Quick Thoughts: Niqabi-only TV channel?

Super quick thoughts on Ahram Online’s article, “New Egyptian TV channel to only feature fully face-veiled women” – feedback welcome!

When I first saw this article this morning, the headline caught my eye. I’ll read it later. I tried to give it the subject of the title the benefit of the doubt, thought maybe it’d be a good platform for educated niqabis to get their voices heard and have a positive impact on others. Then I read…

“The channel will air its programmes through the ultra-conservative Islamic Umma Channel for six hours every day. The majority of the programming will focus on the niqab and married life.”

Niqab and the married life? Pardon my arrogance but aren’t there more pressing issues in Egypt right now, especially concerning women, than discussing “marital infidelity, with the focus on women cheating on their husbands”?

According to this article, the introduction of these news programs featuring only niqabi women is their way of resisting Mubarak’s repressive media system, such as being prohibited from reporting unless for religious networks. But isn’t creating a news program where ONLY niqabi women can work repressive in its own way, to the extent that non-niqabi, though veiled, women will be replaced to fit their standards? Men can’t participate in phone-ins? Is this the way to engage with the rest of society you’re a part of? This is completely aside from the fact that being on public television kind of defeats the purpose of niqab… But it’s not my place to judge.

Thoughts on this?

January 21st: Global day to support the Egyptian revolution

2012 – Nearly one year after the historic 25th of January 2011, the Egyptian flame to Tunisia’s spark, Egyptian revolutionaries vowed to return to the streets with the initial demands of the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak last February.

Events in Egypt inspired uprisings throughout the Arab world and extended globally, making 2011 a milestone in Egyptian history with the events that followed the 18-day ouster of a dictator who ruled for three decades. Demands of bread, freedom and social justice were responded to with military rule, given its authority by Mubarak himself, along with the first elections without the deposed president, which led to an expected Islamist-dominated parliament.

The corruption and injustice Egyptians continue to live in festers as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces currently governs the country. Once again, people of all backgrounds, from many cities worldwide, are standing together to remind those still watching that the revolution continues.

After weeks of preparation and mobilization, Egyptians and Egyptian solidarity groups joined in Times Square, New York City on the 21st of January after waking up to a turbulent snowstorm. Following New York City, organized groups from Chicago to Sydney, Vancouver to Paris joined in harmony to cheer on their Egyptian friends and family back at home. The one-year anniversary of the revolution, which also served as its revival, was just days away, and in a global day of support, messages of solidarity echoed from different time zones to Tahrir. “My parents immigrated here out of lack of economic opportunity, religious persecution and political repression,” said Kyrollos Wanees, 22, Coptic Egyptian activist from New York City.

“We never had the psychological baggage that our parents acquired seeing firsthand the low point Egypt had reached under Mubarak. So we always had potential to feel great solidarity with Egypt and be deeply involved in its progress.” Kyrollos, a Dartmouth College graduate, continued, “The revolution revived the Egyptian in every Egyptian that had left the homeland or was born elsewhere, and I felt the need to make sure Egyptians back home knew that while abroad, we had never forgotten them, were proud of them and ready to support them.”

New York City’s bitter cold, wet weather was no match for the will of both Egyptian and non-Egyptian activists commuting in from all parts of New York and New Jersey, of whom about 500 participated. The event was a commemoration of the 928+ martyrs of the revolution, killed both under Mubarak’s rule as well as the SCAF’s. Two young students, Nada Elmansy and Micha Balon honored Egypt’s martyrs with a 34-foot handwritten banner of their names in Arabic, which was presented to participants of January 21st as well as Saturday passersby. “My good friend Ramy Elsharqawy was killed a few weeks ago by the Egyptian army,” explained Micha, 19 year-old activist and CUNY BA student. “I think it’s significant to display the banner in New York because people, myself included, often romanticize the revolution. We glamorize it. We forget the price that was paid – in human lives – to get closer to achieving freedom and justice… I can only hope that the sheer size of the banner serves as a wake-up call.”

English and Arabic chants caught the attention of New Yorkers and tourists in the city’s landmark under the sting of freezing hail and snow, emphasizing the importance of solidarity in global events. “It’s a powerful message to anti-revolutionary forces – SCAF in particular,” said Micha, who lived in Cairo before and after Mubarak’s ousting. “It’s easy to kill people when no one is looking, but once hundreds are rallying in America, Europe, Australia, and Canada, it’s more difficult to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

In addition to paying respects to Egypt’s martyrs, the global day of support was intended to be encouragement for revolutionaries all over Egypt, scheduled days before the anniversary so not to take away from the events that would unfold. As Egyptian Americans, organizers have demands directed at two governments. Firstly, the SCAF, in respecting its people and their needs, and to hand over power immediately to the newly elected parliament. Solidarity and human rights groups demand the end of over 12,000 military trials for civilians, the torture of detainees and horrid treatment of female protestors, including “virginity tests” such as those carried out in March 2011. Officers and officials responsible for the killing of protesters from January of last year until present day must be held accountable for their crimes, and the families of the martyrs and the injured must be honored morally and financially.

A double-national duty falls upon the shoulders of Egyptian Americans, as the U.S. government funds the Egyptian military with $1.5 billion annually, contributing greatly to the crimes committed against peaceful demonstrators. Egyptian Americans demand that the United States immediately ends its exportations of repressive tools to the army. Tools including tear gas and weapons are used on protesters and detainees, as well as to crack down on freedoms necessary for the revolution to succeed. The days of tyranny and corruption took their course in Egypt and have had devastating effects on the people, both politically and in all other aspects of life. If the American government truly wants to see democracy flourish in this region, it should stand on the side of the people.

It may have taken just 18 days to hear the unbelievable news of Mubarak’s resignation but Egypt’s revolution has just begun, and although the dictator may be gone, the dictatorship remains. While Tahrir Square is unreachable for Egyptians living in the diaspora, Egyptian New Yorkers had Times Square to unite in. The spirit of the revolution lives in the hearts of Egyptians everywhere regardless of physical distance, and for as long as necessary, support will continue, via tweet, talk and text.

Check out my video coverage of January 21st on Bambuser… Apologies for low quality of videos, first time using Bambuser!

I voted. From NY.

After much contemplation and debate between the polarized vote and boycott voices in my head, I decided to let my vote go through. Here’s the view from my brain…

Since last Saturday, in what is being called the second wave of the revolution, peaceful protesters in Egyptian cities including but not exclusive to Cairo have been in clash with riot police, appointed by the ministry of interior, controlled by SCAF. Same demand, targeting the extension of Mubarak’s dictatorship: The people want the fall of the regime, the fall of Field marshal Tantawi.

The Arab world, as it looks on, is witnessing the same tyrannical tactics repeatedly being acted out, patterns so consistent and steps of the dictators blatantly and boringly predictable. This next step for Tantawi was to deny, in the expected tone-deaf manner, the sentiment being made very clear in the streets; the people want the military rule to be replaced by a civilian one.

In response to the 35+ people that have died in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, predominantly due to police attacks on sit-ins and protests in and around Tahrir, some activists reached the decision to boycott parliamentary elections that will begin their first round today in Egypt. The main argument is that these elections, under SCAF’s visibly crumbling fist, are useless and irrelevant to the blood still warm on the streets at the expense of our martyrs. These elections, which are nothing but a dirty political game, will give legitimacy to an outdated council of Mubaraks, whose time has long been up.

Watching apprehensively from New York, along with many others living outside of Egypt, there’s always an overwhelming feeling of helplessness that I can’t seem to describe as anything other than itching of the heart- to be in the street with my brothers and sisters who are ready to die (and dying) for their country. This dreadfully familiar feeling reminiscent of January and February days has yet again pushed me to airline websites in some daydream of negotiating something with my professors to expedite my semester and be on the next plane to Cairo.

With this pain of watching through a screen as people are suffocating under thick clouds of tear gas, losing their eyes while the police officers responsible celebrate their target, brave doctors scrambling to save lives and volunteers coordinating between cities to deliver necessary supplies, Egyptians abroad including myself are constantly looking for ways to help. Any way and every way. And solidarity protests and sending masks and goggles just isn’t enough. Which is where my vote comes in.

Being one of few eligible voters living abroad, I had to take my chances. Many Egyptians I’ve spoken to don’t have national IDs (rakam qawmy), which is a prerequisite to participate in these parliamentary elections. The older generation, my parents included, only have Egyptian passports; the younger, my siblings, not old enough. Which makes me the only person in my house eligible. In the first elections since Mubarak was ousted, (though replaced by a crew of 19 Mubaraks called the military council), am I expected to pass up this rare opportunity of taking part in a decision that will play a role in Egypt’s future? Get real.

A problem often overlooked and forgotten in regards to the reasons older generations of Egyptians left the country traces back to the corruption within the regimes under which they lived and the crackdown on expression they faced, much like we continue to face today. Since they cannot enjoy the right to vote due to expired documentation, its up to my generation to reverse that through our voice. The same voice that started a revolution in January, the same voice that continues it until victory. Regardless of how unfair the elections may be. This is just a first step, SCAF or not.

I went through with the process, found out minimal information about candidates and parties for my district, and filled the forms as instructed on the website. Because the ballots from abroad were collected at Egyptian embassies, there was word that consulates in states without embassies would be available on the weekend to answer questions or direct us if problems were to arise. And they did. The closest embassy to New York is in Washington DC. Making the voting deadline the weekend after Thanksgiving was nearly impossible for many voters in the States, as normal shipping would not suffice. Time was very limited, as were instructions. Some consulates had volunteers around, who would take ballots to the embassies. As for the ones outside of driving range to their nearest embassy, what were they to do? The 350 voters whose votes were invalid once they reached the embassy in DC because they “didn’t follow instructions”… How would these numbers be refilled?

Personally I was very frustrated to find the New York consulate closed on possibly the most important weekend of the year, and that they had been unresponsive to phone calls from the night before. Saturday I found envelopes addressed to the consulate itself in between the revolving doors of the building. These could have been anything, but if they were ballots, they add to the number of lost votes. After finding that these were the grounds of our elections, I debated whether I should boycott. Why would I want any part in elections that seem, overall, like a sham?

There was a march scheduled for the evening against what SCAF has been doing to the people in Tahrir. Protesters marched from the Egyptian Mission to the UN on 44th St and 2nd Avenue, to the consulate. It was a complete coincidence that night, that a friend asked me if I had voted. Explaining to her my story, she responded telling me that a friend of hers was driving from New York to DC to deliver ballots. If it weren’t for Rania’s friend, I would not have been able to vote. The fact that these are the measures many of us had to take in order to vote are completely ridiculous, but on the other hand, what would boycotting actually accomplish?

I respect the good-willed arguments of those boycotting the elections, but a quick word to those declaring voters as politically naive or ignorant about the interests of the candidates they are voting for: Instead of writing off these elections and waiting for them to fall apart, take a role in monitoring them and educating people about the political process you claim to have expertise in. This democracy thing is new to Egypt, and regardless of how twisted and imperfect these elections are, they are happening. Realize that they are taking place, with or without those boycotting.

A boycott holds more significance symbolically, among a minority, than it does realistically. And realistically right now, voting is encouraged, as it resonates with much of the population. We will soon witness the role parliament will play in Egyptian politics after Mubarak, and Tahrir will remain as it is. People have not stopped taking to the streets, why would they stop now? Parliamentary elections are but a small step in the necessary road we must take out of SCAF’s grip. Regardless of who wins.

Reading tweets from different stations this morning before polls opened, there already have been campaigning violations on part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party. Fliers are being handed out to voters to gain numbers, MB breaking the reported rule of no campaigning within 48 hours of operating polls.

With many liberals boycotting the elections, that many are contributing to MB’s win. By the same token they are isolating themselves from the reality that is the Egyptian general public away from Tahrir, as well as waiving their right to complain about the outcome.

As an Egyptian who wants civilian rule, unconcerned with religious or military interests, I feel it is my duty to participate in this first parliamentary election. In a year of information overload and events that seem to turn every few minutes, I cast my ballot with the martyrs and injured in mind, and only time and continued action will tell of the change these elections will yield.

Egyptian elections & Tahrir

Quick take on Egyptian elections given that tomorrow, November 26 is the deadline: I hate the fact that politics & elections go on while we’ve lost lives in Tahrir over the past week. And I support Tahrir with all my heart. But the elections are happening, with or without you. Under SCAF. With all the chaos. So you have the choice to boycott, and not be represented in parliament, or to vote. The choice is yours of course but I can’t stress enough that they are continuing, as scheduled, uninterrupted, with or without our approval. So please do vote. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, but get your voice out there. So no one can blame you later for not participating. Participate in these first elections, this first hope of democracy, even if under corrupt shit SCAF. What’s happening in Tahrir is important, and should continue. And the blood of the martyrs will not be lost, as long as we have people as beautiful as we do. And we always will, and the inhuman will be brought to justice. I live in New York and it’s very easy for me to talk from across an ocean, but I’m going to vote tomorrow for my district for the first time ever. This doesn’t change the fact that my heart is in Tahrir. God bless you all and may the revolution continue.

Apologies for the basic, rushed post. Will update after voting.

Nov 21 – How to help Tahrir without being physically present

The following is a rough translation of this blog post. I’m in New York, and doing what I can. My Arabic is not perfect, so feel free to correct me as you see fit. You don’t have to be physically present in Tahrir Square to contribute. Here are some ways you can help:

1 – Volunteers

We need medical volunteers  present in the makeshift hospitals, in Omar Makram mosque and in Qasr El Dobara church behind the compound. Both are near Central Security. The hospitals don’t have enough senior medics, we need doctors in Tahrir square itself with first aid urgency. We need a lot of volunteers because the amount of injuries and deaths are growing and the doctors on site are exhausted. Emphasis on surgeons, (orthopedic) & ophthalmologists (eye doctors).

We need volunteer lawyers. We need them at Zeinhom morgue to deal with the families of the martyrs and make sure to take necessary measures to prove the injuries that led to their death; or to be available for representation at Qasr El Nile. Lawyers are needed at Abdeen Court to stand with detained protesters who are now being charged with injuring and killing their fellow protesters! To coordinate a protester’s defense call 01220624003 or go to Mubarak Law Center, 1 El Tawfiqeya St, 5th floor, Downtown Cairo.

Volunteers needed at Zeinhom morgue to stand with martyrs’ families and give them moral support, to see that no fabrications are made by morgue employees and wounds are exposed and not concealed.

2 – Blood donations

Go/donate to the Qasr el Eini hospital at the blood center.

3 – Donations & needs of field hospitals and the martyrs:

-Dry food (cookies, crackers, etc.), dates, bananas, milk, juices, water, sweets, jam, bread, easily opened canned foods.

-Masks and (rubber, plastic) goggles to sustain tear gas, found at industrial security stores at the Ahmed Orabi metro stop, El Gomhoreyya St, sold for 13 LE each.

-Coffins for Zeinhom morgue. They may be bought at George Aziz St at the end of Ter’at Alboulaqeyya Shobra.

-Masks, breathing inhalers, Hydro Sword (relieves symptoms of tear gas), salt solution. Voltarin (Diclofenac eye solution), sanitizer gels, eyedrops, ointments for burns.

-Blankets and covers.

-Follow the needs of the field hospitals on #TahrirNeeds hashtag on Twitter, which go to different assembly points in Cairo.

Maadi: Ahmed Azzab: 01007779965.

Zamalek: 01223293958

The rest of the places are listed here.

*In progress*

Freedom for Alaa and the Egyptian revolution

I’m a blogger in solidarity with revolutionary activist and fellow blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah and the 13,000+ prisoners in military prison detained since the revolution.

Alaa was detained over charges of inciting violence at the Maspero massacre in early October, and has refused to be interrogated by military prosecutors in protest of military trial for civilians, resulting in a 15-day detention while being investigated.

Alaa comes from a family of activists, who have been greatly progressive forces in Egypt’s revolution. His wife Manal Hassan is pregnant with their first child due any day now, who they’re naming Khaled after Khaled Said. Alaa’s imprisonment will most likely keep him from attending his son’s birth.

The detention of Alaa as well as thousands of other civilians to face military court is the current ruling military regime’s desperate struggle for power as the anti-SCAF sentiment grows in Egypt. Rather than holding officers and political figures accountable for killing protestors on and before the revolution, they are rampantly active in a campaign to clamp down on free speech and expression as well as dissent. This is not the kind of freedom the great January revolution demanded, nor is it the path to democracy as promised by the military council. Thousands of protestors marched on the streets of Egypt today, demanding freedom for Alaa and all civilians in military prison. #FreeAlaa hashtag on Twitter trended globally yesterday, and continues to overflow in tweets supporting the activist.

SCAF’s incitement of this general justified hate will only continue to delegitimize their rule in this not-very-transitional phase in Egypt and ignite (more) enraged dissent against the Mubarak-identical dictatorship. The revolution has yet to fulfill its demands, and Egyptians at home as well as abroad have been steadfast in the fight towards long-awaited justice and freedom.

#OWS

If you’ve been keeping up with my Twitter updates, you’ll sense that my opinion towards the movement has changed for the better. Will post soon.