“Who is (Really) Protecting Syria’s Archaeological and Historical Heritage?” Guest Article by Martin Makinson

22 Oct

Who is (Really) Protecting Syria’s Archaeological and Historical Heritage?

By Martin Makinson

 

Martin Makinson is a doctoral researcher who specializes in the archaeology of Syro-Mesopotamia. He has worked extensively on excavations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey and spent the last ten years in many Arab countries, including Syria, Libya and Yemen. His research focuses on “Territories, Identities and Empires: the Impact of the Assyrians on the Material Culture in Northern Syria”.

Corbulo, an officer fighting for the Roman emperor Nero (reigned AD 54-68), once said that a war is won with a pickaxe and not just with a sword. He was referring to how soldiers dug under fortifications and opened tunnels to besiege enemy cities and destroy walls. Free Syrian Army and Islamic Front rebels have for months made tunnels under the old city of Aleppo to reach the Carlton hotel facing the citadel, i.e. the main headquarters for Assad’s troops and his so-called National Defense Guard. A little more than a fortnight ago, they managed to implode this late Ottoman building from below, putting to practice this Latin maxim and causing massive damage to regime ranks. The “war of tunnels” (in Idlib, at Wadi Dayf airbase, in Aleppo) appears to be a new – but long and patient – way of scratching into a regime war machine still prevailing on the ground and in the air.

Yet Corbulo’s words can also apply to what is actually occurring as we speak: an attempt by Bashar al-Assad, courtesy of international organizations such as UNESCO and NGOs like Heritage for Peace, to pose as the defenders of archaeology, of Syria’s huge historical and architectural heritage, and, why not, of civilisation itself. Bashar’s propaganda stints often portray destructions merely as the result of fundamentalist Islamic armed hordes wantonly reducing historical monuments and sites to rubble, plundering any precious movable relics or destroying them in order to satisfy their “Wahhabi” agenda. If we are to believe the conference organizers, who screened out any undesirable coverage of an event which made security and staff at Unesco’s Paris premises quite edgy, “plans and grand designs” are under way to restore the unique remains of all periods of Syria’s history, from Neolithic to Ottoman. What the Damascus General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) announces it will restore are the buildings obliterated or looted to a large extent by the very regime they are working for and representing abroad.

After three years of devastation, in the wake of the bombing of entire ancient cities from the air or from SCUD launchers, the Assad regime sent to Paris a delegation of archaeologists and museum curators to attend a three day conference, from May 26th to 29th 2014. At UNESCO premises at Place de Fontenoy near the Eiffel tower, Assad’s civil servants discussed a budget for some of the country’s – damaged, to say the least – architectural jewels, most leveled in the last two years by MIG fighter jets and barrel bombs filled with TNT. Two and a half million dollars (minimal sums, considering the scale of the destruction) have been set aside for a three-year restoration project of medieval citadels destroyed by the conflict. These so-to-speak drops of water provided by Denmark and Belgium, are to be handed over to “experts” and to a General Directorate staff acting as firemen for a power structure which has – literally – committed arson from the very day its phosphorous bombs reduced to ashes the Middle East’s largest Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman souk in Aleppo in the winter of 2012. Many archaeologists such as Paolo Matthiae, of La Sapienza University in Rome and the director of excavations at the third millennium BCE site of Ebla since 1965, are attending and lecturing. It was this very Matthiae who had rewarded Asma al-Assad with an honoris causa doctorate from his university in October 2004, during a much media-covered visit to this 55 hectare urban Bronze age centre. Other scholars and prominent archaeologists have chosen not to respond to UNESCO’s calls for a closed-doors symposium whose political agenda appears clearly under the veneer of scholarly workshops and assessments.

Four workshops were planned in a program which has been (mysteriously) removed from the conference’s website, three dealing with different aspects of heritage in Syria: movable objects (i.e. saving sites and museums from looting and plundering), built heritage (monuments and archaeological mounds), intangible heritage (preserving arts, crafts and traditions for which Syria is famous for, for instance Hama’s cotton prints, music and walnut and mother-of-pearl inlaid furniture, or the music and muwashahat and qâsida poetry that has made Aleppo famous). One of the “bright ideas” put forward by UNESCO was to print hundreds of thousands of flyers to be given to refugees in camps in Lebanon and Syria, to inform them of the value of heritage. Though a substantial number of antiquities do leave the country via Syria and Lebanon, far from being in the hands of displaced refugees, they are the loot of Lebanese, European and Turkish smugglers: a few months ago, a Byzantine mosaic kept in Raqqa (maybe in fact from Dibsi Faraj, an artwork from churches dug in the 1970s during rescue operations on the Euphrates) was destroyed by ISIL extremists because it had aroused the interest of a Turkish antiquities dealer willing to illegally purchase it.

Asma al-Assad in 2006, receiving an honoris causa doctorate from the dean of humanities of La Sapienza University in Rome

Asma al-Assad touring Ebla with Italian archaeologist Paolo Matthiae

But will conference papers discuss the systematic looting at Syria’s largest Hellenistic and Roman site at Apamea, some 50 km north of Hama above the marshy Ghâb valley? Will Dr Mamoun Abd al-Karim, the current director of antiquities, a man hailing from Malkiyeh (Derrik) east of Qamishli (close to Iraq and Turkey’s borders) discuss the hundreds of pits dug on both sides of the 1.8 km avenue of spiralled columns and shops (the longest in the Orient), these erected in the aftermath of the 115 AD earthquake, shortly after emperor Trajan’s victories in Mesopotamia against the Parthians? Small-scale illicit digging was a problem at Apamea well before the 2011 uprising. Local youth on motorcycles would drive around the site and around Seleucos I’s massive Hellenistic walls to show visitors the odd Roman coin, a pottery oil lamp or Roman Samian ware. Osman ‘Aidi, a well-known developper of the merchant-military class of the 1980s (who constructed the Sham hotel in Hama over the Keilani quarter’s slaughtered inhabitants) had disfigured many of the site’s columns by covering them with ghastly, crude, mushroom-shaped capitals of concrete. Still, what has occurred since 2012 is something quite different, a scandal on an industrial scale met only by the silence of many scholars and agencies alike. Since March 2012, officers of the Syrian army have forced local peasants to dig trenches all over the site, creating a lunar landscape similar to other plundered classical and Hellenistic cities of the Orient in conflict zones (Aï Khanoum in Bactriana/Afghanistan and Hatra in Iraq are a case in point). During a visit made by the author in August 1995, Belgian archaeologist Jean-Claude Balty had emphasized how it was difficult to preserve a marble marvel: the opus sectile designs of the 6th century AD Eastern Byzantine cathedral, near the second century AD decumanus colonnade. He was then horrified at how entire floors forming intricate geometric patters were being vandalized after exposure, partly a result of the General Directorate’s lack of organization and care in managing and protecting them from the elements. Alas, one doubts whether Dr Mamoun Abd al-Karim, a specialist of classical periods and of Roman centuriations (agricultural land divisions for taxation purposes) in the area around Homs will raise the issue of Apamea and discuss at UNESCO regime responsibilities in vandalism and looting.

To the right, Opus sectile floor in the Eastern Cathedral of Apamea. To the left, a view of the eastern apse of the same monument (from http://romeartlover.tripod.com/Apamea2.html)

Just a few hundred meters to the West, the regime had, a few months earlier, targeted the tell (mound) of Qala‘at al-Mudiq, whose latest levels were those of the Crusader border fortress of Fémie. This was a place where the Duke of Antioch Bohemund had confronted Saladin’s troops in the 1180s – an episode recalled by Saladin’s secretary, the Arab knight Usama Ibn Munqidh of Sheizar castle on the Orontes. An arched bridge, a smaller scale version of the one leading into the Aleppo citadel, was partly damaged by shells, just as two 12th century AD bastions to the west. It is also unlikely that many questions on the artillery bombing of March 2012 will be asked during the UNESCO closed door sessions.

To be presented during these three days were restoration plans of two quasi-intact citadels in the Jebel al-Ansariyeh mountains: Qala‘at al-Husn and further north, Saladin’s castle (in fact Qala‘at Sahyun, derived from the French Saône family responsible for its upkeep before Sultan Salah ad-Dine seized it in 1188). In mid-June 2012, the Sunni enclave of al-Haffeh, above Lattakia, suffered from massive regime bombardment when the Free Syrian Army held it for a few days. Saladin’s castle, 6 km uphill, was also hit. Described by Lawrence of Arabia as one of the most beautiful fortresses of the Orient, illustrated in his doctoral dissertation, it is in fact a city bordered to the north by a 30-metre deep moat dug into the limestone around a drawbridge pinnacle, and to the south by a lower town with unexcavated houses lost in a maze of thick bush and thorns. In between, what was standing was a citadel whose foundations go back to Byzantine Emperor John Tzimikès, who when a general reconquered the coastal Levant in AD 982, seizing it from the Shia Hamdanid dynasty ruling in Aleppo. There is precious little information on the current state of a Crusader keep three storeys high where the Southern French Puylaurens noble family resided in the mid-12th century, nor is anything known of the fate of the hammam (the baths) built by Mamluk sultan Baibars and excavated by a French-Syrian expedition funded by the Agha Khan.

Some of the intact Crusader towers at Saladin’s castle

(author’s photograph, 2010)

As for Qala‘at al-Husn, the Krak des Chevaliers guarded by the Hospitalliers religious order before it surrendered to the same sultan Rukn ad-Dîn Baibars in 1271, it has suffered even more extensive destruction. “Baibar’s tower”, a 13th century AD underground hammam inside the keep, an assembly hall for knights with a famous warning inscription in Latin against “pride”, and the chapel – some of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in the Levant – were targeted on July 13th, 2013, by MIG fighter jets. These disloged with heavy ordnance FSA insurgents who were using this strategic vantage point overlooking the Homs corridor, the Buqeia of the Crusades.

 

Regime aerial bombing of the Baibars tower of the Krak des Chevaliers

 

Pictures showing regime artillery bombing of the entrance to the Apamea Qala‘at al-Mudiq medieval citadel in March 2012, and its aftermath (published online by APSA)

 

A view of Sergilla in the Jebel Zawiya in 2010 (photograph by the author). Since 2012, hundreds of internally displaced families from the region have taken shelter in this almost entirely preserved Byzantine village.

It is unclear whether Unesco, as well as discussing heritage awareness with refugees, plans to resettle the locals who have sheltered in the Late Roman and Byzantine 4th-5th century AD tombs, cisterns and houses of Sergilla, Baoude, Al-Bara, Ruwaiha and other Jebel Zawiyeh “Dead Cities”. Will the issue of why they have taken refuge there in the first place – because of Assad’s incessant bombing of civilians, bakeries, infrastructure, clinics in Maaret an-Nu‘man, Saraqeb, in the Ghâb Orontes valley and al-Bara – be addressed by this UN institution? The safeguarding of heritage is nothing more than one aspect of a huge list of grievances, at the top of which is the very survival and safety of a population driven home by a state terror campaign from the air.

What do the Roman temple, church and monastery of Deir Cheroubim at 1800 metres above sea level look like now, since the army has used it as a strategic stronghold for tanks and artillery? In early 2013, this mountaintop, a holy Christian site above Saidnaya, some 48 km north of Damascus in the Anti-Lebanon mountains, was used as a military base for Assad’s loyalist forces. Even worse, it became a target of fighting between Islamic Front fighters and the regime’s army during the Qalamoun battle in November 2013, when anti-Assad forces were disloged by Hezbollah militiamen and army troops from the nearby towns of Rankous, Deir ‘Atiyeh and Yabroud. The entire two-million-dollar UNESCO budget would not even be enough to restore this site 150 metres in diametre, which, though not the focus of Western tourism before 2011, was a popular destination for Syrians on a summer day out from Damascus. Deir Cheroubim is one of these Roman mountain cult sites dotting all slopes of the Anti-Lebanon mountains around sacred Mount Hermon (the Senir of the Bible and Phoenicians). Another example similar to Cheroubim is for instance Burqush, a place that became inaccessible to tourists after the 2006 war in Lebanon and was threatened even before the conflict. A huge platform with a temple and Byzantine basilica, the site was already under threat from army camps nearby in this most sensitive of areas near the Lebanese and Israeli-occupied Golan Heights borders. Both sites, on mountaintops with breathtaking views over the Damascus region, are part of a unique territory, elements of a sacred mountain dedicated in Aramaean times to the Storm God Hadad and in the Roman period to Zeus and Helios the sun deity (in Hebbariyeh and Deir ‘Ashayer in Lebanon, similar Roman cult-places survive as well-preserved monuments).

And then there are the mounds, the tells. Thousands of them from the Jazira near Qamishli to the Hawran, from Abou Kemal by Iraq to Syria’s earliest village at Tell Qaramel north of Aleppo. Those of many cities layered like Black Forest cakes. Those where battles of momentous importance for the history of the Near East were fought. Those whose layers go back to the pre-pottery Neolithic period (PPNA), c. 9000 BCE. Those where wars were won and then celebrated on reliefs at Abou Simbel and in the Theban Ramesseum in Egypt, or on clay tablets and treaties in cuneiform Akkadian from Hattuša, the Hittite imperial capital in modern Turkey. The battle for Qussayr must have greatly affected Tell Nabi Mend, where since 2012 fighting had been heavy. This artificial small mountain of mud brick and stone overlooking the Orontes, a few miles north of the Lebanese border, is of course where the clash of two empires took place, the disputed territory of one of antiquity’s most famous battles. In fact Qadesh-on-the-Orontes was where Ramesses II claimed to have saved the day and charged Muwatalli’s army on a chariot or where he ran for his life, according to which propaganda – Hittite or Egyptian – one is to believe. Qadesh was where, c. 1286 BCE, the Egyptian army was lured into a trap by spies acting as captured prisoners. These pretended to confess under duress information of paramount strategic importance. The irony is that this Ramesside propaganda echoes that of Assad’s claims to victory at nearby Qussayr, a town reduced to rubble in May 2013. Qussayr is a battle which was won thanks to Hezbollah mercenaries, with massive losses among Syrian army troops. It seems that Nabi Mend, a site excavated in the 1980s by a British team of archaeologists and now an army encampment, was severely damaged by tanks and trenches.

One could also mention Tell Sheikh Hamed at the other end of Syria, the Middle (1300-1100 BCE) and Late (900-610 BCE) Assyrian city of Dur-Katlimmu, an upper mound and a giant lower city of immense size; in fact this was the largest 7th and 6th century BCE metropolis in Syria. It was resettled in one go by the Assyrian governor Nergal-Eresh, and rebuilt over an artifical canal dug by deportees (the Nahr Dawrin, a 200 km long waterwork feeding from the Habur upstream near Hassake). Since 1979 a “Red Palace” of Nabuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire, a 500-tablet cuneiform archive of the same age discovered in 1998, a Late Bronze Age palace with similar tablets belonging to Assur’s king Tukulti-Ninurta I (1241-1207 BCE), are but a fraction of the immensely important discoveries made there by Berlin’s Free University Professor Harmut Kuhne and Assyriologists Wolfgang Röllig, Karen Radner and Eva Cançik-Kirschbaum. The site, 40 km west of the Wadi ‘Ajij, a gateway into Iraq and a no-man’s land, is a strategic crossroad. It therefore became a battle ground between FSA brigades and the Syrian army in mid-2012. Now the region is inaccessible and under the control of the most extreme, fanatic and violent of fundamentalist militias, ISIL – known to Syrians as Da‘esh. Their black flags of darkness now loom like stagnant clouds over the Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Hassake governorates, and little information on heritage or anything else trickles to the outside.

The means that the regime has used to destroy entire settlements, its disregard both for human life and for the houses and churches and residences and palaces built by tens of generations –those mentioned above in this article are but a minute fraction – should make organizations think twice before inviting Syria’s civil servants and officials to international conferences on heritage and restoration. Museum officials from the Damascus General Directorate, whose denunciations have been selective to say the least and who have indirectly or even straightforwardly lent credit to Assad’s narrative, will never voice any opposition to his relentless bombing campaigns. And they will even less be capable of doing something about looting and destructions affecting sites in areas which have expelled the Syrian dictator’s henchmen.

Those who have extensively documented the damage done to remains, those who have exposed crimes against heritage and barbaric, criminal behaviour towards a resource to be shared by all Syrians and which forms an essential ingredient for future peace and national cohesion, are all from civil society. At great risk for their own lives, they have forwarded countless snippets of information on what has actually occurred to the locations archaeologists had surveyed and cleared for decades. A network of dedicated students, of conscientious volunteers in Aleppo, in the Jazira, in the Hawran, in the Wadi Nessara, in the Orontes and Euphrates valleys and elsewhere, has been documenting the last three years of damage. It is archaeology students at Aleppo University who saved an Ayyubid 12th century wooden minbar (a prayer platform) from being obliterated to splinters by shells from the frontline. They are the ones who collected the hewn basalt and limestone stones of the 11th century Aleppo mosque minaret, which collapsed from tank shell bombing when this religious space was on the frontline. Their information and their actions are the infinitely precious pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle to be assembled when ISIL and the regime, who feed on each other’s actions, hopefully recede into oblivion. These students and youth have witnessed the extent of the tragedy affecting Doura Europos over the Euphrates, a city in the steppe where Palmyrenes, Parthians, Romans, Jews, Mesopotamians and Greeks mingled and where at least six languages were spoken before it fell in AD 256 to the Sassanian Persians. Now Doura, the city of the painted synagogue showing Moses crossing the Red Sea, of the palaces of the strategos and Dux Ripae Greek and Roman generals, of the temples of so many local and Greek gods (Zeus Megistos, Zeus hypsistos, the Gaddê, Nabû god of wisdom and writing…) lies in probably what is now the world’s most unsafe area.

The fortification walls of Doura Europos in the spring, looking northeast toward the Euphrates river valley (author’s photograph, 2009)

These brave – one could say foolhardy – Syrians, armed and funded with nothing but good will and passion, were instrumental in the creation of independent NGOs working on a shoestring such as APSA (Association for the Saveguarding of Syrian Heritage) and Ila Souria, a think-tank of architects, historians, lawyers and intellectuals regularly discussing reconstruction. Nevertheless, it is under the pressure of regime officials and their representative at Unesco, Lamia Shakkur, that they were banned from publically exposing the results of their work at UNESCO. Because of what they see as discrimination motivated by a regime whose authority they do not acknowledge, APSA and Ila Souria decided to boycott the event.

The Second century AD Roman temple, reconstructed as a church, within the Deir Cheroubim monastery compound near Saidnaya (author’s photograph).

This is not to say that the regime is the only party responsible for the damage to Syria’s monuments, cities and mounds. Assad’s forces barbarity is paralleled by the local equivalent of the Taliban. Countless examples of ISIL/Da‘esh’s gratuitous and hysterical violence against any remain from pre-Islamic times abound. One of the latest took place at Tell ‘Ajaja, the ancient city of Šadikanni and one of the Middle East’s earliest excavations, a place where in 1849 Sir Henry Austin Layard found a lamassu, a human-headed bull that guarded Assyrian palaces. Illicit looting has taken place since the Syrian conflict’s onset at this 15 hectare site some 25 km upstream from Tell Sheikh Hamed. Assyrian statues and relics found there were seized by Da‘esh Jihadis and reduced to dust, a crime recalling the terrible obliteration of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001. The fate of the Deir ez-Zor Museum, which houses a huge fraction of the Mari archive, all the third and fourth millennium BCE finds from the Jazira and those of Roman and Parthian Dura Europos, is unknown. Yet the worse is to be expected in a city to a great extent controlled by this Jihadi movement and whose late Ottoman souks were the scene of heavy fighting in 2013. In the terrorized city of Raqqa, the city ISIL ruthlessly rules since 2013, a unique sculpture preserved in a public garden was smashed to pieces by these fundamentalist extremists. It was a lion inscribed in three languages (hieroglyphic Luwian, Assyrian cuneiform and in the Aramaic akphabet). It had been taken there decades ago from Arslan Tash, an acient city lying 90 kms north on the Turkish border, where a French team had excavated in the 1930s, discovering an Assyrian “palace” (in fact probably a huge temple). This lion carved by the turtânu (general in command) Shamshi-Ilu, ruling the West as a vice-roy for the Assyrian king, was incidentally a proof of the ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity of northern Syria in the 9th and 8th century BCE.

The destruction of century-old Sufi shrines, and of the graves of Shia mujtahids (Islamic law scholars) and saints are also part of Daesh-ISIL’s agenda, and indirectly serve that of the Assad regime. The extremist movement led by al-Baghdadi has thus done what the Syrian dictator had dreamt of for months since 2011: plunging the country into a sectarian abyss, which would drive thousands of Iraqi and Lebanese Shias to flock to Assad under the guise of protecting “Sayyida Zaynab”’s shrine. Such crimes against both history and the country’s social and religious fabric should be denounced as much as those of the regime, which feeds and thrives on the medieval behaviour of jihadi militias.

The NGOs APSA and Ila Souria have been very clear in their condemnation of all crimes against heritage and Syria’s historical and social fabric. They have been also frank about their refusal be part of a conference where, as they have pointed out on their Facebook page, they would “merely … be the audience, as result of pressure exerted by representatives of the Damascus regime, something which was communicated to us by the organizers themselves [UNESCO]”. In fact, at the three-day symposium, “none of the experts or representatives of associations working in the regions of Syria not under regime control are to express themselves in this conference, while representatives of the Ministry of Culture and of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Damascus will be present and giving lectures at all sessions”. Their refusal to attend was also a way of protesting against focus on experts who “have carried out no concrete action inside Syria” and against “criteria used for choosing participants, which are unclear, and have never been made explicit and transparent”. Strasbourg university Assistant Professor Philippe Quenet, who has lived and worked extensively in the field in Syria and Mesopotamia for many years and who is one of the founders of both Patrimoine Syrien en Danger and APSA, added that “to refuse to go to a conference where it would be unable to speak out to the audience was a question of dignity”, but this did not imply “absence of cooperation with parties really interested in working on the ground and promoting concrete actions to save Syria’s heritage.” In fact, strategies for cooperation on this matter were to be presented by these civil society NGOs at the next ICAANE conference on Near Eastern archaeology, in a workshop on Syria is on June 10th.

Asma al-Assad visiting a trench on the 2450 BCE acropolis of Tell Mardikh/Ebla, near Palace G, close to were 17,000 cuneiform tablets were found in 1974

 

“A Political Economy Lens on the Syrian Revolution’s Shifting Landscape” By Dr. Sherifa Zuhur

6 Oct

“A Political Economy Lens on the Syrian Revolution’s Shifting Landscape.”

 

Dr. Sherifa Zuhur, IMEISS

 

(Oral version. Not for citation or circulation without notification to the author sherifazuhur@gmail.com)

 

Presented to the Workshop “Businessmen in Arms: How the Military and Other Armed Groups Profit in the MENA.” Bonn International Center for Conversion, Bonn Germany, October 1, 2014.

 

Syrians of all sects and income levels are waging a revolution after decades of praetorian/security services, authoritarian rule.  Secondarily, Syria now features a regional and international struggle between Assad’s government and his allies – primarily Russia, Iran, which considers Syria, it’s 35th province, and the revolutionaries and their allies (which have included the U.S., U.K., U.A.E., Egypt, Italy, Turkey, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others). On a third level, this conflict represents a new jihadist front as a spillover from Iraq and also into Lebanon. This is the target of the recently announced international coalition.

 

My paper partially concerned the military balance of the conflict and what it portends.   While reliant on estimates, troop or personnel numbers, weaponry and capabilities may provide a window onto the longevity of a conflict. The American revolutionary war took 8 years (1775 -1783), Fidel Castro ousted Batista of Cuba after seven years. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were swiftly enacted –– in 27 days in Tunisia and 17 days in Egypt — because their militaries assented to regime change and both were incomplete revolutions. In Libya, where international intervention took place, the ‘war stage’ was about eight months, but then entered a different stage of militia warfare with the re-establishment of some local services. The uncertain tenure of a revolutionary phase may be punctuated or followed by incidents which appear to be game-changers (the Bay of Pigs for Cuba, for example) but that are interpreted quite differently in hindsight.

The staying power of warring groups is also beginning to rely on “‘markets of violence’ as defined by Georg Elwert: “areas dominated by civil wars, warlords or robbery in which a self-perpetuating system (italics are mine) emerges and links nonviolent commodity markets with the violent acquisition of goods.” (proper endnotes appear in the full written version of this paper).

However the problems of applying this latter formula to the Syrian revolution are that a) the situation does not equate to civil war (the claim has been made to argue for the rights of combatants under the Geneva convention, etc.) b) Many of the economic activities fitting into the markets of violence existed before this conflict. A * is used to indicate a pre-existing market of this nature in the list below.

Syria possessed a shadow, or black market economy for years, possibly 25% of its income & this has expanded during the revolution, and c) The most important economic aspect of the conflict is probably the transfer of funds by external sponsors which more directly influence the military balance d) because the profits obtained through the markets of violence are uncertain figures which accrue to loyalists, rebels, and also to criminals or other non-combatants, it is difficult to calculate their effects.

 

Rebels, loyalists and criminals now raise cash from

 

  1. Most have been of Syrian citizens held for smaller ransom, from $2000 to $20000; in some cases, Qatar’s government has paid hefty ransoms (for the nuns of Maaloula and Fijian UN peacemakers)  foreign journalists were held for huge ransoms or beheaded as we saw by ISIS which serve as a recruitment device for the group & a means of declaring war on the US & the UK.. http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201310141237791322
  2. Drug smuggling.* – this involves hashish, much of it smuggled from Lebanon where the govt. has been unable to raid producers as in years past; heroin, cocaine and Captagon which is an amphetamine using fenytillin (made in Syria but also in S.eastern Europe and Turkey & used by fighters on both sides & smuggled out for profit – often to the Gulf http://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/drug-lords-cash-in-on-syrias-collapse

 

  1. Arms smuggling* to the fighters. These rings have been operated by tribes in border areas and long predate the conflict. There are naturally new actors and methods of arms acquisition, again coming in over the borders.

 

  1. Human trafficking. Version I – smuggling out of refugees. These pay a fee to get to the border. In other instances, they pay to be smuggled from second points to southern or northern Europe.

 

  1. Antiquities smuggling* In some cases, from UNESCO sites designated as being in danger. These transfer to Lebanon and elsewhere, but the routes and agents began their careers, in some cases, during the civil war in Lebanon.

 

  1. Human trafficking. Version II – Prostitution and the sale of women as temporary wives. The trade in women and girls burgeoned in some areas like Damascus, with the influx of Iraqi refugees, and that was fairly well-documented, while the reports include activities of marriage brokers and impact Syrians inside and outside of Syria.

 

  1. Oil, diesel , and gas.  Syria’s official oil exports have ceased with a loss of 20 billion dollars. ISIS, Nusra and other groups are benefitting, but so are the tribes who hold rights to the oil wells in some areas. They sell to the armed groups and the armed groups sell some oil to the Assad govt. The Kurdish YPG controlled fields had won them from Nusra, setting up a new refining company the Distributing al-Jazeera’s Fuel (KSC).

 

ISIS is smuggling out diesel fuel & the revenues benefit Turkish border areas, not only ISIS.   Nusra has been selling gas as well.

 

  1. h)   Criminal networks’ use of children in the sales of contraband or smuggled   goods, as for instance children working to sell smuggled cigarettes in Turkey. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/syrian-children-exploited-in-sale-of-smuggled-cigarettes-in-turkey.aspx?PageID=238&NID=64162&NewsCatID=341

 

 

Much of my paper dealt with the factionalizing effect of payments made by governments and individuals to the rebels.  This effort to map the changes, especially on the rebel side was complicated by the efforts made by researchers to either inflate the efficacy of the leadership of the Free Syrian Army, the overstatements regarding the salafi-jihadist groups in the country, or efforts by other research institutes to promote the likelihood of a stalemate or worthiness of Assad’s tenure, and not least, by the war of words in social media over the issue.

 

This data led to the following conclusions:

 

  1. Markets of violence behave differently in revolutionary situations than in long-lasting endemic smaller scale conflicts

 

  1. The Syria revolution (like some other revolutions) has united and divided both its backers and opponents.

 

  1. It cannot be resolved through economic means. Violence is being waged to create or prevent a systemic change. The aim for political transformation is the dog wagging the tail of economic activities to sustain the conflict and not the reverse.

 

I made an effort in the paper to examine various assertions and claims that the conflict has been provoked through economic transformation. Certain commentators hold that transitions from state socialism to neoliberalism were the reason for Arab Spring revolutions. However, state socialism was never complete and nor tenable in Syria; there was no society-wide transition to a flourishing neoliberalism despite the infitah there. Rather, the efforts to separate economic from political liberalization accompanied a process where benefits accrued mostly to a small circle of businessmen and leading families who supported Bashar al-Assad’s “New Syria.”

 

Instead, the regime’s brutal response to nonviolent demonstrations in 2011 was the main trigger to revolution. Bouthaina Shaaban (a key advisor both to Hafez al-Assad and then, Bashar al-Assad ) suggested that financial aid be given to the rural areas, which had experienced great privations, but not revolted under the Assads for years. The protesters, who were not professional activists, were so angered by the governments’ actions and so exhausted by its political suppression, that they mocked her proposition, calling for an end to political ‘slavery.’

 

  1. Syria’s military was quite large for a country of its size, deliberately so with an aim to counter Israel, but it lacked a large-scale Military Inc. or milbus (the term used by Ayesha Siddiqa for Pakistan) sector as was described by other presenters in this workshop for Egypt or Jordan. Syria, however has possessed a medium-scale set of military/industrial/research endeavors and so, an exception to the first statement was Syria’s SCUD missiles production which was jointly accomplished with Iran and North Korea. Otherwise, Syria was reliant on weapons procurement from other countries and aid and training from the USSR, causing its military to adopt a centralized, authoritarian, low-risk style of warfare as Tony Cordesman has pointed out — ill-suited to confronting guerilla tactics. Syria has a significant chemical and biological weapons program, also developed with Israel in mind. At the outset of the revolution, Assad had approximately 295,000 troops plus 314,000 reserves and its military intelligence, known as the mukhabarrat and the forces of the General. Security Directorate, and Political Security Directorate which captures, interrogates and tortures rebels (paramilitaries also now operate checkpoints).

 

The revolution fractured Assad’s conventional forces. Defections began in July of 2011, resulting in he new Free Syrian Army umbrella (of numerous battalions and groups) which had then merged with the Free Officers Movement.  Defections continued until 100,000 had left, and travel restrictions on males were imposed. Family members left behind were often arrested, tortured or faced property destruction, meaning that the loyalty of many who remained was also at question. Distrust of Sunni rank and file and reserves reduced the deployable size of Assad’s army troops. He has relied on his air force (and these are mostly Sunni, so the sectarian argument is not an overarching explanation, the Republican Guard, 4th division and Special Forces, but also on paramilitaries.

 

Syria’s shabiha, militias which operate like gangs or mafias, predate this conflict, and obtain funds from businessmen and the government as well as through smuggling – in the past, they dealt in cigarettes and other controlled products from food to batteries, or smuggled hashish, and antiquities. They have been accused of some of the worst atrocities in the fighting, as for example in the Houla massacres (25 May 2012) and reportedly are paid about $500 a month. National Defense Forces were also established; these are civilian militias who obtain their salaries from the Assad government. Altogether these Syrian militias were estimated at 60,000.  The foreign fighters bolstering the loyalists consist of Hizbullah of Lebanon, (5,000 est.) at least 14 Iraqi Shi`a groups, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps advisors and a Syrian militia trained and operated by IRGC and Hizbullah operatives. These are waging jihad at least as fervently as the Sunni salafi-jihadists on the other side, with sectarian as well as political aims. This must be viewed alongside the immense amounts of credit have been extended by Iran to Syria and cash and weapons were provided both by Iran and Russia,

 

  1. The rebels are nonviolent revolutionary activists and about 1,500 armed groups. Dividing them into “secular” and salafi-jihadist is imprecise. Syria, like so many countries in the region underwent an Islamic revival in the ‘90s. Analysts have also suggested a differentiation between salafi-jihadists with nationalist goals and those with global aims.

 

The rebel forces have taken much of the country & that is due to the fact that

 

  • the nonviolent revolutionaries are still viewed as “worthy resistance” – in Charles Tilly’s language . Their goal is a free, democratic, nonsectarian Syria with a civilian government and rule of law. They have received training and funding from outside of Syria for example, in the use of video-making and branding, democracy education, and governance.
  • political and financial support by foreign governments of the formal political opposition structure – the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
  • Religious (and thus ideological) and financial support by governmental and private donors to the salafist fighting groups and the Free Syrian Army.

 

The middle section of my paper concerns the largest fighting groups – the umbrella group of Free Syrian Army which includes non-salafi and more or less extreme salafi groups; the Jabhat Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham; Older and newer Islamist coalitions like the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham – 13 of its leaders were recently assassinated – and newer ones like the Islamic Front and the Hazzm movement, and some of the Kurdish fighting movements and brief mention of the activities of the nonviolent movement’s organizations.

 

Funding is important to these groups in two ways 1) fighters require provisioning and stipends 2) those with more heavy weaponry could respond more effectively

 

The expansion of global jihad meant the salafi-jihadists very successfully used social media to fundraise & in turn, demonstrated the use of those funds to donors. And this could all be done on an individual basis, and is thus extremely difficult to track or interrupt.

 

  1. Since the summer of 2012, the FSA or ‘moderate’ elements of the revolution and confronted various problems

 

  1. chaotic infighting in the revolution, which was supposed to be managed – by a new structure. The Supreme Military Command set up in Dec. 2012

 

  1. continuing difficulties in obtaining heavy weaponry.

 

The US provided $26 million by 2013 and a total of $80 million in nonlethal assistance was promised, but not provided. As President Obama turned the question over to Congress to argue over sending weapons to the rebels, when he must have known they would balk, many experts thought he and his advisors wanted the FSA to be strong enough to prevent Assad from victory, but not able to prevail, thus requiring a political solution. A CIA program in Jordan was funded[i] but only for 1 ,000 to 3,000 troops; this is the program to be upgraded into a training for trainers effort to provide a force to fight ISIS and towards which some $4 billion is being reportedly allocated.

 

  1. Assad’s forces with Hizbullah and other militias managed, albeit with great difficulty – to recapture some areas (only three) – and the FSA’s battalions regrouped in various new alliances.

 

  1. The lessening of international pressure on Assad; the United Nations/Arab League special representative Lakhdar Brahimi declared his own mission a failure ; Obama’s brief threat against Syria for using sarin in attacks on August 25, 2013 was withdrawn as Russia negotiated that Syria to turn over its chemical weapons; and the meetings in Geneva last winter (’14) failed to produce any outcome.

 

  1. FSA leaders were involved in a sex scandal, gruesome videos and accused of war crimes even as thousands of photographs of Assad’s war crimes were obtained and shared in testimony to Congress by the mysterious Caesar, a Syrian defector .

 

  1. ISIS and Jabhat Nusra gained the most territory, while they together had had only about 10,000 troops last year, ISIS is now estimated by the CIA as being perhaps 30,000 (15,000) in Syria and 50,000 by Bill Roggio.  In January of 2014, a sub-war between ISIS and Jabhat Nusra, was launched, which did not result in ISIS’ defeat.

 

Reactions to the US-coalition launched war on ISIS and Nusra were being protested by rebels all over the country. Assad is presumably happy with the attacks on his foes, but unsure of the West’s next move.

 

Assad’s military’s dilemma, in Clausewitzian terms, is the diffusion of the conflicts’ center of gravity throughout the country, and his inability to extinguish the popular will for revolution.   The direct economic funding of the conflict is as crucial to his effort as it is to that of the revolutionaries. Whether the markets of violence, are or are not a determining factor, and merely a subsidiary aspect of the conflict remains to be seen.

 

[i] Yezid Sayigh. “Is Armed Rebellion on the Wane in Syria?” Carnegie Middle East Center, April 24, 21014. http://carnegie-mec.org/2014/04/24/is-armed-rebellion-in-syria-on-wane/h8z6#

 

Thoughts on the Proportion of Foreign Fighters in Syria

14 Sep

“Thoughts on the Proportion of Foreign Fighters in Syria “

 

Sherifa Zuhur   (please do not cite without permission, this is based on a chapter in an academic book on ‘markets of violence’ in the Syrian revolution.)

 

sherifazuhur@gmail.com

 

A plethora of media and ‘expert’ sources claim that ISIS’ numbers “may have” tripled – with the CIA’s estimate at 20,000 to 31,500 in Iraq and according to some, 50,000 (an exaggerated figure) in Syria.[1]   Last year, some sources claimed Jabhat Nusra and ISIS were no more than 7,000 to 10,000[2] (together), with only 5,000 “official” Nusra members (BBC), Nusra’s leaders claimed they have 15,000 or 20,000 troops. ISIS’ approximate size in 2013 was calculated at 5,000 to 6,000 fighters.[3]

 

Reasons given for the increase are a) an increase in foreign fighters, despite the fact that international authorities were alerted last year to the danger of foreign fighters returning to their own home countries and began serious review of travelers; or b) other fighters joining ISIS or tribes joining ISIS (a trend seen in Iraq, but not particularly in Syria although some tribes are participating).

 

Western media are using a figure of 12,000 (or 11,000) foreign fighters as of late summer 2014 in Syria – which means that the overall figure of 100,000 rebel fighters must have increased (despite a fairly high casualty rate). On Sept. 8, a figure was given of 3,000 fighters from Tunisia participating in the Syrian revolution  by Peter Neumann at ICSR at King’s College.[4]  Contrast this with a U.S. Congressional report said that U.S. intelligence had estimated 7,500 foreign fighters were in Syria as of February 2014.[5] Are nearly half the fighters, Tunisian? No. Then, how accurate are these assessments? And are we concerned about them as a determinant of the salafi-jihadists’ rapid growth?  Or as predictors of a campaign against salafi-jihadists (yes) and the probability of rebels overcoming Assad’s forces (yes) or at least holding their own?

 

Can we properly assess the size of salafi-jihadists’ forces as a whole (given that some include ‘nationalist salafis’ like Ahrar al-Sham, and some do not, and with claims that the Jaysh al-Islam, for example is at 50,000 alone). The ICSR had also claimed (in 2013) that foreign jihadists are only 10% of the opposition. Once again, the size of the revolution (‘insurgency’) is debated: the U.S. estimates 75,000 to as high as 115,000.[6]

Is the danger of blowback from foreign fighters being exaggerated, given that their primary goals are in Syria?  The al-Qa’ida movements have already given us a great deal of information about the reasons that foreign nationals join a global jihad movement in a particular local battle.

Let’s review some of the other information from last year:  Syria was already seen as a jihadist magnet more powerful than Afghanistan or Yemen, a year ago.[7] Analysts claimed, then that 40% to 80% of groups like Nusra and ISIS are foreign fighters, although identifications of slain fighters do not support such claims.[8]   Officials thought that perhaps 700 or 800 salafi-jihadists had traveled to Syria from Jordan and about 100 were killed there.[9] Numbers of Tunisian (600), Saudi Arabian[10], Libyan, and Iraqi fighters are significant. An estimated 100 Chechen fighters were in Syria.[11] The FBI has identified 100 American Muslims fighting in Syria, France had identified 150 French jihadists, and the Spanish government arrested Wahhabists in Ceuta who sent 50 fighters to Syria.[12] British authorities estimated that 200 UK nationals are fighting in Syria, but have only positively identified twenty;[13] and twenty Dutch fighters, mostly of Moroccan descent, were in Syria (with six killed) led by Abu Fida’a;[14] Swedish Security Services estimated 30 Swedes traveled to Syria to fight, and a senior security official claimed 80 Australians are fighting in Syria, perhaps 20 with Jabhat al-Nusra.[15] At least 40 Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) fighters have fought in Syria[16]; out of perhaps 100 Pakistani fighters in Syria. The TTP leaders run a network with Lashkar e-Jhangvi bringing militants to Syria,[17] who likely fought with Hafiz Gul Bahadur group members in the Katibat Muhajirun in Latakia under Abu Jafar al-Libi. An ISIS video from July 2013 showed 10 to 20 TTP fighters in Syria,[18] and 30 slain Pakistani fighters’ bodies were returned to Pakistan in September.[19] Anywhere from “several” to 50 Indonesians are thought to be in Syria.[20] The Katibat Taliban (KaT) who fight the Kurdish-Syrian PYD were reportedly paid an initial sum equal to $1000.[21] (I am looking at the economic aspects of the fighting elsewhere, in a book on the political economy of conflicts in Arab tates).

 

Although many of governments put measures in place to apprehend those traveling to Syria, jihadists have succeeded in traveling like a Saudi engineer, who left his job to join the jihad,[22] al-Sharikh (Sanafi al-Nasr), a cousin of Osama bin Ladin, who formerly fought in Chechnya and Afghanistan, and Abu `Awan al-Shamani who set off a Nusra suicide bomb at the French hospital in Aleppo.[23] Saudi Arabia has arrested jihadists on their return from Syria; 1,200 had traveled to Syria by 2013 [24] and now estimates are at anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500.

The Tunisian Minister of Interior offered the number of 2,400 fighters in June of 2014, without specifying any sources. [25]  Unclear numbers of Libyans are fighting in Syria, having undergone training in Libya.

Some claim 600 foreign fighters were killed in Syria in the first half of 2013. That is a fairly small proportion of rebels killed as a whole. However, the website Syrian Martyrs had only documented 326 foreign fighters deaths by June of 2014 (and this source documents deaths even when identification by name is not made).

 

Lest we forget, there are at least 10,000 foreign Shi`i fighters in Syria as well – and again these are estimated numbers. And we might remember that the Hizbullah and other Shi`i fighters are also hostile to a democratic way of life, have slaughtered Syrian civilians, and yet, they are not the subject of the current frenzy of concern over foreign fighters.

 

With the dramatic beheadings of U.S. journalists and a U.K. aid worker in Syria, it is difficult not to exaggerate the overall threat to the West, and recall that the context of these fighting groups and others, as well as a non-violent revolutionary movement is the effort to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.    From this brief review, we may deduce that if the higher numbers of foreign fighters are correct, the size of the revolutionary forces is higher than estimated (or at the high end of current estimates).

 

 

[1]New York Post, September 12, 2014 . http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/isis-muster-20-000-31-500-fighters-triple-previous-estimates-cia-article-1.1937563

 

[2] Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake. “Jabhat al-Nusra lil-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahedin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad.” Strategic Briefing. Qulliam Foundation, n.d. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/jabhat-al-nusra-a-strategic-briefing.pdf Estimates 5,000. An estimate of 6,000 to 7,000 is given by Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. “”The Al Nusra Front.” September, 23, 2013, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20573/E_076_13_1861409435.pdf

The group was established in 2012, claimed to double with new recruits including jihadists returning from Iraq, or traveling from overseas.

 

[3] “Al Qaeda’s Syrian Strategy.” Foreign Policy, October, 10, 2013.

 

[4] ABC News, September 8, 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/expert-12000-foreign-fighters-syria-25364064

 

[5] Remarks by James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, to the Senate Armed Services Committee, February 11, 2014.

 

[6] Congressional Research Service. “Armed Conflict in Syria.” June 27, 2014, 3.

 

[7] Kristina Wong, “Foreign Fighters Surpass Afghan-Soviet War, Storm Syria in Record Numbers,” Washington Times, October 20, 2013.

 

[8] These can be obtained on a daily basis, when they are identified (identification is not always possible) via the Local Coordination Committees in Syria of the SOHR.

 

[9] Interview with Mohammed al-Shalabi, a Jordanian Salafi-jihadi leader, on August 9, 2013, see Suha Philip Ma’ayeh. “Jordanian Jihadists Active in Syria.” Countering Terrorism Sentinel, October 24, 2013. http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/jordanian-jihadists-active-in-syria; “10 Salafists Enter Aleppo Through Turkey,” al-Ghad, October 7, 2013; Muwaffaq Kamal,  “The Salafi Jihadi Denies Establishing a Murabitoon Brigade,” al-Ghad, September 23, 2013; “Teenage Jordanian ‘Jihadist’ Killed in Syria,” Jordan Times, February 28, 2013; Hassan Tammimi, “Jordanian Salafi from Rusaifa Killed in Syria,” al-Ghad, August 4, 2013.

 

[10] John Kerry inaccurately claimed there were no Saudi Arabian fighters in Syria in June of 2013, despite the reported death of a Nusra commander, Kasura al-Jazrawi in May 2013. CNS News.com June 25, 2013.   In October, 2013, the Mufti of Saudi Arabia issued a statement to discourage Saudi engagement in jihad in Syria even as 16 year old Moath al-Hamili arrived to fight. Global Voices, October 1, 2013. http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/01/the-16-year-old-saudi-who-is-fighting-in-syria/

 

[11] “Битва за Ичкерию перекинулась на Сирию,” Kommersant, July 26, 2013 http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/2241167

 

[12] Newsweek, October 25, 2013.

 

[13] Jenny Cuffe, “Who Are the British Jihadists in Syria?” BBC News, October 15, 2013.

 

[14] Samar Batrawi, “The Dutch Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, October 24, 2013.

 

[15]Per Gudmundson, “The Swedish Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, September 24, 2013; Zammit, Andrew. “Tracking Australian Foreign Fighters in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, November 26, 2013.

 

[16] Zia Ur Rahman, “Pakistani Fighters Joining the War in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, [Countering Terrorism Center] September 24, 2013.

 

[17] Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, “Pakistan Taliban ‘Sets up a Base in Syria,’” BBC, July 12, 2013; Maria Golovnina and Jibran Ahmad, “Pakistan Taliban Set Up Camps in Syria, Join Anti-Assad War,” Reuters, July 14, 2013.

 

[18] “Video Confirms Pakistani Taliban’s Presence In Syria,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, August 1, 2013.

 

[19] Aqeel Yousafzai, “Taliban se muzakraat Hukmaran band gali mai,” Hum Shehri [Lahore], September 9-15, 2013.

 

[20] AP News. “For Indonesian Jihadists: Civil War in Syria Beckons.” Townhall.com January 10, 2014.

[22] Shown here after shooting rabbits in the desert, a favorite male pastime. “Mudir “Kahraba tarbiyya” yiktib “wastaituhu”wa ghadir ila Suriyya,al-Sabq 10/7/2013.

http://sabq.org/0qFfde

 

[23] Aaron Y. Zelin, “The Saudi Foreign Fighter Presence in Syria.” CTC Sentinel, April 28, 2014 https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/the-saudi-foreign-fighter-presence-in-syria

 

[24] Fahd al-Dhiyabi, “Saudi Interior Ministry Says 25 Percent of Fighters in Syria Have Returned,” Asharq Alawsat, March 24, 2014.

 

[25] Al Arabiyya, 23 June 2014. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/2014/06/24/Ministry-around-2-400-Tunisians-fighting-in-Syria.html

 

Interview with Dr. Sherifa Zuhur following the Election of Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi as President

6 Jun

I was recently interviewed for MENA (Middle East News Agency). I have requested, but not yet received a link to whatever is published.

 

Sherifa Zuhur, IMEISS   Interview given to Ahmed Bahaa  on June 5, 2014.

Q. After the official declaration of Abdelfatah El- Sisi winning presidential elections, do you think that the call for reconciliation in Egypt is in favor of him or against him?

**This question is not clear. Do you mean “the call for a reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood?” With the Ansar Bayt Maqdis and other groups attacking the government? Is there a concrete group calling for reconciliation?

  1. I do not believe that the issue of reconciliation with the Muslim Brotherhood – if that is what you mean — is first on the list of Egypt’s priorities at the moment. My sense is that a majority of Egyptians at present do not want any reconciliation with the banned Muslim Brotherhood, and that it was the public which insisted (for most of autumn 2013) that the transitional government enact a ban, rather than the other way around. Therefore I don’t think those external observers, such as U.S. neoconservatives or think tanks, which have opposed the new government like Carnegie or Middle East Institute or those writing for CFR’s Foreign Policy have any reason to order the Egyptian public or government to “reconcile.” Obviously, there are also some Egyptians who have been involved in demonstrations at universities and who protest the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they are not numerically large, nor can they claim a moral high ground after so many instances of unnecessary violence which hurt and terrified their fellow Egyptians.

 

Last summer, in the midst of the crisis at the end of June 2013, Field Marshal al-Sisi, then the Minister of Defense made at least three efforts to mediate with President Morsi and via him to the General Guidance Council of the MB. They rejected all of those efforts which might have resulted in a compromise government following new elections.   In some areas of Egypt, such as Kafr al-Dawwar, Menya, and most notably the Sinai supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (or in the Sinai, their extremely violent allies) are still threatening others and trying to coerce them – in the Sinai, this remains an extremely volatile situation.

 

  1. How do you see the future of American-Egyptian relations in the light of El-Sisi’s as president and, will he focus on enhancing Egypt’s relations with Russia to put pressure on America?

A. I was asked about the announced Egyptian-Russian deal whereby financing was to be provided from the Gulf states a few months ago. After the usual round of reprintings, this particular story went silent.

President Putin was among the first of the world leaders to congratulate President al-Sisi on his electoral win. Apart from that gesture, I don’t think Egypt will overturn its long-term relationship with the United States for Russia, nor would it particularly pressure the United States if Egypt were to obtain weaponry or defense systems from Russia. Diplomatically, it is wise for Egypt to build ties of cooperation and friendship with many countries and not solely with the United States.

So long as US Muslim organizations filled with Muslim Brotherhood supporters or Americans who believe they and only they hold the key to democratic development are pressuring members of the U.S. Congress to hold off on approving elements in U.S. military aid to Egypt, we can’t be sure what either government will decide to do. Given that John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State is also very convinced of Egypt’s importance as a regional ally, I would be very surprised if Egyptian-American relations do not improve as the country carries out parliamentary elections and President al-Sisi embarks on his tasks over the next year.

 

  1. Will El-sisi succeed in fighting corruption which is represented in deep state or “Mubarak’s” state?

A. Egypt is no longer “Mubarak’s state.” I do not agree with the theory that the “deep state” lives on its own and has been unaffected by the revolution and subsequent governments. Also, no-one can say at this moment what will or will not be achieved. President al-Sisi’s (and I would appreciate it if you would kindly retain his title when you print my remarks, and not put “al-Sisi” alone) first and most difficult task is actually to restart Egypt’s economic engine. Promoting transparency, or preventing corruption is something that must be put into place in every department of every ministry. As the government is also a very large employer of many poorly paid functionaries, the issue of fighting corruption is also one of making certain that people – public and private employees – can make ends meet.

As for the high-level sort of corruption that you may be suggesting, which is very difficult even for countries like the U.S. to track and regulate, here too, guidelines and better practices must be implemented.

 

  1. How do you see the future of El-Nour salafist party in the light of the new constitution which forbids religious parties? And will it continue to support El-Sisi?

The al-Nour party has managed to subvert the intent of not allowing religious parties by promoting religious principles for social life, and declaring that political life will remain guided by a civil state. Its agenda is obviously similar to the da`wah of the Muslim Brotherhood and to convince others to adopt the same principles. But, here again, we see that the religious right in many countries are involved in politics usually supporting those who agree with their principles. I imagine the al-Nour party will continue to support the current government because they have pledged to do so.  Many of President al-Sisi’s supporters who want Egypt to abide by its civil tradition are very concerned by the salafis, including al-Nour. Certain issues will probably divide them, once the as yet unelected legislative assembly begins to do its work.

 

  1. Do you expect that El-sisi will release the activists detained recently?

A. I do not know. I understand that the judiciary is fiercely pressing for its own independence. But I personally think it would be wise to

a) fine the al-Jazeera journalists for their lack of proper permits — if it was the case that they were in lieu of these, and drop charges of conspiracy

b) to provide amnesties to those protesters who have not engaged in violent actions.

Traditionally Ramadan has been a period when amnesties were offered in other countries, where admittedly, circumstances differed.

Election Season in Egypt – Sherifa Zuhur

28 May

Considering that for 308 consecutive days, Egyptians have been threatened with bombings, or bombs were found and defused, attacks by gunmen have threatened police and army officers, students in support of the Muslim Brotherhood at various universities challenged the protest law with less-than-peaceful protests, they nonetheless went to the polls and voted for Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi or his opponent Hamdeen Sabahy.   This demonstrated a substantial measure of public trust that authorities will protect them.   The sky is blue. The Muslim Brotherhood are unable to sweep in and carry out assassinations as they had promised.

The foreign media have tried their best to hammer home a series of negative attacks on al-Sisi, aided by some in Egypt who fear a return to the military-influenced and authoritarian governments of Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak.  Or who simply want to get along well with their editors.

As the elections began, the  narrative tchanged in the foreign media and to some degree in the Egyptian media. Suddenly the focus was on turnout. If a turnout of 40% of registered voters weren’t reached, then they wouldn’t be successful.  Media personalities used their most dramatic voices to tell Egyptians to go to the polls.

Egyptians, on the other hand, know that voting is optional. It could be made mandatory as in certain countries. And they know that a far larger number of voters support al-Sisi than support Sabahy. And it has been very hot in the day hours, approximately 101-102 degrees F.

The leftists, and boycotters (yes there was a boycott, mainly consisting of supporters of the April 6th movement which had for its own reasons allied with the Muslim Brotherhood – and what is left of the MB’s support) compared this election with the 2012 race between Morsi and Shafik, in which Morsi won by only 800,000 votes.

Perhaps they forgot that a lot of Egyptians were quite unhappy with the choice between Morsi and Shafik, opting for one or the other as the least-bad option, as people tend to in democracies where the candidates for president are limited to two on the final round.

Egypt’s Presidential Election Committee decided to extend the elections for a third day and for a variety of reasons. One may concern the fact that in order to satisfy foreign election observer teams, this time around, Egyptians who work far away from their homes were not permitted to vote at polling places where they work. There were 2 days of vacation from work in 2012, and not only one.   Still, it was surprising to see the foreign media and even election observers like Democracy International complain that extending voting to a third day compromised the fairness of the election. The two campaigns also complained – clearly, everyone desires a fully transparent election process – were voters who voted on the first day disadvantaged if they did not know they had a third day to vote? – (but one which should also be fair to voters.)

I received a fair number of media requests requiring me to repeat everything I have already said about Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi when he studied at the U.S. Army War College (and a fair number of vicious personal attacks, some by people I had considered friends for being somehow personally responsible for his candidacy! )

 

Here are a few pictures from the elections which show that there were queues (that’s ‘lines’ in Americanese)  I decided to post just these few (there are more in my Twitter Feed) as Richard Spencer of the Telegraph claimed there weren’t any, he didn’t see any on TV, plenty of state TV stations showed empty polls, etc. and as I began sending these photos to him, he made it clear they don’t matter.  The narrative is all that matters.

Now at the end of the day, Egyptians lining up to vote at their elections DO matter along with  hope and pleasure in their faces.

https://twitter.com/MAJahmedali/status/471300949491720192/photo/1

 

 

https://twitter.com/hashtag/امبارح_14_مليون_والنهاردة_عاوزين_نكمل__30مليون?src=hash

 

https://twitter.com/egy_ale/status/471289416213073920/photo/1

 

https://twitter.com/MAJahmedali/status/471289688821465089/photo/1

 

 

https://twitter.com/mnassercairo/status/471298278063996930/photo/1

 

https://twitter.com/AmysFahmy/status/471291202147737601/photo/1

 

https://twitter.com/betsy_hiel/status/471300856684752898/photo/1

https://twitter.com/bluetweet_hs/status/471300835209936896/photo/1

https://twitter.com/Raafat_SalaH/status/471600483912531968/photo/1

 

الوصايا الخمس للسيسي من معلمته الأمريكية

20 Apr

http://www.masralarabia.com/صحافة-أجنبية/255099-الوصايا-الخمس-للسيسي-من-معلمته-الأمريكية

 

شريفة زهور
أجرى الحوار: محمود سلامة
في: الأحد, 20 أبريل 2014 20:59
آخر تعديل: الأحد, 20 أبريل 2014 23:27
لابد أن يقنع المواطنين به كي ينتخبوه .. عليه أن يدير أفضل حملة دعائية .. والأهم من ذلك انتقاء المحيطين به وأفراد الحكومة بعناية .. ينبغي عليه التركيز على الإصلاح الاقتصادي وإصلاح منظومة الداخلية من أجل إعادة الاستقرار.

كانت هذه أهم النقاط التي ذكرتها الأستاذة السابقة بالكلية الحربية الأمريكية شريفة زهور في مقابلتها مع مصر العربية، والتي تعد بمثابة وصايا للمشير عبد الفتاح السيسي الذي درست له أثناء دراسته في كلية الحرب الأمريكية.

وشددت زهور على حتمية أن يقوم السيسي، حال فوزه بمنصب رئيس الجمهورية، بإصلاح منظومة وزارة الداخلية، قائلة إن الداخلية تفتقر إلى التدريب، ولابد من كبح جماح التهور ومعاقبة المتهورين في هذه المنظومة، مؤكدة أن “السيسي الرئيس” ستكون مهمته صعبة للغاية.

وعلاوة على ذلك، أشارت إلى ضرورة أن يعاد النظر في قضايا المعتقلين في السجون المصرية، والذين تم القبض عليهم في مرحلة ما بعد الإطاحة بالرئيس السابق محمد مرسي، وإطلاق سراح من لم يثبت عليه ارتكاب جرم.

عن السيسي

وأوضحت زهور، مديرة معهد دراسات الشرق الأوسط والدراسات الإسلامية واالاستراتيجية، أنها أتيحت لها فرصة، أثناء الفترة التي درست فيها للسيسي، التعامل معه عن قرب ومعرفة بعض السمات لشخصيته، لافتة إلى أنه كان من غير المسموح لها في السابق الإدلاء بأي تصريح، إلا أنها يمكنها الآن الحديث للصحافة لأنها لم تعد في الخدمة.

وفي هذا الصدد، قالت زهور إنها حرصت في هذه الفترة على الحديث عن السيسي لأنها وجدت أن هناك أكاذيب كثيرة تشاع حوله من قبل من وصفتهم بالمغرضين.

وقالت إن من هذه الأكاذيب ما أشيع عنه في السابق أنه إخواني متخفي، وهو ما كان قد قيل عنه بعد أن تم اختياره وزيرا للدفاع من قبل مرسي، مضيفة أنه ليس كذلك، لكنه متدين.

أما في يومنا هذا، وفقا لزهور، تسعى وسائل الإعلام الغربية إلى البحث عن أي نقاط سلبية في شخصية السيسي، لافتة في الوقت ذاته إلى أن مواقف الجماعات الحقوقية منه غامض.

وأشارت إلى أن السيسي يكفيه أن نال ثقة الجيش، لافتة إلى أن هذه الثقة ليست وليدة اليوم، وإنما تجلت هذه الثقة سابقا في أن الجيش أرسله للدراسة في الكلية الحربية الأمريكية.

وقالت إن السيسي يتميز بالذكاء والنضوج، ووصفته بأنه متفاعل جيد مع الجميع ويجيد النقاش والمناظرات ومتسامح حتى من يهاجمونه، والدليل على ذلك أنه لم يتخذ أي إجراء ضد من روجوا للهاشتاج المسئ له (والذي وصفته بأنه سيئ للغاية)، على حد قولها.

وفي هذا الصدد، اعتبرت أنه يجب إرشاد المواطنين لكيفية استخدام الحرية الممنوحة لهم بشكل صحيح وعدم الإفراط في استخدامها.

وأوضحت أن السيسي حريص على التزام بالمبادئ العسكرية، وأنه يتصرف كما يقول الجيش، مشيرة إلى أنه تلقى تدريبات في الكلية الحربية الأمريكية عن كيفية مواجهة الإرهاب.

قالت إن السيسي يتميز أيضا بالهدوء واللباقة والإلمام بقضايا في التاريخ والسياسة الإقليمية، كما أنه كان لديه الجاهزية للدخول في مناظرات، لكن ليس بعدائية.

وأضافت أن السيسي، شأنه في ذلك شأن وزير الدفاع الحالي صدقي صبحي الذي درست له في العام الدفعة السابقة لدفعة السيسي، كان واضحا في أن الولايات المتحدة خاضت حربا أكبر من إمكاناتها في العراق وفي حربها ضد الإرهاب، مشيرة إلى أنه كان يختلف عن صبحي في أنه أكثر دبلوماسية وأكثر هدوءا، بينما كان صبحي أكثر مرحا من السيسي.

السيسي وأمريكا

وفيما يتعلق بمستقبل علاقات مصر الخارجية إذا تولى السيسي الرئاسة، أوضحت زهور أن علاقة السيسي بالسعودية ستساعده على حكم مصر، فالسعودية والإمارات بات لهما نفوذ سياسي في مصر (حسب قولها)، لكنها اعتبرت أن ذلك ليس سيئا، فهو على الأقل أفضل من المرحلة التي كانت تشهد عداء بين مصر والسعودية إبان فترة حكم الزعيم الراحل جمال عبد الناصر.

وأكدت على حاجة إلى إمدادات بالسلاح، ليس فقط من أجل استقرار مصر، وإنما من أجل استقرار المنطقة بالكامل، معربة عن اعتقاده بأن ما يحدث في مصر ينعكس على سائر المنطقة.

وأشارت إلى أن السيناريو المتوقع في هذا الصدد هو أن تحصل مصر على سلاح روسي بأموال سعودية، لكنها رأت أيضا أن مصر بحاجة إلى إعادة علاقتها مع الولايات المتحدة إلى طبيعتها.

وأضافت أنه ليس شرطا أن يتم تطبيق الديمقراطية في مصر بالمفهوم الأمريكي، وأنه ليس من مصلحة أوباما والولايات المتحدة الاستغناء عن حليف هام كمصر.

وقالت إن مصر حليف قوي للولايات المتحدة، معربة عن أملها في أن تقر الولايات المتحدة بأنه من الخطأ الانفصال عن مصر، فالتحالف مع مصر مهم من أجل مواصلة تحالفاتها في الشرق الأوسط.

ولفتت إلى أن البيت الأبيض والخارجية الأمريكية كانا يدعمان الإخوان في مصر أثناء فترة حكمهم، لكن موقف وزير الخارجية الأمريكي جون كيري الحالي أكثر إيجابية من موقف الكونجرس.

الانتخابات القادمة

ووصفت زهور الدستور المصري الجديد بأنه جيد، لاسيما المواد المتعلقة بحرية الصحافة والحريات بصفة عامة، معتبرة أنه من الأفضل لمصر النظام المتعدد الأحزاب وليس النظام المعتمد على حزبين فقط كما هو الحال في الولايات المتحدة.

وقالت الانتخابات الرئاسية هذه المرة قد لا تكون تنافسية بشكل كبير، عازية ذلك إلى أن السيسي يتمتع بشعبية لا يتمتع بها غيره، لكنها توقعت أن تكون الانتخابات التالية أكثر تنافسية.

وأشارت إلى أن ما يحدث في مصر مهم جدا بالنسبة للمنطقة بأسرها، موضحة أنها ترغب في الإطاحة بنظام الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد، إلا أنها تتوقع لسوريا الوصول لمصير مصر حال الإطاحة به.

وأعربت زهور عن دعمها للسيسي في الخطة التي أقدم عليها بإعلان عزمه الترشح للرئاسة.

وعن توقعاتها لنجاح السيسي في منصب الرئيس (حال فوزه)، قالت زهور إن ذلك يعتمد على الرؤى التي يتبناها ومجلس الوزراء الذي سيشكل حكومته، علاوة على مدى التوافق بين الفصائل السياسية التي ستكون ممثلة داخل البرلمان.

وقالت إن السيسي يتميز عن الرئيس السابق محمد مرسي بأنه يحظى بدعم من الشعب والجيش أكبر بكثير من الدعم الذي كان يحظى به مرسي.

وردا على الجدل الدائر حول فشل السيسي في حل المشاكل التي تواجه مصر رغم تمتعه بالدعم ذاته منذ يوليو الماضي، قالت زهور إن ذلك حكم سابق لأوانه، مضيفة أن السيسي طوال هذه الفترة لم يكن سوى وزيرا للدفاع في حكومة انتقالية كانت كل مهمتها تمهيد الطريق لحكومة قادمة أكثر استقرارا.

From One Historian of Egypt to Another: Political Comment and Teleology

18 Apr

In response to Khaled Fahmy’s latest post. (Dr. Fahmy is a historian at the American University in Cairo in the Department of History)

As a a scholar of nineteenth century history, you may term yourself a scholar of ‘modern’ Egypt in the academic sense (in academia, contemporary historians cover the present and recent past, modern historians of Egypt usually cover the period from Napoleon’s invasion to the turn of the century, or beyond) but why — other than demonstrating your command over your own period of expertise — do you believe that institution-building of the nineteenth century is a blueprint for what transpired during and after January 25, 2011? And why insist so specifically that Egypt’s military have NOT saved the country from the sort of bloodletting that Syria’s military engaged in (that is certainly the bottom line)? A contemporary historian would be compelled to admit that the human toll (deaths, torture, imprisonment, death by starvation, refugee numbers) resulting from Syria’s revolution is immensely higher than in Egypt, in absolute numbers and proportionally.

You wrote:

السيسي ومستشاريه مقتنعين فعلا بكده، ومعاهم قطاع كبير من الإعلاميين ال نجحوا في تصوير ٢٥ يناير على إنها مؤامرة من ناس مأجورة بايعة البلد ومش هاممها لو مصر بقت زي سوريا.

لكن الحقيقة غير كده.
Not only do you insist on this point, but you claim it is Field Marshall al-Sisi and his advisors who came to this conclusion, whereas in fact, this idea is asserted by vast numbers of people who would have preferred a civilian candidate if there were a viable one as well as individuals who haven’t yet decided who to support.

You return to Mohammad Ali Pasha’s period to speak of Egypt’s achievements in vaccinating against smallpox and teaching medicine. Then you rightly condemn the current disastrous situation in health care given the epidemics of hepatitis and bilharzia. I too studied with a biographer of Mohammad Ali Pasha, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid (Marsot). However, her use of these examples of early state development was usually to point out how Great Britain had de-industrialized and discouraged Egypt’s growth and development. Even that is besides the point at present.

While miracles are needed today, in both the sphere of public health, and reform of the judiciary (as you also point out), I don’t see why we must infer that the transitional government, or the one to be elected will necessarily be any worse than the Mubarak government which brought public health, the judiciary, and if I might add, the security sector and public education to their current sorry states, and which led to the violations of human rights alluded to here along with castigation of the military for retaining control over its own budget:

ولما كنا بنهتف ضد العسكر وبنقول “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر” ما كناش بننادي بتسريح الجيش ولا بهزيمته. إنما كنا بنطالب بحقنا في إننا نتدرب بجد لما نتجند، وإن تجنيدنا ما يبقاش لحساب الهانم مرات البيه الضابط، وإن الجيش دوره ينحصر في الدفاع عن الحدود وما لوش دعوة بمحطات البنزين ولا بصوابع الكفتة، وإن ميزانية الجيش تبقى خاضعة لرقابة المجلس التشريعي علشان الناس تبقى عارفة فلوسها رايحة فين، وإن ضباط الجيش يعرفوا إن دي أموال البلد مش عرق الجيش، وإن ما فيش أي حد يحق له إنه يعذب المواطنين المصريين في المتحف المصري أو أي متحف تاني، ولا يكشف على عذرية البنات المصريات ال نزلوا يطالبوا بحقهم في حياة كريمة، ومؤسسات تخدمهم، وبلد محترم يحترمهم.

People might assume from the above that the military still conduct virginity tests, (they were partially outlawed. http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/27/world/meast/egypt-virginity-tests/) and while it is a shame that Samira Ibrahim’s case against the military failed, is that surprising in the context of disastrous treatment of detainees and prisoners for the last decades? How am I to understand the fact that you single out the military in the latter part of your essay, suggesting that they are ill-prepared to undertake any of the nation’s needed reforms and not the security forces of the Ministry of Interior for what you write is your inability to “be safe in our homes”?

Somehow the impression is given that Egypt is about to elect a military government, and not a civilian government. Why would a ‘modern historian’ choose to give such an impression?

Let’s return to this inaccurate insistence that Egyptian history runs in a unidimensional pattern. The military is not an individual. That numerous motivations may be at work in an organization, is a given. But this is no secret. There is no need to go on insisting that the praetorianism of the Egyptian state is as it was in the 19th century, or the 1950s and ’60s. And there are many aspects on which you are silent — for instance, the U.S. role in promoting the Muslim Brotherhood into seizing its political opportunity post-Feb. 11, 2011. It is likewise popular in many circles to discuss self-serving aspects of the military’s decision, exaggerating their stability and economic holdings.

From all this we don’t gain any new understanding of the two revolutions of 1/25/11 and 6/30/13, mostly because you discounted the phenomena of civilians acting en masse and populism.

In the years I lived and taught in Egypt, I heard many quasi-scholarly discussions begin by asking “Why don’t Egyptians rebel?” and involving grotesque Orientalist assessments of the Egyptian character. I answered by looking at the various theories of revolution we had developed up to that time from Marx to Ted Gurr’s argument in _Why Do Men Rebel_, and concluded that eventually Egyptians would rebel, as they did. This supposed passivity should no longer be part of the currently pressing question of “what did Egyptians gain/what will they gain from the revolution?” Neither should we remain mired in an externally-defined and teleological question, “why do Egyptians assent to the military”? While certain Western journalists obsessively resort to this trope, just as they or their editors love to include the word ‘Pharoah’ in their article titles, you, as a scholar must certainly must be able to discern that it is ahistorical to project consistency from one era (or decade, or period of a few years) onto another. And it is far too soon to conclude “the revolution has failed” or that the military will always dominate.

Here are Khaled Fahmy’s comments in full:
يمكن فعلا الواحد لازم يشرح بديهيات الأشياء.

إحنا فعلا رددنا هتاف “الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام”، وقولنا بعلو صوتنا “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر”، وطالبنا بقوة ووضوح بضرورة إعادة هيكلة الداخلية. بس هل ده كان يعني إننا كنا عاوزين إننا نسقط الدولة ونجيبها الأرض؟ هل كنا عاوزين فعلا إن جيشنا ينهار؟ هل كنا بنطالب بتحطيم جهاز الأمن وإن البلد تبقى مفتوحة سداح مداح؟

السيسي ومستشاريه مقتنعين فعلا بكده، ومعاهم قطاع كبير من الإعلاميين ال نجحوا في تصوير ٢٥ يناير على إنها مؤامرة من ناس مأجورة بايعة البلد ومش هاممها لو مصر بقت زي سوريا.

لكن الحقيقة غير كده.

أنا ما أقدرش اتكلم عن غيري وأدعي إني عارف كل واحد نزل وهتف ليه ضد النظام والداخلية والجيش. ممكن أتكلم بس عن نفسي.

أنا دارس لتاريخ مصر الحديث، وشايف إنه تاريخ مشرف وجميل. شايف إن إحنا كشعب وكبلد عرفنا نحقق حاجات كثيرة، وبنينا دولة حديثة بمؤسسات حديثة. أنا بأدرس تاريخ المؤسسات دي، تحديدا: الجيش والقضاء والشرطة والمستشفيات (وبشكل أقل الصحافة والنقابات والجامعات). المؤسسات دي هي ال أعطت لمصر الريادة في المنطقة. ريادة مصر على جيرانها مش نتيجة السبعة آلاف سنة والأهرامات ومينا موحد القطرين والكلام ال بيرددوه في الإعلام والمدارس.

الريادة في العصر الحديث سببها إننا بدأنا في بناء مؤسسات الدولة الحديثة قبل جيراننا بماية أو ماية وخمسين سنة على الأقل.

لكن المشكلة إن المؤسسات دي فيها خلل جوهري: المؤسسات دي بتخدم نفسها مش بتخدمنا إحنا كمواطنين.

يعني مثلا: الداخلية مش بتحميني كمواطن لكنها بتمتهن كرامتي وبتعذبني في الأقسام والسجون. ونتيجة لإن ضباطها عارفين إنه لا رقيب عليهم فده خلاهم يهتموا بمصالحهم، ويتراخوا في الارتفاع بمستوى مهنتهم، ونتيجة ده كان تدهور مهارتهم في التحقيقات الجنائية، والنتيجة المنطقية لكل ده هو شعوري أنا كمواطن بعدم الأمان في بيتي.

القضاء نفس الحاجة. أنا دارس تاريخ القضاء المصري الحديث وطالع لي كتاب عن الموضوع ده كمان ثلاثة شهور. القضاء ده كان فعلا شامخ. بالميم فعلا وبجد مش تريقة. إنما ده كان من ماية سنة. النهارده القضاء ترهل وتراخي وتدهور. ما فيش فكر جديد، ولا عدالة ناجزة، ولا رقابة على القضاة. المحاكم منهارة، والعدالة بطيئة، والأحكام جائرة، والناس حقوقها ضايعة.

المؤسسات الصحية نفس الحاجة. أنا برضو دارس تاريخ المؤسسة دي. تاريخ ناصع، مشرف، يخلى الواحد فعلا يفتخر بيه. مصر كانت أول بلد في المنطقة تقوم بحملة ناجحة للتطعيم ضد الجدري، وكانت أول بلد في المنطقة تنجح في القيام بإحصاء عام ودقيق للسكان (سنة ١٨٤٨)، وكانت أول بلد في المنطقة تفتح مدارس طبية (القصر العيني) تدرّس الطب بناء على تشريح الجثث (مش كتب الأقدمين). والنتيجة: القضاء على الأوبئة من كوليرا لطاعون، إنخفاض معدلات الوفيات بين الأطفال، ارتفاع متوسط سن الوفاة، وتحسن ملحوظ في الصحة العامة. إنما ده كان برضه من ماية سنة. ده الوقت مستشفياتنا مرتع للمرض، شهادات الطب بتاعتنا مش معترف بيها في العالم، ومنظومة الصحة العامة منهارة، المرض بيفتك بصحة الناس: أغنياءهم وفقراءهم، والدولة بإهمالها هي ال بتتسبب أحيانا في نشر الأمراض والأوبئة، وخير مثال على ذلك مرض الكبد الوبائي ال كان من أهم أسباب انتشاره هذا الانتشار الرهيب استخدام إبر غير معقمة في مستوصفات وعيادات حكومية في الثمانينات في إطار الحملة القومية وقتها للقضاء على البلهارزيا.

أما الجيش فحدث ولا حرج. الجيش المصري كانت له صولات وجولات، غزى السودان والجزيرة العربية وكريت واليونان والشام وجنوب الأناضول، وحقق انتصارات مدوية. لكن ده برضه من أكثر من ماية سنة. جيشنا الحديث سجله سجل هزائم وانكسارات. وأي هزائم وانكسارات!! ١٩٦٧. أنا ما عنديش أدنى شك إن من أهم الأسباب (ومش كلها علشان ما حدش يقول لي طب وأمريكا وموازين القوى والصهيونية) ال ورا هذا السجل الشائن للجيش المصري الحديث هو غياب الرقابة الشعبية عليه. أنا مش قصدي إن تبقى فيه مناقشة عامة للخطط العسكرية، إنما قصدي إن الشعب، بمجلسه التشريعي، وصحافته، ورأيه العام، ومجلس وزراؤه يبقى له دور رقابي على أداء الجيش. يعني أنا كمواطن مصري اتجندت وخدمت في الجيش (سنة 1986) عندي شكوك حقيقية في الجاهزية القتالية للجيش، لإني بصراحة ما شفتش أي علامة جوه الجيش لقوة قتالية محترفة. كل ال شفتهم ضباط ورتب وفلوس ما لهاش آخر، لكن كل ده مالوش علاقة بالحرب، ولا بالتدريب، ولا بالمناورات ولا بالتحضير لأي قتال من أي نوع، اللهم إلا إذلال المجندين ومسح كرامتهم. وبعد إنهاء خدمتي كل ال شفته من الجيش طرق وكباري ومطاعم وشركات ونوادي ومحطات بنزين “وطنية” وناس بتهلل وتقول تسلم الأيادي. طب والتدريب؟ والتسليح؟ والعقيدة الجهادية بتاعت المؤسسة دي؟ دي أسئلة مش مسموح لينا إننا نقرب منها، مع إنها أسئلة مهمة ومحورية وتخص أمن وسلامة المواطن خاصة إننا عايشين في منطقة من أخطر وأدمى مناطق العالم.

ده تحليلي أنا. أنا لما نزلت يوم ٢٥ يناير والأيام والأسابيع والشهور التالية كنت بأنزل مش علشان عاوز أجيب الدولة دي الأرض. بالعكس. أنا نزلت مع أصحابي وزمايلي ال أظن كانوا بيشاركوني حسرتي على البلد علشان ما كانش هاين علينا التدهور ال شايفينه حوالينا والخراب ال أصاب مؤسسات البلد.

إحنا لما كنا بنهتف بإسقاط النظام ما كناش عاوزين نسقط البلد، إنما كنا عاوزين نسقط النظام الّ خرّب البلد.

لما كنا بننادي بضرورة إصلاح القضاء كنا بنطالب بتحقيق العدالة وبإنهاء الفساد ال بيرتع في صفوف القضاة، وإن المواطن يبقى من حقه الحصول على حقوقه المغتصبة بسرعة وكفاءة ويسر.

لما كنا بننادي بضرورة إعادة هيكلة الداخلية كنا بنؤكد على حقنا في الشعور بالأمن في بيوتنا، وفي نفس الوقت بحقنا في إننا منتعذبش في الأقسام ولا إننا نتهان على إيد أي ضابط شرطة معدّي في الشارع.

ولما كنا بنهتف ضد العسكر وبنقول “يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر” ما كناش بننادي بتسريح الجيش ولا بهزيمته. إنما كنا بنطالب بحقنا في إننا نتدرب بجد لما نتجند، وإن تجنيدنا ما يبقاش لحساب الهانم مرات البيه الضابط، وإن الجيش دوره ينحصر في الدفاع عن الحدود وما لوش دعوة بمحطات البنزين ولا بصوابع الكفتة، وإن ميزانية الجيش تبقى خاضعة لرقابة المجلس التشريعي علشان الناس تبقى عارفة فلوسها رايحة فين، وإن ضباط الجيش يعرفوا إن دي أموال البلد مش عرق الجيش، وإن ما فيش أي حد يحق له إنه يعذب المواطنين المصريين في المتحف المصري أو أي متحف تاني، ولا يكشف على عذرية البنات المصريات ال نزلوا يطالبوا بحقهم في حياة كريمة، ومؤسسات تخدمهم، وبلد محترم يحترمهم.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 649 other followers