Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Religion, democracies and the “restraint” which kept the death-toll to only 275

August 15, 2013

The numbers killed in Egypt were well over 250 yesterday. According to the Muslim Brotherhood the number could be as high as in the thousands. But half of Egypt approves of the actions of the security forces.

The US and Europe don’t really know how to react to the chaos in Egypt. The US  will still not acknowledge that they are dealing with a “military coup”. They have all “deplored” the violence but are secretly relieved that the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power.  A strange view of democracy prevails – a blend of wishful thinking and a very flexible definition of what constitutes democracy and the values to be upheld. The West is willing to go along with the military actions – which of course they publicly deplore – if it can ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood is not voted into power again. So if it is mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood who have been killed then perhaps it is time to express one’s regrets and just move on.

What nobody wishes to acknowledge is that Religions and Democracies do not – can not –  mix. With all the failings and weaknesses of democracies, “religious parties” still lead to a fundamental clash between the supremacy of the laws of the majority and the supremacy of the perceived – or proclaimed – laws of god (or gods). As long as any country permits political parties which are religious in nature, then any kind of real supremacy of the laws of the majority is not feasible. The fanatics of any religious political party always claim the over-riding demands of their gods and the supremacy of such demands whether to conduct jihad or to burn down mosques. And this applies to Egypt as well as to Israel or Indonesia or Malaysia or India or Sri Lanka.  Around the world, there are many more Islamist political parties than there are for other religions but there are plenty of “Christian Democratic” parties in Europe and in other countries. All of these religious parties – without exception –  are fundamentally opposed to – and have values inconsistent with –  the supremacy of the laws of man (only the majority of course) over the laws of their gods.

The Arab Springs will not lead to any real “democracies” in the Middle East and North Africa as long as inherently self-contradictory “religious, democratic parties” are around. For there is no religious party – in any country – which would accept that the laws of man could override the imaginary laws of their imaginary gods.

According to Reuters,

Egypt’s interim prime minister defended the government decision to storm pro-Mursi demonstrations on Wednesday. He says they had no choice after attempts at mediation with Mursi supporters failed. 

”When freedom of expression becomes terrorizing the public, carrying arms, blocking roads and violating public property — it is not freedom of expression. It becomes aviolation of the people and the people. For the government to continue to operate, it has to be respected. That’s why we had to take a stand and say this cannot continue. It should be stopped.”

Security forces shot and killed scores of people. By evening the death toll was well over 200 and the number injured was around 2,000. Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi praised the way forces handled the operation.

“I have to take this opportunity to thank the police because it has behaved with high levels of self-restraint. There were human rights observers and everything was publicized and there was filming. And it turned out that there were weapons and ammunition and other illegal material.”

Now under curfew Cairo’s streets were markedly different from earlier in the day. Asked how long the situaton could last el-Beblawi offered no specific dates, saying the state of emergency would go on for as short a period as possible. would go on for as short a period as possible, adding that the government is eager to restore democracy.

The Egyptian Army as King Sean

July 4, 2013

The goings-on in Egypt and Gaza and North Africa where democratically “elected” leaders – albeit leaders who are undemocratic and Islamist – cannot get acceptance in the rest of the “democratic” world brings to mind the story of the Irish, socialist monarch.

Two Irishmen were sorting out the problems of the world in the pub – as one usually does in a pub.

After the sixth pint they had resolved the Irish Unification Issue, the Palestinian Issue, the Syrian Issue and the Chinese-Japanese Territorial conflict. But they were floundering when they came to the issue of Poverty and Starving Children. They could not agree even on what constituted Poverty. Could it be if or when you could not buy the fourth pint? 

This led to the seventh pint. And the eighth and the ninth and then suddenly Sean’s face lit up.

“Begorrah Mick”, he exclaimed. “I have it now! The solushun is simpul. All the wurld has to do is to moik me the King of the World”.

“And how will that help?” asked a skeptical Mick.

“It’s reely simpul,” explained Sean. “If Oi was the King of the Wurld, I would collect all the monny there was or ever would be and Oi would distribut it equally – but equally – to evry living pershun – Cathlick or not”.

Mick was still marshalling his many cogent arguments against this vision of King Sean when Sean continued. “And when I had spent all moine, why I would just do it all over again”!

The Egyptian military would recognise the solution.

Democracy by “free and fair” elections is by far the best alternative – provided of course that you can have another “free and fair” election if you don’t like the result of the first one.

And so on ad infinitum till you get the result you want.

Why are street riots in the UK a “bad thing” but a “good thing” in Egypt or Syria?

August 9, 2011

The scenes from Tottenham and other parts of London were distressing and the looting and vandalism is – I think – despicable.

It has been depressing to watch.

But I found similar scenes not so long ago – though perhaps without the same level of mindless vandalism but with much more severe loss of life – in Egypt and Tunisia were actually uplifting and I took these as a “demonstration” of democratic forces at work”. The ruthless putting down of protests in Syria is also distressing and all my sympathies are very clearly with those protesting.

I am still trying to reconcile my own “double standards” in my own mind.

Was the level of hopelessness and despair in Egypt and Tunisia which forced ordinary people onto the streets and caused governments to fall so different from the hopelessness and powerlessness felt by the crowds in Tottenham or Brixton? Is the feeling of being oppressed in Syria any different from that felt by some in the UK?

Opportunists and hooligans and plain criminals were surely present in all of these scenes.

But I am still struggling to clarify the differences in my own reactions to myself.

Arab spring withering into autumn

June 23, 2011

The prospects and hopes and expectations of the Arab spring spreading throughout the Arab world are now becoming uncertain. In Tunisia and Egypt the military is firmly in control and whether a real shift of power to the people will now take place remains in doubt. There is still hope and the change itself is irreversible but how far the change will go remains to be seen. It will only be by attacking the high unemployment and endemic corruption that a measure of success can be achieved.

But the fires lit by the events in Tunisia and Libya are struggling to stay alight in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. In Saudi Arabia the government has so far managed to douse even the smallest sparks that were flickering.

In Bahrain the King with the help of the Saudis is suppressing all opposition from the Shia majority:

The sentencing of 21 men to prison terms ranging from two years to life has sent waves of anger through the majority Shia community in Bahrain. Family members say they have already experienced weeks and months of anxiety about loved ones, to whom they have been given little access.

They say the men have been tortured, denied appropriate legal representation, and are now being sentenced harshly for crimes they did not commit in a bid to silence opposition calls for reform.

In Yemen:

Opposition figures blamed pro-government military officials for allowing more than 60 suspected members of al-Qaida to escape Wednesday from a Yemeni prison. The mass escape from the prison occurred Wednesday in the southern city of Mukalla.

Opposition leaders blamed senior military officials loyal to embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the prison break. They said it was an effort to get financial support from Washington and prop up the regime of the Yemeni president, the Yemen Post reports.

As the Hindu puts it:

Yemen, in many ways, is the most complicated situation. It is infested with the maximum external interference — Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, GCC and assorted countries. At one time, its long-serving President had accepted the principle of resigning and leaving, but since seems to have changed his mind. The injuries he suffered in an attack on his compound and consequent flight to Saudi Arabia have paradoxically given him time to consolidate his position and strengthen his support base in Yemen. The south wants to secede and parts of north want to merge with the big northern neighbour, but the latter is not interested, it seems. The Shia-Sunni act is also being played out there. Al-Qaeda was reported to have captured a town, Zinjibar, in the south, but it was suspected to be a diabolical move of the President who, thereby, calculated to win the sympathy of the Americans. The latter are exploiting the situation and relentlessly bombing suspected concentrations of the al-Qaeda, hoping to eliminate its leadership.

In Libya things are getting very messy and the NATO efforts sans the US is less than impressive:

Libya has turned out to be the cry of despair for those who have committed their armed personnel, scarce financial resources and, more importantly, prestige in the outcome of the situation there. The conflict has gone on for longer than anyone expected and is costing the western nations more than they would really care to spend. Having pushed through Resolution 1973 with the help of the Arab League, they had calculated a quick and low-cost operation. Like in Afghanistan, Nato cannot afford to pull out without being able to claim victory. Two or three factors have frustrated their plans — Muammar Qadhafi’s stubborn refusal to disappear from the scene, the absence of an identifiable and credible alternative leadership, and the continued loyalty of many African states to Mr. Qadhafi. Mr. Qadhafi is no doubt counting on the fatigue — financial and military — factor weakening public support for the Nato operation. Nato strikes killing civilians will further erode support and provide more propaganda ammunition to Mr. Qadhafi.

And in Syria an embattled Assad is balancing between cosmetic reforms and a ruthless and bloody repression of his opponents:

Tens of thousands of Syrians are demonstrating in support of the president a day after pro-democracy protesters rejected his speech. President Bashar Assad vowed reform in a speech Monday that was only his third public appearance since the revolt against his family’s 40-year-rule erupted in March.

But his vague overtures to a pro-democracy uprising fell flat with the opposition, and anti-government protesters took to the streets shouting “Liar!” and demanding his ouster. Thousands of people carrying Assad’s pictures took to the streets of Damascus on Tuesday, pledging allegiance to the president.

….  The opposition estimates more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as Assad unleashed his military and security forces to crush the protest movement that erupted in March, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and that spread to region after region.

There is now a real possibility that the  fresh green  Arab Spring which promised so much just a few months ago may wither into an Arab Autumn and millions may have to withstand a dormant and repressive period before a new Spring finally arrives.

But this new season will surely come.

Mubarak is still in Egypt

March 5, 2011

Though there have been reports that Former President Hosni Mubarak is in Saudi Arabia and undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer, it seems that he and his family are still in Egypt.

Hosni Mubarak

Egypt’s ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak is at his residence in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, a spokesman for the chief prosecutor’s office told al-Ahram daily on Friday, dismissing reports that Mubarak was in Saudi Arabia. “The deposed president and his family are still in Sharm El-Sheikh,” Egypt’s chief prosecutor’s office spokesman Abdel al-Said told al-Ahram.

Egypt on Monday imposed a travel ban on Mubarak and his family while prosecutors probed complaints about their wealth, estimated by Arabic media reports at up to 70 billion euros. The public prosecutor froze the bank accounts and assets of Mubarak and his family after complaints they acquired their alleged vast wealth through illegal means, the prosecutor’s office said.

The Egyptian Embassy in Riyadh has also denied reports that he was in Saudi Arabia.

The abuse of privilege: French Ministers and their “perks”

February 16, 2011
File:Michèle Alliot-Marie.JPG

Michèle Alliot-Marie: image wikipedia

That corruption and ethics do not place very high in the French scale of values is at least very true for Government ministers. Exploiting the privileges of position is a tradition which is not only maintained but is staunchly defended. Not only did the French Prime Minister have an all expenses paid holiday at the expense of Mubarak (before he left) including the use of Mabarak’s plane, but the Foreign Minister also happily flew around in the plane of a friend of the deposed Tunisian dictator. Now it is also revealed that her parents (in their nineties) have made lucrative  real estate deals with one of the dictator’s Tunisian associates.

If nothing else their choice of benefactors brings their judgements into question. And the French Foreign Minister actually being in Tunisia during the protests does not say much for the the intelligence or anticipation of her staff. She even spoke to Ben Ali on the phone during her vacation!!!!!! No doubt she wished him Bon Voyage.

Perhaps the best way to predict when the next Middle East dictator will topple is to study who is treating a French Minister to a holiday.

File:UMP regional elections Paris 2010-01-21 n13.jpg

François Fillon: image wikipedia

The BBC reports:

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has defended a property deal between her parents and an associate of the ousted Tunisian president. ….. Earlier Ms Alliot-Marie was criticised for having flown twice on a jet owned by Aziz Miled, who was close to ex-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. She was on holiday in Tunisia during anti-government protests in December. ….

Speaking on Wednesday on the French radio station Europe 1, her father Bernard Marie said Aziz Miled was a long-standing personal friend and “my wife and I are the only ones involved” in the business deal. Le Canard Enchaine reported that Ms Alliot-Marie’s parents, both in their 90s, already owned part of a property company, SCI Ikram, and bought the rest of the shares from Mr Miled while in Tunisia with their daughter. An aide to Ms Alliot-Marie said the minister had had “a brief telephone conversation” with Mr Ben Ali during her holiday. The aide did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, the French government expressed its “total support” for Ms Alliot-Marie on Wednesday.

Last week French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his government to holiday at home in future. He was responding to the revelations about Ms Alliot-Marie and Prime Minister Francois Fillon, who was criticised for having enjoyed hospitality in Egypt provided by former President Hosni Mubarak. Mr Fillon admitted he took a new year break in Egypt, paid for by Mr Mubarak. The prime minister and his family were given lodgings, used an Egyptian plane for an internal flight and took a boat trip on the Nile, all at Egyptian expense.

Neither has offered to repay the costs of their holidays to the people of Egypt or of Tunisia.

Oil price drops as Mubarak steps down – will Saudi Arabia follow?

February 12, 2011

We are in for a period with very volatile oil prices as the Middle East enters the age of “people power”. It is quite unlikely that this wave of popular “revolt” will stop with Tunisia and Egypt. Yemen is already showing signs and Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf States are all regimes with a potential for revolution. Saudi Arabia is the big one though for oil price.

But the events in Egypt with no clear political leader and with no retaliatory violence to deliberate provocation are both amazing and encouraging. There is a widespread political maturity that is quite fantastic after 30 years of authoritarian rule.

The Hindu reports:

Besides Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s stepping down, the rising dollar index and rally of U.S. stocks triggered oil selling and sent the price to a 10-week low. …

… Light, sweet crude for March delivery dropped 1.15 dollars to 85.58 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its lowest settlement since Nov. 30, 2010. The crude oil price went up and down following Egypt’s fears and joys. The commodity had experienced an approximately 6 percent price increase since the crisis began on Jan. 25. Much of that move pertained to the uncertainty surrounding the leadership of Egypt. Although Egypt is not a main oil producer, it controls the Suez Canal, which is an important transportation route for oil from the Middle East.

The short term consequences for oil price when (and it has to be “when” and not “if”) the Saudis finally dismantle the anachronistic regime they have cannot be predicted. But the long-term consequences will probably be a reduction of the base price.

The key is when. It is also amazing in this information and “spying” dominated world that the entire intelligence community had no inkling  of what was coming in Tunisia and Egypt. Information was probably available but clearly no one made the correct analysis or drew the right conclusions.

The message of the shoes is clear

February 2, 2011

The mood of the demonstrators in Cairo is captured by the waving shoes in Tahrir Square as Mubarak announces he will not stand again — far too little, much too late.

The political message of shoe throwing or waving is quite unambiguous.

The shoes are out in Tahrir Square: image

In the meantime the duplicitous and corrupt Tony Blair praises Mubarak and reveals his view of democracy – “Democracy is Ok provided I like the result” !!!!!

“Blair said that meant there should not be a rush to elections in Egypt.”

It is incomprehensible for me that a corrupt and intellectually bankrupt lightweight such as Tony Blair with all his demonstrated failings could be “rewarded” by being made an envoy to the Middle East.


Egyptian paper retracted for photo-shopping!

October 28, 2010


Faculty of Medicine, Zagazig University Hospitals

Faculty of Medicine, Zagazig University: Image via Wikipedia


Retraction Watch has this amazing story of faking data by photoshopping pictures of warts!

The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology has retracted a paper it published earlier this year online by authors from Zagazig University.  Zagazig is a town in Lower Egypt, in the eastern part of the Nile delta, and is the capital of the province of the Sharqia Governorate.

Retraction Watch writes:

According to the Egyptian researchers, the MMR therapy “completely” cleared plantar warts in 20 of 23 patients (nearly 90%), and partially removed them in one more patient. Helpfully, the journal abstract provides a section on limitations, which lists the small size of the study and the lack of a control group.

Per the editors:

This article has been retracted because Figure 1C appears to be a digitally altered version of Figure 1B. In addition, the lead author asserts that the signature on the submission form for the manuscript is  not hers. The lead author also asserts that the published figures were not part of the investigation that is the subject of the report.

Indeed, the last two images—a rather plump left foot lying against some kind of floral-print backdrop—appear to be identical with the exception of the missing lesions in the final shot. The placement of the foot against the details of the pattern is so close that it seems highly unlikely to have occurred twice by chance.

The lead author Hend Gamil, MD, who asserts that her signature has been forged on the paper submission remarkably maintains the validity of the study since the apparently photoshopped pictures were from a patient who was not part of the study.

Two wrongs making a right apparently!

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