Tag Archives: al-Sisi

Introduction to Conflicting Interests in Egypt: Political, Business, Religious, Gender, Popular Culture. By Sherifa Zuhur and Marlyn Tadros.

10 Jul

Here is the Part I of the Introduction to Conflicting Interests in Egypt. It’s not in the actual book (don’t know a polite way to comment on this, so I won’t) … but it should be!

Conflicting Interests in Egypt: Political, Business, Religious, Gender, Popular Culture. By Sherifa Zuhur and Marlyn Tadros.

Lewiston, N.Y. and Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales, 2017.

http://mellenpress.com/book/Conflicting-Interests-in-Egypt-Political-Business-Religious-Gender-Popular-Culture/9375/

This book explores aspects of politics, protest, security and culture in post-revolutionary Egypt. These resulted in conflict among various interest groups in Egyptian society an the breaking down of the social foundation of politics. Two long-time observers and scholars of Egypt’s politics and culture collaborate in this book.

INTRODUCTION
Sherifa Zuhur and Marlyn Tadros

Egypt was one of the earliest centralized political entities of the ancient world. To all who study politics, it is held up as an example of a society, which unified around the need to manage its resources. Small communities coalesced under two distinct Kingdoms of Lower Egypt in the Delta and the red desert land of Upper Egypt. When these two united and were symbolized in the Pharaoh’s double crown, the nation reached an important point in its survival and development.
Spiritual and temporal life were subordinated to a system of authority whose monuments still inspire awe and wonder. Thereafter, an incredible mosaic of Pharaonic, Islamic, Mediterranean, African and western cultures continue to be expressed in Egypt and felt and seen in every lifestyle from the poorest to the most exclusive. For reasons explored in this book, the revolution of January 25th 2011 seems to have eroded the ability of different interest groups in this society to ally, if not unify with each other.
In Amam al-‘arsh, (Before the Throne) Nobel prize winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz tries the leaders of Egypt before the court of Osiris, the sun god. One by one from the Pharaohs to Anwar al-Sadat, their contributions and their shortcomings or damages to Egypt are presented and judged.1. Part of the extraordinary breakthrough of the revolution of January 25, 2011 was due to a desire for justice and to lessen the power of a single autocratic ruler to govern his country and oppress his populace. A body of scholarship shows that feudalism, authoritarianism, political violence create their own culture, so one way of explaining the current dilemma is to blame the patterns and pre-existing structures of the ‘deep state.’ Another avenue is to explore the conflicts among and disappointments of the general public.
Rather than directly judging Egypt’s current government on its policies and strategies, we aim in this book to expose the fissures that divide Egyptians today – that emanate from them, as well as from the failures of leadership. Indeed it seems at this moment in history, that peoples’ consciousness and interests are irrevocably dividing them – immigrants and host nations, nationalists and globalists, the religious and the secular, poor and wealthy, formerly colonized and former colonizers. Despite these divisions, there remains a creative current of satire and madcap humor, which Egyptians wield to more clearly define the failure, or the as-yet unrealized promises of Egypt’s revolution. The woes of the security state, the manipulation of the media, the plague of violence against women, and the fundamental distrust of various factions for each other are apparent.
We explore the rise of Occidentalism, or Egypt’s obsession with the west and its influence, which corresponds to the west’s utilization of Orientalism. In so doing, we uncover various conspiracy theories which Egyptians believe about the revolution of January 25, 2011, the coup of July 3, 2013 and each other. We delve into the problematic use of conspiracist thinking in explanations of Egypt’s political shifts, and how these relate to Occidentalism, and the long-standing tensions between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Coptic minority. Some of the conflicts we uncover are masked by Egyptian’s resort to songs and tropes of national unity, which are actually very fragile or even illusory – “we are one hand.” An example is the friction between the Islamists and the Coptic Christians in Egypt that worsened over the years due to the failure of the state to protect its minority citizens.
Dr. Marlyn Tadros, human rights defender and one of the earliest promoters of social media in Egypt, describes the use of Egyptian humor on social media as the revolution evolved and she explores broadcast media’s impact on political dissent. . Humor and satire in the Egyptian context have been used as a form of dissent, and as a weapon against oppression. If the ‘street’ is ill equipped to accept democracy, perhaps humor will bridge that gap because humor challenges people’s previously held notions. Satire therefore reflects the evolving psychology of the masses as well as indirectly affecting and enhancing people’s cognitive consciousness. As such, it may challenge authority as in the case of the Egyptian revolution where it has revealed a pattern of eroding distrust towards the authorities.

Together, the authors, who are both longtime advocates of women’s rights as well as democracy, expose the horrendous new use of violence in public against women during and following the January 25, 2011 revolution. Tadros sees the use of rape and harassment as a shocking denouement for a society in which women have struggled so hard to move into the public sphere and attained professional respect despite many constraints in social attitudes and unfair legislation. Whether under the armed forces’ [SCAF’s] brief but decidedly momentous rule following the ouster of President Mubarak, under the religious regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, or under the subsequent current military regime, violence against women persisted with varied manifestations. Zuhur explores how Syrian refugee women who arrived in Egypt were also subjected to similar violence. The authors explored the justifications given for public violence against women and the perceived political gain from women’s victimization, as well as questioning the cultural and social implications of this violence.
Dr. Sherifa Zuhur, who has written widely about Islamist movements in and outside of Egypt, provides the background and analyzes the state’s response to the insurgency in the northern Sinai peninsula, which worsened in August of 2013. She provides a cameo of an ultra-supporter of the Sisi movement, Sama al-Masri and the sarcastic popular tropes, including anti-Americanism, that al-Masri utilized on private video channels. Al-Masri interestingly draws on Egypt’s dance and music traditions.
Zuhur writes about the role of Egypt’s big businessmen, and the question of whether or not a counterrevolution has occurred. Zuhur relates the outcome of trials of ex-President Mubarak and his allies, associates, and relatives. She also questions the role of the military in response to those who ask “who really rules Egypt today?” Tadros shows the manipulation of the public by prominent media personalities who thus further the goals of the security state-within-the-state.
The volume provides coverage of a tumultuous and contested time in Egypt’s history, a crucial period when its revolutionary dreams could be manifested, lost, or salvaged only in part, as the country attempts to stay afloat economically. The quest for less authoritarianism, more justice and freedom appear as complicated as ever.

1. Naguib Mahfouz, Amam al-‘Arsh (Cairo: Maktabat Misr, 1983).

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

 

From Russia and Egypt to Obama’s Vision (If one exists) By Sherifa Zuhur

17 Feb

 

1. Spent the day today responding to Prof. X – or rather biting my tongue.  Prof. X has  especially objected to a previous post I wrote at this blog about a former Fellow of the War College, Gen. al-Sisi and a post by an eyewitness to the so-called Nahda massacre (i.e. the ending of the Nahda demonstrations.)  I stand by what I wrote.  

The professor-student relationship is a very tenuous one.  We don’t shape anyone’s minds, we merely have an opportunity to offer certain thoughts on certain topics.  I’ve had many fabulous students who I admire greatly – including some journalists now working in Egypt, a WHO official, an environmental specialist, an expert at the United Nations, aides to politicians, and my military/governmental ‘students’ were in a special category as working professionals at the time of their studies.  

2. Here is some information from an interview today on the 2/2 Egyptian-Russian ‘deal’.

Q.  On the cooperation agreement between Egypt and Russia
SZ My understanding is that there may be a military cooperation agreement & that in turn could lead to an economic agreement – for now it is simply to be an intergovernmental commission on trade  and economic cooperation –
— but certainly it will be unlike that of the Nasserist era.   The agreement dates back to the Russian officials’ visit to Egypt in November 2013.  Had the U.S. not suspended military aid to Egypt, then Egypt might not have been as eager for this alternative source of aid, but anyway it is to be financed by Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. as is not a ‘gift’ of aid as in the U.S. – Egyptian arrangment.
 
Q. Undoubtedly Putin is trying to increase his role in the area. He sells weapons to Syria (without mentioning other clients like Sudan or Algeria) and is going to have an important role even in Egypt. How U.S. perceives the Russian strategy in Middle East?
SZ  Generally, the U.S. sees Russia’s strategy in the Middle East as adversarial but multi-stranded.  For ex. the interest of Russian middlemen in oil futures is not necessarily synonymous with official policy – but in general we can speak of politics, arms, and markets.  The entire world has changed since the previous Arab Cold War in which the U.S.-Soviet enmity played out to some degree in a block of states allied with the U.S. who were opposed to others with more favorable relations with the USSR or Eastern bloc.
Q  According to some reports and analysis, Putin would have pledged $2 billions of military aid (Mig, anti-aircraft systems and anti-tank missiles among these). Firstly, may you tell me, specifically, which weapons Russia will sell to Egypt?
 SZ.  One cannot be specific  when the deal hasn’t yet been officially announced.   Yes, there were statements made by a Russian official (and published in al Akhbar which given its orientation,  may or may not be accurate.  These quoted Mikhail Zavaly (senior official with Russia’s arms export agency Rosoboronexport ) who said Russia was offering “modern helicopters, air defense equipment and the modernization of previously purchased military equipment,” Then Vedomosti printed that  negotiations were ongoing about the sale of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, low range air defense systems and Kornet anti-tank rockets.
– Are those new weapons well suited from a strategical point of view to fight the jihadist and terrorist security threat the Egyptian state is facing right now in Sinai and in mainland Egypt?
SZ No.  The fighter jets – known as Super Fulcrum are  supposed to be better suited for other types of attacks; the Syrian air force wanted to order them (the reports don’t give specifics) they have a longer range & can hit multiple targets.  One might expect Egypt to want Apache helicopters or drones which Israel is using in the Sinai.  Air-defense systems would be intended to protect Egypt against Israel most probably, and have no utility in the Sinai in the current situation.    Although it is true that the Israeli’s employ Iron Dome & that system has protected Eilat and other areas from rocket attacks.
 The campaign in the Sinai is a counterterrorist effort which differs from conventional warfare.
– How will Egypt finance such a purchase?
SZ Apparently Saudi Arabia and the UAE would pay Russia on behalf of Egypt.
Q – Sisi relies on Saudi’s and Gulf states’ financing. As you know, last July the Saudi prince Bandar had a meeting with Putin where he tried to convince the Russian leader to stop financing al-Assad in Syria (letting him understand his control on jihadist groups in Chechenia). How do you see the fact that it is now Saudi Arabia that is paying for the Russian weapons sold to Egypt? Especially with reference to the Syrian Great Game.
SZ I hope you do not print the various reports about what Prince Bandar is and isn’t doing – I don’t know that the above is accurate in the least.  Saudi Arabia’s official position on Syria is quite different; it wished to protect Syrian civilians and move towards a transitional government.
There is no “Syrian Great Game” – there is a genocide against the civilians of that country.  Saudi Arabia, which had allowed Syrian expatriates to organize charity and aid has been accused of doing much more of course, and now funds groups in the FSA and beyond.   Now, very sadly this conflict has continued instead of reaching a negotiated settlement by the world community.  Anyway,  we can speculate that Morsi might have involved Egypt militarily, but Egypt’s current government apparently has no intention of intervening in Syria.
–   Will the deal bring more costs for Egypt as it has to “adapt” once again to Russian weapons or given the nature of the Egyptian military industry – specialized in “linking or adapting” the two weapon systems Egypt will have economical advantages?
Egypt already has many outdated Russian tanks, submarines and systems, which were either updated, or replaced or remain obsolete.  It also has Western manufactured aircraft and naval systems.  There is no need to link the various types of weapons or military craft; they merely need to function.  There are no economic advantages to having outdated weaponry, nor to having materials exclusive to one national manufacturer – the issue here is really political – it is advantageous to have more than one source of weapons available to Egypt.
-And who does really benefit from this deal? Is it something that mostly benefits the military-industrial complex?  It will undoubtedly benefit Russia’s military-industrial manufacturers, just as the U.S. deal over many years benefitted the U.S. manufacturers.
– Do you think that Obama has, somehow, progressively lost interest in the area (or part of that area) because of other priorities? If that’s the case, what are those other priorities?
Obama, rather strangely, announced at the very beginning of his first term that he would be disengaging from the Middle East and communicated to DoD (Dept of Defense)  that the focus would shift to Asia.  This message might have been lost as he also simultaneously said he would “engage’ diplomatically with the region in a new manner – to contrast with Pres. Bush.  No-one knew what that meant, exactly.  He has supported covert warfare in Yemen, Somalia, and elswhere in Africa, and in Pakistan – but withdrew from Iraq and plans to withdraw this year from Afghanistan.  This diminished funding for engagement in the Middle East, even though the Arab spring brought about much unanticipated activity and new threats, including in Iraq – now destablized to the point that its government had to request external assistance in current campaigns there to resecure areas threatened once again by jihadist insurgents.
In Egypt, Obama’s administration, and the State Dept. as well as certain U.S. senators/congresspersons have angered and alienated Egyptians since 30th of June by insisting on restoration of the “rights” of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Now, Kerry, as Sec. of State has been rather more diplomatic about this, but is outshouted by U.S. media and DC-centered think tanks continuing a very sharp attack on the Mansour-Beblawi government and Egypt’s sovereign rights to determine its own policy vis-a-vis any given political group.  The Egyptian view is that matters are gradually stabilizing since there is a new, much-improved Constitution, and presidential and parliamentary elections will follow.  Obama’s views on Egypt are somewhat of a mystery, one hopes it is not true that the U.S. had planned for moderate Islamists to dominate the region from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to (if Assad were overthrown) to Syria. Apparently his administration regards the rapprochement with Iran as a great feather in its cap, although Iran retains centrifuges and an ability to produce nuclear materials and has thoroughly and poisonously aided Syria’s Assad.   It does not seem likely that events in the Middle East will quiet down so some similarly dramatic effort could be made in Asia, but maybe that is the president’s intended foreign policy goal before his term ends.
The following was published a few days ago in al-Ahram http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/94399/Egypt/Politics-/Strong-EgyptRussia-relations-can-be-spurred-by-cul.aspx

Morsi Ousted, Egyptian Army Declares Transitional Period

3 Jul

Declaration by El Sisi, the head of the Egyptian military and Morsi’s former Minister of Defense to the people of Egypt.

“The Army does not want and will not lead the country or be in power. We only want to apply the (Egyptian) people’s will. The Egyptian people have called on us for help and we have responded. We tried repeatedly to bring (about a) dialogue including the presidency. We began calling everyone to dialogue but presidency declined although everyone else agreed.

We tried repeatedly internally and externally to draw attention to the dangers surrounding Egypt. No one was listening. We met with Morsi and expressed our rejection of presidency’s threats against the people and against state institutions. But Morsi’s speech (of last week – the long disastrous one that I tweeted) disappointed us and the people and we therefore decided to consult politically involved people including the Muslim Brotherhood to end the clashes. We decided on suspending the current constitution; that the head of the Constitutional court will lead country during transitional period (except it will be the deputy head); forming a committee to write a new constitution; asking the Constitutional Court to approve a law for new elections; forming a technocratic government; forming a committee for reconciliation.

We ask people to be peaceful and not resort to violence. We warn that we’ll strongly deal with violence.

Also speaking to the public were the Shaykh al-Azhar, the highest-ranking Muslim official in Egypt, Pope Tawadros, the highest-ranking Coptic (Christian) authority, and Mohammed El Baradei, on behalf of the coalition of groups which supported the 30th of June protests including the youth movement Tamarrod.