I just received a report by the International Crisis Group entitled “Egypt’s Sinai Question“. Skimming through it, it looks like there’s some interesting information. But, in all honesty, I’m not sure how well-researched it is because some of their recommendations are already being worked on.

I did have time to notice that they tackle the lagging development (not that the rest of Egypt is shooting ahead, really) as a major problem. I agree, as would a lot of people i’ve met in the Sinai.  What’s strange is that i dont think the report makes any reference to the EC-funded SSRDP (The South Sinai Regional Develpoment Program), which is a little odd since it was such a public and exciting affair when i visited twice in the Summer. I’m not quite sure how anyone visiting South Sinai for non-sun-related reasons could managed to miss it.

I just received this from the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (HRInfo).

Cairo – 24 December 2006

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (HRinfo) is highly concerned by the resolution of Qalubia governor to close Ahalina Center for Egyptian Family Support and Development (Ahalina). The governor’s resolution is aimed at revenge on Ahalina which disclosed the falseness of his mid-November statements that all slum areas in Qalubia governorate are completely supplied with utilities. Ahalina reported that many areas in the governorate are still lacking the minimum requirements of humanitarian life.

On 24 December 2006, employees from Shubra Al-Khima Municipality accompanied by policemen stormed into Ahalina headquarter and attempted to close and seal it with red wax, upon Qalubia governor’s resolution. The governor claimed that Ahalina is “inciting riots”; examples include submitting more than 11 complaints signed by the citizens of slum and deprived areas to the governor’s office. In addition, Ahalina issued a press release in response to governor’s false statements that the governorate has no slum or lacking-utilities areas.

More after the break.

Continue reading ‘Police Storm NGO in Shobra el-Kheima’

The EUMC (European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia) just released a report studying the conditions of Muslims in EU countries. I’ve only had time to skim through the 117 pages. At a first glance, they seem to have made an effort to maintain balance such as with the chickin-and-egg issue of marginalization and discrimination. If nothing else, it’s somewhat encouraging that someone took this initiative.

I saw this article in the Washington Post. It seems the Democartic Senator Tim Johnson (South Dakota) is in critical condition after brain surgery. Generally, something of the sort is not all that noteworthy. However, it turns out that if he is unable to fulfil his duties, the Governor (a Republican!)  gets to appoint a replacement. This would effectively kill the democrats’ advantage and split the senate 50-50 (The Dems have only 48 seats but the two independents have said they will join the Dems’ bloc).

It’s probably too ealy to speculate and i’m not quite sure what the reprecussions would be. But maybe people on this side of the globe were a little too hasty with their collective sigh of relief. I hope not.

More info right here although i’d suggest google news for more updated info.

Frederik Richter has an interesting piece in Qantara.de.  It’s more reporting than in depth analysis. I would really like to see someone qualified take a long hard look at the prospects of educational reform in Egypt. But this is a start. The piece examines  educational reform initiatives using IT training. It’s no surprise that the bulk of effort has not been initiated by the government, but rather IT companies operating within Egypt.

Letter to HRW


I just received this letter from several human rights organizations addressed to Human RIghts Watch. They’re basically protesting the ridiculous statement issued by HRW towards the end of last month that i posted on recently.

No Code


This is something that’s been bouncing around in the back of my head for about a week.I’ll start with a mundane example. As anyone who’s lived in Cairo knows, transportation is a bitch. Personally, I drive, although sometimes i wish i wasnt so reliant on the storage space. It’s such a stressful, nerve-wrecking ordeal. And it can be really really crowded. I’ve gotten cramps in my left calf from inching along for 2 hours. Luckily, over the years, i’ve gotten better at dealing with the road though. I scream out the window much less, at least. But some things continue to get at me. Here’s one: You’re at an intersection. The light is green. However, immediately after the intersection there is no where to go. The cars are backed up to the edge. Why the hell do Egyptian drivers invariably insist on proceeding through the light, ending up stuck in the middle of the intersection, and consequently blocking the other direction. Why? You gain nothing! See, i’ll kid myself not. I dont have liberal ideals. Well, I do. I just dont expect them much. I expect people to do what’s in their interest. But there’s just no explanation for blocking traffic without getting any positive benefit for oneself. It’s not just a jungle, it’s an irrational one.

Similar examples crop up everywhere. In any interaction with the bureaucracy for example. In the metro. In any line, obviously. This got me wondering why Egyptians dealt so horribly with each other.

Cogitating on this while driving, i found it very difficult to reconcile with the fact that there is undoubtedly a very rigid, albeit unwritten, code on what is or isnt acceptable in dealing with people: How to address various people depending on their age, sex, marital status, profession, rank, degree.. what’s expected of each party in the case of hosting, engagement, employment, marriage, death.. And generally, Egyptians seem very keen on upholding this code.

It seems to me that although Egyptians have a very rigid set of interpersonal behavior regulations, this seems , at least for those in Cairo, to apply only to direct connections: relatives, friends, work-related acquaintances. There is obviously neither a sense of respect nor consideration involved during interaction in the public sphere. As such, people have no problems stopping in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. Or parking second row and leaving the handbrake up. Or cutting into an obvious (believe it or not i’ve seen a rare few) line. Whether or not this ever existed, i wouldnt know. After all, if you go back only a couple of generations (prior to mass transport and urban migration), you could make the argument that everyone anyone interacted with during their lifetime fell into the acquaintance category.

Anyway, while this lack of respect and consideration is a general problem, it is manifested much more acutely with marginalized/disenfranchised groups. This is obvious in Muslim interactions with, perceptions of and attitudes towards Copts. Think fish and sharks; Or Alexandria riots. But those are just big issues of a much more pervasive problem. To give an example, a (Muslim) friend of mine who was conscripted would tell me stories of how the Muslims used to take all the food and then give the Copts the leftovers. They started giving him a hard time when he tried to protest this treatment.

It is even more evident in the treatment of women, especially in public. The way women are treated on the street is absolutely inexcusable and infinitely repulsive. The Eid mass-sexual assaults highlighted an already long-standing problem.

I think that Egyptian society needs to develop a “code” for public interaction. A social contract, if you will. But from where i’m standing, it sure as hell looks like we’re going in the opposite direction.

ADDENDUM: It seems I was misunderstood, so I’m adding this addendum.First, I’m not making claims about whether or not people think about what they’re doing. I believe that when making decisions the vast majority of people do not have respect for others they come into contact with in the public sphere. They are inconsiderate.

Second, I do not, under any circumstances, believe that we need to legislate a code for behavior. I ultimately have little faith in laws and their implementation. In any case, I think that laws – or, rather, legislation in a representative system as opposed to edicts (or rubber stamping) – are little more than a formalization of something that is already generally accepted in a society or community. What is generally accepted in a group most definitely evolves. And that is precisely what i’m talking about. Whether this is inculcated through school, the home, or public service announcements (although, if you’re talking about top-down enforcement and restricting freedom, i’m not so sure how different incorporating behavior into the “national curriculum” is from legislating it) may be subject to opinion. But the need for this sense to evolve is undoubtedly there.