This blog is a personal quest from me to anyone out there who is interested in making Egypt a more efficient and human-friendly country, given our January 25th revolution which is paving the way for our transition to a true democracy.....I believe in Laws that are just, taking into account the plight of citizens who cannot speak for themselves out of poverty, illiteracy, or lack of a medium to get their voices heard.
Being an Egyptian with a western education, has given me the chance of seeing life from both prisms. It is a privilege and yet a burden to explain two sides of a story all the time!! But, I am sure such is the plight of many people in this world who have a foot in both the oriental and the western culture.
My blog is designed to shed light on the myriad of issues that Egypt's economy, culture, and people will have to go through as they transition to democracy, as well as the plight of many Egyptians who cannot get their voices out to the media. I want to try to put my knowledge to use whereby this blog could speak out on behalf of the underprivileged as well as minority groups in Egypt.
My utmost objective is that this blog actively takes part in Egypt's post-revolution transition (and beyond) whereby readers all over the world gain insight into the real lives of Egyptians; be they poor, middle class, or elite Egyptians. Egyptians are all in this ship together and it is up to us to steer it in the right direction, battling the high waves and dire straits that we will surely face on our route to democracy....
I envision a democracy where every citizen is respected, and is also an active participant in Egypt's progress...and where every leader is responsive to the people and is held accountable by these very same people.
|Posted on May 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
The Pathway to Sustainable Development Series: An Introduction
Having just completed an immensely interesting online course in "Sustainable Development" with the "Earth Institute", Columbia University, New York, it became imperative for me to attempt to apply and share my newly acquired knowledge with Egyptians who are eager to look into the future rather than focus on the negativities and events of the tumultous past 3 years (2011-2014). Many political pundits and TV commentators have already analyzed and attempted to decipher the political events that have taken place in Egypt since 2011, turning every stone, nook and cranny. I am done with looking to the past for answers. History cannot be altered. But it can be perceived differently depending on the author's vantage point and political disposition.
Therefore, it seemed more fruitful and indeed rewarding to migrate to a less contentious aspect of Egypt's future, i.e economic growth and sustainable development. Applying the concepts of sustainable development for a growing population of 92 million Egyptians would actually help realize the famous slogan of the January 25th Revolution, namely, "Bread, freedom, and social justice". How? Well, the answer may lie within the four basic tenets of sustainable development:
1) Economic growth,
2) Social inclusion,
3) Environmental sustainability, and,
4) Good governance (public and private sectors).
So why should we care about sustainable development and why shouldn't the upcoming government in Egypt just continue doing "business as usual"? This series of posts will hopefully attempt to explain why the "business as usual" trajectory has failed in Egypt and how it indeed may have even ignited the January 2011 Revolution and spilled over into the June 30th Revolution as well. Make no mistake about it, sustainable development is a challenging and complex concept in today's day and age. But, having said that, sustainable development does work if it is applied and implemented with a holistic perspective, rather than as a piecemeal endeavour used by governments the world over.
The January 25th revolution was an example of a revolution that errupted due to several factors, some of which I believe were: lack of accountability, high income inequality, poor education standards, as well as inadequate health facilities and services. Sustainable development, when applied holistically, attempts to ensure that the entire society, men and women, have equal opportunities, health facilities, education, adequate nutrition, smarter cities and powergrids, i.e. a decreased reliance on carbon emitting fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, and more reliance on cleaner sources of energy such as solar, wind and nuclear energy. So what are the pathways to sustainable development and why should Egypt take that route? Let's turn to a brief analysis now.
Pathways to sustainable development:
The first part of sustainable development (henceforth SD) is to understand the inter-linkages of economy, society, enviornment and politics. The second part of SD is to actually do something about the dangers we face. Why should Egypt move forcefully onto the trajectory of SD rather than continue on the "business as usual" path? What would happen if we continued as we are today? Well, science and technology will continue to advance, and Egypt will also continue its race to close the gap with leading countries, such as the USA and UK (the latter being the home of the Industrial Revolution itself). Hence, it's time to seriously use clinical economics and apply the fundamentals of "differential diagnosis" in order to to discover and propose solutions for the case of Egypt. Egypt needs to bridge the gap between its rich and poor (decrease the GINI coefficient), to decrease carbon emissions by relying on renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels, to decrease its fertility rate, and to design smarter and more resilient cities. That's putting it in a simplified nutshell.
In short, the path to sustainable development is feasible and necessary for Egypt. Egypt needs to get out of the "education trap" (to be discussed later at length), and indeed to get out of the "poverty trap" by enforcing social inclusion for broadbased prosperity and for the elimination of discrimination, for equal protection under the Law, and more importantly, for encouraging social mobility in its ever growing population.
My upcoming posts will delve deeper into different aspects of SD which Egypt needs to focus on in the short-term in order to fulfill the famous mantra of January 25th and the pressing need for economic development that is more than merely a higher GDP per capita, but rather the government must strive for a much higher Human Development Index rank which adds education and health to economic growth, all under the umbrella of good governance by both the public and private sectors.
The future government of Egypt bears the onus to fulfill the aspirations of its people. This series of posts will attempt to present some solutions to this very pressing situation. I will attempt to cover SD from the following aspects: Education, Socia Inclusion, Resilient Cities, Food Security, escaping the "Poverty Trap", via the application of clinical economics i.e. a "differential diagnosis" to the case of Egypt.
I hope this introduction was of benefit to you and that you have taken interest in this rich and challenging topic! Stay tuned for future posts on "The Pathway to Sustainable Development" series.
|Posted on November 11, 2012 at 6:35 AM||comments (0)|
OPERATION SINAI: Facts & Figures you have to know...
This blog post attempts to shed light on how Operation Sinai came to be and the history of the "Sinai Insurgency" since Egypt's January 25th Revolution. Much of the information is in brief paragraphs and bullet form, for the sake of simplicity and clarity. The information is entirely gathered from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/sinai_insurgency). It is my utmost conviction that Egyptians need to know and to become fully aware of the magnitude of insurgent activities in Sinai. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an open-ended war with no end in near sight.
The Sinai Insurgency: is a radical Islamist militant activity in the Sinai peninsula, initiated in early 2011, following the January 25th Revolution. Radical Islamic elements in Sinai exploited the opportunity and used the unique environment of the largely demilitarized Sinai to launch several waves of attacks upon the Egyptian military and commercial facilities.
Kindly share this blog post and help spread awareness. Sinai is part and parcel of Egypt. Sinai has to remain that way. Thank you for reading.
|Posted on November 9, 2012 at 4:35 AM||comments (0)|
My sweat dries,
And is replaced,
Rolling over to either side,
I close my eyes,
I squeeze the sand, tranced,
I touch the water, cold as ice,
My secret oasis...
Sunburned, I rise to foot,
Moving to shadows,
Palm trees aligned,
Like a choir,
Believers shoulder to shoulder,
Singing heavenly tunes,
The breeze, maestro of flute,
My enchanting oasis...
Dates circle their founder,
A dotted periphery,
As red as wine,
Half-dried, but fully ripe,
The taste tingles my senses,
Crisp and dry,
I gather a few, return to my shadows,
My eternal oasis...
Camels stand in the shadow,
Like an audience awaiting,
In breathless attention,
As their keeper ties them to the bark,
They move in slow strides, no resistance,
As if being led by an invisible hand,
Through the clear, soft sand...
An oval from above,
Amorphous from below,
A drop from above,
A well from below,
My oasis is,
|Posted on November 7, 2012 at 4:30 AM||comments (0)|
"The Key of Life"...
(This is a prose dialogue between an ancient Egyptian female pharoah and a person living in Egypt today...)
She led me by the hand, the corridor was dark,
The stench of urine welcomes me to "old Age",
"Here is the chamber, or in your tongue, sarcophagus!"
Scrolls spilled everywhere, papyrus shredded,
The mummy laying before me, wore the hint of a sardonic grin...
Her scent tells of dyed cloth, the Nile, and Kohl,
Her head wears thick meticulously braided black hair,
"Come to see our scriptures, or in your tongue, hieroglyphics!
Tales are pictured to stay alive forever, eternal motion,
They speak of our glory, and your ignorant commotion"...
"We honored our dead, we obeyed our pharoahs,
Our tombs, or in your tongue pyramids, outlived heroes,
Our ointments preserved bodies and did the tricks,
Now you come to visit our Sphinx!
Mena the Mighty united the halves,
Only to be visited by strangely-shaped calves!"
"We call them vehicles, Your Majesty"...
"Nevertheless, they pollute our souls,
And disturb our tranquility,
We cherished peace,
And respected humanity,
We had dignity"...
"We were believers in the God of the Gods,
We had kings and we had fiefs,
We had nature and coral reefs,
What are your beliefs?
How do you preserve your dead?
How do you keep out your thieves?"
"Our beliefs lie in money and matter,
The two concepts 'coined' long after your term "barter",
The paper is valueless, but the number stamped, valuable,
Our dead lay in hidden chambers, cannot be seen by family members,
Sometimes the body is robbed of its organs,
Just like your bodies were robbed of gems"...
"Sounds to me like the "temple of doom",
My friend, how do you tolerate such actions, such loom?"
"If only I could live in your age and story,
Then I would have known the true meaning of life and glory"...
"Certainly, for we the ancient hold the key of life,
A concept that cannot be coined in your unorthodox way of life"...
With this, she departed,
Her head held high, walking through the picture,
She repositions her graceful self,
Palms to the sky...
The void, on the temple wall, is now complete once more,
She preferred to return to her own ancient world,
Than to stay in a world that tore....
|Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM||comments (0)|
Eid al-Adha in Egypt, a time previously known for children rejoicing in the streets in newly purchased colorful outfits, outdoor family outings, and entertaining TV shows, has slowly but most certainly metamorphosed into a time of fear and apprehension for Egyptian females. Yes, sexual harassment, an old, yet increasingly pressing issue, is now at the forefront of newspapers, social media networks, and TV talk shows. Finally, this social phenomenon is now in the limelight, thanks to the Egyptian media, civil society organizations and human / women's rights groups in Egypt who have long called for the government to amend the Penal Code and to punish harassers.
Suffice it to say that two-thirds of Egyptian women experience sexual harassment on a daily basis, according to 2008 statistics published by the Egyptian Center for Women's Rights. Moreover, the National Council for Women (NCW) reported that women in Egypt are harassed seven times every 200 meters! (Al Arabiya news). It is figures such as these that have prompted a number of Egyptian volunteers, men and women, to organize an initiative "Eid without Harassment" campaign, mainly targeting Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo, as well as the "Seen Harassment" activist initiative which accuses Prime Minister Hesham Qandil of failing to take necessary security measures to prevent such violations.
Such volunteer groups / initiatives have openly criticized (and for good reason) the manner in which the Egyptian police deals with harassment complaints, claiming that they are improper and typically allowing for the offenders to get away with the abuse. Activists hold the Interior Ministry responsible for protecting citizens. After all, isn't protecting citizens and reprimanding criminals the main tenet of the Interior Ministry? And when women comprise 51% of Egyptian society, then in effect, half the population is being impeded on a daily basis from exercising their right to freedom of movement, a right which is stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Yet, despite such initiatives, this week's Eid al-Adha holidays, saw 727 cases of verbal and sexual harassment reported cases across Egypt, typically taking place in public gathering places such as malls, cinemas and beaches (Al Masrayalyoum, Monday, October 29, 2012), finally bringing Prime Minister Qandil to condemn sexual harassment on his facebook page, calling it a "catastrophe" that threatens society. Qandil acknowledged that the Cabinet is preparing a law to impose harsher penalties for sexual harassment. Moreover, President Morsy himself finally addressed the escalating problem, ordering his Interior Minister to investigate a rash of assaults that have taken place this Eid.
I am grateful for the men and women who took to the streets of Cairo and other governorates, in order to protect women from sexual harassment and to bring harassers to justice (by either spraying them with paint or by handing them over to the police). But then, an uneasy feeling sweeps over me as I ponder the ramifications of such initiatives and how they may splinter and interact with other aspects of Egyptian society. Can such initiatives metamorphose into some sort of "vigilante justice"?
"Vigilante justice" is rationalized by the idea that adequate legal mechanisms for criminal punishment are either nonexistent or insufficient. Vigilantes typically see government as ineffective in enforcing the law; and such individuals often presume to justify their actions as fulfillment of the wishes of the community" (Wikipedia). Is this not the case here with such anti-sexual-harassment initiatives? And why wouldn't other "volunteers" and initiatives start to use the very same rationale? Could a group of hardline salafis who call themselves "Al Amr b al-maarouf w al nahy aan al monkar" , loosely translated into "Giving righteous advice and prohibiting sinful behavior" begin to roam the streets of Egypt and apply what they believe is best for the Egyptian society in lieu of lax police presence?
Will such "activist initiatives" disappear once the police puts its foot down and laws are enforced? Will the Egyptian police accept "help" from volunteers in manning Egypt's streets? And if such voluntary presence on our streets is acceptable by the Interior Ministry, could it not open the door for future turmoil?
I am of the opinion that the anti-sexual-harassment initiatives are to be commended for pressuring the government and Interior Ministry into enforcing the law and slapping harsher sentences on harassers, but by the same token I am wary of citizens taking it upon themselves to enforce "the law" in an effort to protect "the people". It is here that the rule of law must reign supreme or else volunteer militias will spring up all over Egypt, each taking it upon itself to fulfill the wishes of "their community".
|Posted on October 25, 2012 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on April 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
From Revolution to Evolution & "Political Consciousness"
Was Egypt's Revolution hijacked? Did the Revolution fail to meet people's aspirations? These are questions being asked ever so often, and incessantly, in cafes, living rooms, and most of all, in people's minds in Egypt, and beyond. Revolutions require ample time to run their course before being subjected to judgments of success or failure. But, thinkers, political pundits and historians can infer from the past and attempt to predict a future outcome. I am of the opinion, however, that Revolutions succeed when they bring about the onset of evolutionary socio-political discourse, which in turn, metamorphose into a more acute political awareness and finally, a heightened sense of "political consciousness".
Let me begin this essay by defining "Revolution" as a "radical transformation from one state of affairs to another...the ancien regime or "old order" must be dysfunctional to provoke discontent...and hence make itself vulnerable to revolutionary activity...nevertheless, the ancien regime must have some semblence of legitimacy to provide a focus for energies of the revolution". Within this context, January 25th was no doubt a Revolution and not a mere protest or show of "unrest".
Egypt's January 25th Revolution has made Egyptians think of what they want, instead of being told what's good for them. The fact that there are numerous newly formed political parties, a Constitution Referendum, parliamentary elections, and impending presidential elections, is tantamount to a crash course in democratic "modus operandi". Egyptians are getting more connected to what's happening on the political field after decades of apathy and political malaise. Is that not a revolutionary change in and of itself? The fact that Egyptians are joining marches, planning sit-ins, monitoring labor strikes and attending debates and panel discussions, choosing between 13 presidential candidates, openly and overtly discussing whom is best-suited for the top job, isn't that all a revolutionary evolution?
"Evolution" theory is utilized to sketch the outline of a performance based perspective of political "thinking"...within this context of evolutionary perspective, consciousness at the individual level is shown to develop...as a result of interaction of biological and environmental variables including among the latter, elements of the social environment, like ideas, values, and intentions as well as institutional patterns of conflict and authority..." Losco, "Political Behavior", 1985. Evolution in a broader sense is defined as to "develop, expand, grow, mature, progress, unfold, work-out". In this context, I do believe that Egypt's current state of flux and political rigor is a sure sign of political evolution post January 25th.
Revolution and evolution demand "reconfiguration", because change will be met with forces of opposition. The course to evolution commences when opposing parties agree to disagree, consequently recognizing their differences. More importantly, however, is the dire necessity of working on similarities in order to forge a path forward out of the chaos. Each party need not succumb to the will of the other, but rather recognize that collective action is needed at times, all the while fine-tuning their own political objectives.
Marx described "Political Consciousness" as "a person's political sense of self...consciousness describes a person's awareness of politics." And do you not agree that many Egyptians have in a political sense, become "politically conscious", i.e. awakened to a different political role post January 25th ? Have not many Egyptians become in tune with a consciousness which breaks with the ancien regime's political and economic discourse and rhetoric? This conscious break with the past and active quest for a "Second Republic" is a nascent transition from revolution, to an evolution in "political consciousness".
Is this not a historical watershed?
|Posted on February 28, 2012 at 7:45 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted on February 17, 2012 at 6:10 AM||comments (0)|
|Posted on January 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM||comments (0)|
A question keeps hounding me these days as the first anniversary of our January 25th Revolution draws ever so close..namely, "who's going to write about January 25th and its aftermath in our history textbooks?" How will this revolution go down in history and how will the next generations perceive the "facts"? What are the "facts" and who can claim to have a neutral take on what happened in Egypt, not only during the 18 days till the fall of Hosny Mubarak on February 11, 2011, but on the events of Mohamed Mahmoud street, Maspero and on People's Assembly clashes?
But, before I begin to panic that our history will be colored according to various political hues, or that whichever political party that is allotted the Ministry of Education will skew events according to its advantage, I am reminded of the fact that social media has become a de facto "big brother" breathing down everyone's neck..history is no longer recorded in newspapers and magazines, but has become an amalgamation of YouTube sound bites, Tweets, Blog posts and citizen journalism first-hand accounts, often accompanied with high resolution photography! So, who again, will write our history? And if we have several conflicting accounts of a particular event, who commands the one version that will go down in our students' history textbooks, as the most accurate, "unbiased" one?
And how does a people's Revolution get accurately and objectively depicted between differing forces of the Revolutionary Youth (not a homogeneous group by the way), who sparked the flames of January 25th and the Islamists who managed to garner 70% of parliamentary seats? The majority party, was won by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), securing a whopping 47% of seats all on its own! So, who will write our history? According to Wikipedia, history is "a field of research which uses a narrative to examine and analyze the sequence of events, sometimes attempts to investigate objectively the patterns of cause and effect that determine events". But is there such a thing as "objective history"?
When it comes to a Revolution like January 25th, a true people's Revolution, one without a leader to claim it as his own doing, could there not be more than one "valid" vantage point? What if the Muslim Brotherhood has one account of the events leading to January 25th, and its aftermath, whereas the Revolutionary Youth have another story to tell? And what if activists and citizen journalists recorded yet different accounts? Which vantage point is the neutral, objective one that will be presented to Egypt's students in schools?
At a delicate point in our modern history, there are opposing forces, some seeking to complete the January 25th Revolution whereas other forces are calling for "stability" and the reinstatement of the state's very essence, functions and aims. Oscillating within such a volatile time-frame, one which is characterized by a deep mistrust of authority, where institutionalized power is believed to be invariably exercised in the interest of those who wield it to exploit others, the question of ensuring factual recorded history becomes paramount...
So, who will write our history?