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RANYA KHALIFA: "Democracy Digest"...

Blog

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.

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Operation Sinai: Facts & Figures you have to know...

Posted on November 11, 2012 at 6:35 AM Comments 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.  

  • First, in February 2011, insurgents attacked the Arab gas pipeline, running into Jordan, Syria and Lebanon and its offshoot from Arish to Israel, constantly disrupting gas supply to the entire region. *On July 2011, militants attacked an Egyptian police station in Arish, killing six.  *On August 2, a group claiming to be the Sinai wing of Al-Qaeda declared its intention to create an Islamic caliphate in Sinai. 


  • Such actions drew a harsh response from interim GOE since mid-2011, resulting in launch of Operation Eagle *In mid  2011, a squad of unrecognized Islamic terrorists infiltrated Israeli border from Sinai, launching coordinated attacks against Israeli military and civilians. Israel accused Palestinian Jihad in Gaza and launched retaliation attack, escalating the tension with Palestinian militants. *In August 2012, a group of armed men ambushed an Egyptian military base in Sinai, killing 16 soldiers, stealing 2 armored cars, then infiltrating into Israel.  The attackers then rammed through Kerem Shalom border crossing in Israel, as one vehicle exploded. Attackers engaged with IDF and 6 attackers were killed.  Attackers were dressed as bedouins and use rocket-propelled grenades.  A total of 35 attackers took part in this attack on the Egyptian base.


  • OPERATION SINAI: *August 2012: The attack on Egyptian armed forces triggers a crackdown, led by Egyptian army, Police Special Forces and the Air Force, sweeping Sinai from Jehadist terrorist militants. During the operation, 32 militants and suspects were killed, 38 arrested and 2 civilians were fatally wounded.


  • CASUALTIES: Since late July 2011, 27-35 Egyptian soldiers and 4 civilians killed; 3 Israeli soldiers and 7 civilians killed; 54 Islamists and suspects killed.  TOTAL 95-103 MORTAL CASUALTIES:
  • 30 July 2011: 6 Egyptian security forces killed.
  • 14 August-September 2011, Operation Eagle: 1 Islamist militant and 2 civilians killed.
  • 15 August 2011: 1 Islamist killed, 6 captured.
  • 17 August 2011: 2 Bedouins killed in unclear circumstances.
  • 18 August 2011: southern Israeli cross-border attacks, 6 Israeli civilians and 2 soldiers and 5 Egyptian soldiers killed, as well as 10 attackers.
  • 18 June 2012: 1 Israeli civilian killed and 2 wounded by attack on Egyptian-Israeli border fence.
  • 5 August 2012: Egyptian-Israeli border attack, 16-24 Egyptian soldiers and 8 Islamist militants killed.
  • 7 August 2012: Operation Sinai: 32 militants and suspects killed, 38 arrested; 2 civilians killed (by early September 2012).
  • 8 August: 20 militants killed in Sinai.
  • 12 August 2012: 7 suspected militants killed.
  • 13 August 2012: armed men shot dead tribal leader Khalaf Al-Menahy and his son.
  • 29 August 2012: Egyptian army tanks and helicopters attack Jihadi cells, resulting in 11 dead militants and 23 more taken prisoner with no reported military casualties.
  • 21 September 2012: 1 Israeli soldier and 3 Islamist militants killed.


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.





Oasis...

Posted on November 9, 2012 at 4:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Oasis...


My sweat dries,

      And is replaced,

Rolling over to either side,

       I close my eyes,

Breathing deeply,

      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,

    Synchronic,

Harmonic,

     Purely Arabic...

  

"The Key of Life"....

Posted on November 7, 2012 at 4:30 AM Comments 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....



The End











  


"Anti-sexual harassment initiatives: the birth of "vigilante justice"?...

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:00 PM Comments 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".









 






Inspiration

Posted on October 25, 2012 at 6:20 PM Comments comments (0)
Egypt is a strong example for other countries in the region. Watching the Tweets being sent and the intelligence of the individuals is truly inspiring to everyone investing in freedom.

From Revolution to Evolution & "Political Consciousness"

Posted on April 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments 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?




The Hunter...

Posted on February 28, 2012 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)
The Hunter...

The hunter recalls the path of loneliness,
     Treading on ashes and softened feathers,
He raises his head,
     A distinctive countenance...

Bow and arrow, he aims,
    Then chooses,
His device deadlier,
    Than a hundred nooses...

Alas the sun setting, the sky a mixture, well blended,
    The hunter gathers his piercing tools, left unattended,
He returns to his hut, amidst the wilderness,
    Standing undefended...

His fire is dim, but ablaze for the purpose,
   He eats his share of a daily reoccurrence,
The next day  unrevealed,
    He knows no assurance...

Dawn draws in, dressed in ghastly sequins,
    The hunter rises, the winds become gusty breezes,
The ashes of yesterday are scattered,
    The swirling smoke ceases...




The Ticking of Time...

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 6:10 AM Comments comments (0)
The Ticking of Time...

As you begin to bloom, you leave your protective cocoon,
    You're breaking free from your tiny bud,
Brighter and rosier than ever before,
    Now one amongst many,
Beware it's the ticking of time...

You're beginning to spread your petals,
    You sway in the wind and enjoy the sun,
A little bee comes to nuzzle against you,
    Self righteously it sucks the honey out of you,
Beware it's the ticking of time...

But this is the nature of the world,
   A red petal falls onto the wet mud,
The rain comes falling down, now in torrents,
    Your stem begins to bend, your leaves wither,
You can't go against the ticking of time...

Once beautiful and young, now bald and dying,
   You remember when the bees greedily took from you, how it stung,
But now you stand alone,
    Looking vulnerable for a kid without a stone,
You can't go against the ticking of time...

It hurts to be hurled amongst the waste,
    Once full and giving,
Your roots are torn and splitting,
   Your sap pours endlessly,
It was the ticking of time...

Who Will Write Our History?

Posted on January 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments 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?








"Black Sunday"...What Lies Beneath...

Posted on October 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Countless blog posts and articles have been written and pundits have analyzed the events that took place on Sunday evening as Copts marched from Shubra to Maspero on October 9th, 2011.  But this march wasn't like the others that were held by Copts in Maspero since January 25th.  This "Bloody Sunday" brought out all that has been lurking beneath the "Egyptian fabric", which is in my opinion, in desperate need for alterations. And it was about time that this fabric ripped itself apart in order to mend itself back again...only if we, as Egyptians, recognize the faults and diligently work to remedy them.


How many times since January 25th did we hear the famous chants of Tahrir Square "Muslim and Christian are one hand"??...and why do we so fiercely want to demonstrate that Muslims and Copts are living together happily ever after?  Is it because in our "collective conscience" we recognize that there is a deep rift between them? When and how did this rift begin? I don't wish to delve into a historical analysis of events nor do I intend to recount figures and data.  I prefer to speak of these changes from a purely socio-political point of view.  


We must admit to the fact that the events of Maspero have revealed the ugly face of sectarianism in Egypt.  Muslims and Copts are not "one hand".  Muslims make up 90% of the Egyptian population and our personal ID's provide hard evidence of our religious affiliation.  I personally believe that your religion is a personal and private matter, one that should not be made public so as not to deprive any individual of an equal opportunity or chance in life.  Isn't that the essence of equality?  Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian-born political theorist wrote in his "constitution of liberty"  that equality of opportunity demands that "there are no artificial obstacles, such as birth, race or gender, standing in the way of people making the most of their natural gifts and achieving their full potential".  Therefore, equality demands a level playing field


When our personal ID's display our religious affiliation, that exemplifies a contravention in the essence of "equal opportunity" and "level playing field".  Not only is religious affiliation mandatory as a required field in Egyptian personal ID's, but I recall stating my religion in my resume whenever I applied for a job! Why does my religion have to figure in my resume?  Here I was thinking that getting a job was merely based on merits and job experience!  Would my religion affect my salary?  More importantly, would my religion affect my chances of being interviewed for the job in the first place? And the answer is "yes", whether we care to admit or not.  In Egypt, your religious affiliation "matters".


This fact was blatantly evident on "Black Sunday"...after watching several Talk Shows and reels of video footage, I got the sense that some Muslim Egyptians felt offended that Copts would dare take to the streets and "demand their rights".  How could a minority of 10% brazenly stop traffic and demand to be heard? But, it is their right, assuming that things will change after January 25th and that our "mentality" will evolve as well!  Ladies and gentlemen, the most persistent anxiety that concerns me is the "tyranny of the majority"..."whereby the majority would abuse their position of power to trample underfoot the rights of minorities, vindicated by a system that seemed to legitimize the realization of their desires and aspirations" (Ben Dupre). 


And if we are steadfast in our efforts to build a "new Egypt", one that is founded on equal opportunity, respect for human rights, and the empowerment of women, then we must come to terms with the fundamental term, "equality".  It is a long road ahead...but there's no turning back now.  Reversing decades of repression and contention will not be swift, but we also cannot afford to have cosmetic, rudimentary alterations to our "social fabric".  The January 25th revolution demanded, "freedom and social justice". Martyrs died during January 25th Revolution... and others died on October 9th.  They were all EQUALLY martyrs...they were all EGYPTIANS.






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