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Egypt’s ruling military council cracks down on freedoms

From the left: Reem Maged-Hossam Al Hamalawy- Nabil Sharaf El Din

Today Hossam Al Hamalawy, Reem Maged and Nabil Sharaf El Din were summoned for interrogation at military prosecution ‘C28’ for exposing the military violations and expressing their opinions about SCAF performance in the transitional period.

Hossam Al Hamalawy was a guest speaker in Reem Maged’s TV show “Baladna Bel Masry on the independent TV Channel ON TV. He condemned military trials of civilians and the military police violations that has been going on. That was on the eve of May 27th planned protests. Reem discussed the topic openly and brought more than a point of view, yet this wasn’t enough apparently for SCAF. [Here is exact text of the dialog that is assumed to be the reason they were summoned]

On May27th, Nabil sharaf El Din also expressed his opinion live on ON TV in a different program about SCAF’s role in transition, and questioned the relationship between SCAF and Muslim Brotherhood, since the crack down on activists doesn’t actually include them.

It also should be mentioned that Mamdouh Shahine, a member in SCAF, called ON TV during their coverage of May 27th protests in Tahrir, [in the exact same episode that had Nabil Sharaf Eldin as a guest] objecting on using the word “mass” in describing the protests. He asked them to change it because he thought that they weren’t really “mass” protests and that they should “put the security of the country” in their consideration! The description was really changed after his call and it was written “protests” only at the bottom of the screen.

Nothing at all should surprise us in Egypt now, only four months since the revolution erupted.  After Egypt has been officially declared a military dictatorship in the constitutional declaration, we are experiencing every single aspect of it: MILITARY RULE.

Oppression continues, arrest of activists and journalists continues. 5 Activists were arrested for distributing flyers calling for the May 27th protests, then were released after the huge pressure put on SCAF. Nevertheless, thousands of civilians are still in military prisons.

This is not all. Live streaming was cut off a revolutionary expressing his opinions about military rule in one of the ” National debate” sessions.

A presenter in a government-owned TV channel was called to end his interview with Bothaina Kamel, activist and possible presidential candidate, for exposing SCAF violations. She was also summoned for interrogation at military prosecution.

Three journalists in Al Shourouk daily newspaper were also summoned and interrogated for publishing news about Mubarak planning to ask for amnesty from the Egyptian people in order to escape trial. The news the we all already knew about from different sources, the thing that many described as a ‘trail balloon’ to test public reaction which was actually extremely furious.

The serious thing about it is that the three journalists where asked to sign a pledge obligating themselves not to publish any news about ‘the army’ before getting back to SCAF, in order to ” forbid the confusion of the public opinion”.  Which basically means SCAF would control what news are published at all. What exactly the kind of news these days that don’t involves the army? Isn’t it the ruling entity?

Summoned journalists should refuse signing any pledges and continue even more to expose military violations. Oppression should stop NOW. This is NOT how it is supposed to be after a glorious revolution!! The military council should know very well that the era of silence has long gone. Egyptians won’t be enslaved again. A call for a protest has been already issued in solidarity with the three journalists.

Also, Yousri Fouda, journalist and a presenter at ON TV, wrote an amazing article, entitled ” No, Mr. General” with a strong tone criticizing Shahine for interfering in the media coverage of the channel.

All support and solidarity with freedom fighters and with all civilians imprisoned in military prisons. DOWN WITH MILITARY DICTATORSHIP!

Update: May 31

Reem Maged was notified before what was expected to be an interrogation that she will only be a witness, while Hossam Al Hamlawy and Nabil Sharaf didn’t receive the same notification.

On May31 morning, lawyers came out to protesters in solidarity with the summoned  journalists to say that it was an “informal chat”, and that there was no interrogation taking place!

The three weren’t offered any pledges to sign, and actually Hossam and Reem stated that if they were offered any, they wouldn’t have signed them. For more info about what had happened inside c28 that morning, please check Hossam’s tweets @3arabawy:

From what I understood Reem was coming in today as a “witness” while I was to be “questioned” about the accusations against Military Police.

And it was clear the generals were worried about the increasing public pressure on them

And I’m sure today’s protest, as well as the public campaign, are the only reasons I’m out today.

The visit to the military prosecutor became later a “chat” where they wanted “clarifications” for my accusations against General Badeen.

I had several human rights lawyers with me, including Rajia Omaran and Ahmad Ragheb, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, Haitham Mohammadein, Tarek, Rami,..

And they were of great support. And I wanna thank those lawyers again

We made it clear to military prosecutors that already complaints were submitted b4 to public and military prosecutor, but nothing happened

And we also highlighted quickly some of the cases of the military crackdowns on protests, and the “thuggery” accusations

The day ended with the officers promising to look into those cases as well as whatever we’ll b presenting them in the coming days

And again, I’d like to stress that those cases we will b reporting have already been reported before, but no action was taken.

But in all cases, we’ll compile a file of the torture accusations and we’ll be handing it in the coming days.

But to make sure those cases are looked into, I strongly believe those cases should be highlighted by the media.

The army doesn’t respond that quickly as you all know, except with public pressure.

We were treated with respect inside. But Reem made it clear that just by summoning journalists it’s considered an act of intimidation.

Here is a link to posts tagged with army torture on Hossam’s blog: Arabawy.  It is very important to spread the word about army violations. I am personally gald we have such corageous activists who won’t accept any pressure to take back their words or let go their principles.

End torture in Egyptian prisons! End military trials of civilians!

DOWN WITH MILITARY DICTATORSHIP!

Egypt: The New Born Military Dictatorship

Screen Shot of the Military Dictatorship page on Wikipedia
Screen Shot of the Military Dictatorship page on Wikipedia

ِAnd so we are now a military dictatorship, says wikipedia. Day after day, I was feeling that we are already a military dictatorship. I googled the term in order to get more insight. I was hoping I was wrong.  I scrolled down the wikipedia page to stop in surprise! Egypt was listed as one of only three military dictatorships in the world, along with North Korea and Fiji. Sadly, it says ” since the Egyptian Revolution, 2011″.

I paused there in shock. This is not happening. Wikipedia is not ‘ The Perfect Source’, it is not an academic encyclopedia, yet they just stated the truth.

What happened after Mubarak stepped down?

The Supreme Council for Armed Forces SCAF took over, and promised in their statements that they will protect the revolutionary legitimacy.

Then there was a referendum for people to decide whether they still want to have the 1971 constitution after amending few articles in it [from which Egyptians suffered for the past 40 years for giving a dictator authorities to the president, among other things], OR to have a constitutional declaration which stipulates basic rights in the transitional period until the new constitution is drafted. The whole thing was fishy. Why in the world would people be questioned whether they want a failed constitution to be in place? Revolutions make constitutions fall! Especially dictators constitutions!

After the implicit support of SCAF, and direct support of Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists to vote YES, including using religious discourses, people actually voted yes. only 4 millions out of 18 millions voted NO. Why? Because people felt this is best for the ‘stability’ of the country as SCAF was advocating.

Surprisingly, SCAF afterwards discovered the huge constitutional stupidity, because the 1971 constitution doesn’t allow SCAF to be on top of power. So what did they do? They simply issued a wholly new constitutional declaration, which basically transfers the dictator powers that were given to the president in the 1971 constitution, to SCAF. So HOORAY! We have a new dictator! Article 56 of the Constit. Declaration highlights SCAF’s authorities- [my translation below]

Article 56: The Supreme Council of the armed forces manage the affairs of the country, and in order to do that assume the following powers:

1 Legislation.
2 Adoption of the policy of the state and the public budget and monitor its implementation.
3 Appointment of the appointed members in the People’s Assembly.
4 Calling upon the People’s Assembly and Shura Council to hold their regular sessions, and calling for an extraordinary session and calling for their suspension.
5 Right to promulgate laws or object to them.
6 representing the State domestically and abroad, and the ratification of international treaties and conventions, and they are considered part of the legal system in the country.
7 Appointment of the Prime Minister and his deputies, ministers and their deputies and relieving them from their posts.
8 Appointment of civil servants and military and political representatives and removing them from their posts in the manner prescribed in the law, and the approving the representatives of foreign states.
9 To pardon or commute a sentence, but amnesty shall not be granted except by law.
10 Other powers and functions of the President of the Republic as prescribed under laws and regulations.

The Council may delegate its Chairman or one of its members in any of the terms of reference.

Who was consulted when drafting the 62 articles  constitutional declaration and SCAF authorities? Definitely NOT the Egyptian people.

If the army really wanted to protect the revolutionary legitimacy, they would have worked very hard from day one to transfer authority to an elected civil entity. Money spent on that useless referendum could have been invested in democratic direct elections for a presidential council along with a committee drafting the nation’s new constitution.

The crazy rush for SCAF to be in control of the transitional period in Egypt poses a lot of questions about their intention in the near future. A revolution happened in Tunisia as well and it ousted their president, but hey! Wikipedia didn’t include them in the list of the world’s military dictatorships. Guess why? Because although the army interfered to protect the revolution as well in Tunisia, they didn’t seek power afterwards. Very clear I think.

Egypt under Military Rule

What has been happening since then is how normally military dictatorships rule. Nothing new here.

Military trials of civilians

Military trials for civilians since they were first called in to streets by Mubarak on Jan. 28th.  Human Rights groups say the number reached thousands of civilians in military prisons.

Excessive use of force

SCAF exerted all possible efforts to end the protest in Tahrir, using media, mobilizing people against each other and finally: excessive use of force. 26 of February, 6 and 8 of March, 9 and 12 of April  and 15 of May are all dates on which the Egyptian army attacked peaceful protests.  They used live ammunition to clear some of them and beating and electric shocks in all of them. What happened on April 9th in Tahrir square for example will always be stuck to our memories.

Tahrir was refilled with innocents’ blood again, after less than two months since Mubarak stepping down. Using live ammunition didn’t stop since then. We all witnessed what happened on Nakba day: 15 May.

Human rights NGOs were trying their best to document deaths and injuries, but looking for such info was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Apparently orders were given not to release any info regarding deaths. Humble data on injured were released, exactly as what happened on April 9th. Which actually reminds me of the early revolution days, when Government hospitals participated in the conspiracy against revolutionaries and refused to issue them medical reports, or state the right reason for death on death certificates and many other.  It is like history is repeating itself.

Torture and ill-treatment

Torture has been going on and on. The Egyptian museum was used as a military-run torture base actually throughout the Tahrir protest. Revolutionaries were kidnapped from Tahrir and surrounding streets, beaten, harassed and humiliated. Virginity tests were conducted to females!!!! As a victim testified, they were stripped naked while doctors checked them out, leaving the door of the room open, allowing other army officers outside to witness the whole thing, and a male army officer was present inside the room. What kind of sick mentality is this? What kind of laws allow them to invade the privacy of those HUMAN BEINGS like that? Then of course, a total local media blackout on the issue afterwards. Several Human Rights groups issued strong statements, calling for investigations in the matter, then we heard nothing at all about it.

The Egyptian army also invaded Cairo University campus, beat and dispersed using force students who were protesting inside school of Mass Communication against their Pro-Mubarak dean.

What kind of laws allow a state army to attack universities?

Laws?

Well, it is military rule. Laws DON’T have to exist anyway. SCAF invents laws. SCAF issues laws and SCAF can’t be questioned for any of their actions. Questioning SCAF is just not constitutional. Actually some ‘intellectuals” called upon the army to apply Martial Law to even suppress peaceful protests more and more.  Little did they know. Emergency law is actually still functioning. Yes, the revolution didn’t manage to take this one down. Curfew is still there [ 2-5 am]. HELLO! We are under military rule.

Using their ‘constitutional legislative powers’, they issued several laws without consulting anyone. Including the famous anti-protests law (!!!), political parties law, and the law administering political participation. All are issued without consulting the people. National political powers and human rights NGOs are excluded. The latter actually *wasted* tens of years conducting research and publishing scholarship about law and constitution reform and now they are being marginalized.

Phony national debates and neo-intellectualism

Moreover, SCAF folks were very lucky indeed.  A bunch of intellectuals and activists took their side, and voluntarily started advocating for SCAF and its importance to keep stability in Egypt post-Mubarak. One of them actually stated live in a press conference while hitting his fist on the table: THE ARMY IS A REDLINE!! With their own hands they created a new dictator, a god who they started to worship.

Soon SCAF and his weak adherent the so-called “transitional government” led by Sharaf, started to create fora for national debate. Like these amazing National debate sessions taking place these days. Debating what exactly? Nobody knows. Laws governing the transitional period were issued already or are in the making while they are sitting there ‘debating’ in front of TV cameras.  Invitees to those national debate sessions include former NDP members. Isn’t this just lovely? They filled the country with corruption for the past 30 years and incited against the revolution and revolutionaries, then are now invited to reflect on their visions regarding New Egypt.

How democratic we are!

When one of the revolutionaries took the floor, in pne of the sessions and expressed his opinion regarding Mubarak cronies being invited and criticized SCAF’s performance during the transitional period, they cut live streaming off the debate. This is not the first time. the same thing happened with Bothaina Kamel, an activist and a potential presidential candidate when she was talking live On Egyptian TV about SCAF violations. She was later called in for interrogation at Military prosecutor’s.

But HEY. This is not a freaking nightmare. It is just military rule.

Justice

All this is happening while people don’t have the slightest trust in the current Egyptian Justice system to prosecute the former regime, and I don’t only mean the big heads. Policemen also had their share in violations and murder.  Hassan Nafaa actually wrote a very important article about his personal experience in litigating one of the policemen accused of killing protesters during the revolution. We need some kind of transitional justice that can deal with the huge violations committed by Mubarak regime, not only during the revolution, but for the past 30 years.

Until now there is no serious official initiative to compensate martyrs families or treat the injured. Thousands are in serious condition and can’t afford treatment expenses.

I really can’t remember all the violations of SCAF. The problem is that more and more violations happen everyday. Nobody seems to be able to stop it. But hey, it is military rule.

A ‘temporary’ military rule?!

Some activists and politicians are actually avoiding discussing those serious violations of freedoms and human rights, claiming that it is just a temporary period and that everything will end after the parliamentary elections. I am wondering how can they trust the army over the transitional period? How can we guarantee that the transfer of power will be actually transparent and peaceful as they hope/believe?

The new law administering political participation actually didn’t overcome some of the most serious problems in the previous law. One of them is the executive powers of the committee supervising the elections. The supervising committee  didn’t have any executive powers in the previous law, they just had the mandate to supervise the electoral process, including for example supervising “the preparation of  electoral lists.” Those lists [ voters names lists] were a main reason behind elections rigging in previous years, because they were not updated and had dead people names listed [who were actually able to vote!].  Voting now with National ID card is good, but electoral lists are still there and need serious reconstruction with proper supervision.
Who will do that? Other concerns were expressed by political powers who felt totally marginalized.

Sectarian violence

SCAF also has a failed domestic policy to face sectarian violence. [ they deal with it with Customary Reconciliations Sessions between Muslims ‘mostly Salafis’ and Christians!! Yes! in the year 2011, after the Jan 25 revolution, we still resort to customs rather than law. This of course comes with a mysterious disappearance of the law enforcement entity: POLICE from all over Egypt.

BUT HEY AGAIN. It is military rule! What law and order are you talking about?!

Bottom line..

So the democratic process in the transitional period in Egypt is a complete failure. Human rights violations continue, military trials for civilians continue, and then we still find intellectuals and activists who defend SCAF, thinking that there will be an easy transfer of powers. Really?

The Way Out?

Now the only way out as I see it is a second revolution on May 27th. Personally I am calling for a transitional elected civil entity and a directly elected committee to draft the constitution. I need to feel I am standing on common grounds with the entity ruling the country. I am a civilian. Normally civilians ELECT CIVILIANS to represent them. And we, the people of Egypt, made a revolution that took a dictator down. We deserve better than being one of the three military dictatorships in the world. Shame on SCAF and shame on whoever let them think they are above the people.

#NOSCAF

-This post is a response to the call some activists issued to blog exposing SCAF violations in Egypt. You can find hundreds of other posts on this facebook page or on twitter using the hashtag #NoSCAF.

-I personally dedicate this post to the blogger Maikel Nabil who was arrested by the Military Police and was subject to a military court that sentenced him to a three years in prison for publishing a post documenting army violations. He is in jail for expressing his opinion and wasn’t even subject to a fair civil trial. Now after hundreds of Egyptian bloggers blogged exposing SCAF violations, I am wondering how they will get to catch us all. Long Live Free Egypt.

Random thoughts about the revolution I

I secretly think that all Egyptians who participated in the revolution need psychological rehabilitation.

The violence, the unique togetherness, the overwhelming solitude at times of the attacks- sometimes- despite the unity of protesters inside Tahrir , the courage, the cowardness, the expectations, the hopes, the disappointments, the extreme sadness, the extreme happiness, etc.

Even if we feel we are okay, we are deeply affected with what we’ve been through. It is huge. And I don’t mean this in a sarcastic way.

Back to the old feminist debate: Hijab and the Egyptian revolution

After the revolution, we are back again to the old feminists debates. My Friend Fatma Emam and I had an interesting discussion about the participation of women in the revolution, especially in Tahrir. After the discussion we went back to our homes and I couldn’t feel for one second that she was offended with anything I said. Apparently she did and she blogged about it.  I appreciate her devotion for her ideas and the way she expresses herself. The discussion was so interesting,  so I decided to share it here.

Between quotations below is the blog post she wrote. You can read it on her blog: Brownie. I tried to write a quick reply to clarify my position. All comments are welcome, especially, of course, from my dear Friend, Fatma. I forgot to mention- I am the ” young feminist” she is referring to in her post.

In my last post women in the revolution I classified the women in the Jan 25 revolution according to how covered they are, but I thought that the non veiled and the causal veiled and the ultra religious veiled constitute different categories .
However when a fellow young feminist expressed her astonishment about the role of the veiled women in the revolution and that there broke many taboos socially and religiously , I was offended because she had a very orientalist view of feminism, that veil is a constraint on the agency not only the sensuality and sexuality . I was also offended when I was doing an interview with international journalist and she asked me if I was veiled or not because I am an Islamic feminist.
As I felt offended I felt is about time to talk about veil, although it is a very old topic, we can debate whether it is religious obligation or socially and culturally obligated custom.
I can talk on my own experience I was veiled when I was 15 by my own free well, then I was introduced to the literature of the Islamic feminism in my mid twenties and I started believing that the veil is not religious obligation and that belief was strengthened when I meet my mentor Prof Amina Wadud who practice in her life wearing and unwearing the veil according to the situation, so she accept that it was stated in Quran and Sunna but they are not an obligation we will be accountable in front of Allah.i think it is so naive to think that a women is lacking agency only for wearing veil or she is liberated only for un wearing it.
I am still wearing my veil, it might look awkward because I lost the valid justification of wearing it which is the religious and I can fight, if I want to overcome the social obligation but I feel really that I am prevented from doing or being whatever I want and add to this that I knew my womanhood with a veil on my head.
sometimes i hate it , sometimes i feel i am caliming my rights to choose what i want with it , but in everyday i wish i would not be calssified by an inch of clothes

Personally, and no offense intended, I am totally anti-Hijab, but I respect women who CHOOSE to wear it. My argument wasn’t about the legitimacy of Hijab, and I am not being stereotypical about those who are wearing it or having an “orientalist” view of feminism. But I have been involved in social work in Egypt for a long time and it happens that youth and young people were the focus of my work. Hijab comes with certain ideas and constraints formulated mainly by interpretations of Islam and supported by social constraints. In many cases covering your hair means also covering your mind and believing you have limitations to what you are capable of doing as a human being. It has something to do with reinforcing gender roles, not eliminating them. I wish all those who wear Hijab are Islamic feminists who can see Hijab as a separate category, irrelevant to shaping their own personality- and here I mean the social constraints that come with it.

I will tell you about a situation that happened during the January revolution. I went to a Mosque in Tahrir to use the toilet in the festivals room attached to it. I found a long queue of ladies who were wearing Hijab, talking to each others in groups while waiting their turn. I heard a lady then reminding everyone about the “silent march” planned later that day in Tahrir only for women.  She further explained that it is silent because women shouldn’t be talking or shouting ( from an Islamic point of view) and that they will write everything they want to say on banners and signs and carry them along. I stood there in surprise, feeling I shouldn’t interfere, being totally alien to the scene, with my uncovered hair and my tights. I hoped that a lady with a Hijab would interfere, because if I did, I won’t have the same credibility she would have.  This is exactly what happened. Suddenly another lady who is wearing Hijab interfered, she had a less conservative kind of Hijab, and it was very clear she is a working lady. She wondered in surprise why should the march be silent?!  Others were humming sentences like “ because of the men around—our voice is weak”. Then the lady that suggested the silent march replied that we can walk behind any man and chant behind him, not to lead the chants. That is when things became more interesting. The objecting lady said that if any lady volunteered to lead the chants everyone would chant along including men! The first lady was silent and gave the look of having nothing more to say and that she kind of agrees, so did other humming ladies.

I mentioned this situation just to show you that not all Hijab-wearing ladies think as positively as you do or as that objecting lady in the situation does.  Away from the long analytics and debates of Islamic feminism, there is a remarkable category of people who heard nothing about your arguments and who are deeply affected by the mainstream social/religious norms dichotomy.

I think my argument is justified when I said I was surprised, yet proud of all the Hijab-wearing ladies chanting and leading demonstrations and volunteering everywhere in Tahrir.

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