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Middle East

Essay by Egyptian Activist, Demaugh Mak: "Mubarak, You are 30 years late." #Egypt, #Cairo, #FREEEGYPT, #25jan

For over a decade, if not several, Demaugh Mak has been one of the leading voices of human rights activism in Egypt.  In the few years  that I've known him, he has been arrested by the Egyptian police on several occasions for speaking out and fighting for the needs of the marginalized and oppressed people in his country - yet his convictions have only strengthened with each obstacle.  He has been kind enough to contribute this essay, highlighting some of the living conditions in Egypt and underscoring the demand for change.

Mubarak, You are 30 years late.

When you set an appointment with someone and he doesn’t show up for ten or fifteen minutes, or sometimes half an hour you may wait for him to arrive. But when he is thirty years late, that’s when you explode.

After 30 years of false promises from Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president who stepped into the ruling chair in 1981 after the late president Saddat was assassinated, how could the Egyptian people not rise up and fight for their rights?

 A real revolution has suddenly hit. All over Egypt the people are asking Mubarak to leave after all what he did to the people. He took an oath to protect and safe guard Egypt, and promised us a new brighter world, but he didn’t deliver.

Hosny Mubarak turned Egypt into a police state in which the role of the security forces is to secure his presidential throne and his gang's interests in Egypt. He doesn’t care how much 80 million Egyptians are suffering under his dictatorship.

Egyptians became burdened under the pressure of the poor economic situation, which has not improved at all during the last thirty years. Today, more than 10 million people suffer from unemployment in Egypt. Living wages seem like a myth to most. 40 % of Egyptians lives on under 2 dollars a day. Under Mubarak’s rule corruption in the public sector and the government reached levels that have never been seen before in Egypt.

As an example some (experts) are getting hired for 1,800,000 pounds a year and at the same time 10,000 employees in the same governmental sector make 99 pounds a month, which means they make approximately $18 a month. This is not an acceptable salary for a human being.

35% of Egyptians are illiterate and the educational system is getting worse every day. Curricula are irrelevant to the requirements of the market. Untrained teachers and a bad schooling system are taking the people  nowhere in this age where knowledge is power.

Egyptians have the highest rates of heart disease and liver and kidney failure in the world. In addition to the poor conditions of the public hospitals and the lack of appropriate medical services the spread of corruption to every corner of the state is reflected in the patients that do receive quality medical care. Ministers, wealthy businessmen, artists, and football players are treated at the expense of the State in the biggest hospitals in Europe and America, while some commit suicide because they cannot afford the medicine to save their children from death.

All of this didnt humiliate the Egyptians as much as the police damaged their dignity. Under Mubarak Egyptians have experienced countless incidents of torture of citizens in police stations and too many cases of murder without the officers responsible being charged. The spread of police harassment of citizens in the streets including beatings and insults created a relationship completely devoid of trust between the citizens and the police. When the police have all of the power and the people have none it creates an atmosphere where ugly things can happen.
The most dangerous sector of the police in Egypt is the state security, which controls every aspects of Egyptians’ lives. You cannot do anything in Egypt, not even hold a wedding in a hotel hall, without a permit from the State Security. The stories of kidnappings, rapes, and murders by the State Security department are too gruesome and sad to share here and there are so many they could fill the Library of Congress.
This is Egypt and this is how Egyptians were living before they decided to say “Enough!” and rise up, ironically and intentionally on the (Police Day) the 25th of January, 2011.
‘We are all Kahled Saed’ Facebook group, (Khaled was an Egyptian citizen from Alexandria who got beaten to death in the streets by two police officers.) called for a day of anger demonstration on the Police Day. No one expected the Egyptian people to take to the streets in the greatest Revolution Egypt has ever seen.

Egyptians occupied the public squares and main streets of most cities in Egypt demanding the resignation of President Mubarak, the dismissal of the government, and parliament to be dissolved. The people demanded the establishment of free elections, democracy, amendments to the constitution, and prosecution for those responsible for the rampant corruption in Egypt, and Ending of the Emergency Law that they have been living under for 30 years.

But Mubarak's regime did not respond. Rather, all of the communication networks were ordered to be shut down, this included all internet and cell phone networks, and the police were ordered to fire on demonstrators, which leads us to the Revolution on the fifth day. As of now, Egyptian police have killed more than 130 people and injured about 4000.

When demonstrators faced all of this the police forces withdrew and a malicious plan to cause chaos was enacted. Police freed criminals and thugs in the streets to steal, plunder, and rape. After this, the order was issued to bring out the army to maintain security after the withdrawal of the police and for the implementation of a curfew order. Thus far the curfew has not been enforced by the army and the army has been in the streets with the people for three days. The army was welcomed by the citizens as there is a close relationship between the army and the people. The army has a history of standing with the people and refusing to fight with them.

Demonstrators who have never used violence towards any person or establishment have formed  groups to maintain security and help the army deal with groups of criminals. They have succeeded in arresting many criminals and discovered that many of them are actually police or government backed thugs. Many of them were even carrying state issued police identification cards that stated their ties to the government.
And Now. Egyptians are controlling their country for the first time. Mubarak still doesn’t want to step down. He has made one speech in which he offered to ask the government to resigned and formed a new government with most of his old gang, but the Egyptians didn't fall for that scheme. They know that the problem isn’t just the government as much as it’s the whole fascist regime. The people insist that they want Mubarak out of power.

The Egyptian people have charged their hearts with 30 year of corruption and oppression, and anger. They will not go home and sleep without knowing they will wake the next morning to a free country.

The Women of Egypt

I have continued to spend most of my time with all attention watching Al Jezeera here.  In the meanwhile, I have been frequently asking the question, where are the images of the women involved in the protest?  In contrast to western portrayals of how women are treated in the Islamic countries, women are a central part of Egypt.  I'll never forget the day I first walked into the Mugamma, the central location of all day-to-day government business, and discovered nearly all the employees were women.  The majority of the time I have had to conduct business at the university, with the government, or at a bank, it has always been with a woman.  While men might often be the most visible presence in the street, I always found that the women actually made the city function.

I've been looking for a collection of images from a variety of sources from facebook (here's a good source), I am reposting those below with some links to other sites as well. If anyone has additional information, hit me up via twitter @msipus or with the comments below.  I'd like to add much more to this collection.

Men and Women Equal in Peaceful Protest Against Mubarak

Women Protesting In Yemen

For those with a deeper interest on the subject, here are some published articles I found online:
El-Mahdi, Rabab."Does Political Islam Impede Gender-Based MobilizationThe Case of Egypt" Totalitarian Movements & Political Religions; Sep-Dec2010, Vol. 11 Issue 3/4, p379-396, 18p

Women and Language v. 26 no. 1 (Spring 2003) p. 73-8

El Guindi, Fadwa "Gendered Resistance, Feminist Veiling, Islamic Feminism.Ahfad Journal; Jun2005, Vol. 22 Issue 1, p53-78, 26p

The Black Cloud of Cairo

October and November is not the best time in Cairo - although it should be.  The weather drops from deep fry to a mild simmer, the evenings are crisp and the mornings are lazy.  Yet thanks to impatient demands of poverty and the lack of government regulations (in addition to the lack of implementation), the Egypt's autumn is anything but pleasant.

Its dreadful.
Absolutely dreadful.
I can only compare it to drowning.

Or at least how I imagine drowning.  You find yourself disoriented, everything is familiar but different.  You know that the most important thing to do is keep you mouth closed but your lungs crave oxygen, forcing your eyes to burn and water and swell up inside your head... eventually your body forces you to open your mouth and its over, everything comes rushing in.

The black cloud.

Your lungs ache, your throat itches. The afternoon sun cakes your body in a combination of soot and sweat.

I now experience sporadic afflictions of dermatitis once or twice a day, and I really just want to stay inside, but of course this isn't feasible. Anyway, air is air, and being inside the house or out on the street is only a marginal difference.

So what's the deal?

The deal is that Cairo is suffering from the annual Black Cloud, generated every fall by the combination of industrial pollutants, car exhaust, and most notably, the burning of agricultural waste after the harvest.  The amazing thing about the Nile Delta is that this stretch of land is astoundingly fertile; planting and harvesting seasons are simply put on a year round production schedule.  Strawberries in January, prickly pears in June, vegetables year round... its incredible.  Egypt is also one of the largest producers of rice within the world, producing around 4.5 Million Tons of rice every year.

According to the rice farmers, the problem is that after the harvest, they are left with mountains of agricultural waste, obstructing their land and making it unusable for the next planting.  Although I have my doubts, I read some stories on the internet that some troublesome kids in 1999 had set fire to a giant pile of such waste, and after farmers noticed that the fire never spread, but only sat smoldering and coughing up a black pillar of smoke, burning has become the common solution to their problem.

It has been stated by the Egyptian government in the past that the issue will be taken care of, that regulations will be created and enforced, and that the black cloud will stop showing up every fall.  As you can see from the photo taken this afternoon from my bedroom window, its clear that these changes haven't happened.

The Big Initiative

I had my interview at a local ngo few hours ago.  It was... interesting.  The agency was founded about 3 years ago with the interest of facilitating UN development goals.  However the agency seems to be a little unorganized.  They have a nice office, a few a handful of staff, and have been working primarily on two projects for the last three years.

The primary project is banking and finance oriented, with the intent of further educating the general public of various nations about the value of Islamic banking, and working to establish these institutions.  While I only have marginal experience with Islamic banking, limited only to money exchange, I believe it has been mostly untouched by the global banking crisis of the last 2 years.  Although such banks exist in America, they are not very well known or understood by the public and yet there might be significant value to further diversify American banking systems by investing in these institutions.

The other major project consists of working to facilitate secular cross cultural dialogues, so that people may better overcome their popular East/West misconceptions.  This is process is very much the product of institutional networking, lectures, workshops etc.

Well I considered these projects all quite fine and good, although I will admit, only of marginal interest.  Nonetheless, a part time job that pays a little money is better than no job and no income, so I was interested in going along with things anyway.

I was then introduced to the founder of the organization, and our discussion brought about a different direction altogether.  Apparently his interest in hiring me is founded on my experience of working with African populations, most notably Sudanese and Somalis.  It turns out that the government of Somalia has contacted his organization on multiple occasions, asking for project assistance to work with vulnerable youth and economic development.  Supposedly there is UN funding available for this projects, I received the impression that he has been simply uncertain how to go about doing this.

Fortunately, these sort of problems are perfectly consistent with my own expertise.  So over the next few days I'm going to sketch out a rough outline of what this  organization could do.  If it is of interest to them, then I guess I can go about designing projects from the ground up.  As for getting them implemented, well that will have to fall onto the shoulders of someone else.   This NGO does not appear to have any of the resources that one would have working for the US gov, the UN, or major agencies like Care or NRC.  This is of course rather unfortunate, as designing programing and not overseeing its implementation greatly retards the feasibility of the project and relegates the process to little more than an academic exercise.   Of course, I could show up next week with a slew of ideas, none of which would be of interest to this agency.

So the final question is, did I get the job? Yeah, it looks that way.  But do I want it? Well... we'll see.  If anything, its something to do for a few weeks or months while I continue to apply for something more embracing.

Documentary on New Cairo

Incidently, after having written the other day about the urban phenomenea of New Cairo, a documentary was brought to my attention by the blog of a fellow student at the Center for Forced Migration and Refugee Studies, in AUC.  At this point, I have only watched 4 of the 8 minutes, but from what I saw, I believe that it does a fair job to capture the shifting dynamics of the contemporary urban landscape within metropolitan Egypt.  I encourage anyone with a general interest of understanding a little about the modern developments of the Middle East to watch it.  Enjoy.