Archive for Mubarak

He’s Gone!

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I almost don’t want to write a post but just have the title there. There’s almost nothing more that can be said. He’s gone! The people of Egypt have done it. They rose as one and after eighteen days of one of the most inspiring revolutions have toppled the 30 year old regime of Hosni Mubarak. It is impossible to express accurately with words the amazing and incredible feelings I’m feeling right now. I can’t even begin to imagine what Egyptians must be feeling. I feel like my life has been on pause for the past eighteen days, and in many ways it has been. But today, now, I feel like anything is possible. Something huge has happened and I am happy in more ways then I am even aware of.

It all started yesterday. As you remember, everyone, including me, was livid and angry. We were all gob-smacked by the horrible speeches made by Mubarak and Suleiman. They were condescending, patronising, and were clearly playing games trying to divide the people. They wanted to make the protesters look like they were unreasonable children. However, they didn’t expect the level of anger that was going to meet their last move. As you remember, from my post yesterday, people had surrounded the tv building, and others were marching onto the presidential palace.

Today began with unprecedented numbers of people making their way to the streets of Egypt. It was clear that the plan by Mubarak and Suleiman had badly backfired on them. People were clearly sick of being patronised and they weren’t going to take it anymore. The army issued a communiqué number 2 right before the Friday prayers. It was a weird one, it seemed very much to support the president and VP’s statements. This only served to fuel the anger of the people. However, it was a focused anger. People knew exactly what they needed to do and they knew that this was a very pivotal moment. Tahrir Square was quickly overflowing with people.

Many people made their way to the presidential palace in Heliopolis, People surrounded the tv building in Cairo. Alexandria saw another huge protest that made its way to the presidential palace there. All over the country people took to the streets and made their voices heard. In Suez many governmental buildings were stormed and taken over. Very quickly it looked like the military were going to have to make a choice. Clearly, Mubarak and Suleiman’s promises were not believed and they were not going to be accepted.

We heard at some point that there was going to be a statement by the presidency. Now the fact that the statement was said to be by the presidency, rather than the president, was certainly interesting, but we were stung before and so we didn’t want to raise our hopes too much. Also, some reports started dropping saying that Mubarak left Cairo for Sharm El Shikh or even the UAE. Again, no one believed them. Also, if he went to Sharm, then it didn’t mean anything in itself. It would have been the same as Ben Ali going to Hamamat. Anyway, very quickly, it was confirmed that he actually went to Sharm.

Then a bunch of weird things started happening. The state tv started talking to the protesters outside their building. the troupes around the presidential palaces turned their tank guns away from the protesters and there were reports that they started putting egyptian flags on them. Also, two helicopters landed on the palace in Cairo, and then left. Then a high ranking officer made his way into the state tv building. Even though everyone was trying not to let their imaginations take them to a place of too much hope, it was impossible not to feel a certain sense of expectation and trepidation. The tension was rising.

Then we got the most amazing 20 seconds we could hope for. Suleiman appeared on tv, it was clearly pre-recorded. Also it seemed to have been recorded in a hurry. He didn’t look happy and I was a little freaked out thinking he might announce martial law or something. The camera angle was also kind of weird. It felt like it was a bit too close to him. His words were spoken like daggers, but they were sweet music to the ears of everyone listening. Mubarak had decided to step down and delegate his powers to the supreme military council. I still maintain that he looked like he was forced to make that statement at gun point. I don’t know why, but he looked like there was a gun pointed at him as he was speaking.

Anyway, the streets of Egypt erupted in an explosion of sounds and happiness. Al Jazeera English stopped commenting and for something like 5 minutes they just let the sounds of Tahrir Square speak for themselves. At this point I just started crying with joy. I know millions upon millions of people were crying with me. I cannot explain for non-arabs what it means that Egypt has liberated itself from this particular tyrant. It’s not any arab tyrant and it’s not any country. I always knew, intellectually, that Egypt was the leader of the arab world for much of the 20th century. This revolution made me understand it in a visceral way. This particular tyrant as well has been so comfortable in his position. He is despised by the people of the Arab world in an almost univocal way.

His downfall is incredibly important. He has been the loyal lackey of the US and israel. He has played an active role in the inhumane siege of Gaza. He has been the prime destination for the American program of extraordinary rendition. He has sold Egyptian natural gas at a third of its price to israel, while his people went hungry. He is gone now. Now there are many things to be said about the military taking power, about the US and European 25th hour adopting of the revolution. But not tonight. Tonight is for celebration and happiness. Tonight is for us to enjoy the moment and enjoy the continued march of the Arab spring. Now that Egypt has been liberated the rest of the arab world is going to follow. Anyway, I will definitely write more about all this tomorrow. For now, I will go to sleep and have a nice, long, deep sleep and wake up tomorrow and work. Good night.

Mubarak Won’t Leave

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I’m going to try and write a consistent and coherent blog post. I can’t promise anything because I am furious. I am so angry that I just want to scream and kick and have a good old tantrum like when I was a kid. I am not an Egyptian and I am in the UK. I can’t imagine how the people of Egypt must be feeling right now. If I feel this way, they must be insane with rage. I am actually shaking with rage. But anyway, many of you might not now what’s actually happening so let me try to summarise.

Alright, today was not supposed to be a major day of protests. The labour actions were escalating, but we weren’t expecting giant crowds at Tahrir Square tonight. In fact, I was even planning to just check the news from time to time and mainly work. However, at some point an army officer spoke to the people in Tahrir Square and told them that all their demands will be met. This led to a lot of speculation. Later the supreme military council met for the third time in the history of Egypt and issued a communiqué, very intelligently titled communiqué 1. The actual content of the communiqué was next to nothing. Basically they said that they will stay in session and protect the people, blah blah blah.

However, This led to speculation that the army might have operated a coup. This was met with a lot of anger and fear by the people in Tahrir, because they want a civilian democratic Egypt, not more military rule. However, this was all speculation and no one knew what was going on. Later the state tv announced that Mubarak was going to speak later in the evening. Then hundreds of cables and reports started coming in from every possible news agency. They were contradictory and some said that he was going to stand down, some said that he ws going to give his power to the military, others to Suleiman, others that he was staying in power.

Anyway, this meant that people started getting really excited. Something was afoot, and the people could feel it. Hundreds of thousands, in Cairo and Alexandria, took to the streets. Tahrir square was filled to the brim. People were very excited. It looked like a giant farewell party for Mubarak. People were dancing, laughing, and just having fun. We heard that the speech was to be broadcast at 22:00 Egypt time. There was much excitement, but also much suspicion and trepidation. This led to probably the funniest hashtag on twitter I’ve ever followed, which was #reasonsmubarakislate. I urge you to search for it and read some of the brilliant tweets. The reason for this is that Mubarak’s speech was clearly late. Another important development was that state tv was showing live images of Tahrir Square for the first time. This led to much excitement. The regime seemed to have lost its grasp on its media.

About 40 or 50 minutes after it was supposed to start, it finally did. From the first few sentences, it was clear that he wasn’t stepping down. He started patronising, literally, the protesters and said that he was speaking to them as a father. He went on to say that he was ad for all the people that were killed, forgetting that they were killed by his people through his actions and orders. He said he was going to operate reform, blah blah blah. And then he referred to himself in the third person, as per usual. He said that he delegated some powers to Suleiman. However, by that time people were livid in Tahrir Square and Alexandria. They were screaming Leave, leave, leave! It was both a wonderful and a terrible sight. People were disappointed and angry and felt betrayed.

Then Suleiman had a speech. Every word coming out of his mouth was like a dagger. He said that he wanted the young people to go home and to stop listening to satellite televisions. Which reminds me, Mubarak kept saying that he wasn’t going to be ordered by foreign and outside forces. These two types of statements are clearly showing that the official line of blaming the events on Al Jazeera and foreign elements was still there. They still continue to refuse to accept that this is a full on revolution by the Egyptian people against tyranny. This speech only poured oil on the fire.

Quickly the protesters in Alexandria made their way to the northern military base in order to ask the army to make its mind. It wasn’t clear what they were going to do next. The people are still there now. At the same time, some people left Tahrir and are now encircling the state tv building. There were reports that some people are making their way to the presidential palace, although we haven’t heard from them in a while now. We don’t know if they abandoned the idea or not. Tens of thousands are still on Tahrir Square venting some anger. We are expecting a second communiqué by the supreme military council. This will be key to know what the army is going to do. The problem is that the rank and file is clearly on the side of the people. Many conscripts and low ranking officers have put their weapons down and joined the protesters.

Anyway, that’s where we are now. Tomorrow was built as another march of millions. It is clear now that it will be gigantic now. People are going to escalate tomorrow. There is talk that official buildings and presidential palaces are to be targeted. We don’t really know what will happen tomorrow. It is unclear where the army stands. It seems that there are deep rifts within the regime, maybe even within the army. It might turn bloody and it might turn out okay. The point is that the revolution marches on. And if some figures of the regime could have survived, politically, before today, now the people will not settle for less than the downfall of the whole regime. It is not clear what Mubarak and Suleiman were trying to achieve with those speeches. Maybe they wanted to push the protesters towards violence, maybe they just don’t get it and thought that this would calm them down. The point is that people are now even more galvanised and even more ready to achieve freedom.

Work, Work, Work

Posted in Culture, Me, Silly Thoughts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/02/2011 by arabrhizome

Right, I said it was going to be short yesterday, and it was. Today’s post will be short as well. I’m just going to give you a quick update on the events in Egypt today and then go back to pretending to work while not doing anything really. Also, I’d like to apologise for the personal bit in yesterday’s post. I just needed to write it and file it. I just wanted it out in the universe. But anyway, that’s not what this is about. We’re here to talk about what happened in Egypt today.

Today saw the continuation of escalation. Workers all over the country have started taking industrial action. Their demands are mainly wage related, but it would be foolish to think that they aren’t doing this in order to support the revolution. Parliament square is still occupied, as well as Tahrir Square. The bad news is that in Al Wadi Al Jadid, 5 people have been killed by the police and dozens have been injured. There have been protests there that started on Monday, and it seems the police tried to repress them violently. The people were not deterred though and they pushed them out of the town. They burnt down 7  regime buildings (police stations, NDP headquarters, etc). The army is now deployed there and the police is gone.

Another development has been the regime appearing to toughen its stance. Suleiman reportedly said that there are two solutions to the crisis, either reform or a coup. Of course by reform he means insignificant cosmetic changes to the regime. However, it would be naive to think that when he says a coup he’s not threatening martial law and basically a bloodbath. Well what can you do? Once the torturer in chief for a corrupt regime, its backers the US, and its ally israel, always a chief torturer for a corrupt regime, its backers in the US, and its ally israel. The man thinks like a torturer and as the events in Al Wadi Al Jadid, as well as the past two weeks, have shown, he acts like one as well.

Anyway, that’s it for me for now. I’m off to do some work and then sleep, hopefully. I just wanted to leave you with this piece of genius. It’s basically a spoof of the Christiane Amanpoor (I know it’s Amanpour, that was a clever play on words implying that she isn’t very good. Man some of you really need to up your game. My jokes are funny.) interview of Omar Suleiman. It made me laugh a lot. I just wish it was longer. Anyway, love you all (I didn’t mean it about you not being smart enough, I’m just in a weird mood. Please love me), and see you tomorrow.

Quick Message

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/02/2011 by arabrhizome

I know I’ve been prefacing my posts by saying tht they will be short this time, and then going on to write quite long ones. However, this one will in fact be short. This is due to three main reasons: I didn’t really follow the news today, I’m exhausted, and I need to work. On that last point, I finally managed to write a bit today. It’s nothing close to what I need to write, but it’s better than nothing. On the second point, I’ve been struggling with my sleep for a very long time, and a quick look at previous posts will tell you that this has been a chronic problem of mine. I am hoping to sleep at a normal time today, so that’s good. I have to teach tomorrow. It’s not really a problem since they’re introductory seminars, but still I’m hoping to go there refreshed.

On the first point, because I’ve been trying to work, I haven’t been glued to the internet today, watching Al Jazeera and reading twitter. However, I have two good news to share with you. One, Ayman Mohyeldin is now free. He was released yesterday after about 10 hours of detention. He’s talked about it on Al Jazeera and I urge you to watch his interview. Clearly the army is putting pressure on protesters and journalists, in a bit of an underhanded way. The regime hasn’t stopped harassing, intimidating, and repressing the protests. It’s just doing it in a more subtle and covert way. Second, Wael Ghonim one of the major figures of this movement has been released as well. He became a sort of symbolic leader of the protests. He was arrested on the 27th or 28th. He is one of the organisers of the protests. His release was a major demand of the protesters. It would be interesting to see what he has to say.

But before I leave you tonight, dear readers (many of whom are new and by the way welcome to you all I really appreciate the fact that you find my thoughts interesting), I would like to share a concern that’s been growing for me about the revolution. I am really starting to fear for the revolution, especially since the meetings behind closed doors that have started yesterday. Clearly the established political parties, which had nothing to do with the movement, are trying to co-opt it and make some political gains. They are trying to get some concessions by the regime which would allow them to get a bit of power. I am very wary of them. I believe that they would sell the revolution to be part of a new order with the regime.

But I know that the people of Tahrir are aware of that and have rejected the talks and say that they aren’t represented. The fact that no one in those talks is younger than 50 or 60 is proof of that. However, the strategy of staying in Tahrir, while highly symbolic and important, could backfire. The regime has decided to ignore the protesters and treat them like petulant children. If they do not escalate soon, they risk turning into the Lebanese tent city of 2007. Now there are vast differences between the two, as was pointed out on twitter, one is revolutionary and organised organically, the other was not revolutionary and was organised by political parties. However, the result might end up being the same: Stagnation. So my advice to the Tahrir Square revolutionaries is to escalate.

I am aware that it is easy for me to say that from the comfort of my couch, in my living room, in the UK. I am well away from harms way, and I am basically asking people to put their lives on the line, while I don’t have to. However, it might also be that I have a bit of distance while they are too close to it. Of course it goes in the other direction as well. Having distance means I don’t know many things that only people on the ground do. So all I’m saying is that from here it looks like the movement needs to escalate, not because it is losing steam, but because the regime is able to accommodate this level of protest. But again, I am here to support the revolution in anyway I can, and whatever the people decide to do I will support them and be behind them. Well I ended up writing a long one again. I think I’m just getting better at blogging that’s all. Anyway, good night everyone and see you tomorrow.

Million Egyptians Unite and Ayman Mohyeldin

Posted in about the blog, Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/02/2011 by arabrhizome

This is going to be another short post I’m afraid. Work is going very slowly and I’m exhausted (I’ve been up for over 24 hours). I’m also feeling quite sad. But that’s not what I’m going to write this post about. Just like I’ve been doing for the past ten days or so, I’m writing about Egypt. Many important developments came out of Egypt today. Some lovely and inspiring and others deeply disturbing. So I’ll just run through them quickly and then go to sleep, or maybe work depending on my energy.

So let’s start with the nice stuff. Today was a day that the regime wanted to be the return to normal life. Their new strategy seems to be to isolate the protesters and try to turn the population against them. The protesters had called for a million people to make their way to Tahrir square today in a day of remembrance and prayer for the martyrs of the revolution. The people of Egypt have shown their mantel again. Over a million people made their way there today and honoured the dead. It is thought that over 300 people have died since January 25th.

There were Muslim prayers protected by the non-Muslims, as has become customary. This sight is beautiful every time, even though it has become common place in Tahrir square and all over Egypt. However, the new development today, were Coptic masses in the middle of the square protected by non-Christians. That is beautiful as well. Remember that there was a very high level of sectarian strife a few week ago. There was even talk of a possible sectarian civil war erupting in Egypt. However, the revolution has brought a new sense of national unity. There was a priest and a sheikh on Al Jazeera Arabic speaking together and standing side by side in a show of solidarity. Their words were incredibly inspiring and uplifting, even for an atheist like myself.

Other than the renewed unity between the different components of the Egyptian people, there were also very happy news from the square. a couple got married today in the square. This is hugely symbolic. The fact that two revolutionaries decided to get married in that now mythic stronghold of the revolution is incredibly beautiful. Of course there’s also a couple of revolutionaries who are spending their honeymoon there. Again this is huge. People have become so attached to what is being achieved in Tahrir Square that they are deciding to spend these important moments of their lives there shows how much this revolution means to the people of Egypt.

On the other hand, there are also disturbing news coming out. Today a meeting behind closed doors has happened between opposition figures and the VP. All of these opposition groups seem to be trying to co-opt the movement. There were a few images of the meeting on Egyptian state tv. There was a huge portrait of Mubarak there and everyone present looked alike. Basically it was a meeting of old men in suits. I think that the youngest man there was 50 or 60. This is outrageous. The movement is led and energised by the youth of Egypt, yet all the people there were old. Anyway, it’s highly likely that this is going to go nowhere.

The most disturbing news coming out of Egypt is that Ayman Mohyeldin, one of the best journalists and reporters working today, for Al Jazeera English, has been arrested by  the Egyptian army. I have been a fan of his work since his fantastic reporting during the Gaza massacre. His work on Egypt has been fantastic as well. He is very knowledgeable and his analysis has been spot on through out. Plus he is the most bad arse guerilla reporter around. I really hope that he is released now. Also I honestly hope he isn’t hurt. Another great bad arse guerilla reporters from Al Jazeera English, and also a veteran from Gaza, Sherine Tadros, was arrested and detain for questioning for a short time and then released. This is unacceptable. The government can’t continue with its double speak, saying that they aren’t targeting journalists and then doing exactly that.

Anyway, this post turned out to be longer than I expected. I believe that I will go to sleep now and hopefully wake up early and work. I am sending positive thoughts to the universe that Ayman will be released very quickly (I know it’s bullocks and positive vibes don’t exist and don’t work, but that’s all I can do). Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. Hoping that Egypt will be free soon. Long live the revolution.

Still Here

Posted in Culture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 05/02/2011 by arabrhizome

Well I just discovered that my post went out without the text. I’m really sorry about that. I just fixed it. I was lucky to have kept a back up, I don’t usually. So anyway, here’s yesterday’s post, now accessible.

Right, quick note today, because I really need to get some work done. My sleeping pattern has been completely destroyed by the events in Egypt. But that’s not the point. Anyway, after yesterday’s fantastic show of force and courage by the free people of Egypt, today started with the regime seeming to want to crack down, or at least cause some kind of chaos, while showing that they still are in control. The US has also started sending mixed signals seeming to backtrack from asking for a transition now, and going back to an ‘orderly transition’.

So today began with an explosion in Arish in the Sinai along a pipeline that supplies both israel and Jordan with natural gas. This pipeline has been the site of much controversy. The interesting thing though is that the government came out straight away through its mouth piece, Egyptian state tv, to say that it was a terrorist action perpetrated by foreign elements. Now, I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but that sounds too good to be true for the regime. Isn’t strange that right after Mubarak says there will be chaos and terrorism, a terrorist attack happens? I don’t know, it might well have been the Beduins of Sinai, it could also have been israel wanting to stir some shit. It’s all possible. The point is, it was a bit of an ominous development.

This sense of tension was compounded by the info coming out of Tahrir Square that the army is trying to take down some of the barricades that have been protecting the protesters from thugs. It felt like the regime is trying to force the people out of Tahrir, one way or another. And there was a fear that people are in danger. It was also reported that many people were prevented, or greatly hampered, from making their way to Tahrir by the army and the presidential guard. It all sounded fishy.

There were also reports of back room meetings behind closed doors between the regime and people trying to co-opt the movement. America seems to be softer on the regime, after being slightly almost imperceptibly critical. However, the protesters again proved that they are free and courageous women and men who will not be deterred by this criminal regime and its allies. More people made their way to Tahrir and it was full of thousands. Protests happened all over the country and the pressure on Mubarak and his goons is still on.

The Day of Departure

Posted in Culture, Me, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 04/02/2011 by arabrhizome

What to say about today? I can’t even begin to describe the feelings that this day has brought. Today was termed the day of departure, and billed as another day when millions were to take to the streets and finally push the tyrant out. However, it started with a lot of doubt. Would people show up? After two days of state sponsored violence, the death of many Egyptians defending their positions in Tahrir Square, and the systematic targeting of arab and foreign journalists, everyone was fearing that people would be too frightened to show up. The scenes of violence of the past few days were horrific and they were clearly fomented in order to frighten the people. There has also been a lot of talk about the sustainability of the movement. observers kept saying that the economic situation is so dire right now that people are turning against the protesters. Observers and so-called experts kept telling us that Egyptians prefer economic stability to freedom.

However, very quickly it was clear that what we’ve all been saying about Egyptians having stopped being afraid proved to be absolutely true. From the early hours of the morning people started making their way to Tahrir Square in their hundreds of thousands. The demonstrations weren’t supposed to start until after Friday prayers, around midday local time, but the people weren’t waiting. Very quickly the square was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of thousands. The army seemed to try to atone for their criminal ‘neutrality’ of the past few days, by being present and manning checkpoints on the streets leading to Tahrir Square. The pro-democracy Egyptians had also countless checkpoints beyond those of the army.

The idea was to check everyone for their ids to stop undercover security officers from infiltrating the protests. It was also important not to let anyone with potential weapons to come into the square. These draconian security measures meant that it took people a long time to get in, but everyone was in good spirits and happy to go through it. Anyway, very quickly the Square was full, and still hundreds of thousands of people were making their way through. There were a few reports of thugs harassing protesters on their way to Tahrir Square, but nothing materialised.

Then, while people were still making their way to Tahrir Square it was time for Friday prayers. After the cacophony of sounds from earlier, it was a silent affair. The only sound was that of the people praying. All the non-muslims, being christian or atheists, formed a chain around those praying. This scene was repeated everywhere around the country. The images and sounds were glorious. Even for me as an atheist, watching these images and hearing those sounds touched me in ways that cannot be expressed with words alone. It was a glorious and powerful sight of the people of Egypt in communion around a dream of freedom. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Then the prayers were over suddenly, and without warning, the square erupted with one voice with the chants of ‘Irahal, irhal, irhal!’, meaning ‘leave, leave, leave!’. It was incredibly inspiring and powerful. The sights and sounds coming out of the square were formidable and awesome. By the way, when I use the word awesome I mean it in the original sense of the word. I mean the skies opening and angels coming down with heavenly music around them. I don’t mean awesome in the american sense of oh look I have an omelette on my head, awesome! Anyway, I digress. The people of Egypt showed us today that they aren’t afraid of their tyrant anymore. They have risen as one and are demanding a change of regime. It doesn’t make any sense for the regime to try to stay in power.

However, after millions of Egyptians hit the streets all over the country again, and after 12 days of constant and inpiring protests, the tyrant continues to stay in power. He continues to sit in his palace refusing to listen to the masses he has oppressed for 30 years. He clearly won’t leave peacefully. To think that even King Farouk, the terrible leader of Egypt overthrown in 1952, left power with more grace is sobering. As I type this, it seems that the government continues to his its thugs to harass journalists, the bureau chief of AlJazeera Arabic and a reporter were arrested and their Cairo bureau burnt down, and protesters, there are reports of thugs trying to get in Tahrir Square. This is disheartening to a point, but the people of Egypt have been steadfast in their resolve and we continue to support them and hope they stay safe and achieve their goals.