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Seif pharmacies, racism and bringing down the Ikhwan

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Sara Abou Bakr

Sara Abou Bakr

On Wednesday, Egyptian activists were in a frenzy.

One of the most well-known pharmaceutical chains in Egypt, Seif Pharmacies, was in deep water after one of their appointed pharmacists refused to take money from a Nubian Egyptian for “being black”.

Unfortunately for him, it was outspoken Nubian film director, Nada Zatouna. She went online and wrote her testimony on what happened and how Dr. Mohamed Khaled skipped to the next customer and told her “I do not take money from blacks”.

Her testimony spread like wildfire, angering many. Calls for boycotting the racist pharmacy were spearheaded by activists online. A couple of hours after the angry boycotting calls, a protest was held by the pharmacy branch in Qasr Al-Aini where the racist incident took place, forcing Seif’s management to issue a statement assuring their “customers” that the pharmacist in question has been fired as they only “care about their customers’ satisfaction”.

Angry Egyptians still insisted on making a stance. They held another protest by the pharmacy on Friday to prove their point. Even pharmacists working at Seif’s joined the protest, denouncing racism.

Zatouna still filed a complaint at the police station against the bigot.

The firing of the racist pharmacist was viewed by many as a small victory, at times where everything in Egypt is going against a revolution that called for “equality and social justice”. Analysing the sequence of events shows why the protest was effective; an outspoken activist refuses to be terrorised, her testimony spreads, activists flock to her side -despite some trying to discredit her- and a protest is held with “a call for boycott” at the crux of it.

The financial threat to Seif Pharmacies is the reason why the “institution” succumbed, which is something currently ignored by well-meaning but angry activists.

On Friday night, clashes erupted between pro-Morsi supporters and protesters on a day dubbed “The Friday to purge the judiciary”. The Ikhwan are currently weaselling their way into ruining the last remaining front giving them legal trouble. Despite problems with the current judiciary system, their verdicts have served as a roadblock for the Ikhwan’s plans in the last six months; the dissolution of the parliament, the reinstating of the former prosecutor general and most recently sentencing Ikhwani Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to one year in jail, among many other cases. The Administrative Court in particular has a long history with Mubarak, with verdicts that didn’t allow the former regime to squander country resources including exporting natural gas and even stopping Mubarak’s decision to try 40 Muslim Brotherhood leaders under the military umbrella, to name an example.

The judiciary- despite several corrupt judges, nepotism and at times flagrant abuse of authority- still serves the people and not the regime.

Currently the Interior Ministry does not serve the people, but only serves the Ikhwan. They were clearly seen on live TV securing the Brotherhood headquarters during clashes and joining forces with Islamists in beating up and shooting protesters.

SCAF is breathing down the Ikhwani necks, waiting to see what step to take that will serve their purpose-mainly their financial security. Egyptians believing that the military is on their sides are delusional. It was made clear during SCAF’s transitional period in 2011 that they only serve their needs, not minding torturing and militarily trying civilians as they see fit. So unless there is a coup inside the military institution itself, cleansing their own corruption, the status quo remains.

Thus the weekend clashes will not stop the Ikhwan. Every other Friday, protesters lose more angry young men and nothing changes. Frustration drives the youth to the street looking for confrontation that yields nothing. The street alone is no longer enough.

If the youth who have buried their friends because of Morsi’s police and Brotherhood want to take down the Ikhwan, or at least force them to listen, then a plan that targets the Brotherhood’s financial conglomerates is needed.

Seif Pharmacies succumbed because of the ill-effects on sales from the bigotry charges.

The Ikhwan will succumb only when they fear their financial situation will be affected. People on the street are very angry with Morsi and his government. In the more popular areas, residents have already started an individual boycott of Ikhwani-owned shops and groceries. The youth should take it to a more national level; lists of Brotherhood companies should be made and circulated among people to be boycotted. Foreign governments, primarily the US, giving aid and support to Morsi and the Brotherhood have to be pressured by their taxpayers to stop their continuous funding. The same applies to Salafi NGOs in Egypt getting constant funding from the Gulf states.

Social isolation is another important weapon; ostracised from society, Ikhwan members will be forced to think, since conversing is not on their agenda. Mosques hosting ultra-crazy Islamist Sheikhs should be made known and boycotted, encouraging Egyptians to attend the more moderate sermons of the Al-Azhar Imams, thus destroying the Islamist monopoly on religion.

The country is now facing bankruptcy. Those who know this best are the workers; the backbone of the Egyptian economy. They are angry and are staging sit-ins and strikes, but are in disarray. Instead of multiple strikes, one national strike bringing the country to a halt is needed until the demands of the people are met. Workers know that Egypt will go bankrupt in a month and are quite angry and ripe for retaliation; almost all demand a change in government, if not the ousting of Morsi.

The Egyptian opposition is weak and disorganised. The youth need to decide on three people, of different backgrounds, to negotiate on their behalf.

A vision is needed to give people another option to the Ikhwan, SCAF and the floundering opposition.

Economy is the key to change.

Otherwise the “weekend clashes” will continue to no avail.

About the author

Sara Abou Bakr

Politics editor at Daily News Egypt Twitter: @sara_ab5

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ahmed.e.adly.7 Ahmed El Adly

    great article Sara!

  • Pesew

    There was a list circulating on FB containing a list of allegedly Ikhwani businesses to boycott. Some of them were definitely not owned by ikhwan however. Divisive witch hunts are not the solution. And we hear all this noise from liberals who don’t want their religion on their id cards but it is ok for liberals to single out business owners for their political affiliation (another form of belief) and boycott them for it.

  • Reda Sobky

    Yes, it is a matter of shame for US citizens who know what is going on in Egypt to see the support the Obama administration has been giving to the current ruling structure. Lip service to minority rights and protections but no real action for fear of his friends in Gaza starting up some new conflagration. It is a kind of political black mail or even hard ball. He can make trouble for us so we had better placate him even if it is at the expense of basic freedoms and the fundamental US ethical posture in the world. The kind of situation that always backfires when the US becomes identified with local oppressors and when the tide turns nobody forgets who stood for what just like nobody will forget the Russian mischief in Syria for a long time to come. The USA needs to take the high road and exert serious leadership in the direction of democratization and inclusion in the middle east and forget about supporting phony electoral games that confer a veneer of validity where none exists and effective dictatorship is practiced.


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