I was lately asked to think about the question why the revolutionary youth in Egypt stopped protesting. It is true, almost unnoticed the square has been empty during the past few months.

Why would they be protesting, and why would they not protest anymore?

Why protest? The Muslim Brotherhood has won a majority in parliament and will play a major role in writing the constitution and probably deliver the new president. So, protest? Yes, because the Muslim Brotherhood is not a democratic party. On the contrary, it is theocratic party that supports the oppression of women, Copts and economic deprived as second class citizens.

Why not protest? But, what if they have been chosen in a democratic way? Didn’t they win the elections? Yes, but where the elections fair? Some say they were not, many illiterate (and literate) voters were persuaded to vote for the MB. The MB had given them rice, meat, social services in a structural way and also bought votes with money.

On the other hand, a bad educated religiously conservative population can hardly be expected to vote anything else than the well organized Islamic party, let not fool anyone by believing that the secular leftist parties make any chance to win the elections democratically in today’s Egypt.

The MB truly is loved by many, and besides this, SCAF said they will leave after the presidential elections and those will soon be held. There is now a sphere of expectation and hope that everything will turn out well.

But elections are not the end of the quest for democracy. Democracy is more than voting, it involves a radical change in people’s ways of thinking. Once this change has taken place no nondemocratic parties will find support anymore among passive citizens. Passivity ends where the liberating of minds begins.

It is for this quest for democracy that the youth and everyone else must continue to struggle.

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Public Space in Cairo

Places in Cairo’s public space are often confined to small parts of the public and not accessible to the population at large.

Many cafés, restaurants and clubs have minimum charges that prevent members of the lower income classes from entering. Places where you could have a drink of 20 pounds you have to pay a charge of for example 100 pounds to make sure only richer people visit. Some restaurants have VIP parts where only some of the privileged can sit.

The same goes for the wide spread phenomenon of Nadi’s, or clubs that usually offer sports facilities and restaurants and are open to members. Well known nadi’s are Nadi as-Sid in Doqqi, Nadi al-Gezira in Zamalek and Nadi Heliopolis in Heliopolis, to mention only a few. They fill huge areas of space in the middle of Cairo’s neighborhoods but membership is only for the happy few, the rich. It is an exclusivity to be gained only by paying a relative expensive contribution.

The metro has cabins for women only that are forbidden for men to enter. Unfortunately this stems from a necessity to protect women against men’s harassment.

Many schools are private as are universities. They are only accessible for the rich. Public schools are open to everyone but don’t offer good education nor good facilities.

Mosques and churches can be entered only wearing specific clothes. These buildings indeed do belong to certain religious groups only which is not a bad thing, but this does not take away that they confine certain parts of public space to certain groups of people only.

Neighborhoods are confined to either rich or poor. Many middle class people rarely visit lower class neighborhoods because they are “dangerous, chaotic, dirty”, while at the same millions of Cairo’s population live there and their neighborhoods should by no means be marginalized the way they often are now.

The unequal distribution of public space reflects the unequal distribution of power in society. Public space should be public and accessible to all member of society irrespective of their race, class and income or religion. The same goes for power, which should be equally distributed throughout society in a democratic way. Thus in a democracy public space should be equally accessible to all members of society.

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Civil Disobedience

The new weapon of the Egyptian people against the rule of the army is a general civil obedience starting today. Practically this means many people are going to strike or otherwise will put a piece of black cloth on their balconies in support.

General Strike February 11

The metro won’t drive. Companies will be closed. Classes at the American University are canceled for Sunday and Monday. (It’s America trying to bring down the country, conspiracy theory says). Papers have even been distributed by some independent groups telling taxi drivers that when they will drive their taxis will be damaged.

Discussions take place everywhere. In the metro last day women were telling others that everyone should just go to work, otherwise the country would collapse financially. For many people however striking is not an option anyway, because they can’t live without a days’ income.

Who will be hurt most by the strike? The army certainly not on the short term. Its Egypt’s own citizens who will suffer from the lack of services. How to travel if the metro is not working and you don’t have a car nor money for a taxi?

Civil disobedience seems like a strong means to manipulate the military regime but it is an expensive way for the many poor people in Egypt. The economy is on the edge and a strike that will last for more than a week will make it fall down completely. Disobedience of the army is not without a price.

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Secularity in Parliament

Secularity in Parliament

Earlier this week Mamdouh Ismail, a member of the Salafist party, performed the call for prayer during a session of parliament. In this session the Minister of Interior was just being questioned about the recent violence against protestors.

Saad al-Katatni, the leader of parliament who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, did not agree with this performance. He said that he would not interrupt but speak with him after he was done.

And so he did. Al-Katatni told Mamdouh to not perform the call for prayer during a session again. If anyone in parliaments wants to pray, spoke Al-Katatni, he can do so in  the adjacent prayerroom whenever he wants. Parliament however, is not a place for prayer but for talking. If Mamdouh was a self respecting lawyer he would understand the parliaments secular principles. And now sit down again mister Mamdouh.

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The purpose of education

Mustafa K Anuar's blog

World renowned MIT Professor Noam Chomsky highlights the importance of helping to develop a questioning and independent mind in a formal education system.

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Ongoing Revolution

“There are clashes you know”, an agitated girls tells me when leaving the metro at Sadat this friday. She appears to be right as many people entering the station wear gasmasks or have white eyes from the teargas.

Above the ground ambulances follow each other up without pauses. There are some people gathered at Tahrir, but the clashes take place at the Ministry of Interior. They started after the deaths at the soccer game last Wednesday.

Seventy six of the people present at the match died while security was watching. They happen to be part of the Ultras, the supporters organization that is known for its active involvement in the revolution.

The whole country is mourning. Events are delayed or canceled, clubs are closed, people are wearing black. Tahrir is filled with people again and clashes have broken out between protestors and the police.

“You know what I did yesterday?” my eleven year old neighbor asks, while we’re sitting in the sun on the roof this Saturday morning. “I joint in the march from Mohandeseen, you see the people are angry about what happened in Port Sa3ied and now they protest and the police started throwing teargas at the people at the Ministry and the people are throwing stones.” In those clashes seven people died.

“They say we won’t play soccer any more for the coming four years because of what happened. But I don’t think everyone will keep that up because Egyptians love soccer. Soccer and handball. You know we once won from France? Soccer is very important for us. Very. Like water and bread.”

“And you know what Abo Treka did? Do you know who he is? He’s the best player of Egypt. They say he gave half of all his money to the martyrs.”

His uncle just entering sadly says that Egypt is close to  destruction. “The army needs to go, otherwise Egypt will go down. That´s why the revolution needs to continue.”

But the army has no intention of handing over the power. They first promised to leave after the parliament was chosen and now say they will leave after the new president will be chosen in June. The Muslim Brotherhood who won most of the seats in the parliament announced on its website that is does not want the parliament to take over power yet.

The army must have been very happy with the revolution because it offered an excuse to oust Mubarak  and take over the rule of the country themselves. While they let the people think they finally got rid of the old regime and will soon live in a free country. But a free country Egypt is not yet, as this week’s events have shown.

Yusqut yusqut 7ukm al 3askar”,  a man buying oranges tells the seller by way of goodbye after paying. “Yusqut yusqut 7ukm al 3askar” shout the people marching through the streets of Cairo and other cities. “Yusqut yusqut 7ukm al 3askar” shout the people in Tahrir. The army’s rule must fall.

Al thawra mustamirra”. The revolution continues.

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The New Parliament, the SCAF, and the Revolution

The Islamists in Egypt have won a majority of seats in the Egyptian parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood together with other conservative Islamist parties have won more than 70 percent of the votes.

Whereas the revolution is not an Islamic revolution but a secular revolution in which everybody, irrespective of religion, is demanding freedom and democracy, it seems to end up in an Islamic parliament. For a country in which many people are conservative Muslims this outcome of the free elections must not come as a surprise.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a large party with many members who have support in many parts of the country. They are well organized and obviously trusted by a lot of people who believe they can provide them with education, jobs, and food, the most important reasons for their votes. The 70 percent of people who voted for Islamist parties do not all want an Islamic state without equal rights for all citizens, without alcohol and shared beaches.

Woman carrying the sign of the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood

Nor is it true that all Islamic parties will immediately forbid pork and short dress in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has changed over the last decades from a radical party into a party perfectly trained in the vocabulary of the political arena.

After its victory in the 2005 parliamentary elections,  the Muslim Brotherhood showed itself able to deal with different political topics in a secular way. Nevertheless, the Muslim Brotherhood that operated under a dictator who did not leave any space for parties to act freely must have been different from the party it will be in a free country.

A free country Egypt cannot be called yet, though.  The military council says it will not leave until the creation of an approved constitution and the election of a president. According to them this will be in June.

The constitution is to be formed by a hundred persons assembly who will be chosen by the new parliament. The people forming the constitution will thus be for a majority Islamists. So the one to shape the country for the coming decades are Islamists.

This leads to question how free Egypt will be after the military council will leave. What if the free elections lead to an end of freedom, and the short lived democracy will be ended right away by non democratic parties. Maybe, the Muslim Brotherhood will show itself to be much more a party of “freedom and justice” than many people fear they are not.

We have to wait and see what a future without the Military Council will bring.

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