Bloomberg reports: Most Egyptians said the army was wrong to topple elected President Mohamed Mursi in July, and support for Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood held up after his July ouster, according to a poll by Zogby Research Services LLC.
The study, conducted in September, found 51 percent of respondents said Mursi’s overthrow was a mistake, compared with 46 percent who said the army was right. It was published on the website of the Arab American Institute.
Reuters reports: A leader of a hardline Egyptian Islamist group that fought the state in the 1990s warned that the army had driven the nation to the “edge of a precipice” since he fled the country after President Mohamed Mursi’s ouster in July.
The state and Islamists are old foes in Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal. Egypt has been torn by the worst internal strife in its modern history since the army deposed the Islamist Mursi.
Assem Abdel Maged of the Gamaa Islamiya told the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network he expected the situation in Egypt to deteriorate, saying protests “will be what breaks this coup”.
He is the first high profile Islamist who fled Egypt since Mursi’s ouster to speak publicly from abroad.
Abdel Maged said the military made a “major mistake” by siding with “religious, political, and social minorities”, an allusion to Christians and secular-minded Egyptians. The army deposed Mursi after mass protests against his rule on June 30.
Robert Mackey writes: This week, when Egypt’s military-backed government issued arrest warrants for Alaa Abd El Fattah and Ahmed Maher — two activist bloggers who helped drive the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011 only to find themselves blamed for inciting unrest by each successive government — the same thought occurred to several readers of their popular Twitter feeds. “The only stability and reliability we have in Egypt,” the journalist Sharif Kouddous joked, “is that successive rulers never fail to arrest @alaa.”
The mood among supporters of the two men turned much darker on Thursday night when Mr. Abd El Fattah’s wife, Manal Hassan, reported that the police had raided their home, dragging off her husband and leaving his blood on the floor. [Continue reading...]
Jadaliyya reports: At around 10:00 p.m. on 28 November 2013, police forces stormed the home of activist Alaa Abd El Fattah. They had no search warrant. When his wife Manal demanded to see it they were both beaten up. Police personnel took their computers and their telephones. Their two-year old son, Khaled, was asleep in the next room.
An arrest warrant was issued for Abd El Fattah following Tuesday’s violent dispersal of protestors under a new law effectively banning street protest in Egypt. At least fifty-one people were arrested that day, among them several prominent activists. All were beaten and the women were sexually assaulted. Later that day, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Abd El Fattah’s for the alleged incitement and organization of the protest. A warrant for the arrest of Ahmed Maher, founder of the 6th April Youth Movement, was also issued.
Abd El Fattah had stated publicly that he would turn himself in on Saturday but the police violently raided his home earlier tonight.
Al Jazeera reports: A group of women have been jailed for 11 years for a peaceful protest in Alexandria, as Egypt’s interim prime minister gave a strong defence of a law further restricting public demonstrations.
The women, supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi, received 11-year jail sentences on Wednesday for forming a human chain and passing out flyers earlier this month. Seven minors among the group were remanded to juvenile detention until they reach legal age. The youngest in the group is 15 years old.
Six men, described by prosecutors as Muslim Brotherhood leaders, were sentenced to 15-year terms, accused of being members of a “terrorist organisation”.
In a news conference also on Wednesday, Hazem el-Beblawi, the interim prime minister, defended a new law requires which citizens to apply for permission before marching as a “necessary step”.
“The cabinet confirms that it will apply the law fully to show its support for the police in the face of terrorism. The law is subject to change, but through the proper channels.” [Continue reading...]
The New York Times reports: When the new military-backed Egyptian government lifted a nationwide state of emergency more than 10 days ago, it seemed to be proclaiming a momentary victory in the battle with its principal foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose regular protests had begun to wither.
But the government’s problems hardly abated. In brazen and occasionally spectacular attacks, militants have stepped up a campaign of assassinations and bombings aimed at the security services.
Non-Islamist critics have accused the government of incompetence or growing authoritarianism, potentially broadening the opposition beyond supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the deposed Islamist president. At the same time, unrest has begun to surface in different places, lately sweeping up Islamist students on university campuses.
And notably, small cracks have begun to appear in the coalition that supported the ouster of Mr. Morsi as the government has faced anger from recent allies and rare criticism in the once-fawning local news media. It has become harder for officials to blame the Brotherhood for all the nation’s woes, nearly five months after it was swept from power and then battered by a relentless campaign of state repression. But rather than trying to move beyond the conflict, the government still seems largely shaped by it.
Officials have started to dismiss critics using the language of previous autocratic rulers, blaming a shadowy fifth column or foreign meddling. And in response to dissent, they have drafted repressive new laws to replace the state of emergency, including a law issued on Sunday that bans protests by more than 10 people without the government’s approval.
“They have kept alive the idea of ‘enemies of the nation’ and the war on terror — the only glue keeping the bits and pieces together,” said Rabab el-Mahdi, a political science professor at the American University of Cairo, speaking of the interim government. “For any ruling alliance to be stable, it cannot depend on force or coercion. They lack any kind of ideological shield, except being against the Brotherhood.”
“They are not delivering,” Ms. Mahdi added, “and they will keep facing the dissent.” [Continue reading...]
The Wall Street Journal reports: Saudi Arabia maintained a pointed silence Sunday on the new nuclear pact between world powers and Saudi Arabia’s top rival, Iran, while other Gulf and Arab states gave a cautious welcome to a deal hoped to ease tensions in a region bloodied by proxy battles between Shiite Iran and Sunni Arab states.
Saudi political commentators voiced persistent fears that Iran would now see itself as freed to advance on other, non-nuclear fronts against its Middle East rivals.
By early Monday in the Middle East, most of the region’s Muslim powers — Turkey, Egypt, and at least four of the six wealthy Arab Gulf countries — had issued statements expressing support for the deal. The United Arab Emirates., a commerce-minded nation that traditionally has thrived on doing business with both Iran and Arab states, welcomed the deal as one it hoped would protect the region “from the tension and danger of nuclear proliferation,” the emirates’ council of ministers said.
Saudi Arabia, the most powerful of the Arab states and the most intensely suspicious rival of Shiite Iran, made no public comment on the pact Sunday, and its foreign ministry didn’t return requests for comment. [Continue reading...]
Al Jazeera reports: Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, has signed a restrictive new “protest law” that would require Egyptians to seek approval days in advance before organising demonstrations.
The law will take effect later this week once the final text is published in the official state register. It gives police wide latitude to use force against demonstrators, which could give the government a pretext for a widespread crackdown.
The law has gone through numerous revisions, but rights groups say the latest version requires protesters to seek approval from police three days in advance, and allows the interior ministry to block rallies that could “pose a serious threat to security or peace”.
Election campaign events are subject to a 24-hour notification period in some drafts, and “processions” of more than 10 people are only allowed for “non-political” purposes. Violators could face fines of up to $4,360.
“They could have stuck to earlier versions, where if the interior ministry wants to ban a protest, the onus is on them to go to court and seek a ban,” said Heba Morayef, the Egypt director for Human Rights Watch. “Instead they’ve done the opposite. The end result is that we could see an increase in violent crackdowns on peaceful protests.” [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: Egypt said on Saturday it was expelling Turkey’s ambassador and accused Ankara of backing organizations bent on undermining the country – an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi.
Turkey, which had forged close ties with Egypt under Mursi, responded by declaring the Egyptian ambassador, currently out of the country, persona non grata.
“We are saddened by this situation,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement. “But responsibility before history belongs to Egypt’s temporary administration which came to power under the extraordinary circumstances of the July 3 coup.”
Turkey has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Mursi’s removal, calling it an “unacceptable coup”. Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has been staging protests calling for his reinstatement, has close ties with Turkish Prime Minster Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.
Marc Lynch writes: Secretary of State John Kerry can’t seem to find enough ways these days to express his acceptance of Egypt’s military coup regime. In a visit to Cairo, he waved away the hard-fought suspension of some U.S. aid as “not a punishment” and declined to raise the issue of the trial of former President Mohamed Morsy. He seems keen to pretend that Egypt is on the road to democracy, and even appears to believe that the fiercely anti-democratic United Arab Emirates is going to support a democratic transition. Most recently, he endorsed the regime’s narrative by claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood “stole” the revolution — by winning free and fair elections, which Washington strongly supported.
Why is Kerry making such a production of supporting Egypt’s military regime? Most likely, President Barack Obama’s administration simply has much bigger regional issues with which to grapple, and has decided that it can accomplish little in a hopelessly fractured Egypt. It (correctly) calculates that there is little it can do to influence the course of events in Cairo due to the pervasive hostility to Washington across the Egyptian political spectrum and the willingness of Gulf states to offset any American attempts to exercise leverage.
It may be galling to many Egypt watchers and Egyptians who consider Cairo the center of the Middle East universe, but right now events there are barely a sideshow for Washington. Cairo has made it quite clear that it has little interest in American advice, and Washington has far more important issues on its plate.
Both Iran’s nuclear program and the horrific war in Syria continue to take priority over Egypt on America’s regional agenda. Closing a deal with Iran would arguably be the single most impressive and important geostrategic accomplishment in the Middle East since the Camp David Accords. Meanwhile, Syria’s civil war continues to inflict crushing human costs and has reverberated around the region, and few of the external players are keen on U.S.-orchestrated attempts to organize a peace conference.
Given those momentous challenges, the Obama administration is likely calculating that if happy talk on Egypt can slightly appease America’s anxious Gulf allies as Washington pushes policies in Iran and Syria that they dislike, then so be it.
That may be dispiriting, but at least it makes sense — as long as nobody is really fooled that Egypt is actually on a path toward a democratic future. But I doubt anyone in the administration is buying their own rhetoric. It may seem strange now, but there was once a controversy over whether Egypt’s July 3 coup should be called a coup. Even though it met the textbook definition of a coup — the military stepping in, suspending the constitution, and arresting the elected political leadership — many Egyptians protested that the masses in the streets demanding change and the perfidy of the Brotherhood leadership made it something different. It didn’t, of course.
Lest we forget, everything that has happened since July 3, without exception, has confirmed the coupness of Egypt’s coup. Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s military regime has done everything by the book — rounding up and brutalizing supporters of the old regime, cultivating a cult of personality around the coup leader, tightly controlling the media, stage-managing a constitutional process designed to protect the military’s power and privileges, and even promising an eventual return to democracy.
The more obvious the nature of Egypt’s coup has become, the faster Washington has tried to run away from the legal and political implications of acknowledging it. [Continue reading...]
The Telegraph reports: Egypt’s military-backed regime is attempting to win hearts and minds by setting up memorial sculptures at sites of protests where its army and police gunned down demonstrators.
Residents and passers-by in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, made famous the world over by the 2011 revolution, have watched agog and puzzled in recent days as a circular stone creation has begun to take shape in the grass-covered central roundabout.
On Sunday, the authorities announced it would be unveiled on the eve of Tuesday’s anniversary of the so-called Mohammed Mahmoud massacre, several days of protests in 2011 when scores of demonstrators against the then interim Supreme Council of the Armed Forces were shot dead on the street of that name that leads away from the Square.
In addition, several more lost eyes to a central security force marksman who was later convicted of deliberately targeting them with birdshot.
The memorial is the second in a sequence. Earlier this month, another sculpture consisting of two angular arms, representing the police and army, protecting a silver orb, representing the people, was completed in the square in front of Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, where the army killed more than 600 Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators in August. [Continue reading...]
Reuters reports: After escaping shelling in Damascus and terrifying bloodshed at sea, 14 month-old Palestinian twin girls are now among hundreds of people living in limbo in grimy Egyptian police stations, with no end in sight to their plight.
Of the 2 million people who fled Syria’s civil war, none may have it worse than Palestinians, who have known no other home than Syria but do not have Syrian citizenship and have therefore been denied even the basic rights secured for other refugees.
The United Nations says the Egyptian government has refused it permission to register Palestinians from Syria as refugees and give them the yellow card that allows them to settle. As a result, hundreds of Palestinians civilians have ended up detained in police stations, with no place else to go.
The twins’ family fled Syria after their house was nearly hit by shelling. But when they arrived in Egypt they were denied permission to work or to receive refugee benefits. After five months, with no other way of obtaining a living, they attempted to leave Egypt for Italy.
They were captured at sea on September 17 by the Egyptian navy, which fired on the overloaded rickety craft, the mother of the twins said. She held her daughters tight as bullets flew by. At least one person was hit and the boat was filled with blood and flying shrapnel.
“The children were traumatised,” she said. “I was holding my daughter hunched down. The bullets were coming…. There was so much screaming… There was so much blood….”
If the family were Syrian citizens, once detained they would most likely have been permitted to leave Egypt for refugee camps in other countries in the region, says Human Rights Watch.
But because they are Palestinians they have been given no other option but to camp out in a police station indefinitely, or somehow make their way back to the war zone in Syria.
Turkey and Jordan will not accept Palestinians from Syria and Lebanon will only allow them to pass through for 48 hours. [Continue reading...]
AFP reports: An Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday offered negotiations to end the deadly tumult since Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s overthrow, without explicitly insisting on his reinstatement.
The coalition “calls on all revolutionary forces and political parties and patriotic figures to enter a deep dialogue on exiting the current crisis,” it said in a statement.
The proposal comes after more than 1,000 people, mostly Morsi supporters, were killed in clashes with police and thousands more arrested following his overthrow by the military on July 3.
The coalition, which has organised weekly protests despite the crackdown, insisted in its statement on keeping up “peaceful opposition”, but said it wanted a “consensus for the public good of the country”.
Much of the Brotherhood’s leadership has been put on trial, including Morsi himself.
“We have no conditions, and neither should they,” Imam Youssef, a leader of the Islamist coalition member the Asala party, told AFP.
But he said the talks must lead to a “democratic” solution, and the coalition wanted them to start within two weeks.
The Islamists were prepared to respect the demands of the millions of protesters who called for Morsi’s ouster, Youssef said.
“We want a democratic solution, and it does not necessarily mean we have to be in power,” he added. [Continue reading...]