Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Conclusion: February 12, 2011 to 2013 Period--Section 2

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on June 2,,2014)

In The Arab Uprisings author James Gelvin’s view, “social media” had “certainly played a role” in the late January 2011 uprising in Egypt “but they did not cause the” uprising in Egypt because “only 20 percent of Egyptians have internet access.” Gelvin also noted in his book that “in spite of the fact that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood officially refused to sanction the Jan. 25 [2011] protest, members of the group’s youth wing participated in the organization and played an important role in the uprising thereafter” the Muslim Brotherhood youth wing members are also “adept at using social media.” And when “the coalition that brought down Mubarak fragmented” in 2012, “the Muslim Brotherhood…was already organized and stood to benefit from early elections.”
 
So when the Egyptian military regime’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] held its parliamentary elections on Nov. 28, 2011, Muslim Brotherhood candidates won the most seats; and after the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, was elected in SCAF’s June 2012 presidential election, he issued a declaration in November 2012 which declared that all his decrees are “final and binding and cannot be appealed by any way or to any entity.”
 
Not surprisingly, however, large numbers of Egyptians subsequently again joined protests on Egyptian streets in early 2013 in support of continued demands for the democratization of Egyptian society. And according to the Egyptian Communist Party’s Feb. 7, 2013 statement “these demonstrations” were “a continuation of the revolutionary wave demanding downing the rule of Moslem Brothers, restoring the hijacked revolution and struggling to achieve the goals of the January 25 Revolution” and “the formation of a government of national salvation and calling for early presidential elections.”
 
By the end of January 2013, around 50 Egyptian protesters had been killed; and on Jan. 28, 2013 the Revolutionary Socialists organization issued a statement which declared:
 
“These crimes were based on Morsi's directives--his instructions to protect his throne, his regime and his party….Morsi… ignores the absence of social justice that is the result of the policies of his own tired government. While soliciting loans from the International Monetary Fund and securing the interests of Mubarak's businessmen, he has disregarded the rise in prices for basic commodities, has failed to implement a just maximum and minimum wage, and has failed to reclaim the wealth stolen from the people.”
 
Although Egypt was once considered the exporting grain-producing “breadbasket” of the Roman Empire, in recent years Egypt has been “the world’s largest importer of wheat,” according to The Arab Uprisings; and during the last ten years, Egypt has shifted from being a net exporter to a net importer of oil.
 
Despite the slow pace of political and economic democratization of Egyptian society that has been permitted by the U.S. government-funded Egyptian military since the 1980s, the U.S. is Egypt’s largest trading partner and second largest foreign investor, with about two-thirds of total U.S. investment in Egypt’s potentially lucrative oil and gas industry. The Houston, Texas-based Apache Corporation, for example, “has directly invested more than $10 billion” in Egypt since the early 1990s “to become the largest U.S. investor in Egypt, the largest hydrocarbon producer in the Western Desert and the largest oil producer in Egypt;” and “Apache’s operations handle nearly one of every three barrels of oil produced” in Egypt, according to the Apache Corporation’s website. As the Apache website also notes:
 
“Our commitment to Egypt began in 1994 with our first Qarun discovery well. Today we control 9.7 million gross acres making Apache the largest acreage holder in Egypt ’s Western Desert . Only 18 percent of our gross acreage in Egypt has been developed…, The remaining 82 percent of our acreage is undeveloped, providing us with considerable exploration and development opportunities for the future. We have 3-D seismic covering over 12,000 square miles, or 78 percent of our acreage. In 2011, the region contributed 29 percent of Apache’s worldwide production revenue, 22 percent of our worldwide production, and 10 percent of our year-end 2011 estimated proved reserves….
 
“Development leases within concessions generally have a 25-year life, with extensions possible for additional commercial discoveries or on a negotiated basis, and currently have expiration dates ranging from five to 25 years…
 
“Apache’s Egyptian operations continue to expand further into the Western Desert and achieved a record for annual production in 2011. Compared to the prior year, gross daily production was up 12 percent, and net daily production was up 2 percent. Throughout 2011, we maintained an active drilling and development program, drilling 221 exploration, development, and injector wells, resulting in 33 new field discoveries….
 
“…Operations are handled through two joint ventures with the Egyptian state oil company – Khalda Petroleum Co. and Qarun Petroleum Co. – that have operations across 10 million acres from the Nile Valley to the Libyan border and include three major gas processing facilities and three major oil processing facilities….Heading into 2012, our drilling program includes a combination of development and exploration wells with current plans to drill approximately 20 percent more wells than in 2011.”
 
Not much of the “production revenue” that the Texas-based Apache Corporation has obtained from its apparent control and exploitation of Egyptian natural resources and land since 1995—under undemocratic Egyptian governments--helped create much economic prosperity in the 21st-century for most people who live in Egypt. So, not surprisingly, the U.S. government-affiliated Overseas Private Investment Corporation [OPIC] and the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency [MIGA] are currently providing to the Apache Corporation and its subsidiaries $450 million of “political risk insurance”—in case people in Egypt eventually democratically decide to expropriate or nationalize the Apache Corporation’s operations and property in Egypt .
 
For--as the history of the movement of people in Egypt to politically and economically democratize Egyptian society shows--in the 21st-century people in Egypt are likely to continue to fight against attempts by foreign imperialist governments, foreign-based transnational corporations and foreign government-selected or promoted Egyptian puppet rulers who block the democratization of Egyptian society.

(end of conclusion of article)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Conclusion: February 12, 2011--2013--section 1

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on May 19,2014)


Within Egyptian society, the U.S. government-funded Egyptian military has exercised a special economic and political influence for many years. As James Gelvin’s 2012 book, The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, recalled:
 
“… Egypt is the Arab world’s most populous country, with an official population of 81 million and an estimated population of up to 100 million (because of conscription, not all families register the birth of their sons)…The Egyptian military…is huge. The army alone includes 900,000 men (including reservists)…The United States …has given it $1.3 billion annually since 1979…
 
“…Economists estimate that the [Egyptian] military controls anywhere from 5 to 40 percent of the [Egyptian] economy, and according to the IMF the military oversees about half of all Egyptian manufacturing…Over time the military has become involved in everything from construction and manufacture of consumer durables (like washing machines and refrigerators) to defense production and dairy and poultry farming. In addition, since many military bases are on Egypt ’s coasts and along the Nile , the military has had access to prime real estate ripe for development…”
 
So, not surprisingly, between its removal of Mubarak as Egypt’s president on Feb. 11, 2011 and January 2012, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] was “the sole authority” in Egypt “with the power to amend or approve amendments to existing laws, and issue or approve new ones;” and people in Egypt “experienced many of the same human rights abuses that characterized Mubarak’s police state” which the SCAF justified “by noting that they” were “authorized under existing laws,” according to a Human Rights Watch press release of January 2012. The same Human Rights Watch press release also observed:
 
“Under SCAF leadership, excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings, torture, attacks on peaceful protests, and arbitrary arrests of bloggers and journalists have become commonplace and illustrate how little has changed…Military prosecutors have sentenced or summoned dozens of activists and journalists for `insulting the military’ or `spreading false information.’…
 
“The SCAF promised to lift the state of emergency, in effect continuously for the past 30 years. But on Sept. 10 [2011] the SCAF expanded its scope of application beyond its use under Mubarak…Military courts have tried over 12,000 civilians in the past year.
 
“The SCAF also has passed new laws under the state of emergency, such as Law 34 `On the Criminalization of Attacks on Freedom of Work and the Destruction of Facilities,’ which criminalizes and imposes financial penalties for strikes and demonstrations that `obstruct public works.’…”
 
According to The Arab Uprisings, the U.S. government-funded Egyptian “military much preferred stability to reform;” and “Egypt’s rulers dragged their feet on some of the uprisings central demands (including prosecution of the Mubaraks and lifting the state of emergency) and took a confrontational stance toward workers who continued their strike wave as well as protesters who continued their demonstrations.” The same book also noted that “the military continued to use torture against those who `disturbed the peace,’ attempted to intimidate women protesters by forcing them to undergo `virginity tests’ while detained, and, in an obvious warning to others, sentenced a blogger to prison for 3 years for criticizing the military…”

(end of section 1 of conclusion)


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 24: January--February 11, 2011:

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on May 12,2014)

According to James Gelvin’s 2012 book The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, in Egypt “youths between 15 and 29 make up…30 percent” of the population; and “youth unemployment in Egypt is 43 percent.” The same book also noted:
 
“The statistics on employment do not include those who have given up finding work (the `discouraged unemployed’) and those who work part-time…In Egypt…almost 60 percent of the youth between 18 to 29 are out of the labor force (in the case of women it is 83 percent)…In Egypt young people with college degrees rank highest among the unemployed of any sector of youth.”
 
Yet while large numbers of young people in Egypt were still impoverished, working long hours for low wages or unemployed—whether or not they possessed college degrees—by early 2011, a small group of wealthy Egyptian businessmen, “known as `whales of the Nile’” now lived “in gated communities on the edge of the desert, thus avoiding daily contact with the inhabitants of Cairo’s slums” in early 2011, according to The Arab Uprisings. In addition, by early 2011 Egyptian President Mubarak “had managed to accumulate $2-3 billion” in personal wealth and “Ahmad Ezz, who came to control 60 percent of the Egyptian steel industry was a close friend of Gamal Mubarak,” the son of Egyptian President Mubarak, according to the same book.
 
So, not surprisingly, after mass street protests in support of democratization and economic justice in Tunisia led to a change of leadership in that country, large numbers of unemployed Egyptian young people-- including many with college degrees-- joined mass street protests in Egypt for democratization and economic justice in Egyptian society near the end of January in 2011. As The Arab Uprisings observed:
 
“…Many of those who planned the Jan. 25 [2011] protests and mobilized others for them were young and technology-savvy…Like protesters in Tunisia, those in Egypt linked demands for political rights with economic justice and thus linked youths and labor activists in a common cause.”
 
After several groups of politically dissident activists called for street protests on Jan. 25, 2011, the same book recalled what happened in Cairo on Jan. 25, 2011:
 
“”In Cairo, the police stopped most…demonstrators before they could converge on Tahrir Square…But because the police were so scattered, they were unable to stop one group that had rallied in a working-class neighborhood. By the time that group had reached the square, its ranks had swelled to thousands. Others joined the protesters until they marched to Tahrir Square or at the square, until they numbered an estimated 10,000…Toward evening the police moved in and, after skirmishing with the protesters, fired tear gas and cleared most from the square.”
 
According to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline, the January 25th date had previously been the “national holiday to commemorate the police forces,” but Jan. 25, 2011 was announced as a “day of rage” by the demonstrators in downtown Cairo who, on that day, marched “towards the offices of the ruling National Democratic Party” of the Mubarak regime, “as well as the foreign ministry and the state television” offices of the Mubarak regime, while chanting “Down with Mubarak!”
 
On the Jan. 25, 2011 “day of rage” in Egypt , there were “demonstrations in 12 of Egypt ’s 27 provinces and in most of the principal cities of the country;” and in Alexandria “police reportedly killed 3 protesters” according to The Arab Uprisings.  In addition, in Alexandria “the residents of some of the poorest neighborhoods joined the protests” and “in Mahalla al-Kubra, the site of the Egypt Spinning and Weaving Plant—the largest manufacturing plant in the Middle East—workers dominated the protests,” according to the same book.
 
On the following day, Jan. 26, 2011, people continued to protest on the streets of Cairo and another protester was killed, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. In Suez--where there had also been some skirmishing between Egyptian police and protesters on Jan. 25, 2011—police and protesters clashed again and 55 protesters were injured, according to the Egyptian medical personnel cited by the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. And there were more street protests again in Cairo , Suez , Ismalia, Alexandria and Toukhs on Jan. 27, 2011, despite the disruption of Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry services by Mubarak regime authorities.
 
But, according to The Arab Uprisings, “the events of Jan. 28 [2011] might be seen as the beginning of the end for the Mubarak regime” in Egypt . As the same book recalled:
 
“Mubarak remained defiant: the government brought in goons on horseback and camelback in an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge the protesters from Tahrir Square, for example, and up until he announced his resignation Mubarak vowed to remain in office…The [Egyptian] army’s announcement soon after taking control of the streets that it would not fire on the protesters ultimately tipped the balance…Tens of thousands of Egyptian workers went on strike demanding wage increases and Mubarak’s resignation…”
 
Although no protesters were apparently killed in Cairo on Jan. 28, 2011 despite the goon attack on the Tahrir Square demonstration, 11 civilians were killed in Suez and 1,030 people were injured throughout Egypt on the same day; and despite the presence of Egyptian army troops on the streets in Cairo and Suez and Alexandria, street protests continued during the night of Jan. 28, 2011.
 
Then, on Jan. 29, 2011, “thousands of anti-government protesters in Cairo ’s Tahrir Square ” stood their ground “despite troops firing into the air in a bid to disperse them;” and “thousands of protesters” remained in Cairo ’s Tahrir Square on Jan. 30, 2011, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. The same timeline also noted that on Jan. 31, 2011 “250,000 people” gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, “hundreds” marched through Alexandria, anti-government political groups called for “a `million man march’ and a general strike on” Feb. 1, 2011 “to commemorate one week since the protests began,” the Egyptian military pledged not “to hurt protesters,” and “worldwide investors” continued “withdrawing significant capital from Egypt amid rising unrest.”
 
A million Egyptians then demonstrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 1, 2011, while thousands of Egyptian protesters marched in Alexandria and Suez on that same day; and on Feb. 2, 2011, 3 people were apparently killed and 1,500 people were apparently injured after the Egyptian “military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter” Tahrir Square, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline. And five more people were apparently killed and several more people apparently wounded on Feb. 3, 2011 from “bursts of heavy gunfire…aimed at anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir [Liberation] Square” which began “at around 4am local time (02:00GMT) and” continued “for more than an hour,” according to the same timeline.
 
But despite around 300 protesters having apparently been killed throughout Egypt between Jan. 25 and Feb. 3, 2011, and the previous day’s shooting of anti-government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, on Feb. 4, 2011 “hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters” still gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demonstrate, according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline; and thousands of demonstrators continued to camp-out and occupy Tahrir Square between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, 2011.
 
Then, on Feb. 10, 2011 “tens of thousands of” Egyptian “workers from both the public and private sectors, including those from the petroleum, railroad, banking, retail, and heavy industry sectors, struck…and joined protesters on the streets of most major cities,” “in the textile industry, 18,000 workers left their jobs,” and “walkouts shut down the Cairo airport and stock exchange,” according to The Arab Uprisings. And on Feb. 11, 2011, “masses of protesters…descended on the state television building in Cairo and the presidential palace in Heliopolis , as well as in Tahrir Square ,” according to the Al Jazeera website’s timeline.
 
So, as The Arab Uprisings recalled, “having decided that the army would not fire on the protesters, the [Egyptian] Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] staged a coup d’etat,” “deposed Mubarak” and “took over the government” on the evening of Feb. 11, 2011. And the final total number of people in Egypt who lost their lives in street protests between Jan. 25, 2011 and the deposing of Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011 was estimated to be between 360 and 900 deaths.

(end of part 24)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Massachusetts' `Not Seasonally Adjusted' Unemployment Rate Increases To 6.2 Percent In September 2014

Between August and September 2014, the “not seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate in Massachusetts increased from 6 to 6.2 percent; while the national “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate in the United States decreased from 6.3 to 5.7 percent during the same period, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The official “not seasonally adjusted” number of unemployed workers in Massachusetts also increased by 5,400 (from 212,800 to 218,200) between August and September 2014; while the “not seasonally adjusted” number of Massachusetts workers who still had jobs decreased by 43,000 (from 3,352,700 to 3,309,700). In addition, the “not seasonally adjusted” number of workers still in the Massachusetts labor force decreased by 37,500 (from 3,565,400 to 3,527,900) between August and September 2014.

 According to Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s October 16, 2014 press release:


“…Education and Health Services lost 4,800 (-0.6%) jobs over the month…Other Services lost 800 (-0.6%) jobs level over the month…Manufacturing lost 700 (-0.3% ) jobs over the month…”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 23: 2006-2011 Period

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on April 28,2014)

According to James Gelvin’s The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, “in Egypt…about 40 percent of the population lives on less than two dollars a day;” and as recently as 2008 The Economist magazine noted that under Mubarak’s regime “44 percent of Egyptians still” counted “as poor or extremely poor, with some 2.6 million people so destitute that their entire income cannot cover basic food needs” and “the average wage” was “less than $100 a month.”
 
In his September 2009 Against The Current article, titled “ Egypt ’s Long Labor History,” Atef Said also observed that by 2009 in Egypt “around 30 percent of the workforce” was “unemployed,” 7 percent of children miss schools because of poverty” and there were “no fewer than 100,000 homeless street kids.”
 
As recently as 2008, according to Egypt ’s Central Agency for Population, Mobilization and Statistics, in Egypt “the average working week in the private sector” was “57 hours.” But according to a Mar. 31, 2008 article, titled “A new workers’ movement: the strike wave of 2007” by Mustafa Bassiouny and Omar Said, “in reality, large numbers of private sector workers” worked “12 hours per day” in 2008; and “private sector workers” had “no real protection against dismissal, greatly reduced access to health and safety, and occupational health” in Egypt in 2008.
 
So, not surprisingly, between Dec. 7, 2006 and Sept. 23, 2007, “more than 650 workers’ protests took place across Egypt, a large proportion of which were strikes” and “this nine-month period saw 198,414 workers take strike action,” according Mustafa Bassiouny and Omar Said’s 2008 article. The same article also noted that after Egyptian workers at Misr Spinning in Mahalla al-Kubra demanded a two-month profit sharing bonus, “24,000 workers began a strike;” and “the strike triggered a wave of workers’ protests across Egypt crossing different sectors of the economy and industries—from Mahalla to Kafr al-Dawwar to Shibin Al-Kum; from spinning and weaving to cement, to the railways, the metro and public transport workers.”
 
According to Mustafa Bassiouny and Omar Said’s 2008 article, “one important feature” of the 2006-2007 strike movement in Egypt was “the wide participation” of Egyptian women workers. As the same article noted:
 
“It was women workers in Mahalla who started the strike in December 2006 and who played a central role in consolidating it. In the Mansura-Espana factory the majority of the workforce are women and they continued the strike and the sit-in, and slept over in the factory despite facing criticism for doing so. Likewise, many of the workers at South Cairo and Giza Grain Mills and North Cairo mills are women. Women played a prominent role in strikes in the Hennawi tobacco factory in Damanhur and a leading role in the movement of the property tax collectors.”
 
And according to Bassiouny and Said, the 2006 to 2007 strike wave in Egypt “succeeded in generalizing a culture of protest’ throughout the country, although “in the majority of cases, the demands” of the striking Egyptian workers in 2006 and 2007 were just “of a narrow economic nature, such as the call for increased incentives.”
 
But between September 2007 and the beginning of the mass-based Egyptian Revolution in late January, 2011, labor unrest apparently continued; and by January 2011 “more than 3,000 labor actions involving more than 2 million” Egyptian “workers and their families” had taken place between 2004 and early 2011, according to The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know.
 
And in response to the increasing militancy of Egyptian workers and the growth of the movement for democratization of Egyptian society between 2006 and early 2011, Mubarak’s regime apparently increased the size of its “internal security” budget and its state security forces after 2006.. As Atef Said’s September 2009 Against The Current article noted:
 
“In 2006…the annual budget for internal security was $1.5 billion, more than the entire national budget for health care. This number…has increased after the protest waves in 2005 and 2006. Further, the security police forces comprise 1.4 million officers, nearly four times the size of the Egyptian army… If we added the number of police sergeants and formally hired spies (moukhbreen), the total number of police persons in Egypt would be 1.7 million….A police person to every 37 Egyptians…”
 
According to The Arab Uprisings, “Mubarak was…ambitious when it came to his security forces” and by early 2011 “an estimated 2 million Egyptians participated at any given time in Egypt ’s security apparatus.”
 
And, not surprisingly, when more protests and activism by people in Egypt in support of the democratization of Egyptian society broke out in 2010, the security forces of the dictatorial Mubarak regime were again used to repress political dissent in Egypt . As the Human Rights Watch website observed:
 
“In 2010 security officials…disrupted political rallies, public protests, and efforts by members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to compete in elections. Activists with the April 6 Youth Movement, named after a strike of workers and opposition activists on that date in 2008, organized a demonstration on Apr. 6, 2010, to call for an end to the state of emergency and amend the constitution to allow for open and inclusive presidential elections. Authorities refused them permission to demonstrate…Around 60 demonstrators gathered anyway in front of the Shura Council building on Kasr al-Aini Street and peacefully chanted slogans. After 10 minutes, security officials moved in, arresting at least 21 protesters and beating others. Officials arrested more than 100 peaceful demonstrators in Cairo that day. The prosecutor charged 33 of them with participating in a demonstration to overthrow the regime...
 
“In June 2010 widespread demonstrations took place after police officers brutally beat 28-year-old Khaled Said to death on an Alexandria street. On June 20 security officers arrested at least 55 protesters in Cairo , detaining them for up to four hours before releasing them. When protesters assembled at Bab al-Louk Square and a group of around 100 of them walked from there through downtown streets chanting slogans accusing the Ministry of Interior of responsibility for Said’s death, riot police and central security officers intervened. Human Rights Watch observed security officials beating, dispersing, and arresting scores of people, including protesters, journalists, and bystanders. Security officials drove the detainees around for hours and then released them on highways outside of Cairo .”
 
On Oct. 13, 2010 the Mubarak regime then “issued regulations” that brought “all live broadcasts by private companies under control of state television,” according to the Human Rights Watch website; and on Nov. 1, 2010 the regime also “issued directives requiring prior permission for satellite television uplinks.” In addition, “scores of activists affiliated with the National Association for Change, the Campaign to Support [Mohamed] El Baradei, and the April 6 Youth Movement,” were arrested in 2010 by security officers of Mubarak’s regime.

(end of part 23)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 22: 2000-2005 Period

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on April 21,2014)


Despite the politically repressive policies of the undemocratic and dictatorial Mubarak regime during the 1990s, at the beginning of the 21st-century people in Egypt continued to organize and fight for the democratization of Egyptian society.  According to Hossam El-Hamalawy’s 2007 MERIP article, “Comrades and Brothers,” a new left of younger Egyptian activists “whose two main pillars are the Revolutionary Socialist Organization and a growing left-leaning human rights community” which had “different attitudes toward Islamism than those held by the previous `communist waves’ apparently developed in Egypt during the late 1990s and early 21st century .An organization of younger secular left trotskyite Egyptian activists, the Revolutionary Socialist Organization, had been formed in April 1995; at which time it put forth “the slogan, “Sometimes with the Islamists, never with the state’ in the literature it distributed on university campuses and elsewhere” in Egypt, according to the same 2007 MERIP article.
 
Although the Revolutionary Socialist students at Cairo and ‘Ayn Shams Universities “confronted the Muslim Brothers on issues such as freedom of expression and the rights of women and Coptic Christians,” their broadsides on campus also “regularly carried denunciations of military tribunals’ sentences handed down to Muslim Brothers,” according to Hossam El-Hamalawy’s 2007 MERIP article. And by 1999, “the Muslim Brotherhood students at Cairo University allowed the Revolutionary Socialist students to speak at rallies held on campus against the US airstrikes on Iraq,” according to the same article..  
 
By 2000 the Revolutionary Socialists had recruited around 200 secular left activists as members; and during the second Palestinian intifada of the early 21stcentury on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, “their ranks…swelled thanks to their role in the Egyptian movement of solidarity with the Palestinians, at a time when the Muslim Brothers largely abstained from street action” and “Cairo and several provinces witnessed their largest and most boisterous demonstrations since the 1977 uprising following…Sadat’s attempt to remove state subsidies for bread and other staples,” according to Hossam El-Hamalawy’s 2007 MERIP article. But “in early April 2002, precisely following the outbreak of the leftist-led, pro-Palestinian riots at Cairo University, members of the Muslim Brothers began turning out for events organized by the Egyptian Popular Committee for the Solidarity with the Palestinian intifada;” and “on Apr. 5, 2002, a group of young Muslim Brothers published an open letter to Supreme Guide Mustafa Mashhour in the London-based daily al-Hayat,…demanding more involvement in the Palestinian solidarity movement,” according to the same article. Revolutionary Socialist members were then subsequently approached by Muslim Brothers representatives who suggested that “Islamists collaborate with the left in the pro-intifada and anti-war movements.”
 
By early 2003 “the left-leaning Palestine solidarity committee” in Egypt had “evolved into an anti-war movement, convening small street actions, which exploded into running clashes with the police in downtown Cairo on March 19 and 20, 2003,” after the Republican Bush Administration’s launched its war for regime change in Iraq in 2003, according to the 2007 MERIP article. And by the end of 2004, Egypt ’s anti-war movement had evolved into an anti-Mubarak movement.
 
This new anti-Mubarak movement was composed of two organizations: Kifaya (the Egyptian Movement for Change) and the Popular Campaign for Change, “which was more Marxist in composition, and included the Revolutionary Socialists, left-wing human rights activists and independent leftists,” according to Hossam El-Hamalawy’s 2007 MERIP article. Subsequently, “after a series of Kifaya demonstrations, a group of Muslim Brotherhood activists…held talks with Revolutionary Socialists and independent leftists, resulting in the launching of the National Alliance for Change in June 2005,” according to the same article. And this “rapprochement between Islamist and the left continued when students from the Revolutionary Socialists’ Tendency, Muslim Brothers and some independents” at Helwan and Cairo Universities, “formed the Free Student Union (FSU) in November 2005, with the aim of acting as a parallel organization to the government-dominated student unions.”

(end of part 22)

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Movement To Democratize Egypt: A People's History of Egypt--Part 21: 1992-2000 Period--section 2

(The following article originally appeared in The Rag Blog on April 14, 2014)
 
An October 2001 Human Rights Watch background report indicated in the following way the degree to which the U.S. government-backed Mubarak regime had still failed to democratize Egyptian society very much between 1992 and 2000:
 
“…Following a resurgence of political violence in the early 1990s, the government introduced anti-terror laws giving the security and intelligence services greater powers of arrest and detention and rounded up thousands of suspects. While fiercely suppressing opposition political activists, the authorities attempted to gain the support of the country's conservative religious establishment by delegating to them the authority to censor artistic expression, intellectual debate touching on matters of religion, and social mores.
 
“…Since 1992 hundreds of civilians, mostly alleged members or supporters of al-Gihad (Holy Struggle, known abroad as Egyptian Islamic Jihad), al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group), or the Muslim Brotherhood, have been referred to military courts. These trials, sometimes held en masse, fail to meet international fair trial standards: basic rights, such as the right to appeal, have been routinely violated, even in cases where the defendants faced and were punished with the death penalty.
 
“These measures have been used widely against Egyptians attempting to exercise peacefully basic political rights…Having crushed much of its Islamist political opposition by the mid-1990s, and with many of the leading figures of such groups in prison or in exile, the government widened its security net, further eroding basic civil rights… One recent high-profile example was the Supreme State Security Court conviction of sociology professor and democracy advocate Saadeddin Ibrahim…He was sentenced to seven years; five of his associates also received prison terms, and his Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies was forcibly closed down. Ibrahim is critical of the Islamists, but has also spoken out about election irregularities, treatment of minorities, and other sensitive topics.
 
“Torture in Egypt is widespread and systematic. Security forces and the police routinely torture or ill-treat detainees, particularly during interrogation. In his January 2001 report to the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture cited thirty-two cases of death in custody, apparently as a result of torture, occurring between 1997 and 1999. Confessions extracted under torture are commonly used as evidence in political trials and form the basis for convictions….
 
“…Thousands continue to be held in connection with real or suspected membership of banned Islamist groups. Many are held under administrative detention -- in other words, without trial -- and in some cases have been held for more than ten years. Among them are individuals who were arrested as children in their early teens and who remain incarcerated as adults. Others were kept in prison though their sentences had expired. Others were never released even though acquitted in court, such as Abd al-Mun'im Gamal al-Din Abd al-Mun'im, a freelance journalist with the bi-weekly newspaper al-Sha'b. He has remained in detention since 1993 even though he was acquitted twice (in 1993 and 1999) of all charges by military courts….
 
“The 1992 Anti-Terror Law also criminalized non-violent political opposition, and was used to arrest and bring to trial persons not accused of committing or advocating violence but simply of alleged affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Since 1995, over one hundred defendants were tried and dozens sentenced to terms of up to five years after being convicted of membership in an illegal organization. In 1999 the government arrested and tried twenty alleged Muslim Brothers, mostly lawyers, university professors and other professionals, accused of membership of an illegal organization and attempting to control the activities of professional associations. The prosecutions appeared to be an attempt by the authorities to prevent the defendants from running as independent candidates in parliamentary elections and for the boards of their respective professional associations. In November 2000, the Supreme Military Court sentenced fifteen of the defendants to prison terms ranging between three and five years, and acquitted the rest.
 
“The government has also targeted other Islamist opposition groups seeking to exercise their political rights peacefully. In May 2000 the Political Affairs Committee, a government body responsible for licensing and monitoring political parties, froze the activities of the legal Islamist opposition Labour Party… In a separate case in April 2000, four leading Labour Party figures were imprisoned after being convicted for slandering a government minister.
 
“As part of its efforts to stifle free political participation, the government strictly limits the number of licensed political parties. Since 1996, for example, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates who formed a group known as al-Wasat (The Center) have repeatedly applied to register as a political party but without success…. As an added measure to ensure a comfortable victory for the ruling National Democratic Party in these elections, the government routinely arrests opposition candidates and their supporters in the run-up to elections.
 
“The primary target has been the Muslim Brotherhood, hundreds of whose members and supporters were rounded up and held in administrative detention ahead of and during the October-November 2000 parliamentary elections in what has become a regular feature of Egyptian democracy. The pattern repeated itself in the run-up to the mid-term Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council, the upper house of the parliament) elections held in May and June 2001, when at least 140 persons suspected of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested for days or weeks, including several candidates running as independents.
 
“Emergency legislation prohibits strikes, public meetings, and election rallies. The government has taken arbitrary measures to stifle the voices of trade union activists who have been outspoken around issues such as worker safety in the state sector. In some cases the authorities issued threats to persuade activists to withdraw their candidacy in union elections. In October 2000 Fathi al-Masri, a board member of Center for Trade Union and Workers Services (CTUWS), an independent NGO, was detained for a month on charges of `disturbing public order’ after he distributed leaflets criticizing medical services at a state-owned company. In September 2001 two other CTUWS board members, including its director, Kamal Abbas, were questioned by prosecutors regarding `unwarranted’ criticisms of working conditions at another company.
 
“The government controls the electronic media and on occasion has shut down newspapers and periodicals that cross red lines. The Press Law of 1996 provides jail terms for offences such as defamation, insult or libel. The government has gone out of its way to appease Islamist sentiment in the country by implementing and encouraging measures that in practice violate of freedom of expression. These include banning novels considered to be sexually explicit or denigrating to Islam, and prosecuting writers whose views are deemed blasphemous. In effect, the government has compensated for its repression of Islamists in the political sphere by allowing the conservative religious establishment, such as the leading figures in Al-Azhar University , to exercise a high degree of control over cultural expression and social mores. ..
 
“…According to information compiled by the non-governmental Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), 1,357 people were killed in acts of political violence in Egypt between 1992 and 1998…. The government's campaign against those suspected of involvement in acts of political violence has been characterized by widespread arbitrary arrests, grossly unfair trials, torture, and executions…
 
“More than a thousand defendants were tried before military courts in thirty-two separate cases between 1992 and 1998, according to the EOHR. Of these, 479 were alleged members of al-Gihad, of whom thirty-seven were executed, 277 imprisoned, and 165 acquitted. Others included 383 alleged members of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya; fifty-one of them were executed, 247 imprisoned, and eighty-five acquitted. None had the right to appeal their sentences before a higher tribunal, a fair trial requirement, and none of the officials they accused of having tortured them were ever brought to justice.
 
“The last major military trial of this kind was held between February and April 1999, involving 107 defendants, 60 in absentia. Most were charged with membership of an illegal organization (al-Gihad), as well as other charges including conspiracy to commit murder, weapons possession, and forging official documents... The Supreme Military Court sentenced nine to death…Seventy-eight were sent to prison and twenty were acquitted. As in previous cases, a number of defendants stated in court that they had been tortured… “
 
Yet despite the undemocratic Mubarak regimes record of continuing to violate the human rights of large numbers of people in Egypt between 1992 and 2000, the same Human Rights Watch background report of October 2001 also noted:
 
“…For more than two decades Egypt has been one of the largest recipients of U.S. economic and military aid, second only to Israel . For fiscal year 2002 the Bush Administration has requested $ 1.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing funds, $ 655 million in Economic Support Fund assistance, and $1.2 million for training of Egyptian military officers….”

(end of part 21--section 2)