Monday, June 25, 2012

Revolution: was it worth it?

I keep on asking myself: what was the upheaval worth? What for did almost 1’000 people die? What for has the economy got ruined and investors backed off? Egypt has not reached anything for what it went out on the streets at hundreds of thousands in winter 2011.

Or was it nevertheless?

Something has very clearly changed. When I think of my first political conversations four years ago with Egyptians, I remember especially one thing: my conversational partner looked carefully around, whispered silently saying that I should not mention the name (Mubarak), that we were not allowed to talk here or if so, that we should talk very softly and cautiously and sometimes I was told to keep silent. No-one dared to criticise, no-one dared to honestly answer my naïve questions. Those were questions of someone who has grown up in a free country, with liberal thoughts, with a certain idea of justice, equality and human rights. Most probably, my questions proved of utter lack of understanding. Neither in buses nor in cafés had I ever heard conversing about politics – ok, I might not have understood it as well L.

Now and then it seemed to me that Egyptians acted or exaggerated. But after a while I realised that proven fear was the reason behind. I got to know that people could get arrested merely for their statements and got tortured. Worse even, they could get arrested only for being at the wrong time in  the wrong place.

There was no real independent media and therefore there was no public criticism against the dictatorship. Books and films were censored.

Naturally, there were activists; there were bloggers and efforts for opponent media underground. But the state was stronger, censored, forbade, sentenced and tortured.

To me, people seemed to be apathetic. Everybody cowered, kept silent and went his own way. I remember an Egyptian living in Switzerland describing his fellow citizens exactly like this. That was in summer 2010.

Today, everybody talks politics, including taxi and bus drivers; even shop assistants in the supermarket and in the bakery ask almost every customer his opinion about the present events. Including me although being a foreigner. People sit in front of the TV watching parliamentary debates and elections as they usually only did for local football matches.

There are challenging media and opponent newspapers. And of course, there are facebook, twitter and blogs. They became my most important sources of information.

And something else has changed: Egyptians are aware that they have got a voice. They have realised that they have power when they unite. They know that they can change what seemed unalterable for more than 30 years. Egyptians have woken up. Positive, isn’t it?

Well, they have just woken up recently. Sandmonkey put it to the point on his blog: Egyptians are impatient. It is as if they were playing a football match against the world’s best team – for example Brazil – and in the 12th minute they scored. They celebrate hilariously and forget that there are still 88 minutes to be played.

The first steps are done, the path is far, especially for such an impatient and vivacious people as Egyptians are.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Egypt’s new president…

… is Mohamed Mursy, a Muslim brother. I watched the announcement of the supervision election committee live on Al Jazeera. What a tedious blah blah blah for rigged elections!

When the winner was finally announced, I almost felt sick. But this would also have happened if Ahmed Shafiq would have been the winner.

Then, I told myself that it is comforting that
  • Mursi won’t have much power,
  • the parliament will have to be re-elected and there will hardly be an Islamic majority,
  • he and his party made many concessions to the liberals and to the minorities of the country during the recent days
  • SCAF is not interested in an Islamic state.

I would have betted that Shafiq would become president. However, after the various shady moves by the SCAF days before, I started to doubt. Yet the result is the same: power is with the military.

Remains to wait and see which deals the military and the Muslim brothers have agreed upon and how clever the liberals will act. Important steps have to be made: the constitution needs to be written and a parliament has to be elected. And sooner or later the ruler should take care about the economy, education, health, infrastructure, growth of the population and and and and….

Never in his life B. has been thinking of emigrating although some of his relatives live abroad and therefore, his chances are good to get a Visa. But now his fear is so big that he is seriously reflecting whether he should leave his country. He’s a Copt.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

At the roadside

An old man is crouching at the roadside. Beside him, a very young woman with a small child is sitting. His daughter? His wife?

It’s seven in the morning and temperatures under the umbrella put up are still pleasant. Two wood boxes are set up on the sidewalk: a cloth is spread over it and on it neatly arranged are some bags with kernels and nuts, paper tissues, cigarettes and chips. Things that nobody needs but everybody buys.

While passing by on my bicycle, the man is greeting me and waves his hand. I smile and greet him too.

But my smile freezes. This scene is neither in the middle of the city nor in a residential area. It’s outside on the ring road before a huge roundabout. It’s seven in the morning and there are already 30° C. Who would stop here to buy anything from these people? How long can they bear up with the heat on the sidewalk with the child? What would they do at noon, when the temperature in the shadow climbs up to 40° C? From where can they get cold water?

Anyway: how did they get there? I calculate: a bag of kernels costs about two or three pounds. Maybe they add 50 piasters or a pound. Or maybe even two. What would remain at the end of the day? Given that they are able to sell something, the turnover might be 20 pounds. That’s the value of 3 kilos of rice, a big pile of subsidised pita bread, a chicken, 300 g of meat or a bag of vegetables. It’s more difficult with fruit, melons are cheap but they would get only one and a half kilo of mangos.

This smile… can’t get it out of my mind… so friendly… so satisfied… and so honest…
And remembering the scene, there is again this strange feeling in my stomach that so often happens to me when I’m out and about. I wonder if this also happens to the Mercedes Kompressor and BMW drivers?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Power games – deadly serious

Even before the ballot stations closed, the SCAF struck with another poker game: they announced another decree to the transitional constitution allowing them more or less complete power over all state functions.

Whoever will be nominated as the next president – he will not execute his office for a long time.

It is said to be a “soft” coup by the military leaders. And there are many rumours: on Thursday – when the election results should be announced – there would be blood. Since Monday already, both candidates let themselves celebrate as winners just as if they wanted to create facts. People are recommended to buy food on stock because there would be a curfew (over Cairo?).

SCAF has decided providently that civilians who behave “suspiciously” can be arrested by the military police. And the Muslim brothers don’t know better as calling for new demonstrations. They want their president and if they don’t get him it would be vote rigging and they thread with more upheavals. And with a second revolution. Especially they who were notably absent in February 2011.

One of my Egyptian „students“ said that the Interior Ministry’s police is one thing – but the Military police is something else. Bad times seem to come. Even me, I don’t have a good feeling. How much can be destroyed by the greed for power.

For the past one and half a year, I’ve been sitting in a theatre called world scene and observe a stage play, in which a country is being destroyed by those who merely focus on their own (economical resp. religious) interests. It’s a first grade drama.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Simply hot

Very trivial: it’s hot. May was already much too hot. Now we are in the middle of June and temperatures climb up to 40° C in the shadow. Being in the sun feels as if I was moving about in an oven, as the case may be with the hot air switched on or off. The hot air switched on has the advantage that sweat dries immediately in the clothes and on the body; switched off also has an advantage: sand and dust remain stuck on the earth and so does sweat on the body.

Actually, it shouldn’t get hotter here on the Red Sea, neither in July nor in August. But who knows? Egypt is always up to all kind of surprises J.

The best place to be at the moment is consequently in (not at) the sea, elsewhere only air condition provides some cooling. Not even having a shower is cooling off – except if one gets up to have a shower at five in the morning.

Those less fortunate even works in the blazing sun or in overheated microbuses, cafés, cabs, shops etc. Hats off to them! The one who says people from the South are less assiduous should do their job for a while.

I can’t, although I quite well put up with the heat. But I need my siesta and I prefer doing shopping and get other things done outside at night – when there are still 30° C…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Honest elections?

Yesterday and today, Egyptians may decide between the two worst representatives to become the next president: either an Islamic state whose representatives are liars or back to the old dictatorship. Of course, Shafiq does not communicate the latter one but promises democracy and no way back to the old system.

People are torn within. Whom should they vote for? Which one is the lesser of the two evils? (It’s not about who is the better one out of the two!). Therefore, many Egyptians don’t vote at all or submit a void ballot, some even write on it: “down with the military” and “down with the Muslim brothers”.

The rigging continues cheerfully. Some ballots have been discovered that were already ticked for Mohamed Mursi. Officially, it was due to a “printing mistake” and the ballots were replaced.

The funniest of all news however is the following: allegedly, pens with ink to get invisible after a while were used in some polling stations! Egyptians really do have plenty of fantasy – whether this news is correct or a mere hoax.

The Muslim brothers have challenged the constitutional court’s decision according to which the parliament is unconstitutional. The SCAF has given order for the parliament’s dissolution and soldiers are deployed at the entrances of the parliament house in order to deny ministers to get in.

These elections aren’t honest as well. But this does not really matter. Maybe they are the last elections for a long time. In discussions people tell me, that with the next elections after four years, everything would be better. But I doubt that there will be a “next time” at all. The play “democracy for Egypt” is over for the time being, participants are put away, the rules of the game are torn and the play board is drowned in the Nile. Now, the remains are getting cleaned up and then daily routine continues as before 25 January 2011.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What a mess

The constitutional court has decided today that the law regarding the parliamentary elections is unconstitutional. That means that the parliament that was elected in November last year has to be dissolved.

Nevertheless, all laws issued by the (invalid) parliament are valid. Same is so-called disenfranchement law that excluded remnants of the old regime from the right to be elected as president.

Yet exactly this law has been declared unlawful by the constitutional court – and so Ahmed Shafiq has been given the go-ahead.

What a mess! Since February 2011, Egypt is without valid constitution – there are only transitional provisions – and without legal parliament. The constituent assembly has fallen apart because the Islamists wanted to decide over the constitution. A new constituent assembly that has been established under pressure by the SCAF some days ago is also about to fall apart.

The transitional provisions give legislative power to the SCAF. The government that was appointed by the SCAF is in fact powerless and now there is even green light for a remnant of the old regime and a military faithful  to become the next president.

As by a miracle all the power is again concentrated with the SCAF! Well scored, smartly orchestrated! Short before reaching their goals, the Islamists have been whisked off with a simple gesture.

But: what comes next? Will the presidential run-offs be postponed? Will the constitution be written before the run-offs? Will parliament elections be repeated before or after? Or is neither of those necessary at all?

The military is again empowered to arrest civilians since yesterday – regardless of the abolition of the martial law. These are all signs for a clear strategy: the status quo before the 25 January 2011 is re-established with all power. I stress: with all power.

I never seriously believed in the Islamists reaching their goals – the SCAF would never allow that. They don’t allow any other power at all. I am still convinced that there will be more surprises like the one today. And again I ask myself: why is there now coup within the military??

However, I am very concerned about the activists. The accounts about the sexual assaults on women some days ago in Tahrir give an idea how things might develop.

What a mess – at first sight. Yet the closer one looks, the better one sees: there are reason and intentions behind.

Egypt is not ready for democracy – because the SCAF does not allow it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Unexpected encounter on the sea

I’ve seen them: they are gleaming in silver grey through the surface of the water, speeding up and then jumping in an elegant bow over the waves, back into the dark blue sea; they disappear from the hopeful onlooker’s horizon and suddenly appear somewhere else, repeating their apparent game for some minutes.

Dolphins. Today, I’ve seen Dolphins. Real Dolphins in the Red Sea off Hurghada. Their sight was a surprising gift for me. Tear drops of joy ran down my hot cheeks while the Dolphins’ dorsal fins merged with the silver waves some distance away.