Archive | October, 2016

President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi’s Impact on Egypt – Sherifa Zuhur

21 Oct

 

I was asked to communicate President al-Sisi’s impact on Egypt by a journalist, who said he intended to put my responses into an article for the Wall Street Journal (9/8/16).  As far as I know, it wasn’t printed, but there were a few other similar pieces which came out at that time which were highly critical, if not condemnations of Egypt.  I assumed that my responses did not please the editors, but I thought they might interest you!

– President Sisi’s most important and potentially lasting effects on Egypt are:

 

  1. Imbuing in Egyptians the sense that their President (and therefore their other officials and institutions) must be accountable to them; justify policies and meet their needs. The President began a series of public addresses which were essentially follow-ups/report cards on specific issues. This was despite the fact that he cannot (and one would not expect him to be able to) summarize all of the forward and retrograde currents; and the fact that in certain instances those dealing with fraud were then prosecuted by the state.

 

  1. As Defense Minister and then President, he moved – at the public’s and the military leadership’s behest — against the oldest, strongest Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, Freedom and Justice. Here, Egypt’s path diverged from other nations impacted by the Arab Spring. It would be grandstanding to say that Egypt has by these means chosen a secular state, because its legal system is only semi-secular and one must acknowledge the support of certain salafi groups for the current government. This meant there is a check to the Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom & Justice Party’s longstanding animosity to Egypt’s Copts, and ambiguous attitude toward’s women’s rights and other human and intellectual rights. It meant that President Morsi’s language which indicated that his tribe or ‘people’ were Islamists and Brethren and not all Egyptians was unsuccessful. This course of action meant his presiding over a purge which impacted liberals and youth as well as Islamists, and however popular with an internal majority, has been sharply criticized outside of the country.

 

  1. Sisi has presided over the most active counterterrorism campaign(s) in the country’s history for some decades, and the main impetus of that campaign — in the northern Sinai — has been fiercely fought. By and large, the situation in the rest of Egypt has been stabilized.

As a response to this problem and the resistance funded or supported by the Islamists discussed in (b), he has unfortunately curtailed Egyptians political rights by not altering the so-called protest law (107 of ’13 approved under acting Pres. Mansour). Parliament’s upholding of this law, and approval of many laws and edicts introduced in the absence of a legislature is one of the obstacles impeding better relations between Egypt’s highly divided liberals and government supporters. In the long term, a movement towards expressions of political freedom (which do not endanger others or destroy property and cause havoc as was seen on campuses and in the streets) and away from the use of military courts would be highly desirable. It seems that Egypt was unable to establish a direction for its policies free of these political limits despite the revolution, and admission that Egyptian political rights prior to it were insufficient.

 

  1. President Sisi faced a huge challenge in stabilizing and selecting projects and policies to move the country forward economically. His oversight of several grand projects – the ‘second’ or additional Suez Canal, the new administrative capitol city, and the medical city, among them — will at least temporarily employ many Egyptians in their construction. These should help improve Suez trade and decentralization in the future; the more immediate economic stabilizer is the $12 billion IMF loan. Other imperatives to ameliorate the rising cost of living, un- and under- employment and failing public utilities and service have presented challenges. Foreign direct investment may rise, but it is still a difficult road for investors, and President Sisi’s government has reviewed the exchange rate policy and adjusted currency rates (another adjustment may be required); and tried, but not yet addressed ambiguous tax policies. Foreign direct investment still presents many obstacles and restrictions to would-be investors.

 

Leveling austerity measures on Egypt’s large poor and almost-poor population is very unpopular. Such measures were unpopular in the UK, but the public’s safety net is stronger. Outbursts on social media show the strength of popular resentment that the current government has neither brought “bread” – nor dignity, freedom and an end to corruption (the ideals of the January 25th, 2011 revolution).

 

  1. Pres. Sisi impressed me and others as knowing and understanding how far Egypt had to travel to democracy and wrote, as you know in his SRP in 2006, some observations about the potential to and obstacles in the way of democracy in the Arab Islamic world. To this end, I personally was hoping he would make good his promises to improve Egypt’s educational system, which is in very dire straits, and to address the hype and problems with academic and intellectual freedom in Egypt.   The latter is not helped by the conspiratorial tone of the media seeing “foreign hands” here, there and everywhere. But the media reflects a lack of critical thought, which in turn, can only be addressed with standards of tolerance, which must be introduced in and throughout the educational system.

 

If he does so, I hope that new policies will not direct thousands of low-income students to vocational schools as seems to have developed out of the not-fully-realized state socialist policies of the past. I believe Pres. Sisi himself is an egalitarian, but much depends on who may advise and craft reform of that nature.

 

  1. President Sisi has upheld the framework of the Camp David Accords. A further large-scale war would be disastrous for Egypt, but on the other hand it remains to be seen if he can move forward peace between the Palestinians and Israel. He had encouraged meetings between Israel and the Palestinians to be hosted by Russia, and presented a plan to President Abbas recently which offers land in the Sinai to add to the PA territory in Gaza. Abbas has rejected this plan outright, and Sisi has run the risk of being accused of giving away Egyptian land (as in the Tiran/Sanafir islands uproar).   But the offer indicates a proactive dimension to President Sisi’s leadership which might bear more fruit on this issue in the future.

 

On other regional matters, Egypt’s government has engaged with Ethiopia since the building of the Renaissance Dam – which could threaten the Nile’s water supply which is crucial to Egypt and the Sudan– began. It has rather inexplicably and irrationally backed Assad’s government in Syria, but stated that its support is for fighting terrorism. However, since the huge numbers of Syrian casualties and displacement indicate that the rebellion is not, in fact a matter of terrorism, but a strongly supported aim at regime change — one must be aware of Egypt’s fear that a post-Assad government would bring to power Islamists unfriendly to it, or more specifically, the Muslim Brotherhood. President Sisi’s generally good relations with Saudi Arabia have been ruffled by their differences on Syria, and current economic problems in the Kingdom, but Saudi-Egyptian ties are likely to remain close.

Palestinians Rebut Blumenthal & Other Critics of Syria’s Revolution

12 Oct
On The Allies We’re Not Proud Of: A Palestinian Response to Troubling Discourse on Syria
We, the undersigned Palestinians, write to affirm our commitment to the amplification of Syrian voices as they endure slaughter and displacement at the hands of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. We are motivated by our deep belief that oppression, in all of its manifestations, should be the primary concern of anyone committed to our collective liberation. Our vision of liberation includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria.

The Syrian revolution was in fact a natural response to 40 years of authoritarian rule. The Assad regime, with the support of its foreign financial and military backers, is attempting to preserve its power at the expense of the millions of Syrians whom the regime has exiled, imprisoned, and massacred. We believe that minimizing this context in any discussion of Syria dismisses the value of Syrian self-determination and undermines the legitimacy of their uprising.

We also believe that an important consequence of all foreign interventions, including those purportedly done on behalf of the uprising, has been the setback of the original demands of revolution. The revolution is a victim, not a product, of these interventions. It is imperative for any analysis of Syria to recognize this fundamental premise. We cannot erase the agency of Syrians struggling for liberation, no matter how many players are actively working against them.

Though we maintain that the phenomenon of foreign aid demands thorough critique, we are concerned by the ways in which foreign aid has been weaponized to cast suspicion on Syrian humanitarian efforts. Foreign aid is not unique to Syria; it is prevalent in Palestine as well. We reject the notion that just because an organization is receiving foreign aid, it must follow then that that organization is partaking in some shadowy Western-backed conspiracy. Such nonsense has the effect of both undermining humanitarian efforts while simultaneously whitewashing the very crimes against humanity that necessitated the aid in the first place.

Furthermore, we object to the casual adoption of “war on terror” language. Enemies of liberation have historically used this rhetoric to target humanitarians, organizers, and community members. From Muhammad Salah to the Midwest 23 to the Holy Land Five, our community is all too familiar with the very real consequence of employing a “war on terror” framework. Therefore, we reject a discourse that perpetuates these old tactics and peddles harmful and unwarranted suspicion against Syrians.

Along these lines, it is our position that any discussion of Syria that neglects the central role of Bashar Al-Assad and his regime in the destruction of Syria directly contradicts the principles of solidarity by which we abide. We have reflected on our own tendency to heroize those who advocate on behalf of the Palestinian struggle, and we fear that some members of our community may have prioritized the celebrity status of these individuals over the respect and support we owe to those Syrians affected most directly by the war, as well as those living in the diaspora whose voices have been dismissed as they have watched their homeland be destroyed.

We will no longer entertain individuals who fail to acknowledge the immediate concerns of besieged Syrians in their analysis. Despite reaching out to some of these individuals, they have shown an unwillingness to reflect on the impact of their analysis. We regret that we have no choice left but to cease working with these activists whom we once respected.

We would like to encourage others who are guided by similar principles to do the same.

Abdulla AlShamataan
Abdullah M
Adam Akkad
Adnan Abd Alrahman
Ahmad Al-Sholi
Ahmad Kaki
Ahmad N
Ahmed A
Ala K
Ala’a Salem
Alex T
Ali A. Omar
Amal Ayesh
Amanda Michelle
Amani Alkowni
Ameen Q.
Amena Elmashni
Amira S
Andrew Kadi
Areej
Bashar Subeh
Bayan Abusneineh
Budour Hassan
Butheina Hamdah
Dana Itayem
Dana M
Dania Mukahhal
Dania Mukahhal
Diana J.A.
Dareen Mohamad
Dena E.
Diana Naoum
Dina A.
Dina Moumin
Dorgham Abusalim
Dr. Isam Abu Qasmieh
Eman Abdelhadi
Eyad Mohamed Alkurabi
Eyad Hamid
Farah Saeed
Faran Kharal
Faten Awwad
Fatima El-ghazali
Fouad Halbouni
Hadeel Hejja
Haitham Omar
Haleemah A
Hana Khalil
Hanin Shakrah
Hanna Alshaikh
Hani Barghouthi
Haneen Amra
Hareth Yousef
Hazem Jamjoum
Heba Nimr
Helal Jwayyed
Husam El-Qoulaq
Ibraheem Sumaira
Imran Salha
Jackie Husary
Jannine M
Jehad Abusalim
Jihad Ashkar
Jennifer Mogannam
Joey Husseini Ayoub
Jumana Al-Qawasmi
Karmel Sabri
Kefah Elabed
Khaled B
Laith H
Lama Abu Odeh
Lama Abu Odeh
Lana Barkawi
Lara Abu Ghannam
Leila Abdelrazaq
Lila Suboh
Linah Alsaafin
Lojayn Ottman
Lubna H
Lubna Morrar
Loubna Qutami
Magda Magdy
Mai Nasrallah
Mahmoud Khalil
Maisa Morrar
Majed A
Majed Abuzahriyeh
Manal Abokwidir
Manal El Haj
Maram Kamal
Mariam Saleh
Mariam Barghouti
Mekarem E.
Mariam Abu Samra
Mira Shihadeh
Mohamad Sabbah
Mohammad Al-Ashqar
Mohamed Hassan
Mohammad Abou-Ghazala
Mona N
Msallam Mohammed AbuKhalil
Nadia Ziadat
Nadine H
Nayef Al Smadi
Nidal Bitari
Nour Azzouz
Nour Salman
Nusayba Hammad
Omar Coolaq
Omar Jamal
Osama Mor
Omar Zahzah
Osama Khawaja
Rami Okasha
Rana Asad
Randa MKW
Rani Allan
Rania Salem
Ramzi Issa
Rasha A.
Rawan A.
Rawya Makboul
Reem J
Reem S
Reema A
Riad AlArian
Riya Al-Sanah
Ryah A
Sabreen Ettaher
Salim Salamah
Samar Batrawi
Samar Azzaidani
Sameeha Elwan
Samia S.
Sami J
Sami Shahin
Samya Abu-Orf
Sarah Ghouleh
Sara Zubi
Sarah Abu.
Sarah Ali
Sarah Shahin
Shady Zarka
Seham A
Shifa Alkhatib
Shahrazad Odeh
Shirien D
Sima Dajani
Sonia Farsakh
Susan Al-Suqi
Tahani H.
Taher Herzallah
Talal Alyan
Tamar Ghabin
Tarek Abou-Ghazala
Tareq R
Tasneem Abu-Hejleh
Tawfieq Mousa
Yahiya Saad
Yamila shannan
Yasmeen sh
Yasser Quzz
Yazan Amro
Zaid Muhammad
Zachariah Barghouti
Zeina Labadi

SOAS Palestine Society

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