11/23/11

مصر ما بعد المجلس العسكرى

أكتب هذه االمدونة  وآالاف من المتظاهرين فى ميدان التحرير يعانون من وابل من الغازات المسيلة للدموع و ما هو أخطر. أنهم يجاهدون بإرادة حديدية من أجل ان يحافظوا على الميدان. أجد نفسى أحاول ان احكم القبضة على حبال أفكارى وبين الحين و الأخر أحاول ان اطمئن على أصدقائى و رفقائى فى الميدان. وبينما يسقط أنبل و أشجع شباب مصر ما بين قتيل و جريح يتجلى بوضوح شديد حتمية تنحى المجلس العسكرى. هذا الأمر ليس محل جدل عقيم او حتى إستفتاء خادع. هذه الحتمية يفرضها العقل و المنطق و الحد الأدنى من الإحساس و الإنسانية. كيف يمكن ان نثق فى قيادة سياسية تستبيح القتل و التنكيل بمن يعارضونها كيف يمكن أن نثق أنها قادرة على إدارة عملية التحول الديمقراطى؟ أى جرأة و إنعدام المشاعر هذه التى تمكن المشير طنطاوى من ان يعلن عن وعود بتسليم السلطة بينما قواته شارعة فى مهاجمة و قتل المتظاهرين السلميين؟ خطايا المجلس العسكرى المتنامية يمكن تعويلها على سوء إدارة سياسية فادح أو كما يرى البعض هى تغليب المصلحة الشحصية  بما يعرض الوطن لمخاطر جسيمة.  

فى أى من الأحول تنحى المجلس اصبح  أمرا لا مفر منه. الثوار لن يرضوا بما هو أقل من ذلك. السؤل المهم هو كيف يمكن أن يحدث ذلك دون إحداث ما هو أسوأ منه؟  في هذا السياق يبرز عدد من القضايا الشائكة، وأتناولها كالتالي و يجب مواجهاتها والتغلب على ما يذخر فيها من تحديات من أجل ان يتم نقل السلطة بطريقة سريعة و منظمة

  1.  تشبث المجلس بالسلطة
  2. الألية التى سوف تعطى السلطة الجديدة شرعيتها
  3. آلية تسمح للشعب مراقبة عملية التحول الديمقرطى والتعبير عن رؤيته لتكون موازية ومتكاملة مع المجالس النيابية، وسأوضح لماذا لا يكفي في هذه المرحلة أن تكون المجالس النيابية هي الآلية المنفردة بالمراقبة الشعبية.

قبل تصريح طنطاوى و الهجوم الشرس الذى تلاه كان العقل الجمعى فى التحرير مستغرقا فى تأمل دقيق لهذه القضايا من خلال الاف المناقشات التى كانت تجرى فى الميدان. كثير من هذه المناقشات كانت تجرى فى اجواء من الجدية شديدة. كانت هذه اللحظات الغالية التى يتاح فيها لجموع الشعب المصرى -من كل طبقاته و إنتمائاته الإيديولوجية- بالتحدث والنقاش يتم دفع ثمنها من دماء انبل و أطهر شباب مصر. أحاول فى السطور القادمة ان اقدم قراءتى للتحرك الأمثل من وحى هذه النقاشات.

تشبث المجلس بالسلطة
نعلم بدون ادنى شك ان المجلس العسكرى لن يتنازل عن السلطة بسهولة. من المرجح ان كل عضو فى هذا المجلس الشديد الإرتباط بمبارك وعائلته كان له دور فى منظومة الفساد. سياستهم التى تبدوا متخبطة ما هى إلا محاولة لكسب وضع خاص فى المنظومة السياسية القادمة تجنبهم اى نوع من المساءلة. كانت محاولتهم دءوبة من أجل تسويق منظومة “ديمقراطية” مغشوشة، وهو ما تؤكده الأحداث المتوالية منذ تولي المجلس العسكري مهماته الرئاسية والتي كان الشعب يئن ولكنه يصبر انتظارا لبصيص من النور دون أن يقع في مواجهة مباشرة مع المجلس على قدر المستطاع. إلى أن جاءت مذابح التحرير الحالية والتي يصعب معها التسامح أو طأطأة الرأس أو تسمية الأشياء بغير مسمياتها. هناك إجماع بين الثوار ان القصاص ضرورى، ولكن كيف؟ إن التصورات الموجودة والناتجة عن الغضب المشروع قد تؤدي إلى  تكلفة باهظة هذه بعض النتائج المحتملة التي يرفضها العقل والمصلحة العامة للوطن.

  • معارك طاحنة مسلحة مع بعض قطاعات الجيش المصرى وقوات الأمن و الدمار الناتج عنها
  • نقلاب عسكرى يعيد إنتاج ديكتاتورية جديدة
  • إنقسامات داخل الجيش تهدد أمن مصر الوطنى
  • حرب أهلية من بعض القوى التى راهنت على بقاء المجلس و عملت معه مساومات

ولأن هذه النتائح لن تصل بنا إلى ما نصبو إليه ونحلم به ، لهذه الأسباب فإن المصلحة العليا تقتضى ان نعطى العفو التام لأعضاء المجلس من المساءلة. اعلم ان هذا الكلام من الصعب جداً تقبله و لكنه تطبيق لحكمة سان تزو التى تقول:

إبنى للأعداء جسورا من ذهب لينسحبوا من المعركة.

ولذا يصبح المطلب الرئيسي الآن المطالبة من المجلس بتسليم سلطاته الرئاسية بسلام ضمان سلامة أعضائه وعدم مساءلتهم. ويصبح السؤال هو من الذي سيتولى شئون إدارة البلاد سياسيا؟

السلطة الجديدة و شرعيتها
كثر الجدل عن المجلس الرئاسى المدنى و من سيكون ضمن أعضائه. أليه إختيار الأعضاء غير واضحة و إن كان البعض يدعوا أن يكون هذا المجلس مكونا من كل المرشحين المحتملين للرئاسة، وهناك أراء أخرى لن أتعرض لها بالتفصيل فهي موجودة على الساحة، ولكن الإجماع يتمحور في إيجاد أي بديل يحل محل المجلس العسكري
و لكن بدون ألية واضحة لأختيار أعضاء هذا المجلس قد تدخل البلاد فى دوامة التطاحن السياسى. و كثيرون من السخفاء سوف يعلنون حربا شرسة على “ديكتاتورية الميدان” الذي قاد البلاد إلى تخلي المجلس العسكري عن الرئاسة ، وندخل في غياهب الظلام والشلل من جديد.

وقد يرى البعض أن الحل يكمن في تكوين  المجلس الرئاسى عن طريق نظام الإنتخاب الترتيبى(ranked voting method). ميزة المجلس الرئاسى المنتخب بهذه الطريقة أنه سيكون ممثلا لكل التيارات السياسية المصرية و الأمل ان يخلق هذا نوعا من التوافق يمهد الطريق لدستور توافقى. و لكن هناك تخوف من أن يجد هذا المجلس صعوبة شديدة فى التحرك و إتخاذ القرارت و أن يكون بذلك غير قادر على قيادة عملية التحول الديمقراطى بشكل فعال.

ممكن كبديل للمجلس الرئاسة المدنى ان ننتخب رئيسا للبلاد تكون فترة رئاسته سنتين  و لا تجدد. انا أفضل هذا الطرح حيث ان سرعة إتخاذ القرار فى هذه المرحلة ضرورى.

سيكون هذا الرئيس منوط فى الأساس بإنجاز هذه المهام:
إرساء قواعد التحول الديمقراطى فى البلاد و ما يصحبها من خطوات ضرورية من أجل  التحول من دولة أفراد لدولة مؤسسات.
إعادة بناء وزارة الدخلية بما يحقق الأمن و الأمان مع ضمان كل الحريات المدنية
تدعيم الثقة فى إقتصاد البلاد و مسار التحول الديمقراطي.

النظام
بدون شفافية و بدون رقابة من المرجح ان يبعد الرئيس  عن تطلعات الشعب و ما يصاحب ذلك من موجات غضب عارمة. فى الظروف العادية يكون مجلس الشعب هو القائم بهذا الدور و لكن فى ظل الظروف الحالية و إلى ان تستقر الخريطة السياسية لمصر ندى شك من قدرة المجلس النيابي القادم على القيام بهذا الدور. السبب الرئيسى فى ذلك انه لم يتاح للشعب بعد الفرصة لتكوين أحزاب فاعلة وناضجة سياسيا لتكوين برامج واضحة وممكن تحقيقها. ثانيا النظام الإنتخابى الحالى الشديد التعقيد لا يتيح للشعب أن يعبر عن إرادته، لأن اختياراته ستكون عشوائية أكثر منها نتاج لتفكير في البرامج المقدمة لها من الأحزاب الموجودة.  وللتغلب على هذه المعضلات أجد أن الحل يكمن فى الديمقراطية المباشرة و ذلك من اجل ان تعبر جموع المواطنين عن رأيهم فى كافة السياسات. تنظيم القدرة على الآطلاع من قبل متخذي القرارة على أراء الجماهير دون مظاهرات أو احتجاجات يتطلب فكرا إبداعيا، وأحد الافتراحات التي أقدمها تتعلق ببناء نظام معلوماتي  يتيح الأتى

  1. التعبير عن المشاكل الملحة من جموع المواطنين و التصويت على بدائل الحلول
  2. إطلاع  المواطنين ف  على السياسات التى يتم وضعها من خلال نشرها على مواقع إلكترونية معروفة. 
  3. تلخيص و تصينف كافة شكاوى المواطنين من أجل تحديد الأولويات و تنظيم البت فيها.

 هذا النظام المقترح ممكن بلورته بشكل دقيق فى المستقبل و لكن هذه هى  خطوطه العريضة.

الخلاصة
يجب ان نطالب بالأتى:
تنحى المجلس العسكرى مع العفو عن كل أعضائه
انتخاب رئيس جمهورية إنتقالى نظام معلومات يسمح بالديمقراطية المباشرة مع وجود مجلس تشريعى موازى.

ارجو من قارئى هذه المدونة  تناول هذا المقترحات بمداخلات تزيد من بلورة الفكرة أو تقدم حلولا أخرى كما أرجو منهم  نشرها على قدر الإستطاعة إذا وجدوا هذه الإقتراحات مقبولة.

لا يكمننا ان نفقد زمام المبادرة هذه المرة!

11/23/11

Post SCAF Egypt

As I write this post thousands of protesters in Tahrir are under a barrage of tear gas fighting with steely determination to maintain control over the square. I struggle to maintain my focus as I constantly check on safety of my  friends. While many continue to lose life and limb it is becoming patently clear that the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) MUST step down from political office. This is not a matter for academic debate or national referendum. It is a self evident fact that demands but a grain of sense and a smidgen of basic human decency. How can political leadership that brutally murders those who disagree with it policies be trusted with democratic transformation? How can SCAF’s head, Tantawy, be any position to make promises to the Egyptian people while his forces are engaged in pitched battles with those who are doing their best to keep there protest as peaceful as possible? SCAF’s sins are too numerous to recount and if one was ridiculously generous it would put down due to gross incompetence, though many now see their actions are treasonous.

SCAF’s quick departure is now a forgone conclusion. The protesters will settle for nothing less. The question is how? What we need is a rapid and orderly transfer of power. In order to do that the following issues must be addressed:

  1. SCAF’s hold on power.
  2. The process by which SCAF’s replacement will have legitimacy.
  3. The system in place that would insure that the process of democratic transition will go smoothly and be subject to public scrutiny.
Before Tantawy’s speech and the massive tear gas attack that followed, the collective mind of Tahrir was engaged in deep consideration of those issues through thousands of discussion around the square. Many of those discussion were held with the utmost seriousness and sense of urgency.  Those precious moments today in Tahrir were only sustained by the hemorrhaging of the country’s bravest and noblest on entrances of Tahrir. I will attempt here to present my perspective on the ideas that have been put forth. We need to crystallize a consensus on those issues soon. We can not afford to lose initiative at this crucial point in time.

SCAF’s hold on power
Without a doubt SCAF will not step down easy. Each member of SCAF probably has loads of skeletons in their closet. They are also burdened by glaring present sins. Their apparent fumbling with the process of democratic transition seem to have been put themselves in a privileged political position that would make them immune to any form of scrutiny. They were trying to do this will peddling a very adulterated faux democracy. 
The principled revolutionary would argue that we can not let them get away with their crimes. However, the cost of doing that might be too expensive. We risk the following:
  • Pitched battles with army with the wide scale destruction that would ensue
  • A coup d’etat that would results in either a new dictator power or
    at the very least a very serious threat to Egypt’s national security 
  • Civil war with those whose who have put all of the marbles in SCAF lap (hint: many Islamists)

It hence seems that the rational (though definitely not moral) thing to do is to declare full amnesty to SCAF members, we should give them a clean a smooth exist. As Sun Tzu would put it 

Build your opponent a golden bridge to retreat across


The structure and legitimacy of the new transitional authority
Many are talking about presidential council and putting forth names. There seems to be a consensus on this as way the forward. However the mechanism for selecting members for this council is not clear. Some  say, lets through in all the current presidential hopefuls. Anything but SCAF.
However, without a clear mechanism for selecting that council, the country will be incapacitated by serious bickering. Many indolent pundits will call it the “dictatorship of Tahrir”. Democracy often needs a bit of bootstrapping and there is many instances were it starts of by undemocratic means. However, we will need to concede even to those who like to put revolutionaries who are shedding blood for new Egypt and politicly complacent couch potatoes on equal footing. We can not afford to be patronising, even to arm chair analysts who are often drawing their information from the SCAF controlled Goebbelsian propaganda machine.

Hence what is need is an elected council. This could be done by a ranked voting
method.
The downside of the presidential council is that the decision making process is likely to be lengthy. The upside is that as an outcome of the election the council will have representatives from all the major Egyptian political streams and that (with a bit of luck) they could lay the foundations of consensus that will be essential for our new constitution.

The mandate of this council would be to primarily:
1. Lay down the foundations for democratic transition
2. Rebuild/Reform the ministry of interior
3. Establish confidence necessary political and economic stability

An alternative to this scenario is to just elect a new transitory president with a two year term. Unity of command will allow for rapid decision making and will spare us fractionation which we do not need at this point. The president with the exact same mandate as the council a s/he will be able be the face of Egypt in the next couple of years and conduct delicate negotiations with foreign powers in a
manner that presidential council might not achieve. I am more in favour of that
option, though the idea has yet to gain sufficient currency.

The system
Without enough transparency and without a modicum of checks and balances, the new president/council are likely to go wayward and more instability will ensue. Normally, a parliament job is to do exactly that. However, I am doubtful that our first parliament will be up to the task (the reasons are worthy of lengthy post). It is hence my believe that a minimal degree of direct democracy will be needed. This may be achieve by a requisite IT infrastructure that will include
means for:

  1. Expressing group concerns and voting on them.
  2. Voting on specific policies that put forth by the president/council
  3. Summarising and clustering the various opinions to detect festering problem areas.

The president/council must answer to top concerns presented by system on weakly basis. They might be a bit of hand-waving, but I believe we should get the best management, political science and IT experts in the country to build such a system.

To sum up
We should call for:

  1. A quick departure with amnesty for SCAF
  2. An elected president or presidential council (we have to decide on which one we would perfer)
  3. A system that would allow for direct democracy in parallel with parliament (to be worked out will the presidential election are taking place)
I urge my readers to share this if they believe it to be worthy, or expresses the objections or comments below.
11/21/11

Hope, Pain, and Anger at Tahrir

As I walked into Tahrir early this morning my head was held low with shame, I could not been there earlier. Many of the fellow revolutionaries have fallen and I was not there beside them.

Prominent Egyptian Blogger Malek smiling nonchalantly after having been shot in his right eye on Nov 19.

I met a man with an ashen face, he has seen too many youth fall and has endured incredible quantities of CR gas. He was in the square for a small respite, and was heading back to the front lines in Mohamed Mahmoud St. shortly. Ahmed has been enduring fierce battles for 36 hours and has a steely determination that he will not leave Tahrir before the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) steps down.  He was tired, happy and hopeful. I asked him: what comes after SCAF? He said it could be a presidential council. When I pressed him for the mechanism, Ahmed was not sure. However, it was pretty clear for him that he could tolerate any more lies.

SCAF has deceived, lied, and connived to liquidate the forces of the Egyptian revolution. It has accused members of Egypt’s April 6th movement of being foreign agents. It has allowed members of Mubarak’s NDP to regroup to play a prominent role in the elections. It has fomented sectarian strife and done little to protect Egypt’s Copts. It has done a lousy job of managing the economy and bringing the country closer to stability. Finally, in what should have Egypt’s first experience of honest elections, it has presented Egyptians most algorithmically complex elections system ever. But the final straw was when the riot police violently broke up a sit-in that was stated by the revolution’s injured. SCAF has reneged on its promise that to rehabilitate them and take care of their medical expenses.

Ahmed is not fighting for a clear idea of what he wants in terms of a political way forward, but it is clear to him what he is against. He can not tolerate more lies. He is fighting against a world where those who claim their freedom are murdered  and dumped with trash, and where the injured are treated as human refuse. He  will do his best to change that world for the better, or die trying.

“Down with SCAF!” is now thundering through Tahrir as I write this blog. A few thousand discussions are taking place as to alternative. Something will emerge soon. The revolution continues…

09/15/11

The ghosts of 9/11 and the art of management by crises

I write this reflecting on the tumultuous events of September 9 and its aftermath in Egypt. Those events and their repercussions occurred around  the anniversary of the cowardly attack on the US that occurred 10 year ago. Though my focus is strictly on Egypt’s struggle for freedom and democracy, I can not but feel the ghosts of that catastrophic event still haunt us. Perhaps “haunt” is not the right word, one gets the sense that there are actives and intentional force from this dimension of existences that are pulling certain strings to push towards certain outcomes.

Prelude to the September 9 demonstrations in Egypt
Popular discontent has been on rise for a while, key factors are:
  1. Twelve thousands civilians have been tried before military courts and issued summary verdicts without proper due process. 
  2. A sizable fraction of those thousands were put in prison for being in demonstrations, or for expressing there opinion in a manner not to the likely of the country’s leadership. 
  3. No clear schedule for the elections or a clear plan for handover of powers to democratic forces. 
  4. Many of the economic demands of the revolution have either been ignored, or unfulfilled promises have been made. 
  5. Reported cases of continued  abuses of power by the ministry of interior (MOI), and no clear plans for reform of the ministry that most people regard as a instrument of political repression. 
  6. The events of September 7 where many thousands of football fans where brutally attacked, chased through the streets and many incarcerated for chanting against the police during a match. 
  7. The trial of Mubarak and his buddies that seem to be proceeding at a snail’s pace. This stands in sharp contrast with civilians being given summary justice and sentences to long prison terms. 
  8. Curbs of freedom of expression and the media.
  9. The killing of five Egyptian soldiers at our borders in Sinai by Israeli forces who were engaged in hunting down terrorists involved in a attack on there soil. The Israeli gunships violated Egyptian airspace and killed our men. If this were to happen anywhere, it would be considered an act of war, with serious repercussions. The ruling SCAF treated the whole situation as a non-event, and were content with Israel’s expression of regret (it was too much, it seems, for Israeli officials to offer an apology).This was quite injurious to Egyptian national pride and started a number of protest outside the Embassy. SCAF completely ignored this demonstration (as is becoming the fashion of late). The reporting of these events by the NYTimes leaves much to be desired
The ghosts of 9/11 in Tahrir
The atmosphere in the early hours of Friday in Tahrir could be described as jubilant. The people have managed to reclaim the favorite square after and month long occupation by the combined forces of MOI’s central security forces and military police. That Friday was given the title of “The Friday of Path Correction”. There was plenty of discussions taking place in the square about what needs to be done to bring about democratic transitions. Many were unhappy with SCAF’s management of affairs. 
After the Friday prayers, I was shocked to hear the preacher make plea for SCAF to release the Omar Abdel-Rahman from US prison. Abdel-Rahman played a significant role in inciting hate and providing religious sanction to acts to of terror. Very few payed much attention to that preacher. However, half an hour later somebody gave me free copy of a dinky newspaper known as al-sha3b with have on its front page a banner add calling for the release of Abdel-Rahman. My friends and I were wondering, who the hell is calling for this on day should not be about Egypt and it future and not about that awful historical drag. Who is trying to advance this a revolutionary demand?  and who is paying for all of this?

Embassy storming and aftermath
Later in the day the Israeli embassy was stormed. There were very few troops around to protect it, the troops were pulled out that day from around the embassy, and a few tens of protesters entered the building. After the storming their was brutal attack on the protester around the area by the police, it left one thousand injured and three dead. It is hard to believe that SCAF tried and failed to prevent the storming. There is growing belief that  it must have been a way of sending some message to either the US and Israel. Those violent events further gave rise to the following:

  1. Beefing up the emergency law is Egypt with to give the state almost unlimited powers to detain anyone
  2. Terminating Al-Jazeera’s local channel operation.  
  3. Further restrictions on media and journalists and fostering and general sense of fear and foreboding in state owned media. 

SCAF is trying to shape the political landscape to serve its interests. Their are worrying signs that it wants to stay in power for much longer than it had declared. The setup for the next election seems to be designed in push for old NDP figures or their close relation. 

Neo-Mamelukism unraveling 

    The SCAF seem to many to be manufacturing crises after the next to gain legitimacy as the sole protector and preserver of order. It is essential saying the people “it is either me or chaos”. They can not keep playing that game for long and eventually they have to scramble for a face-saving exist. Since last Friday, there has been a growing tsunami of strikes that were taking place despite the beefed up emergency law and all the dire warning that are being announced by SCAF. Egyptian are declaring “you can detain us, torture us, kill us, but you can not scare us into submission anymore”. Tomorrow, I will be back in Tahrir with many thousands, we will be protesting the emergency status and Draconian laws.

    The Revolution continues….

    08/2/11

    This land will never be the same

    A fading  memory  is all that remains
    But, this land will never be the same
    My brothers, to power, will never  bow again
    The cries of justice, will never be in vain

    Did you hear them in Tahrir, calling your name?
    Where were you? did you call their sit-in so very lame?
    But what have you done to ease their pain?
    A prisoner to fear,  do you want forever to remain?

    No! No! this land will never be the same
    We never will one day, to oppression, be tame.

    08/1/11

    The Morally Right and the Politically Expedient

    The sit-in in Tahrir has been going on for over three weeks now. The key demand of putting on trial the murders of the protesters has yet to be met. The supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) has made a couple of concessions during the sit-in. Mubarak and El-Adly’s (the police chief who is believed have given order to shoot the protests)   trail will be televised. There was also a significant reshuffling of the ministerial cabinet.

    However, in the eyes of many who are now in Tahrir, those concessions did not go far enough and the key demand  has yet to be met. For more details on the background to the sit-in, check my earlier post. The fact remains is that this extended sit-in is becoming more unpopular by the day. Many Egyptians fail to understand what it sit-in is all about and the SCAF controlled state media is constantly describing it as futile and counter productive and the prime cause of all economic woes.

    Many also argue that it is not time for direct democracy, those who participated in the revolution should be getting ready for  parliamentary elections that is coming up in a couple of months. They should be doing a better job of communicating with the masses. It they miss that opportunity, the Islamists will win by a landslide and will be the authors of the post-revolutionary constitution. These argument and some remedial actions are suggested in this blog post by Amr Bassiouny.

    Many of the organized movements of the revolution have suspended their sit-in and issued a statement to that effect. However, most of the independents decided to stay in Tahrir in solidarity with families of the martyrs. These families are likely to be subject to abuse and harassment by the police if those responsible for the death of their loved ones are not put on trial first. So there is a moral imperative not to abandon them. However, such extended sit-in might eventually spell disaster. The relationship between the remaining protesters  and shopkeepers in down town Cairo are becoming increasingly tense. The shopkeepers are loosing significant business due the sit-in. There is some fear that they might take violent action against those at the sit-in.

    The more sensible amongst  the protesters called for a scaling back of the sit-in and opening the square for traffic. However, a great many of the protesters see that this will slacken the pressure and will not bring justice to the families of the martyrs. That is despite their dwindling numbers after their diminishing ability to secure the square.   The sad fact remains that every passing day many average folks are heaping more scorn the revolutionaries with the square being closed for normal traffic.

    Collective decision making is becoming increasingly hard to do. Yesterday, I ran into Gigi Ibrahim and  Rasha Azb in the square both showed signs of exhaustion. They have been trying hard all day talk sense into to the morally decent, but political naive to reach some sort compromise. The majority view in Tahrir at the moment is for continuing the sit-in while closing the square.

    In any case, the revolutionaries should be doing a better job of communicating with the average Egyptians to counter the slandering campaign of state sponsored media. They should also find a way of helping those who are adversely affected by the sit-in to prevent further antagonism.

    These are very tricky times indeed. Some battles you can choose, others you can not walk away from. For the latter a good strategy and clear vision is needed. Those are very hard to do without some form of centralized leadership. What was once a key strength of the Egyptian revolution is now turning into a major weakness.

    Update: Catastrophe!!! As soon as I published this post, I learned that Tahrir is being attacked by police and army forces with the blessing and support of the residents. The sit-in is being violently brought to an end. This is the biggest set back to the revolution yet! I expect more curbs on the right to protest in the next few days. Please read this testimony to get a sense of what happened. 

    07/30/11

    Shadows of Democracy and Dissent

    Freedom of expression is a the hallmark of a democratic society, and so is tolerance and the ability to live with multiple and somewhat incompatible views and beliefs.  All of this ideas were put to a serious test yesterday in Tahrir. I was happy that the day ended peaceful with no major incident given that there was an highly combustible  mix of people in the square having demands and view that are either tangential or standing in direct opposition.

    Prelude to the Friday of “Unity”
    The families of the protesters that had been brutally  murdered by the police during the early days of the revolution  have been calling for those responsible to be put on trial. The supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) have been pussyfooting in making that happen, and hence many protesters gathered in solidarity with the families and started a sit-in on July 8.  They demanded first and foremost that fair and open trails must be conducted. They had several other demands that would insure that the path to democratic transition is less bumpy, such as stopping subjecting civilians to military trials where justice is handed out summarily with little or no rights for the accused.   From more on the rationale of the protesters, check out my earlier post.

    “Islamic, Islamic, not secular or theocratic” the call says. It adds “Time to hear us roar”

    Islamists on the other hand have been gathering forces for what they called “Islamic Identity Friday”. For reasons that remain unclear the Islamists are acting as if they are under serious threat from the liberals and secularist. Many amongst the protesters and several political parties called for calm to focus on the demands that would serve the interests of the revolution and  would not exacerbate  polarization. But that turned to be a pipe dream.

    Betrayal 
    The Islamist did not honor their agreement and instead came out with demands at odds with those who were sitting-in. They stressed the need for the application of Sharia in their chants. The term itself does not mean much as there are many schools of thought around Sharia and it does not directly mean Saudi or Afghan style system of government and laws.  After I had a few chats with some of Islamist, I found that members of the Muslim brotherhood (MB) had a much clearer picture of what the state should like, they seemed to embrace the notions of democracy and pluralism. The Salfis (Wahabis  is a more appropriate term) has divergent views and some of them were uncomfortable with the notion that certain basic rights for citizens and protection of minorities must  be enshrined in the constitution. Salfis lacked clarity as to what system of government they  would espouse.

    Salfi sign “No liberalism, No communism, No  Socialism, No Secularism, No pan Arab Nationalism”

    The Islamist generally were engaged in a muscular show of force, there chants attitude and were somewhat disturbing. Some were waving Saudi flags, others were chanting “Behold Obama, the Square is now full of Osamas“. Instead of seeking to dismiss worries about them, they were engaged in confirming the worst fears of liberals and even the majority of Egyptians who do not subscribe to any particular ideology.  They wasted a fantastic opportunity to show their countrymen and the rest of the world that they are political force that are worthy of doing business with. The fact that they reneged on a promise and  presented a narrative that would alienate  most Egyptians, specially those who took part in the revolution, is bound to hurt them on the long term.

    It was quite a peculiar scene to see that while the protesters who were at the sit-in were reeling against SCAF, the Islamists made  a point of showering the head of SCAF, Tantawi, with praise in their chant. One has to wonder when he sees Saudi flag waving, Bin Laden sympathizers, expressing there deep loyalty to SCAF. Either something is very wrong with SCAF, the Islamists, or probably both.

    Whilst all of this was happening in Tahrir, Egypt’s spy chief  Murad Muwafi was meeting US vice president Hillary Clinton. Speculations were rife amongst protesters that the old Islamic boogeyman card was being played. It is either a SCAF autocracy or a fanatical terrorist harboring theocracy that comes to power and eliminates any hopes of a democracy.

    SCAF riling up Islamists against protesters  (by Ahmed Nady) 

    On the upside
    Despite everything, there was an upside to all of this. I consider it very reassuring that both the Islamists and sit-in protesters managed not to be at each others throats for the duration of the day. The degree or restraint and self-control on both sides was impressive. Many of the Islamist seemed eager to listen, engage in dialog and to try to appreciate other opinions as well as articulating theirs. Despite very differing world views, dialog was possible. A society that had no public space or means of self-expression is going to take a while to overcome decades of fear and mistrust between its fragmented elements and establish some form of cohesion.

    The cause of  justice for the martyred has not been served by all of this . (By Mostafa Gamal)

    Ill will and garbage 
    The Islamist left the square, leaving behind tonnes of trash and ill will. Many of the revolutionaries felt violated. I met quite a few who were in tears. Some told me “we did not fight and watch  our friends die so that fanatics would come and deny us our freedom”. Many were also deeply offended by what they saw the Islamists making themselves self appointed spokespersons for their religion. The chant “where is the media,  Islam is here!” was specially offending to many who have view of Islam and values that strongly diverged with those of the Islamists. The Islamists literally hijacked several of the secular stages for their purposes. They prevented Sufis from entering the square and called them infidels.
    After they left there was a some rejoicing and singing and everybody in the square was chanting for civil and non theocratic state. However, we were breathing a heavy and depressing air. The  magic of the early days of the revolution where we showed a great deal of tolerances and genuine love for each other seems to be fading away. 

    07/29/11

    حصاد الجمعة فى التحرير يوم 29 يوليو

    نزلت الميدان و كانت تجربة فى مجملها جيدة، سأتكلم فى هذه المدونة عما رأيته من سلبيات و إجابيات. 
    السلبيات
    1. رأيت الإسلاميون و فى الأغلب السلفيون يقومون برفع شعارات غير توافقية و يخوضون فى هتافات أقرب لغزوة و كان المصرييون او باقى القوى السياسية تنادى بالفسوق و الكفر. هذا مع العلم انه كان هناك اتفاق على عمل سوياً على مطالب توافقية
    2. لم ارى اى من الإسلاميون يهتفون من اجل اى من المطالب التوافقية كمحاكمة رموز الفساد و قتلة المتظاهرون.
    3. انحصر الهتاف فى اغلب الأحوال ب”إسلامية إسلامية” و “الشعب يريد تطبيق شرع الله”.   كان اسلوبهم اقصائى و كأنهم يريدون ان يسأثروا بإرادة الشعب. و عند مناقشتهم فى كيف يمكن ان يكون هذا الكلام غير مقبول من إخوانهم الأقباط كانت الإجبات دائماً تتمحور حول حال المنقبات فى فرنسا و كان فهمهم للديقراطية ينحصر فى فرض رأى الأغلبية على الأقلية.
    4. فى نهاية النهار ترك الإسلاميون الميدان فى حالة يرثى لها من تكدس المخلفات و كأنهم يرون ان على المعتصمين القيام بأعمال النظافة من أجلهم و هذا التصرف بعيد كل البعد عن أخلاق الميدان. 
    5. كان القليل منهم يتدخل فى وسط بعض المحاولات للحوار بشكل عدائى و يكرثون روح الفرقة و الإستقطاب.
    6. للأسف فأن تصرفات كثيراً من الإسلاميين افقدتهم كثيراً ممن كان متبقى لدى ثوار التحرير من رصيدهم من أيام الإعتصام الأولى.
    الإجابيات
    1. كل من قابلتهم من الإخوان فى هذا اليوم كانوا على قدر عال من دماثة الخلق و حسن الحوار و كان الحديث معهم  هادئ سعياً لإيجاد ارضية مشتركة و توضيح وجة نظرهم بشكل رصين حتى فى حالة الإختلاف. 
    2. كثيراً من السلفيون كانوا متقبلين الرأى المخالف و إن كان حماسهم ذائد فى كثير من الإحيان لأرائهم يجعل الحوار صعباً بعض الشيئ. 
    3. كان هناك اقتناع  مع كثير ممن تحدثت معهم لفكرة عدم إقصاء اى فصيل سياسى او فكرى او دينى و كانت هناك قناعة بعد النقاش لكثير منهم ان هذا قد يؤدى الى كارثة.
    4. كان هناك تقبل لوجهة نظرى الموضحة ان الديمقراطية لا يمكن ان يتم إختزالها فى صنادية الإقتراع و لكن يجب ان يكون هناك نظام يحمى الإقلية من فرض رأى الأغلبية لتحقيق السلام الإجتماعى.
    5. كان هناك موافقة فى أغلب المناقشات على عدم وجوب إستئسار اى تيار بكتابة الدستور و لكن يجب ان تكون هناك الية لخلق التوافق حتى نشارك بعض فى وطن واحد.
    6. كان كثير من عقلاء السلفية و الإخوان يتدخلون اذا بدء الحوار يتحول إلى صياح و زعيق. 
    7. لقد سعدت كثيراً ان الروح السائدة كانت للجميع ان يتجنبوا الإحتكات الحادة حتى مع الإختلاف. و هذا امر مشجع لقابلية القيام بالحوار مع الإسلاميين فى المستقبل. 
    07/28/11

    عن النزول الى ميدان التحرير يوم الجمعة 29 يوليو

    “انا نازل الميدان بكرة انشاء الله”
     عندما اقول هذه العبارة يستنكر كثير من معارفى تصرفى و يتم اتهامى  بالرومانسية المفرطة او السذاجة السياسية. و فى هذا المقال احاول ان اوضح موقفى من  هذ1ه الإتهامات و توضيح ما سوف اقوم به فى الغد. 

    عن الرومانسية
    هذا الإتهام صعب الرد عليه بصراحة. قد اكون كذلك فعلا فأنا ان لم يكن بى شيئ من قدرة للخروج من الواقع و محاولة تكوين واقع اجمل لما شاركت فى الثورة اصلاً. و فى مشاركتى فى ايام الثورة رايت اننا كمصريين عندنا القدرة الرائعة للتواصل مع بعض بشكل متحضر و راقى. هذا كان واقعاً أمامنا و لم يكن حلماً. فى ايام الثورة الأولى احببت الأخوان و السلفيون. نعم احببتهم بالرغم من انى لا انتمى لأى من هذه التيارات. احببت الذين تعاملت معهم و رأيت فيهم الجدعنة و كرم الأخلاق. احببتهم لأن يوم موقعة الجمل كنا واقفين مع بعض نحارب و ننضال و ندعوا تضرعاً  لله ان نصرنا. كل من وقف بجانبى هذا اليوم هو اخى و ان أختلفت معه فى الفكر و التوجهه الإيدليوجى. 
    مازلت اؤمن اننا بالثورة. مازلت اؤمن اننا يمكنا ان نتواصل مع بعض بروح المحبة حتى لو إختلفنا و لم تنكن من نفس الخلفية الإجتماعية او الثقافية او الإيديلوجية او الدينية. ان كانت هذه رومانسية فانا رومنسى من الدرجة الأولى. 
    عن السذاجة السياسية
    هذا الإتهام اجد انه ليس فى محله. ادرك ان الحركات الإسلامية نازلة من اجل اجندة خاصة لها علاقة بالدستور و طبيعة الدولة فى المرحلة القادمة و انا اختلف معهم فى كثير مما يدعون اليه. و لكن هم قاموا اخيراً بإعلاء بعض المطالب التوافقية و هذا تصرف محترم من جانبهم و وجدنا انما يؤكد عليه. انفراد الميدان للحركات الإسلامية انما سيشجع على ابراز المطالب الخلافية و قد يجعل بعض السفهاء ينجرفون وراء محاولات لإستعراض العضلات و التنابز.  
    ولكن ممكن ان يأتى فصيل منهم و يحاول اعلاء مطالب غير توافقية فماذا انا فاعل؟
     سأهتف بأعلى صوتى مطالباً بحقوق الشهداء و المحاكمات الناجزة
    .
    و لكن ماذا عن الخناقات و الأحتكاكات انا ارى الأن مطالب و يفط ترفع مطالبة بتحكيم الشريعة؟
    اذا رأيت يافطة غير توافقية سوف احاول ان ادعول بالأدب ان تنزل و ان فشلت محاولاتى سأستعين بأصدقائى من سلافيو كوستا او اصدقائى من الأخوان ان كانوا موجيدين  الإصرار بأدب يجدى فى احيان كثيرة. سوف اعمل على تهدئة الجو. سألتزم الهدؤ ان قام اى طرف بالزعيق. كثير منا لا يدرك ان الزعيق المتبادل لا يجدى و الأفضل عندما تتدهو المناقشة للزعيق هو الإنسحاب. 
    ولكن فيه ناس عيزنها تبقى معركة و سيحاولون ان يقلب الميدان إلى حلبة صراع بين القوى الليبرالية و الإسلامية
    سأعمل ضد هؤلاء بكل ما اوتيت من قوة و حكمة و هذا هو دورى الرئيسى فى هذا اليوم. سأدعوا للسلام و التألف بين المتخاصمين. سأحراب روح الإستقطاب بداخلى قدر المستطاع. سأحول ان ارى من هم امامى كبشر و شحصيات مصرية جديرة بالفهم و المعرفة سأحاول ان اتواصل معهم بدون ان احكم عليهم من خلال افكار مسبقة عن التيارات التى ينتمون اليها و مواقف قادتها. و ان استفزونى سأحاول ان اتذكر كيف كان كثير منهم واقف بجانبى فى أحلك اوقات الثورة وسأجاهد نفسى ان يتسع صدرى لهم بناء على ذلك. 
    فى النهاية ان اتطلع بصدق لرؤية كثير من اخوانى السلفين و الأخوان ممن كانوا معى فى اول 18 يوم من الثورة. اهلا بهم فى الميدان و أمل ان نكمل معاً  النضال سوياً. 
    07/27/11

    Politics vs. Protests: The Egyptian Revolution in Crisis


    I write this post to try to clarify a few points with regards to the situation in Egypt and process of the democratic transition.  This has been spurred by requests form my English speaking friends who are trying to keep up with unfolding events in Egypt and my general dissatisfaction with the reporting of current events in Egypt, such as this WJS article.

    Is the Revolution over?
    If you were to believe the supreme council of the armed forces (SCAF) and a great many of those who have not been talking to revolutionaries and watching too much state television, it is very much over. We have entered a new phase of democratic transition. Here is what they say has been achieved:
    1. A referendum where SCAF has proposed constitutional amendments that implied some process of handing over power to civilian control and some vague process for drafting a new constitution once a new parliament has been elected. 
    2. A brand new council of ministers that is headed by a prime minister who was known to have taken part of part in the revolution. 
    3. Members of the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution acting as advisers of the prime minister. 
    4. Parliamentary elections coming up in couple of month.
    5. SCAF is even giving financial aid to you new parties to cover some of expenses of registration and making the legal mandatory newspaper announcements. 
    So why complain? and why take to the street and protest? The logic goes, SCAF is not perfect, but they seem to be doing the best they can. The country needs stability more than anything else. The economy is in tatters and investor confidence is low. Protests are disruptive and slow down the wheel of production.   
    The old mechanism of electoral corruption are still in place (by Carlos Latuff).

    These points is not held by the protesters, and here is how they might respond:

    1. Referendum: there is a great deal of confusion as to what is was really about. We thought we voting for a amendment to the existing constitution, but SCAF trashed the old constitution and gave us a provisional one that gives it unrestricted powers and no accountability whatsoever. SCAF also sees that the passing of the referendum means that they people of Egypt gave it a carte blanche to run the country (that was not in any of the amended articles!). Interestingly enough the Islamist see the referendum as a vote that affirms that the people of Egypt want their future state to be an Islamic one and not secular. Although the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and the Salafis (Wahabis is more apt description) have very incompatible ideas of what that might mean. 
    2. The prime minister and the his council have very limited powers and SCAF calls all the shots via the powers that they have  granted themselves in the provisional constitution. The prime minster and the council  act as shock absorbers for SCAF, taking the blame whenever it is convenient. Such a tactic has all the hallmarks Mubarak era style of governance. We have a very peculiar situation where the prime minster reports of the minster of defense and not vice versa. 
    3. The youth coalition have been castrated since they held offices in power and have been quickly loosing whatever support they held in the ranks of the protesters due to their neutral or their lukewarm attitudes on several issues that are key to the protesters demands. Their eroding power base and the proliferation of hundreds of  coalitions, many of them from the youth of Mubarak’s now banned national democratic party,  have made them completely ineffective. 
    4. The governing laws for the parliamentary election have yet be finalized, and there are doubts about whether the elections will be truly fair. SCAF have objected to international observers and the old corrupt police force is what used to turn a blind eyes to fraud during election has not undergone significant reform. 
    5. Parties that are hungry for power have been taking a somewhat comprising in there stance  vis-a-vie SCAF so as not to fall out of favor before the ultimate ruler.  
    Hence presenting the false dichotomy of the politics in direct opposition to the protests, and favoring the former for the sake of stability will not sell amongst the protesters.

    What about the “backlash” against the protests?
    SCAF has tightened its grip on the media. We now have a a minster of information (disinformation) whose sole purpose is mobilize state media to present SCAF message. That message has been one of fear and panic. Fear about the economy and stability, and panic that there are some dark foreign forces that are now meddling in our affairs.

    SCAF hypnotizing the populace into believing that revolutionaries are traitors (by Carlos Latuff).

    Recently SCAF has accused the April 6 Youth movement that they are being funded by foreign and nefarious powers. The movement has played key role in keeping the uprising non-violent and is the largest secular block of all the organized movements with the revolution. SCAF seems however to maintain a very good relationship with the Islamist. Speculation has been rife in the ranks of Tahrir protesters the  Islamist must have cut a sweet deal with SCAF. The accusation has been made without evidence. Recently  in an TV interview with a SCAF representative, the talk show host started to ask few hard questions with regards to evidence.  The SCAF man was clearly unconformable with her “audacious” grilling. She lost her job as a result.

    Talk show host Dina Abdel Rahman fired for questioning SCAF (by Carlos Latuff).

    A few days ago protester were met by a violent “backlash” on their peaceful march to the ministry of defense to press forth their demands. Such a backlash came primarily as the result of SCAF or its agents spreading rumors the the protesters were on their way to burn down the ministry of defense and start up a fight with army. It is telling a few hours prior to the march that  Major General Hassan Al-Ruweiny we on TV hurling further accusations at the April 6 movement and condemning the march as the work of saboteurs who care nothing for the greater good of Egypt. He also said there could be many how are innocent amongst the marchers who are victims of “disinformation”. Interestingly he bragged about how used to manipulate the protesters in  Tahrir during the first 18 days of the revolution by spreading rumors. One can only wonder if he was behind the rumors in Abbaseya where the clash happened.

    Cowardly assault on protesters in Abbaseya (by Carlos Latuff).

    But what do the protesters want?

    There are a number of demands and concerns, but the most pressing concern has to do with the families of the martyrs of the revolution and the injured. The families have been subject to threats and pressure from the Police to drop their charges levied against their killers. They have been offered blood money, and if they refuse they were subject unbearable harassment. Similar pressure was also applied to those who were injured during the revolution. 

    The revolution grows forth from the blood of the martyrs (from a mural in Tahrir).

    The ministry of interior (MOI) in engaged in propaganda to project the view that the deaths were either accidental or (preposterously) the work of foreign snipers. This runs contrary to video footage showing the snipers perched on top on the ministry and  during the early days of the revolution.

    “Snipers!!! Where?” the minster of interior declares (by Carlos Latuff).  

    The families of the martyrs form and core around which protesters gather. They want the killers to be put on trial immediately along those  higher-ups who are gave the orders. The demands that the officers who carried out the shooting, the minster of interior at the time, and Mubarak be put on trial immediately. There have been many rescheduled sessions already that most protesters are certain that foul play is involved. SCAF declares that it is not their fault, the wheels of justice just happen to be slow at times and this is the responsibility of the judiciary. We know that the judiciary does not enjoy much independence there is no clear separation of powers yet.

    SCAF is molesting Lady Justice (by Ahmed Nady).

    Those who are protesters will not end their sit-in in Tahrir until they see the wheels of justice turning and they are stratified that it is doing so in the right direction. There is a very serious concern that if SCAF keeps on ignoring such basic demands for justice that things take a violent turn as the ominous graffiti below suggests.

    We will avenge ourselves SCAF! (photo by Lilian Wady)