Opinion – Daily News Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:04:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 FIFA Congress: An Israeli-Palestinian battleground http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/23/622800/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/23/622800/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:15 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622800 Next month’s annual congress of the world soccer body, FIFA, is likely to become the first international forum since US president Donald Trump took office to debate Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the occupied West Bank. Israeli efforts to prevent FIFA from debating and possibly censoring it for allowing soccer teams from Jewish settlements in …

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Next month’s annual congress of the world soccer body, FIFA, is likely to become the first international forum since US president Donald Trump took office to debate Israel’s controversial settlement policy in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli efforts to prevent FIFA from debating and possibly censoring it for allowing soccer teams from Jewish settlements in occupied territory since 1967 to play in Israeli leagues are further complicated by the fact that Mr. Trump has called on Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu to freeze settlement activity.

Mr. Trump has expressed unconditional support for Israel and has sharply criticised a resolution in December in the United Nations Security Council that, with acquiescence of the Obama administration, condemned the Israeli settlement policy. Mr. Trump, who has made achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace one of his foreign policy goals, nevertheless advised Mr. Netanyahu on an official visit to Washington earlier this year that settlements “don’t help the process.”

The settlement issue is likely to again occupy centre stage when Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas meets Mr. Trump in Washington in early May before the FIFA congress in Bahrain. In a rare, official Israeli visit to a Gulf state, representatives of the Israel Football Association (IFA) will be granted visas to Bahrain, a country with which Israel has no diplomatic relations, to attend the congress.

Israel has in recent years succeeded in thwarting repeated Palestinian efforts to get its membership in FIFA suspended. FIFA, in a bid to prevent a situation that would put it in a tight spot at a time that the US justice department is prosecuting a number of its senior officials on corruption charges, appointed last year South African anti-apartheid icon Tokyo Sexwale to negotiate a solution.

Mr. Sexwale proposed three options, all of which are unlikely to provide relief. Mr. Sexwale reportedly initially suggested that FIFA could take the legal risk of throwing in the towel, give Israel six months to rectify the status of the disputed clubs, or continue to attempt to achieve a negotiated solution. Mr. Sexwale, under pressure from Israel, dropped any reference to a suspension of Israeli membership. In advance of submission of Mr. Sexwale’s report to FIFA, Israel is seeking to ensure that any references to punitive action against the Jewish state are removed.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA), human rights groups, and a coalition of sports associations, trade unions, and faith based groups are pressuring FIFA to act against Israel. The groups charge that the participation of settlement teams in Israeli competitions violates FIFA rules, FIFA’s adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and international law, which sees Israeli settlements as illegal. FIFA’s bylaws bar any country from setting up teams in another country’s territory, or letting such teams play in its own leagues without the other country’s consent.

The Israeli foreign ministry’s communications with its embassies abroad suggest that Israel fears that it may be able to avert the Jewish state’s suspension by FIFA, but is unlikely to completely avoid punitive measures against it.

“Our growing assessment is that the FIFA Congress is liable to make a decision on suspending six Israeli teams that play over the Green Line, or even on suspending Israel from FIFA. We urge you to contact your countries’ representatives on the FIFA Council as soon as possible to obtain their support for Israel’s position, which rejects mixing politics with sport and calls for reaching an agreed solution between the parties…and to thwart an anti-Israel decision if it is brought before the council,” the foreign ministry said in a cable. The Green Line constitutes the line dividing the West Bank from Israel proper and demarks territory occupied in Israel during the 1967 Middle East War.

Ironically, the cable spotlights the fundamental problem underlying a lack of integrity in international sports governance: the ungoverned relationship between politics and sports. International sports associations and governments maintain a fiction that sports and politics are separate, even if the two are inextricably joined at the hip. The cable serves as evidence of how governments and associations use the fiction of a separation to corrupt the integrity of sports.

The relationship of sports and politics is equally evident in Palestinian soccer. The PFA is headed by Jibril Rajoub, Palestine’s sports czar, secretary of the central council of Mr. Abbas’s ruling Al Fatah group, and a former security chief who spent 17 years in Israeli prison.

Mr. Rajoub recently weakened the PFA’s battle with the IFA by repeatedly refusing in a debate in New York with an Israeli peace negotiator to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israeli Jews. Mr. Rajoub has praised in recent years a wave of knife attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

FIFA may well attempt to buy time by adopting Mr. Sexwale’s option to give Israel six months to rectify the situation. A FIFA congress decision to that effect would, however, effectively constitute a defeat for Israel, because it implicitly acknowledges that allowing West Bank teams to play in Israeli leagues constitutes a violation of FIFA rules as well as international law.

While Israel is certain to reject the notion, a six-month grace period would also buy Israel time to further counter the growing Boycott, Diversification, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to penalise Israel for continued occupation of the West Bank. Israel has made countering the BDS one of its foreign policy priorities. The Netanyahu government recently emulated Mr. Trump’s disputed ban on travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority counties by banning BDS supporters from travel to Israel.

FIFA’s groping with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to serve as a bell weather of international attitudes towards Jewish settlements at a time that many members of the international community are exasperated with the policies of the Netanyahu government, the most right-wing in Israeli history. It is also likely to put the Trump administration’s support for Israel to the test.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Blame Egypt, think why later http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/21/blame-egypt-think-later/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/21/blame-egypt-think-later/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:30:03 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622701 In a research paper I am currently preparing, I found out that there was some kind of a decision taken by opinion-making circles in the west to blame Egypt and Egyptians every day and then look for justifications later. The presidency of Egypt is the most undermined, followed by the armed forces, the police, media, …

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In a research paper I am currently preparing, I found out that there was some kind of a decision taken by opinion-making circles in the west to blame Egypt and Egyptians every day and then look for justifications later.

The presidency of Egypt is the most undermined, followed by the armed forces, the police, media, intelligence, judiciary, and then the parliament.

Yet, the presidency is almost always blamed.

If a court ruling acquitted a defendant, western media would say the ruling was politicised and came by pressure or orders from the presidency, the government, or intelligence, at the discretion of the author.

At the same time, if some defendant is found guilty, it will also be a presidential or government decision. When the Court of Cassation acquits this same person later, the accusation is at hand: this was driven by orders issued from a security agency.

Egypt is wrong in any case, from their point of view.

We have an example showing the gap in the different assessments of the Egyptian administration. The Egyptian-American activist Aya Hegazy returned to the US after three years of pre-trial detention during a trial that accused her of human trafficking.

On Sunday, an Egyptian court acquitted Aya Hegazy and seven more from several charges, including human trafficking. The case was publicly known as the Belady Foundation case. All eight defendants were accused of human trafficking, abduction of children, abusing them sexually, and forcing them to take part in political demonstrations.

Her lawyer affirmed several times that Hegazy was only doing charity for the benefit of street children.

Hegazy is a good example of someone who does a good thing in a wrong way. She is providing a service to Egypt and Egyptians, but in line with her own standards and rules, without considering the laws and procedures [Editor’s note: her acquittal suggests that she followed the law].

She wants to help street children, but Egypt has witnessed dozens of associations that raised similar slogans and were later found to have damaged Egypt.

The court issued its decision based on the information it had.

The previous US administration had asked the Egyptian authorities to release Aya Hegazy. A statement issued by the White House in September 2016 demanded Egypt to drop all charges against her and release Hegazy.

But the Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the statement and hinted that some American official circles insist on disregarding the principle of the rule of law [editor’s note: the Trump White House, after her release, noted that it had intervened on Hegazy’s behalf to secure her release].

But talks about the case remained in the hallways of the Egyptian judiciary, insisting the case must be processed carefully so that Hegazy does not fall victim to injustice despite her good intentions. When she was acquitted, the court was as courageous as it was when it decided to detain her before.

I have information that she decided to return to the United States on a civilian aircraft by her own will [editor’s note: she was taken on a US military aircraft and met US president Trump on Thursday]. But what concerns me more is that she and her colleagues must understand that Egypt is witnessing exceptional circumstances. She had to make sure the procedures she followed as a civil society foundation were correct because Egypt suffered a lot from those who claimed to have good intentions but had done bad.

Hegazy’s innocence shows the size of the dilemma faced by Egypt: government and people. Many countries turned into tribes under different flags, carrying weapons on the ruins of their states.

Egypt has chosen a difficult path: keeping the state institutions, even if these institutions suffer from corruption, whether it is neglect, wasting people’s time and energy, or financial corruption. But it is important that the state is still intact and subject to reform.

In the period after the 25 January revolution and throughout the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptians used to say: if we are to be stopped for inspection, let it be the police or the army, rather than terrorists or loggers.

Egyptians want a strong state with active institutions.

Any assessment of the situation in Egypt without accounting for the current circumstances and fears is an evaluation away from reality.

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Withdrawing into the arts: a local, two-pronged strategy for fighting ISIS http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/withdrawing-arts-local-two-pronged-strategy-fighting-isis/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/withdrawing-arts-local-two-pronged-strategy-fighting-isis/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 10:00:38 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622366 Just the other day, I was meeting with a Christian friend at a cafeteria on the top of a building, and he was afraid the place would fall down if a terrorist bomb targeted it. He was reacting—rightly it seems—to what had just happened in Stockholm. Now look what’s happened here: two churches were targeted …

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Just the other day, I was meeting with a Christian friend at a cafeteria on the top of a building, and he was afraid the place would fall down if a terrorist bomb targeted it. He was reacting—rightly it seems—to what had just happened in Stockholm. Now look what’s happened here: two churches were targeted on Palm Sunday, with scores dead and wounded in Alexandria and Tanta.

It’s fair to say this is all political, meant to embarrass President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in the US and kill off any chances for Egypt to rebuild its ailing tourist industry. But that doesn’t exonerate the rest of us for not doing enough to combat extremism. It is worth noting that this brand of fanatic likes to attack shrines and mortuaries, such as the shameless ransacking of the remains of the Prophet Yunus (PBUH) in Iraq. Following Sunday’s terrorist attacks, former Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa was talking about these fanatics and how they’d attacked the mortuary of Imam Al-Nawawi in Syria. I can relate a personal experience in this regard. I once got fired from a place, without naming names, with no “clear” explanation as to why. But, curiously enough, something that came up in the complaints from the administration was that I had the audacity to use a book by Wasif Boutrous Ghali in class. I don’t think the specific book I used was the issue, but just the fact that I was using a book written by a Copt.

Wouldn’t you know it, shrines and mortuaries—by pure coincidence—are characteristic of Christianity also? We’re back to the debate about iconoclasm and how extremist groups in religious history—everybody’s religions—have attacked holy places and symbols to rupture the ability of these religious institutions to pass on their beliefs to the next generation. I don’t know for a fact that ISIS is behind the Alexandria and Tanta attacks, but I can believe it.

It’s their style. They’re feeling the pinch in Iraq and Syria, so they’re lashing out elsewhere, in the not-so-far-off theatres in Egypt and Libya. And this analysis gives us an indicator as to what precisely we should be doing to combat this way of thinking. We have to expose iconoclasm for what it really is—a ploy—and settle once and for all the place of works of art and physical locations in religious practice and divinations. To cite Dr. Ali Gomaa again, one means of combating these groups is Sufism, a favourite target of Salafism and Wahabism. He quoted a religious saying calling on Muslims to withdraw themselves from the political scene in the event of the absence of an imam (meaning leader here), because taking the law in your own hands inevitably leads to bloodshed and charges of apostasy.

In those circumstances, it is better to live like a monk and focus on prayer and good deeds. I can add that good old-fashioned art is another strategic weapon we need to deploy, particularly the visual variety castigated by Salafis and Wahabis. Here’s why: I watched an Iranian movie some time ago called Son of Maryam (1998). It was a children’s movie about interfaith dialogue, telling the story of a young Muslim boy whose best friend is an old, old priest—the vicar of their village. The reason the boy loves him so much is that the priest knew the boy’s mother, who died in childbirth. He asks the priest if his mother was as pretty as the Virgin Mary, so the old man replies that all mothers are like the Virgin Mary.

The boy repeatedly goes into the church and looks at the paintings and statues. When his father objects, it’s not because he’s afraid the boy will be “seduced” by Christianity, but because he thinks the boy is wasting his time and should be working with his father, training to be a blacksmith. (It’s notable that the father makes weapons—daggers, swords, helmets.) The boy also takes care of the church when the priest has an accident, and he even heads off to town in search of the old man’s brother, a priest who got fed up of village life and went to the big city where the larger congregations were. (The boy’s village is so small, it doesn’t even have a hospital, hence his mother’s death and his desire to become a doctor, not a blacksmith like his father.)

While in the big city, the boy befriends a Christian boy who helps him out. When the hero shows the Christian boy a picture of the Kaaba, telling him it’s the house of God, the Christian boy replies that his father told him that churches were the houses of God. So what does the hero do? He says that God is everywhere. The boy hero’s name, not coincidentally, is Abdel Rahman—servant of the All-Merciful God. The upshot of all this, apart from portraying Christians as fellow believers, is self-confidence, particularly in the face of statues and images. You constantly witness scenes where Abdel Rahman takes care of himself, buying a silk scarf to pray on (a Shiite practice), buying popcorn for himself, asking for directions, etc. The boy, moreover, is a mu’azzin (one who makes the call to prayer) and has a blind Muslim friend named Dawoud (after the Prophet David, PBUH), and he takes him into the church at one point too, describing to him what he sees.

Dawoud even insists on touching the face of the Virgin Mary to see how pretty and pure she is for himself, and Abdel Rahman obliges him. Could you imagine an Egyptian movie depicting such things? People here are terrified of everything—their own shadows even—as evidenced by the re-emergence of the hubbub over Devil-worshipping heavy metal cults and “Emos”, and the Baha’is and Shiites before them, not to forget the Sufis and any odd Egyptian movie that has something good to say about them—again without naming names. People forget, or have been made to forget, that the Fatimid’s ruled Egypt for four centuries, but they failed to remake the country on a Shiite mould.

It was the Fatimids who were eventually forced to reaffirm the Sunni adhan (call to prayer) and the Sunni jurisprudential schools (Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hanbali, and Malaki), with Al-Azhar—a Fatimid creation—itself becoming a bastion of Sunni learning. So there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you look at that Iranian movie again, you find hints of dissatisfaction with the sectarian divide also, since the hero has to look for the priest’s brother at both the local Catholic and Orthodox churches. He never knew there were different kinds of Christianity.

Religious problems and antagonisms always start off as internal, and then wash up onto the doorstep of another religion. Oh, and that goes for the Americans too. They’re more responsible for this than anybody, invading and then dismembering Iraq so that George W. Bush could be a self-professed “crusader”.

So, everybody’s to blame, but that still doesn’t exonerate us from setting our own house in order first. If we wait for the Americans to mend the error of their ways, hell will freeze over in the meantime!

Emad El-Din Aysha received his PhD in International Studies from the University of Sheffield in the UK and has taught, from 2001, at the American University in Cairo, the British University in Egypt, and the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development. From 2003 he has worked in English-language journalism in Egypt, first at the Egyptian Gazette and Egyptian Mail and most recently as a staff writer with Egypt Oil and Gas.

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1952 family and the conspiracy theory (3-3) http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/622365/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/19/622365/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 09:00:36 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=622365 Dear readers, we will try to present one of the most important stories that summarises the meaning of the slogan “No voice is louder than the voice of battle”, with the conspiracy theory to justify the continued security control and the postponement of the democratic project. Our story begins with shocking news and images reported …

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Dear readers, we will try to present one of the most important stories that summarises the meaning of the slogan “No voice is louder than the voice of battle”, with the conspiracy theory to justify the continued security control and the postponement of the democratic project.

Our story begins with shocking news and images reported by the media about the slaughtering of a number of Christians in Al-Arish, aimed to terrorise and intimidate Christian families living there and to push them to leave their homes through forced displacement operations.

Those displaced people said that some officials in Sinai advised them to immigrate because the state cannot secure their lives. What made the state authorities, systems, and institutions in the city of Ismailia seem worse is that they were completely unable to provide decent living conditions for the displaced people.

These authorities did not move until their image was destroyed by public opinion. The official authority kept diminishing the suffering and intimidation that the Christians have experienced and kept denying that the security conditions are the reason behind their migration, which is against their will, despite President Al-Sisi’s announcements in subsequent statements that he will work on returning the Christians to their homes once security and stability return to the areas from where they were forced to leave.

In general, we can say that the slaughter of Christians and their forced displacement seemed shocking to public opinion, and the public opinion of Christians in particular, which earlier expressed the readiness to accept the tyranny and also hunger, for security.

The supporters of the authorities did not only deny this—seeming illogical to a great extent—but they preferred to describe the attack on Christians as retaliation for a great victory achieved by the armed forces after an international conspiracy has taken place in Sinai.

This revenge is an attempt by the conspirators to survive after being narrowed down and completely crushed. How did that happen?

The story that has been shared on social media pages carried the name of a person that claimed to be a colonel in the Egyptian armed forces, saying that the armed forces have succeeded in gaining control over Jabal Halal in the centre of Sinai.

According to the narrator, entering and controlling this mountain was impossible due to its rugged nature. The narrator confirmed that the mountain is a terrorist haven and the management centre of the criminal acts that are logistically supported by neighbouring countries and evil countries, led by England and America. The story confirmed that the armed forces found sophisticated weapons, operated by satellites, along with a very complicated financial network and documents that condemn local and international people and intelligence agencies of friendly and hostile countries. The documents reveal that sleeper cells operate secretly to provide terrorists with information or to receive remittances.

Egyptian figures, businessmen, and foreign investors are allegedly involved in these cells. Finally, the narrator says that it is an international scheme to unite the world against Egypt and demand the imposition of the protection Copts in North Sinai under the pretext of being targeted by terrorists, describing the matter as the inability of Egypt to protect them, therefore requiring their relocation to safer areas.

He added that they found documents, including names, positions, and locations of the conspirators, and thereby ruined their scheme, so that the traitors now claim responsibility for the forced displacement of the Copts. The story described the battle of Jabal Halal as a special military battle in modern times.

The armed forces obtained $600bn and detained intelligence officers from different nationalities, according to the story. The story of arresting intelligence officers from different nationalities was interpreted by supporters of the authorities on social media as being in context with the secret visit of the king of Jordan and the German chancellor in the same week to Cairo, where he stressed that these officers belong to several countries including Israel, England, Qatar, Turkey, America, Jordan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia, as well as to the Hamas.

The German chancellor and the king of Jordan allegedly came to Cairo to receive the officers. Other pages supporting authorities confirm that the forced displacement of Christians is to keep them safe from being targeted by an international scheme, while the traitors are working on displacing them from their areas in order to provoke the international community.

Dear reader, the list of conspirators not only includes international authorities, but also foreign businessmen and investors, along with the Egyptian figures, all of which mean that there are signs that any Egyptian figure or businessman or foreign investor is susceptible to being accused of being part of the conspiracy.

The displacement of Copts is either a lie or a claim to say that Egypt is unable to protect them, or it is a precautionary measure undertaken by the authorities to protect them. In both cases, there is a denial of the deterioration of the security situation resulting in the forced displacement. This in turn confirms that there was a conspiracy that promoted the lie that there is already a security problem or that Christians were to be harmed.

While the truth is that the displacement prevented this harm, the two stories also affirm that there are a lot of conspiring states, that the manoeuvre was aborted, that the full victory has been achieved, and that officers of these countries are in our grasp.

I think that the story of Jabal Halal is an explicit model about how to turn defeats into victories through the use of conspiracy theories in order to continue confiscating political life by using the slogan “No voice is louder than the voice of the battle”.

Whenever you look back in the history of Egypt you will find many examples about how we have been turning defeats into victories, but the battle of Jabal Halal seems much smaller than the other battles, but it expresses a lot more crudeness.

Victory in such cases has been ambiguous and sees many interpretations: whether it is a defeat or half a defeat or a setback or a great victory, but this time things are clearer and are not based on any logic.

Finally, I should mention that the official authorities did tell—or promote—these stories about the battle of Jabal Halal, and thus they are not responsible for these narratives. The story since its beginning is told by someone who wrote his trio name claiming that he was a colonel in the Egyptian army. Even if this person—who we do not know if he was an officer in the army or not—wrote a story that the army considers incorrect, the army could have denied it through official channels. We can’t believe that this story has been told by a person who belongs to the Egyptian armed forces. This means that the story is supported by the authorities whether directly or indirectly, which is so dangerous and negatively impacts the reputation of the Egyptian administration to the danger before the world.

It also impacts our good relations with countries such Germany and Jordan. Such stories will make the Egyptian public doubt the credibility of the Egyptian army due to its illogical methods. I believe that our armed forces must deny these stories as it harms its reputation, which is contrary to what people think—those who are claiming that such victories will be a source of assurance and will gather the Egyptian people around the Egyptian army.

This is can be described as the bear that killed its friend.

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Opinion: car manufacturing strategy and personal interests http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/11/621621/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/11/621621/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 06:00:18 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=621621 Over the past few weeks, the future of the Egyptian car manufacturing strategy, or in other words the “car law,” has returned to be amongst the hot topics after the crisis that occurred to this project during Angela Merkel’s visit. She announced her dissatisfaction of the project, which was accompanied by a letter from the …

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Over the past few weeks, the future of the Egyptian car manufacturing strategy, or in other words the “car law,” has returned to be amongst the hot topics after the crisis that occurred to this project during Angela Merkel’s visit. She announced her dissatisfaction of the project, which was accompanied by a letter from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, where their rejection of the project was also revealed. They demanded changing more than six items.

Despite the assurances of the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) and the parliament to reconsider all the items of the strategy, what takes place in reality is very unfortunate.

There are secret meetings, blocs, parties, and conflicts to impose opinions. Unfortunately, everybody overtly declares that they are looking for their own interest despite the criticality of the current economic conditions in Egypt.  It does not matter who makes it or does not make it out of the trap.

We must give up on our own personal interests during this difficult time. For five years now we have been talking about the strategy of car manufacturing and not a single positive step was taken.

Unfortunately, over the past period, three coalitions appeared. One of them demanded speeding up the issuance of the strategy regardless of its items, where they could be changed later. Another one of the demands is stopping the tempering and going back to reconsidering the entire issue, while the third coalition is one of interests.

It does not make sense for this to happen in Egypt, which is the largest market in the region and the focus of foreign companies trying hard to increase their investments in the country. How long will this climate of distrust and imposing opinions continue at the expense of the country’s interest?

During the third session of Egypt Automotive, several global companies were invited. I personally was not expecting anyone to attend; however, several prominent companies did. They included Volkswagen, Peugeot, Citroen, Ford, and others. They have tried to understand the nature of the market in order to increase the volume of their investments in Egypt, in addition to the coalitions they are forming with companies to supply production needs in order to import from Egypt.

Several global companies have entered into initial negotiations with respectable companies in Egypt with a history of distinct works in producing car parts with the goal of exporting them. However, what happened in reality four months after the visit?

Unfortunately, a state of desperation has taken over these companies which are still waiting for the legal framework of investment in Egypt and the incentives they should be receiving. The companies’ representatives from Egyptian companies do not know how the law will end up. In the end, this will only contribute to the creation of the negative impression global companies have about the Egyptian market.

In other words, this simply means we reject foreign investment, even with our immense need for increasing the flow of direct foreign investment as one of the most important sources of foreign currency, only due to our inability to make a unified decision without looking at personal interests.

We are not inventing something new. Several countries around us have already set a legal framework for investments as well as incentives in the sector of cars with fierce competition to attract huge investments injected by global companies in the sector of cars. Our lack of keeping up with the world has led to us being at the very bottom of the list of countries developed in the car trade and manufacturing.

Efforts must be unified. A government intervention is necessary in the face of this crisis. A clear roadmap for the car market must be employed if we really seek to increase production and exports.

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A Story of Courage, Creativity and Survival http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/09/story-courage-creativity-survival/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/09/story-courage-creativity-survival/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 11:00:37 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=621369 In 1939, the relentless Nazi bombardment of Warsaw destroyed the city’s zoo. What the Nazis didn’t know, however, is that what they had destroyed was not an ordinary zoo, but the extraordinary creation of an unusual Christian Polish couple, Jan and Antonina Zabinski. Thanks to them and their son Ryszard’s efforts, approximately 300 Jewish women, …

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In 1939, the relentless Nazi bombardment of Warsaw destroyed the city’s zoo. What the Nazis didn’t know, however, is that what they had destroyed was not an ordinary zoo, but the extraordinary creation of an unusual Christian Polish couple, Jan and Antonina Zabinski. Thanks to them and their son Ryszard’s efforts, approximately 300 Jewish women, men, and children were saved from certain death.

They were able to do it because, at different times, the zoo and the Zabinski’s home hid dozens of Jewish women, children, and men from Nazi persecution. They hid them in their home’s closets, rooms, and even in the animals’ old cages in the zoo. All while trying to maintain a normal life in very abnormal times; times of cruelty and ruthless persecution.

Jan and Antonina were a married Christian couple from Warsaw. Jan was a zoologist and zoo technician, and also a scientist, organiser, and director of the renowned Warsaw Zoo before and during World War II. He became the director of the zoo before the war broke out, and during the occupation of Poland, he held the prestigious job as superintendent of the city’s public parks.

During all that time, Antonina Zabinski and her young son Ryszard looked after the needs of the many Jews hidden in their home. Although Jan Zabinski initially paid with his own funds to feed and hide his new guests, he was later helped by Zegota (Council Aid to the Jews.) After the Nazi bombing of the zoo, Jan joined the Polish resistance, while at the same time teaching biology at an underground university. He would also bring food into the Warsaw Ghetto and use the zoo to hide arms for the resistance. A true war hero, Jan also built bombs, sabotaged trains, and poisoned meat sent to the Germans.

To hide these activities, Antonina tried to show a brave face, inviting guests, holding receptions at their home, and trying to show to the world outside a normal face even though the three of them were under the constant threat of being found out and, if so, of probable torture and death.

Both Jan and Antonina were quite different from each other. While he was a courageous risk-taker who had befriended many Jews, Antonina was often fearful, and it was her connection to the animal world that they kept in the zoo that made her aware of other beings’ suffering.

An orphan since she was nine, Antonina was a cultured woman who spoke several languages and loved animals. After marrying Jan in 1931, she raised animals in their own home, among them orphaned lynx and lion cubs. When her husband, Jan, smuggled Jews out of the ghetto where they were living, she also adopted them and brought them to their home.

The Zabinskys went through some grueling times when all this was happening. Lutz Heck, a German zoologist who took most of their animals from their zoo to the Berlin zoo decided one day to ingratiate himself with his Nazi friends and SS higher-ups. So he invited them to a private hunting party, this time in the Warsaw zoo.

When Heck and the Nazi officers arrived at the zoo wielding pistols, Antonina took her terrified son and ran indoors. From her son’s room they could see through the drawn curtains the carnage of animals taking place outside. That “sheer gratuitous slaughter” made her wonder how many human beings would later lose their lives that same cruel way.

In 1944, Jan participated in the Warsaw Uprising to liberate the city from the German forces. He was injured and became a prisoner of war. Two years later, he returned to Warsaw from the prisoner of war camp where he had been held after his arrest by the Germans.

Soon afterwards, the Zabinkis started the difficult process of rebuilding their zoo. Antonina also wrote several children’s books, all of which feature animals in the story. Before Jan died in 1971, he spoke admiringly about his wife and told a reporter how a “timid housewife” had found the strength to face brutality and hatred.

Can it surprise anybody that a movie was made of the Zabinski’s lives and that they were recognised by the State of Israel as the Polish Righteous Among the Nations for their heroic rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in occupied Poland?

Dr. Cesar Chelala is an international public health consultant and a winner of several journalism awards.

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The 1952 family and conspiracy theory (2-3) http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/09/621367/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/09/621367/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 10:00:43 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=621367 I am wondering how the conspiracy theory is used against Egypt? In other words: why do some sides promote this theory? And against whom? We tried in the previous article to highlight one of the reasons of the use of conspiracy theories to justify the criticism against authorities in Egypt due to human rights violations. …

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I am wondering how the conspiracy theory is used against Egypt? In other words: why do some sides promote this theory? And against whom?

We tried in the previous article to highlight one of the reasons of the use of conspiracy theories to justify the criticism against authorities in Egypt due to human rights violations. For example, when the authorities deny the existence of violations, rumours start to circulate about conspiracies against Egypt. In this article, we will try to present other uses of the conspiracy theory.

Initially, this theory was always used to justify failure, defeat, or inability. For example, we hear that Egypt cannot restore tourism because of conspiracies against Egypt. The world’s public opinion also speaks about human rights violations in Egypt because of this conspiracy against Egypt. Similarly, the price of the Egyptian pound is declining against the dollar because of the same conspiracy. Therefore, conspiracies were always blamed for all of Egypt’s problems, whether they resulted from wrong policies or incapability. Strangely, the authorities do not announce the parties of the conspiracy and do not face them. The talk about the conspiracy remains limited to the regime supporters in media outlets and social media, while those in power shroud themselves in silence and in vague insinuations. So the direct and explicit confrontation of the conspiracy’s parties is not possible for unknown reasons. Some people cite the hiding of conspirators to a deep and complex political wisdom, while regime supporters assert that their trust in the president motivates them to understand the reasons of hiding these conspirators.

The question is: what can we do in this regard?

If the reason for the Egyptian economic crisis lies in the conspiracy plotted by Qatar, Turkey, and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to decrease the value of the Egyptian pound, what can we do? If the Egyptian state cannot announce this plot and confront these conspirators directly, whether through diplomacy or media, what can we do?

During the youth conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, President Al-Sisi answered this question. ِAmid the debate between speakers and audience of the conference over the causes and solutions of the economic crisis, the president said that “his refrigerator” remained empty except for water for ten years without complaining. This story seemed unrelated to the ongoing debate, and the president was criticised for it. I believe the president’s story was related to the topic, because the president knows that the real reasons for the economic crisis are different than the reasons explained by the speakers. There are two possible reasons: that God cursed Egypt—as the MB believes—or that a conspiracy, which cannot be revealed or faced, is in place and the only solution would be patience, just as the president did when his refrigerator was empty for ten years except for water.

The debate on the causes of the crisis means that there is a problem which can be solved. It also means that a certain official should be held accountable for this problem. All these things are not even possible. The economic crisis can be summarised as follows: the crisis was caused by a plot, and we should endure hunger for long years until the problem is solved whenever God wills.

The conspiracy theory is usually linked with the slogan “no sound is louder than the sound of the battle,” because the purpose of talking about the conspiracy does not only justify the crisis, but also aims to prevent any opposition. But why? Because there is a battle which requires the people to cooperate and postpone any democratic policies, as there is no time for such things in an ongoing war.

So the interruption of political life is the reason for promoting the conspiracy theory. The plot is considered a battle, but not a real battle on the ground. It becomes necessary to talk about it as an invisible war. To cut a long story short, the details of the plot are mysterious, so the battle occurs in secret, or at least a major part of this battle is taking place in secret, so that the slogan “no sound is louder than the sound of battle” retains its importance, and democracy will be delayed until we win this battle—God willing.

The real current battle is the fight against terrorism to avoid the fate of Syria. This battle is clear and happens on the ground. We cannot describe it as artificial battle, as some supporters or sympathisers of the MB claim. We really face terrorism and extremism in our country—a battle waged by a few groups of terrorists with the support of some members of the Islamic political current. They perhaps receive political support from other parties within the community for different reasons. Additionally, the policies and procedures followed by the state authorities in its management of this battle practically support these terrorist groups. Ironically, these are always presented under the slogan “no sound is louder than the sound of battle,” because this concept prohibits and criminalises any collective work to confront terrorism and extremism, and limits it to the military solution.  It is known to everyone that the community was the main factor in the ouster of the MB. These forces included civil society organisations, parties, media, and peaceful protests. Thanks to this comprehensive confrontation, the state was able to achieve a real victory in the fight against terrorism and extremism on 30 June 2013. On the contrary, we can monitor many acts taken by the state that contributed to the support of the terrorism and extremism, including the imprisonment of Islam El-Behery and Ahmed Nagy.

The size and limits of the battle have clearly decreased on the ground for the normal citizen. If we excluded what is happening in Sinai, the explosions which used to hit important and densely populated areas in many cities have decreased considerably. Generally, we can say that the people take the battle against terrorism seriously only if a bomb exploded in a church or a checkpoint in Cairo or any major city. However, we can no longer say that the fight against terrorism justifies the postponement of democracy. The current security situation in Egypt, except in the Sinai, no longer justifies the control of security agencies over the general scene. The public opinion, mainly formed by the middle class, does not feel any threat of terrorism, unless its direct interests or children are affected. The general security situation requires the state authorities to admit that the situation in Sinai is unsafe and unstable. If the authorities said so, they would open the door for the opposition to say that Al-Sisi could not accomplish what he promised. Since 3 July, the president has built his legitimacy on providing security, and did not promise to achieve economic growth or political freedom. So when the terrorist attacks in Sinai continue, leaving dozens and hundreds of members of the armed forces killed or injured, state authorities will seem weak and confused.

The conspiracy theory seems to be the perfect solution to the problem, as it will deny the fact that there is security deterioration on the ground, and make us believe that the real battle occurs in secret against conspirators. This scenario grants state authorities several advantages, because the terrorist attacks, which killed dozens of soldiers, could be described as revenge acts in response to the state’s victories in the real battle. The question is: where and when do these victories happen?! We are talking about the big battles which occur in secret against the conspirators.

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The three messages of the US strike on Syria http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/08/three-messages-us-strike-syria/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/08/three-messages-us-strike-syria/#respond Sat, 08 Apr 2017 18:30:05 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=621365 The chemical bombing of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria was a golden opportunity for Trump’s administration to convey three messages. The first message is an internal one: the US president was like a bad machine—talks much, does little. He only fulfilled a small part of his internal agenda. What he did was so little that some …

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The chemical bombing of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria was a golden opportunity for Trump’s administration to convey three messages.

The first message is an internal one: the US president was like a bad machine—talks much, does little. He only fulfilled a small part of his internal agenda. What he did was so little that some said he is following the footsteps of another US president, Herbert Hoover, known for his great speeches and hesitant acts.

This was an opportunity for Trump to tell the world he is a man of decisions and that his ability to steal the show does not mean he cannot make decisive decisions.

Trump’s approval rates were falling back, reaching as low as 35%. There is nothing better than foreign adventures to appeal to human feelings. This was the popular reading in America after the flood of photos and videos showing the impact on Khan Sheikhoun. This, along with national interests, is the key to gather hesitant citizens and frustrated Americans behind their national institutions and their president.

I expect his approval rates to go up in the coming few days.

The second message is to Russia: Trump’s administration is telling Vladimir Putin that America is there and that Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” during the election campaign would make the country impose its presence.

If Obama was hesitant after the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan that he inherited from George W. Bush—as well as the situations in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, in which he seemed clueless—Trump will not follow suit, but would rather use its strong army and effective political will.

Yet, Trump’s administration does not want to make the strike a prelude to a diplomatic or military confrontation with Russia. Hence, the US state department explained that this strike is not part of an extended confrontation.

The third message is to US’s allies: Washington’s allies considered Trump’s tenure to be the return to the principle of the Monroe Doctrine, which is based on America’s isolation and in its self-sufficiency. This divided the US allies into two teams.

Some allies fear this idea, as it means that Washington will tone down its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which is the core of Europe’s security. This would also mean that they will have to face the liberal world order and its democratic impact on politics and capitalist effects on the economy.

For instance, all German politicians, including Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, believe Trump’s move deviated from the traditional American moves that made the world less fascist with less communism. Merkel did not hide her support for Hillary Clinton, or any other candidate but Trump, out of fear of his personal orientations that do not fit within any known ideological format. However, she might now do the same thing Winston Churchill did when he “danced with joy” after learning that Germany sank a US warship in 1944, which brought the US into the war against Germany, thus saving England from an unbalanced confrontation with the Nazi army [Editor’s note: the US entered World War 2 in 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor]. Now the US is entering a state of military chaos. The country will be required to make clear stands on the issues that a divided Europe cannot bear alone. Merkel and many European politicians will dance. Those politicians were fearful the strategic vacuum that would have been left by America would put everything in the hands of Russia.

This is why Europe, Japan, Australia, Turkey, and the Gulf States all supported the US strike—though vigilantly—as it gave them hope that disposing Bashar al-Assad is still on the White House agenda.

On the other hand, many right-wing politicians welcomed US isolation under Trump. They were caught by surprise when the strike took place. For instance, the French president supported the strike but stressed that it must be within the framework of the United Nations—hence, supporting the strike, but condemning it at the same time. Right-wing candidate Marie Le Pen was one of Trump’s isolation-slogan fans, but she was hesitant commenting on the US strike. “It would have been no problem if we waited to see the results of investigations first,” she said.

Fourth message: What benefit is there for us, the Arabs?

Nothing! We went in different directions when we took different stands. The fate of Syria is yet to be determined by the decisions that will be taken away from the will of its people, and in non-Arab capitals.

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Renewable energy & socioeconomic changes http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/05/620992/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/05/620992/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 07:30:56 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=620992 Stepping into the era of renewable energy (RE) will bring forth big socioeconomic changes all over the world. It will introduce a new industry and new means of living to all sorts of people. Those having vocal skills will work on the projects, operations, and all supported industries, such as agriculture and transportation. But the …

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Stepping into the era of renewable energy (RE) will bring forth big socioeconomic changes all over the world. It will introduce a new industry and new means of living to all sorts of people. Those having vocal skills will work on the projects, operations, and all supported industries, such as agriculture and transportation.

But the high impact will be on the normal citizens, from whom governments will buy their energy.

Inhabitants and households could install solar panels on their roofs—or with the advanced silicon film solar panels, they can install them on their glass windows and start to generate power that could be saved on batteries and fed into the national grid. Governments will be most willingly to buy this extra clean energy at good prices all year.

These small setups are actually small solar farms which are accumulated to generate a high rate of power output that could be transferred to any part of the world through international electric grids.

So a small house in Egypt’s Sinai can generate electricity that could light a house in Siberia. This small cell of power generation could generate a humongous amount of clean and cheap energy. Besides that, it could be a mean of decent living and a source of revenue for many people from all classes.

In Germany there are full solar roof top communities .These communities achieve the power generation of a huge solar station. Now, the generation of power is decentralised and localised, with no need to connect to far central stations through cables and transformers; houses are directly plugged in to their own power generation on the roof top.

Houses export the excess power through the grid to various areas which need this excess power.

The oil market became very volatile and vulnerable because of political conflicts. Nations that are poor of fossil fuel energy are always at the mercy of OPEC countries. In other words, some nations cannot live without OPEC countries, and history has shown us how OPEC countries can use this wealth against other nations and control the market.

In order to achieve energy security, nations have to depend on their natural RE resources, which are available everywhere.

Sun, wind, biomass, and hydroelectricity are there and can generate enough power for any nation that has the will to dedicate the necessary resources.

This security will provide nations with political security as well because they can make their own decisions and choices without any outside threats or manipulations.

Eng. Hisham Farouk Mostafa is a M.Sc. of Green & Renewable Energy, Atlantic University, USA

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Jabal Al-Halal: the old stronghold of terrorism http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/03/620834/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/03/620834/#respond Mon, 03 Apr 2017 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=620834 I have numerous memories that date back to the end of the 1990s in Jabal Al-Halal, located 60 kilometres south of Al-Arish. We visited the mountain a few days ago after the elimination of terrorists who used to take shelter in it until mid-February. It was named “Halal” because of the camels and sheep that …

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I have numerous memories that date back to the end of the 1990s in Jabal Al-Halal, located 60 kilometres south of Al-Arish. We visited the mountain a few days ago after the elimination of terrorists who used to take shelter in it until mid-February. It was named “Halal” because of the camels and sheep that used to graze in the pastures surrounding the mountain.

I spent my military service near this mountain in the middle of Sinai, where we heard many stories about it. It was known to everyone that climbing this 1,000-metre-high mountain is very dangerous because of its extremely steep slopes and because of its rugged terrain that makes it difficult for anyone, but the experienced locals, to climb it.

Jabal Al-Halal is mainly inhabited by the Tarabin and Tiyaha tribes, who know all its paths and routes by heart and who live in huts by the mountain or in the mountain’s caves.

The initial terrorist linkage of Jabal Al-Halal

After I completed my military service and started working in the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, which I co-founded, I heard again about this mountain, as it was linked to terrorist acts that targeted Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh in 2004 and 2005. Egyptian security forces raided Jabal Al-Halal for several months using helicopters, hundreds of soldiers, and heavy weapons to eliminate the terrorist elements hiding in it—it was then when myths spread about the difficulty of controlling it.

In 2012, the armed forces attacked the mountain again after the Rafah Massacre, which occurred in Ramadan, amid a wide military operation called “Eagle.” It was said that hundreds of militants were hiding there with their weapons and equipment.

The elimination of terrorists at the mountain

A few days ago, I was invited by the Department of Morale Affairs, affiliated to the armed forces, to participate in a visit to the highest point of Jabal Al-Halal, in the presence of a number of law-enforcement forces. I listened to the Egyptian soldiers, who spoke of their experience in confronting terrorists in the paths and caves of the mountain. The mount became a tourist attraction since the military operations ended the presence of terrorists at the beginning of March.

During our ride from Cairo to the Third Field Army headquarters, we talked with the Morale Affairs Department’s members, who spoke to us about the military operations carried out to take control over the mountain, as well as the importance of this step on the security and political level of Sinai. We stressed the importance of community support and solidarity with the army in the face of terrorist elements, as well as drying up the resources of terrorism and confronting the extreme thought with moderate Islamic ones. The officers asked us to deliver the accurate image of the situation in Jabal Al-Halal. They welcomed to answer any question about the military operation in the mountain. We asked them many questions, and they answered and explained the situation clearly.

It was not difficult for us to see the impact of the success of these military operations on the spirit of everyone at the third field army headquarters, where we were received by a number of military leaders who spoke about the importance of what happened in Jabal Al-Halal. They told us all about the huge efforts exerted by our fighters in the face of terrorism.

They added that terrorists could not confront our troops and that they no longer can target the military’s checkpoints in Sinai, pointing out that they used to target isolated checkpoints, but the army managed to avoid such mistakes.

Dealing with captives

The officers told us that arrested terrorists always deny their crimes, noting that they are different than Bedouins in terms of morals and beliefs. The military officers asserted that the military does not target the militant’s women and children. Actually, the army offers in-kind aid for these families, despite the army’s belief that the children who grow up at the hands of terrorists will not turn out to become good people. The officers added that, during the siege of Jabal Al-Halal, they monitored several calls between militants, which showed the decline of the militants’ morals. They added that injured militants are usually left by their colleagues to die.

The army said that more than 90% of the mountains in Sinai were completely cleared of terrorist elements, even though they may return or recruit new elements by brainwashing them or paying them money.

On the other hand, the army regularly contacts the families of martyrs and the wounded to check on their situation and provide them with the needs they require.

Major general Mohamed Raafat El-Dosh spoke about the details of Jabal Al-Halal’s military operation, noting that there is no unified plan for fighting the terrorists in Sinai.

He said that the first stage of the operations included the gathering of information about the militants’ hideouts inside the mountain, adding that Sinai’s Bedouins provided the military with enough information to control the mountain.

El-Dosh further added that the armed forces then deployed troops at several areas 5-8 km from the mountain to close all roads leading to and from the mountain. This siege was not noticed by terrorists—a move that contributed to cutting the supplies sent to the militants, resulting in arresting many of them. This siege lasted for four days.

He added that the army imposed a closer siege that lasted for six days at temperatures close to zero in mid-February. El-Dosh said that the militants were surprised and that they began to flee from the mountain. The army managed to arrest most of these, while the rest were ambushed.

Afterwards, the intrusion operations started, where nine battalions surrounded the mountain. Each group was responsible for a certain area, where they scanned it and arrested anyone who surrendered without resistance. The orders were clear: whoever points a weapon at our forces gets killed immediately.

The commander of the third field army said that the “Takfiri” elements soon realised that there is no way to escape, so they booby-trapped motorcycles and four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, the military was able to discover the booby traps and prevent them from exploding.

“We discovered places in which modern Toyota cars and motorcycles were stored, in addition to 24 caves in the mountain so that militants could hide during aerial attacks. Eight more caverns and two shooting fields, in addition to models to simulate the ambushes on the military, were discovered—in addition to a great stock of spare car parts, weapons, ammo, and materials used to prepare explosives,” the commander explained.

He added that cars mounted with guns were found, but those were seized by the forces. Uniforms with badges that read “Sinai Province” were found.

The commander explained that the criminal elements thought that the higher they went up the mountain, the harder it would be for our forces to follow them; however, the military has scanned each inch. The operation resulted in the killing of 18 terrorists and the arrest of 31 others. The forces have also eliminated large acres where narcotic plants were cultivated.

The commander told stories of fighters from the military who refused to return to the headquarters despite sustaining injuries. In fact, some of them did not even feel their injuries amid the clashes. Cooperation between field army forces will continue until Sinai is cleared of terrorists, according to the commander.

Our trip from the headquarters of the third field army to Jabal Al-Halal took several hours. We were in the company of several combat officers who explained how operations are done and how high the fighting spirits of the soldiers were. What caught my attention the most was the great technological ability that Egypt has to detect illegal positions and the identities of anyone who crossed the Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel from the west to the east of the Suez Canal.

Checkpoints were numerous and very strict, but that did not affect the flow of traffic. The forces, whether from the police or army, were always alert.

Training is continuously carried out to prepare all soldiers to use all types of weapons and to improve their fighting skills, which has resulted in the great damage to terrorists.

The commander said that soldiers are now trained to use other weapons in case they lost their machine gun, such as the pistol or a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

He revealed that all the vehicles that cross from the west to the east of the Suez Canal pass through an X-ray device.

Soon, the talk with the commander took a humane side. He revealed that he has a son and daughter who are both less than nine years old; however, he said that he does not get to see them often because of the irregular dates of holidays. He stressed that soldiers take longer holidays today than they did before. Because he lives on the ground of the confrontations with terrorism, he took us back to the talk about clearing Jabal Al-Halal. He said it took 16 days that involved several sieges, followed by attacks, scans, and clearing the mountain.

Our cars stopped at a point near the mountain. There, we boarded armoured cars and headed to the mountain, which we were curious about the whole time during out trip.

We were received by several fighters, whose features we could not recognized but whose spirits we were able to feel after they had eliminated the remnants of terror from the mountain. The groups’ leader started talking to us, saying “the good in the mountain was brought back again. The citizens of Sinai can now return with their sheep to the mountain all they want.”

The leader of the fight groups explained the siege and attack operations, saying all paths leading up to the mountain were closed, where no one and nothing could come in or out. After the terror elements were drained, physically and mentally, they were eliminated. Large amounts of explosives were found afterwards.

He concluded by saying that fighters receive constant calls from the commander-in-chief, the staff chief, and leaders of weapons and armies to check on them and improve their spirits, which helps them accomplish the mission.

The trip was filled with stories about fighters who were injured and others who died. They told us about a fighter who was injured and refused to leave his position unless he killed the group he was attacking. Another refused to let go of his weapon and continued to fight until he returned. The mother of another fighter passed away while he was in the operation, and he refused to receive condolences until after the end of the operations.

They told us a story about a soldier whose right hand was injured, so he decided to train using his left hand to continue carrying a weapon. Another one had lost the fingers of his right hand and refused to leave the army services until after the completion of the operations in Sinai.

They have stressed that the fame of Jabal Al-Halal has exaggerated things even though there are many other mountains that are far more dangerous and that were cleared from terror elements but were unheard of. Through the help of our escorts, we were able to obtain more information about the operations carried out in Jabal Al-Halal and the nature of the mountain, as well as the upcoming steps to completely clear Sinai from all terrorism.

We returned by night, but we had no  fear, thanks to the safety of Sinai that has been maintained with the efforts of the fighters, making Sinai return to being a safe homeland that can result in a huge economic transition for Egypt in the near future.

 

Photos Army Handout

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The 1952 family and conspiracy theory (1-3) http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/02/620647/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/02/620647/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 11:00:06 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=620647 The talk about conspiracy is not new. For decades, all the rulers of the 1952 school of thinking talked about conspiracy. Sometimes it was an imperial plot, sometimes it was a communist one. The funny thing about conspiracies is that supporters of the regime believe that conspiracies have expanded over the past years to include …

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The talk about conspiracy is not new. For decades, all the rulers of the 1952 school of thinking talked about conspiracy. Sometimes it was an imperial plot, sometimes it was a communist one.

The funny thing about conspiracies is that supporters of the regime believe that conspiracies have expanded over the past years to include several parties, ranging from the Islamic State (IS) to Germany, all the way through Qatar, Israel, Turkey, the US, Britain, Russia, and Italy.

The talk about conspiracies, however, does not address all the aggressive practices undertaken by the government, but rather implies that Egypt is attacked by non-government parties so that supporters of the regime can freely discuss those issues on satellite channels and newspapers. Let us ask a question in order to correctly address this: why do some governments and media channels across different countries conspire against us?

This question has been persistent for many years, and it points to the political authority as people know that the suspected attack is not directed towards Egyptians as a people. It is not racist and does not discriminate against Egyptians, believing they are not eligible for democracy. On the contrary, those who believe there is a conspiracy against Egypt are actually those who look down on Egyptians.

A large number of those taking part in the alleged “attack on Egypt” stress that they criticise some measures and practices by the government, which supposedly reflects their deep appreciation for Egyptians. Now, regardless of this, and regardless of the fact that the used expression—“attack”—is incorrect, we will try, throughout the next few lines, to accurately answer a question deemed to be important by the loyalists of the political leadership “why do some countries and media from other countries conspire against Egypt and attack us?”

Again, the official answer is “yes, there is a conspiracy on Egypt.” However, it is important for the parties who believe in this conspiracy to answer this question and prove its existence.

If you look at the answer to the question carefully, without falling for the trap of long discussions about the details of this conspiracy, you will quickly realise that the answer to the question is pointless.

If the parties involved in the so-called conspiracy, as well as its goals, were determined, the answer to the question would not really provide a realistic clear explanation. This makes it necessary to ask another question directly, and that question would be: “why is there a conspiracy on Egypt?”

We can answer this question even with just a small degree of logical thinking. We have actually sought to answer the following question: “does Egypt, or its government, represent a threat to other countries or entities in the region? Is Egypt adopting a state of aggression to any of those countries who are supposedly conspiring against it?” And what are these countries and entities anyway?

If the answer was “yes, Egypt is a threat to other countries,” we could at least be more familiar with the nature of conspirators, their identities, and their motives—and, therefore, understand their goals. However, the stories told by supporters of the state authority have different starting points. Some of them begin with identifying conspirators first, then try to understand their motives later. The stories told by these supporters differ in terms of the nature of these supporters and their identities as well.

Generally, the US, Britain, Israel, and the west as a whole, are among the conspirators, in addition to Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Russia. Focusing on any of these countries is directly related to the criticism made by them towards the political authority in Egypt.

The authority in Egypt does not assume that there is a distance or difference between the authority of a country, its press, its political parties, or its NGOs. It considers any criticism by a TV channel, a political figure, or the government, as criticism made by the entire country towards Egypt. This is why once such criticisms are made public, supporters of the Egyptian regime rush to explain the nature of the conspiracy planned by that given country—Italy, for example.

It is noteworthy to state that there is proof of a strong relationship at all levels, whether economic, diplomatic, or political, between Egypt and Italy. It was, however, something not usually taken into consideration, when the mother of Giulio Regeni, the young man who was tortured and killed in Cairo, made a statement accusing security forces in Egypt of being involved in his killing.

To the supporters of the authority, the conspiracy is large and aims to sabotage Egypt one way or another, hence, the conspiring parties are not many, but appear to be vague and unidentified. In other words, the list of the conspiring countries is vague enough to be open and subject to more additions based on the circumstances. This resulted in the expansion of the conspiring parties recently in a way that caused great confusion.

For example, while all evidence shows that the relations between the Egyptian and Russian governments are good, some still think that Russians are part of the conspiracy. However, when criticism comes from, say, an Emirati figure, supporters of the regime keep quiet and ignore the criticism.

The parties of the conspiracy appear to be varied and continuously changing. Moreover, the goals of this conspiracy are vague and unclear, but they all agree on one goal, which is, of course, overthrowing Egypt or—more specifically—overthrowing the “ruling regime.”

In order for the idea of overthrowing an authority to be scary and looked down upon, it must be related to the idea of a foreign power trying to establish control over Egypt, which again stresses that the conspiracy is lead by the West, according to the same supporters of the regime. Some claim it is in the favour of Iran and some think it is in the favour of both the West and Iran.

The accurate reading of the parties of the conspiracy and its aims change based on which “strategic expert” is speaking or even the orientation of the figure or group supporting the regime with their statements. If this person is of “leftist-nationalist” convictions and decided to support the current regime in Egypt, he will try to prove that the conspiracy against the political authority is imperial, colonialist, and Zionist, and aims to enforce control over the political decision-making process. The conspiracy, in that case, would include the US, Britain, Italy, and Israel. A “strategic expert” adopting this belief system will work hard to avoid considering the good relations between Egypt and the US, dodging around the fact that the American leadership is granting Egypt’s armed forces the second-largest military aid in its budget—only second to Israel.

This strategic expert certainly will not see the description of the Egyptian-Israeli relations in Israeli newspapers as “perfect” and “have never been better.”

On the other hand, if the strategic expert is from the right-wing camp, he might think that there is a conspiracy to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back to power or even rebuild the Nasserist system. In this case, the parties involved in the conspiracy may be the brotherhood, Qatar, Turkey, and maybe even Russia.

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Egypt and China, a Bridge Not Too Far: Taha Hussein or Henry Kissinger? http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/02/620648/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/04/02/620648/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 10:00:37 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=620648 A very distinguished Chinese academic, Dr. Wang Jisi, just gave a talk at the American University in Cairo on China’s understanding of the international order (Tahrir Dialogue No. 64 – “Listening to and Looking Towards Asia”, Tahrir Campus, March 29, 2017). Something that came up during his talk was figuring out how Egypt looks at …

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A very distinguished Chinese academic, Dr. Wang Jisi, just gave a talk at the American University in Cairo on China’s understanding of the international order (Tahrir Dialogue No. 64 – “Listening to and Looking Towards Asia”, Tahrir Campus, March 29, 2017). Something that came up during his talk was figuring out how Egypt looks at the international order and how congruent this vision was with Chinese priorities, which were primarily local (domestic stability) and economic (trade, growth, jobs). I am glad to say the other speaker there, the very distinguished Dr. Ahmed Darwish of the Suez Canal Industrial Zone, was indeed very congruent with Chinese interests. Egypt would be part and parcel, God willing, of China’s One Belt, One Road policy of commercial and industrial integration with everything to the west of it. There were, however, other dimensions too that I will address later.

That being said, you could not help but notice the description of Dr. Jisi’s post, as a professor and head of the International Institute and Strategic Studies at ‘Peking’ University. But the capital city is no longer called Peking, but Beijing? Dr. Jisi himself, however, used the proper Chinese phrasing ‘Beijing’ during the Q&A session. Peking is a Western mispronunciation, and putting the word Beijing on the world map is a mark of China’s ability to tip the balance in favour of the developing world.

This may just have been a typo but one ‘suspects’ that Egypt is still looking at the world through foreign and, more specifically, Western-centric eyes. In Egypt, to this day, we do not refer to the English Channel as the English Channel, but use the French term, which nobody uses anywhere, except Francophiles. We also refer to Beijing as Pikeen. You need to look no further than the controversy raised by the legendary Taha Hussein in his classic “The Future of Culture in Egypt” (1938). Contrary to the criticism, Taha Hussein never advocated doing away with Egypt’s Arab identity. Culture here means ‘intellect’, with a focus on education. Instead, he wanted to do away with Egypt’s ‘Eastern’ identity altogether, albeit with the best of intentions, to sustain the liberal democratic foundations of post-independence Egypt—as he understood them.

That is, Greek rationalism, secularism, and the whole notion that modern Egypt was ‘European’ Egypt. He was particularly worried Egypt would return to the dark days of Ottoman imperialism at the behest of reactionary religious clerics at home. Hussein was quite prophetic in this regard, given Erdogan’s own self-professed Islamist ambitions, using the Muslim Brotherhood as a tool in both Syria and Egypt. Still, that is no excuse for obfuscating the facts of history. Egyptians may have nothing in common with the Chinese and Japanese, but that does not make them Westerners either. What is even more disturbing is that Taha Hussein internalised some very brazen Western readings of our history—retrospective myth making—about how ancient Egypt fought the expanding Persian empire, to supposedly stop the onslaught of the East. I’d come across an archaic history book from Britain’s own imperial heyday making the same self-serving claims. Later, Hussein praises the Arabs for taking up both Greek and Persian civilisation.

This is tragic because the West of today, particularly the power brokers and intellectual decision-makers, no longer cling to these outdated ethnocentric illusions. I once watched a former BBC newscaster, during a broadcast about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, praising Iran for being a thousand year-old civilisation still in existence that demanded respect because it could get its way in its Middle Eastern theatre of operations. More relevant still are the views of Henry Kissinger on how to deal with China, extolled in his 2014 book, “World Order”, where he explained that there was no need for a confrontation with Asia, because the word Asia itself is classical Greek (Please see Amitai Etzioni, “Kissinger’s Order”, “The Diplomat,” 16 September, 2014). Asians have never thought of themselves as a single people and have no reason to, so they have no reason to vie with the West—and vice versa.

Wouldn’t you know it; Dr. Jisi himself mentioned Kissinger’s most recent gesticulations on the matter of American-Chinese relations and how the two countries should co-evolve together. In Kissinger-speak, the US could develop a ‘Pacific’ community, on the model of the Atlantic community, and include China in it so that all could benefit instead of polarise the region round American and Chinese alliance systems. This way you could have mutual economic interests and common forums to help settle disputes.

This would mean, in turn, that the very language used to divide up the world should change accordingly. We can only hope this will take root here. Dr. Darwish gave us all hope, noting how Chinese investors were not like their European counterparts, willing to give largesse to delays and other problems on the Egyptian side, taking political relations into consideration. He also phrased the challenges and priorities of economic development in civilizational terms, noting how China had given us all hope because it was a once great civilisation that was now reviving itself. Egypt and the Arabs and Muslims were civilised once and so now have a second shot at being civilised again, if they studied their economic policies and executed them properly.

The New Suez Canal was such an example because it undercut rival plans in the immediate vicinity, without naming names, and was a must in the face of what was happening elsewhere: the Panama Canal expansions, Chinese plans to navigate the North Pole, and a possible new Pacific-Atlantic Canal in Nicaragua. Egypt could also be China’s conduit to the African marketplace because of Egypt’s free trade treaties with African and Arab North African states. ‘Made in Egypt’ means zero customs on the African continent, no matter who actually did the making.

But I’m still worried. I read an article some time ago in a local publication claiming that Egypt and Greece were two peas in a civilizational pod, because Greece’s “no” to the European Union was like Egypt’s “no” to Morsi’s tyrannical rule. Both were heirs to a glorious civilization and so stood up when they felt their independence and dignity were under threat. If Greece was so civilised, how did it fall into debt to begin with, and what has Egypt got to do with Greek civilisation anyway? Taha Hussein again.

I’d hate to replace Taha Hussein with Henry Kissinger, but the ultimate lesson of co-evolution is that you do not need to. Egypt can resist the Islamist lure of Erdogan’s Turkey without cutting itself off from all things Eastern, especially in the economic realm. And then there’s Taha Hussein’s advice on how to fix the educational system, full of even more galling prophecies. Better keep that for later!

Emad El-Din Aysha received his PhD in International Studies from the University of Sheffield in the UK and taught, from 2001, at the American University in Cairo. Since 2003 he has worked in English-language journalism in Egypt, first at The Egyptian Gazette and now as a staff writer with Egypt Oil and Gas.

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Two historical moments in Syria http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/27/two-historical-moments-syria/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/27/two-historical-moments-syria/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619946 The photograph is the image of desolation. In a room that seems to have been devastated by a hurricane, shattered windows and furniture, debris everywhere, and a few torn and winding curtains that remain as mute witnesses to the disaster, a man sitting on his bedroom bed smokes a pipe while listening to a record. …

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The photograph is the image of desolation. In a room that seems to have been devastated by a hurricane, shattered windows and furniture, debris everywhere, and a few torn and winding curtains that remain as mute witnesses to the disaster, a man sitting on his bedroom bed smokes a pipe while listening to a record.

The man sitting there is Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, also called Abu Omar, a 70 year-old man. The place is the al-Shaar neighbourhood in Aleppo, scene of one of the cruellest wars of recent times. His house has just been bombed and Abu Omar refuses to leave it. Instead, he lights his pipe, puts a record on the gramophone—which can work because it is manual—and is lost in his thoughts.

Abu Omar is a collector of vintage cars, most of them inherited from his father. Among them was a 1957 Mercury Montclair, a 1949 Hudson Commodore, a 1958 Chevrolet Apache truck, and a 1948 Buick, all of which would delight any serious collector. All of them, however, are destroyed, a fact which does not intimidate Abu Omar, who promised to repair them.

To a group of journalists, who visited him, Abu Omar said, “I can start from scratch. I am willing to rebuild my house, my factory, even the cars. Nothing will discourage me, destroy me, or make me surrender. You have to keep your head up.”

Paradoxically, the image of desolation conveyed in the photograph is also the image of hope and courage. An old man with all his material possessions destroyed who still wants, in the serenity of his home, to continue listening to his gramophone shows the magical redeeming power of music.

Old Syrians who were born in the 1930s and 1940s still remember the two promising main periods of western democracy the country went though. The first was 1946 to 1949 when the first military coup d’état took place, and the second from 1958 to 1961 when Syria and Egypt hastily created the United Arab Republic, headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser. During both periods, Syria was ruled by democratically elected governments.

Those periods—in addition to a very short period in 1962—were considered golden for the Syrian educated middle class to whom the old man in the photo might have belonged. At those periods, with freedom of speech and the press secured, economy had rapidly been flourishing with increasing GDP, decreasing illiteracy, improving education at all levels, and—what is most important—expanding middle class, the portion of any society leading real development.

Syria was then non-sectarian, much less religiously conservative than now, and women gained most of their rights back then. The second photo shows Shukri al-Quwatli, Syria’s president in the 1950s, with members of the Syrian women federation with the late Mrs. Rima Kurdali Al Azmeh, later president of the “Women’s Cultural Council,” established in1943. The group, where none of the women are veiled, is addressing the president, presumably asking for further equality measures for Syrian women.

 


Cesar Chelala, MD, PhD, is an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and two national journalism awards from Argentina.

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Defeating the Islamic State: A war mired in contradictions http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/27/619943/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/27/619943/#respond Mon, 27 Mar 2017 10:00:38 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619943 US president Donald J. Trump’s vow to defeat what he terms radical Islamic terrorism forces the United States to maneuver the Middle East and North Africa’s murky world of ever shifting alliances and labyrinth of power struggles within power struggles. The pitfalls are complex and multiple. They range from differences within the 68-member anti-Islamic State …

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US president Donald J. Trump’s vow to defeat what he terms radical Islamic terrorism forces the United States to maneuver the Middle East and North Africa’s murky world of ever shifting alliances and labyrinth of power struggles within power struggles.

The pitfalls are complex and multiple. They range from differences within the 68-member anti-Islamic State (IS) alliance over what constitutes terrorism, to diverging political priorities, to varying degrees of willingness to tacitly employ jihadists to pursue geopolitical goals. The pitfalls are most evident in Yemen and Syria and involve two long-standing US allies, NATO ally Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

US secretary of state Rex W. Tillerson travels to Turkey this week as US and Russian troops create separate buffers in Syria to prevent a Turkish assault on the northern town of Manbij. Manbij, located 40 kilometres from the Turkish border, is controlled by Kurdish forces, viewed by the US as a key ground force in the fight with the Islamic State.

Until a series of devastating IS suicide bombings in Turkish cities, Turkish forces appeared to concentrate on weakening the Kurds rather than the jihadists in Syria. Stepped-up Turkish action against IS has not weakened Turkey’s resolve to prevent Kurds from emerging as one of the victors in the Syrian conflict.

At the heart of US-Turkish differences over the Kurds is the age-old-adage that one man’s terrorist is another man’s liberation fighter. The US has a long history of empathy towards Kurdish cultural and national rights and enabled the emergence of a Kurdish state-in-waiting in northern Iraq. The differences also go to an equally large elephant in the room: the question whether Syria, Yemen, and Iraq will survive as nation states in a post-war era.

That may be the real issue at the core of US-Turkish differences.  Many Turks hark back in their suspicion that foreign powers are bent on breaking up the Turkish state to the 1920 Treaty of Sevre that called for a referendum in which Kurds would determine their future.

Visionary Mustafa Kemal Ataturk carved modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire. He mandated a unified Turkish identity that superseded identities of a nation whose population was to a large degree made up of refugees from far flung parts of the former empire and ethnic and religious minorities.

Turkey charges that Syrian Kurdish fighters are aligned with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a Turkish Kurdish group that has been fighting for Kurdish rights for more than three decades and has been designated terrorist by Turkey, the United States, and Europe.

US joint chiefs of staff chairman Joseph Dunford, Russian chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov, and Turkish chief of the general staff Hulusi Abkar met in the southern Turkish city of Antalya in advance of Mr. Tillerson’s visit to lower tensions that threaten planned efforts to capture Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital.

In many ways, the pitfalls are similar in Yemen, where Mr. Trump has stepped up support for Saudi Arabia’s devastating intervention that this month entered its third year and has increased attacks on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), viewed as one of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliates.

It took Al Qaeda attacks inside the kingdom in 2003-4 and jihadist operations since, as well as growing international suggestions of an ideological affinity between Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism and jihadism, for the kingdom to view Islamic militants on par with Iran, which Saudis see as an existential threat.

Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia, despite a litany of denials, has seen militant Islamists as useful tools in its proxy wars with Iran in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Sunni ultra-conservatives are frequently at the forefront of Saudi-led efforts to dislodge the Yemeni Houthis from their strongholds.

Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen has in fact given AQAP a new lease on life. Prior to the war, AQAP had been driven to near irrelevance by the rise of IS and security crackdowns. In a report in February, the International Crisis Group (ICG) concluded that AQAP was “stronger than it has ever been.”

The group “appears ever more embedded in the fabric of opposition to the Houthi/Saleh alliance …that is fighting the internationally recognised, Saudi-backed interim government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi,” the report said. It was referring to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are aligned with former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

AQAP’s resurgence is as much a result of Saudi Arabia’s single-minded focus on the Iranian threat posed in the kingdom’s perception by the Houthis as it is potentially related to a murky web of indirect or tacit relationships with the group.

“In prosecuting the war, the Saudi-led coalition has relegated confronting AQAP and IS to a second-tier priority… Saudi-led coalition statements that fighting the group is a top priority and announcements of military victories against AQAP in the south are belied by events,” the ICG said.

The kingdom’s willingness to cooperate with Islamists such as Yemen’s Islah party, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, and its unclear attitude towards AQAP have sparked strains within the anti-Houthi coalition, particularly with the staunchly anti-Islamist United Arab Emirates (UAE).

AQAP has been able to rearm itself through the indirect acquisition of weapons from the Saudi-led coalition as well as raids on Yemeni military camps. AQAP is believed to have received advance notice and to have coordinated with the Saudis its withdrawal from the crucial port of Mukalla before an assault by UAE and Yemeni forces, according to the ICG.

Saudi Arabia was conspicuously low key when, in January, a US Navy Seal died in a raid on AQAP, in which the US military seized information that this month prompted the Trump administration and Britain to ban carry-on electronics aboard U.S. and London-bound flights from select airports in North Africa and the Middle East, including two in Saudi Arabia.

Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English-language newspaper, this week quoted Saudi officials as saying that AQAP, widely believed to be well advanced in its ability to target aircraft with explosives smuggled on board, had lost its capability to operate overseas.

The officials said that Saudi Arabia, which has cozied up to the Trump administration and endorsed the president’s ban on travel to the US from six Muslim-majority countries, was concerned about IS and Shiite militants rather than AQAP. “They (AQAP) don’t have the power to export their activities,” Arab news quoted Abdullah Al-Shehri, a senior Saudi interior ministry official, as saying.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Mansour Al-Turki, noted that, “Al Qaeda actually has not been involved in any real kind of terrorism-related incident in Saudi Arabia for three years. Most of the incidents came from Daesh (the Arab acronym for IS) or militant groups related to Shiites in the eastern province.”

The United States and some of its key allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, may be able to paper over differences that allow for short-term advances against IS. But in the longer term, it could be the failure to address those differences head on that will create new breeding grounds for militancy. It’s the kind of trade-off that in the past has produced short-term results only to create even greater problems down the road.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Educated guess vs analysed data: The importance of analytics for strategic CHRO http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/26/educated-guess-vs-analysed-data-importance-analytics-strategic-chro/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/26/educated-guess-vs-analysed-data-importance-analytics-strategic-chro/#respond Sun, 26 Mar 2017 11:00:21 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619829 Oracle’s Joachim Skura makes a case for integrated data in the modern HR department

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The 18th century English writer, Alexander Pope, once said: “a little learning is a dangerous thing.” Much has changed in the 300 years since then, but our propensity to make decisions based on hunches and incomplete information has not.

It is second nature to make ‘educated guesses’ in our day to day lives, whether it is going to see the latest movie by a trusted director without looking at the reviews first, or getting a fresh paint job by the contractor who has been around the longest. Quite often, people just need to make a decision based on a ‘gut feeling’ or a quick comparison of the given options. At worst, a wrong assumption in these scenarios would only lead to watching a disappointing movie or a repaint.

The educated guesses we make at work can have much more serious repercussions. In my experience, these generally fall into two brackets:

  • Assumptions based on unfounded correlations; for instance, there is a widespread belief that millennials switch jobs more often than their older colleagues.
  • Decisions based on short-term rationale; such as the tendency for companies to make HR decisions based only on their current bottom line instead of their long term goals is a prime example.

In the world of work, we cannot afford to rely on superficial or fleeting learning, certainly not at a time where the future is so uncertain for businesses. A concrete understanding of how people’s actions affect the business, their needs, their motivators, and their competencies has never been more important. A more integrated analysis to data is the key to building this solid understanding.

Thankfully, a new generation of powerful analytics capabilities allows businesses and HR leaders to feed more informed decision-making while removing the above biases from the equation.

Assumptions companies make when managing their people can be quite damaging. For instance, we tend to assume candidates from good schools will better serve the company but how many organisations actually track this in the long term?  I’m currently working with a pharmaceuticals company on a sort of ‘intellectual playground’ where we look at how analytics can make HR more strategic.

On the issue of a potential hire’s previous schooling, one of our projects involves tracking long term employee performance to see how strong or weak the link is between factors that affected a hiring decision and their performance over multiple years. The results may yet prove traditional assumptions wrong. Just think of what that would mean for hiring strategies.

The point here is not that one analysis will reveal once and for all which schools a company should hire their talent from. Rather, the argument is that analytics can debunk received wisdom, help us address biases we might not recognise, and provide insights we would never get otherwise.

Unfortunately, most HR leaders do not take full advantage of HR analytics to make better decisions about employees, largely because they perceive factors like engagement and wellness to be matters of instinct rather than hard numbers. This simply is not true. In fact a more objective approach to people management helps HR take the bias out of decision-making and instead apply sound principles that benefit the entire organisation over time.

The challenge with HR analytics is to combine hard data on things like hiring channel tracking, a candidate’s educational background, or a worker’s measurable output with soft data on employee engagement, workers’ perception of HR, and results from performance reviews. This is the only way to gain a complete picture of how all the relevant factors interact to drive employee success, or stand in its way. It would not be a stretch to say integrated data is the lynchpin of intelligent, unbiased HR decision-making.

This analytical approach also helps companies test HR programmes more accurately. For example, they can analyse a new intake programme on a more frequent basis to see how effective it is and to quickly make any required changes in light of the patterns revealed in the data. Similarly, the company can pinpoint what combinations of factors drive certain groups of employees to resign or go work for a competitor and work to address those more proactively.

It’s essential that the right people can access this data and that they can do so conveniently. HR teams and line managers are ultimately in the best position to bring about change among employees and must therefore be empowered to do so.

So, while the analytics process may be complex, the user controls and outputs must be easy and clear enough for the right people to understand and act on them. In the words of the American historian Daniel J. Boorstin: “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.”

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60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties: towards a stronger EU and strengthened cooperation with Egypt http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/25/60th-anniversary-rome-treaties-towards-stronger-eu-strengthened-cooperation-egypt/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/25/60th-anniversary-rome-treaties-towards-stronger-eu-strengthened-cooperation-egypt/#respond Sat, 25 Mar 2017 08:45:11 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619454 In unpredictable times, the anniversary is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project is founded

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The Rome Treaties of 1957 mark the first steps towards the European Union

On 25 March, the European Union (EU) marks 60 years since the signing of the Rome Treaties, the first step towards a united Europe. Since the birth of the European Communities in 1957 and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the citizens of our Member States have enjoyed decades of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and security. European integration is the most successful peace project in our history.

However, we are living in unpredictable times, and the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties is an opportunity not only to reaffirm our commitment to the values and objectives on which the European project is founded, but also to take pragmatic and ambitious steps forward.

The EU has been a natural key partner of Egypt over the years. Egypt’s efforts to achieve stability, prosperity, and sustainable social and economic growth are at the centre of the EU engagement with our important neighbour on the other side of the Mediterranean.

The EU’s relationship with Egypt is enshrined in the Association Agreement—the basis for cooperation in a broad range of fields. The adoption of the EU-Egypt partnership priorities for the years 2017-2020 guides our future cooperation.

The world is going through a time of uncertainty when the foundations of a rules-based international order are too often being questioned. The European Union will be an increasingly vital power to preserve and strengthen the global order.

The EU is the largest global market and the leading foreign investor i n most parts of the world. We have achieved a strong position by acting together with one voice on the global stage, by playing a key role in removing barriers to international trade, as well as concluding bilateral trade deals with many important partners around the world, such as Egypt.

The European Union is the world’s largest financial donor of development aid. We were instrumental in planning the UN Sustainable Development Goals and are already implementing them, as well as working to update the European Consensus on Development Policy. Around 150 countries in the world receive development aid from the EU, including Egypt, and we are increasingly focusing on those countries with the largest needs.

The European Union is and will continue to be a strong, cooperative, and reliable power. Our partners know what we stand for.

We stand for human rights, for international cooperation, for sustainable development, and for inclusive societies. We will continue to be at the forefront of the fight against all inequalities.

We stand for better global rules: rules that protect people against abuse, rules that expand rights and raise standards. It is thanks to our engagement—the Union together with its Member States—that the global community has set up innovative agreements like the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development. In a world of re-emerging power politics, the European Union will have an even more significant role to play.

A more fragile international environment calls for greater engagement, not for retrenchment. This is why the EU will continue to support and help the United Nations, with whom our cooperation covers peace missions, diplomatic efforts, human rights, tackling hunger, and fighting criminality. The European Union will also continue to be a strong and active partner of regional organisations like the African Union and the League of Arab States.

Whatever future events might bring, one thing is certain: the EU will continue to put promoting international peace and security, development cooperation, human rights, and responding to humanitarian crises at the heart of its foreign and security policies.

 

Ambassador Ivan Surkoš

Head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt

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Egyptians’ work attitude from the perspective of Uber & Careem http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/22/619400/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/22/619400/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 09:00:36 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619400 “I will reach you in just a few minutes,” a driver of one of the new transportation application companies told me recently—which concluded in my being picked up half an hour later. The dilemma of such applications is that most of the drivers don’t take into account the fact that the application technology determines their …

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“I will reach you in just a few minutes,” a driver of one of the new transportation application companies told me recently—which concluded in my being picked up half an hour later. The dilemma of such applications is that most of the drivers don’t take into account the fact that the application technology determines their locations and the time required to reach their customers. The Uber and Careem applications transmit to customers a transparent image of what is happening behind the scenes within their companies, thus highlighting the deficiencies inherent in Egyptian work attitudes.

Mohammed Nosseir
Mohammed Nosseir

Imagine for a moment that restaurant customers can use their mobile devices to observe the chef who is cooking their meals, or to check whether their private chauffeurs are taking the correct route; technology nowadays easily enables people to monitor their contractors’ performances from thousands of miles away. Through their innovative applications, Uber and Careem have succeeded in offering a transparent relationship between customers and the drivers assigned to them, providing an additional service that the Egyptian workforce is unaccustomed to.

Our true dilemma, as Egyptians, is that while we are proud to impose our own characteristics, we do not necessarily work to advance our productivity! This can be seen in the way we often adapt the original applications of state-of-the art technologies to fit our habits and working norms—which we have no desire to change. The Uber and Careem applications are an excellent innovation that is extremely suitable for Egyptian workers, many of whom are on the lookout for small businesses that they can own and manage, or for jobs with flexible working hours that provide a decent income.

Sadly, many drivers don’t want to abide by their employers’ basic rules and regulations; they believe that because they own the vehicles they drive, they are entitled to behave as they wish. Playing loud music, speaking on the phone, driving smelly, unclean cars, arguing with other drivers, and countless other unpleasant matters are common among many of the drivers I have ridden with recently. I am sure that both Uber and Careem have printed manuals or guides instructing their drivers to respect proper codes of business conduct—but Egypt’s predicament lies in our tendency to ignore such manuals.

Eager to generate quick returns on their investments, these companies—and the entire Egyptian business community—tend to compromise the contents of their manuals and protocols for the sake of realising fast profits. I used to give both companies fair feedback when confronted with a driver’s misbehavior; the company would then apologize and compensate me. However, I have come to realize that this complaint system is designed to observe customers’ frustrations—not to improve the system.

Rather than advancing and developing their operating system and practices, ordinary taxis in Egypt are trying to prevent Uber and Careem from working in the country. Egypt is probably the only country where taxi drivers have the right to approve customers’ destinations prior to giving them a ride. Furthermore, taxi drivers don’t turn on their meters, and no mechanism for lodging complaints exists; these are the normal procedures for taxis operating in Egypt. Ordinary taxi drivers were the only entity implicitly allowed to organize labor strikes to demonstrate against a new technology, blocking downtown areas for hours.

To date, the Egyptian government has not authorized either company to work legally. The thousands of drivers that cruise the Egyptian streets every day are illegal workers; every now and then, they are fined by the traffic police. This simply symbolizes how businesses operate in Egypt; they are allowed to work without official permits, with the authorities turning a blind eye to their misconducts—thus enabling the government to penalize any business entity whenever it suits it.

Egypt is struggling with its old-fashioned structure that refuses to adopt anything new, happy to continue living with its obsolete system that benefits many opportunists at the expense of the national economy. Egyptians work to live! Sadly, many Egyptian citizens are not passionate about the work they do and are continuously thinking of switching to better jobs! On the flipside of the coin, company owners are looking for better executive staff and employees, whom they are unable to find. Both employees and employers are unlikely to meet their right partners—because the entire structure and environment have nothing to do with true professionalism.

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The role of Middle East banks in fighting terrorism financing http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/20/619130/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/20/619130/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 09:00:07 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619130 In the war against terrorism, it’s not just government agencies and military personnel who are on the front lines. Bankers can also play an important role in fighting terrorism. That’s because terrorism needs money to survive and thrive. Although terrorists are increasingly using alternative financial methods, the banking system continues to be the most reliable …

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In the war against terrorism, it’s not just government agencies and military personnel who are on the front lines. Bankers can also play an important role in fighting terrorism.

That’s because terrorism needs money to survive and thrive. Although terrorists are increasingly using alternative financial methods, the banking system continues to be the most reliable and efficient way to move funds internationally. Vigilant banks can hit terrorists where it hurts by preventing them from using the financial system to fund their operations.

Cautionary tales

Banks in the Middle East have a particular opportunity to make an impact in the struggle against terrorism. Unfortunately, they haven’t always taken advantage of that. Major institutions such as HSBC and Arab Bank have experienced the negative consequences of failing to take anti-terrorism efforts seriously enough.

In 2012, a US Senate subcommittee found that HSBC had exposed the US financial system to worldwide money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing through lax oversight and violation of several rules. The investigation led to HSBC being fined nearly $2 billion in a money-laundering settlement.

One of the problem areas was HSBC’s relationship with Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest private financial institution, which was linked to terrorist groups. HSBC had worked with Al Rajhi for decades, and that relationship didn’t end when Al Rajhi’s connections to terrorism were found.

Evidence of Al Rajhi Bank’s ties to terrorism emerged in 2002, when US agents discovered a list of financiers in Osama bin Ladin’s “Golden Chain” in a raid on Benevolence International Foundation, classified by the US as a terrorist organisation. Among those found on the Golden Chain list was Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi, a founder of Al Rajhi bank. Al Rahji Bank also provided financial services to 9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz al Omari.

While HSBC stopped its affiliates from doing business with Al Rajhi in 2005, that policy was reversed within a couple of months, and HSBC continued to do business with the bank until 2010.

Meanwhile, in September 2014, a federal jury in New York found Jordan’s Arab Bank liable for supporting terrorism efforts connected to Hamas attacks in the Middle East by handling transfers and payments for Hamas members. It was the first time a bank had ever been held liable in a civil suit under a broad anti-terrorism statute.

Arab Bank vigorously disagreed with the verdict, calling the case a “show trial” and saying that none of its customers involved in the case were on terrorist blacklists, and that the few transactions that were suspected were the result of clerical errors, such as names being spelled differently in Arabic and English. However, Arab Bank reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in August of 2015, just before a damages trial was scheduled to start.

The case serves as a warning to banks that merely following the rules may not be enough and that banks need to hold themselves to higher standards when it comes to activities that even have the possibility of terrorist connections.

Higher profile for financial front

Terrorism-fighting bodies are increasingly recognising how integral financial aspects are to targeting terrorists. In the latest example, the European Commission released an action plan earlier this year with the goal of fighting terrorism financing, following terrorist attacks in Europe carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“We have to cut off the resources that terrorists use to carry out their heinous crimes. By detecting and disrupting the financing of terrorist networks, we can reduce their ability to travel, to buy weapons and explosives, to plot attacks, and to spread hate and fear online,” European Agenda for Security First vice-president Frans Timmermans said about the plan.

The European plan focuses on using financial movements to track terrorists and preventing them from moving funds or other assets, as well as targeting their capacity to raise funds and disrupting their revenue sources.

Going forward

While banks in the Middle East have made great strides in anti-terrorism efforts, there is much further to go. Banks in the region can make a real difference by moving beyond mere compliance and instituting systems and processes that actively fight terrorism. Actions can include:

  • Training to all staff on anti-terrorism measures and protocols
  • Forming special teams to respond to terrorism events
  • Creating plans for emergency event response and performance evaluation afterward
  • Proactive measures to better identify possible terrorist ties
  • Establishing strong working relationships with law enforcement agencies

Banks in the Middle East need to take the mantra of “know your customer” to heart and conduct the kind of strong due diligence that can prevent suspect transactions. With a strong commitment to doing their part, banks can be a strong weapon against terrorism.

Mohamed Elbanna, CAMS, CFE, CIFE, has more than 20 years of experience in the financial services industry in compliance, accounting, and operations management, with his current focus being compliance, anti-money laundering, and training CEOs and executive management on financial services in the Middle East. He has served as a special adviser for Middle Eastern banking to the Edcomm Group Banker’s Academy.

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The post-2011 Arab World: change is the name of the game http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/19/619017/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/19/619017/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619017 Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life. Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated …

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Common wisdom has it that ultimately failed or troubled popular revolts in 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa have sparked bloody civil wars and violent extremism, and given autocracy a new lease on life.

Indeed, there is no denying that a brutal civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and dislocated millions. Iraq, like Syria, is seeking to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the most vicious jihadist movement in recent history. Sectarianism and religious supremacism are ripping apart the fabric of societies in the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.

Yet, the legacy of the 2011 revolts is not simply massive violence, brutal jihadism, and choking repression. In fact, the revolts kicked off an era of change, one that is ugly, destabilising, violent, and unpredictable—and that may not lead any time soon to more liberal, let alone democratic rule.

It is an era that is buffeted by autocrats’ need to push diversification of their economies and economic reform that involves a radical rewriting of social contracts. It also involves the need to upgrade autocracy to ensure sustainable economic change. That means making repressive rule more palatable by broadening the margins of acceptable social life and behaviour and creating channels for expressions of discontent and frustration.

Change by hook or by crook

Jihadist groups like IS have risen on the back of policies that have excluded or marginalised societal groups, counterrevolutions that have helped reverse advances made in 2011 without producing credible alternatives, mismanagement of expectations in the immediate wake of the popular revolts, and repression of whatever channels existed to express even modest or limited criticism.

IS, like it or not, constitutes a revolutionary force in the sense that it seeks radical and fundamental social, political, and economic change. It may not be the kind of change many would want to embrace, but its philosophy thrives in an environment in which alternatives have little opportunity to blossom.

Saudi Arabia, for all its warts, including ideological roots that it shares with jihadism, is like others in the region experimenting with controlled, albeit risky, social and economic change. Granted, the purpose of the exercise is to ensure the survival of the ruling Al Saud family. Nonetheless, social change such as greater entertainment opportunities in a culturally austere kingdom, less religious policing, and more opportunities for women, is tangible.

The problem, however, is as detailed in the 2016 Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), that social, economic and political reform is likely to succeed only if freedom to express grievances is guaranteed.

Warning that in the absence of freedoms “some Arabs would eventually resort to violence, with dire consequences,” the report noted that “the events of 2011 and their ramifications are the outcome of public policies over many decades that gradually led to the exclusion of large sectors of the population from economic, political, and social life, depriving many people of appropriate health care, good educations, and suitable livelihoods.”

A recipe for disaster

Little has changed in much of the Middle East and North Africa. The youth bulge is bulging with youth accounting for one third of the Arab world’s population. Employment prospects are limited and likely to deteriorate in the coming years.

“In the Arab region, the policies and laws that regulate the labour market hinder the growth of jobs in a manner that matches demographic growth and the needs of market. This affects youth in particular and prevents their economic empowerment. The prevalence of nepotism and reliance on social connections play a large role in the distribution of the limited available jobs, prompting young people who are looking for jobs to depend on social relationships and family ties,” the report said.

Opportunities for political engagement are even more restricted. In short, issues that drove the 2011 revolts are six years later even more prevalent. Counter-revolutions have rolled back whatever openings were created by the uprisings and engineered situations in which civil war, brutality, and political violence set the tone. It amounts to a recipe for disaster in an environment in which state-encouraged sectarianism, supremacist religious ideology, violence, and repression create an explosive mix.

The writing is on the wall. The failure of governments to deliver leads many to increasingly stress religious, sectarian, or tribal, rather than national, identities. Many young people have a sense of having been marginalised. The result is a hardening of battle lines. Fifteen years ago, five Arab countries were mired in conflict, today the number is eleven and increasing.

On the surface of things, the counterrevolution, the war in Syria, and the hard-handed policies of secret police and law enforcement have stifled appetite for protest in many Arab countries. Yet, much like in the walk-up to 2011, discontent is simmering. That does not mean that it by definition will erupt. It may not or perhaps more likely be sparked by an unpredictable black swan.

Protest in cycles

The AHDR charts a five-year cycle in the life of protest movements in the Arab world. Each cycle proves to be more volatile than its predecessor. IS is one expression of that. Youth “may prefer more direct, more violent means, especially if they are convinced that existing mechanisms for participation and accountability are useless,” the report warns.

At the bottom line, the counterrevolution coupled with autocratic attempts to ensure a continuation of the fundamental status quo with upgrades and limited reforms harbours the seeds of a next cycle of a push for change.

survey by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) put the cost of armed conflict in the Arab world at $613.8bn in lost economic activity and $243.1bn in fiscal deficits.

Decades of economic cronyism, lower productivity, reduced investment with the exception of the energy and real estate sectors, the choking of channels to express discontent, and greater emphasis on the repressive arms of the state at the expense of strengthening institutions make autocratic upgrades less likely to succeed and heighten the role of violence in efforts to force change.

Violence does not connote the end of what many believe to have been a short-lived effort to achieve change. It also does not mark an end to a short-lived Arab era of defiance and dissent. Instead, it serves as an indicator of how far Arab regimes are willing to go to ensure their survival and raises the cost of inevitable change.

Since 2011 the Arab world is in transition, albeit one that is likely to continue to be bloody and brutal. It may well be a transition in cycles, some of which may be regressive rather than progressive on Lenin’s principle of two step forwards, one step backwards. What is nevertheless clear is that the status quo ante is history and change is the name of the game.

This story first ran on Mobilizing Ideas, a blog of The Center for the Study of Social Movements at the University of Notre Dame

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and two forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism.

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The best way to aid Africa http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/19/best-way-aid-africa/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/19/best-way-aid-africa/#respond Sun, 19 Mar 2017 09:00:31 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=619020 New York—Drought in Somalia threatens the lives of almost half the population, according to Somalia’s prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire. Over a two-day span, at least 110 people died of hunger in just a single region in the country. This highlights the tremendous needs Somalia and other African countries have for immediate help. In the …

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New York—Drought in Somalia threatens the lives of almost half the population, according to Somalia’s prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire. Over a two-day span, at least 110 people died of hunger in just a single region in the country. This highlights the tremendous needs Somalia and other African countries have for immediate help.

In the last few decades, enormous financial resources have been sent to the region. What has been accomplished, however, is subject to controversy since what has been achieved appears to have been counterproductive to Africa’s actual needs.

In spite of the considerable progress achieved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, other health problems remain. Although the Ebola epidemic has been largely controlled, the potential for a new epidemic still exists. Countries are now better prepared to deal with a new outbreak, but probably not to the extent that a serious new epidemic would demand.

Tuberculosis is still rampant in South Africa, which has the highest tuberculosis death rate per capita worldwide, followed by Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Worse yet, the high number of cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in several countries make the disease much more difficult to treat.

Five children under age five die every minute in the African region, two thirds of them from preventable causes. Diarrheal and respiratory infections, malaria, measles, and malnutrition represent big threats to children’s health. Pneumonia and malaria are the leading causes of death among children under five years of age. The interaction of under nourishment and infection can lead to a vicious cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional status.

Health problems in Africa cannot be considered in isolation from the countries’ socio-political and environmental realities, and require continued foreign technical and financial assistance. Increasing efforts are needed to be made to expand access to primary health care, especially in rural areas, accompanied by health promotion, disease prevention, and improved health education activities. The relentless exodus of physicians and nurses to industrialised countries only compounds health problems.

Despite some progress in the social sphere, some important difficulties remain. One of them is significant unemployment, particularly among the young. Around 70% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 30, and 60 percent of the unemployed are also young people. New policies are indispensable to incorporate them into the labor force.

A first step is to provide youth with basic skills so that they can achieve their earning potential. UNESCO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have recommended that governments, international donors, and the private sector develop integrated policies to create jobs for young people and ease the transition from school to work.

Poverty in the continent is widespread and affects most of the population. In 2010, more than 400 million people were living in extreme poverty across Sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, a notable proportion of women lack any significant income. The expansion of micro credit together with rural development projects mainly aimed at women could significantly improve the situation.

Education is another area of concern. Africa has the lowest rate of children in primary schools of any region. In addition to significant gender disparities, with girls far behind boys in educational attainment, geographical disparities between rural areas and urban areas, and economic disparities between low income and high income households are also significant.

Many experts on Africa do not believe in the efficacy of aid. “Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth, and poverty. Cutting off the flow would be far more beneficial,” wrote Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian-born international economist and author with extensive knowledge of Africa.

Aid, however, can become effective in improving people’s standard of living and education. It is critical to help African countries improve governance before providing financial assistance. In addition, effective aid must bypass corrupt governments and find ways of helping people in more direct ways, such as through community and religious organisations.

Although a considerable amount of money has been sent to Africa through bilateral and international aid, there are still no effective mechanisms in place to monitor and make recipients accountable for spending. This is vital, since corruption is like a weed that saps the countries’ social fabric and energy. In addition, there are not enough ways to evaluate the quality of projects funded mainly by international lending institutions and UN agencies.

Aid to Africa should be aimed at strengthening civil society and community-based organisations. African countries need better trade conditions for their products and technical assistance that is carefully and responsibly planned. Provided with a generous nature and energetic and hard working people, Africa is still a continent of hope.

 

Dr. César Chelala is an international public health consultant. He has carried out health-related missions in more than 50 countries worldwide, many of them in Africa.

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Whither the Muslim World’s NATO? http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/14/618341/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/14/618341/#respond Tue, 14 Mar 2017 08:00:01 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=618341 Controversy and uncertainty over the possible appointment of a Pakistani general as commander of a 40-nation, Saudi-led, anti-Iranian military alliance dubbed the Muslim world’s NATO goes to the core of a struggle for Pakistan’s soul as the country reels from a week of stepped up political violence. It also constitutes a defining moment in Saudi …

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Controversy and uncertainty over the possible appointment of a Pakistani general as commander of a 40-nation, Saudi-led, anti-Iranian military alliance dubbed the Muslim world’s NATO goes to the core of a struggle for Pakistan’s soul as the country reels from a week of stepped up political violence.

It also constitutes a defining moment in Saudi relations with Pakistan, historically one of the Gulf state’s staunchest allies and a country where the kingdom is as much part of the problem as it is part of the solution. Finally, whether the general accepts the post or not is likely to be a bellwether of the Muslim world’s ability to free itself of the devastating impact of Saudi-like Sunni ultra-conservatism and bridge rather than exasperate sectarian divides.

Retired Pakistani military chief of staff General Raheel Sharif’s acceptance of the command of the alliance, the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, would kill several birds with one stone. The alliance, created in 2015 to bolster Saudi Arabia’s two-year old, flailing intervention in Yemen and counter Iran, has so far largely been a paper tiger.

The alliance has staged military exercises that appeared to target Iran but has not yet established a joint command or command infrastructure. The appointment of General Shareef could potentially help the alliance evolve into a force that is credible, assuming that he can overcome widespread hesitancy towards it across the Muslim world.

In personal terms, the appointment would award Mr. Sharif for opposing the Pakistani parliament’s rejection in 2015 of a Saudi request for military support in Yemen.

The decision took Saudi Arabia by surprise given that Pakistan has been one of the world’s foremost beneficiaries, if not the largest, of Saudi government and non-governmental largess and its dependency on remittances from Pakistani workers in the kingdom.

The appointment of General Sharif would have also been a favour to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a politician and businessman with close ties to the kingdom who, like the general, favoured Pakistani military support in Yemen. It would remove the popular general as a potential political rival of the prime minister. Namesakes, Messrs Sharif are not related to one another.

The uncertainty about General Raheel’s appointment has been lingering since it was first announced two months ago, and then been called into question is indicative of strains in relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, once the closest of nations in the Muslim world.

In a telling tale of the times, remittances to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia dropped 5.8 percent over the last seven months while cheaper and better trained Indians and Bangladeshis have begun to replace Pakistani manpower. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has deported 39,000 Pakistanis since October as part of its crackdown on militants.

Abdullah Ghulzar Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years, last year blew himself up in a parking lot near the US consulate in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. Fifteen Pakistanis have since been arrested on suspicion of being militants. Two of them were believed to be part of a plot to attack the city’s Al-Jawhara Stadium with a truck carrying 400kg of explosives during a Saudi Arabia-UAE soccer match that was attended by 60,000 spectators.

The arrests, like the story of Tashfeen Malik, the Pakistani woman who together with her American-Pakistani husband, gunned down 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, tell a much bigger tale about the risks inherent in Saudi backing at home and abroad, including Pakistan, of puritan, supremacist interpretations of Islam.

Ms. Malik moved with her parents to Saudi Arabia when she was a toddler to escape sectarian skirmishes and family disputes. In the kingdom, the family turned its back on its Sufi and Barelvi traditions that included visiting shrines, honouring saints, and enjoying Sufi trance music, practices rejected by the kingdom’s austere Wahhabi form of Islam‎. The change sparked tensions with relatives in Pakistan, whom the Maliks accused in Wahhabi fashion of rejecting the oneness of God by revering saints.

Ms. Malik turned even more conservative when she returned to Pakistan in 2009 to study pharmacology. She started attending religion classes at a branch of Al-Huda (The Correct Path) International Welfare Foundation, a controversial academy that has made significant inroads into Pakistan’s upper and middle classes, and propagates an ideology akin to that of Saudi Arabia.

In a statement after the San Bernardino attack, Al-Huda described itself as “a non-political, non-sectarian, and non-profit organisation which is tirelessly serving humanity by promoting education along with numerous welfare programmes for the needy and destitute.” It said that it “does not have links to any extremist regime and stands to promote a peaceful message of Islam and denounces extremism, violence, and terrorism of all kinds.” The institution said that it could not be held responsible for “personal acts” of its students.

To be sure, Al-Huda, like Sunni ultra-conservatism in its various guises, does not breed violence by definition. Yet, like any inward-looking, intolerant, and supremacist ideology it creates potential breeding grounds in a given set of circumstances. Similarly, as in the case of the Islamic State (IS) or Al-Qaeda, the shared basic tenets of ultra-conservatism has lead to the formation of groups that have turned on Saudi Arabia itself.

A newly formed alliance of IS and Pakistani Taliban that strives to impose strict Islamic law was responsible for the series of attacks in the last week that killed 83 people at a Sufi shrine in southern Punjab and targeted the Punjabi parliament, military outposts, a Samaa TV crew, and a provincial police station.

Complicating Pakistan’s struggle with militancy is the fact that massive, decades-long backing of ultra-conservativism by successive Pakistani political, military, and intelligence leaders and Saudi Arabia has made it part of the fabric of significant segments of Pakistani society and education, as well as key branches of the government and arms of the state.

That, coupled with geopolitics and Pakistan’s increasingly troubled relationship with its religious and ethnic minorities, is precisely what makes the proposed appointment of General Raheel so problematic.

Pakistan, a country with a long border with Iran and the world’s largest Shiite minority, has long been a major frontline in Saudi Arabia’s almost four-decade long covert proxy war with the Islamic republic, dating back to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Saudi Arabia, in cooperation with the Pakistani military and intelligence, as well as senior government officials, has long backed militant sectarian groups that have helped push Pakistan towards Sunni ultra-conservatism and are responsible for a large number of deaths among Shiites, Ahmadis, Sufis and others.

General Raheel’s appointment would bring the chicken home to roost. By taking the command, General Raheel would give the alliance the credibility it needs:  a non-Arab commander from one of the world’s most populous Muslim countries, who commanded not only one of the Muslim world’s largest militaries, but also one that possesses nuclear weapons. The appointment would build on decades of Pakistani military support of Saudi Arabia dating back to the war in Yemen in the late 1960s.

Yet, accepting the command would put Pakistan more firmly than ever in the camp of Saudi-led confrontation with Iran that Saudi political and religious leaders, as well as their militant Pakistani allies, often frame not only in geopolitical, but also sectarian terms. Ultimately, it was that step that the Pakistani parliament rejected in 2015 when it refused to send troops to Yemen. Acceptance of the command by General Raheel would fly in the face of parliament’s decision.

Pakistani Shiite leaders, as well as some Sunni politicians, have warned that General Raheel’s appointment would put an end to Pakistan’s ability to walk a fine line between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It could raise the stakes in Balochistan, the province bordering Iran where separatists are agitating for independence and China has invested billions of dollars as part of its One Belt, One Road initiative.

Pakistani news reports suggest that General Raheel has sought to alleviate the risk by setting conditions that are unlikely to be acceptable to Saudi Arabia, including that Iran be invited to join the alliance and that he be the mediator in disputes among alliance members, with no need to report to a higher, i.e. Saudi, authority. Iran reportedly advised Pakistan that it would work with General Raheel if he took the command to reach a negotiated resolution of the Yemen war.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, in a speech last weekend to the Munich Security Conference, laid out a vision that rules out General Raheel’s thinking. “Iran remains the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran has as part of its constitution the principle of exporting the revolution. Iran does not believe in the principle of citizenship. It believes that the Shiite, the ‘dispossessed’, as Iran calls them, all belong to Iran and not to their countries of origin. And this is unacceptable for us in the kingdom, for our allies in the Gulf and for any country in the world… So, until and unless Iran changes its behaviour, and changes its outlook, and changes the principles upon which the Iranian state is based, it will be very difficult to deal with a country like this,” Mr. Al-Jubeir said.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and a forthcoming book, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa

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Hassan Karajah, one of the heroes languishing in Zionist occupation jails http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/12/618048/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/12/618048/#respond Sun, 12 Mar 2017 11:00:54 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=618048 The curse of bars and prisons around the world continues. It is in those places that lives are stolen and tyrants aim at killing the hopes of those who dream of a better future for their country and the end of occupation of their homeland. Among those dreamers is Palestinian activist Hassan Karajah, held captive …

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The curse of bars and prisons around the world continues. It is in those places that lives are stolen and tyrants aim at killing the hopes of those who dream of a better future for their country and the end of occupation of their homeland.

Among those dreamers is Palestinian activist Hassan Karajah, held captive in Israeli occupation prisons. Even though I never met him, I don’t know why I always feel a friendly connection between us.

Born in the town of Saffa in Ramallah, Karajah has been carrying the Palestinian cause in his heart since childhood. Karajah was an active member of the popular campaign against the wall and settlements (Stop the Wall). Through his wide-range activities and efforts, he successfully became the campaign’s youth programme coordinator and one of the important human rights defenders on the local and Arab levels. In 2012, Karajah served as the youth ambassador for the Arab Thought Foundation and represented Palestinian youth in Arab and international conferences and events.

In January 2013, Karajah was arrested. Special forces raided his house and assaulted him. He spent 22 months in prison on accusations related to his social work, and was then released in October 2014.

Last July, Israeli soldiers arrested Karajah at a checkpoint near Ramallah; after five days of detention, he received a six-month prison sentence and has since been languishing in Ofer prison with a renewable administrative detention decision—similar to the pre-trial detention process in Egypt, which allows the imprisonment of political opponents for long periods of time without charges.

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This unjust law applied by occupation authorities enables the harassment of detainees especially in light of the detainee’s lawyers’ inability to obtain documents regarding their legal charges and the automatic renewal of the administrative detention. The laws implemented by the Israeli army on arrests date back to the 1945 emergency mandate law, according to which 750 Palestinians dwell in occupation jails under administrative detention.

At the beginning of his second detention, Karajah’s family was denied visits because he started one of his hunger strikes in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed, who was also on a hunger strike under administrative detention before being freed.

Karajah’s attitude did not surprise me—it was an inspiration in terms of endurance and tolerance.

Years and days pass while Karajah sits inside his cell in occupation prisons, deprived from seeing his twin baby girls, Sarai and Kinza, born when he was absent, in jail, away from his wife Thameena Husary who has devotedly supported his case. There is no doubt that the suffering of families of detainees is as painful as that of detainees themselves.

Finally, dear friend whom I never saw, prison cannot be indefinite. Nature tells us that morning follows night, and there will come a day when the detainees’ land is returned to those who once inhabited it.

May you remain the hero who teaches us reverence and nobility.

And to all detainees in occupation prisons and all prisoners of conscience around the world: when the detainees’ land is freed, it will honour you.

Tarek Hussein is a lawyer and assistant secretary of the rights and freedoms committee at Al-Dostour party.

 

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How could we benefit from the American model? (3)   http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/12/618038/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/12/618038/#respond Sun, 12 Mar 2017 10:00:10 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=618038 Proactive anti-corruption mechanisms  

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We continue to present a series of articles that shed light on the positive aspects of the American experience and how it can be employed to achieve positive changes in the main challenges Egypt faces. In the previous articles we discussed the issue of public spending priorities, the transparency system, and making information accessible through their original sources. In this article, we look at another side of the fight against corruption. We will discuss the establishment of a proactive system similar to those in the American model that could contribute to reducing the corruption plaguing the Egyptian state.

In the United States, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) provides a strong legal framework to combat any possible corruption, whether by natural or legal American people, as well as by companies listed on the American stock market, whether American or non-American, and their executive managers. The investigations into acts prohibited by the FCPA are conducted by a special department affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice.

This law provides effective mechanisms that encourage ordinary people to report corruption, whether employees of the companies involved in corruption or civil society and media organisations. It offers legal protection for those who report or witness corruption cases. The law also allows reconciliation in bribery cases if the defendant pleads guilty. It offers a special mechanism known as “deferred adjudication”, which allows the investigating authority to determine a financial penalty according to the value of the bribery and lays out a number of conditions that the defendant must meet. If the defendant meets the conditions, the charges are dismissed and the defendant will not have a record of conviction. This mechanism maintains the structure of the company and provides fair punishment for bribes.

There are famous cases of corrupt practices involving US companies in which the US government applied this mechanism and made them pay fines of more than $350m, even though the crimes were mostly committed outside the United States. Total Company, for example, has been investigated under this law for offenses committed in the African continent and paid a fine of about $400m.

In Egypt, we will find that this law has inspired the Egyptian legislation in the last two years, noticeable in the amendments in the illicit gains law and criminal proceedings, but that inspiration was not accurate or comprehensive enough. It only focused on reconciliation and did not establish an integrated legal environment to prevent corruption. The amendments did not put in place appropriate sanctions or fines in cases of violation, in addition to the total absence of the idea and philosophy of protecting informants and witnesses, as well as encouraging them to report corruption.

In America, there is the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)—similar to the Central Auditing Organization (CAO) in Egypt. This independent agency is affiliated with the congress and presents its reports to the congress only—which in turn publishes it to the public. This office is responsible for examining all expenses of the federal government, whether inside or outside the United States. It is one of the largest federal agencies in terms of the number of employees, amounting to more than 4,500 federal employees.

The Egyptian Constitution provided a legal framework that ensures the independence of the CAO, but it did not strengthen its affiliation to the parliament, as is the case with the United States. The CAO submits its reports to the president, the prime minister, and the parliament. Moreover, the president is entitled to fire the head of the CAO, which reduces the independence of the organisation. Although the CAO has more than triple the number of employees than its US equivalent, there is a huge difference between the two agencies’ performance.

The American government has two accountability agencies in most states and cities. The first is the anti-corruption agency affiliated to the attorney general in each state, a position held by free and direct election of the citizens of the state. The second is a specialised department in “ethic code”. The first agency is responsible for investigation and examination of the corrupt practices that may occur by appointed or elected officials at the level of the state, county, or city, while the second agency works on ensuring the application of standards and ethics that prevent corrupt practices.

In Egypt, we will find that the public prosecutor carries out the same role as the first agency in the US. The public prosecutor is not elected, but he has a reasonable level of independence since he is nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council, which is better than election (from the author’s viewpoint). The Illicit Gains Authority also plays an additional role in this process, but it is affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, so it lacks independence in this case.

The second agency—specialised in ethic code—has no parallel entity in Egypt. Actually, I believe it would be very useful if we have a similar agency that can spread public awareness and mobilise community efforts to combat corruption.

The American experience in the fight against corruption clearly indicates that there are specific requirements for the success of national efforts in this field—notably the transparency system making information accessible, the freedom of media, inspection and investigation entities with appropriate human and financial resources, and examination and investigation offices independent from the executive authority and the political powers. I think that the Egyptian state’s ability to fight corruption will completely rely on applying these requirements.

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A visit to the Egyptian heroes, victims of terrorism http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/11/visit-egyptian-heroes-victims-terrorism/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/11/visit-egyptian-heroes-victims-terrorism/#respond Sat, 11 Mar 2017 21:00:49 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=618043 I tried hard to evade a commitment that I consider a national duty towards the armed forces’ victims who have lost parts of their bodies or will remain physically disabled for the rest of their lives. I felt that all words of sympathy and gratitude will not be a valuable reward for their sacrifices to …

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I tried hard to evade a commitment that I consider a national duty towards the armed forces’ victims who have lost parts of their bodies or will remain physically disabled for the rest of their lives. I felt that all words of sympathy and gratitude will not be a valuable reward for their sacrifices to the homeland.

On my way to visit them, I was training myself on embellished words, trying to get them out of my mouth properly. I wanted to say sentences like “you are the honour of the nation,” “we are all proud of you,” or “your sacrifices blessed Egypt with security.”

As I entered, I found a crowd of journalists, intellectuals, and artists who had received an invitation just as I had received one. I decided to hide among them to avoid any scene; however, it seemed that my decision was a decision many of them had taken as well.

As soon as we entered the first room, we found men welcoming us with smiles on their faces, and their greetings eased all our fears—then we felt that we are the disabled ones, not them. They told us that what happened to their bodies is not enough sacrifice for the homeland.

They wished that they could return undaunted by any injury to fight terrorism until they become martyrs for the sake of the homeland’s security and stability.

Their spirit encouraged me to approach and talk to them. There, I found them telling the greatest stories of their colleagues’ sacrifices and the reasons behind their injuries. I have not heard similar tales since the stories of the Egyptian military heroes who have lived through the days of the War of Attrition and Naksa until the greatest victory in October. Their tales can be inspiring to authors of novels, as well as to TV and cinematic scriptwriters.

Ahmed Kamel, is a soldier from Luxor, law school graduate. Ahmed was sweeping with his comrades a suspicious area when they found an explosive mine. He managed to disarm it; however, his companions did not notice another small bomb, which exploded and heavily injured him—something which might hinder his return to the service. After that, he told me his story, and I said thank God for everything. He replied that he thanks God for finding the large mine or his colleagues would have been dead now.

Lieutenant Ahmed Mohammed from Assiut was injured in the explosion during the Karam Al Qawadis attack. He started recounting his story, saying that he witnessed many explosions, one of which flung him up in the air, dropping without a single scratch—while in one of the explosions he was the only survivor. During the day he got injured, his unit killed four gunmen, but then—while combing the place—a barrel of bombs exploded under the armoured vehicle and his resulting injury led to the amputation of one of his organs.

There are dozens of similar stories that could be listed here—but the spirit that they welcomed us with revealed the depth of their faith in their duty towards their country—undaunted by whatever they might lose. No matter what injuries they are suffering, it will never be equivalent to the nobility of their mission—the protection of their homeland.

While we were talking to some friends of the heroes about the challenges of facing terrorism, and we agreed that terrorism is in disguise, wearing the mask of good sheikhs who hide aggressive thoughts of which they claim are Islam and the orders of God and his prophet.

We said that these pretenders rely on religion to influence our minds and the culture of our people who in fact only know very little about Islam and its teachings. As a result, ideologies of takfir will continue to emerge unless they are stopped.

Ideologies must be challenged with ideologies, and the causes of violence must be studied. The state must use brain before brawl to face whatever threatens its security and takes over the minds of its people. We must resort to our moderate sheikhs who are accepted by the youth and society to explain to the people that violence is not part of any religion, and certainly not part of Islam—in fact, all religions call for peace and love.

We have talked about the importance of renewing the Islamic and Christian religious discourse through scholars who sport reason and logic, so we do not fall into the whirlwind of pointless arguments that end in the failure of attempts of renewal and modernisation.

Egypt needs a regime that seriously thinks about improving the importance of community dialogue—a regime that gives scholars and scientists all the tools necessary for innovation to help everyone abandon their violent mentalities and adopt peaceful dialogue as an alternative.

When we were leaving, we looked in shame at the building which had become the temporary home for heroes who lost their limbs and had to retire at an age too young—without care or second thoughts about what they gave for their homeland. I wish those responsible for ruling our country would review their strategy to combat terrorism and examine the real reasons behind it so we may stop the bloodshed.

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Women and their day http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/11/618040/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/11/618040/#respond Sat, 11 Mar 2017 20:00:18 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=618040 On 8 March 1857, thousands of women went out to protest on the streets of New York against the inhumane conditions under which they were forced to work. Even though police intervened to disperse the protests, it still managed to make officials to look into the problems of working women. On 8 March 1908, thousands …

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On 8 March 1857, thousands of women went out to protest on the streets of New York against the inhumane conditions under which they were forced to work. Even though police intervened to disperse the protests, it still managed to make officials to look into the problems of working women.

Mohamed Samir
Mohamed Samir

On 8 March 1908, thousands of textile workers went back to protest in New York, this time carrying pieces of bread and bouquets as a symbol. They chose the name “Bread and Flowers” for their protests. The protests demanded granting women their right to vote. In 1977, the majority of the members of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly designated 8 March as a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace, and with time it became a symbol of women’s struggle to demand their rights across the world.

Locally, even though Egypt is the country of Hatshepsut, Hypatia, Suhayr Al-Qalamawi, Hoda Shaarawy, Latifa Nady, Amina El Saeed, Samira Mousa, Safeya Zaghloul, Om Kolthoum, Rose Al Youssef, Nabawya Moussa, and Malak Hefny Nasif, Egyptian women still suffer from patriarchal discrimination against them, which is based on both wrong traditions and falsely understood religious beliefs. This is the result of ignorance and cultural decay witnessed by the Egyptian society since the last third of the last century, despite the fact that God sees all humans as equal without discrimination based on their race or gender.

The qualitative development of women’s rights in society was tangible since 1981 when Egypt signed the CEDAW agreement, which is a UN agreement to eliminate all kinds of discrimination against women. This was followed by the establishment of the National Council for Women in 2000 and launching several campaigns, such as Legal Consultations and Judicial Aid, Against Female Genital Mutilation, Against Early Marriage, Reproductive Health Awareness, and the Women’s Societal Rights Awareness campaign. The establishment of movements and women’s organisations followed, such as Nazra, Baheya, Noon El Neswa, the Egyptian Feminist Union, and the National Alliance of Woman Organization (NAWO). Several of these organisations have taken part in the formation of societal awareness of women’s issues that has recently thrived, especially awareness of sexual harassment and female genital mutilation, in addition to female representation in several sectors of the society to provide equal opportunities according to the constitution.

The road may be long, but even a journey of a thousand miles begins with one first step—and we have only taken a few steps.

To every mother, daughter, wife, sister, girl, and every woman in the world: I hope every year you remain just as great and proud.

Mohamed Samir is a lecturer on political regimes and Comparative Constitutional Law. He is also a visiting professor at several American universities.

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Youth: a compass for democratic change http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/07/617657/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/07/617657/#respond Tue, 07 Mar 2017 21:00:17 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=617657 In the time of the Muslim Brotherhood, I met with one of their leaders, who was the secretary general of the Pharmacists Syndicate in one of the governorates adjacent to the capital. I asked him about the reasons for their aggression against the media and the disputes with the judiciary, the police, and the army …

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In the time of the Muslim Brotherhood, I met with one of their leaders, who was the secretary general of the Pharmacists Syndicate in one of the governorates adjacent to the capital. I asked him about the reasons for their aggression against the media and the disputes with the judiciary, the police, and the army from the side of the brotherhood and the institution of the presidency—and why the disputes have become irresolvable. His answer was surprising. He said that he was working with Mohamed Al-Beltagy’s group and that they had been working through individual initiatives to solve disputes; however, El-Shater’s group destroyed what they were doing for the sole sake of shrinking the role of Al-Beltagy’s group.

The scene was clear to me. I told him that Egypt has a president who does not govern it. There are two groups fighting over control and not acting united to manage Egypt properly. When I told him Egypt does not deserve this, he turned his back and walked away as if to avoid confrontation and being in the wrong.

I asked a question a year ago: “who runs Egypt and controls the decisions as well as its internal and external policies? And why is there no kitchen cabinet that helps the president and advices him in all matters? I got several responses—the clearest was that President Al-Sisi has requested two years to choose his advisers, but the two years have passed already, and we still do not know who they are. Who would be blamed or held accountable for not advising the president to take the country out of a state of lacking vision or transparency of running it.

We now believe that what is being communicated through official channels regarding moving towards democratisation are simply false slogans, just like during all the previous systems. Perhaps because I am one of the optimists, I find that the road is always open for achieving dreams and positive change—if those in power and influence have the desire and the will.

After 30 June and the disposal of the president who did not govern the country, as well as the rival groups in the administration, we thought that we would turn the management in the right direction and move it on a track towards democratic transition—which was initiated by the 25 January Revolution—and we demanded the application of the law and the constitution. We insisted that the country be managed with transparency, and we demanded for the rights of young people to participate in the management of the state.

We demanded the multiplicity of parties to stop the erosion of our security and the return of each institution to its normal role without claiming exceptional freedoms or privileges for itself. We also demanded the right to enjoy a strong country and have freedom for the first time in decades.

Now, after nearly four years, we find ourselves back to square one. Young people returned to a sense of hopelessness. They gather in coffee-shops and smoke, then they go to people with beards and short galabeyas who promise to lead them to the bliss and gardens of Paradise and who instruct them to stay away from the paths leading to the torments of Hell. Those youth decided to forfeit their dreams, even though they may have contributed a lot to affecting people’s lives and transforming the country as a whole.

After all these years, we see reality burying all the gains that we thought we had achieved after the 25 January revolution, and it has become a mirage—as if it is a scheme carefully placed to punish people for the revolution and to push them to admit that they are the cause of all the setbacks suffered by the country now.

A careful reading to the faces of the citizens and their interpretations of what happened to the country reveals several impressions of the street, the results of which will always be compatible with their inclinations and their culture. Some believe that there are those who work against the president himself and some are still loyal to their old covenants and their old president.

Others believe that the president’s military background makes him see things from one side only and he does not accept that all coins have two sides.

There are other people who believe that the president and his close circle learned their lesson and decided to get rid of intellectual pluralism and media freedom for the sake of making the country speak with one voice—so they tightened their grip on the media and all its institutions.

I reached a new conclusion, because, like many others, I managed to develop a grasp of obvious givens: we should only talk about the need for correcting the direction and return to achieving the dreams that were created by the 25 January Revolution. I see that the opportunity is still there—if there is a political will and the readiness and desire of the president and his entourage.

Correcting the direction requires many actions. The first is to hear out the angry young people and to discuss their ideas, as well as getting them involved in the political life, making them the core of real parties in order to achieve the desired liberal democratic shift for Egypt’s future.

This will introduce real Egyptian paragons to the Egyptian street without interference from security, preventing the growing role of political parties and them finding their way to the people. The current existing parties are already a clear example of the security‘s efforts to prevent such efforts.

The correction of the democratic track requires the state to free intellectuals and let them spread their ideas to interact with the people on the streets until we can also consider the farmer, the mechanic, and the street vendor as intellectuals—like how they were perceived before the glorious 1952 Revolution, when ideas were met with opposing ones and when the streets, rather than the media, dictated how people think.

Correcting the direction requires reorganising the Egyptian media landscape after many people resorted to anti-state media platforms to find there what they were looking for. Regarding the public opinion of Egyptians and the number of viewers of these channels is an alarming sign that we should deal with and not neglect. We must stop any endeavours of tightening control over the media in Egypt. People no longer trust the voice of governments and only listen to the opposite tone. The freedom of the press while retaining a platform speaking rationally in the name of the state may be a good start to reorganise the Egyptian media landscape.

The correction of the track requires stopping calls for a constitutional amendment. Most probably, the street will not accept increasing the presidential term—limiting it is one of the rights and of the dreams of Egyptians who will not compromise on this under any amount of pressure, so trying to change this will face domestic and possibly even international resistance.

Furthermore, this correction necessarily requires the elimination of political and economic corruption which Egypt suffers from.

The reasons behind the Egyptian revolution are the absence of social justice in the state of Mubarak, the predominance of politicians who are loyal to the regime, and the establishment of a political class that poses as the opposition but in fact works for the benefit of the government agencies.

One other reason for our revolution is the absence of community dialogue, which caused a gap between those who govern and those who seek change.

Correcting the path requires analytical reading of the ideas people shared on social networking sites, instead of hunting them down. The best way to bury an idea is provide an alternative, not pursuit holders of this idea. Hence, we need to analyse ideas and look into how reasonable they are and the extent to which they will benefit the society. Then, we can discuss. This creates a liberal society that can understand the existence of opposite ideas.

It also needs following up on the ideas spread on the streets and in cafes. Following up here means careful reading of the dreams of the people, dealing with them, and achieving them if possible.

Here we reach the need to find a flexible relationship with a bit of rivalry that is not harmful to the state or to civil society that lost its role in Egypt for the same reasons that turned Egyptian parties into cartoon entities. We must reach a healthy relationship between the two parties and seek balance. The government has to form real entities that can be held accountable. These entities should supervise the performance of the state in facing corruption and bringing an end to the deep state.

This will be a guarantee for building a generation that believes in democracy, respects law, and works hard. This will be a liberal generation that accepts others. The democratic shift in Egypt will never happen as long as citizens fight the law and disrespect traditions.

Here comes the role of soft power into play. There are nearly 6,000 youth centres and sports clubs in Egypt, along with more than 600 cultural venues and 50,000 NGOs, aside from government affiliated entities.

The ruling regime has to count its steps. Egypt cannot withstand another shock. The regime has to be clear and explain its policies to the people on the streets to create a community dialogue. The regime has to understand what happened 15 years ago, which changed the culture structure and formed a new generation that refuses to comply and disapprove what its mind cannot accept. The regime needs to realise that the Egyptian community is no longer isolated from the world and that the people have dreams that they aim to go after. The regime has to work hard for a real democratic change through mechanisms that were called for after the revolution in 2011, such as transparency, community dialogue in decision making, cleansing the government from corrupted people, leave room for freedoms, and curb security interventions.

It is only in the interest of President Al-Sisi’s regime to help establish political parties that have a clear programme to solve the problems of Egyptians and help their people realise their dreams. These parties should be equipped with tools to penetrate the community everywhere, even in the most rural areas.

The regime has to create an environment that allows such freedoms, while staying neutral to all other political parties. The regime has to rise up through its agencies to educate the people and raise their awareness by programmes implemented to restore the concept of political work. The regime has to offer the real facts to citizens to help each person decide on their own—without false information according to agendas that may not be in the national interest.

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How can the upsides of the American model inspire us? (2 of 3) http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/07/617478/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/07/617478/#respond Tue, 07 Mar 2017 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=617478 The right to obtain information

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We continue to present a series of articles that shed light on the positive aspects of the American experience and how it can be employed to achieve real positive changes in the main challenges Egypt faces. This series may be beneficial for decision-makers and those interested in the Egyptian public affairs. It is based on the pieces written by a participant of the “International Visitor” programme in the US with the aim of getting closely acquainted with some aspects regarding the administration of the federal, state, and county authorities.

In the previous article we discussed the issue of public spending priorities. In this article, we look at the transparency system and making information accessible through their original sources. This point is a cornerstone in terms of any issue regarding accountability, integrity, and fending off corruption, especially since civil society activists in Egypt have long demanded to adopt a suitable law for information access. These demands, however, were only met by procrastination by the government.

The system of information exchange in the US is characterised by several federal laws that grant an ability to access information freely to any interested party and narrow the scope of exceptions to this fundamental right.

Information availability in the US is based on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) issued during the era of former president Lyndon B. Johnson. It grants access to any documents held by sub-executive agencies, departments, regulatory commissions, and companies controlled by the government. According to the law, any individual can issue a request without making his American nationality or place of residency clear. Information is sometimes even available through electronic means. This applies to information previously requested by other people.

Even though the American law includes nine exceptions, such as national security information, personal and bank information, and discussions regarding the pre-decision making phase, the law stresses the importance of narrowing the number of those exceptions. Certain authorities are given the power to decide on the confidentiality of this kind of information.

Of course the picture is not perfect; some complain about the prolonged process of accessing information; however, evidence has shown that information availability was more important than keeping their confidentiality.

The exciting part about the American experience is that the freedom of accessing information in some states is greater than on the federal level. Many states apply complementary laws, known as open record laws [Editor’s note: the term also applies to laws on the federal level]. They adopt a great initiative in terms of making information available to the public.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the information centre of the city runs an initiative known as ABQ View. It provides detailed information about the performance of government authorities and also provides information about wages, bonuses, and the dates they were obtained by officials. It also includes copies of review and inspection reports of all licensed areas in the city.

Pressure groups and civil society organisations play a strong role in making the information available through pressuring the government. These groups are the main actor that guarantees the obtainment of information from their original sources.

The question now remains, to what extent can the American model of information access be copied by Egypt? Are there meaningful obstacles that justify expanding the exceptions’ scope? Is the matter limited to only approving laws or are there mechanisms to be established to regulate information access?

The truth is that copying the American model in Egypt seems difficult for several political, security, economic, cultural, and institutional considerations; however, that does not mean that using the model as a guide to establish an ambitious information exchange system is off the table.

For example, a law could be adopted which stipulates that original information is available without causing problems in terms of determining exceptions. It is important to determine the exceptions accurately in order to prevent misunderstandings. The law should include the formation of an authority whose members are technical, judicial, and security elements, with the mission of categorising information and documents on a scale from “confidential” to “public”, while allowing information requestors to file appeals to the decisions made by the authority to a specialised judicial authority in a short time span.

In all cases, it should be made clear that the law includes a ban on circulation of personal and banking information, but at the same time, the law must stipulate that government bodies should publish information regarding public spending, including wages, bonuses, and allowances of government employees. Military and security spending could be exempted, though.

A strong system must be established to make all records of meetings and sessions of civil bodies available, whether executive or elected bodies.

Article 68 in the Egyptian Constitution provides an ambitious framework to adopt a new law for information circulation; however, the current practices, whether by the parliament or the government, look very gloomy. The awaited law may not come in line with the Constitution or meet the demands of the actors in the Egyptian civil society. This requires everyone to carry out accurate reading of the experiences of other countries that have already applied a concept that implies that information of any kind is a right of citizens.

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The politics of fear http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/06/617346/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/06/617346/#respond Mon, 06 Mar 2017 10:00:22 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=617346 “Fear does not prevent death, fear prevents life,” was one of the most important sentences in the movie Mawlana, based on the novel of the same name by Ibrahim Eissa. Fear prevents movement, makes brains shut down, and allows hesitation to take us over. The desire to be free from fear remains the hope of …

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“Fear does not prevent death, fear prevents life,” was one of the most important sentences in the movie Mawlana, based on the novel of the same name by Ibrahim Eissa.

Fear prevents movement, makes brains shut down, and allows hesitation to take us over. The desire to be free from fear remains the hope of those living in a world where some religious men and politicians, and their supporters take control—with the addition of the unaware people, they are creating a deformed scene.

In the democratic world on the other hand, citizens are not afraid of the government, the police or clergy; instead, all executive powers work to satisfy citizens, who are payers of taxes and voters. In that free world there are no taboos that should not be discussed. Everything is discussable; so minds open up, and everybody heads towards the future, while in the foggy worlds, lots of elements work together to make us return to the past—when liberation from fear becomes a dream, you can be sure that we are walking backwards.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1922-2016), the former secretary general of the United Nations, former deputy prime minister, and former minister of foreign affairs, called upon politicians in Egypt and the Arab world to open up to the world for the opportunities this carries to learn and react. He used the US as an example to attract talents and keep them there. It is an open society to others as long as they bring something new to the table.

Since the 23 July coup in 1952, which eliminated the parliamentary life and resulted in the emigration of the majority of foreigners living in Egypt, there has been the question of where they went with all their richness of intellectual, social, scientific, and commercial abilities? Egypt had about 33 different nationalities and 18 different religions back then.

Religious and cultural diversity revives people, because everybody gets to learn from everybody else and everybody influences those around them. They compete, discuss, and argue. People learn new languages, business deals increase, and foods as well as art, cinema, and theatre vary. People learn from one another, understand one another, hence, accept one another.

When all these cultures got together and became part of the Egyptian life, advancement was expected, but with the arrival of those who called themselves “the free officers” in 1952—although we do not quite know what kind of freedom they stood for—it became clear that the new leadership did not trust anything that differed from it. It started categorising some segments of the population as enemies of the revolution, while we still do not know—up until now—which revolution they mean.

Wise political leadership is able to integrate all segments of society and support minorities, even strengthening them, making the “all is one” saying more of lifestyle than just a motto.

It seems that fear is haunting Egyptian politicians everywhere and at all times. Fear dismisses confidence. The Egyptian government must trust Egyptian businesspeople more, open the Egyptian market, issue an investment law, and foremost, integrate its opponents above its supporters.

When will this happen? When will we eliminate a fear that destroys our present and future and gambles with the future of children who still dream of a better tomorrow—free from fear?

These are questions that need an answer, and maybe one day the minds of leaders will turn freedom into the sole reference for carrying out any political, scientific, or commercial activity.

Sherif Rezk – International Relations researcher

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How could we benefit from the American model?    http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/06/benefit-american-model/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/06/benefit-american-model/#respond Mon, 06 Mar 2017 09:00:16 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=617349 Education, health, and public spending priorities 

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I had the opportunity to participate with a limited group of activists in the Arab region within the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the United States over the last three weeks to get to know the ruling system; the federal authorities; as well as states’, counties’, and cities’ public services. We held several meetings in Washington DC and a number of states with a lot of decision-makers, American officials, and experts.

I realised, like many others, that the American model of governance and management is so unique—notably its social structure and historical conditions—and it is very difficult to apply it to other countries for many reasons. However, we still can adopt many positive aspects of American life and liberal ruling principles and apply them to Arab societies (including the Egyptian one), all of which seek revival and renaissance. So I decided to write a series of articles highlighting the American experience and how we can benefit from it to make a real positive change in the Egyptian state. Perhaps this series can shed light on some beneficial factors for decision-makers and those interested in Egyptian public affairs.

The first article focuses on the priorities of public spending. It seems to be a dilemma in Egypt, in which all governments, ruling systems, and revolutions failed to install a system that achieves social justice, which Egyptians still urgently demand.

Actually, the change of public spending priorities requires the ruling political power to make its choices in favour of the majority of people, in a way that ensures efficiency in the management of state resources and the general budget.

The American model clearly tends to give priority to education and health sectors, out of a belief that the human being is the main development asset and target. This belief has by now become accepted across almost the whole world. It became clear in light of the experiences of many countries, that the only way to achieve change is to give the spending priority to those sectors; governments that decrease budgets allocated to education and health are bound to fail.

The government of each state has the responsibility of allocating its budget for education and health; managing counties and cities brings fewer burdens and responsibilities. The federal government has nothing to do with the education and health sectors, except in terms of federal laws (such as health insurance) or federal education grants. These sectors are financed by tax revenue, which is usually not low at all.

Georgia, for example, one of the richer states, has an annual budget of $65bn amd a population of about 10m people. Georgia spends about 54% of its budget on education, while the health sector takes more than 21% of its budget. It means that three-quarters of the state budget (about $49bn) are spent on education and health only.

Most of the education budget is directed to pre-university education, as more than 70% of the education budget is spent on basic education, compared to less than 30% on university education.

Despite the huge spending on education and health in Georgia, the reader will be surprised to know that Georgia ranked the 37th out of total 51 states in terms of spending on pre-university education, and the 47th in terms of spending on healthcare. It means that other states in America spend much more on these two sectors than Georgia.

Obviously, it would not be appropriate to compare the size of education and health budgets in the United States with Egypt’s, because the economic conditions and historical and administrative circumstances are quite different. However, we should wonder how we can be inspired by this model, taking into account all factors in Egypt.

The answer to this question is that we should immediately eliminate two illusions in Egypt. The first illusion is the necessity of providing state subsidies for everything, including gasoline for luxury cars, bread, drinking water, electricity, and transport. The second is the centralisation of financing and management of education and health sectors. After we get rid of these illusions, we can start to restructure the state budget and direct all the funds saved by cancelling food and services subsidies to education and health sectors. We should also develop the performance of education and health systems to become fully decentralised, in accordance with a general policy, and clear and specific performance indicators.

This suggestion can increase the education and health budgets in Egypt by two-and-a-half times at least, while the decentralisation approach would ensure sustainable development of both services and boost community participation in the development of educational and health institutions.

It is to be noted that the parallel spending on education and health by Egyptian families is actually more than government spending, including private lessons and treatment in private hospitals and clinics outside the health insurance umbrella. It means that citizens spend more money on pre-university education and health than the state subsidies of food commodities, transportation, and energy. So the vast majority of citizens would not oppose the restructure of the public spending priorities, on condition that the state provides guarantees to families that they will receive high-quality education and health services, and offers free university education and almost free healthcare.

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The government’s economy and the people’s economy http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/05/617243/ http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2017/03/05/617243/#respond Sun, 05 Mar 2017 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/?p=617243 It is now clear, as time goes by, that we are talking to, criticising, and offering solutions to an unworthy government that unfortunately treats us the way an Egyptian employee deals with Egyptians. Of course, I do not have to explain to you how Egyptian employees function in Egypt. This shows how the government is …

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It is now clear, as time goes by, that we are talking to, criticising, and offering solutions to an unworthy government that unfortunately treats us the way an Egyptian employee deals with Egyptians. Of course, I do not have to explain to you how Egyptian employees function in Egypt. This shows how the government is unable to manage our current economic crisis successfully, since it uses the routine way of thinking adopted by Egyptian employees, mixed with the mentality of day-to-day labourers and breadwinners. This mix hinders the development of the country.

Through the use of popular media, the government is trying to convince us of its famous trends that imply we are walking down the right path, depending on some reports by international bodies that we will be absolutely great by 2030. We are living a dark comedy. The Egyptian government has a booming economy in its own fantasy; however, Egyptians have a dying economy, substandard educational and health services, and other problems.

We need to be honest with ourselves. The volume of foreign and local debt has reached terrifying historic levels, with foreign debts reaching more than $60bn. Locally, debts have reached more than EGP 2.3tn; hence, projects are not the result of surplus in the national income or a real tangible effort made by the state.

We try, one last time, to advise someone who would not take advice—the Egyptian government—by telling it that there are several ways to treat the structural imbalance in the Egyptian economy, including benefiting from the major projects set up by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi—especially road projects. He has done something great by allocating about 2km on the sides of these roads to industrial, agricultural, and residential projects; however, until now, the government has not utilised these major projects and was unable to merge even part of the unofficial economy with the official one. This could have doubled the state’s revenues from taxes and enabled it to utilise the non-official economy to control markets when necessary, especially regarding the occurrence of crises in strategic goods.

To identify the non-official economy, it is important to explain several issues about the concept and ways to benefit from it in Egypt.

Fatima Tibi, a researcher at the Economic Studies Center, explains that the non-official economy consists of all the economic activities taking place outside of the official economy’s field. These activities are not subject to taxes or monitored by the government as they are not part of the gross domestic product (GDP), unlike the official economy.

Even though the presence of the non-official economy is greatly connected to developing countries, all economic systems include non-official economies.

The issue of the non-official economy has gained the interest of economic researchers, with its various names, whether the black market, the hidden economy, the unorganised economy, or the non-productive economy.

There are studies currently carried out by international institutions regarding the issue, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Bureau International Du Travail (BIT).

A report from the BIT said that in developing countries, there is about 50%-75% of the non-agricultural labour force working in the non-official economy. Despite the fact that there is a clear difficulty in generalisation, there is another factor that is playing into this concept; namely the non-availability of job opportunities, along with the pervasiveness of poverty and a group of jobs that lack protection in terms of wages and bonuses for extra work hours, in addition to the employer’s ability to fire a worker without notice or compensation. In addition, there are dangerous work conditions and a lack of social privileges, such as health insurance, pensions, and sick leave. This forces some women and immigrants from vulnerable segments to accept unstable, non-official jobs.

During the International Labour Conference held in July 2002, some laws were established to meet the needs of workers in the non-official economy. It is noted that the non-official economy phenomenon has increased in developing countries, where this kind of economy contributes up to 40%-60% of the GDP—a figure which calls for examining the situation.

There is much to be said about the government’s failure and the deliberate silence of the parliament about these failures. It is stunning that the parliament is busy with its battles with the media, without having the courage to withdraw its confidence of any minister up until this point, despite all the troubles caused by the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail—a record holder in creating foreign debts owed by Egypt.

Egypt is rich with resources and its people abroad and locally; however, Egypt is certainly poor when it comes to administration.

Long live Egypt.

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