had written a sophisticated study on the nature of capitalist development in Russia, about the nature of the state. Frantz Fanon articulated a notion of anti-colonial revolution. The Nicaraguan revolution had an intellectual component informed by democratic socialism and the vision of Sandino. Ali Shariati had developed a vision of revolution sensitive to the particularities of Iranian society and culture—a mix of Marxian socialism and revolutionary shi’ism.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Women Tahrir-mosaab copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/562712/Women Tahrir-mosaab copy.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="323" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Women in Tahrir Square. Picture by Mosa'ab Elshamy, 2011. With permission from the author. Some rights reserved. </span></span></span>In the case of the 2010s revolutions, it seems to me that there wasn’t any popular intellectual articulation. There weren’t alternative visions to the institutions or economic relations operating under the existing regimes. It seemed that what the protagonists wanted was to have these autocrats like Mubarak, Ben Ali or Saleh removed. But what would happen after that? Probably they were envisioning a more representative government, and rule of law. But then, how would you achieve it. How do you want to replace them? In other words, the question was how to wrest power from the incumbent regimes, with what means and resources? Of course, they had the street power, the popular will, and that is important. Here the hope is that the regimes would be forced to concede. Even if they were forced to concede, a new order would require prior exploration, analyses, imagination, and not to mention organization.</p> <p><em><strong>H: You have talked about revolution in terms of state power. Can you comment on Arab revolutions in terms of the transformation of society and “ordinary” people?</strong></em></p> <p>A: No revolution succeeds without ordinary people. Even in guerrilla warfare, where the protagonists were not more than a couple of hundred people, they still couldn’t have managed if they did not have the support of the peasants and the city people. Otherwise, they would get defeated. In general, the participation of ordinary people can very much secure the protagonists and the protest actions by making them as if they were the preoccupation of everyone, by bringing them to the social mainstream. To turn a non-routine and illegal protest ordinary “عادي” is a pretty extraordinary act.</p> <p class="mag-quote-right">No revolution succeeds without ordinary people.</p><p>If it is not in the mainstream, the extraordinary activists can easily be identified, shunned, separated as anti-social deviants and agitators and thus suppressed. But when you see the massive number of people on the streets – men, women, elderly, children, families and so on, this really matters a lot. Such presence of the masses in the public square would, in addition, demonstrate the strength of the movement and of the opposition both to themselves and to the opponents. So, yes, ordinary people do play a crucial role in revolutionary struggles. I have spoken of their role during the uprisings; ordinary people still gave a big role just after the regime change; because they often radicalize the revolutions by their very grassroots practices in factories, farms, neighborhoods, or in their unions.</p> <p><em><strong>H: How can we have revolutions, which are by default radical, but at the same time fail to even challenge the worldview of the very system they are revolting against?</strong></em></p> <p>A: This is a very interesting question. I suppose this apparent paradox and contradiction in some way reflects the contradiction of reality in these times. In fact, the first sentence in the book starts with this: ‘people may or may not have ideas about revolutions for them to happen… Because the outbreak of revolutions has little to do with any idea and even less with a theory of revolution. Revolutions “simply” happen… of course “simply” here is in the inverted comas, but they really happen in a very complex fashion. Having or not having an idea about the revolution has critical implications to the outcome when the revolution actually happens.</p> <p>In other words, revolutionary movements can happen and did happen even if the political class, the activists for instance, may not have thought and imagined the revolution. And it was for this reason that when what happened in Sidi Bouzid and later on in Tahrir Square, the revolutionaries and activists had to improvise; they had to come to terms with what they had never expected-- what to do with this crowd and what will happen the day after? They had to improvise, and it was very difficult. There was a time when even during the uprisings the protagonists would think “we are probably not ready for this”, “we hadn’t thought about this”, and “we needed to think about this (the revolution)”, but then it was too late.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">We had a revolutionary movement that came to compel the existing state to reform itself on behalf of the revolution.</p><p>As a consequence of this paradoxical reality, the outcome became what might be called “ref-olutions”, or if you like ‘reformist revolution’. This means that we had a revolutionary movement that came to compel the existing state to reform itself on behalf of the revolution. This was different from the previous revolutions where the revolutionaries would form a provisional government, an alternative organ of power, with some kind of hard power that they would use together with their street power to force the incumbent regime to abdicate. They would take over the governmental power and institute new governing structures, new social institutions and relations in society. These kinds of rapid and radical transformations that happened in the revolutions of the 1970s, we couldn’t see in the cases of Tunisia, Egypt or Yemen.</p> <p><em><strong>H: You describe the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements as “post-ideological”. What are the benefits of post-ideological movements?</strong></em></p> <p>A: I am referring here to the oppositional movements in this juncture. Now,<span style="text-decoration: underline;"> </span>ideology can be very powerful in mobilizing, unifying and galvanizing, creating a unified whole, which matters as far as power is concerned. But then ideology also, for that very reason, has the danger of dogma, and the danger of making the ideology so unquestionable that it could be repressive as well. If you look at what happened in the Arab revolutions, this duality was apparent. On the one hand, the process of the Arab revolutions was by far more open, more participative, and less repressive than the earlier revolutions that had a unified organization and leadership. A unified organization can easily stifle diversity and plurality, which we saw in the case of the Iranian revolution.</p> <p>Despite that the Iranian revolution had also a strong radical democratic component in terms of the emergence of popular councils at the base of the society in the neighborhoods, workplaces, and the educational institutions; but at the state level it became very quickly repressive and moved to stifle the opposition. This kind of repression did not happen in Egypt, for example, until 2013, and Tunisia remains fairly open and pluralistic. In fact, that is how I refer to the two sides of “ref-olutions”. On the one hand, they are by nature pluralistic because the power is not monopolized by the revolutionary take-over of the state—many institutions of civil society including those associated with the old regime remain active. On the other hand, however, precisely because of this the forces of counter-revolution would have better chance to engage in acts of sabotage and to regroup to restore old order.</p> <p><em><strong>H: Do you think that meaningful change is possible in our current world order, dominated by post-modern and post-ideological thought?</strong></em></p> <p class="mag-quote-left">Neoliberalism has the ability, and the tendency, to incorporate and absorb the radicalism that is coming to challenge it</p><p>A: It is difficult to say. I understand the dynamics and the constraints, but all I can say is that these are times of “open-endedness”. Maybe there is more potential for meaningful change. Meaningful change means benefitting the majority of people in disadvantaged positions, whether politically, economically, racially or in terms of identities. But I think this cannot be achieved, unless those who do want change seriously address the overpowering ideology and practices and institutions of neoliberalism. Post-ideological might mean that opposition to power may not adhere to a particular ideology. But most power holders continue to rely on ideology. Neoliberalism has become an ideology and it is a very powerful one, and it has these two aspects that I have mentioned: it is very powerful in galvanizing, but at the same time it is very dangerous in the sense that it has been able to present itself as a common-sense, as a natural way of thinking and organizing public life.</p> <p>It is very important to critique and subvert that, and highlight its principles and its very repressive and un-egalitarian consequences. As I argue in the book, neoliberalism has the effect of both creating dissent among the ordinary people, because it generates deprivation, exclusion and inequalities; but it also has had the effect of de-radicalizing the political class, meaning that it presents itself as a way of life for which there is no alternative. Therefore, any changes that should happen, happen within a context of this regime of power and its discourse. Once you do this, you tend to play the same games, deploy the same concepts in your opposition. Neoliberalism has the ability, and the tendency, to incorporate and absorb the radicalism that is coming to challenge it, by commoditizing and marketizing it. It can elevate radicals, can market personas like Che Guevara, as they sell their posters or other products. They even marketize revolutions. This tendency goes as far back as the anti-Milosevic uprisings in Serbia, when some ideas developed to make revolution chic, trendy or sexy.</p> <p><em><strong>H: What can we learn from the “Tahrir Moment”?</strong></em></p> <p>A: During those eighteen days, Tahrir politics defined the grassroots politics around the globe. But the question was – how is it possible to institutionalize Tahrir, in the sense of sustaining it in the relations and institutions of society, in the normal, non-exceptional, post-revolution times? I also wondered if there was an attempt to explore how to sustain the Tahrir moment, or whether it was just an ephemeral, passing moment, in the long process of revolutionary mobilization.</p> <p>It is important now to reflect back on the Tahrir Moment, and it is very significant to document and think about it, and take it as an historical, political and even moral resource, to deploy in thinking about an alternative future. We now have a legacy of Tahrir and should think about how it is possible to extend that political moment beyond that space and time of Tahrir. How can the idea of Tahrir work in different settings?</p> <p class="mag-quote-center">The idea, the ideal and the memory of Revolution need to be maintained.</p><p>This brings me to the idea of revolution. The idea, the ideal and the memory of Revolution need to be maintained. We should still be talking about it, and not to put it aside. We should treat it as an unfinished project that may have openings for the future. Of course, we should not be simply waiting for the future to come, but rather, we should make that alternative future possible. My sense is that some of the activists are doing this, they’re reading, they’re reflecting on what happened, and what could have been done. A history of a country like Egypt or Tunisia is not just a few years, we have future generations and more to come. So, I would not be depressed, despite the fact that the political condition right now is really depressing, and this is the case globally. Let us not forget that in the long span of time, even in our own lifetimes, regimes will come and go, but a country, a society, will remain. It is therefore imperative to work on our societies, something that is indeed possible to do. A strong and conscious society that values egalitarianism, inclusion and social justice will be able to socialize, even to acclimatize, and bring to line the states and their henchmen. So, there’s much work to do and think about.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-fanon-africa-decolonisation-g">Critical voices in critical times: Fanon, race &amp; politics - an interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (part 1 of 2)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-fanon-race-politics-interview">Critical voices in critical times: Fanon, race &amp; politics - an interview with Mireille Fanon-Mendès France (part 2 of 2) </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/linda-herrera/critical-voices-in-critical-times-partition-of-india-lessons-le">Critical voices in critical times: the partition of India – lessons learned, an interview with Rajmohan Gandhi</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Tunisia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Tunisia Egypt Iran Civil society Democracy and government activism Arab Spring revolution Heba Khalil Linda Herrera Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:22:47 +0000 Linda Herrera and Heba Khalil 115266 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sisi, the guardian of sexual morals https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/sisi-egypt-LGBT-arrest-prison-middle-class-sexual-morals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The repression of the LGBT community in Egypt stems from the colonial legacy of imperialism and is driven by the middle class in its attempts to create its own version of “modernity.”&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27327073973_f7c69830a6_o.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/27327073973_f7c69830a6_o.jpg" alt="Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="293" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>25 June 2016, Solidarity with Egypt's LGBTs in Prison - A Man with a Message at London's LGBT Pride in the Square. Alisdare Hickson/flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>During a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo last September members of the audience <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-41482001">raised</a> a rainbow flag. A few days later, after images had gone viral, a campaign of repression by the Egyptian regime followed.</p> <p>At least 75 people were <a href="https://eipr.org/press/2017/11/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1">arrested</a> under Egypt’s repressive and vague laws of promoting “debauchery.” Sixteen men were then sentenced to three years for “inciting debauchery” and “abnormal sexual relations.” </p> <p>The tactics the regime used were designed to humiliate and torture. The “suspects” had to undergo <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/egyptian-doctors-think-this-torturous-exam-can-detect-chroni?utm_term=.jjBybXPPY#.jblwvGJJP">forced anal</a> examinations to medically ascertain whether they were indeed homosexual. A procedure that has no medical or biological foundation.&nbsp; </p> <p>This wave of repression was accompanied by intense public debate about the rights of the LGBT community in Egypt; a debate that was anchored in the morality of the middle class, and its Victorian views of sexuality. </p> <p>In a country that is suffering from economic and social crisis, soaring inflation and a plethora of security challenges, the latest of which has claimed the lives of <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/25/africa/egypt-sinai-mosque-massacre/index.html">305 civilians</a>, one would expect that such issues would not garner much attention. &nbsp;</p> <p>Some commentators <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/opinion/egypt-gay-lgbt-rights.html">claimed</a> that this debate was hyped up in order to serve as a distraction from the rapidly deteriorating economic and security situation in the country.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">the role repression plays in cementing the regime’s position as the middle class’ guardian of sexual morality.</p> <p>However, this view ignores the place sexuality occupies in relations of power as well as the role repression plays in cementing the regime’s position as the middle class’ guardian of sexual morality.</p> <p>In order to understand the views that the Egyptian middle class holds on sexuality, one needs to understand its historical evolution. </p> <p>In his ground breaking book “<a href="http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo5378447.html">Desiring Arabs</a>”, Joseph Massad examines the evolution of the views on sexual practices in the Arab world by exploring Arab literature, poetry, and language. He convincingly argues that even though homosexuality was always forbidden by Islam, the dominant faith amongst the Arabs, the category of “homosexual” did not appear in the Arab view of sexuality until later colonial encounters with the west. </p> <p>As such, the binary view of homo and hetero did not exist. Sexual practices were seen as more fluid, and homosexuality was tolerated as long as it was not defined as an exclusive identity openly declared as a separate “otherness.” </p> <p>Massad also argues that the sexual morals of the Arab intellectual and middle class, with their views on homosexuality and sexual purity, were imported from the Victorian west, in an attempt to emulate the colonizer and become “modern.”</p> <p>Thus, the incident of the rainbow flag and the public debate that ensued, especially amongst the Egyptian middle class, is more logically consistent within this context.</p> <p>This class, in an attempt to create a hegemonic position for itself of moral and intellectual leadership, perceived the raising of the rainbow flag as a direct attack on its Victorian values of sexuality, and by extension an attack on its position in society.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">The middle class perceived the raising of the rainbow flag as a direct attack on its position in society.</p> <p>This class views itself primarily as heterosexual and male, with all other variations being seen as abnormal and most importantly immoral. &nbsp;</p> <p>This class is attempting to create a mythological place, an extension of its class values, an “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagined_community">imagined community</a>” in the words of Benedict Anderson. </p> <p>This mythological view is not anchored in the reality of Egyptian life, especially that of the urban and rural poor who have a much more fluid view on sexuality with a myriad of sexual practices that would be condemned by the middle class. For example, the <a href="http://www.egyptindependent.com/mp-drafts-law-lower-legal-marriage-age-raises-concern/">prevalence</a> of underage marriages in the countryside and among the urban poor, some indicators suggest that this figure reaches 80 percent. </p> <p>The reactions of the middle class are a continuation of its isolation from reality and their inability to convert class views to national views - a failure of hegemony.</p> <p>In order to contrast the reaction of the middle class to the rainbow flag as opposed to other possible causes of outrage, one only needs to look at the case of the street children in Cairo, who numbered 600,000 based on the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/12/cairo-streets-where-girls-pretend-to-be-boys">estimates</a> of UNICEF in 2007. </p> <p>These children are victims of continuous sexual abuse, violence and rape, which has resulted in the spread of HIV, child pregnancies and a plethora of social problems. This persistent problem, which one would imagine would outrage a conservative middle class, has failed to garner a similar public reaction. This can be attributed to two reasons. </p> <p>First, unlike the rainbow flag, it is not an open attack on the sexual morals of the middle class. It is tolerated as it does not defy their attempts at hegemony. </p> <p>The second reason is the constant demonization of the urban poor. Back in 2014, an op-ed in Al Masry El Youm called for a security crackdown on street children, labelling them “stray dogs” and <a href="http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/104271/Egypt/Politics-/Updated-Article-proposing-idea-of-killing-Egyptian.aspx">proposing</a> that they should be killed as a solution to the problem.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>On the other hand, the repression launched by the regime, when viewed within this context and relations of power, can be understood at a deeper level than a simple diversion tactic, even though this explanation has its merits.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The regime has presented itself as the purveyor of middle class views on modernity against “backward” Islamists, the rural masses and urban poor.</p> <p>The regime has presented itself not only as an anchor of stability stemming the tide of social and political turmoil, it has also branded itself as the purveyor of middle class views on modernity against “backward” Islamists, the rural masses and urban poor. </p> <p>The regime is preserving the “imagined community” the middle class has created for Egypt and what it means to be Egyptian, which includes their views on sexuality. </p> <p>The regime is placed as the protector of sexual morals, and by extension is responsible for the repression of what are deemed “unnatural” or “perverse” sexual acts.</p> <p>The regime exercises this power through its ability to manipulate discourse and by direct physical repression. It changes and manipulates the discourse by classifying homosexuality as promoting “debauchery”, even though homosexual acts are not illegal in Egypt, however, the term “debauchery” is vague and flexible enough to be used for the repression of the LGBT community as needed. </p> <p>Another approach is the promotion of myths surrounding homosexuality, the most notable of which is the argument that acts of homosexuality have a physical manifestation that can be detected through physical examinations; a medical fallacy and propaganda tool used to feminize homosexual men.&nbsp; </p> <p>The other avenue is direct physical repression of those accused of homosexuality, and in some cases their public humiliation and shaming; making their private sexual practices into a public spectacle, turning them into a fetish. Some individuals, for example, were arrested for <a href="https://eipr.org/publications/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D9%8A%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%82%D8%A7%D8%A8-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%AA%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1">carrying condoms</a>, as this supposedly provided evidence of their intent to carry out acts of “debauchery.”</p> <p>In conclusion, the notion that the repression of sexuality in Egypt stems entirely from the regime is not wholly accurate. Even though the regime plays an integral part in this repression, it is more of a societal phenomenon stemming from the colonial legacy of imperialism combined with the position of the middle class within the Egyptian polity. </p> <p>One could argue that the repression of homosexuality will continue regardless of the nature of the regime in power and that this type of repression is indeed not driven from the top, but rather by the middle class in its attempts to create its version of “modernity.”&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/egypt-sisi-police-security-farafra-oasis-insurgent-terrorism">Egypt’s faltering counter-insurgency strategy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-torture-and-alienation">Pain, torture and alienation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/classconflict-nationalism-redsea-egypt-military-repression">On the absence of Arab intellectuals: a class under siege</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/pain-and-torture-state-violence-in-egypt">Pain and torture: state violence in Egypt</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North-Africa West-Asia Middle East Forum North-Africa West-Asia Egypt Conflict Culture Democracy and government Equality LGBTQ LGBT Sexual Liberation Right to the city Mid-East Forum Egypt in the balance Chronicles of the Arab revolt Maged Mandour Wed, 13 Dec 2017 14:32:05 +0000 Maged Mandour 115280 at https://www.opendemocracy.net