Thursday, October 16, 2014

The student movement in Egypt: Statistics and context

The semester of this academic year started 5 days ago in most of the Egyptian universities and the number of the students who were arrested from homes, from the street on their way to school, and from campuses already exceeds 219 students according to local rights group "Freedom Seekers Students Observatory". 

These are some statistics about detained students from their most recent reports:
Sat, October 11th: 71 students.
Sun, October 12th: 53 students.
Mon, October 13th: 18 students.
Tue, October 14th: 62 students.
Wed, October 15th: 16 students.

These are some of their faces:






This is quite outrageous if you ask me. It's outrageous enough that I had to say something after I have been totally silent about Egypt and while I had completely distanced myself from all form of direct and indirect action.

All of this happened in less than one week and people in the "outside world" are paying a little more attention and wondering where that came from. 

Yet, media and commentators internationally are copying and parroting what the coup run media is reporting not sure out of laziness or naivety or with bad intentions. Everyone is still insistingly talking about "Pro-Morsi"and "Muslim Brotherhood" or "Islamist" students. This unprofessional and overly simplistic pattern is nothing new to the non-Arabic media and non-Arabic narrative anyway but for me it is even more frustrating now than ever to see this consistency in taking away credit from a unique movement that is way older than this one year old MB vs Junta fight post-coup fight. 

The movement I'm referring to here is the revolutionary student movement which developed after #Jan25. The generation of students who started or shifted their activism as a result of what took place in the past few years. I have talked about my experience a little bit in a previous post, this was during the one semester I had to spend as a student here after #Jan25

(This is not to say that the MB or the Islamists are not part of the movement, and also not to say that the Egyptian student movement is only 4 years old).  

While I generally dislike referring to causalities and victims with numbers and statistics unfortunately, numbers are sometimes the only way to put things in perspective for so many people. 

In this case it will be an indication to the fact that things have been messed up for a long time already for students here while nobody was paying attention. It is also important for emphasizing the fact there are different factions within the Egyptian anti military dictatorship movement which started in 2011 and that they are responding in so many different ways to what's been taking place in the past 4 years.

I came across the following info-graph from a local grassroots student run rights group here and thought about making it available in English.



This graph shows the following statistics on the student movement in Egypt since the beginning of the US funded military coup July 3rd 2013. This is my translation to the information presented on it:

"The Egyptian university students between graves and prisons":

209 students were killed in protests.

1970 students arrested and are serving in prisons.

502 students expelled from university education permanently.

3 students were given an execution sentence.

The total amount of fines the detained students are required to pay is 15 million Egyptian pounds.
(Many are still in prison because they can't afford to pay their fines).

The total number of years in the sentences given to detained students is 2237 years.

It is worth mentioning that Al Azhar University comes on top in regards to the number and severity of the violations with a total of 1386 years in the sentences given to Azhari students, 13 million Egyptian pounds fines, and one execution case out of the three total executions given to students.

Top 6 universities in the number of death cases as a result of the coup forces attacking AntiCoup protests and rallies:

1- Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo: 76 students killed.
2- Cairo University in Giza/Greater Cairo: 30 students killed.
3- Ain Shams University in Cairo: 12 students killed.
4- Helwan University in Greater Cairo: 9 students killed.
5- Zagazig University in Al Sharqiya governorate: 9 students killed.
6- Alexandria University in Alexandria: 8 students killed.  

To offer another perspective here and make things even more complicated for those of you who like to think about things in black and white, for those who keep talking about Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters getting killed in Rabaa to have a moral excuse to justify a massacre, this album is a documentation of students who where killed as a result of the Rabaa massacre:


All the data I have shared above is collected by: 
Freedom Seekers Students Observatory (Arabic):

A more detailed article about the post-coup mobilization in universities (Arabic):

For updates you can check out the following outlets I have selected just as an example to what's out there. 

YouTube Channels that were updated recently:

Al Azhar University

Cairo University

Ain Shams University

Active Facebook pages:

Students Against the Coup (Official Movement Page)

Students Against the Coup Al Azhar University

In the (Likes) section of the official page you will find links to the official Facebook pages of 23 other different universities across Egypt. 

Even if you don't read or understand Arabic there is plenty of media that you can check out (Videos and photos). 
Some people are risking getting killed and detained and others are already serving in prison for committing the crime of documenting. You can look at their faces and humanize their numbers. If you are not in a country of conflict you can think about the students in your country and the stuff they are complaining about, if you are a student you should reflect on the questions students have to deal with here which you don't have to ask yourself, the questions of of risking murder, arrest, and psychological trauma for merely being a student and speaking your mind under a military dictatorship funded and supported by big government, all of this while the whole world doesn't even want to give your existence a mention.

The least you could do to contribute is to recognize their work by simply taking a look at it. It would be very appreciated if you also shared it with others. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Contextualizing pro-Palestine Egypt in the light of the current crisis in Gaza

Contextualizing pro-Palestine Egypt in the light of the current crisis in Gaza

By: Alshimaa Helmy

Introduction

Looking at the English media coverage on Egypt during the current offensive on Gaza, both mainstream and advocacy oriented media, I noticed that clear remarks, analysis, and criticisms were made on Egypt's diplomatic role, and on the responses of the Egyptian mainstream media whether state run or businessmen owned.
However, apart from the convoy which was stopped by the coup forces ahead of the the Rafah crossing border, very little was mentioned when it came to looking at the popular Egyptian response and reaction to the US funded coup regime's complicity in the crisis.

For some reason it seems like there's an international consensus within human rights advocates circles and other international bodies concerned with the situation in Gaza to assume that all the Egyptian people share the the same stance on Palestine as the coup lead government and the mainstream media anchors.

While I appreciate that the Egyptian regime is being exposed for what it is, I don't appreciate that the internal situation in Egypt is out of this context and that the pro-Palestinian Egyptian voice is not given enough credit or even just a mention. I don't appreciate that what old white non-Arab non-Palestinian non-Muslim men residing in North America and Europe think of Palestine and Gaza is more relevant to the international community than what people like myself who reside a few hours away from Gaza and are directly being affected by the same authority oppressing the Palestinians think. 

 I'm a young woman who happened to be born and raised in Cairo, Egypt whose politicization began with the Palestinian cause in the early 2000s and late 1990s years before the cable TV and the internet. 

I'm also an Egyptian who participated in the revolutionary movement opposing the US funded Egyptian military regime in early 2011 and it's domestic and foreign policies most importantly the long lasting shameful Egyptian diplomatic position on Palestine and more specifically on Gaza.

There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of of Egyptians like myself out there but for some reason their voices are being sidelined and their existence is being overlooked from the current conversation on the crisis in Gaza. 

When it comes to Egypt, there is much out there already on:

1- How Egypt of the coup is complicit in the current crisis in Gaza.
2-Egypt under Morsi vs. Egypt under Sisi, comparing the Egyptian diplomatic positions regarding Gaza in 2012 and the current one.
3-Egypt the anti-Palestinian in diplomacy, in the media, and in the public arena.
4-Why Egypt should open the Rafah crossing.

So, I won't talk about these items as much.

 In this piece I will:

1- Talk about the pro-Palestine revolutionary Egyptian body. 
2- Contextualize how the post-coup internal crisis in Egypt affected the pro-Palestine Egyptian population's expression of solidarity and opposition.
 3- Highlight the Sinai Peninsula and why it's been overlooked from the current conversation on Palestine.
 4-Point out to some of the issues I have with the mainstream pro-Palestine discourse regarding Egypt especially within the rights and advocacy camps. 


The overlooked consequences of the military coup on the pro-Palestine Egyptian body:

I can assure from my personal experience that the year 2011 of the #Jan25 uprising and then the year 2012 have witnessed the most open populace expression of anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian sentiment in Egypt for decades. I wrote a little bit about this here in my previous post about Gaza.

This shift of expression didn't last for too long though, and many of those who were part of that scene in the past three years and could have done something for Gaza are mostly martyred, displaced out of the country, imprisoned under horrible conditions, or like myself refraining from having open positions in public on the matter fearing persecution by the US supported military regime. 

The fact that Egypt experienced a bloody military coup in July 2013 supported by the United States government and other governmental bodies in the west and the Arab Gulf explains the lack of similar large scale mobilizations as well as the explicitly of the pro-Zionist diplomatic position of Egypt this time. 

In this past year, following the coup, the Egyptian military forces have managed to suppress and contain the revolutionary movement that was essentially and fully in solidarity with the Palestinian cause and the struggle of the Palestinian people especially those who reside in Gaza Strip. 

The massive and aggressive attack of last summer on the Egyptian revolutionary forces, groups, and individuals who have supported and believed in the Palestinian cause for decades in the past has undermined Egypt’s popular role in the conflict and thus allowed for the Egyptian state to be the sole operator and representative of Egypt in the current crisis. 

Unfortunately, for some reason I don't understand most of the commentators on Palestine tend to shy from mentioning the consequences of the coup. For some reason I don't understand how can Palestine solidarity activists in their efforts to lift the suffering of the people of Gaza overlook that the Egyptian military murdered 4,000+ people and imprisoned 44,000+ Egyptian opponents to the military.

They call for opening the Rafah crossing border, appeal to the Egyptian government but they don't say a word about what's been happening within these borders or even to the Egyptians living on the borders who're being droned and killed. They talk about this border as if it exists in a vacuum. 

The internal crisis affecting the Egyptian opposition to the military regime and it's policies is not a secondary item in the agenda. 
This selective position separating the Palestinian struggle from the Egyptian is very shortsighted and is doing Egyptians who're in opposition to the current military regime more injustice than what's been done to them already by the state.

The Sinai Peninsula: A missing essential context

Something most of the Palestine advocacy groups and individuals seem to overlook when they talk about Gaza is the relevance of the Sinai Peninsula and the Egyptian side of Rafah to the cause they are in support of. 
The Sinai Peninsula has fallen a victim to the Camp David treaty for decades due to its geographical proximity to the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since the military coup in 2013
especially the price paid by the Sinai peninsula and its Egyptian residents escalated and made it even more isolated from Egypt and the world geographically, culturally, and also communications wise.

Sinai is directly affected by the US/Egypt agreed upon "War on terrorism", which lead to more destruction of infrastructure, homes, and personal property of Sinai. The Egyptian civilian population there has suffered the injustices of random arrests, indefinite detentions, and ongoing human rights violations. 
This video was released by a local group in Sinai to document some of the crimes the Egyptian military is involved in against the Egyptian residents of the peninsula.
 You can find more videos on their Youtube channel.



Some pictures shared by the same collective showing the destruction of infrastructure and the victims of the attacks on the villages and residential areas in Sinai, especially in the Egyptian Rafah.




 


While drones and F-16s are flying over and killing Egyptians, Sinai news stories are merely on “The Egyptian borders” or “The Rafah crossing” or the "Militants". The western media and activists even the those with good intentions can't get over the Egyptian state sold and US so-called War on terror “Jihadi militants in Sinai” discourse when Sinai is ever brought up in conversations about Palestine. 

 Consequently, the Egyptians who are residents of the Sinai peninsula have became victims to the following:

1- The Egyptian military's diplomatic and military collaboration with the IDF and the US.
2- The US/Israeli/Egyptian counter-terrorism measures and policies in the peninsula.
3- The classicist Egyptian activist and media elite which has overlooked Sinai for a long time.
4- The biased or ignorant international media and rights groups.

Palestine solidarity movement in Egypt or what's left of it:

There are rallies taking place in Egypt as I'm writing this post in opposition to the military coup and in solidarity with Gaza as in the past few weeks. Since the beginning of the Zionist attack on Gaza Egyptians showed solidarity to Gaza within the continuous anti-coup ongoing protests and rallies. Although these mobilizations are not as big or widespread as in the past they were remarkable due to the unprecedented crackdown on opposition since the coup.
After Eid prayers especially Egyptians across the country marched in large numbers in solidarity with Gaza making a statement against the complicity of the US funded Zionist Egyptian regime. 


El Haram, Giza this past Ramadan marching in solidarity with Gaza

I didn't see anything firsthand because I reside in a predominately military supportive neighborhood in Cairo. Protests are no longer allowed in this part of Cairo since last summer and showing any signs of solidarity to Palestine or against the coup is an act of suicide, the residents will rush to arrest you or attack you before the security forces. 

Nonetheless, Egyptians from all over who don't live in any better environments than mine defied all that and marched for Gaza. The Egyptian security forces opened fire on some of the marches, 5 protesters were killed, and many were injured and arrested.

Most of the pictures and videos I came across for these anti-coup and Gaza solidarity rallies were shared in Arabic only in local social media outlets. When international activists collected footage on international Gaza solidarity efforts all of these mobilizations were totally neglected.

It has always been a struggle to follow the story of  "The other Egyptians" and now it became even harder of a task to follow or find out about these forces and their representations that are represented neither by the mainstream official media nor the elitist and mostly disconnected activists voices and their outlets. Due to the complete media censorship on both the ongoing resistance and opposition to the military, and the violations of human rights committed by the security, military, and police forces

Here are some pictures from the Egyptian mobilization that I collected and translated from Facebook and Twitter Arabic outlets. 
This is a link to a post I'm constantly updating:
Balteem in Ramadan in solidarity with Gaza
Ultras White Knights in Qanater
We are all under occupation except for Palestine because she's resisting
We are all Gaza, Nasr city in Cairo
We are all Gaza, resistance is the hope of this Ummah.
Beer Al Abd in Northern Sinai, Egypt
We are sorry Gaza, we are under siege just like you


Rallies in solidarity with Gaza after Eid prayers across the country:

El Fayoum, upper Egypt
Nahyia Giza
Osim Giza
El Haram Giza
 An Egyptian anti-coup female prisoner, Asmaa, made this bag and asked to sell it in order to donate the money to Gaza 
Free Asmaa Masr

El Monofeya, we are in solidarity with Gaza in Eid
Abdul Warith 17 years old martyred in a pro-Palestine rally after Eid prayers in Abu Zabal
Omima 13 years old martyred in a pro-Palestine rally after Eid prayers

And this is from a fighter in Al Qassam: Greetings from Al Qassam brigades to the youth of Kerdasa, Giza
 in Egypt


These are some archival pictures:
1- Egyptian pro-Palestine protesters taking down the walls built by the Egyptian military forces outside of the Zionist embassy. Cairo in 2011.



2- Palestinian protesters in Gaza in August 2013 showing solidarity to Egypt after the Rabaa massacre.


Conclusion:

1- The struggle of the Egyptian people is key and essential to the Palestinian cause and is not to be separated or overlooked from the overall Palestinian/Arab- Israeli conflict.

2- The continuity of the oppression of the Egyptian population by the Egyptian state since signing Camp David and most recently after the military coup welcomed and applauded by the US and Israel is essential to neutralizing and sidelining the role of the Egyptian resistance in the conflict.

3- No borders with Gaza will ever be opened if the Egyptians who live on these borders, within these borders, and inside the prisons within these borders who believe in the Palestinian cause and want the borders open are tortured, killed, and imprisoned systemically in Egypt. 

4-We are still here. 
We are not all dead, imprisoned, or exiled.
 We are for the resistance.
 We are waiting for the suitable moment to become visible again. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Political Arabic Poetry for you: (3) Don't Reconcile!

Mid Ramadan
July 2014
Cairo, Egypt

Gaza is being massacred again and Cairo feels more Zionist than ever.
 And I'm supposed to be just siting here. They even took away from me my right to speak about Palestine.

Once upon a time when -for the first time- direct action was possible and did cause things to happen.
That only time I could consider abandoning the feelings of shame for being an Egyptian I grew up with. That only time we could actually express how we have always felt about Israel fiercely and openly through direct action. Real actual physical direct actions. 
Thousands walking and driving towards physical Egyptian/Palestinian borders..
 Egyptian youth swimming across the Mediterranean to get there..
 Egyptian protesters bringing physical walls built by the US funded junta down, and eventually kicking ambassadors out of the country.
 And what the world thought then didn't matter. 
This felt so right after years of suffocated, tiny, shy expressions of disagreement. 

How does the world want me to sign up for less than this in 2014?
It's 2005 all over again, and Cairo is painfully quiet and too complicit that it feels more Zionist than many other Zionist places around the world. 

The comrades who could do these things are gone or hiding, and the shameful helplessness is back to being as bitter as it has always been. 




Outside what used to be the Zionist embassy in Cairo.
Ramadan 2011.
We were there.

***************
Political Arabic Poetry for you: Don't Reconcile:

The Egyptian poet Amal Dunqul wrote his most well known poem “Don't reconcile” لا تصالح to denounce Sadat's decision to sign the Camp David accord with Israel against the will of the Arab and Muslim nations and that of the Egyptian masses whose wounds were still fresh from the war.
Egypt's role in the region and specifically in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict has changed forever since this treaty was signed. The shameful reality of today's Egypt is a natural consequence of this move.
While Egypt is becoming more Zionist diplomatically than any other time in its modern history, this piece has become the voice which represented the voiceless Egyptians who never wanted to reconcile with the killer of their brothers. And now, as Arab regimes have cracked down on popular uprisings, people have come to relate to the piece in a different light, viewing it as a call to neither reconcile nor negotiate with their own tyrannical regimes. 

The poem was used in different artistic forms whether street art (Graffiti), Arabic calligraphy designs, caricature, and others. This is the poem recited by the author with a dedication to the Egyptian martyrs of the revolution 40 years after it was written:


This was a very challenging poem to translate. It's an honor to introduce such an important piece in the revolutionary Arabic collective subconsciousness to the non-Arabic speaking reader. It is part of the translation initiative I mentioned in my previous posts.

More works and info could be found here:


*********



1.

Do not reconcile
even if they give you gold
I wonder
if I were to gouge out your eyes
and replace them with two gems
would you see?
These things are priceless.

Childhood memories
between you and your brother
when you - suddenly - felt like men.
Bashfulness suppresses your yearning
when you embrace him
the silence with a smile
while your mother blames you
as if you’re still two kids.

Eternal comfort between the two of you
such that two swords are your sword
two voices are your voice
such that if you were to die
there is a guardian to the house
and a father for the child.

Would my blood turn to water in your eyes?*
Would you forget my clothes covered in blood?
Would you wear - over my blood - clothes adorned
with silver and gold?

This is war!
It may wear heavy on the heart
but behind you will be the shame of all the Arabs.

Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile.
Do not try to find ways to hide.

Don't reconcile even if they said a head for a head. Are all heads equal?
 Graffiti in the West Bank, Palestine
2.

Do not reconcile over blood
even with blood.
Do not reconcile
even if they say a head for a head
Are all heads equal?
Is a stranger’s heart
equal to your brother’s?
Are his eyes your brother’s eyes?
Is a hand whose sword was your sword
equal to a hand whose sword caused you to mourn.

They will say:
We came to you to stop the bloodshed
We came to you, o’ prince, to mediate.
They will say
'Here we are cousins'
so tell them
they had no such consideration
for he who has perished.
Instill the sword into the forehead of the desert
until the nothingness tells you
that I was for you
a knight
a brother
a father
and a king.

3.
Do not reconcile
even if they bestow leadership upon you.
How can you step over the corpse of your father’s son?
How can you become king with such phony joy?
How can you look at the hands of those who are
shaking your hands, and not see blood on them?
If it was one arrow that stabbed me in the back
for you it will be one thousand
because blood has become a decoration and a badge.
Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile
even if they bestow leadership upon you.
Indeed your throne is a sword
and your sword is a sham
unless it witnesses moments of honor.

4.
Do not reconcile
even if those who retreated during the fighting said,
'We don't have the energy to wield our swords'
when the truth fills your heart
you will breathe fire
and the tongue of betrayal will be silent.

Do not reconcile
regardless of how much they talk about peace.
How can you look into the eyes of a woman you know you cannot protect?
How can you become her lover?
How can you wish for tomorrow for a sleeping newborn?
How can you dream about the future of a young boy
while he’s growing up in your hands - with a broken heart. 

Do not reconcile
and don’t share food with those who have killed you.
Water your heart with blood…
and water the sacred lands…
and water your ancestors who lie there…
until their bones respond back to you!

5.
Do not reconcile
even if your tribe calls upon you
to be deceptive and show acceptance to those who came to you.
Your tribe will say
'You're asking for vengeance
that is quite distant.
So take what you can right now.’

Let us be honest
in these few years
this is not your vengeance alone
its generations’ after generations’
and tomorrow
there is one who will be born
who will wear full armor
who will kindle the fire fully
who will bring about truth
from ruptures in the impossible.
Do not reconcile
even if it is said that reconciliation is deceit.

It is vengeance.
The flames fade in the heart…
as the seasons pass…
the hand of shame will leave a mark (with its five fingers)
on the humiliated foreheads.

6.
Do not reconcile
even if its written in the stars
and the astrologers break the news to you.
I would have forgiven if I died inadvertently.
I was not a conqueror.
I never snuck close to their trading post.
I never came close to the fruit of their grapevines.
I never came close to the fruit of their grapevines.
their verdant lands - I never came near them.
My killer never shouted ‘Watch out!’ to me…
he was walking alongside me…
then he shook my hand..
then he walked ahead
into the bushes to hide.

Suddenly
a shiver punctured me between two ribs
my heart swelled
then burst
I struggled until I could prop myself on my forearm
and saw my vile cousin
rejoicing over my suffering with a cruel face.
I did not wield a dagger
or even an old weapon
nothing but a rage borne of hunger.

7.
Do not reconcile
until existence returns to its moving cycle
the stars to orbit
the birds to their song
the sands to their grain
and the martyr to his awaiting daughter.

Everything was destroyed in a fleeting moment:
youth, the joy of family, the sounds of horses, getting to know a guest,
the humming of the heart upon seeing sprouts in the garden,
the prayer for seasonal rain,
the elusion of the heart when it sees the bird of death flying over deathly duels.

Everything was destroyed upon a licentious whim
and the one who assassinated me was not a god
such that he could kill me with his will
he was not more noble than I
such that he could kill me with his knife
he was not more clever than me
such that he could kill me through deceit.

Do not reconcile
for reconciliation is nothing but a treaty
between two equals
(by the honor of their hearts)
otherwise it cannot be true
the one who assassinated me was just a thief
who stole my land right in front of my eyes
as the silence was sarcastically laughing!

8.
Do not reconcile
even if all the sheiks stand against your sword
along with the men with no integrity
and those whose turbans dangle over their eyes
and their Arabic swords have forgotten the years of glory.

Do not reconcile
for there should be nothing but what you want
you are the only knight of this time
and the rest are ‘Musookh’.*

Do not reconcile.
Do not reconcile.
__________________________________________________________________________
* For blood to turn to water: An Arabic saying referring to the impossibility of blood transforming into water, and the bonds of blood, family, and brotherhood being lost.

** Musookh (sing. Maskh): Creatures that are partially human, and part monster. Originally a term to describe creatures such as Dracula and Frankenstein, Maskh is used as a derogatory term to describe people - rulers, “Uncle Toms,” etc. - who betray their own people and humanistic values in order to attain fame, fortune, notoriety, etc. Also translated as metamorphosis and transformation.