Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Sharm el-Sheikh luxury gulag for tourists

November 7, 2015
Russia crash site in Sinai

Russia crash site in Sinai

Surrounded by razor wire, Sharm el-Sheikh is little more than a gulag or prison camp for tourists.

The Foreign Office has been warning against all but essential travel to the area for some time. OK, the gulag of Sharm el-Sheikh was not included within this advice, but on the map, a tiny speck in an area otherwise advised as not safe. Look again on the map, and check where Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya and Syria are. Remind yourself of the western tourists gunned down in Tunisia. Then ask yourself, is  Sharm el-Sheikh safe?

Security at the airport is lax to the point of non-existent.

Eye witnesses have spoken of bored, inattentive officials, of playing games on their mobile phones when supposedly doing security checks, of corrupt officials being bribed to fast track through security with no checks, of no checks for passengers carrying liquids.

Last week, a Russian airliner crashed, killing all those on board. We cannot know for certain the cause, pending a thorough investigation, but a US spy satellite saw a bright flash indicative of an explosion, the crash was indicative of an explosion, and British Intelligence report a bomb on board and US Intelligence has reported ISIS celebrating their downing of the plane.

UK has grounded all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, leaving 20,000 tourists stranded. UK tour companies have suspended all holidays to Sharm el-Sheikh until further notice.

Today, 29 flights to Sharm el-Sheikh to pick up stranded British tourist. Egyptians only allowed six planes to land.  EasyJet had eight planes, only two allowed to land.

Those passengers who are allowed to travel, will only be able to carry hand luggage on board the plane. Their main luggage will not be allowed on board the plane in the hold will have to left behind.

Fascist military dictator President al-Sisi

Fascist military dictator President al-Sisi

Fascist military dictator President al-Sisi is a counter-terrorism embarrassment. A repressive regime, many Egyptians executed, many more in prison, journalists who report, are imprisoned, even those working for foreign media.

The repressive regime of al-Sisi, is creating the conditions which foster terrorism.

The lax security apart, it would not be difficult for ISIS to gain access to the airport, to plant bombs on board a plane.

Other European countries have followed UK lead and suspended flights. Russia has also now followed UK, and suspended flights.

Rusia last month started bombing Syria. Indiscriminate bombing of Syria many civilians casualties. This plays into the hands of ISIS.

The decadence of Sharm el-Sheikh is an affront to Islamic extremists.

For Egyptians, Egypt has been turned into one large prison camp under the repressive regime of al-Sisi.

During a visit to London, al-Sisi was dogged by demonstrations against his repressive regime. He was humiliated when during his visit, UK suspended all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Anyone thinking of going to Egypt should think again. You are supporting directly and indirectly the repressive regime of al-Sisi.

Masmou3: Noise as dissent

August 23, 2013

As Egypt descends into bloody chaos, where the only space to flourish will be for Islamic terrorists, the streets are no longer safe for protests.

A new form of protest has been developed, masmou3, its symbol a pan.

At 9pm, people open their windows and bang their pots.

It even has a song.

The bloodiest period in modern Egypt

August 19, 2013

Brutal military junta describe the massacre of innocent peaceful protesters as an act of self-restraint.

The media in Egypt, are whipping up hysteria against what they call Muslim terrorist.

The same media is whipping up hysteria against foreign journalists, many of whom themselves have been attacked. Several have been detained and disappeared, including two Canadian journalists and an Al Jazeera journalist. A TV camera man working for Sky News was killed.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

People had great hopes when they occupied Tahrir Square. Now they are betrayed. The light of freedom is being extinguished by a brutal fascism.

Canon Andrew White at St Saviour’s

August 19, 2013
book signing

book signing

It is strange, I had been thinking of meeting with Canon Andrew White, and early hours Sunday morning, I found I had a message that he was at St Saviour’s Church in Guildford.

I had not planned on being in Guildford, but a change of plans, afternoon in Guildford, lunch in Guildford, maybe a walk along the River Wey, then wander along to St Saviour’s for the evening service.

Not quite according to plan. I did not get the roast pork I was looking forward to for lunch, nor did I get my walk along the river, but I did experience a black church called The Upper Room meeting in St Nicolas, and had afternoon tea at Glutton & Glee.

I arrived at St Saviour’s more than half an hour early and was told I was first one.

I was not sure I had the correct evening, as no mention on their website, but on arrival I saw a space had been reserved for Andrew White and there was a notice on the church door.

The service started with music. During rehearsal, they were awful, but during the service far better.

We were then told of the situation in Egypt, or rather were were told half truths.

It is good that a church is recognising the plight of Christians in Egypt and the Middle East as too often they feel ignored and the churches in the West do not give a damn, but what we should also recognise is that the Christians in Egypt especially their leadership, are not a reliable witness to events on the ground and will give a partisan view.

We should not forget, that when people occupied Tahrir Square and refused to leave until Mubarak was overthrown, those who supported Mubarak to the bitter end and condemned the brave people in Tahrir Square, were the leaders of the Christian Church in Egypt. Neither should we forget that Muslims and Christian stood shoulder to shoulder in Tahrir Square.

Morsi betrayed the revolution. He tried to Islamise what is a secular country, betrayal of rights for women, installation of cronies to positions of power. In other words, no different to every corrupt government in the Middle East.

20 million Egyptians took to the streets to overthrow Morsi. A lot of rubbish in the West about the democratic overthrow of Morsi. The will of the people was executed. That is democracy. Democracy is not rule by unaccountable elites, the people reduced to election fodder and having no further say.

But, the overthrow of Morsi, has been hijacked by a military junta.

Attention was drawn to a letter from Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis. This proved to be little more than a propaganda sheet for the brutal military junta, demonisation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

St Saviour’s need to be very careful that they are not being used as unwitting tools of the military junta.

Morsi supporters, and it is not only the Muslim Brotherhood, have every right to peaceful protest. The response of the junta, to massacre in cold blood several hundred peaceful protesters.

Yes, there has been attacks on Christians, on churches, but these attacks, pre-date the overthrow of Morsi, they are nothing new.

The slaughter of innocent protesters will have only one consequence, it will open the void for Islamic terrorists to step into.

We must hope, that the crimes against humanity being committed by the military junta, are documented and they are brought to justice, in the meantime, all Egyptians must unite to overthrow the junta, otherwise Egypt will descend into bloody civil war.

Coverage of Tahrir Square by mainstream media was poor. Post-overthrow of Morsi much better.

For good coverage turn to Democracy Now, Russia Today and Al Jazeera. On twitter follow Sharif Kouddous.

The pastor leading the service, invited Andrew White to join him, and they discussed what had led Andrew White to where he is today, leading a church in Iraq.

Andrew explained his interest in the Middle East had started when he studied at an ultra-Orthodox university in Israel.

Andrew White started from when he was a curate, then a vicar, and how he had then been asked to head the peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral.

Formed out of the ashes of the bombed Coventry Cathedral, the focus had been Europe. Andrew refocused on the Middle East. He had acted as envoy for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, engaging in dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians and encouraging them to talk to each other.

Diagnosed with MS, he was asked to step down from what he was doing. His response was to take over the running of St George’s in Baghdad. His assistant was Justin Welby, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

The church costs over $175,000 a month to run. They have no money, no reserves. They rely entirely on donations, on people inviting Andrew to talk at their church, on buying his books.

The money given on Sunday, and during the week, will all go to FRRME (of which Andrew White is the Founding President).

The church has a school, a medical clinic, feeding programmes, all paid for through donations. All the programmes the church runs are free to all.

Beside the work at the church, Andrew acts as Embassy Chaplain, works on peace and reconciliation between the various factions, advises on security.

FRRME was formed to support the work in Iraq and the Middle East.

Following the reading of the lesson, Andrew White was asked to give the sermon.

Andrew started by blessing the congregation in Ameraic, the language used by Jesus, and the language still used in the Iraqi Church.

His theme was Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

For people of Guildford, words in the Bible, for people of Iraq, daily occurrence.

There are rumours of war, there is war, there is bombing, there is killing.

Of the church over 1,250 have been killed.

When people have lost everything they have everything.

The church in Iraq is filled with joy.

To love your friends is easy. We have to learn to love those who are our enemies.

Andrew was once kidnapped. When he looked around, he saw severed fingers and toes.

He has to deal with his friends, who bomb and kill.

When dealing with one of he founders of Hamas, he invited him to dinner. He convinced him to work with a rabbi. When accused of being a Zionist, the founder of Hamas said no, he was walking the path of peace and reconciliation, a very difficult path to walk.

Often asked: How do you deal with Muslims? Easy we love them, we welcome them. The church is over 6,000 people, of which over 600 are Muslim.

When you love can also be very painful, when you see the people you love killed.

Andrew has three adopted Iraqi children. One, Lina, now also his personal assistant, has recently become engaged.

The service lasted almost two hours, but it seemed much shorter. I have known half hour service seem longer.

Too many people spend their lives griping about their lives and never getting off their backsides. Andrew is the exact opposite, faces danger every day, sees more tragedy in a day than most people would see in their lifetime, and yet, he is full of hope, full of joy, and always willing to take risks.

He said when people shake hands and say take care, no, they should shakes hands and and say take risks.

It is unfortunate the service was not filmed. As much my fault as I did not think to ask. It has at least been recorded, or at least the sermon recorded, and possibly the exchange at the beginning. This will be available on the church website.

Andrew then signed books:

I gave Andrew a copy of Manuscript Found in Accra. He said he enjoyed Aleph. He asked me did Paulo Coelho know the new Pope? I said I did not think so, but at a press conference in Athens, Paulo Coelho had been asked two questions, his thoughts on the Catholic Church and of the new Pope. He said there was much wrong with the Catholic Church and that he had high hopes of the new Pope implementing much needed reform.

I also gave Andrew a letter I have had in possession for many months, which a lady had entrusted me to give to him.

A chat with Andrew.

I came away with several signed copies of his latest book, Father, Forgive, one for me, the others I will have pleasure in giving away.

Next year, Andrew is to be awarded the William Wilberforce Prize.

Rebooting the Egyptian Revolution

July 8, 2013

Morsi betrayed the revolution, betrayed the people of Tahrir Square.

He changed the Constitution, gave himself sweeping executive powers, handed out jobs to his cronies, marginalised women, creeping Islamisation.

Bread, freedom, social justice. These were the minimum demands.

With the toppling of Morsi by People Power (with the help of a military coup) the Muslim Brotherhood are finished.

Applying coverage by the BBC. Not of what was happening on the street, the implied criticism, this is an affront to democracy. Implied the Western model of corrupt, unaccountable elites, alternating Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee is somehow superior.

What is democracy? 20 million people on the street calling for Morsi to go.

Democracy is not being asked once every few years (if your are lucky) to tick a box on a ballot paper, when at best what you want is a box that says: None of the Above.

Democracy is not a choice between Tories in the pocket of Big Business, LibDems who will do anything to stay in power, and Tory-Lite (otherwise known as Labour).

The closest we have to democracy is the Athenian model, direct participation by the people, open government, transparency.

The Prime Minister of Turkey should be worried.

Tahrir Square: A Second Revolution

July 1, 2013
A protester, opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, holds a sign during a protest demanding Mursi to resign at Tahrir Square in Cairo

A protester, opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, holds a sign during a protest demanding Mursi to resign at Tahrir Square in Cairo

President Morsi has betrayed the Egyptian Revolution. A reported 15 million people has taken to the streets calling for Morsi to go. If the figures are true, the world’s biggest demonstration.

The Egyptian Army has given 48 hours notice of a coup, then a few hours later, said no, they are not plotting a coup, though a retired general speaking on BBC Radio 4 World Tonight, has said Morsi will be removed, but would not give details.

Muslim Brotherhood building in Cairo has been looted and set fire to. Muslim Brotherhood has been firing live ammunition at protesters.

A newspaper in Lebanon has reported that the No 2 in the Muslim Brotherhood, the thug behind Morsi, has had his bodyguards arrested for possession of illegal firearms and firing on activists.

  • Egyptians to Morsi: ‘We Don’t Want You’
  • Countdown to Military Coup
  • Egypt forces arrest Brotherhood leader’s guards-sources
  • Army delivers ultimatum to end Egypt crisis
  • Egypt is not to be harassed

    May 26, 2013

    Sexual harassment of women in Egypt has got worse since the Muslim Brotherhood seized power.

    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.

    Costa Salafists

    November 12, 2012
    Salafyo Costa

    Salafyo Costa

    People didn’t accept the idea that Salafi guys could sit and drink in Costa Coffee. Everybody was unfriendly. It’s because they have a perception that Salafis don’t go for coffee in such places. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

    Through our Facebook page and our videos we are trying to tell them: Hear from us rather not about us. — Ahmed Samir, co-founder of the Facebook group

    Do you guys sit in Costa? People would look at us in bafflement because they had a perception that Salafis don’t drink coffee in such places. It’s what I call visual abuse. It’s sad but funny. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

    Costa Salafists are quite literally, Salafists who meet in Costa coffee shops.

    The Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt.

    If you watched closely, as I did, you would have seen people on the streets, in Tahrir Square, many ages, but many young people, many young females, young females who were treated as equals, small groups forming, engaging in articulate, animated, but above all informed discussion and debate.

    Move forward, the toppling of dictators, then elections.

    All then seemed to have been lost, in Tunisia what could be called a soft Muslim party took power, in Egypt a harder Muslim Party the Muslim Brotherhood took power and behind them the hard line Salafists.

    It seemed as though all had been lost, lives sacrificed for nothing. But all may not be as it seems from a superficial glance.

    To topple a dictator is to question power. Power is usually toppled at the top, to be replaced by the same for example as we see in Animal Farm.

    Tahrir Square was grass roots, question from the bottom. Once that genie is out of the bottle it is impossible to squeeze back in. Something Putin need to understand with his imprisonment of Pussy Riot and clampdown on opposition.

    Girls who were not allowed out of the house, took to the streets. They now question. They are no longer prisoners in their own house.

    Students question their teachers. Bribes are no longer paid to policemen.

    We take reading for granted. If you cannot tread, how can you travel around, how do you know which street to find, how can you catch a bus if you cannot read the number?

    The Taliban tried to silence Malawa, they failed.

    The first word of the Koran is read.

    Costa Salafists are so named because they quite literally meet in Costa coffee shops. A pity they cannot find local indie coffee shops in which to meet.

    Costa Salafists would appear to be an oxymoron. Are Salafists not hard line intolerant bigots and Islamic fundamentalists, is not Costa a Western imposed coffee chain, the last place Salafists would meet? It is exactly because of that perception why they meet in Costa coffee shops. They even count Coptic Christians among their core supporters.

    Nada Zohdy:

    When I met Mohammed Tolba, the founder of this initiative, many of my own assumptions of Salafis were fundamentally challenged; to be frank, I didn’t realize Salafis could be so light-hearted and tolerant. Mohammed emphasised some basic struggles that the group faces: reminding themselves and other Salafis that they do not have an absolute monopoly on religious truth, and encouraging Salafis to have regular and meaningful interactions with other Egyptians rather than isolating themselves as they have for many years (which in part was a result of the discrimination they faced under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak).

    They believe in the authority of the Koran, but in a living interpretation of the Koran, an interpretation that your heart tells you is correct.

    The Prophet warned, only heed a fatwa if your heart tells you it is correct.

    The Old Testament was never meant to be written down as to do so would be to set it in stone. It was a living document that was interpreted to suit the present day. Later prophets constantly reinterpreted that which went before.

    During Occupy St Paul’s, there often seemed as many clergy as there were occupiers at St Paul’s in-the-Camp. They were going back to original teachings of Jesus.

    A cultural shift is taking part. At Occupy it was to question what was happening, the way our economy and financial systems function. In Greece and Spain that shift is of necessity as there are no jobs or at least no jobs in the formal economy.

    When Super Storm Sandy struck New York, Mitt Romney saw it as a photo opportunity. Occupy New York got their hands dirty, Occupy Sandy was born, they were out helping people, feeding people.

    People who were in Tahrir Square took their inspiration from Occupy, Occupy took their inspiration from Tahrir Square. Cross fertilisation.

    The cultural shift that is taking place is being networked.

    The Arab Spring was organised through social media. The Costa Salafists are no exception, making extensive use of Facebook.

    Tahrir Square: Revolution one year on

    January 25, 2012
    Tahrir Square 10am this morning

    Tahrir Square 10am this morning

    Aerial shot of Tahrir Square

    Aerial shot of Tahrir Square

    Imbaba echoing with calls of bread, freedom, social justice!

    Imbaba echoing with calls of bread, freedom, social justice!

    Some saying this is the biggest protest in Cairo since the revolution began. Certainly possible, the numbers are staggering. — Sharif Kouddous

    One year ago we saw the start of the Egyptian revolution when Egyptians took to Tahrir Square. No matter what was thrown at them they refused to move. They toppled a US-backed dictator.

    Where now, one year on? Were the lives lost, lost for nothing?

    A military regime has taken control and shows no sign of relinquishing power.

    Thousands have been arrested, tortured, tried before secret military courts.

    Many have been killed and maimed by the military.

    Emergency Powers have been relaxed but not removed. Action can be taken for ‘thuggery’ whatever that means.

    The military is demanding power of veto over the new constitution, a secret military budget.

    The players have changed, the regime is still firmly in control.

    Elections have taken place. Muslim Brotherhood has taken nearly half the seats. A fundamentalist Islamic party calling for introduction of Sharia Law, public beheading, controls a further quarter of the seats.

    Women were at the forefront of the revolution. They account for 2% of the seats in Parliament.

    Yes there is an elected parliament. A parliament that hides behind walled off street, the people one side, parliament the other.

    Egypt: Four walls divide the ruled from the rulers

    Muslim Brotherhood take to the streets when it benefits the Muslim Brotherhood. They have not called for the overthrow of the military junta controlling Egypt, have not called for those who committed crimes against the people, those who ordered the crimes, to be arrested and prosecuted.

    Today Tahrir Square celebrates, but also calls for the second phase of the revolution, the removal of the military junta.

    For brothers and sisters in Syria, the revolution has only just started. They can take heart when they see the numbers in Tahrir Square. The fate of Assad is sealed, either a bullet in the head or a criminal trial.

    Iraq faces a descent into hell, until the people come to their senses, Iran and Saudi Arabia stop meddling.

    Across the world the Arab Spring has helped to inspire the Occupy movement.

    You cannot kill an idea.

    The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell
    Egypt’s revolution: One year on
    Egypt: Sharif Abdel Kouddous Reports from Cairo as Crowds Mark 1 Year of Revolution in Tahrir Square
    “In Tahrir Square”: HBO Doc on Egypt’s Revolution Through Eyes of Democracy Now!’s Sharif Kouddous