Posts Tagged ‘Cairo’

A day at the gun market

May 2, 2013
The Arabist

The Arabist

Lately, I have been taking a lot of taxis. Naturally, that means hearing unsolicited political opinions, life lessons, and impromptu stories about women who match my exact physical description and share my sense of style (and, sometimes, my name) getting mugged, raped or murdered, in the hope of scaring me into begging them to my full-time driver and shield of protection.

Last week, one managed to convince me. Instead of suggesting I promptly take his phone number and call him whenever I need to venture out into the jungle that is Cairo, Reda, my new driver, casually offered me a shotgun for a reasonable LE600.

Being the picky shopper that I am, I refused to simply buy the first gun I hear of and asked for options. Obligingly, Reda decided to call a guy, who knows a guy, to get me a beginner’s collection. “Something small for a small lady,” he told him.

I had two options, Reda told me: *Fard Kartoush* (a birdshot gun) for LE700, plus an additional LE70 for 10 bullets, or a 9mm for LE2000 (the gun is actually worth LE15,000, but since it stolen from a police department during the revolution, Awad, Reda’s friend and dealer, is not too keen on keeping it) or settle for the lowly sound-gun-turned-real-gun for LE1000.

The latter is known for breaking itself after the third shot, because its transformation into a killing machine was conducted by a underemployed carpenter, looking to make a quick LE200 by changing the gun’s barrel.

My second option was to go to Suk al-Salaah (the weapons market), which is part of Suk al-Imam al-Shafa’i in Sayeda Ayesha.

I was given simple directions: “Go to the stolen bedrooms market and ask them to point you to the weapons market.”
Realizing that I don’t know where the stolen bedrooms market (which, as the name suggests, is a market where stolen bedrooms are sold for prices so low, they are technically being stolen all over again — although some of the beds and dressers were just the natural result of divorce), so I asked Reda to tag along with me, partly out of self-preservation.

Since it was a Tuesday, and the market is officially held on Fridays, not many people were there, quite unlike Fridays, when the market is so full of people no car, no matter how small, can get in.

There was a group of idle shoppers chatting rather than discussing prices with dealers selling all kinds of things from old Nokia phones to curtains. There was an argument about an overpriced *matwa mafaragha*, a Swiss knife whose blade is serated and pointy, literally giving it an edge over all other *matwas*. The young man, who didn’t want to pay LE20 for it, was quickly pulled back by another buyer.

Reda said that the oddly peaceful end of the heated argument was very normal in the market, where quarrels are uncommon.

“Both the buyer and the seller come here knowing it’s against the law, no point in hassling over prices and making a fuss,” Reda explained. “Not that we are scared of the police, they know where we are and what we do, and they do nothing… the point is everyone here is armed (or in the process of getting armed), if someone is provoked enough to shoot; everyone will start shooting,” he continued.

However, the buyers are not just shady young men; they are shop owners, worried fathers, car owners, etc. Just people who have lost all faith in law enforcement and don’t want to be the defenseless victims of thugs, particularly now that weapons are readily available courtesy of Libyan and Sinai smugglers, and more importantly, the famous January 28 2011 police station raids.

Ironically enough, many of those much-feared thugs also shop in Suk al-Salaah too. So the future victim and criminal rub shoulders while calmly arming themselves against each other.

“Is your girl buying or not?” an exasperated Awad asked Reda, purposefully ignoring my presence and interrupting our conversation. “I am not his girl,” I corrected him. Awad already knew that, but was presumably trying to get to buy something, anything.

Having had no real intentions of buying weapons, I simply pretended to be unimpressed by all of them. At one point, I half-jokingly complained about the lack of color variety.

I felt somewhat safe in doing so, because both my gender and looking the way I do (i.e. not looking poor), gave the few people I spoke to, the impression that I am easily fooled bag of money that would cough up double the desired amount. So long as I paid Reda his promised LE200 for his time and implied that I was going to be back later to buy; I was safe.

Meanwhile, the gun market for the upper class is booming too. The only difference is that the gun you would get for LE3000 in Suk al-Salaah is sold for continously-increasing prices, which can easily reach up to LE20,000, in an air-conditioned store in Heliopolis or in the vaulted corner of a fancy gas station, like the one in the beginning of the Ismailia road. Also, they have color variety.

Other than getting a chic shade of gold, the only advantage to buying these guns is that one would be forced to first get a license. However, Reda argues, that the ubiquity of weapons and indifference/incompetence of the police force makes getting a license, which is a hassle in and of itself that drives many to Suk al-Salaah, is hardly a necessity, yet alone an advantage.

While knowledge of the growing illegal, and legal, markets of weapons is as common as the weapons themselves, the market continues to fly under the radar of both the police and the media.

That being said, here is one of the few reports about illegal weapons. It’s an interview with a smuggler and a weapons dealer, who is preparing for his Masters in International Law, and sometimes buys weapons by entering the name of the gun he wants into Google to look for someone who has it. Once found, he would add that person on Facebook to discuss the details of their transactions (those who send late replies or ask for too money are mercilessly poked to deactivation, I imagine). He likes to have a three-year-old kid fire the guns.

— Nour Youssef

Published in The Arabist.

Hosni Mubarak has gone!

February 11, 2011

Dear President Mubarak your dignity is no longer important, the blood of Egyptians is. Please leave the country NOW. — Wael Ghonim

Dear Western Governments, You’ve been silent for 30 years supporting the regime that was oppressing us. Please don’t get involved now. — Wael Ghonim

!! He’s gone! Scenes of jubilations in Tahrir. I will never forget this moment. — Sharif Kouddous

“Lift your head up, you’re Egyptian!” – the chant of victory in Tahrir. — Sharif Kouddous

Every street is filled with people cheering, celebrating, honking, dancing. Indescribable. — Sharif Kouddous

Thanks to everyone for the congrats. A big battle has been won but the war is far from over. We celebrate tonight, tomorrow we struggle on. — Sharif Kouddous

The world only gets better because people risk something to make it better. Congrats Egypt! — Paulo Coelho

Yesterday, we were all Tunisians. Today we are all Egyptians. Tomorrow we will all b: Syrians? Yemenis? Jordanians? Algerians? Palestinians? — Rawya Rageh

It was 1600 GMT and on Egyptian TV was Omar Suleiman looking like death warmed up. He made a very brief statement, less than a minute announcing that Hosni Mubarak had resigned and control had been passed to the army.

The crowds on the streets went wild. It was what they had been waiting for.

What a contrast to the previous evening when Hosni Mubarak had appeared on TV to announce he was staying, to be followed by Omar Suleiman telling people to get off the streets, to go back to work, to stop listening to foreign satellite channels.

All very confusing. Thursday everyone was expecting Hosni Mubarak to go, but he dug in his heels and said he was staying. Following midday Friday prayers, people took to the streets. Tahrir Square was filled to overflowing, people overspilled and started to surround the Presidential Palace and State TV building. In other parts of the country there were reports of peope seizing government buildings.

We were told Egypt was or would descend into chaos, that the Islamists wwre poised to take over, that Egypt would be another Iran.

The reality was peacefull unarmed people took on a repressive regime backed by US-UK and won.

The reality was the people were more than capable of running their own affairs. Look at the number of people in Tahrir Square, there was no police and yet apart from when they were attacked by state security and Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs, there was no violence. People worked together, they looked after each other and out for each other, no one was telling then what to do or organising them.

What we have seen was participatory democracy in action. This is the Big Society, not what David Cameron and Nick Clegg are trying to implement as an excuse to cut public services.

Egypt has ushered in a New World Order. The dominoes will fall one by one. We were told Egypt would not fall. It took three weeks but it fell. Scum bags and others who are brutalising their own people have a very simple choice, go now or be kicked out.

How long will it be before the rotten house of cards that is the corrupt House of Saud falls? Before the evil ayatollahs and mullahs go from Iran? Before the corrupt Palestinian Authority is overthrown?

Palestinian Authority next?

St Valentine’s Day will see the start of revolution in Iran. A Day of Rage has been called.

Iran’s ‘Day of Rage’
Day of Rage facebook group

The evil ayatollahs and mullahs are jittery. Iran is jamming the BBC Persian service. Books by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho have been banned, though these are now available for free download in Persian.

Iran denies banning Paulo Coelho’s books
Iran bans Paulo Coelho

In Jordan the King is moving in the right direction, but far too slowly. Stop attacking journalists.

Israel will be forced to enter into dialogue with its neighbours.

In Egypt the Constitution has to be rewritten. The Presidential term restricted to two four-year terms. The security apparatus dismantled. The ruling NDP dismantled. Senior officials including Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman put on trial. Parliament has to be dissolved. Free and fair elections held with outside observers.

An interim government has to be appointed drawn from all sectors of society who took to the streets. To retain the cabinet appointed by Mubarak would be to insult the Egyptian people. No way can Omar Suleiman play a part.

How Egypt moves forward is for the people on the street to decide.

Democracy comes from the bottom, it is not imposed from above.

There is a lot more to be done but tonight we celebrate! Tonight we are all Egyptians!

Egypt in revolt
Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout A Revolution
The Egyptian Revolution: A Democracy Now! Special on Mubarak’s Resignation
Look at the streets of Egypt; this is what hope looks like
Triumph as Mubarak quits
People & Power – Egypt: Seeds of change
Egypt: Protests spread as Mubarak holds on
Mubarak teases Egypt as his regime fragments
Palestinians can only watch as Egyptians are living their dream
Egyptians have chosen, time for the state to accept their choice
What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab
Palestinian Authority next?

Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout A Revolution

February 11, 2011


anger on the street

anger on the street

This is a massive insult to the Egyptian people and they are not going to accept it … tomorrow they will be out on the streets in their millions. — Aljazeera

Spending the night in Tahrir. Crowd has lessened since speech. People discussing plans for tomorrow. — Sharif Kouddous

Man tells me: “Mubarak is a military man, rigid. But with the enough pressure he will break”. — Sharif Kouddous

The rumours had been spread, the hated Hosni Mubarak was going. It must be true the BBC had said he was going, the head of the CIA said he was going, his cronies said he was going.

His delayed speech was waited for in silence. But it was not what was expected. He was to remain in power, Yes, some unspecified powers were to be handed to the hated VP Omar Suleiman, but he was not going.

It was as though a switch had been thrown. Carnival atmosphere one moment, anger the next.

The brief speech by the VP Omar Suleiman was an anti-climax in comparison. He told people to go home, to go back to work, to not listen to satellite TV.

What was going on? Why did the head of the army tell the protesters they would get what they want? Why did Mubarak cronies say he was going? Was it a ploy by Mubarak to flush out those who were not loyal to him so they could be eliminated?

Mubarak talked of not jumping to foreign diktats. It is his own people who are telling him to go.

Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman have guaranteed that millions will take to the streets. They have promised to take the Presidential Palace and State TV. Who will stop them?

As of Thursday night, protesters are camped outside the army base in Alexandria. Tahrir Square is packed.

Millions were expected to take to the streets today after midday Friday prayer. Mubarak and Suleiman have simply helped to swell their ranks.

The call is for 20 million people to take to the streets!

Barak Obama has finally shown some backbone. US needs to cut off the flow of military aid. But the corrupt House of Saud has offered to step in and finance the Mubarak regime. Yet one more reason to overthrow the corrupt House of Saud.

What we are seeing is the shaping of a New World Order. No longer are people going to put up with not being listened to. Not only in the Middle East but across the world people are watching with interest.

St Valentine’s Day, the revolution starts in Iran!

As a week ago, we have to hope and pray that Friday does not turn into a bloodbath.

Egypt in revolt
Doctors lawyers actors join anti-Mubarak protest
Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign
Egypt’s Mubarak refuses to quit
Mubarak stays, Egypt erupts in rage
World sceptical of Mubarak’s speech
The shaping of a New World Order

Doctors lawyers actors join anti-Mubarak protest

February 10, 2011
Circle of light

Circle of light

No matter how you feel today, get up, dress up and show up. — Paulo Coelho

I’m expecting [Mubarak] to pass his decision… and for him to go to the constitution and transmit his authorities as President to his Vice President. — Dr Hossam Badrawi to Channel 4 News

“I don’t need Obama. I don’t need Clinton. I will free Egypt with my mom and dad.” — Child protester in Tahrir Square

Thousands of lawyers are marching into Tahrir to protest. They say they are 50,000 strong. — Sharif Kouddous

Big crowd of doctors marched from Kasr El Aini hospital to Tahrir. Chanting “I am a doctor. I am against the rule of the dictator”. — Sharif Kouddous

SecGen of Pres Mubarak’s party told me to expect Mubarak to announce he’s stepping aside in broadcast tonight. — Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News

Dr Badrawi, SecGen of NDP, just told me he expects President Mubarak to pass his powers to his Vice President tonight. — Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News

Spoke to Badrawi of NDP: he said “I have no absolute information” but “I hope he does” transfer powers to VP.” — Lyse Voucet, BBC World News

Just spoke Badrawi NDP: Mubarak “probably” speak tonite, and “hopes” he hands over powers. Confirmed its being discussed. — Lyse Doucet, BBC World News

The day opened with a rainbow over Tahrir Square which many saw as a good omen.

Lawyers, doctors and actors marched on the street, adding their voice to the call for Mubarak to go.

The day was dominated by rumours: Was Mubarak about to go? Was he going tonight or by Friday? Was he handing power to the vice president or the army? Had there been or was there about to be an army coup?

Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News, in what appeared to be a world exclusive scoop, said that in interview with Hossan Badrawi of NDP she had been told Hosni Mubarak was stepping down tonight.

Lyse Doucet, BBC World News, spoke with Hossan Badrawi of NDP, who told her removal of Mubarak was being discussed and he expected transfer of power to the vice president. She had also recieved reports of the army taking some form of action, but knew not what.

The head of the army addressed the protesters in Tahrir Square and said all their demands were about to be met.

For the protesters on the street the replacement of Hosni Mubarak with Omar Suleiman – Chief Torturer, Torturers R US and extraordinary rendition for the Americans, Siege of Gaza for Israel – is not acceptable. Nor is what amounts to a coup by the army. The Muslim Brotherhood have said they will not accept the army.

The people in Tahrir Square put the government to shame. They even separate the rubbish into organic and non-organic. What we are seeing is participatory democracy in action.

The people in Tahrir Square have also put Western leaders to shame, especially the spineless Coward in the White House.

I caught the tail end of Mubarak live on Egyptian TV. The rumours proved to be false. He refused to stand down. He has delegated unspecified powers to VP. Crowds are going crazy. ANGER! The crowd flipped in an instant from carnival atmopshere to anger as though a switch had been thrown. In Alexandria several thousand heading to an army base. Mubarak has guaranteed mass protest on Friday.

VP told people to leave the streets, go home, go back to work, not listen to satellite TV!

Omar Suleiman, Chief Torturer, runs Torturers R US and extraordinary rendition on behalf of US, enforces Siege of Gaza on behalf of Israel.

Omar Suleiman and Hosni Mubarak have guaranteed millions on the streets on Friday. Egyptians loathe Omar Suleiman and Hosni Mubarak.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, says ‘Egypt will explode’ and urges army ‘to save the country’.

Egyptian Ambassador to US says all powers have been transfered to Omar Suleiman and he is defacto president.

Egypt in revolt
Asmaa Mahfouz
Anti-Mubarak protests spreading
Defying Regime Threats, Thousands of Workers Join Protesters in Tahrir Square
Egypt unrest: ‘President Mubarak to step down’
Egypt’s Mubarak ‘may stand down
Egypt’s torture boss takes over
Katherine Butler: Europe’s betrayal of the Arab awakening
Robert Fisk: Hypocrisy is exposed by the wind of change
Egypt’s army ‘involved in detentions and torture’
Egypt’s Youth Will Not Be Silenced
Wired and Shrewd, Young Egyptians Guide Revolt
Discovery of four skeletons in unmarked grave inside DAMANHOOR STATE SECURITY
28 hours in the dark heart of Egypt’s torture machine
The Crumbling Anchors of Mubarak’s Support
Egypt’s popular revolution will change the world
Hosni Mubarak ‘may step down’
Mubarak To Resign? Egypt’s President Will Reportedly Hand Over Power
Defiant Mubarak refuses to resign
Tracy Chapman – Talkin’ Bout A Revolution

Middle East Peace Process

February 2, 2011
Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs

Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs

Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs!

Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs!

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance. — Isaiah 19:23-25

Mubarak knew beforehand that his refusal to leave was going to provoke upheaval in Egypt, where innocent/peaceful people are being hurt while I write these lines. His criminal plan is working. Shame on him. Shame on us who can do NOTHING to help the Egyptian people, except complaining here. I feel sad and powerless. — Paulo Coelho

There never was a Middle East Peace Process. There was a peace process imposed from outside to suit US-UK and their client state Israel. Once Mubarak has gone Israel will have no friends in the Middle East. They will be forced to engage in real dialogue with their neighbours, to form a real peace. Hopefully decent Israelis will be heard above the warmongers. Israel will be forced to stop its ethnic cleansing, end its occupation of Palestine, end its Siege of Gaza, allow the displaced back to their homes and land.

Over the last few days we have seen a lot of nonsense come out of Israel, now friendless that their puppet Mubarak is on his way out. We were told of the collapse of human rights, of the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, the loss of democracy. Garbage that was regurgitated by the US mainstream media.

We were told the Arab mindset does not understand democracy, that Islam and democracy were incompatible. The voices from Egypt over the last week and before that from Tunisia have shown this not to be true.

What we are seeing in Egypt is not the flawed and discredited representative democracy that the West tries to impose on the rest of the world, what we are seeing is participatory democracy. People are manning checkpoints, people are cleaning the streets picking up the rubbish, even recycling the rubbish. They are doing it with humour. Want to make a donation to the National Democratic Party? And in goes the trash.

Today we have seen violent thugs take to the streets of Egypt. This was not spontaneous, it had to be organised by the regime. For a week the protesters have engaged in peaceful protest. The only violence was from the regime. We are seeing a dying regime lashing out in its death throes. Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs!

The Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs were bussed in. Those captured had police ID cards. They had identical placards. The Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs were seeking out Al Jazeera journalists to attack. A CNN reporter was punched and beaten.

On state TV, pro-Mubarak scum gushed how they loved Mubarak. Off camera hand held out for promised pay off.

To stop further violence and bloodshed, Western leaders with one voice, have to privately and publicly tell Mubarak to go. They say they wish to see democracy and reform in the Middle East. Well show it by helping the people of the Middle East overthrow their repressive regimes. Let us see you back the people on the street who are are calling for freedom, dignity and democracy.

US-UK have followed the standard script. Back a dictator to the bitter end. When this position becomes untenable, throw to the wolves and quickly find a new puppet to take their place.

Across the Arab world, the people have to get off their knees and shed their chains and overthrow their repressive regimes.

In Jordan and Morocco there has to be real reform, not a reshuffling of the same corrupt deck of cards. People have to have jobs based on skill and merit, not because of who they know, not because they pay a bribe.

People of Iraq have to follow the example of their Egyptian brothers where Muslim and Christian, men and women, rich and poor, lawyer and peasant, are working together for peaceful change. They are not using violence, they are not killing people, they are not setting off bombs.

What a different place Iraq would be today if regime change had been brought about peacefully by the Iraqi people, not imposed by the illegal war waged by US-UK, led by war criminals George W Bush and Tony Blair. So-called Christians waging a Crusade that has led to the killing of Christians in Iraq and secetarian violence.

You could not make this one up. War criminal Tony Blair backs Mubarak!

There are some who see what is happening in Egypt in Biblical terms, and specifically refer to Isaiah 19. I do not. I do not see the Bibical disaster of Isaiah being heaped on Egypt. Far from it. I see hope. I see hope that flickered into life in Tunsisia and led to the Jasmine Revolution and Ben Ali fleeing Tunisia like a rat up a drainpipe and hopefully followed soon by Mubarak hard on his heals. [see Crisis of Hope]

Comparisons have been made with Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall. There is one big difference. Barack Obama is no Mikhail Gorbachev.

Mubarak turns his thugs loose on democracy protesters
Bloodshed in Egypt
Clashes erupt amid Cairo protests
Egypt unrest: Pro-Mubarak supporters ‘well-organised’
Clashes rage in Tahrir Square
Tahrir: Shock and awe Mubarak style
Voices of the Egyptian Revolution
As Mubarak Pledges To Finish Term, Egyptian Protesters Stay in Streets Demanding Immediate End to Regime
Noam Chomsky: “This is the Most Remarkable Regional Uprising that I Can Remember”
A million Egyptians take to the streets
Juju’s message to Mubarak
When Isis Wept for Egypt
We lost our fear
US urges reform in Egypt?
Egypt: One by one the dominoes fall
Criminals of a feather flock together – Blair backs Mubarak


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