CAIRO: Non-political protests, canceling the Agrium project and successfully negotiating the release of 19 European hostages held in Western Desert and the release of an Egyptian vessel seized by pirates off the Somali Coast were the top events highly appraised by the Egyptian public, a recent government report revealed.
The Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) released a report reviewing the most important events that took place in Egypt in 2008. The report, however, overlooked some of the year’s most prominent ‘bad news’ like the Duweiqa rockslide, mainly opting to only highlight the silver lining.
According to the report, the events which took place this year and were highly appraised by the Egyptian public are: the Egyptian forces ability to free the 19 Europeans held hostage in the desert for 10 days last September; the Egyptian intelligence successfully negotiating the release of its vessel seized by pirates off the Somalia coast in early September and the Egyptian government cancelling the fertilizer project which Canadian company Agrium was planning to set up at Ras El-Bar on the northeast coast of Egypt.
The report also notes that among the highlights of 2008 were the International Monetary Fund appointing Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali as chairman of the international monetary and financial committee and the presidential decree pardoning Al-Dostour Editor Ibrahim Eissa from the two-month jail sentence he received for “publishing false information of a nature to disturb public order or security.
The most important sports events this year were the Egyptian national soccer team winning the African Cup of Nations and Al-Ahly winning the African Champions League for the sixth time.
However, the highlight of 2008 according to the report are the protests which “reflected the demands of different groups and weren’t of a political nature, for example the Doctors and Teachers Syndicate protests that called for increasing wages.
“It is worth mentioning that the government allowed those protests and strikes to take place on its responsibility, says the report, adding that the President and the Prime Minister got involved to resolve the issue raised by the protests and there was dialogue between the government and the protestors.
Protests and strikes weren’t the only means for expression this year, activists resorted to modern day technology to voice their opinion through different channels, such as blogs and Facebook, says the report, citing the publicity the April 6 and May 4 strikes received online.
While the report by the state agency asserts that the government supports the protestors, this month saw the conviction of 22 defendants for committing crimes during the April 6 protests in Mahalla. Furthermore, Facebook activist Esraa Abdel Fattah was arrested and detained briefly for inciting the strike.
Releasing Esraa was a move in the right direction, her detention was sending out a message to the youth warning them that if they express their opinions they will be at risk of being arrested, said Hassan Abou Taleb, a researcher at Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies.
It s illogical to monitor the internet, because we are living in the internet era and if they do that then they will be following old policies that can never be applicable in today s world, he added.
Along the same lines of seeing the cup half full, when mention the Shoura Council fire, the report noted the record time it took to rebuild the historic building rather than the failure to put the fire down.
On the other hand, “new phenomena which appeared in 2008 that violate the Egyptian society’s morals are violence in schools, sexual harassment, clashes with the Sinai Bedouins, the bread crisis and illegal immigration.
While corporal punishment might not be a recent phenomenon, the tragic death of 11-year-old Islam Badr after being kicked in the stomach by his mathematics teacher shed light on the issue.
Human rights organizations are calling on the government to take serious action against corporal punishment in schools, which is a violation to child and human rights.
“Violence in schools is an endemic problem in Egypt despite the Ministry of Education’s decree prohibiting it, said Hossam Bahgat, chairman of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“There needs to be effective legal measures taken to completely end this problem, said Bahgat.
Other events of 2008 are the deaths of many key public figures in Egyptian society, such as Abdel Wahab El Messiry.