organization:egyptian government

  • Egypt. 2 years after the loan agreement: What the IMF failed to anticipate | MadaMasr

    On November 11, 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Egyptian government finalized a US$12 billion loan agreement tied to an economic reform plan that included a series of austerity measures and the liberalization of the Egyptian pound.

    At the time, Egypt was facing a shortage in foreign currency reserves, and both the IMF and the Egyptian authorities made optimistic forecasts about the future of the Egyptian economy under the new economic program.

    Two years later, the crisis in foreign currency reserves has largely been alleviated and the IMF’s growth targets appear to be on track. Yet those achievements have been offset by soaring rates of inflation and foreign debt, along with the plummeting purchasing power of the local currency. Meanwhile, fuel subsidies, which were meant to be reduced to alleviate the government budget — a specific goal of the economic program — have instead increased as a result of the devaluation of the pound.

    A number of these unanticipated challenges now facing the Egyptian economy are highlighted in a new report by the investment bank Shuaa Capital, which was issued to its clients several days ago and of which Mada Masr has obtained a copy.

  • Who’s buying Israeli gas? A company owned by the General Intelligence Service (Egypt) | MadaMasr

    When news broke in February that an Egyptian firm named Dolphinus Holdings had signed a US$15 billion deal to purchase Israeli natural gas for supply to Egypt, the Egyptian government refused to comment, portraying it as a private market transaction.

    “The Ministry of Petroleum has no comment on private-sector negotiations or agreements regarding the import or sale of natural gas to Israel,” the ministry spokesperson said in a brief statement at the time.

    That same day, Reuters quoted an anonymous Egyptian government official who said that the deal did not mean the government itself would import gas from Israel. “International private companies will import gas from abroad in the framework of their own needs,” the official said.

    Similar claims were made in September after a preliminary agreement was struck for the acquisition of a stake in a pipeline between Ashkelon and Arish that would allow the transport of natural gas from Israel to Egypt.

    Again, the Petroleum Ministry spokesperson issued a swift response: “The ministry welcomes this new step taken by the private companies involved in the imminent commercial venture.” This time, the Egyptian company involved was called East Gas.

    Last week, CEO and managing director of East Gas Mohamed Shoeib boasted in several interviews that in exchange for the deal, his company had managed to get a handful of arbitration fines and cases against Egypt dropped after 18 months of negotiations. Shoeib attributed the success of the deal to a decision “from the beginning to think outside the government framework.”

  • Activist Arrests in India Are Part of a Dangerous Global Trend to Stifle Dissent | Alternet

    On Tuesday morning, the police from the Indian city of Pune (in the state of Maharashtra) raided the homes of lawyers and social activists across India and arrested five of them. Many of them are not household names around the world, since they are people who work silently on behalf of the poor and oppressed in a country where half the population does not eat sufficiently. Their names are Gautam Navlakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira and Varavara Rao. What unites these people is their commitment to the working class and peasantry, to those who are treated as marginal to India’s state. They are also united by their opposition, which they share with millions of Indians, to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The “raw numbers of this terror” are best counted from Turkey. Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016, the government has arrested, detained or dismissed about 160,000 government officials, dismissing 12,000 Kurdish teachers, destroying the livelihood of thousands of people. The editor of Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar, called this the “biggest witch-hunt in Turkey’s history.” In the name of the war on terror and in the name of sedition, the government has arrested and intimidated its political opponents. The normality of this is astounding—leaders of the opposition HDP party remain in prison on the flimsiest of charges, with little international condemnation. They suffer a fate comparable to Brazil’s Lula, also incarcerated with no evidence.

    Governments do not typically like dissent. In Bangladesh, the photographer Shahidul Alam remains in detention for his views on the massive protests in Dhaka for traffic reform and against government corruption. Condemnation of the arrest has come from all quarters, including a British Member of Parliament—Tulip Siddiq—who is the niece of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The avalanche of criticism has not moved the government. Alam is accused of inciting violence, a charge that is equal parts of ridiculous and absurd.

    Incitement to violence is a common charge. It is what has taken the Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to an Israeli prison. Tatour’s poem, “Resist, my people, resist them” (Qawim ya sha’abi, qawimhum), was the reason given by the Israeli government to lock her up. The Egyptian government has taken in the poet Galal El-Behairy for the lyrics he wrote for the song “Balaha”—the name a reference to a character in a 1980s film who sees the world in a topsy-turvy manner, a name now used colloquially in Egypt for President Sisi. The Ugandan government has arrested the radio show host Samuel Kyambadde, who merely allowed his talk show to become a forum for a conversation that included items labeled by the government as seditious—such as the arrest of journalists and the arrest of the opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi (also known as Bobi Wine).

    All of them—photographers, poets, radio show hosts—are treated as voices of sedition, dangerous people who can be locked up under regulations that would make any fair-minded person wince. But there is not even any public debate in most of our societies about such measures, no genuine discussion about the slide into the worst kind of authoritarianism, little public outcry.

    #Néo_fascisme #Inde #Turquie #Liberté_expression

  • Egypt
    Opium or coffee? Islam and its relevance in hard times | MadaMasr

    Karl Marx hated organized and institutionalized religion. Of all his economic and political thoughts, his words equating religion with opium are some of the most notorious: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” He believed that religion has certain practical uses, much like a recreational, mind-numbing substance; that it has the potential to reduce the immediate suffering of those who are sick or injured, providing them with more pleasant illusions. But he also observed that it reduces their energy and willingness to confront the oppressive, heartless and soulless reality that capitalism forces people into.

     It feels like everyone in Egypt has been put through a social and psychological grinder ever since the Egyptian government began to enact the IMF’s loan policies. Catastrophic inflation rates reached as high as 30 percent in July 2017, another wave of price hikes in electricity, fuel, gas and water are affecting nearly all other services, and there was a recent 300 percent increase in metro ticket prices. More than a quarter of Egyptians barely hover above the poverty line, and another quarter is quickly sinking into destitution. Given this, what role does and can religion play in people’s lives?

    In a country with a conservative religious culture, and for a people who call themselves “naturally religious,” religion cannot be the mind-numbing narcotic that Marx imagined. It is too entwined in the social fabric and the historic national identity to have any such effect. If religion were indeed a drug, Egyptians would have developed a tolerance to its mechanism of action a long time ago. Neither can it be an agent for anchoring self-blame and personal salvation, or purely restricted to charity. After all, people can’t survive on prayer alone. It also cannot be used as a tool to blame the masses for these dire conditions, much to the dismay of the ruling elite.

    Surely, it would take a much stronger concoction of narcotics than religion alone to deny the impact of the IMF’s infamous prescription and our state’s economic policies?

  • Syria cooperation highlights progress in Egypt-Russia relations as hurdles remain | MadaMasr

    Phone calls between high-ranking Egyptian and Russian officials have brought the two countries into accord on the Syrian crisis, according to an Egyptian government source, in what is one of several breakthroughs on pending Cairo-Moscow diplomatic discussions.

    The government source, who is involved in Egyptian-Russian diplomatic relations, says communications between the two countries were at their peak prior to the mid-April joint airstrikes carried out by the United States, United Kingdom and France against government facilities in Syria. Talks centered on possible approaches to the conflict, to be taken in the event that the then-potential tripartite strikes were carried out, that would ensure that Islamist groups do not reap any political gains.

    Egyptian-Russian cooperation was and remains mainly an exchange of information aimed at curbing Saudi Arabian and Turkish-backed militias that were deployed to Syria to “overthrow” President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, according to the source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

    The alliance falls in line, the source adds, with Cairo’s position on the situation in Syria: Assad remaining in power is the best available option, despite Cairo’s reservations on certain aspects of the way he’s managed the conflict. Tellingly, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s speech the Arab League summit in Dhahran in mid-April was free of any condemnation of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta — the stated reason for the tripartite airstrikes — as much as any endorsement of the strike.

  • Egypt : How to make LE89 bn in fuel subsidies disappear: Egyptians brace for steep price hikes | MadaMasr

    A sense of wariness overtakes many Egyptians from April to July each year, the three months in which Parliament discusses the upcoming state budget and makes decisions which may affect large swaths of the population. This year, that general worry about potential cuts is less undefined, as Egyptians are buckling up for an imminent hike in fuel prices.

    Public attention to the subsidy allocations stipulated in the annual state budget has increased in recent years, since the government imposed an austerity program in 2014, which included subsidy cuts and new consumption taxes, in an effort to rein in the state’s growing budget deficit.

    This year is likely to see steeper hikes in fuel prices than those seen in years past, as the government’s structural adjustment program, approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in November 2016, comes to an end. Liberalizing fuel prices before the close of 2019 was one of the several terms of the three-year program, which must be met to ensure the continued dispersal of the IMF’s US$12 billion loan to the Egyptian government.

    However, the structural adjustment program, which introduced a host of other measures with inflationary repercussions, got off to a rough start. Once the exchange rate was floated on November 3, 2016, the value of the Egyptian pound fell more than originally projected. This resulted in a significant rise in the nominal value of fuel subsidies in the state’s budget for the two fiscal years following the IMF agreement. While the nominal value of fuel subsidy allocations in the state budget seems to have drifted away from the targets initially stipulated in the agreement, documents released by the IMF after its second review of the program’s implementation at the close of 2017 show that the government remains determined to achieve the 2019 target of lifting fuel subsidies altogether.

  • Egypt and Sudan: Diplomatic pacification, unresolved affairs | MadaMasr

    Quietly and without an official announcement is how Osama Shaltout, Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan, returned to his post in Khartoum on Tuesday. On the same day, Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt, returned to Cairo two months after he was recalled due to tension between the neighboring countries.

    Shaltout spent the better part of two months in Cairo, as the Egyptian government worked to resolve the tension. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid told Mada Masr on Wednesday morning that the reason for the ambassador’s stay in Cairo had been to “take part in official meetings.” Abu Zeid also stressed that Cairo did not recall Shaltout, either in response to Khartoum’s January decision or at any point since.

    Although the return of both ambassadors to their respective posts is an indication of the end of the public escalation of tensions, several Egyptian and Western diplomats as well as observers believe that the matters which originally triggered the crisis earlier this year have yet to be settled, even if the restoration of diplomatic relations is a step in the right direction.

    “The kind of escalation we saw in the January [between Sudan and Egypt] was kind of a negotiation being carried out in public, with a ratcheting up of rhetoric that didn’t necessarily match what was happening on the ground,” International Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Analyst Magnus Taylor tells Mada Masr. “Of course, there are some real structural problems in the relationship on the Renaissance Dam, on the Muslim Brotherhood, the border conflict over Halayeb. But I’ve never really seen any of those issues as escalating into a border war or proxy war.”

  • Egypte, dernier épisode de la pantalonnade de l’élection présidentielle de mars en Egypte. Le pouvoir ayant éliminé tous les candidats sérieux n’arrive même pas à trouver un candidat « présentable ». La dernière tentative, celle d’avoir un candidat du parti Wafd (un parti qui soutient officiellement Sissi) s’est heurté à l’opposition des militants de ce parti.

    Wafd Party rejects party leader’s nomination for presidency | MadaMasr

    Egypt’s Wafd Party announced on Saturday its official refusal of party head Al-Sayed al-Badawy’s nomination in the upcoming presidential election, which could see Badawy become the only contender to current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

    Badawy had begun processing the necessary paperwork for his medical examination, which is a requisite part of the candidacy process, a party member told Mada Masr on Friday.

    As party leaders met on Saturday, a number of Wafd Party youth staged a demonstration at the group’s headquarters in Cairo, carrying banners saying “President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is the Wafd’s candidate” and “the Wafd Party leads public opinion and is not led.”

    The party’s deputy, Hussein Mansour, collected signatures from members in the party’s higher committee in a petition rejecting Badawy’s nomination, saying the state has various options at hand to deal with the lack of candidates in the race, including the postponement of elections altogether, adding that most members refuse the involvement the Wafd Party in these matters.

    Without official party endorsement, Badawy cannot be fielded as the party’s candidate in the presidential elections. However, “Badawy is a prominent political personality, and it is possible that he decides to run independently if he likes,” Wafd Party member and MP Suleiman Wahdan told Mada Masr.

    Before the party’s committee issued its decision, Wafd Party assistant head of parliamentary matters, Yasser Koura, told Mada Masr that the party has no issue with collecting the 20 endorsements from MPs required for nomination. “Some of our parliamentarians have endorsed Sisi, but these endorsement forms can be withdrawn if the endorsing MP goes to the National Elections Authority and asks for a new endorsement form for another candidate,” he explained.

    Prior to Badawy’s sudden decision to run in the upcoming presidential elections, the Wafd Party’s official stance had been to support President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s bid for a second term. Most of the Wafd Party’s members of Parliament have already endorsed Sisi.

    Koura, who was touted to be Badawy’s presidential campaign chief, added that “withdrawing Sisi’s endorsements and replacing them with Badawy’s is not wrong because the Wafd Party did not have a nominee before.”

    A parliamentary source, who requested to remain anonymous, previously told Mada Masr that Badawy was pushed for nomination so Sisi does not run for a second term through a referendum. “The president’s image abroad must be considered above all else, so that elections in the form of a referendum are not used against the Egyptian government,” he said.

  • Egypt : The Escape Portal

    Egypt has been considered a destination country for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees from various Arab Mashreq countries and some African countries, as well as an important transit point in the Mediterranean region due to political instability, conflicts and civil wars in their homelands. Since mid-2013, as a result of the political crisis in Egypt, asylum seekers and refugees remain subject to numerous abuses and attacks. In 2013, the number of arrests of displaced Syrian and Palestinian refugees increased tremendously. According to the #Egyptian_Initiative_for_Personal_Rights (#EIPR), from August 2013 to September 2014 more than 6,800 Syrians, including at least 290 children, were arrested and detained. More than 1,200 refugees were forced to leave Egypt and travel to countries such as Turkey, Malaysia or Lebanon under the threat of detention. On 8 July 2014, the Egyptian government imposed additional measures restricting the entry of Syrians to the country, requiring them to obtain a #visa and prior security approval. Because of this, approximately 476 Syrians were deported or denied access to Egyptian territory in the same month. The Egyptian Foreign Minister announced that these measures are temporary and will have no effect on the support afforded to Syrians in Egypt. However, the wave of violence and attacks on Syrian asylum seekers and refugees was reignited after allegations that they were supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and former President Mohamed Morsi.
    #asile #migrations #réfugiés #Egypte #détention_administrative #rétention #frontières #fermeture_des_frontières

  • Egyptian authorities clamp down on ’Sisi’s balls’

    En #Egypte, on a les boules!

    When children dubbed this retro toy “Sisi’s balls” — a reference to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s testicles — the Egyptian government launched an inspection campaign Nov. 8, followed by arrests of toy store owners throughout Egypt to stop them from selling the “offending” toy.

    As a result, 1,403 toys were confiscated and 41 toy store owners were arrested and referred to the public prosecutor’s office for investigation, according to a statement issued by the Security Directorate.

    The Interior Ministry also issued a statement explaining that the arrests were based on the ministry’s policy of maintaining security, order and public morals.

    Clackers is a cheap plastic toy that has been sold for 5 Egyptian pounds ($0.30) since the beginning of the summer. The toy is popular among schoolchildren, especially in the villages, and yielded good profits for toy stores — until it roused the ire of the government. Owners of toy stores that sell Clackers now face arrest and have incurred financial losses due to the confiscation of the toys in stock.

    After the first confiscations and arrests, both the toy and the name “Sisi’s balls” became a joke on social media, and many criticized the government decision to confiscate the toy and arrest store owners.

    • Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Egypt 2016

      Syrian refugees have sought safe haven in Egypt for seven years, since the onset of war. There are now 500,000 Syrians residing in Egypt according to government estimates, and by large they have been treated fairly and with respect by the Egyptian government and citizens. In December 2016, 116,013 Syrian refugees were registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Nonetheless, the protracted nature of the war, together with major structural changes to Egypt’s economy have increased risk factors for refugees. Following the implementation of the recent economic and financial reforms and the floatation of the Egyptian Pound, inflation in the overall Consumer Price Index reached 29.6 per cent at the beginning of 2017. Moreover, inflation in the Food Price Index reached a historic peak of 38.6 per cent, all of which led to increased pressures on households to meet basic needs of food and nonfood items. The humanitarian assistance delivered is essential to address dramatic increases in the vulnerability of Syrian refugees.

      The findings of the 2016 Egypt Vulnerability Assessment (EVAR), a comprehensive multi-sector household-level survey of 23,345 Syrian refugee households in Egypt, are presented in this report, which builds upon similar data collected in 2014/2015 to produce a longitudinal perspective that allows for the identification of important patterns. The quantitative nature of the results are triangulated with qualitative data gleaned from 59 focus group discussions undertaken as part of UNHCR’s 2016 Participatory Assessment. Together, the data presented in this report permits humanitarian actors to better identify vulnerabilities and capacities, understand the patterns and relations between variables that affect vulnerability, and ultimately generate sustainable programmes that reduce vulnerability and increase the protection and self-reliance of refugees.

      This report demonstrates that challenges for Syrian refugees in Egypt have increased since the onset of the crisis. Refugee household expenditures have increased significantly; personal debt has increased; and financial assets have decreased. Food consumption and food security are below acceptable standards for many refugee households. In addition, the data indicates that difficulties Syrian refugees face in accessing formal labour markets are a major contributor towards their increasing vulnerability.
      #vulnérabilité #rapport

  • Crossing the Canal: why #Egypt faces a creeping #insurgency #COIN #Égypte #ISIL

    The Islamic State affiliate Wilayat Sinai has proved to be a determined enemy that is increasingly capable of attacking targets within mainland Egypt. This is despite the fact that in 2013 the Egyptian government launched its largest ongoing military operation in the Sinai since the 1973 war with Israel, against the group. Rather than defeating or even weakening Wilayat Sinai, however, many of the tactics being employed by the Egyptian government risks ensuring that organizations like Wilayat Sinai and more moderate militant groups are able to continue to expand their operations within Egypt.

    Heavy-handed tactics fanning the flames of insurgency... We’ve seen that movie before.

  • A Macron tale: The story of a perfect Champs-Elywood recipe,1913

    This article was originally published on Mada Masr, a digital media outlet based in Egypt, and has been republished here with permission. As part of the Egyptian government’s on-going campaign of press censorship, Mada Masr has been blocked inside Egypt. In line with our commitment to press freedom and independent journalism, Orient XXI will be republishing content from Mada Masr, to help circumvent the Egyptian state’s actions and assist Mada Masr in reaching people inside Egypt. Read more about the Egyptian state’s suppression of the media and attacks against Mada Masr here.

    Let me start with a vain introduction.

    I am French.

    Worse, I belong to the Parisian middle-class.

    After needing 10 years to realize human life is theoretically possible outside of Paris and 10 more to realize it actually exists, I left Paris, and have lived outside France for most of the past 10 years.

    Throughout this period, I actively worked on unparisianing myself. This probably seems absurd, but, for me, being Parisian is associated with gray. Gray is more Parisian than Paris itself.

    Gray is a color. Paris is visually quite gray, from its sidewalks to its buildings, from its roofs to its eternally clouded sky. Gray can be beautiful. Paris is beautiful.

  • Egypt-Saudi Arabia Handshake between king and president points to waning tensions | MadaMasr

    Some signals suggest a possible de-escalation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose usually tight relations have recently witnessed turbulence.

    The Jordan Arab Summit, held on March 29, saw the leaders of both countries, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Salman bin Abdulaziz, meet and shake hands, while their respective ministers of foreign affairs agreed to set up a “committee for political follow-up.”

    Meanwhile, earlier in February, King Salman visited the Egyptian wing at the Jenaderiyah cultural festival, in what was interpreted as a gesture of restoring relations.

    One of the latest points of contention between the two countries concerns the Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir, which Egypt ceded sovereignty over in April 2016, following an agreement between the two governments. However, the Egyptian Supreme Administrative Court ruled on January 16 against the agreement, declaring the islands Egyptian. The court argued that the Egyptian government failed to submit documents in support of Saudi sovereignty.

    But the legal contest didn’t stop here. On April 2, a court of urgent matters annulled the supreme court’s ruling. Parliament took a decisive step forward on April 10, one day after Coptic Christian churches in Alexandria and Tanta were bombed in attacks claimed by the Province of Sinai. In its first session after the bombings, Parliament referred the case to its legislative and constitutional affairs committee, where it will undergo a preliminary vote before a final vote takes place in the general assembly. It is a development aligned with what officials have said in closed quarters for some time. 

    “Saudi Arabia has reassurances from Cairo that it will receive the two islands in any case. But it also blames Cairo for managing this issue poorly,” says an Egyptian official working at the General Secretariat of the Arab League, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity.

  • The race for Arctic domination par Alberto Lucas López (Design) - Visualoop

    Publishers : South China Morning Post

    To build and manage the Panama Canal, the United States pushed through Panama’s independence from Colombia and spent more on this construction project than on any other before. To create the Suez Canal, the Egyptian government leased its land to a private French company, which used forced labour to complete the project. Nowadays, the question is, will the Arctic frontier become an ecological preserve or an economic engine, an area of international cooperation or confrontation?

    #arctique #transport #transport_maritime

  • Is Dan Perry, @perry_dan working for the Egyptian government? How can Associated press publish such pseudo “analysis”.

    @AP Analysis: Arab democracies? Not so fast, say some

    Egypt, compared to most other Arab states, has made impressive strides. El-Sissi overwhelmingly won presidential elections in 2014 with far more votes than had been won two years earlier by Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist president the military overthrew for alleged misrule in 2013. While the election was widely criticized because the previously ruling Muslim Brotherhood was banned, few claim the vote count was falsified — no small matter considering the region’s recent history. And the president is constitutionally limited to two terms in office — a stark contrast to most of the region. Egypt also has a new elected parliament more diverse and empowered than has been the norm in the region.

  • Sharm el-Sheikh flight from Stansted dodged missile last August | UK news | The Guardian

    A plane carrying British holidaymakers to Sharm el-Sheikh came within 300 metres (1,000ft) of a missile as it neared the Egyptian airport in August, the government has confirmed.

    A Thomson Airways flight from London Stansted to the Red Sea resort, carrying 189 passengers, took evasive action after the missile was spotted in its trajectory by the pilot. The crew of flight TOM 476 landed the plane safely and passengers were not advised of the incident, which occurred on 23 August.

    The incident is not thought to be directly linked to Britain’s decision to curtail flights to Sharm el-Sheikh in the wake of the crash of the Russian Metrojet airliner, killing 224 people, last Saturday. However, it will underline fears that regional instability could threaten flights, as more countries joined Britain in restricting air travel and imposing tougher security measures.

    The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed that the incident took place but said it did not believe the missile was an attempt to target the British plane, instead ascribing the missile seen by the Thomson pilots to Egyptian military manoeuvres. Airlines are currently prohibited from flying below 26,000 feet over the Sinai peninsula due to fears that Islamic militants fighting the Egyptian government could have weapons capable of bringing down a plane.

  • « The Economist, Suez and Sisi’s cynical PR campaign » (Al-Araby, 13 août)

    The Economist’s ’special edition’ pressing the Suez Canal expansion as Egypt’s “gift to the world” cannot cover up the violence upon which Sisi’s rule operates, writes Heather McRobie.

    Amid much official fanfare and widespread cynicism from a variety of independent voices, Egypt unveiled its expansion of the Suez Canal last week, with President Sisi giving a speech that aligned the endeavour - and, implicitly, his regime - with the “gifts” that Egypt has offered the world over the past 7,000 years.

    Leaving aside the debate of whether the canal expansion was really the large-scale project Egypt most urgently needed to undertake at this time, Sisi certainly harnessed the event to present a Pharonic-like spectacle that tried to conceptually entwine Egypt’s past and future glories with the phony glory of his regime.

    #EgyptRejoices - does it really?

    Many found the overblown symbolism embarrassing at best, and distasteful at worst — considering the vast infrastructure problems, poverty and unemployment rates that Egypt continues to face.

    The celebratory hashtag for the event, #EgyptRejoices, triggered a counter-campaign highlighting the pressing issues of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and sexual harassment.

    It was therefore surprising to many Egypt-watchers to see an edition of The Economist circulating on social media, with a front cover that positioned the Suez Canal — reworked as the Pharonic Key of Life — next to a smiling image of Sisi, headlined “Egypt’s gift to the world”.

    The Egyptian government later denied that it had paid for the cover, but a flimsy disclaimer at the bottom of the cover that “no endorsement is implied” by The Economist did little to wash away the bad taste at witnessing Sisi’s PR spectacle in action.

    It is worth noting that The Economist has previously published articles critical of Sisi’s polity - from the detention and suppression of journalists to the targeting of Egyptian NGOs. But giving its front page to an advertorial that positions Sisi’s regime as both legitimate and “business friendly” — to use Sisi’s language at the Sharm el Sheikh international business conference last year — sent a much stronger message.

    The Economist’s decision to print this special edition cover further enables Sisi to stand on the world stage as the leader of a legitimate regime, and encourages other countries to form economic and political alliances with “the man who restored order to the country”.

    Having said that, it is particularly ironic that a magazine with as much international clout as The Economist would allow Sisi to use it for his own rehabilitative PR campaign, given that one of the sections of society most targeted by the Egyptian government has been the one The Economist belongs to: journalists and media outlets.

    In the face of a growing online backlash at The Economist’s role in Sisi’s New Suez spectacle, defenders argued that the cover was not produced for sale, and wouldn’t be gracing global newsstands, but was rather produced solely for distribution at the Suez expansion opening ceremony.

    Such a defence, however, contains within it a very revealing aspect of the psyche of Sisi’s establishment: the Pharonic vanity of commissioning a front cover of a globally respected newspaper solely as adornment to a grand ceremony.

    #Egypte #canal_de_Suez #dictature #répression #Al-Sissi #relations_publiques #The_Economist #dip

  • President Sisi’s Canal Extravaganza |
    With spectacle and ceremony, Egypt’s president unveiled an unnecessary infrastructure project in a country that is falling to pieces.
    BY SARAH CARRAUGUST 7, 2015 Foreign Policy

    CAIRO — How apt that Egypt’s latest “gift to the world,” the “New Suez Canal,” makes a two-lane freeway out of the conduit that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Everything else in Egypt is going in two opposing directions. The response to the Canal has been no different; polarized and circling round the real issue, like demented frigates.

    In 2014 while on a visit to the United Nations, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that Egypt intended to dust off plans for a project to expand the Suez Canal area that had been buried since the Hosni Mubarak era. A new canal, some 25 kilometers long, has been built parallel to the original canal. In addition, 23 kilometers of the original canal have been widened and deepened. The Egyptian government claims that this has “eradicated” waiting time for up to 50 vessels per day.

    Initially, the project had a three-year timeline, but in a prime bit of theater Sisi enthusiastically demanded that this be reduced to a year while Suez Canal Authority head Vice-Admiral Mohab Mameesh was in the middle of delivering a PowerPoint presentation on the project to military and government bigwigs. “One year! One year and it’ll be finished!” a grinning Sisi said, holding up a finger and then brushing the palms of his hands together. “A year and it will be implemented, sir,” Memeesh replied.

    And now it’s happened.

  • Wikileaks: Saudi Arabia and #Azhar on the ’Shia encroachment’ in Egypt | Mada Masr

    Faisal sent another “secret and urgent” cable to the Saudi king and prime minister that said the Al-Azhar sheikh met the Saudi ambassador in August 2010, and told him that the Iranians were pushing for a meeting for rapprochement between different sects, and that the Al-Azhar sheikh “didn’t want to make a decision in this regard before coordinating with the [Saudi] Kingdom about it .”

    Then, in September 2011, newly appointed Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed #al-Tayyeb condemned “the attempts to propagate Shia beliefs in Sunni countries, especially Egypt, and next to the minaret of Al-Azhar, the bastion of the people of Sunna.”

    Amr Ezzat, a freedom of religion and belief officer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), says that Al-Azhar cannot be dealt with as one body with a unified intellectual reference. He considers it a jungle of diverse ideas and religious directions, with the Al-Azhar chiefdom at the top, which has the authority to coordinate with several political players, given that its main concern is maintaining stability.

    That’s why Al-Azhar continues to play an essential role as an institutional alternative in moments when the state needs to resist political religious movements and crack down on them, according to Ezzat.

    But in general, Ezzat thinks that the concept of “Shia encroachment” is highly exaggerated.

    He adds that the Saudi government is afraid of the increase of Iranian influence in the area because of the Shia population that lives in East Saudi, which is close to the Shia communities of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, who are considered enemies of the Saudi regime.

    But he says that there’s an overestimation of the relation of Shia communities outside of Iran. For example, Ezzat says that a group of Egyptian Shia who decided to demand their rights to practice their beliefs and rituals after the 2011 revolution has a deep political disagreement with Iran.


    • Pour replacer ces infos très intéressantes dans un contexte historique plus large de la politisation de la question chiite à al-Azhar et en Egypte, depuis l’époque de Nasser jusqu’à nos jours, voici un intéressant article d’al-Ahram. Les critiques sur les qualités de l’article - qui dépasse mes connaissances limitées - sont plus que bienvenues :
      Identity-politics , Egypt and the Shia / al-Ahram weekly 2013,-Egypt-and-the-Shia.aspx
      Sur la fatwa de Shaltoot en 1959 (grand imam d’al-Azhar) qui reconnaît la doctrine jaafarite (chiite duodécimaine), fatwa récusée en 2012 :

      In 1959, the sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmoud Shaltout, who had established that office, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, sanctioning worship in accordance with the rights of the Jaafari school of religious jurisprudence, to which the majority of Shia subscribe. His fatwa stated, “It is legally permissible to worship in accordance with the Jaafari doctrine, which is known to be the doctrine of the Twelver Shiites, as is the case with the Sunni doctrines. The Muslim people should know this and shed unwarranted bigotry against certain creeds. The religion of God and His Sharia have never been affiliated with or restricted to any one doctrinal order. All who strive to perfect their faith are acceptable to Almighty God, and those who are not qualified to engage in the disciplines of theological and jurisprudential inquiry may emulate and follow the rulings of those that are. There is no difference[between Muslims] in the [basic tenets of] worship and interaction.”

      Une note dans wikipedia cite la biographie de Nasser par Said Aburish pour expliquer l’aspect politique de cette fatwa, Nasser espérait affaiblir l’alliance du général Qassem et des communistes en rendant la RAU et le nationalisme arabe plus atttractif pour les chiites irakiens :

      Aburish, Saïd K. (2004). Nasser: the last Arab (illustrated ed.). Duckworth. pp. 200–201. ISBN 9780715633007. “But perhaps the most far reaching change [initiated by Nasser’s guidance] was the fatwa commanding the readmission to mainstream Islam of the Shia, Alawis, and Druze. They had been considered heretics and idolaters for hundreds of years, but Nasser put an end to this for once and for all. While endearing himself to the majority Shia of Iraq and undermining Kassem [the communist ruler of Iraq at the time] might have played a part in that decision, there is no doubting the liberalism of the man in this regard.”

      Il me semble avoir lu (est-ce dans la biographie de Saddam Hussein par le même Aburish ?) que Saddam Hussein (alors réfugié en Egypte) avait joué un rôle pour l’édiction de cette fatwa. J’avais souvenir aussi que le grand mufti d’Arabie saoudite s’était opposé à cette fatwa. Si des seenthissiens éclairés ont des infos et des sources...
      A l’époque de Sadate et dans le cadre de son opposition à la révolution iranienne puis de son engagement auprès de l’Irak contre l’Iran :

      President Sadat, who had opposed the Iranian Revolution, hosted the deposed Shah in Egypt, initiating a decades-long rupture in relations between Cairo and Tehran. Yet, in that very year, he closed down the Society of the Ahl Al-Bayt (the House of the Prophet Mohamed), the main Shia institute in Egypt. Henceforward, the Egyptian-Iranian conflict would acquire a salient sectarian dimension. This development was aggravated by the Shia insularism that had begun to permeate Iran’s theocratic regime under the system of vilayet-e faqih (rule by clergy) and that rendered the Shia affiliation virtually synonymous with Iranian identity. When Egypt became involved on the Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran war, Egyptian security services became acutely sensitive to this identity and began to clamp down on all forms of Shia associations in Egypt, regardless of the fact that this community exists on the margins of society which, in turn, was geographically and emotionally remote from that conflict. At the same time, the state had begun to allow the Salafist tide to penetrate society, giving rise to the spread of ultraconservative doctrinal rigidity and the onset of mounting sectarian tensions between Muslims and Copts.

      Après la victoire du Hezbollah en 2006 et l’enthousiasme qu’elle génère y compris dans les masses sunnites arabes, qui mettent en difficulté les alliances de Moubarak, les salafistes égyptiens relancent le discours sectaire sur le « danger » de la pénétration chiite en Egypte, tout cela en lien avec les pétromonarchies du Golfe :

      Although initially the Shia question had not featured strongly in Salafist rhetoric, it was not remote. When Egyptians rejoiced at the Hizbullah victory over the Israeli army in 2006, Salafi sheikhs moved to avert the perceived threat to Sunni Egypt from the admiration of the victory, and produced a battery of recordings and lectures warning of the looming Shia tide. This drive coincided with an official rhetoric on the part of the Egyptian government, which at the time was engaged in a war of strategic balances against Iran and its allies, in alliance with the governments of the Gulf that are the chief sponsors of the Salafist movements in the Arab world.

      Après la chute de Moubarak et dans le cadre de la rivalité FM/salafistes les FM et le pouvoir de Morsi ne sont pas en reste selon l’auteur - je me demande si ce passage ne manque pas un peu de nuance car l’attitude de Morsi face à l’Iran fut très ambivalente et versatile :

      The decision to restore relations with Iran was taken by the regime that the Muslim Brotherhood now controls. In view of its totalitarian nature and the fact that it is an expression of the religious characteristics of Egyptian society, the Muslim Brotherhood did not originally define itself on the basis of Muslim doctrinal divides. Nevertheless, since the 1970s when it found itself in competition with the Salafis over the apportionment of the Egyptian societal pie, it also began to veer toward Salafism. The sensitivity of the doctrinal conflict with the Shia was one of the reasons it had severed connections with the Iranian regime with which it had initially established ties immediately following the victory of the Iranian Revolution. The speech that Morsi delivered in Tehran last August and that alluded heavily to the Sunni-Shia divide was clearly intended to outbid the Salafis at home by playing on the mounting sectarian sensitivities in Egyptian society.

  • Egyptian law could imprison refugees, asylum seekers

    CAIRO — Youm7 newspaper reported April 26 that the Egyptian government was about to discuss a draft migration law that, if approved, would see irregular migrants — including refugees and asylum seekers fleeing conflict zones — imprisoned for between 15 and 20 years for attempted “illegal immigration.”
    #Egypte #migration #réfugiés #asile #détention_administrative #loi #législation #rétention

  • Egypt : Pro-Muslim Brotherhood media air calls for violence, vandalism

    Feature by BBC Monitoring on 4 February

    Some TV stations and websites loyal or directly affiliated to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) have lately been involved in open, public incitement to violence and vandalism.

    This trend has been particularly clear since the fourth anniversary of the 25 January revolution which swept President Mubarak out of power. It also precedes an important international economic conference due to be held in Egypt in March.

    The broadcasters involved are mainly based in Turkey, which is at loggerheads with Egypt and has hosted a large number of group leaders and sympathizers who fled Egypt following the ouster of Islamist President Muhammad Morsi in July 2013.

    The encouragement of violence and vandalism by these media outlets has prompted the Egyptian government to seek to silence them.

    Foreigners warned
    On 29 January, a Turkey-based channel aired a statement supposedly from a “revolutionary” group, threatening to target foreign nationals and businesses in Egypt.

    Presenter Ahmad Rushdi of Rabi’ah TV said that the Revolutionary Youth Leadership decided to give all foreigners, including diplomatic missions and multi-national corporations, until 11 February to leave Egypt “or risk being targeted”.

    “All foreign companies operating in Egypt are given an ultimatum to withdraw their licenses and put an end to their operations by 20 February 2015, or else all their projects will be targeted by the revolutionaries.”

    Reading out the statement, the presenter added that all tourists planning to visit Egypt should cancel their flights.

    “All countries supporting and financially or politically backing the coup should immediately cease their support to the coup within a period of one month ... or else all their interests in Middle East will be subjected to severe attacks leading to grave consequences.”

    Later, on its Facebook page, Rabi’ah TV tried to justify its position, saying that the “discussion” of any topic by the channel “does not necessarily mean that we endorse it or not”.

    “Kill officers”
    Direct threats have come from other pro-MB TV stations.

    A recent video widely circulated on the internet shows presenter Muhammad Nasir of Al-Sharq TV making a direct call for violence.

    Addressing those he called “revolutionaries” in the video, Nasir said: “Kill officers. I say it to you on the air here, kill the police officers. I say to every wife of an officer, your husband will be killed, without question. If he is not killed tomorrow, he will be killed the day after.”

    Over the past months, a large number of power generators have been targeted and blown up, apparently to make things difficult for people and turn them against the government.

    In another video the same presenter interviewed a pro-MB figure in Turkey called Amr Abd-al-Hadi.

    “Do you think the targeting of a power generator is a qualitative or random act?” the presenter asked.

    To this, the guest replied: "Actually, there was a plan suggested by a girl once that in a moment all power generators in Egypt should be burnt at once.

    “I have seen a new change [in the actions by the so-called revolutionaries] to the effect that, if you [government] are protecting the police installations and so on and focusing on this, ok I will go to [and target] the investor then.”

    In the same vein, an article published on the MB’s official Arabic-language website Ikhwanonline urged the group members to prepare for “a long jihad”.

    Put out on 27 January, the article was headlined “A message to the ranks of the revolutionaries: ’And prepare’” and written by Faris Al-Thawrah (Knight of the revolution).

    The writer quotes sayings by the late MB founder Hassan al-Banna, including “The MB will use practical force when it is the only effective means.”

    He added: “Everyone should be aware that we are on the threshold of a new stage where we recall our latent power and evoke the meanings of jihad.

    We should prepare ourselves and our wives and children as well as our followers for a restless, long jihad in which we should seek the status of martyrs.”

    The London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper on 1 February quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that the Facebook page of the disbanded Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the MB, had published a statement under the name of “Get angry” on 27 January and “incited to killing and committing terrorist acts in all governorates”.

    The security sources said that “the investigating authorities have underlined that the videos and statements uploaded on the social networking sites were from outside the country.”

    Egypt moves
    In response, Egypt has been seeking to stop the broadcasting of the pro-MB channels on Eutelsat.

    In statements on 1 February, Badr Abd-al-Ati, the foreign ministry spokesman, said that Foreign Minister Samih Shukri had asked the Egyptian Embassy in Paris to contact the administration of the Paris-based satellite operator to close the “terrorist promotion channels”.

    Spanner in the works
    The MB has lost is ability to mobilize masses of people. Since Morsi’s ouster, thousands of its members have been imprisoned, mostly on charges of involvement in violence, and the group’s image has been severely damaged.

    Besides, Egyptians are now more cautious, having seen the existential crises rocking other countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya. President Al-Sisi also enjoys a broad base of support among ordinary people.

    With the failure to make any change in the status quo in Egypt, some MB circles appear to be seeking to throw a monkey wrench into the efforts made by President Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi and his government to fix the ailing economy.

    The latest encouragement of vandalism and violence seems to be intended to portray Egypt as a chaotic, insecure country ahead of the economic conference which is hoped to bring investments in.

    Source: BBC Monitoring research 4 Feb 15

  • In Egypt, Business as Usual : l’édito du NYT critique la conférence US organisée en Égypte pour les investisseurs américains en dépit des violations des droits humains

    The Obama administration’s Egypt policy — to the extent that one can be discerned — has been characterized by a combination of mixed messages, wishful thinking and a willful disregard of inconvenient truths.

    It is nonetheless stunning that the State Department saw fit to help organize a large investment conference for American businesses in Cairo next week, coinciding with a deadline the Egyptian government imposed in a blatant effort to shut down independent groups that promote civil society and human rights.

    A State Department official called the timing “inadvertent,” and said the gathering of more than 65 American executives, which is being billed as the largest of its kind, in no way diminishes Washington’s concerns about Egypt’s efforts to throttle pro-democracy organizations. Inadvertent or not, the conference will be seen by Egyptians as an unequivocal endorsement of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose ruthless authoritarianism is making Egypt’s past dictators look almost benign.

    Under Egypt’s draconian 2002 Law on Associations, nongovernmental groups must be licensed by the state. Because the government has not accredited those that have brought to light government abuses and promoted democratic reforms, most such groups have operated in a gray legal area. By announcing a Nov. 10 deadline for all organizations to be accredited, authorities in Cairo are signaling that a new crackdown on such groups could be imminent.

    The message has been reinforced in recent months as some of Egypt’s smartest and bravest activists have been encouraged by officials in the government to leave the country or face arrest. Some have slipped out, feeling fearful and resigned.

    Adding to the angst, the Egyptian government recently promoted the architect of the last crackdown on civil society organizations, Fayza Abul Naga, to the post of national security adviser. This appointment of an official who in 2012 sparked a diplomatic crisis with Washington by prompting a criminal inquiry that ensnared American pro-democracy workers is an ominous move.

    Ms. Abul Naga’s crusade, which sought to vilify foreign-financed nongovernmental organizations, prompted the United States in February 2012 to pay $4.6 million in forfeited bail money that was essentially a judicial bribe. As it has threatened watchdogs and critics, Mr. Sisi’s government has had a freer hand in cracking down on Islamists, a diverse segment of Egypt’s population that the government has branded as terrorists.

    That campaign took an alarming turn in recent days when Egyptian officials started leveling houses along the country’s border with Israel in an effort to shut down smuggling tunnels. The government gave thousands of residents 48 hours to leave homes along the border, an arbitrary measure that is certain to be used by extremist groups to foment hatred of the state.

    American executives taking part in the Cairo business conference next week should think long and hard about whether investing in Egypt now is worthwhile if it means strengthening a despotic system.

  • Egypte : Sissi nomme une ancienne ministre de Moubarak qui a fait partie de gouvernements successifs de 2001 à 2012 | Mada Masr

    From 2001 to 2012, through three administrations and five prime ministers, there was one constant in the fast-changing face of the Egyptian government : Fayza Abouelnaga, the minister of international cooperation.

  • Egypt warplanes bombing Libyan militias (officials) - AP

    CAIRO (AP) — Two Egyptian government officials say their country’s warplanes are bombing positions of Islamist militias in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

    The officials, who have first-hand knowledge of the operation, say the use of the aircraft is part of an Egyptian-led operation against the militiamen that involves Libyan ground troops.

    The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

    Libyan lawmaker Tareq al-Jorushi confirmed to the AP that Egyptian warplanes were taking part in the ongoing operation in Benghazi, but added that they were being flown by Libyan pilots.