Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Al Aqrab: On the political prisoners on hunger strike in Egypt 2016

Women relatives of Al aqrab inmates waiting over night for the impossible less than 10 minutes long visit

Women relatives of Al aqrab inmates protesting the horrible conditions of the prison and how they are treated while trying to visit

On September 25, 2015, Emad Hassan Ali died of colon cancer while in the prison hospital after prison authorities refused to provide him with adequate health care and medication. There are more than 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt facing the same fate. Al Aqrab prison has received attention recently after the Egyptian authorities started to make things really difficult for the prisoners and their families.

To give people some background, this is a very good documentary that was produced in 2015 by Al Jazeera English and it's one of very few English video evidence on the political prisoners' crisis in Egypt. 



Al Aqrab prison hunger strike: The story
(For constant updates on the prison, check out the prisoners' families FB page):
For more than forty days, at least 32 men incarcerated inside of Egypt's al Aqrab Prison - "The Scorpion" - have been on a mass hunger strike demanding basic human rights, including visitation and medical care. Egypt's Al Aqrab prison, wherein Egypt is currently holding up to 1000 political prisoners, has long been decried for the cruel conditions and routine torture carried out there.
According to Al Jazeera, "a series of violations took place this year inside al Aqrab, including several assaults by prison guards on inmates - as well as against their family members.
The alleged beatings triggered a few prisoners to go on a hunger strike on February 17 who were later joined by more than two dozen other inmates. They say they will continue refusing food until their demands to improve conditions are met. "

The protests have garnered wide public support in Egypt, online and in protests in the streets, but there has been limited coverage in English-speaking media.

The protests have highlighted the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners' families. Videos and photographs show family members waiting outside of al Aqrab and sleeping on the cold pavement, in order to visit their family members. The Egyptian prison authorities have repeatedly cancelled all visits to al Aqrab, and when they do allow visits, the visits last between one and three minutes.

A statement released by reputable Egyptian human rights organizations on March 23 called for the closure of al Aqrab prison until the prison complies with international law, among other demands.

The entire statement reads as follows: "Human rights violations against detainees in the high security Tora Prison No. 992, known in the media as Al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison, has surpassed all boundaries - in which detainees are not in a prison anymore, they are in a cemetery where they cannot exercise their most basic rights including their right to live, their rights to treatment and medication, their right to bodily integrity, their right to have visitations, and much more; not to mention the suffering the detainees must endure from extreme torture and the suffering their families go through in order to see them. Al-Aqrab Prison lacks the basic components of constitutional and legal standards for any prison according to the constitution and international laws/ agreements. The signatories of this statement declare their full support of the demands of the Al-Aqrab Prisons' Families Association to close Al-Aqrab Prison for its complete violation of all International Standards for prisons and laws and standards provided for in the Egyptian constitution, until there is proof that no violations will occur, and mechanisms are put in place to monitor this.

The undersigned organizations assert their full support and solidarity with the families' demands for moving their detained family members from Al-Aqrab prison and to another prison that abides by and implements the local and international legal specifications and requirements for prisons; to a prison that allows detainees at least their most basic human and legal rights to receive medication, exercise, communicate (through writing and telephones) with their family members, have family visitations, have books and newspapers, and much more, and one that abides by all the rights enshrined and set forth by prison regulations which were founded by the prison services of the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

Furthermore, the undersigned organizations demand that all appropriate procedures be followed for the release of all detainees who have completed their conditional/temporary incarceration and all those who have been detained without any judicial orders or decisions from the prosecutor.

We also call for all the undersigned organizations to be allowed entry into Al-Aqrab Prison in order to investigate on whether International prison laws and regulations are actually being implemented or not in Al-Aqrab, and also to investigate on the extent of the prison's administration's commitment to implementing the prison regulations. Furthermore, we call for the undersigned organizations to communicate directly with Al-Aqrab prisoners in order to ascertain the credibility of the allegations of the Ministry of Interior affairs and the prison of their commitment to the implementation of proper laws."


The statement is signed by the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, the Agency to Defend the Oppressed, El Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, and others.
Inline image 1
In response to the hunger strike, the Egyptian Deputy Ministry of the Interior, Hasan al Sohagy, stated, "I have the green light to kill you if you refuse to end this strike."

From Social Media:

The strike received some attention in English but unfortunately not as much as it should have. We wanted to bring some of it here for the historical record, so that people know that this is going on. You can always go to Twitter and search for #Egypt and #DyingToLive at the same time, and you will get some results. These are some examples:


















What was written on Al Aqrab hunger strike in the English media:

*Middle East Eye:

"One hundred and fifty of the Aqrab detainees, who families say are all being held on political grounds, have begun full or partial hunger strikes. “This is a rough estimate,” said Aya Alaa Hosny, whose husband is one of about 1,000 detainees who have been charged with what she claims are political crimes, and are held in the Aqrab.
And from the article below:
"In its latest report, Human Rights Monitor (HRM) said it had received complaints from families of Aqrab Prison political detainees expressing deep concern for 19 Egyptian detainees now suffering slow extrajudicial killing, amid a total ban on visits and medicines by the prison administration who also stripped detainees of all cell contents."

*Aljazeera English:

Mass hunger strike at Egypt's infamous Scorpion prison
More than 30 inmates held at "Egypt's Guantanamo" refusing food to highlight inhumane conditions, including beatings.

*Middle East Monitor:

Deadly conditions of Egyptian hunger striking prisoners

*The New Arab

Inmates at al-Aqrab prison, one of the most notorious jails in the Arab world began a hunger strike 12 days ago protesting inhumane conditions and treatment.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

International Women Day: Egyptian women under military rule

International Women Day: Egyptian women under military rule in 2016

Egyptian women: The female political prisoners and victims of the military:


Egyptian women and girls have been at the forefront of the movement in Egypt
On International Women Day 56 Egyptian women and girl are still in prisons for crimes they haven't committed. The U.S government and the EU governments continue to remain silent about all these violations. In facts, the numbers and realities show that they support and collaborate with this regime in its oppression against women. 

For the most part, there's been very little on the politically motivated violations of human rights against females in Egypt especially after the military coup. Only a few cases received some attention but for the most part there has been a continuous neglect for the reality of this crisis from international organizations and international media. 

From Twitter: Look at the hashtags: #IWD #IWD2016 #Egypt









Heba Qashta, the first female to receive a military sentence in a military trial who's been in prison since 2014 is an example for young Egyptian women who're arrested after the military coup, and yet don't receive as much media attention or humanitarian support, mostly because of their demographics. Being low income, from outside of the center of attention (Cairo), and not looking very western are among the reasons the bias takes place. 
Heba's family and friends have been trying to raise awareness about her case on their own, where they are in the Nile Delta, and it's a very admirable effort. ‪
Heba is born in 1994 and she was involved in her own campus in a governorate outside of Cairo, these are places the western media and international human rights organizations have continuously avoided and ignored. 

For more information about Egyptian women in prison you can check out these pages:

Save Egyptian women and children!!

Egypt Queens: Imprisoned 

Bent El Thawra (The daughter of the revolution) 

The Unheard Egypt


Egyptian women who're facing military trials
*Egyptian women: The family of the political prisoner:

"My soul is imprisoned with you!" is the slogan of the Egyptian woman who's a mother, a wife, a daughter, or a sister of a political prisoner in Egypt. The families of political prisoners are going through sever hardships and are getting their share of unjust inhumane treatment by the security forces, in addition to the emotional, psychological, and financial burdens they have to go through. 


Wives and family members of political prisoners camp over night in order to be able to see their loved ones the next day!
More details on Al Aqrab prison, and the hunger strike that's ongoing there:


An Egyptian woman protests sentencing her journalist fiance for life right before their wedding, in her never worn before wedding dress:




On March 8th, 2016 a group of Egyptian women protested in several parts of the country and made a strong statement against the imprisonment and forced disappearance of their family members and friends, who are also women and girls.
These events don't get any media coverage outside of Egypt because of the demographics of the women who are participating and organizing. Unfortunately, they are not prominent secular activists from Cairo. Many of them traveled for hours to participate, many of them are regular people.
Protesting is a very courageous act in Egypt right now and has a very high price, especially for women and girls.




Please help share this, and be their voice!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Islamophobia and art in Egypt post 2011

A young Egyptian working on a mural in 2012 when the anti-political Islam sentiment reached its peak

This piece was written originally in September of 2013, one month after the Rabaa massacre, and two months after the military coup and the overthrow of the first democratically-elected president of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi. I posted it on Facebook not knowing that anti-Islamic sentiments would become as entrenched as they have become today. I'm now completing a full piece as of March 2016!

The demonization of Islamic religious symbols such as the Hijab, the Niqab, the beard, and the white Islamic attire for men as well as the demonization of those Muslims who choose to adhere to these religious/traditional practices is a dangerous phenomena. 

This continues to cause so many injustices for millions of innocent people all over the world and specifically in places like Egypt where the state-run media and the military leadership launched severe campaigns against the people who represent these images.
*****************
Since I'm going to be exploring Islamophobia in the Egyptian media after the military coup and the year during which Mohammad Morsi was in office as the first democratically-elected president in Egypt, I thought about this piece of "art". 




I took this picture in one of the side streets of the famous Mohammad Mahmoud area near Tahrir square in May 2013, right before I left Egypt when the anti-Morsi/anti-political Islam/anti-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment reached it's peak in the downtown Cairo activist community and in the media. This sentiment was shared and amplified widely in the western media and by western academics, who have continued to be  sympathetic to the secular elite in Egypt and biased against anything else, specifically any groups who identify with Islam as a political ideology. 

The graffiti was a mural which shows an angry bearded man in a white Galabya (automatically assumed to be an Islamist in this context) removing the art work the revolutionary kids made.

There's another bearded angry man saying "Graffiti is Haram/forbidden". And another one saying: "You're all infidels". 

I have seen sensational media like this presented and amplified over and over in different media. 

Most of the time the idea revolves around the"progressive leftist or liberal revolutionary" artist who's trying to tell the enlightened people that these fanatical regressive political Islamists are anti-art and anti-creativity and they think that we are all infidels for making art. This is something that I have seen come out in several art works and statements by politicians, particularly those addressing Western media and academia. (Such as when El Baradei spoke about how the Islamists are going to ban music in Egypt for example).

Something didn't feel right always in the way some "artists" used their graffiti to demonize "the beard and the bearded" specifically and justify this with the political mistakes made by the Islamists, Morsi, and the Muslim Brotherhood. These types of messages are very intentional. For somebody in Egypt it's easy to see how deceiving, over-generalized, and exaggerated this can be. For western observers, unfortunately, it seems like most of them just took it as it is without much thought. 

There are two important and obvious facts here that western observers need to remember:

1- Many people in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and all over the world wear the traditional white Galabya and have beards without being politically-involved. They dress like that because they're simply religious or traditional folks.

2- Islam doesn't teach that art is forbidden. Meaningful and purposeful art practices are encouraged in Islam as long as they don't contradict the Islamic teachings. In fact, political street art and revolutionary songs were produced by Egyptians and Arabs from a wide spectrum of views, ideologies, and backgrounds, and this included religious Muslims and Muslims who identify with a bunch of different political Islamic groups.  

My grandpa and many of my relatives in Egypt have had beards and worn the white traditional "Galabya". Many Egyptians and Muslims all over the world still do and this practice means something to them. 

At the end of the day, the beard, the Niqab, and the white outfits males wear are all different Islamic representations according to traditions dating back thousands of years. Whether people like it or not, and whether you like or dislike those who adopt these traditional practices, they are generally considered Islamic and from the Islamic faith. I'm not trying to get into the theological debates about any of this now.

Since Morsi was elected president in June of 2012, and after the military coup in July of 2013, religious-looking Egyptians are being targeted harshly and the general population in Egypt seems to be okay with it. 

This is not a coincidence. There are contributing reasons within the narratives pushed by the media, the revolutionary art scene, the comedy shows, and political talk shows with the endorsement of the secular elite. 

While everybody has the right to agree or disagree on the political performance of Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the political Islamic movement in Egypt, this shouldn't allow for the normalization of such Islamophobic tendencies. Painting angry bearded men is a classic tactic introduced by Islamophobes in the west a long time ago. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Alternative media resources on Egypt in 2016

Why is Egypt relevant?

Egypt has the largest Arab population in the Arab world, the 2nd largest population in Africa, and the 5th largest Muslim population in the world. 

Egypt is the second largest recipient of foreign aid (mostly military aid) from the United States in the world after Israel. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico and other countries receive similar amounts of U.S tax money so that the U.S can further continue to control the fate of these countries and their populations. The United States and other European governments continue to support the Egyptian regime regardless of the internal crisis.

Under the sight and complicity of the international community, human rights violations are committed in Egypt every single day. It helps greatly in so many ways when the outside world learns about these things taking place. 



There were incidents when young Egyptian revolutionaries were executed while the world watched in silence, or without even much media coverage. Hundreds of Egyptians are forcibly disappeared without anybody outside of their little circles knowing. Thousands of Egyptians are serving unjust sentences or remain in prison without any trials for years, without anybody else besides their family members and friends talking about it. That's why it's very important that you learn about this and let others know. 

I collected a few outlets on social media you can follow for updates in English, besides the regular stuff you might come across here and there on the big outlets that I don't have much respect for because of their bias, oversimplification, and selectivity.

1- The Unheard Egypt Media Collective:



Description:
Reporting, amplifying, and voicing the misreported, unrepresented and unheard #Egypt directly from #Egypt to the rest of the world.

Our goals and mission: 
*Amplifying non-mainstream -though important- issues and opinions in post revolution Egypt that are not considered in the current seemingly polarized/heated social and political atmosphere.

*Filling the gap created in the current non-Arabic journalistic/media narrative on post #Jan25 Egypt due to cultural/social/lingual barriers and sometime bias.

Facebook:

Twitter:

Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms

A local organization established in August 2014. They share rare and hard to find reports on human rights violations in Egypt. 

This is their English Facebook page:



#Occupywallstreet and Egyptian revolutionaries: United for change!


A page that was created in 2011 when some Occupy Wall Street activists became interested in working with young Egyptian revolutionaries to discuss common issues. The page is now run by Egyptian youth and posts updates from Egypt in English. 


*These are public pages run by individual Egyptian female writers from Sweden, Canada, and the United States who are working so hard to get the word out on their on.






*The following are examples for pages on Egyptian prisoners who're not very known to the outside world.



1- Freedom for Omar Ali, a journalist who's been held unjustly since April 2014




2- Freedom for Abdullah Al Fakharany, doctor, journalist, and human rights advocate arrested since August 2013 for doing his job. 


Other outlets that share updates on the revolutionary movement in Egypt and the situation there frequently:

Global Revolution Collective 

Facebook:

Twitter:

These are some Twitter accounts you can follow that I came to trust over the years: 











I'll update this list when I have more recommendations! 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Egyptian revolution #Jan25: Important Readings




It's January 2016 now and it's the 5 year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution (Not just the 18 days, the past five years). 

In the past 5 years I tried my best to do some documentation for what's been going on in Egypt, what I witnessed firsthand and what I heard from friends and trusted networks when I wasn't present. 
My main motivation was recognizing the lack of diversity in the perspectives that are represented and highlighted about Egypt in English. When I say the perspectives on Egypt I mean the following:

-Western media.
-Non-Arabic media.
-Western academia, think tanks, and literature.
-Egyptian English speakers working in the media or academia.

There's not much diversity or inclusion within most of what I read, watched, or heard in English.
I don't think the people I identify with and many others are given enough space to voice their own opinions. 

Who's writing the history of Egypt post 2011? Who's telling the story? Certainly not the people who should do this.

This is my little trial to contribute and change this. There were times when I wasn't writing or publishing my writings and unfortunately, my writings are all over the place on the web now. 
This is not everything and there are important events that I haven't written about for reasons outside of my control. However, I'm so glad I was able to write and speak when I had the opportunity to.
The Egyptian revolution is one of the few events I'm so proud I've witnessed in my short life. 

Some of the elders in the civil rights movement shared that the biggest mistake they've done in regards to their movement was not working as much as they should have on documenting what took place around this time and what they've experienced and learned. 
I'm dreaming of that day when my Egyptian friends will realize this. When they realize there is a dire need for the collective documentation of their stories so that the people who don't speak Arabic and the people who're not there learn about what truly happened.  The links are arranged according to what I think is important the most first. 

The Essentials 
(Egypt Revolution 101)

*Egypt's Military Industrial Complex
*U.S - Egypt relationship
*Palestine and Egypt
*The Egyptian Student Movement
*The Ultras Revolutionary Movement

1- What you must know about the Egyptian military industrial complex (January 2013)

"Since Morsi became president and later after Tantawi and Anan "retired", it seems that people are gradually overlooking this significant player in Egypt's politics:  The military industrial complex and its long direct relationship with the U.S military industrial complex. People are fighting the civilian front of the Egyptian military dictatorship and forgetting its core. The military might not be on the front but it's influencing the process and intervening in a direct manner using indirect approaches. Controlling an estimation of 25-40% of the Egyptian economy while making sure they're persevering more privileges than any other Egyptian faction in the new constitution, the Egyptian military should be talked about more often." 


2-When a revolution calls for "military rule" (February 2013)

Who would call for a military coup in Egypt? Why call for a military coup in a military dictatorship with a civilian cover? Does Egypt really need to get more militarized than this? 

My early predictions of the military coup of 2013 and my analysis for the Egyptian political groups that are involved directly in that as well as the ones who endorsed and welcomed a complete military take over in Egypt less than a year after the first elections. A very important piece for people who are still confused. 


3- The U.S hypocrisy continues in Egypt (March 2012)

Important fact-sheet on the U.S military aid to Egypt and how the U.S administration supported the Egyptian oppressive military regime since Camp David. Very important for American taxpayers. 



4- The student movement in Egypt: Statistics and context (October 2014)

Learn more about the student movement after the Egyptian revolution and after the military coup.
Get links for updates and student run media outlets on the student movement in Egypt.

"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" 

5- On the Ultras, Port Said Massacre and Mohammad (February 2013)

Do you understand the Ultras movement in Egypt and the important rule they played in the Egyptian revolution? Do you know about the Port Said massacre that hit the Ultras movement really bad? 
An important piece on a complex and essential player and participant in the Egyptian revolutionary movement. There's very little on the Ultras in English and they are overlooked in political analysis on Egypt.


6- Contextualizing pro-Palestine Egypt in the light of the current crisis in Gaza (August 2014)

Learn more about what revolutionary Egyptians think of Gaza and the longtime shared struggle between Egyptians and Palestinians. See photos and documentation of Egypt-Gaza solidarity effort in parts of Egypt that don't get coverage. Learn more about Sinai. 

"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 its 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."  


7- Political Arabic poetry for you: Don't reconcile! (July 2014)

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.  


8- My thoughts on "the first free elections in Egypt" (May 2012)

A detailed analysis on the presidential elections of 2012 which I boycotted then, it was run by the Egyptian military and it brought Mohammad Morsi to power who's then ousted by a military coup a year after. 



My personal reflections and experience as an Egyptian revolutionary

*Eyewitness accounts.
*Legacy and political stances.
*Trauma and psychological implications of going through revolution.

This is the second collection of important readings and perspectives on the Egyptian revolution. These are articles and analysis on my experiences in Egypt as a student, a media producer, an organizer, and a friend of victims. I also talked about some of the events and perspectives that didn't get enough mention or credit in English. The links are arranged according to what I think is important the most first. 

1- My thoughts on #Jan28 2011: The Egyptian Friday of Anger 

My eyewitness account on one of the most important days within the course of the Egyptian revolution, the Friday of Rage. January 28th 2011


2- Zainab Al Mahdy: When trauma and revolution kill (November 2014)

With the 5 year anniversary of the "revolution" coming soon, I wanted to start publishing here again with a post from November 2014 on a young revolutionary who was found hanged in her apartment in Cairo, Egypt. For some reason I feel like this story resonates so much to whatever happened to the Egyptian movement. I see myself so much in her. I see reflections of my past and present in her. 

Zainab’s end was both a slap on the face and a wake up call. Zainab was too sensitive, innocent, and fragile for all what she had to deal with at this age, at this historical moment, and in this society, where young women and women in general have to fight to survive without expecting too much support. This is happening on a large scale to many young people and young women her age in countries like ours.  The revolution-or what used to be so- has killed and continues to kill its own children in so many ways besides the police and army's bullets. Things like depression, PTSD, lose of hope, extreme unbearable psychological and emotional stress and other issues are among the ways young Egyptians are losing their lives-literally.  


3- What's really going on in Abbaseya? (May 2012)

May 2012 and the Abbaseya massacre right before the presidential elections took place. This was a moment of history which transformed my politics and my ideological stances with everything and on everything. This was the last time I saw my friend that I found out was killed in 2014. This was the first time my whole family was involved in one cause physically and emotionally, this was a time when my neighborhood people and the army tried to kill my friends, some escaped to die later and some didn't make it.

Yet, the Abbaseya massacre of May 2012 wasn't even worth mentioning in the international media because the victims were mostly religious looking Muslims. Here's my documentation of the events supported with video and photos. 


4- Post revolution class: To be a 2011 graduate (May 2013)

My personal experience and the challenges I faced as a college student who had to go back to school 2 weeks after being detained and after the Egyptian revolution has just started. 


5- My legacy: Between Islam, Justice, and Revolution (October 2013)

Where I stand and what I think as a religious Muslim revolutionary from Egypt, a perspective that's always overlooked when people speak and think of the participants of the Arab uprisings.
Some food for thought, "Liberation theology".


6- Once upon a time in an area of conflict (November 2012)

My reflections upon the receiving of the news of the martyrdom of a revolutionary friend and the dimensions of living through "revolution" as an ordinary human being. An advice and wake up call for the outsiders who view us only as numbers, statistics, labels, and news elements. 

"When you talk about people in countries going through political turmoil or talk to them please take a moment to think about the contexts they live in that might not be familiar to anything you've ever seen or experienced in your life."