Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim on CNN speaking about Egypt fate after Mubarak

April 28, 2010 Wednesday

And we're also joined by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian intellectual who spent three years in prison on charges of defaming the Egyptian state. He was later acquitted, but he's now living in the United States teaching at Drew University.

Tell me, Mr. Ibrahim, what you make of the current situation in Egypt. What are Mr. ElBaradei's chances of actually running for the presidency in a way that makes sense?

SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, he has a good chance. After all, the whole world has changed in the last 30 years drastically in ways that 40 years ago nobody would anticipated, that Eastern Europe, even the mighty Soviet Union will fall.

So everything is possible nowadays. And, therefore, I say Mr. ElBaradei, in the little time since he announced his intention to go back to Egypt and to engage in a political campaign for reform, has shown that it is possible. And I'm confident that if he persists, if he gets an organization going, if he leads by example--

AMANPOUR: Can he get an organization going?

IBRAHIM: Sure he can. There are a lot of volunteers. He spoke very well earlier this program. And I believe that he could, and there are hundreds of thousands of people.

The problem is, he is a challenger. And we heard from an apologist for the regime, Mr. Ahmed Ezz. The problem with regime is that it has (inaudible) for any competitor so much that it will take nearly a miracle to change. But miracles do happen in the Middle East. After all, that is a region where all the miracles took place.

AMANPOUR: As you know, in the last round, there was a movement, the Kefaya movement, "Enough." Now the leading candidate, the head of that movement, was basically roughed up. He was charged on what many call trumped-up charges of fraud. And he was put into prison.

Is that something that is still a worry? Does that have a chilling effect? Will that happen again to a challenger?

IBRAHIM: Well, you're talking to an example here. Mr. Ezz can talk the talk, but unfortunately, the regime does not walk the walk. Here I am, an intellectual, 70 years old or above, who could not guarantee his freedom when he expresses himself, never used violence, never called for violence, and yet the regime had, as you indicated, had put me behind bars in three trials, and now I have about seven cases pending against me in Egypt today, and that's why I'm in exile right now.

AMANPOUR: So what exactly do you think is going to happen in the next round of presidential elections a year from now? Will Mr. Mubarak run? Or will his son be the successor?

IBRAHIM: I think one or the other. Most likely he will be the one, because the son does not seem to have fired the imagination. The son does not seem to have created the kind of appeal that would be necessary for a sustainable and serious campaign.

Mr. ElBaradei will have a good chance. And I think millions of Egyptians are willing to rally behind him. And if external powers could also demand that election, next election be free and fair and transparent, under international supervision, I think we have a very good chance of changing Egypt--


IBRAHIM: -- and the Arab world.

AMANPOUR: On that note, right now we're going to continue talking with Mr. Ibrahim at So open your laptop, and let's keep the conversation rolling there.
That's it for our program on television right now. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you online in a few seconds.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Meeting Al Pacino

Tomorrow (April 18, 7pm ET) on CBS' 60 Minutes Al Pacino will speak about his new role as  Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I cannot wait to see the interview and the movie. Al Pacino is my first teen love and my hero of all times. For him, I fell in love with the cinema world and I am still overwhelmed. Al will play Shylock in Shakespeare in the Park season for this year. I am not sure if I am going to be in New York by then. As I always say, God has given me every thing I ever wanted including the impossible wishes. I am looking forward to the day when my dream to meet the legend Al Pacino in person comes true :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Egypt’s civil movement under security force’s cruelty!

The historical presidential election aftermath in Iran, last year, which marked a nationwide protest against the theological regime of Islamist clerics was an inspiration to the young nonviolent activists all over the Middle East and the world. Egyptian young people are currently using the same Internet technology tools, used previously by Iranian activists, to spread the word about the fast and furious developments happening inside Egypt in this critical phase of democratic change and civil resistance. Apparently, the Iranian regime’s excessive use of violence against protesters inspired the Egyptian oppressors, too.

Egypt is heading into a very critical phase of its modern history. By the end of this year, we will have parliamentary elections, which should pave the way to the presidential elections that will happen next year. In other words, the members who will control the new parliament will play a key role in deciding whether the 29-year-old regime of Mubarak, 81, would continue – either through reelecting Mubarak or his son Gamal – or new blood will be poured into Egyptian political veins by electing a new president from among opposition.

In less than two weeks, Egyptian people from different backgrounds (Islamists, Liberals, Nasserists, students, women, and labors) joined demonstrations and rallies in downtown Cairo and at university campuses in different governorates to call for the change of the constitution, the end of Emergency Law, and more political freedoms. It all started with the April 6 demonstrations in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, last week, which was then followed by smaller gatherings in university campuses in different governorates all over Egypt and ended with a ground-breaking demonstration Tuesday outside the Supreme House of Judiciary, downtown Cairo.

The most notable remark of those civil activities was the excessive use of violence and cruel reaction of security forces. Thanks to the continuous pressure, the Egyptian civil movement has already won a space for free protesting during the past few years. However, it seems that the security forces are trying to take this space back out of fear of encouraging ordinary citizens to speak out in a way that may threaten the safety of the current regime.

In the April 6 demonstrations, a lot of violations were reported. More than 90 young people were arrested. Tens were severely beaten and assaulted by plainclothes security agents. They even hired policewomen to beat female protesters and arrest them. Young activists were severely assaulted and ran home with broken arms and bloody wounds. The young protesters were shocked by the exaggerated violent reaction of security forces to their nonviolent protest.

A couple of days later, in Menoufia University, a group of students who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood group tried to hold their annual celebration, which includes songs and stand-up comedy and calls for ending the use of the Emergency Law. The reaction of the security forces and the university administration was horrible. They prevented the students from holding the celebration by beating them with wooden sticks and iron electric batons inside the university campus. Policemen in uniform aided by soldiers in plainclothes stormed the university and attacked the young, helpless, students in a clear violation of the sanctity of the university campus and their civil rights as citizens and students.

On Tuesday, in the demonstration led by the liberals and Nasserist opposition leaders, the cruelty of the security forces turned the people mad and pushed them to reply with violence. Reportedly, people tried more than once to break the iron barriers, which security forces used to cordon the protesters into a very tiny space outside the Supreme House of Judiciary. Two activists were beaten unconscious before people respond back by beating soldiers and pulling off their helmets.

A few got arrested and then released. The purpose of Tuesday’s gathering, which according to eyewitnesses “turned into a massacre,” was to file a claim to the Public Prosecutor asking him to investigate the security force’s violent response to peaceful activists in the April 6 demonstration.

Add to this the unjustified blocking of Egyptian opposition websites in some Arab countries and the deportation of Egyptians working in Arab countries because of their political beliefs, which are critical of the current regime.

The international community did not move a muscle in response. It seems that the angry response of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the US State Department’s statement of being “concerned” about the crackdown on civil activists scared them away. Why do not they use their good relationship with their friend and ally Mubarak to pressure him to interfere to end suppressing activists and support democracy? Are they waiting for until we become another Iran: activists shot dead and dissidents executed.

I still remember Obama’s inspiring words from his famous Cairo Speech about the US supporting human rights activists against dictatorships. Right now, from the middle of the chaos, I am not sure if they were only blatant words of an eloquent speaker or a true conviction of a pro-democracy activist.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Random thoughts on Kefaya protests yesterday

This video offers a sophisticated comment on the Kefaya demonstrations yesterday. It shows how security forces were violent (again) against protesters. It also shows how protesters reacted with violence too. They tried to beat officers and soldiers back! It is the first time for Egyptian citizens to break their fear of police uniform and attack their attackers!

Surprisingly, the security officers did not care at all for the journalists and cameras that were shooting every thing. They usually prevent journalists from shooting police violence or at least take their footage before they leave! This does not happen this time. But still there were a general sense that media was instructed somehow not to show any thing about the demonstrations to their audience.

The independent 90 Minutes show of the independent Mehwar TV which was present at the demonstrations according to eyewitnesses, made a 30 seconds report about the event! The hostess did not comment at all. This is unusual! On another TV station (Orbit) the famous hostess of Elqahera Alyoum show blamed the protesters and highlighted police officers as victims!

This was very disappointing not only for the activists who were beaten and assaulted at the demonstrations but also for the Egyptian public who had to go to blogs, and international news stations and newspapers to learn the truth.

Wait for my analysis on the potential reasons behind the excessive use of violence by security forces against civil rights protesters and the expected reactions.

To watch the opposite camera angel of the video above (with more shocking details) CLICK HERE.

For more photos from yesterday protests: visit Bikya Masr photo essay section or Youm7 article.

For minute by minute updates, follow me on Twitter: (@daliaziada)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Egyptian internal affairs between American intervention and Kuwaiti suppression

Apparently, April 6 momentum is not over yet. The young activists who were physically assaulted during 6 April anniversary demonstrations couple of days ago, went to the Public Prosecutor’s office this morning to file a claim against the security men who violently harassed them. As shown in the video above, security forces surrounded activists and accordingly they started shouting “down with Mubarak,” “Freedom… Freedom!”

This afternoon, the 20 Egyptian members of Elbaradei campaign and their families returned back to Cairo. They were arrested and deported by Kuwaiti authorities after they rallied the day before to show solidarity to their fellow protestors inside Egypt. The deported Egyptians lost their jobs for their political stance. It is totally a strange situation from Kuwait, especially that Palestinians and Lebanese natives living in Kuwait protested in larger number for “non-Kuwaiti” causes before. But the Kuwaiti security forces never stopped them. Egyptian dissidents have big doubts that there is some kind of hidden consent or coordination between Egypt and other Arab regimes to suppress any street action (i.e. protest, demonstration, rally, etc.) against the Egyptian regime.

Yesterday, Washington Post editorial discussed the horrible violent intervention of security forces against young 6 April protesters in Egypt. The article referred to the letter released and signed by bipartisan "working group on Egypt" to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which proposes ideas for the urgent intervention of the American administration to support pro-democracy activists in Egypt against their powerful authoritarian regime.

Ironically, Egyptian state-owned media and semi-official newspapers and popular TV shows criticized the potential US intervention into Egypt’s internal affairs. It was clear that the Washington Post editorial turned them mad. Some of them accused the young Egyptian blogger of being not loyal to their homeland by transferring the news on internal problems to the international audience.

Ambassador Hosam Zaki, the spokesman of Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the US State Department statement on April 6 attacks on nonviolent protesters is “misinformed intervention into Egypt’s internal affairs.” He said that the statement did not portray the real image which included the release of arrested protesters. Zaki also asserted that the statement “did not mention the acts of violence which requested the security forces to intervene in this way!” I think this is over-exaggerating response. The protesters did not commit any act of violence of any kind. They were rallying peacefully. Video footages and photos taken from the demonstrations can prove this.

The urgent question now is: how would the Ministry of Foreign Affairs react to the deportation of Egyptians by Kuwaiti authorities for merely showing solidarity to their fellows inside Egypt? Will the Ministry’s spokesman release a similar statement about the Kuwaiti intervention in Egyptian matters? Will the returning Egyptians face some indirect repression or harassment as a punishment to their courageous stand in Kuwait?

We will see!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

April 6 demonstration exposes the weak-points of Egyptian opposition elite

Protests have become a daily scene in the Egyptian street that they do not make international news headlines anymore. The demonstration launched by young activists in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, on Tuesday, to celebrate the second anniversary of the 6 April Strike was going to be “just” another nonviolent protest, if it was not for the brutal interference of security forces.

The demonstration, which marked the most violent clashes since 2005, was calling for the change of certain articles in the Egyptian constitution to give equal opportunities to candidates of the presidential elections due in 2011. Journalists and activists were physically assaulted and more than 70 persons were arrested and shipped on large police trucks to detention centers miles away from the demonstration’s scene.

The top notch of today’s clashes between nonviolent protesters and security forces was the historical appearance of plain-clothes policewomen. They were ordered to beat women activists and assault them physically. Ironically, the policewomen, though obeying orders, sympathized with the young protesters they assaulted. According to Asmaa Mahfouz, a member of 6 April Youth movement, “a police woman kept pushing me to run while she was beating me, urging me that she is forced to do so!”

Tuesday’s demonstrations’ call for changing the constitution was inspired by the calls of ElBaradei’s National Association for Change (NAC). Since his return to Cairo in February, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former IAEA director, was pushed by some intellectual elite to run for the presidential seat in the 2011 elections. The current constitution does not allow him to run. Thus, he started a new movement calling for changing the constitution. He has appeared in the international media on daily basis and a lot of young people followed him and labeled him as “their long-awaited hope.” Yet, ElBaradei never showed today among those who were calling for the same cause he is fighting for. Even worse, the elite members of his infant association never participated.

Hamdy Kandil, NAC’s spokesperson explained yesterday why the association cannot participate by saying: “We cannot call the members of association who belong to different political affiliations to participate in the rally in order not to disband them.”

I do not understand what exactly would “disband” the respected members if they participated in a demonstration that calls for the same cause they formed their association for; i.e. constitutional change! The whole day, neither ElBaradei nor his elite supporters stated a word in favor of the protesters. They kept silent in a very disappointing way. ElBaradei and his elite friends’ appearance should have rescued the young activists who were beaten furiously today. If they were in the demonstration scene, the security forces were not going to take any brutal action against protesters out of respect to the international community.

Ayman Nour, a rival presidential candidate, was the only political elite who had the courage to participate in protests today. Nour and his supporters from the al-Ghad party clashed with security men who tried to prevent them from moving towards the demonstration in Tahrir squar. Nour’s son was beaten and arrested by security forces for about one hour.

Though suppressed, today’s April 6 protests demonstrated the regime’s apprehension, opposition elite’s shameful lethargy, and young activists’ dedication and love of their homeland.

This article was written during the protests yesterday. For minute by minute updates, follow me on Twitter (@daliaziada)

This morning (Wednesday, April 7, 2010) UPDATES:

- Elbaradei asserted his rejection and condemnation to the attacks on April 6 protesters. He also asserted that security forces do not have the right to treat protestors like this. Elbaradei, then, mentioned that he will announce a formal stance later! Kandil made similar statements too. For me, this was expected from Elbaradei and other elite members to wait in their air-conditioned offices and then show up after the demonstration ends and the risk disappears to “condemn” and “reject.”

- The number of detainees reached up to 92 persons by the end of yesterday. Then, they were taken to temporary detention centers all over Cairo. This morning, they were released under the guarantee of having the addresses of their residences.

This morning (Wednesday, April 7, 2010) UPDATES:

In another shameful reaction by a prestigious member of the opposition elite, Abdul Rahman Yusuf, the General Coordinator of Elbaradei Presidential Campaign issued a press release today to condemn the regime (like his boss above) for using violence with young demonstrators.

But that is not all! The majority text of his press release is condemning the young people who started the demonstration yesterday. “I call upon young political activists to reconsider what happened and to show responsibility!” According to him, being young people going to streets to express their opinions is an "irrational" and "reckless" move that "they should not have done!" He describes April 6 demonstrations yesterday (which calls for Elbaradei’s campaign cause of changing the constitution as “a satirical misery” that he tried to prevent!

It is obvious that Yusuf wants to show the regime – out of fear of course – that neither he nor Elbaradei supports yesterday’s demonstrations.

Long live Egyptian youth; Shame on Egyptian opposition elite!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Suppressing April 6 Demonstration in Egypt

Today was the second anniversary of April 6 Strikes. Tens of activists were arrested downtown Cairo. Woman activists were beaten by policewomen for the first time in the modern history of Egyptian activism. However, the prominent figures of the Egyptian opposition elite were absent!

I will publish my full analysis on today's demonstration in few hours... Meanwhile, watch this great video coverage from Daily News Egypt. And, follow me on Twitter (@daliaziada) for minute by minute updates.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Young Egyptian publisher arrested!

On the background of publishing a book about Elbaradei, the young publisher Ahmed Mehanna was arrested by Security Forces this morning after searching his house for copies of the book.

Around 5:00pm today, Mehanna’s colleagues told the Facebook community – who are following the case curiously since early morning – that he was taken in a police truck to El-Ameriya Police Station. According to Youm7 website, Ahmed’s father tried to see him, but the police officers stopped him and said that “Ahmed will stay with us for more two days for some procedures.”

According to his colleagues at Dar Dawin Publishing House, “Mehanna was arrested this dawn [Saturday April 3, 2010] on the background of publishing a new book about the possibility of transforming the political momentum created by Elbaradei into a green revolution.” The book has been distributed to public bookstores all over Egypt since last week.

“Police officers have no official papers indicating that he is arrested!” Mehanna’s lawyers asserted. “Mehanna’s arrival to El-Ameriya Police Stations increases the possibilities that he may be deported later to State Security Prosecutor’s Office.”

Mohamed Elbaradei is the former director of IAEA and a Nobel laureate. Since his return to Cairo in mid-February after ending his term at IAEA, Elbaradei was pushed by supporters from among intellectuals, Kefaya Movement and April 6 Youth Movement to run for the coming presidential elections due in 2011. Although Elbaradei is not eligible for running to the highest position in the State, according to the current constitution, his supporters believe that he can change the constitution and then run for the 2011 elections. Last month, Elbaradei established “The National Association for Change” among hopes and suspicions of its ability to make real change.

The “green revolution” mentioned on the book cover, apparently, refers to the “green movement" launched by Iranian dissidents in June 2009 to protest the results of the allegedly forged results of the presidential elections which brought the Islamic conservative regime into power again.

Dar Dawin is a young and promising publishing house that started few years ago with the purpose of giving talented young writers the opportunity to have their works published without waiting on the long list of the giant publishers who monopolized the publishing business in Egypt for tens of years.

Arresting Mehanna for publishing a book, whatever its content is, is absolutely unacceptable. Egyptian publishers, bloggers, human rights activists and freedom of speech advocates are supporting Mehanna. Each of them is working through his/her own channels to pressure for his release as soon as possible.

Please, stop violating our right to free speech!

Update (afternoon - SundayApril 4, 2010): According to his lawyers, Ahmed Mehanna is charged with disturbing the public order and inciting people, while some police officers said that they found suspicious materials related to banned religious groups on his personal computer. These charges are very common in Egypt. Almost all freedom of expression victims from bloggers, civil activists, journalists, and now publishers have been charged with them before. This morning, Ahmed's supporters launched a rally to the High Judicial House to protest his detention. Again, I would like to say: Publishing a book is not a crime!

Update (evening - Sunday April 4, 2010): According Youm7 website, Elbaradei protested Ahmed Mehanna's arrest by publishing the following line on his Twitter account: "Arresting the publisher who released a book about me and my thoughts implify that the regime is scared of its own shadow!"


Update (7:00pm - Sunday April 4, 2010): Ahmed Mehanna RELEASED. He is home now. Congratulations :)