Children burned with cigarettes by Israeli soldiers in illegal settlement

 

Submitted by Nora Barrows-Fr… on Wed, 01/15/2014 – 19:11   

140115-youth-arrested.jpg

Israeli soldiers “conduct traumatic arrests of Palestinian children, often involving violence and humiliation,” says a rights group.

                (Sliman Khader / APA images)              

Three Palestinian children were allegedly burned with lit cigarettes and denied access to food, water or toilet facilities after being arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers and police in September, a new report indicates.

In separate incidents, the three children were allegedly assaulted and abused during arrest and transfer to the Ariel police station, which is located inside the illegal Ariel settlement colony in the occupied West Bank.

Defence for Children International-Palestine section (DCI-Palestine) says that:

… Israeli soldiers severely and repeatedly beat Ali S, 14, from Azzun, Hendi S, 17, from Salfit, and Mohammad A, 15, from Tulkarem after arresting them. One soldier extinguished a cigarette butt on Ali’s lip while another burned Hendi’s arm with a cigarette, according to the sworn testimonies of the two teenagers. Hendi and Mohammad were denied access to food, water and toilet facilities for a long period. All three of them were accused of stone throwing.

DCI-Palestine adds that it submitted ten separate complaints in 2013 over alleged abuse and “torture of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers and police,” but that in eight of the cases, “Israeli authorities failed to notify DCI-Palestine whether they had opened an investigation. The remaining two cases resulted in the military advocate-general’s decision to close the investigation due to insufficient evidence. Israeli authorities deem the refusal of victims to testify without the presence of a lawyer as insufficient evidence.”

The group cites statistics by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, which reports that only five percent of complaints submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division have led to an indictment.

“Traumatic arrests”

In their press release, DCI-Palestine adds:

“Israeli soldiers conduct traumatic arrests of Palestinian children, often involving violence and humiliation, to prime them to quickly confess during interrogation,” said Iyad Misk, a lawyer at DCI-Palestine. “Burning children with cigarette butts raises particular alarm that demands a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division where the abusers are held accountable.”

Israeli authorities unconditionally released Hendi and sentenced Mohammad to time served during pretrial detention. Ali remains in Israeli custody.

This marks the second time Hendi endures ill treatment this year. In late February [2013], DCI-Palestine submitted a complaint to the Police Internal Investigations Department over the abuse Hendi suffered during interrogation at Ariel police station in February.

Just last month, it was revealed that Israeli soldiers put Palestinian prisoners — including children — in outdoor cages during a brutal winter storm.

And a week ago, Israeli soldiers were caught on video kidnapping and beating Palestinian youths near the Israeli wall in occupied East Jerusalem.

Human Rights Watch recently reported that at least twice in 2013, Israeli occupation forces ambushed, shot and killed Palestinian children near schools in the West Bank for no apparent reason.

Defence for Children International-Palestine section says that there was an average of 203 children in Israeli detention during 2013, an average of 33 of whom were between 12 and 15 years old. “The most common charge is for throwing stones,” DCI-Palestine adds. “Currently 51.4 percent of Palestinian child prisoners are detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

source: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora-barrows-friedman/children-burned-cigarettes-israeli-soldiers-illegal-settlement

A Military Constitution

 

 
 
Now that the Egyptian military has ousted the first elected president, installed a government of civilian executors, massacred the former president’s supporters and sympathizers, and declared his organization a terrorist group, it is set to produce a document it calls a constitution that codifies military superiority over state and society.
 
Not content to delegate the task of selling the document to the 50 people it appointed to write it, the military is doing its own sales pitch. It has issued this video laying out how all three branches of the armed forces, as well as special forces, border guards and military police, will deploy 160,000 men to assist the Interior Ministry in “securing” the referendum on the document.
 
The video  is an endless parade of military prowess: rolling tanks and armored personnel carriers; formations of ramrod-straight troops bearing huge rifles; and of course the military’s treasured helicopters, this time not to draw hearts in the sky but “to monitor any obstructions to the electoral operation.” At the end of the video the voice-over narrator avers, “This comes at a time when the armed forces are undertaking vigilance and preparedness procedures to execute their principal duties on all the strategic fronts of the state.”
 
One could be forgiven for thinking that Egypt is on the cusp of war, not an impending plebiscite. But war is what militaries do, and when countries are blighted by politicized militaries that control their politics, the guns are turned inward. This isn’t a figure of speech. Since July 3rd, the military and its junior partner the police have repeatedly killed opponents of the coup, not content with “just” arrests and jail terms.
 
The once unfathomable is now routine, with at least one killing at every protest, and a stunning 17 people killed just last Friday. The general public’s manufactured indifference and silence is the biggest kick in the gut, a testament to the military’s lethal power to mold reality and cow citizens.
 
In frighteningly methodical fashion, every hard-won gain of the January 25th revolution is reversed and trampled upon. The collective emancipation of the revolutionary crowds is turned into fear and conformist state worship. The once-revolutionary act of burning police cars, a time-honored Egyptian resistance tactic, is now rubbished because only the Muslim Brothers are daring it. The greatest and most brittle achievement of the revolution, the possibility and practice of ruling ourselves, is defeated by the armed enforcers of elite rule.
 
In these times of daily state violence, a law criminalizing protest, a government decree declaring the largest political group in Egypt a “terrorist organization,” and a state-sponsored silencing and fear-mongering campaign, Egyptians are being badgered to go out and endorse a document that spells out the terms of their subjugation. Such is the military’s constitution.
 

Die Bruederphobie

Es kann nur noch schlimmer kommen. Und es wird weitergelogen. Verfolgt man die Presse ueber die neuesten EReignisse, dann koennen einem die Haare zu Berge stehen. Autobombe explodiert und Zivilisten verletzt, beispielsweise. Die Bombe wurde im zweiten Stock des Polizeigebaeudes plaziert und eine vor dem Haus- komischerweise sollen nach Zeugenaussagen die Kontrollen, die sonst jeden Tag stattgefunden haben, an jenem Tag aus irgendeinem Grund nicht stattgefunden haben.

Ich will weder die Tat noch die Toten beschoenigen. Es ist ein VErbrechen und verabscheuenswuerdig. Jedoch genauso verabscheuenswuerdig sind die falschen Aussagen und Luegen, um das ganze der Bruderschaft zuschieben zu koennen.

Die Muslimbrueder sind nun offiziell durch das staatliche Fernsehen (aber weder durch ein Gericht noch ein juristisches Verfahren) als Terrororganisation abgestempelt worden- dies nach dem gestrigen Attentat. Dass sich jedoch eine politische Gruppe aus dem Sinai verantwortlich fuer die Bombe erklaert hat, wurde einfach beiseitegelassen. Wir wollen die Muslimbrueder als Schuldige, also werden wir das auch so hinbiegen….

Als Abschluss des Tages gab es ein oeffentliches STatement im TV und als Folge davon die Schliessung von zahlreichen Spitaelern, die durch die Muslimbrueder finanziert werden. Da die meisten der Brueder im Gefaengnis sitzen und ihre Kontos eingefroren wurden, fliessen auch die HIlfsgelder nicht mehr. Die Organisation besitzt ein gutes und flaechendeckendes Netz an Hilfsorganisationen, Waisenhaeusern, Krankenhaeuser, die praktisch umsonst die aermsten Schichten behandeln. Die Schliessung trifft natuerlich nicht jene sauberen Politiker, welche von boesen Muslimbruedern sprechen, und ueber dicke Bankkontis verfuegen, sondern die Armen, wieder einmal.

Wer gestern die Verzweiflung und die herzzerreissenden Szenen mitgekriegt hat, welche sich vor zahlreichen Krankenhaeusern abspielte, der rauft sich tatsaechlich die Haare und fragt sich, wer bei dieser Offensichtlichkeit noch an den echten Beweggruenden dieser Uebergangsregierung zweifeln kann.

Ausweisung von Syrischen Fluechtlingen, genauso wie Etretier aus dem Sueden, Schliessung der Tunnels und Raeumung des Grenzgebietes zu GAza, Sperrung der Grenze, Schliessung von HIlfsorganisationen, Krankenhaeusern und Waisenhaeusern. Inhaftierung von Menschenrechtlern, Journalisten, Schuelern und Demonstrierenden , Schaffung neuer Gesetze um dem Mlitaer mehr Macht zu geben – dies sind nur ein paar der Aktionen der Regierung, welche ja nur das gute und Demokratie fuer Aegypten wuenscht….

Das Schlimme ist einfach, dass es immer noch Menschen gibt, die alles glauben und tatsaechlich Hero Sisi immer noch verehren. Nach einem Geruecht zufolge soll er jedoch seit mehr als einem MOnat erschossen worden sein- von einem Militaerangehoerigen. Die Anschlaege, welche in den letzten Tagen veruebt worden seien, seien eine Vorbereitung auf einen Anschlag eines militaerischen Zieles, bei dem dann offiziell Sissi ums Leben kommen wird.

Das sind die Geruechte, welche kursieren- warten wir ab, ob es sich bewahrheiten wird. Sisi tauchte letzten MOnat wirklich sehr wenig oeffentlich auf- und wenn, koennte das nach Zeitungen auch Doubles gewesen sein…

Wie wir hier sagen: Gott weiss es.

Ich hoffe einfach, dass sie nicht auch noch wahrmachen, was sie uns noch verprochen haben: gewisse Schulen unter fadenscheinigen Begruendungen schliessen- Terrorschulen unter der Muslimbruderschaft. WEr die Vorsicht der Lehrer und aller Beteiligten hier kennt, ja keine Politik in die Schulen reinzutragen, der weiss, dass auch dies eine weitere Verleumdung darstellt. Genauso wie der Vorwurf, es wuerde anstatt Biladi (mein Land) Jihadi (mein Krieg) gesungen am Morgen beim Apelll…

So ein Kaese, der hier verbreitet wird. Aber anscheinend ist es genau das, was manche hoeren und glauben wollen – auch wenn sie das Gegenteil taeglich sehen und mitkriegen – es ist nicht zu fassen.

 

 

 

Schulen im Visir des Staates- Englischer Artikel

Schools as ticking time bombs?

While media campaigns rage against schools dubbed Brotherhood-affiliated, staff and parents are on the defense

By: Naira Antoun Lindsey Parietti

Source: madamasr.com

In the sunlit reception of Jana Dan International School in Cairo’s Maadi neighborhood, certificates in golden frames line a prominent wall. Next to international accreditation and state inspection documents is a notice to staff: “Please refrain from discussing politics at school as we are supposed to be building our school now and every second counts.”

Through the halls and into a large courtyard flanked by the swimming pool are lines of smiling, laughing primary school children waiting for recess. It’s an atmosphere the school and parents have carefully tended and are now vigilantly guarding from the upheaval around them.

Jana Dan is one of dozens of private schools that have come under scrutiny from the government and media in recent months. Since a ruling banning the Muslim Brotherhood on September 23, there has been talk of closing “Brotherhood schools.”

“I always want to keep my kids at this school … it’s a war against our identity, and if we let it go, we won’t find it anymore.”

The ban is intended to be broad, applying not only to the group’s political work, but to its social and religious activities, as well as properties and businesses owned by members.

Estimates as to how many Brotherhood-owned schools there are across Egypt’s governorates have varied over the past three months. At one point, 60 was widely cited. The latest list of schools to be put under closer state scrutiny numbers 147. The ministry announced it would nominate new heads for these schools and restructure their boards of directors.

Local media have launched a frenzied discussion of Brotherhood-influenced education, raising fears among parents of potential violence against the schools. Administrators at several schools are now wary to speak to the press, even in their own defense.

The schools are accused of making children sing “Jihadi, jihadi” instead of “Biladi, biladi” — “my country” — in the national anthem and not salute the Egyptian flag. They are accused of inculcating loyalty to the Brotherhood over the nation and threatening national security.

Controversy has also centered around a textbook used in some schools in Assiut. According to the area’s governor, Major General Ibrahim Hammad, it glorifies the Palestinian movement Hamas.

These allegations fall within the prevalent rhetoric currently surrounding the Brotherhood, which describes it as an international organization with an agenda pursued regardless of Egypt’s interests, and as a threat to national security. Graduates of Brotherhood-affiliated schools who may join government institutions are believed to be intellectually aligned with the group, and hence a perceived threat to the state.

Controversy has focused on private schools rather than schools serving poor Egyptians.

Ashraf al-Sherif, a scholar and researcher on the Brotherhood, says that if the government cracked down on Brotherhood-affiliated mainstream schools and services nationwide, it would not be able to fill the gap. This is a common analysis of the Brotherhood’s success at playing a socio-cultural role in lieu of the state in recent decades.

“The government is attacking the Brotherhood politically, but will not really attack its socio-cultural presence,” Sherif adds.

The attack on elite Brotherhood-affiliated schools can also be understood as an extension of the crackdown on the group’s investments.

While there have been calls to shut down Brotherhood schools, Minister of Education Mahmoud Abul Nasr has made several comments to the media clarifying that schools will not be closed, but those found violating ministry standards will be placed under administrative and financial supervision. Repeated calls by Mada Masr to the ministry’s press office went unanswered.

An earlier version of the ministry’s list included an additional 85 schools, reportedly removed primarily because they have non-Brotherhood co-owners. Among these was Jana Dan.

Sherif notes that the Brotherhood has plenty of experience functioning as a semi-clandestine operation. “They know how to practice double ownership, or transfer ownership when necessary,” he says.

Meanwhile, in her talk show on privately-owned satellite channel CBC, Lamis al-Hadidi has almost goaded the Ministry of Education to do more, criticizing it for focusing on administrative violations and sending people “to go and sit in the accounting room.”

“What is more important than even the weapons stored in these schools,” she alleged in a segment aired on November 11, “are the weapons in the minds of children.”

She expressed concerned that generations would emerge from such schools hating the military and police, and claimed that Brotherhood schools were a “ticking bomb” before asking if the ministry was living up to its role.

Hadidi listed by name 40 schools that she claimed belong to the Brotherhood.

At one of the schools, Al-Medina al-Manawara Language School in Siuf to the west of Alexandria, fears of being targeted are acute — it was raided late at night on October 30. Several media outlets, both state and privately-owned, reported that security forces had found fake army uniforms and computers containing Brotherhood plans to cause chaos in Alexandria and Cairo.

Hoda Rashid, a member of Al-Medina al-Manawara’s public relations staff, says security forces stole computers and money during the raid. She denies media claims that the school is owned by Muslim Brotherhood members. Media reports say it is owned by Gomaa Amin, a member of the Brotherhood Guidance Bureau now residing in London, but the school claims his role is as a director.

“Those ‘army uniforms’ were part of a play,” says Marwa, mother of two sons at the boys’ school and a daughter at the girls’ school down the street, who did not give her last name. “There was a costume for a peasant, and one for a doctor, one for an engineer and one for an officer. It was something completely ordinary.”

Lobna Youssef Mohamed, another parent and staff member, says, “If all this talk were true, weapons and so on, we would be the first to remove our kids. Our kids are the priority.”

Parents, staff and children contest media claims that teachers encourage students to demonstrate against the government. There is not even discussion of politics in class, they say.

“We come to school to learn, not to talk about politics,” says nine-year-old Mazen. “What happens in the country doesn’t concern us, what concerns us is that our school doesn’t close.”

His mother, Marwa, says his siblings also worry the school will be shut down.

Marwa’s children initially heard the school was in the news from other students, and then started looking online to read for themselves, she says. She found Mazen gathering his certificates to put online as evidence of how much he has learned. As part of a class assignment following the raid, his sister wrote an allegory that pits a child against the ruler of a town.

“What upset them most was hearing that their school is teaching them terrorism and how to use weapons,” she adds.

The security director at the local government education office has little to say about the raid, however.

“What happens outside of school hours does not concern us,” says Mohamed Qotb. “Our concern is adherence to the curriculum and ministerial regulations.”

“In the Ministry of Education,” he adds, “we do not talk about Brotherhood schools. That is not an official term.”

The ministry sends committees to inspect private schools on a regular basis and investigates any complaints.  

Qotb says they did not find evidence of violations at the school. No exceptional moves have been taken, he adds.“What the media says does not concern us. We don’t respond to scandals.”

Such a discrepancy between different arms of the state — a raid on the one hand, and on the other a visit from the local education office that finds no violations — is unsurprising, Sherif says.

“This agenda comes from the Cabinet and the national security apparatus, so intelligence, the Ministry of Interior and military institutions,” he says. “The Ministry of Education, here, is just a bureaucratic executing body.”

Jana Dan was named on Hadidi’s program and has been given particular attention in the press. Several media outlets have described it as among the most famous Brotherhood schools, claiming that the daughter of wealthy Brotherhood figure Khairat al-Shater, seen as one of the group’s most powerful men, is its owner. School officials say she is a parent, not an owner, and that her husband is chairperson of the school board. 

In response to the controversy at Jana Dan, a number of fathers — several with more than one child at the school — came together. The school administration did not wish to speak to the media, but authorized the parents’ committee to sit down with Mada Masr in its stead.

As Ahmad al-Gendy, owner of a medical supply company and father of two daughters in the primary school, puts it, “I decided to take the role of investigator, not the defender, because the first priority is my kids — they come number one, and maybe before number one.”

A group of fathers went to the ministry demanding a meeting and were allowed to speak to the minister the next day. Two fathers claim that Abul Nasr gave them private assurances that were quite different from his public comments. 

“In terms of what I heard from the minister himself,” says parent Nidal Sakr, “He [the minister] said: ‘I know this is one of the top schools we have in the country and I know the elite puts kids in this school.’ Here’s the problem: He goes on TV or in newspapers and says something completely different.”

Far from assuaging their fears, the meeting and subsequent committee inspections the parents and school say cleared Jana Dan of violations have further angered the fathers.

“I mean, have some respect,” Sakr says. “Respect our intelligence at least.”

With regard to media claims that the school is owned by Shater’s daughter, Khadija, or her husband Ahmed Darwish, the dads say they have seen documentation listing Jana Dan’s 24 partners. Not only are none associated with the Brotherhood, they say, but some work in state intelligence or are former diplomats.

One father, Hesham Galal, quips that the problem could be solved if Shater and Darwish divorced. Galal wrote a piece published in the state-run Al-Ahram daily rebutting claims that students do not sing the national anthem and discussing the school’s ownership.

But even if Shater’s daughter were the school’s owner, they say, it would not be an issue.

“We don’t have prejudice against anyone, especially those who are good to the community,” Sakr says.

Even when not explicitly discussing the school, they appear keen to address the accusations leveled against them, asserting for instance how much they love Egypt. Galal, a shareholder in a telecommunications company, mentions he travels a lot for work to avoid moving his family abroad. “I have got a lot of opportunities to work outside Egypt but I refused them,” he says, adding how much he enjoyed his own education in an experimental national school.

These fathers have sought to shield their children from what Gendy describes as a “wild media campaign.”

Galal says he avoids talking about the matter in front of his sons, but is concerned about times, like when they are with friends, when he cannot protect them.

While all are concerned about their sons’ and daughters’ safety, they have not considered removing their children. Indeed, none of the parents that Mada Masr spoke to at several schools wanted to transfer their children elsewhere.

“I always want to keep my kids at this school,” says Sherif Mohamed, an EgyptAir pilot who has three children at Jana Dan. “See, it’s a war against our identity, and if we let it go, we won’t find it anymore.”

They also say that choice is limited, as dozens of other elite private schools have the same problem.

A combination of high educational standards and a proper moral upbringing are what attracted most of these parents to Jana Dan.

Galal says he was attracted by the school’s “Islamic flavor” and the fact that it “provides our children with spiritual, ethical and moral values in a practical way.”

“The main reason I stay here is that my children learn moral codes, not the education,” Mohamed says. “What I see in my kids is that they act as Muslims should. They learn morals without stress, without being forced, and they are happy to show us.”

When Sakr, also an American citizen, was looking for an international education for his daughter, he did not consider American schools in Cairo. He explains, “I wouldn’t want my daughter at eight years old to be dating her classmate … and that’s my right… Nobody is going to tell us how to raise our kids.”

After several Ministry of Education inspections, the parents hope the media attention will die down, but say they are prepared to take whatever legal, peaceful means necessary to ensure their children have a safe learning environment.

“I will fight tooth and nail,” Sakr says. “Nobody is going to get to my kid or the environment where I have entrusted them, period.” 

MADA MASR – wrecking ball

A very good article from Sarah Carr- published on: http://madamasr.com/content/wrecking-ball-0

Lots of comparisons are being made between the current mood and goings on in Egypt, and the country as it was before the revolution. Everything is generally shit, the Interior Ministry’s viciousness is on the ascendant, and the space for public dissent is shrinking before our very eyes — the Wicked Witch of the West melting into a pool of water.

These are strange and maudlin days, but a major difference between now and then is that the general public has a better idea of who they are, and the myth — drilled into them in schools, by state media and occasionally by corporate marketing campaigns — that they are one monolithic people, united, culturally and politically has been exposed. The sensation is similar to that of a group of ostensibly harmonious but drunken relatives at a family meal, one of whom blurts out a remark about respected Uncle So-and-So actually being a right bastard, setting off a landslide of bitter acrimony and suppressed invective. Everyone leaves the meal with the feeling firstly, that they know the others better, and secondly, that they are no richer for this knowledge.

This journey of self-discovery began almost immediately. The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist political parties roundly beat their secular, liberal opponents in the parliamentary elections of 2011, and for the first time it was possible to get an accurate sense of the scale of public support for these groups, so long kept out of politics under the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak. Polarization began here. 

Having almost obliterated the Muslim Brotherhood, the wrecking ball is on its next demolition path, targeting anyone who dares to question it.

It intensified with the presidential elections, the final round of which was an unsatisfying race between the unfortunate Mohamed Morsi — an avuncular character chosen to replace Brotherhood heavyweight Khairat al-Shater after the latter was declared ineligible to run — and the bumbling Ahmed Shafiq, a Mubarak lackey with a penchant for expensive wristwatches who stood on little boxes during press conferences to make him taller. The central selling point of his campaign was: I am not Muslim Brotherhood, vote for me.

It was a closely run battle of the mediocre. Shafiq left the country almost immediately after losing, leaving in his wake various allegations of corruption and jubilant members of the Muslim Brotherhood who took to the streets celebrating their man’s victory. 

Morsi began the strange days of his rule by going to Tahrir Square and opening his suit jacked to prove that he is “One of Us” and not scared of death while surrounded by a team of 658 bodyguards. He upheld the noble tradition of Egyptian presidents by making grand promises which he then failed to keep. His took the form of an ambitious „100 day“ project which he told us would address Egypt’s most pressing problems, numerous and chronic. This project was almost universally viewed as a work of fantasy.

Barring a miracle, it would have been impossible for any president, whatever his political stripes, to succeed in anything. The country was still raw from the tumult of the revolution, the death and the violence — which then was still a novelty. There was a perceptible rise in street crime and a general sense that the country was coming apart at the seams. For decades, and for generations, Egypt’s institutions —  the Interior Ministry, the army, the judiciary — had been perceived as its mainstays, the pegs in the ground that kept the winds of uncertainty, of threats named and unnamed, from blowing the tent away. The revolution demanded that this thinking be turned on its head, that these institutions be seen as a barrier to progress, that prolonged uncertainty be viewed as the path to an eventual good. 

Morsi and his men waded into all this with their brand of clumsy, spiritual popularism. Perceived as something between a closed group and a cult, the Muslim Brotherhood never made any serious efforts to refute this, and instead spent their time lurching between public relations disasters, attempts at power grabs and courting the very institutions they needed to challenge in order to guarantee their survival.

The end really began after November 22 2012, when Morsi passed a constitutional declaration granting himself absurd, Pharaonic powers. People responded by setting up a protest camp outside the presidential palace. The camp was attacked by groups of plain clothed men, and the situation descended into running street battles between Morsi’s opponents and another group who identified themselves as defending his rule. Nightmares about Egypt cleaving in two were made real on that long night as the two camps surged back and forth, watched by the police, who for hours did nothing to stop them.

The army and the Interior Ministry were sitting back and watching throughout this period, biding their time as public resentment festered. Opposition group Tamarod (Rebel) climbed onto the back of this anger and organized a petition campaign calling for Morsi to hold early presidential elections. The momentum of this campaign was directly proportionate to the sense of chaos in the days leading up to June 30: Mystery six-hour long petrol queues, a terrifying public lynching of four Shia men, persistent rumors that the Brotherhood was going to take over the army and the police, that Egypt would turn into Iran.

Egypt is chaotic generally, but within established and accepted boundaries. The sense of impending doom was amplified by the hysterical Facebook rumor mill and a media as polarized as the rest of the country, presenting their versions of reality while underneath all this were the rumblings of something coming.

Morsi ignored those rumblings and gave a two-hour speech shortly before he was deposed in which he variously belittled and threatened his detractors. It was the stuff of established, seasoned dictators, not a jumped-up little amateur with army and Interior Ministry vultures swooping above his head, and who is unlikely even to be able to frighten his kids into going to bed on time.

Today, there is an advertising campaign on the streets of Cairo encouraging citizens to take part in the upcoming referendum on the draft constitution. Giant billboards declare that taking part means saying yes to the January 25 and June 30 revolutions. “Yes” jumps out in huge lettering on a green background, pausing only to knock those reading it over the head repeatedly before bellowing, “YES YES YES.”

The juxtaposition of January 25 and June 30 is an ambitious marketing trick seeking to draw in as many punters as possible. It is a continuation of the message vigorously shoved down our throats by the government that Morsi’s unseating by the Armed Forces was definitely NOT a coup, and that June 30 was either another installment of the revolution or a correction of the January 25 „path,” which experienced a blip when Morsi took power. Both interpretations are fantastical because if there is a link between January 25 2011 and June 30 2013, it is roughly equivalent to the relationship between chainsaws and trees, or Jaws and lower limbs.

They also both ignore the fact that January 25 was not the explosion of unity and brotherly love that the wistful romantics present it as; and that the whispers about it being foreign-directed, or a plot by the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power, or both, began even before the 18 days had ended. These claims were initially limited to Egypt’s lunatic fringe media and a diehard group of Mubarak supporters who, when not kidnapping activists, recorded songs for „the general.”

They peddled a fierce brand of nationalism made up of raging xenophobia, unconditional love for the Armed Forces and vile character attacks on their enemies. They really came into their own when Morsi assumed power, and all the dark warnings about a plan to bring down Egypt were made real. As the Muslim Brotherhood’s intransigence and political brinkmanship continued and the economic situation deteriorated, the cracks appeared and these mutterings seeped into the mainstream, almost imperceptibly.

The mutterings vilified the Muslim Brotherhood (who were already doing a great job of ruining their image by themselves), and turned them into something sub-human. Morsi supporters taking part in a sit-in at Rabea al-Adaweya were described as sheep and accused of being infected with skin diseases. An intense media campaign was unleashed, and it prepared public opinion for what was to come: The massacre at Rabea on August 14, when hundreds were killed in a single day during the dispersal of the by security forces. Very few people objected, not even the liberals and human rights activists who had been so vocal in their criticism of violations under Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The narrative that Egypt had been saved from the brink and is now engaged in a war on terrorism was accepted virtually unquestionably by the general public, who ran out of patience with the revolution and who sought sanctuary from its turbulence in the familiar arms of the very state some of them rose up against three years before. 

The problem with massive state action of the kind taken against Morsi and his supporters is that it is like a wrecking ball in motion — once it gains momentum it is impossible for it to strike just once. When the general public responded to the request by ladies‘ favorite, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, for people to take to the streets in order to „authorize“ the Armed Forces to fight terrorism, the wrecking ball was set in motion. 

At the end of November the interim president passed into law legislation that criminalizes protests. Activists reacted by holding a protest outside the Shura Council, during which over 60 people were arrested, including Mona Seif, one of the founders of a lobby group against military trials. Later that evening her brother, well-known activist Alaa Abd El Fatah, waited outside a police station in central Cairo, having heard word that she and other detainees would be brought there. He was spotted by a group of middle-aged ladies, one of whom immediately began screaming invectives at him, accusing him of being a faggot, an atheist, an agent for the West on America’s payroll.

A week later there was an abortive demonstration, again against the protest law. The 10 people who showed up were shooed away by the motley crew of undercover policemen and “honorable citizens” defending Egypt who now feature regularly at such occasions. As they withdrew, a man screamed despairingly at their retreating backs that people have had enough of demonstrations, they want to eat; “they’ve ruined the country,” he cried out. 

A similar scene had played out the day before in Tahrir Square, where students protesting against Morsi’s dethroning were approached by a resolute man in his early sixties who marched around with a plastic bag in one hand and a picture of Sisi held above his head in the other. A lamentable scene then played out when a student stole the poster, and the man ran after him to retrieve it, both of them weaving through traffic.

A marginally bigger scuffle broke out between a couple of the students and a tiny group of men floating around the man with the Sisi poster, and there was a spectacular moment when a crutch was brought down on one gentleman’s head. The distant sound of riot police sirens ended the fracas, the familiar wail signaling that we should look above us. And there they were, the white arcs drawing a line in the sky and a close to the proceedings, the languid clouds of acridity seeping into the spaces left vacant by the retreating protesters. 

Having almost obliterated the Muslim Brotherhood, the wrecking ball is on its next demolition path, targeting anyone who dares to question it.

One of the often unstated victories of the January 25 uprising was that it reclaimed public space for protest. That has all ended now, and not because the state recently banned unauthorized protests — protesting was illegal on January 25, too. Numbers are simply not large enough, and restricted to universities, Morsi supporters, the hardcore  activists active before the revolution and workers‘ strikes.

With the exception of the anti-coup protests (attended predominantly by Muslim Brotherhood members, motivated by a legitimate sense of injustice but ultimately driven by their own narrow interests) all of these movements are useful in keeping the state on its toes. But, and again with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood protests, they take place hidden on campuses, or in factories, again driven away to society’s margins, like the old days.

And the worst thing is that this is all happening with the consent of the public, divided and riven by hatred of itself, wary of being cheated again, happy to believe that their common enemy is one of them and not ruling them, prepared to turn a blind eye to a thousand quotidian iniquities and occasional spectacular outrages because there is comfort in the familiar, no matter how awful it is.

Egypt’s new constitution: A comparative overview

  /   December 8, 2013   Source: http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2013/12/08/egypts-new-constitution-a-comparative-overview/

On Sunday, 1 December, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly finished its task to amend the suspended constitution of 2012. The assembly handed over the draft to interim President Adly Mansour, who will in turn put it up for a public referendum in the upcoming weeks. Though praised and supported by its drafters, commentators and public figures, many voices are raising concerns regarding Egypt’s second constitution after 25 January. The Daily News Egypt now reviews some of the new constitutional amendments and compares them to the articles of the 2012 constitution.

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Members of the Egyptian constitutional panel vote on a new constitution at the Shura council in downtown Cairo  (AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

Members of the Egyptian constitutional panel vote on a new constitution at the Shura council
(AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA)

 

Three months ago, Egypt’s 50-member Constituent Assembly headed by politician Amr Moussa was tasked with amending the 2012 constitution, which was suspended on 3 July after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. The assembly received a bundle of proposed amendments from the 10-member judicial committee appointed by interim president Adly Mansour in August and has been working on them since.

Early this week the Constituent Assembly finished drafting the final amendments and submitted them to the presidency as a preparatory step for a public referendum to be held in the upcoming weeks.

Before finishing the constitution, a campaign was started calling on Egyptians to participate in the referendum, saying, “Participation in the constitution is a ‘Yes’ to the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.”

Although the billboards and advertisements placed on main streets and roads in Cairo do not directly tell people to vote “Yes” in approval of the draft, their design, wording and colour (particularly the green colour highlighting the “Yes”) are reminiscent of the same campaign that Islamists used to support the 2012 constitution.

Meanwhile Islamists supporting deposed president Morsi are calling for a boycott of the referendum rather than a ‘No’ vote, saying their participation would legitimise the current regime, which they do not recognise.

A smaller campaign was also launched on social media, composed mostly of activists and students, calling for rejecting the draft via a “No”. They have criticised several controversial areas of the draft; starting with the preamble, describing its phrasing as weak and expressions as clichéd, and ending with Article 204, which allows exceptions for military trials for civilians.

The final draft of the amendments includes 247 articles rather than 236 in the suspended 2012 constitution. While the drafters of the amendments repeatedly commented that most of the new articles had been added to improve rights and freedoms, some commentators said they saw little difference from the suspended constitution of 2012. On the contrary, they viewed it as more empowering of the military that the constitution has written under its auspices. The following is comparison between the contentious articles in the two constitutions in an attempt to shed light on improvements and shortcomings.

The state and its identity

The new draft preserves Article 2 of the 2012 constitution, which stipulated that “Islam is the religion of the state, Arabic is its official language and the principles of Islamic Sharia are the main source of legislation.”

However, it cancels out the controversial Article 219, which explained what Islamic Sharia principles are to be used, and restricted them to those in Sunni doctrines. This article had caused many to view the 2012 constitution as having a sectarian character, since it explicitly spoke to the Sunni Muslim majority.

In Article 7, the new draft cuts out the authority of Al-Azhar’s Association of Senior Scholars to be consulted in matters pertaining to Islamic law, an authority granted them in Article 4 of the 2012 constitution. This was after much debate and criticism about how this stipulation could be abused to pass repressive laws.

Articles 10 and 11 of the 2012 version emphasised the role of the state in “preserving the genuine character of the Egyptian family,” and obligated the state to “safeguard ethics, public morality and public order.”

Article 11 of the new draft drops most of that ambiguous phrasing and requires the state to protect women from violence, ensure their empowerment and achieve equality between them and men in civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It also grants women the right to be appointed in judicial institutions and public office and obligates the state to guarantee women are adequately represented in representative councils and bodies. The 2012 constitution did not include a similar clause.

Photo by Aaron T.rose

Before finishing the constitution, a campaign was started calling on Egyptians to participate in the referendum, saying, “Participation in the constitution is a ‘Yes’ to the 25 January and 30 June revolutions.”
Photo by Aaron T.rose

Rights and freedoms

With regards to rights and freedoms, the new draft seems to have brought some improvements as well as disappointments.

For example, in Article 43 of the 2012 constitution, freedom of belief was made an “inviolable right,” but the state was required to guarantee the freedom of practicing religious rituals to all and to establish houses of worship for the three celestial (Abrahamic) religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Instead of developing the article further in the new draft, it became more restrictive. Now Article 64 makes freedom of belief “absolute,” but restricts both the freedom of practicing religious rituals and the establishing of houses of worship to the followers of Abrahamic religions as regulated by the law.

However, the amendments remove Article 44, which prohibits insulting religious messengers and prophets and was included in the suspended constitution, with the apparent purpose of gaining leverage with the Salafis back then.

Moreover, Article 53 of the 2012 constitution, which came under fire from labour union for limiting the establishment of trade unions to one per profession and thereby advancing “state infiltration and control of unions” was included in the new draft as Article 77, with only slight changes in its wording.

Article 64 of the suspended constitution stated that work is a right granted by the state, but allowed forced labour “in accordance with the law” if “performing a public service” for a defined period of time and for a fair wage and without breaching workers’ rights. This is a slight improvement from the 2012 version; nevertheless, human rights activists advocate the elimination of forced labour altogether.

Article 73 of the suspended constitution banned all forms of oppression, forced exploitation of humans and sex trade. However, Islamists said they saw no need to add “human trafficking” to the article, claiming that the phenomenon did not exist in Egypt. The new draft rephrases the prohibition and places it in Article 90 to include human trafficking and all forms of slavery.

The amendments include additional articles not present in the 2012 constitution. Among them is Article 69, which requires the state to protect intellectual property rights in all fields and to establish a body that regulates these rights.

Another is Article 72, which obliges the state to guarantee the independence of the state-owned media and journalistic institutions so as to ensure objectivity and representation of all opinions, ideologies and social interests.

Furthermore, Article 74 bans the formation of political parties based on religious, racial, sectarian or geographical basis. The article also bans establishing secretive parties and parties with a military or semi-military nature. It also prohibits establishing parties that are “hostile to democratic principles.”

Finally, Article 90 requires the states to encourage the philanthropic endowment system “Al-Awkaf” and to guarantee its independence. Professionals working on philanthropic endowments have praised this article because they say the return of the awkaf system would open up new means of investment and social solidarity.

The inherent and common problem with regards to the articles in the freedoms and rights sections of the new draft and the preceding constitutions lies in the reference to the law (i.e. ending many articles with the phrase “in accordance with the law”) which can include clauses and loopholes that infringe on some of these freedoms granted by the constitution.

The parliament and representation

The new amendments eliminated the Shura Council from governance, leaving the House of Representatives as Egypt’s sole legislative body. This has been a long-sought demand because the Shura Council had been abused by political parties to ingratiate their politicians while expending a significant budget with no clear job description.

Article 113 of the 2012 constitution was amended to Article 102 in the new draft where the number of parliament members increased from 350 to at least 450. The article allows the president to appoint about 5% of parliament members. This clause is newly added and problematic because the appointed members may impact some decisions that require the approval of the majority of the parliament members, such as in the case of accusing the president of treason as stated in Article 159 of the same draft.

Additionally, Article 229 of the 2012 constitution, which requires a 50% representation of farmers and labourers in the House of Representatives has been eliminated in the new draft. This clause that has been part of Egypt’s constitutions for over 60 years, however it has proven problematic in practice, as some areas are considered neither agricultural nor industrial. Nevertheless, Articles 243 and 244 require the state to “adequately” represent farmers, labourers, youth, Christians, the disabled, and Egyptian expatriates, in the first parliament elected after the constitution passes.

Due to unconstitutionality of the parliamentary election law Article 229 of the new draft has been made in line with Article 102 of the same draft and it stipulates that candidates will run either individually, through electoral party-lists or using a mixture of both systems. Consequently, specifying which electoral system has been left to the interim president to decide.

The debate over which elections are to be held first – presidential or parliamentary – has also been left to Mansour. However, Article 230 of the new draft states that regardless of which elections are held first, the other must be held six months after the constitution passes.

The president

Unlike the 2012 constitution, in which the political system was presidential/parliamentary, the new draft divides powers between the president and the prime minister following more of a semi-presidential system.

In the new draft Article 123 grants the president the right to issue or object to laws. This clause was not included in the 2012 constitution; instead the parliament had the upper hand on what laws to issue by notifying the president of them.

With regards to the president’s power to dissolve the parliament through a popular referendum, Article 127 of the 2012 constitution stipulated that the president would resign if the votes were against dissolving the parliament. The new draft drops out this clause in Article 137 and does not provide any procedural steps if the referendum results are negative.

Article 139 of the suspended constitution regarding the appointment of the prime minister and his/her cabinet was amended in the new draft and replaced by Article 146. It allows the president to assign a prime minister to form the cabinet and present its programme to the House of Representatives for approval. If the cabinet receives a no-confidence vote within 30 days, the president appoints a new prime minister from the party that has the majority of seats in the parliament. If the new prime minister and the cabinet fail again to get a vote of confidence from the majority of the parliament members within another 30 days, the parliament would be dissolved and the president should call for new parliamentary elections within 60 days.

The new draft is controversial in Article 142 regarding the criteria for presidential candidates. For a candidate to qualify to run in the election, he or she has either to either be endorsed by at least 20 parliament members or collect 25,000 signatures from people from 15 governorates – at least 1,000 per governorate.

According to Nour Farahat, a constitutional expert, the article may conflict with Article 230, which does not specify which elections should be held first; presidential or parliamentary. If the parliamentary elections were held first then this contradicts with the roadmap, which sets presidential elections before parliamentary elections.

However, if presidential elections were held first, then one of the two qualifications for presidential candidates would not be available for them to use because the parliament would not be there for candidates to be endorsed through. Farahat thinks that parliamentary elections are likely to be held first so as to avoid this constitutional legitimacy dilemma.

The judiciary

Article 185 of the draft stipulates that the judicial bodies have an independent budget that will be incorporated in the state budget as a single figure. This raises the question of whether the independence of the judiciary contradicts with having a detailed account of its budget.

A positive amendment was made to Article 176 of the suspended constitution regarding the members of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Instead of restricting the number of the members to ten and their president, Article 193 of the draft states that the court is made up of “a sufficient number of deputies, advisors and assistant advisors.” This gives the court greater flexibility in handling cases.

The military

The appointment of the Minister of Defence in Article 195 of the suspended constitution was by the president, like other civil and military personnel. However, Article 234 of the new draft stipulates that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will approve the appointment of the Minister of Defence for two presidential terms. Additionally, Article 203 of the draft that determines the functions of the National Defence Council, states that the council would discuss the armed forces’ budget, which will be incorporated as a single figure. These two stipulations further the idea that the military enjoys more autonomy from the rest of the executive body of the Egyptian state.

Since 25 January, activists have been campaigning against the military trial of civilians, but the 2012 constitution came to disappoint these calls and when Article 198 was passed. It allowed military trials on the condition of getting involved in crimes that harm the armed forces leaving the law to define and determine these crimes.

The new draft was no better, with Article 204 only defining these crimes, reading: “It is not permissible for civilians to stand military trials except in crimes that represent direct assault on military establishment, the armed forces’ camps and the like, or the military areas or its border zones, its equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunitions, documents, military secrets, public funds, factories, or crimes related to conscription or crimes that constitute a direct assault against its officers and personnel while performing their work.”

Article 204 remains one the reasons political groups such as 6 April Youth Movement (Democratic Front) is calling for the constitution to be rejected, and leaning towards issuing a constitutional declaration rather than going back to the 1971 or 2012 constitutions if the draft is rejected.

*****

Overall, there seem to be some improvements in a number of articles in the new draft,  especially in the rights and freedoms articles; however, these improvements are accompanied by key setbacks in other important sections of the draft and even several articles of the rights and freedoms section. The majority of actors in the political arena have announced their support for the constitution, including the conservative Al-Nour party. Religious institutions including Al Azhar, the Ministry of Religious Endowments and the Church are all encouraging the people to take part in the referendum. The current media narrative also praises the constitution and demonises the position taken by the Muslim Brotherhood supporters to boycott the referendum. A minority who is against both the Brotherhood and the current military-backed interim government disapprove of the constitution, but are still caught between a rock and hard place; rejecting the constitution would prolong the transitional period, boycotting the referendum would empower the Muslim Brotherhood and voting ‘yes’ approves of a constitution that they believe to be unjust. Nevertheless, the public remains the most influential player in the equation. How it would react to the new draft and what the result of the constitutional referendum to be held sometime in the future would be, however, remain unpredictable.

Opinion Egypt campus: The people versus the regime – again

Student involvement in the protests could change the political landscape.

 Last updated: 10 Dec 2013 11:13

 

The detention of 21 young women shocked Egyptians and the international community [EPA]

This is how an Egyptian described the measures taken by the current ruling regime against university students, “The elders are resisting the source which feeds people’s determination.”

The recent violent clashes which took place on Monday 9 December at Al-Azhar university has been the last in a series of persistent students protests since the start of the academic year in September.

Egyptian students recently started to brave a new path between the two camps that have dominated the political scene since the events of July 3. The importance of students‘ involvement – pre-university and university levels – is that they brought other segements of society into the current political game which has previously been monopolised by two players, supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and supporters of Minister of Defence and former Head of Military Intelligence Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Decline of pro-Sisi camp?

Since July 3, the ruling regime has been committing human rights violations against the opposition, the worst of which was the violent dispersion of the Rabaa and Nahda pro-Morsi sit-ins where hundreds were killed. However, the rallies organised by The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) have not been able to force the regime to the negotiation table – at least officially – or put a stop to the increasing repression and brutality.

At the same time, several factors have been at play which might eventually result in an erosion of the popularity of  pro-Sisi camp as more and more Egyptians are looking for other alternatives.These people either joined the pro-Morsi camp, or joined an increasing number of Egyptians who are rejecting the miliatary-led government policies but not necessarily agreeing with the pro-Morsi faction.

If events continue on the same trajectory, the student protests are only expected to get bigger and gain wider public support and sympathy, which might change political events in Egypt.

Among those factors is the performance of Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi’s government, which has been criticised by the opposition, as well as Sisi supporters and official media outlets. The government has failed to maintain stable prices for basic goods, including food and fuel, despite several attempts to do so. Traffic has been a chronic problem for Egyptians with no clear plan or steps taken to alleviate it. Most importantly, ensuring security has been another disastrous failure by this government, which was brought about by the Minister of Defence. Tourism, foreign policy, education:The list of failures goes on. Currently, the crisis is being felt at all social levels.

In fact, the latest credible survey conducted in September by Zogby Research Services shows that almost half of Egyptians do not have confidence in the interim government of Acting President Adly Mansour, and 46 percent think that the country is worse off after the July 3 military action.

 

There are no indications of the popularity of the pro Sisi camp. Their last show of force in the streets was on July 26; since then, there have been no indications – scientific or unscientific -pointing to the number of Sisi supporters increasing or even staying the same.

Stirring up students’ anger

One important factor weighs in amid the worsening circumstances. Students’ anger has been growing gradually since September when the Minister of Justice authorised [Ar] the utilisation of the “judicial arrest” by campus security, which meant that any student can be stopped and arrested on campus.

In November, students launched their demonstrations on campuses after several of them were detained by the police. November 21 witnessed a new escalation when the interim government authorised the police to enter campuses to put down demonstrations without permission from the university officials, which was unprecedented since the 2010 legal decision to ban any form of police presence on campuses, unless the university granted them permission. The same night, a student at al-Azhar University was killed [Ar] after police forces attacked the dormitories using tear gas and birdshots.

 

Since then, demonstrations have been non-stop throughout several universities nationwide, with occasional flare-ups and more students being arrested, killed, and suspended from school.

Setting a different precedent

But, what make these demonstrations different from the other pro-Morsi ones? And is their strength, if any, that would place them as a threat to the ruling regime?

In fact, the strength of the students’ protests lie in several factors. They:

  • are fighting for undisputable principles, not special interests or power – mainly for justice and freedom against police oppression and military rule.
  • represent different societal classes and segments.
  • have almost nothing to lose, no dependents, no jobs.
  • are easily motivated and mobilised.
  • organise through their faculties, specialisations, and on-campus activities.
  • have deep conviction that demonstrations can change political realities, especially after the January 25 revolution.
 

The student protests are able to link the pro-Morsi demonstrations, which have been on-going for more than five month, to a wider societal base. Students are seen in the Egyptian society as apolitical actors, which makes it easy for people to give them sympathy and support.

A good example is a recent case that infuriated Egyptians and the international community. Twenty-one female protesters, including seven girls, were arrested in Alexandria after taking part in “a peaceful pro-Morsi demonstration”, according to an Amnesty International report. The images of the young women dressed in white, smiling and carrying flowers while behind bars put a lot of pressure on the ruling authorities. The pro-Sisi media found it hard to fit them in the ready-made stereotype of a pro-Morsi supporter, and international human rights organisations called them “prisoners of conscience” and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

The late-November court ruling sentencing 14 of them to 11 years and one month in prison was appealed and reduced to a one year suspension.

Revolution: Act II

The ordeal made the women into heroes and sent a clear and encouraging message to the students and protesters at large: Sustained pressure on the regime set the women free. A pattern is seen with students that are detained or killed by the police, their names and faces become icons that fuel the demonstrations.

If events continue on the same trajectory, the student protests are only expected to get bigger and gain wider public support and sympathy, which might change political events in Egypt.

The strength of the January 25 Revolution stemmed from the simplicity of its demands and the absence of a second viable party competing with Mubarak: It was the people versus the regime. Almost three years later, a similar scenario is being replayed through the increasing impact of the student protests.

Abdelrahman Rashdan is a political science academician. He holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs and a Certificate in Middle East Studies from Columbia University.

source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/egypt-campus-people-versus-regime-again-201312984345512565.html