Tag Archives: revolution

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includes the emancipation of all oppressed peoples, regardless of whether or not their struggles fit neatly into outdated geopolitical frameworks.We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria.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

 Doc is available here:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdFSTpAOCdPRU5e1iP11GDrWPu5pXrdVMzGumApRGd8lil2jQ/viewform
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Testimony of Omar Suleiman on 9/14/11

23 Jun
Testimony of Omar Suleiman
Retired Chief of Staff and Vice President of the Republic
Courtesy of Rebel Economy.com
Session 9/14/2011
Testimony of Omar Suleiman
Retired Chief of Staff and Vice President of the Republic
 
Prosecuting Attorneys Present
Mustafa Soliman
Ashour Farag
Mustafa Khater
Wail Hussein
Ahmed Hussein
Some of the significant points are:
*President Mubarak’s cognizance of events.
*MOI’s knowledge of Hamas and bedouin attack in Sinai and (NOTE) claim that bedouin came in to Cairo along with 70 to 90 members of Hizbullah to conduct the prison break*the security establishment knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would not participate in the demonstrations of 1/25/11   But then MB “informed them” they would take part on 1/27

*the collapse of the police force necessitating deployment of the AF

 

*MOI’s knowledge of Hamas and bedouin attack in Sinai and (NOTE) claim that bedouin came in to Cairo along with 70 to 90 members of Hizbullah to conduct the prison break

 

*the security establishment knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would not participate in the demonstrations of 1/25/11 (why? The deal btw leadership and the govt)  But then MB “informed them” they would take part on 1/27

 

*the collapse of the police force necessitating deployment of the AF

 

*MOI’s knowledge of Hamas and bedouin attack in Sinai and (NOTE) claim that bedouin came in to Cairo along with 70 to 90 members of Hizbullah to conduct the prison break

 

*the security establishment knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would not participate in the demonstrations of 1/25/11 (why? The deal btw leadership and the govt)  But then MB “informed them” they would take part on 1/27

 

*the collapse of the police force necessitating deployment of the AF

 

*MOI’s knowledge of Hamas and bedouin attack in Sinai and (NOTE) claim that bedouin came in to Cairo along with 70 to 90 members of Hizbullah to conduct the prison break

 

*the security establishment knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would not participate in the demonstrations of 1/25/11 (why? The deal btw leadership and the govt)  But then MB “informed them” they would take part on 1/27

 

*the collapse of the police force necessitating deployment of the AF

 

*MOI’s knowledge of Hamas and bedouin attack in Sinai and (NOTE) claim that bedouin came in to Cairo along with 70 to 90 members of Hizbullah to conduct the prison break

 

*the security establishment knew that the Muslim Brotherhood would not participate in the demonstrations of 1/25/11 (why? The deal btw leadership and the govt)  But then MB “informed them” they would take part on 1/27

 

*the collapse of the police force necessitating deployment of the AF

Q: As chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS), what social and economic developments did you and your agency observe on the Egyptian scene between 2004 and 2010, on through the parliamentary elections?
 
A: I’d like to quickly clarify that EGIS is responsible for gathering political, economic, and military information from abroad which enables the political leadership to take political, economic, and military decisions. As for the domestic environment, there is a body within EGIS that coordinates with the rest of the security establishment in gathering information. This agency is responsible for protecting foreigners, counter intelligence, and protecting confidential information. The agents therein gather intelligence on people present in Egyptian society. As for the question, intelligence from abroad indicated that the Egyptian economy was expanding and improving with time. However this improvement had not reached those of limited income and moreover there was unemployment. There were continuous complaints regarding spikes in prices and many demands to raise salaries. There were certain people who opposed the regime who sought to provoke the people. Starting in 2005, foreign operations began cooperating with NGOs based in Egypt to stir the emotions of the people against the regime. Beginning in 2005 there was an American program called Democracy and Good Governance which received funding. There had been an agreement with the Egyptian government regarding the allocation of these funds, however they violated the agreement, they being the American side, and they began funding these NGOs without any agreement with the Egyptian government. We lodged many complaints to the Americans but these were ignored. These NGOs trained many young men and women in mobilizing society, demonstrations, and civil disobedience. That continued until 2010, according to gathered intelligence. The state of discontent grew noticeably after the elections to the House of Representatives, especially when the political forces withdrew during the restructuring phase and the House of Representatives represented no political power in addition to numerous other criticisms that in turn led to even more discontent amongst the people.
 
Q: Did EGIS send any reports detailing what it had observed to the accused former president Hosni Mubarak? Did you ever present the contents of these reports to him directly, or did someone else, and if so, who?
 
A: We write monthly and quarterly reports on the security situation in the country. These are sent to the president of the republic by mail. In some meetings headed by the former president, I had mentioned this information to him directly.
 
Q: What came of these reports which were sent by mail or presented by you to the former president of the republic?
 
A: He ordered the government or ministers to carry out the reports’ recommendations.
 
Q: While you were chief, did EGIS observe any events prior to 25 January 2011? And what were the expectations held at that time?
 
A: Starting in 8/2010, we began to observe communications between the opposition movements and abroad. In addition there were directives to receive training in mass mobilization, protests, and police confrontation. Specifically there was a training session in Poland and in 1/2011. EGIS also observed another 3-day training session in Cairo for the same purposes. Because of these communications it was expected that there would be a demonstration on 1/25/2011.
 
Q: Did you personally communicate this information to the accused former president of the republic?
 
A: At the closing of the economic forum held in Sharm el-Sheikh on 1/19/2011 I told the former president of the necessity of convening a meeting to discuss this issue.
 
Q: Did you tell this to another official working in state intelligence?
 
A: EGIS shares intelligence with national security and the State Security Investigations Service in a routine manner.
 
Q: What was the former president’s response after hearing this information from you, that demonstrations would be held?
 
A: The former president convened a meeting through PM Ahmed Nadif and the meeting was held the next day.
 
Q: When EGIS learned of the demonstrations taking place on 1/25, did it also learn of the reasons behind them, the groups organizing it, its size, and its locations?
 
A: EGIS surveillance of Facebook revealed the groups behind the demonstrations to be mostly from the April 6 Movement and We Are All Khalid Said, and other political currents. We had become accustomed to seeing such demonstrations over the past several years.
 
Q: Was the meeting actually held?
 
A: Yes, it was held the next day.
 
Q: Where and when did the meeting take place?
 
A: On 1/20. I said in a previous testimony that it was 1/22, but upon reviewing the schedule I found that the meeting had taken place on 1/20 at 1pm in Smart Village.
 
Q: Who was summoned to the meeting?
 
A: I asked the former president to call this meeting and he ordered the PM to organize it.
 
Q: What was the purpose and objective of this meeting?
 
 
A: To determine how the security establishment was going to handle the coming events.
 
Q: Who attended the meeting, and who presided over it?
 
A: PM Ahmed Nadif presided over the meeting, and in attendance were the heads of the security establishment, the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the chief of EGIS, the minister of information, and the minister of communications.
 
Q: Specify to the court the titles and names of the aforementioned individuals who attended the meeting.
 
A: PM Ahmed Nadif; Defense and Military Production Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, commander of the AF; Interior Minister Habib el-Adly; Minister of Information Anas al-Fiqqi; Minister of Communications Tariq Kamel; and myself as Chief of EGIS.
 
Q: What topics were discussed between those gathered at the meeting?
 
A: I explained my point of view that there would be a demonstration on 1/25 and that we must be prepared for it. Fortunately all intelligence indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood would not take part in the demonstrations and that this demonstration would proceed like all of the others have over the past several years. Habib el-Adly presented us with some information regarding the demonstrations and the options available to the police in containing them. The minister of information spoke about the foreign organizations that had been infiltrating Egyptian society and what they would do at the ministry of information regarding coverage of the events.
 
Q: During this meeting, did the accused former IM Habib Ibrahim el-Adly say how the demonstrations planned to take place on 1/25 would be contained?
 
A: The aforementioned former IM explained that they would accompany the protests in the same manner as they had during previous demonstrations.
 
Q: Did the aforementioned former IM explain how past demonstrations had been contained?
 
A: He said that he would accompany the protests until they dispersed, because the intelligence we had said that demonstrators would hold sit-ins in various public squares and once night fell, they would return to their homes. The job of the IM was to protect the demonstrators and strategic locations.
 
Q: Again, did the discussions touch on how the situation would be handled, aside from protecting the demonstrators, if the situation devolved?
 
A: We only spoke about whether or not the Muslim Brotherhood would take part. The IM said that any demonstrations that included Brotherhood elements would be dispersed and demonstrators arrested.
 
Q: Was the accused former president of the republic made aware about the results of this meeting?
 
A: Usually whoever heads these meetings informs the president, however I do not know whether or not Ahmed Nadif informed him.
 
Q: On 1/25, in detail, how were demonstrators in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt approached and dealt with?
 
A: According to EGIS intelligence, the police accompanied and protected these demonstrations until 8pm on 1/25. After that, around midnight, we have information that says that there was an order to disperse the crowds of demonstrators using peaceful means.
 
Q: What do you mean by “peaceful means?” And who was charged with dispersing the crowds in this manner?
 
A: Truncheons, water hoses, smoke, and all of the other tactics that the MoI is known to use.
 
Q: While you were watching the successive events which unfolded between 1/25 and 1/28, how were the demonstrations being conducted? And how were they being monitored and dealt with?
 
A: EGIS followed the events of 1/26 and 1/27 closely yet there were no momentous events. However from our observations of Palestinian activity, we noticed that there were communications between Hamas and Bedouins in the Sinai and that some groups had entered via the underground tunnels which straddle the Egyptian-Gazan border. They communicated with the Bedouins and agreed with them that they would provide them with ordnance in exchange for assistance in freeing their comrades from Egyptian prisons. That was on 1/27. Sure enough Bedouins began the prison break operation by sporadically attacking a police outpost in Sheikh Zuweid with firearms in the region that borders the underground tunnels, so that the police forces and border guards could not get close to the tunnels. Ordnance was smuggled through and the Qassam Brigades created a diversion so that the border guards would not pursue the smuggled ordnance. Thus the weapons, ammo, and explosives were successfully smuggled and given to the Bedouins. The Bedouins accompanied the smugglers to Cairo so as to storm the prisons in which Hamas elements were being kept. About 70 to 90 members of Hezbollah who were based in Gaza also joined them. On 1/28 after the Friday Afternoon Prayer, some of them were seen in Tahrir Square, while others were preparing to carry out the prison breaks with help from Bedouin known for smuggling in the nearby regions, especially in Wadi El Natrun. In addition, on 1/27 the Muslim Brotherhood informed us that they were going to take part in the demonstrations on 1/28 after Friday Afternoon Prayer. Thus hordes of people from all around Cairo began mobilizing and heading for Tahrir Square. All of the mosques in the vicinity of Tahrir Square were filing directly into the square in great numbers. At EGIS we assessed the situation and found that the situation was highly unstable and that numbers of this magnitude could easily cause big problems. We followed the situation closely and our assessment was proved correct when people from this vast crowd began clashing with police and setting fire to various buildings and objects. Crime rings and felons began to storm police stations. By midnight on 1/28, Hamas and Hezbollah had succeeded in freeing their comrades from prison. Many successive events eventually led to the police force leaving its posts and abandoning its duties in front of this massive crowd that was unprecedented in number. On the afternoon of 1/28, we learned that Habib el-Adly had asked the president of the republic to deploy the army, and at around 6pm on the same day, the AF began to establish a presence in the streets. By that time the police had almost entirely withdrawn and the overwhelming demonstrations walked unchecked and their chants for the first time began to include demands for the fall of the regime. The police force was broken at about 5pm on 1/28.
 
Q: Did you inform the accused former president of the republic about the degradation of the situation and advise him to take measures in order to confront this major event, as you said?
 
A: From what I know, the IM contacted the former president and requested the assistance of the AF and this demand cannot be made unless the situation is dire. The president met this request, which pays testament to the gravity of the situation.
 
Q: What is your assessment of how the police establishment handled the events?
 
A: No one among us expected this many people to take part in the demonstrations and it would have been impossible for the police to do its duty of protecting the demonstrators and property by itself with this many people. The AF needed to be deployed. The police presence in the squares was dwarfed by the size of the demonstrations and was incapable of dispersing or protecting crowds of that size, especially considering that there were elements which were clashing with the police forces. It stayed like this for three days and thus the powers of the police were exhausted and they were unable to continue.
 
Q: Did EGIS ever communicate any advice or points of view regarding the manner in which the demonstrations were being handled and what mechanisms or tactics should be tried after the police failed to contain the crowds?
 
A: Usually when the police forces collapse the only solution is to deploy the AF. As soon as I learned that the IM had requested from the president to deploy the army, my role was over.
 
Q: Did the accused former president issue any orders or directives regarding the manner in which the demonstrations should be confronted?
 
A: I do not know what the president discussed with the IM, but over the past several years he has known that containing demonstrations involves the use of shields, gas, and water.
 
Q: Does containing demonstrations involve using projectiles, including live ammunition?
 
A: According to EGIS intelligence, riot dispersal units are not equipped with firearms.
 
Q: If the situation devolves, is it permissible, in your assessment, that the demonstrators be confronted using firearms?
 
A: I know that the riot dispersal units are charged with driving persons away, and when they fail they collapse.
 
Q: What do you mean by riot dispersal?
 
A: Riot dispersal that takes place at demonstrations.
 
Q: Do you mean to say the CSF?
 
A: It is a part of the CSF.
Q: Did EGIS, with you at its head, record the presence of snipers belonging to the police?
 
A: I don’t know.
 
Q: Many of the causalities among the demonstrators were clearly caused by projectiles or firearms. How do you explain that?
 
A: It could have come from forces other than the police riot dispersal units.
 
Q: What do you suppose these forces could have been if not policemen?
 
A: Unfortunately I do not have the powers in EGIS to gather such intelligence.
 
Q: Are you able to determine who is responsible for the injuries and deaths among the demonstrators?
 
A: I went to the president’s office and told him that he should form a fact finding commission that could uncover the reasons behind this large number of injuries and deaths.
 
Q: What specific measures did you undertake between 1/25 and 2/11 to determine the reasons behind the injuries and deaths that befell the protestors?
 
A: Unfortunately on the evening of 1/28 the police forces collapsed entirely and the AF needed a certain amount of time to diffuse out into the streets and take control of command operations. During the time between 1/28 and 1/31 there was a perfect security vacuum, during which there was an assassination attempt on my life. We did not manage to apprehend the culprit despite the fact that some people were killed. The collapse encompassed all sections and divisions of the MoI. When Mahmoud Wagdy took over as IM on 1/31 he had a very difficult job in front of him. Moreover the process required for determining the cause of injury and death would have been extremely difficult and obtaining the proper documentation would have taken much time to produce results. I asked the former president to form a fact finding commission and it was formed.
 
Q: Did you learn what conclusions this commission came to or the perpetrators it identified regarding the cause behind the injuries and deaths of some demonstrators?
 
A: This commission was active until the day my service ended on 2/11/2011 with the resignation of the former president of the republic. I followed the commission closely and it was summoning many witnesses, however the commission never came to a concrete decision regarding who determinately killed or injured the protestors.
 
Q: Meaning that in your capacity as either vice president or chief of EGIS, you never learned the true cause behind the injuries and deaths of some demonstrators?
 
A: The intelligence that EGIS had procured had to do with the deaths and injuries that occurred as a result of the prisons and police stations being stormed. As for the deaths and injuries of 1/28, the entire police apparatus had withdrawn and collapsed, and moreover we were not able to gather enough information to say determinately who was behind the killings and injuries.
 
Q: In their testimonies to the public prosecutor in this courtroom, some witnesses testified to having seen CSF policemen wielding rifles capable of firing rubber bullets and tear-gas canisters. Do you think that injuries or deaths could have been caused by the policemen using these weapons?
 
A: From my personal understanding, if a projectile strikes a vulnerable area then it could feasibly be fatal. Water cannons sometimes can be fatal in the same manner. I know that the CSF is armed with truncheons, tasers, and tear-gas.
 
Q: Can you say with certainty that the CSF, using the weapons with which they were armed, was the cause of the injuries and deaths?
 
A: If CSF was the only force present then they could not have been equipped with fire arms or projectiles. However it is possible that there were other forces present with CSF and I cannot say for certain.
 
Q: What do you mean by other forces?
 
A: Possibly from the local precincts or something.
 
Q: Can you definitively determine the extent of responsibility the former president of the republic bears in terms of political responsibility considering that he was ruling the country when injuries and deaths occurred in the demonstrations that took place on a national scale?
 
A: I cannot definitely say however everything that the president was asked to do to protect the country he did. When the police collapsed and the IM requested the assistance of the AF, he immediately approved the request. When political concessions were demanded of him, he immediately complied. This was all that was asked of him until he resigned.
 
Q: Can you determine – given you were by the president’s side – that he knew of the violations that the demonstrators had sustained during the attempts to contain the demonstrations, which led to the matter spiraling out of control and violent clashes that in turn caused injury and death among many demonstrators on a national scale?
 
A: From 1/31, the day I took charge, I was authorized by the president to make calls of a political nature to protect the regime and the country. From 1/31 until 2/11, there were no clashes between police and protestors.
 
Q: However the question is: Can you say in front of the court that the president was aware of what had taken place in the demonstrations and in Egypt at large regarding the injuries and deaths of protestors?
 
A: The fact that he approved the formation of a fact finding commission implies that he was aware.
 
Q: Upon learning of these facts, did the former president inquire as to the cause of these injuries and deaths?
 
A: He was waiting for the commission’s report.
 
Q: Did the former president ever indicate to you during a side conversation or any time that he was aware of the culprit responsible for the injuries and deaths or demonstrators?
 
A: He never once spoke with me about this topic.
 
Q: The court repeats the question regarding who you believe caused the injuries and deaths, and if they resulted from the use of projectiles and firearms.
 
A: I don’t know.
 
Q: Medical reports from the investigation revealed that all of the injuries sustained by demonstrators all resulted from projectiles or firearms. Those asked in the investigation stated that they had been injured by policemen using firearms or projectiles. So how do you explain these statements from those injured?
 
A: Police are typically armed with projectiles. So if there were definitely injuries caused by projectiles then it would have been from police projectiles. As for injuries from live rounds shot from firearms, this is a strange occurrence that does not occur except for in cases of self-defense.
 
Q: Can you definitively determine the extent of responsibility that the accused former IM Habib el-Adly bears regarding the confrontations between the police and the protestors during which some were injured and others killed?
 
A: I cannot definitely determine the extent of responsibility.
 
Q: On what basis cannot you not definitively say?
 
A: Because this is not within my purview as chief of EGIS.
 
Q: Generally speaking as a passive observer of the events, can you say whether former President Hosni Mubarak or former IM Habib el-Adly is responsible for the injuries and deaths?
 
A: As a passive observer, what happened in Egypt was bigger than the police establishment was capable of handling and this led to a security vacuum. It could be that the injuries occurred without any directives as a result of the chaos. But this is not the intelligence of the chief of EGIS.
 
Q: Did EGIS intelligence reveal anything regarding the true relationship between former President Mubarak and the accused Hussein Kamal al-Din Salem?
 
A: Former President Mubarak went to Sharm al-Sheikh in the early 1990s so as to put the destination on the international tourist map. He encouraged business men to invest in Sharm al-Sheikh to this end, and Hussein Salem was among these business men: that is when the president’s relationship with him started.
 
Q: What were the extents of that relationship, and could it be classified as a friendship?
 
A: Encouraging investments is one thing, and friendship is another thing. I don’t know whether or not there was friendship between the president and Hussein Salem. However many occasions and events such as conferences were held at hotels owned by Hussein Salem and others.
 
Q: Were compliments ever exchanged between the former president and the accused Hussein Salem?
 
A: In my capacity as a subordinate to the president, it is not my job to monitor the personal behavior of the president.
 
Q: What intelligence do you have regarding the villas which the accused Hussein Salem gave to the accused former President Hosni Mubarak and the accused Alaa Mohamed Hosni Mubarak and the accused Gamal Mohamed Hosni Mubarak?
 
A: There is no intelligence in this regard because EGIS does not concern itself with such matters. From my personal knowledge, yes, Hussein Salem used to build many villas in Sharm al-Sheikh in the Golf area and that, yes, he did sell five villas to the president but I never inquired about the details, such as the price.
 
Q: Do the sales contracts of these villas represent an exploitation of the former president’s powers along with an exploitation of the influence of the two other aforementioned accused persons?
 
A: It is personal knowledge, not EGIS information, that Hussein Salem had wanted the president to own property in Sharm al-Sheikh so that Sharm al-Sheikh could continue to be a promising tourist destination.
 
Q: Do you think that the price at which those villas were sold are in keeping with the real price of any one of those five villas?
 
A: I don’t know.
 
Q: What information did EGIS collect while under your leadership regarding the contract to export gas to Israel?
 
A: There had been an agreement between former President Anwar Sadat and President Carter to provide Israel with petroleum products, and a volume of 2 million tons annually was agreed upon and transactions were based on global prices. That was in 1979 with the signing of the Camp David Accords and this petrol has continued to be sold to Israel. However, with the increases in domestic consumption in Egypt, we were not able to continue exporting the original volume so the amount of annual exports to Israel was significantly reduced. There were communications between Egyptian General Petroleum Co (EGPC) in Egypt and Israeli electric companies regarding providing these companies with natural gas from Egypt. Some messages were exchanged between the Israeli companies and the EGPC. With regards to the peace process, the Israelis place much significance on normalization, and commercial exchange between Egypt and Israel is an indication of normalization, the goal of which is the preservation of the peace and realizing creating mutual interests for both sides. Around 2000, when Atef Abid was PM, the Council of Ministers approved proposing gas export initiatives to a number of Mediterranean countries, including: Spain, Italy, France, Jordan, Israel, and Lebanon. The timing worked for the foreign parties and Egypt and three projects were agreed to: liquefying the gas and exporting it, exporting gas via pipeline, and exporting gas via pipelines that would run though Turkey and Israel, in addition to another Arab pipeline which would go to Jordan and, in future, extend to Syria and Lebanon. From what I remember this was in November 1999 or 2000. Mr. Hussein Salem proposed to the investment panel that a gas export company be established. In the past Mr. Hussein Salem had done business with the Israelis with the MIDOR project which is an oil refining operation. Mr. Hussein Salem with EGPC and the Israelis with Merhav, who were the same people who partook in the MIDOR project, together founded the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EGM) and they had a security clearance to do so. EGIS closely follows companies such as this one because they realize certain objectives: creating mutual interests, supporting the peace process, increased leverage, and other objectives. We began following this important project closely until the Palestinian uprising in 2000 when the project was put on hold and would stay as such until there was a rapprochement between the Palestinians and Israelis. EGIS began to promote this project as a point of contact between the Israelis and the Egyptian government, and in 2005 a contract was signed between EGM and an Israeli electric company and gas began flowing into Israel starting in 2008. Former President Hosni Mubarak in 2008 issued a decree to the government to raise the price of gas above US $3. He sent me on a mission to visit PM Ehud Olmert and I told him of the importance that he use his influence to facilitate amending the gas agreement because the president had decided that no gas would be sent to Israel unless prices were raised. This is the story of the gas exports to Israel according to EGIS.
Q: Investigations uncovered that the debentures from the sale and export of natural Egyptian gas to the state of Israel belonged to EGM, in which the accused Hussein Salem holds a majority stake, and that these debentures were from the former Egyptian Minister of Petrol, the accused Amin Sameh Samir Fahmy, whose case has been transferred to criminal court. Investigations revealed that the accused former president helped the minister by authorizing his company to sell gas at a price below global commercial prices, a move undertaken by the accused former president so that the accused Hussein Salem could realize profits. What is your personal or professional understanding of these events?
A: My professional understanding is that the president did not involve himself in setting prices or anything else of that sort and that the minister of petroleum was not among those who set the prices, rather it is a technical panel within EGPC which sets the prices in accordance with global standards. The former president never involves himself in setting prices. The minister of petroleum got approval from the Council of Ministers regarding the prices, volumes, and exports to Israel. The former president learned about the export of gas to Israel from the minister of petroleum. He had determined his stance towards this issue long ago back in the days of PM Rabin, and the president was not shown the export contract, having only learned about it from the minister of petroleum.
 
Q: Was the accused former President Hosni Mubarak aware of the price included in the contract and did he approve it before the contract was signed? Or did he learn of it after the contract was signed during its implementation phase. And what is your perspective on this price?
 
A: These details were not made known to the president.
 
Q: Who specifically is responsible for setting the price of the gas exported to Israel in accordance with the concluded contract between the two sides?
 
 
A: A technical panel within EGPC that is formed to set the prices for each country to which gas is exported.
 
Q: You mentioned that the accused former president issued a decree or directive that stated that the price must be above US $3, so does this mean that he decided to lower the price that was stated in the contract.
 
A: During the time the contract was signed with Israel petrol prices were at their normal levels. However from 2006 to 2008, global prices of petrol increased and thus the price of the gas we were selling became depressed. So the former president issued directives to correct domestic and exported gas prices so as to bring them in line with global levels.
 
Prosecution
 
Q: Did EGIS record the number of individuals who communicated with foreign organizations and who attended the training sessions in Poland and Cairo?
 
A: I don’t remember truthfully, but the public prosecutor could request them from EGIS.
 
Q: Did EGIS take any measures against these individuals?
 
A: No, just surveillance.
 
Q: Were there any measures taken against the Bedouin elements or other elements which you recently mentioned to the court?
 
A: The Bedouins paved the way for the smuggling operation by asserting control over the roads and surrounding areas which enabled the smuggling and the attack on the outpost in Sheikh Zuweid. They asserted their control over this region: we in EGIS gather intelligence.
 
Q: Why were the measures necessary to prevent that not taken?
A: EGIS’s powers in this case were limited to informing the border guard and the police, which have the power to prevent such an event, of some piece of intelligence. However the number of Bedouins and their ability to gain control prevented government forces from engaging them with counter measures.
 
Q: Can you remember the specifics surrounding your request of the accused former president to form a fact finding commission regarding the injuries and deaths among the protestors?
 
A: I think he issued a national decree to form such a commission on 2/1 or 2/2.
 
Q: From your military experience, is it possible for policemen to use firearms or projectiles, not including cases of self-defense, without approval from their superiors, top-most of them being the IM?
 
A: If conscripts were armed with projectiles then there was some intention to use them at some point. They wouldn’t arm conscripts with projectiles if they didn’t plan to use them. If policemen are armed with projectiles, they must appeal to their superiors for orders to fire the projectiles and fire in a manner that complies with the orders of the commander. As for firearms, they are not used except for in cases of self-defense.
 
Q: What measures should the police leadership have taken once they had realized the size and scope of the crowds of demonstrators?
 
A: The police assessed the situation incorrectly when they decided to continue to confront the demonstrators. When the IM saw that the police could no longer contain the crowds, he requested the deployment of the AF.
 
Q: What transpired during the meeting held on 1/30 that included yourself, the accused former president, the field marshall/minister of defense, and the chief of staff?
 
A: The president told me to be there at 9am on 1/30 in the operations center of the AF and that we would meet there at that time. We went into the operations center and the Chief of Staff Sami Anan and a few other officers began assessing the deployment of the AF, what had happened so far, and what would happen next, given that the deployment of the AF at that time took between 48 and 72 hours. The president was content with the deployment, seeing how AF units were distributed to the most sensitive locations and this was the overarching objective regarding deploying the AF across the entire country.
 
Q: How was it that gas was exported to a company in Israel which was founded by the accused Hussein Salem, and whose idea was it to found it?
 
A: It was Hussein Salem’s idea to found it. EGPC submitted a request to form the company to the investment body and the matter proceeded via the Council of Ministers until the contract was eventually signed.
 
Q: Did the accused former president play any part in naming the company which the accused Hussein Salem owned? Did he ever suggest changing the name to another name, which was not accepted by the accused Hussein Salem?
 
A: EGM was the company that worked to export gas to Israel and after the stoppage that resulted from the Intifada in Palestine, Hussein Salem sought to change the name to East Company for Gas. He was the primary share holder along with EGPC. After that the former president ordered him to forfeit the company to the Egyptian public sector and to stay with the original company he had founded, i.e., EGM for connecting pipelines to Israel. Hussein Salem was not happy with this and he did not want anyone saying that he was working with Israel.
Recess then the session reconvened in the absence of Mustafa Khater.
 
Civil Prosecutors
 
Q: What did EGIS do, given that it is charged with protecting the homeland, when it learned of reports that there had been communications, according to the intelligence that reached EGIS, that there was an international and domestic push to provoke the people against the government?
 
A: When I previously answered this question I said that EGIS is an information gathering service and it does not take measures.
 
Q: Is EGIS not involved in the decision making process?
 
A: Of course it is: when I inform other agencies then I am involved.
 
Q: What decision was made regarding what you learned from this information given that you were involved in the decision making process?
 
A: There are several other agencies involved in regards to this matter. For instance the government sends a directive to the minister of international cooperation to speak with the American embassy about immediately terminating funding to these NGOs, or a directive to other agencies that are monitoring the activities of these organizations: these are the procedures.
 
Q: Is it possible to prove the information which you provided in your report in this regard?
 
A: Who would be the one proving it? I can’t talk about EGIS work with them.
 
Q: Did EGIS monitor these NGOs?
 
A: Yes, in the usual manner in which EGIS conducts surveillance.
 
Q: Was the government aware of the project for supporting Democracy and Good Governance as you reported?
 
A: Yes.
 
Q: Does the president or the PM determine the price of exported gas or that of domestically consumed gas?
 
A: It is a technical procedure that is conducted in the ministry of petroleum and nowhere else.
 
 
Q: Was there training for young Egyptian men from various parties within and without Egypt? What measures did EGIS take in light of this?
 
A: The training had to do with democratic activism and NGOs, and the state does not impede such activities, however we do monitor them.
 
Q: Does EGIS conduct surveillance on business men and send these reports to the president of the republic?
 
A: When such information is requested I request it from the Administrative Control Authority because it is not within EGIS’s purview.
 
Attorney Abu Lahyia
 
Q: Did clandestine elements of EGIS report any intelligence regarding injuries and deaths from police firearms on 1/28?
 
A: Until the evening of 1/28, there was no report of injuries or deaths among the demonstrators in Tahrir Sq. or in any other public areas.
 
Q: Do the contents of the tape recordings which EGIS sent have to do with the period between 1/25 and 1/28?
 
A: The recordings are the property of the Egyptian Museum, not EGIS.
 
Q: Is it within the powers of the IM to issue an order to use live rounds without first appealing to the president of the republic?
 
A: Neither the president of the republic nor the IM can order live rounds to be fired. They can only be used in cases of self-defense.
 
Q: Who fired projectiles or live rounds in Suez which led to the fatalities?
 
A: I don’t know.
 
Q: Does EGIS, another agency, or you personally have any other information that has not been heard in the case?
 
A: No.
 
Q: Given that the IM had resigned, why was he summoned to attend the meeting?
 
A: The president wanted to understand the status of the police and Mr. Habib el-Adly was still in the MoI. He then waited for a while but then it was too difficult for the IM to attend because of a large demonstration in front of the MoI. He spoke with him about the status of the police and I submitted a report to the president that the police had collapsed and was no longer capable of upholding security.
 
Q: Do you rely on the police for the gathering of intelligence?
 
A: There are many agents that gather intelligence, and some of them are included amongst the police.
 

Syria on My Mind

30 Jan

I have Syria on my mind because the 3zmeh there is so pressing, and violent. Egypt is always with me as well — on the phone today to Ashraf trying to understand what’s really happening and why he minimizes the impact of the revolution so we won’t worry.

I have Syria on my mind, as I read one upsetting news article after another. As I read Jonathan Shannon’s blog, Mohja Kahf’s posts, and think about cold weather food. For my Egyptian married-to-family, cold weather food is bisara – I made it last night. This is a white bean soup made with large amounts of parsley, dill, and coriander, then onions and garlic, and blended. For me, cold weather food is fatteh. Syrian fatteh is not the same as Egyptian fatta. And my favorite place to eat fatteh may not exist any more in Damascus, with its little tables, wooden chairs and plastic tablecloths. Fatteh with chicken, or with egg, or with meat.

Syria is on my mind throughout our musings about the government’s claims that these revolutions are all by “foreigners.” Whether regime change is achieved or not yet – how is that people see all power as being outside themselves? There’s a great example here in this description of the mood in Syria http://7ee6an.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/from-syria-with-by-true/

My memories of truly crazy interactions with authorities include a similar entry at the airport. My printer was seized because, of course, it must be a fax machine. Even though it wasn’t a fax machine – but they were forbidden. So the official demanded that I turn it on and show him how it was not a fax machine. Without a stepdown (volt converter) how could I? And I was very, very suspicious, even with all of my introductory documents, and letters and so on, and my little daughter holding my hand. Copiers were tightly controlled then too. There was no email service. And in those days, if you went to a news shop, one could see the articles about Syria, or sometimes the Arab world had been cut by hand out of the newspapers and magazines.

It took about six weeks to get an iqama. Each time I visited the appropriate office, I could see my passport still sitting at the top of a pile in a battered old grey metal cabinet – doors ajar. Somehow I fell extremely ill with a high fever. The agent who had helped us find our flat came to call, and returned with a neighborhood doctor. No bottled water was available in that period of the summer, yet water was probably the carrier of this particular summer fever. I knew I had to visit the government office and check on the iqama or I’d never be able to travel down to the south of the country where I wanted to carry out interviews, since one had to carry a passport when traveling (a copy wasn’t sufficient). It must have been the fever, but I was so irritated to see that no-one had even touched the passport pile, that I muttered something in the office. Instantly, I was pushed into another office with an officer screaming at me at my insolence, and how he ought to this, and this and that. And amazingly, he shoved the passport with the iqama in it, into my hands.

My basement level flat was located underneath Syria’s Constitutional Court in Abu Rumaneh, a pleasant area of Damascus. The flat had a huge formal living room with an oriental carpet atop white marble floors surrounded by white couches and a separate entrance. The interior had two bedrooms, a small kitchen littered with the numerous empty wine bottles of the previous tenant, and a small sitting/dining room with a television. Buzzers were located near each doorway next to the light switches so the women of the household could signal that they were entering; many households still observed segregation of women from men who might call or visit. The Constitutional Court was one of the least-used governmental buildings; most people did not know that it existed. I wouldn’t have know it was there either, except that a few days after I moved into the flat, someone knocked on the door. He was a clerk from the court upstairs. “Telephone for you” he told me. My face was wrinkled up in questions. After, I took the phone call upstairs, and returned below. I spotted two men out on the pavement, near a box cemented into the ground. They were attaching something into the contents of the box. A few hours later, they were still there, smoking cigarettes. The next morning, I received a phone call intended for the court, so I went upstairs to call the clerk. Apparently, when the authorities installed the phone tap, they crossed our telephone wires. He promised to call someone to try and get them uncrossed.

When I went to the Ministry of Agriculture to submit my AIDS test, the waiting area was teeming with agricultural laborers, mostly from Iraq. The AIDS test completed in the United States was irrelevant; after all “the country is run by criminals and homosexuals are everywhere.” I had brought my own needle. Waiting went on for hours and then we were told to return on another day for results . The place was incredibly crowded on the return date too, and then suddenly, a voice barked at me in Russian. It was a woman, with short hair and she gestured for me to sit on a chair. I was grateful for the special treatment and she punctuated her delivery of my results with a little speech, in Russian which made the Syrian officials laugh, but none of the rest of us had a clue.

Successful paperwork meant that I could board a bus for Suwaida, in southern Syria in the Jabal Druze, renamed by the Ba3thist government, the Jabal 3Arab. My daughter and I were questioned for about 10 minutes before boarding the bus, passport number written down and then, we disembarked in the sleepy summer provincial town. I inquired about staying in the hotel in Suwaida where they explained that there were no guests, there had been no guests for ages, yes, there were guest rooms, but the hotel was used for weddings only. Then we made our way to the mudhafah of the al-Atrash family which was just opposite one of the Atrash homes. And my interviews began. At that time, the government cut electricity service on a rolling schedule in Damascus, but in this area, the cuts amounted to 10 hours a day without electricity. At the mudhafeh, the family was accepting condolences for one of their senior members, a lady. The women had gathered elsewhere and then men presented their statements in verse. They were amused that an American had come all the way to Suwaida to inquire about Asmahan. “Not about Farid?” “For he is the ambassador of the Druze! Asmahan, she, well, we were harsh on women, then, and she should not have been singing [in public]. “Not about Sultan al-Atrash? He was the leader of the revolution (of ’25) – you must meet his son. You’ll have to go to al-Qrayya.”

Most of the information about Asmahan is in my book. But not the delightful experience of interviewing the older family members who decided that they would quite enjoy helping me and reminiscing about their own youthful days, when quite a few had lived in Egypt, and traveled more freely from there to Syria and Lebanon.
We ate at the hotel the first evening, after all, they had not anticipated my visit. As there was no electricity, the food was cooked over charcoal.

Among the other highlights of these interviews was one that I held with Fahd Ballan, whose star had fallen after too much wild living, I believe. He met me at the musicians’ and artists’ building and of course, the electricity went out just as we arrived. He had little to say about Asmahan, but Farid al-Atrash had been his friend and mentor, and he had plenty to say about the demise of Arabic music, both technically and conceptually.

Enough, enough! I had meant to stick with the theme of Syrian authorities. Who did not intrude on my time in the Jabal, but on each return to Damascus, I learned more. The pockmarked buildings where suicide bombers had killed themselves in 1980-1981. The visits by “the friends” – who arrived at 4:00 a.m. The funniest question the mukhabarat posed me was “how many Jewish academics are there in the United States?” “Well, I don’t know,” I said, “I think there are thousands and thousands of them, as they are SO smart!” My answer was so wrong and so unexpected, that the interview soon terminated after more inquiries about what I was REALLY researching. “Asmahan.” Impossible. “No, really, Asmahan.” Just to be sure that I got the point, the next day, the younger brother of a Syrian friend arrived home with his ribs broken – he’d been viciously beaten and kicked. Vicarious cruelty is effective. I was more careful about what I said, and where I said it. Not as careful as I should have been. Not as careful as friends who cannot even speak within their own homes.

Mabruk Masr! Happy 25th of January Revolution!

24 Jan

Tomorrow, the 25th of January, 2012 marks the first anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. The impact of last year went far beyond Egypt to reshape the world’s expectations of the role of “the people” in politics. To quote Nelly Hanna, who I ran into at MESA – “we [Egypt] are changing the world!”

The revolution in Tunisia was shocking and exhilarating — and then, for Hosni Mubarak to fall in only 18 days … there is absolutely nothing I can write that can convey the jubilation of February 11, 2011, and the roller-coaster ride of emotions ever since for all those watching with bated breath. Revolution broke out in Libya and in Yemen – and two more dictators fell – Qaddhafi slain after his mad campaign to destroy his own people, and Saleh — wheeling, dealing, lying and manipulating to obtain the immunity that Mubarak did not (formally) receive. The Syrian dictator and his cruel regime will likely be dismantled in the coming year, and then the fate of autocracy in the region remains to be seen.

In Egypt, Police Day always recalled the huge number of people employed by the police and the security forces (the latter estimated at 1 million – larger than any army). And yet, once the Egyptian people joined the ongoing demonstrations, it was fairly clear that they outnumbered the army and police, and while there were casualities, the violence could have been so much worse. The military assumption of power was intended to be temporary. And indeed, the elections for the Majlis al-Sha`b have taken place, not perhaps with the outcome that some wish, but in all, a much more democratic procedure than in any of the previous electoral charades carried out under Mubarak. Presidential elections will be scheduled and the Constitution will be rewritten, not least because Mubarak had sullied it with changes to bolster his own executive power and these must be removed.

There is much to hope for and much room for anxiety. Not a day goes by without my receipt of a bitter comment or message castigating the Muslim Brotherhood or the salafis for “stealing the revolution.” Well, it was their revolution too. They withstood detentions, arrests, torture, political machinations for years. Islamists are now more popular than most other political groups throughout the region at this particular time in history. Get used to it. Islamism is here to stay and we can hope and work for enlightened, intelligent power-sharing and cooperative solutions. Liberals, anti-Islamists, or those who oppose religious parties really need to stop engaging in takfir – just as others must not employ takfir against them. Liberty means the pursuit of differing political visions and democracy means learning how to compromise on, or bide one’s time to address these differences.

One might dream of seeing a bayan issued by the Freedom and Justice Party or the MB movement itself to the women of Egypt. Something to the effect of “we recognize the oppression that the women of Egypt have suffered, the legal discrimination they have sought to reverse and that their representation in Parliament is hardly fair for 51% of the population. We recognize oppression within the family, and that violence against women and girls is a serious matter. We don’t intend to undo legal reforms that have benefitted women.” One is not heartened to hear those voices that called for undoing the legal reforms of 2000 … Surely women’s future is as important as sending a message about the solidarity of Egyptians – Christians and Muslims together.

It was reported today that the Mushir (Tantawi) will cancel the emergency law. At long last! This is terribly important as the law buttresses the system of security courts and detentions without charge and the entire system of punitive, suspicious regard by security personnel of the public. It should impact free speech. There is a catch – he said it would be cancelled, except for instances of “thuggery.” Let’s hope that means attacks by the thugs on demonstrators.

Many scholars and experts have stated that the “revolution is not complete.” Well, duh. How could it be? The old regime is so well ensconced in business, financial and intellectual institutions, like, I hate to say it, but the American University in Cairo where the President’s representative, a retired general, called one day to tell my colleague not to use a particular book (you know the book I mean, some of you). And where Tom Friedman and Martin Indyk recently were guest speakers (why?) Of course there are lovers of freedom at that faculty and in others — but the networks of power and influence are not so easily dissolved.

Let us hope as well that in the new Egypt, there will be a new domestic approach to the problems of poverty and development for democracy does not necessarily mean capitalist democracy where a country with a huge low-income population and income gap can ignore the consequences of privatization and rising prices. Let us hope that it will mean a new foreign policy, where actions match rhetoric. For too long, hollow support of Palestinian rights has been juxtaposed with doing the bidding of Israel – closing the border, bombing the tunnels, and ensuring the safety of a regime at the behest of the Quartet. Perhaps the Egyptian people need a voice – at least a referendum on some of these issues.

Mabruk Egypt! Mabruk!

My Taxi Story

22 Jan

It was June of 2010. I had just returned from Egypt (and Morocco) on a long Egypt Air flight and then two buses and five hours on Amtrak from New York City. I was quite tired and it was about eleven o’clock in the evening.

Protests had been ongoing in Egypt but had received no coverage at all in the United States or Europe. The first protests over Khaled Said’s death had taken place; also el-Baradei’s supporters were protesting, there was a labor dispute out below Qatamiyya which interefered with traffic as the CSF forces arrived, and another demonstration in Abbasiyya. I was trying to get the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to speak to me over an visa issue to no avail. If anything their procedures were worse than ever – although I was the petitioner, I have no rights to speak to anyone. Although that was my main business, punctuated by several lovely visits with friends and family, I couldn’t help note the atmosphere of uproar and I couldn’t help being struck by the arrogant confidence of Gamal Mubarak’s posturing statements in the press.

There were only two cabs outside the train station and one appeared to be driven by a man closely resembling the imam of the Harrisburg mosque. It was not he, for this was an Egyptian, with a long beard and white galabiyya. I rubbed my eyes. Maybe I had not taken my flight back to the U.S.? No, this was possible. I got in the taxi and began a conversation about Egypt and mentioned the various protests. My driver grew agitated, and summer thunder and lightening unleashed along with pouring rain when I began speaking of Gamal Mubarak. “We won’t let that piece of trash succeed!” “Mark my words! You will see – It will all collapse, no-one will stand for him to succeed. Everything in that criminal Hosny Mubarak’s government will change!” In the months leading up to the revolution, this oracle was in the back of my mind. ‘No,” I said to myself, “Egypt’s been close to collapse for so long, and somehow the regime always manages to retain the emergency laws which permit it to repress and manage any uproar.” I was wrong. And I have yet to see that taxi driver again.