Friday, February 11, 2011

Hosny Zeft is gone ..this is for you mother!

“Hosny Zeft” is how my mother always referred to the deposed president of Egypt. While linguistically inaccurate I would equate “zeft” to garbage or rubbish as used in Egyptian Arabic. So to my mother the President of Egypt was Hosny Rubbish, she never referred to him as just Hosny or “el riess” the president, or Mubarak, it was always Hosny Zeft, Hosny Garbage, so consistent she was in her use of this name that one would be forgiven to believe the man’s last name was indeed Garbage.

My mother was always an ardent Egyptian nationalist with tremendous interest in politics and world events; she was the first in the family to boycott the state controlled Al Ahram, the big daily of Egypt and to seek out weekly and eventually daily opposition papers. In the early days of her Alzheimer family members were treated to lengthy rants about Hosny Zeft and his various ministers repetitively. We would often plead with her to tone it down in public places but this would aggravate her more, so Hosny Zeft it was all the time.

My sheer happiness for the success of the Egyptian Revolution and the way this success was achieved are simply beyond words. After three weeks of terrible distraction and an emotional roller coaster of fear, worry, anxiety, anger and hope, the thug and his regime are gone, the Mubarak’s era is no more! Still, I remain overcome by emotions ranging from sadness for those who paid the ultimate price and those who have been tortured and maimed to deliver this salvation to joy and elation at a united progressive organized peaceful movement that defeated the torture and propaganda machines of Mubarak.

I wanted to much to be able to discuss the events of the last three weeks with my mother, I so longed to hear her cheer for the protestors, I imagined trying to dissuade this feisty 82 year old lady from going to Tahrir Square. I wanted to hear what she thought of Egypt finally finding its voice, revolting for dignity and ultimately the getting rid of Hosny Zeft. I speak to my mother on the phone daily and try to get the discussion to Hosny Zeft …over the 18 days of the revolution the name registered once with mammi, …. yes there is still Hosny Zeft deep inside below the thick fog of Alzheimer. In that one call, on the 17th day, she still remembered a Hosny Zeft that should be indeed be damned….but for now my mother wants ice cream and football on TV. Perhaps after this stressful ordeal she is right; we all need ice cream and soccer on TV!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ded el Hekomah …What does it mean?

Roots of the January 25 Revolution in Egypt

The powerful Egyptian rap Ded el Hekomah is the anthem of the Egyptian Revolution. News analysts, security experts, orientalists and all types of talking heads have for decades talked of the grim choice the USA and the West have in Egypt; corrupt dictatorships or Islamist western hating, war mongering instability like that of Iran. Pity they did not take some time to look beyond their prejudices and listen to “Ded el Hekomah”. Egyptian Rapper Ramy Donjewan song is a beautiful passionate cry against a brutal government, against injustice, thuggery and torture against the killing of innocents.

Ramy rages against dictatorship and even against the victims of oppression for their silence, for putting up with injustice and for thirty years of dictatorship. Ramy urges people to speak out against the oppressive government …”kefayeeh noam” enough sleep! … “kefayeeh moat” enough death! ... “kefayeeh sekoot” enough silence! ...“kefayeeh zolm” enough injustice … ”ana ded el hekomah” I’m against the government! …”ana ded illi ya’abel yetthan” I am against those who accept humiliation! “ana leya aeemah” my life has value!

The beautiful poetry of Ramy Donjewan speaks to universal values of freedom & justice; the American Founding Fathers would have strongly approved of every word and sentiment in “ded el hekomah”. What a surprise to the western talking heads and policy makers … Egyptian youth share the same basic universal values of other people, they do value their lives, they want freedom of expression, they want justice and opportunity; and guess what, they are not too keen on getting brutalized, tortured or killed. What a surprise! And, it is not just the youth we have seen Egyptians in their sixties and seventies take to the street to support the revolution.

The policy makers and their orientalists advisors failed to see the revolution coming as they projected prejudices against the people of Egypt through a process of generalization and stereotyping; lumping in different countries and cultures. The absurdity continues as “experts” talk of their concerns of Egypt splitting up confusing tribal societies in countries thousands of miles away with Egypt; perhaps the world first nation state with substantially same boundaries for millennia.

The reality, before all of us to see on CNN, BBC and Aljazeera, is that Egypt has a foot in the first world with millions of educated people; heavy users of internet and modern communication; they rap, they tweet, have lots of tweeps and Facebook friends, they work for Google, they demonstrate with iPhones, blackberry and even iPads and many are multilingual. This perhaps is the world’s first revolution led by what we Egyptians call “mistreheen” or the “comfortables”, those with education, jobs and some material wealth, the middle and upper classes of the society. Yet Egypt is a third world country with tens of millions of people living on below $2 a day. Daily tweets remind the pro democracy protestors to help the poor on their way to Tahrir Square.

The Egyptian Revolution is no bread riots; it is the “mistreheen” revolt for dignity, self respect and freedom on behalf of all of the people of Egypt. This is about an old nation waking up; finding its voice and showing the world values of social justice & cohesion, religious tolerance & unity. What may come of the Egyptian Revolution is still up in air, for now silence and wavering in supporting the brave people of Egypt is complicit support of thuggery, brutality, torture and criminal oppression of the will of the people. We should all be singing … ana ded el hekomah .. ded el hekomah … ded el hekomah.

February 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Outrage in Egypt …why? What next?

I am completely outraged by what is happening in Egypt and to the courageous young men and women of Egypt who took to the streets peacefully and beautifully asking for their freedom, for liberty & democracy. My contribution is, rather than going into the horrors committed by the Mubarak regime, I will focus on some background and address the questions that seem to occupy the mind of many in the west.

Some have claimed that the January 25 peaceful demonstrations were mere copy cat events of those in Tunisia. Let’s first look at why Jan25, and Jan25 in particular, and how #jan25 became such a huge tag on Twitter. The 25th of January is the Egyptian National Police Day or “Eid El Shortah” . The Police & internal security forces of Egypt, numbering in the millions, are a major part of the grievances of the people of Egypt. The Egyptian police has become notorious for the humiliation, abuse, torture and brutal killings of whomever they get their hands on, be they peaceful geeky bloggers, news reporters or organized Islamist or Arabist opponents of the regime.

#KhaledSaid is another big tag on Twitter and Khaled Said Facebook page has hundreds of thousands of members, Khaled would have celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday on January 27, had he not been brutally tortured and killed by the Egyptian Police a few months ago. Khaled’s optimistic hopeful face is on the mind of many of the protestors, what was done to him is there for all to see on Facebook, he was brutalized.

While Egypt has lived under Emergency Laws for 30 years and the Police & other internal security forces have been nothing short of totally ruthless in their suppression of outspoken dissent, the Security Forces failed to protect Egypt against the New Year Eve massacre in Alexandria, this terrorist attack on a church during this last New Year’s Eve left 23 dead and scores maimed. This massacre put ordinary Egyptians Muslims and Christians on a State of Alert and caused a great deal of self reflection. Egyptian police failed to protect ordinary Egyptians despite the stated threat by Al Qaida against Egyptian churches and the response to the attack was equally dismal. Doubtless the success of their Tunisian neighbors helped in opening the eyes of the people of Egypt to their power against the oppressors but the Alexandria massacre delivered a clear message: The violence of the state does not serve any purpose except enriching some in the regime at the expense of the masses, public security is only security for the regime and ruling classes.

Is the Mubarak regime vital for Egypt’s peace with Israel? As a strong advocate for peace and co-existence with Israel the answer to me is a clear no. Mubarak failed to continue with the policy of normalization with Israel started by his predecessor President Sadat, instead Mubarak played a dangerous game of building a strong relationship with Israel on the state level while presiding over the creation of immense waves of anti Jewish hatred. Mubarak’s propaganda apparatus through state owned and controlled media fed the flame of hate. My recollection of my childhood in Egypt at the height of Egyptian Israeli wars was fear of Israeli bombings; the hatred of Israel and all things Jewish had never been at the levels of Mubarak’s Egypt, ground zero for today’s anti-Semitism. Mubarak can’t be good for peace between Egypt and Israel nor for stability. The stability offered by Mubarak is nothing but the most fertile conditions for malignant hate that undermines any lasting peace.

Similar is the myth that Mubarak is a critical ally for the west against Islamism. The Egyptian Islamist movements have had a strange love – hate relationship with Mubarak’s regime. On the one hand Mubarak has opposed the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in politics, yet Islamists have had a free hand running mosques, schools and clinics. Egyptian society under Mubarak has been radicalized and the Salfi extremist strands of Islam, traditionally alien to Egypt, have spread; women in burqas were rarely seen on the streets of Cairo or Alexandria before Mubarak, now they are everywhere. Yet Mubarak brutally suppressed, imprisoned and forced into exile virtually all of his secular opponents and unleashed massive propaganda attacks against them; Ayman Nour and Saad Eddin Ibrahim are perfect examples for Mubarak’s heavy handedness against secular opponents. Mubarak wanted to be the only viable acceptable alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood, no room for others.

The Jan25 revolution, led by the youth, middle class and the educated classes of Egypt and eventually supported by the lame opposition parties and the Islamists, is good for Egypt, is good for the Middle East, good for peace and good for the West.

AA - Feb 2, 2011