Category Archives: The Egyptian coup

Mahdi Akef: lived in the open, buried in secret

Drawing source: Arabi 21 ‘A Prisoner across all Ages’

Under the leadership of Muhammad Mahdi Akef, in 2004, the Muslim Brotherhood published the first truly comprehensive reform programme for Egypt and, in 2005, Akef led the Muslim Brotherhood to its largest electoral victory prior to the 2011 Revolution.

Following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi in the July 2013 coup, he was arrested at the advanced age of 85 years and held, like many of Egypt’s 40,000 political prisoners, under absolutely brutal conditions. According to his family, he was diagnosed with cancer last year, and despite declining health, was nevertheless held incommunicado in Junta prisons. Despite the fact that he was acquitted of all (the trumped up) charges against him in January 2016, yet continued to be detained, for another 20 months, away from his family, as his health declined visibly, until his death.

Akef was widely celebrated for refusing to be nominated for a second term as the Brotherhood’s guide, vacating the post in 2010 after the election of Muhammad Badie. He remained one of the few leadership figures who appealed to a wide cross-section of Muslims. His repeated court appearances over the past four years, white-haired, and wrapped in a white blanket posed a strange contrast with the heavy security around him. Needless to say, his family were denied a public funeral by Sisi, who also forbade the “absentee prayer” from being said in mosques in his honour. As Palestinian scholar, Kamal Khateeb, tells us: when Akef fought alongside Palestinians for their rights in 1948, his jailer was still only a ‘black spot on his father’s back’.

Over the course of these four years not a single Western government issued a statement opposing his incarceration or appealing for his release. These governments continue to support the tyranny of Sisi despite its ferocious stench, for profit. The murder even of their own citizens means little to them beside the draw of the filthy lucre. Yet their politicians and intellectuals continue to bore the world with their insistence on ‘Western values’…

Savage Egypt: a tightly wound coil waiting to “spring”

Since July 2013, when Egypt’s military overthrew the country’s first freely elected president, torture has returned as the calling card of the security services, and the lack of punishment for its routine practice has helped define the authoritarianism of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s administration.

Al-Sisi’s pursuit of political stability at any cost has granted the country’s chief domestic security institution, the Interior Ministry, a free hand, perpetuating the same abuses that fueled the 2011 uprising.

The Interior Ministry’s regular police and its National Security Agency have used widespread arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and torture against perceived dissidents, many of them alleged members or sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Sisi’s primary political opposition. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), an independent human rights group, has identified 30 people who died from torture while being held in police stations and other Interior Ministry detention sites between August 2013 and December 2015. In 2016, the ECRF reported that its lawyers received 830 torture complaints, and that another 14 people had died from torture in custody.

HRW REPORT

The US and European nations now face a quandary, either to continue backing Sisi’s murderous rule and become more and more associated with it as time goes on (as if they aren’t already), or insist that the country reforms, in which case a suppressed rage in the country will duly spring up to cause widespread chaos. This will happen anyway – eventually. Reconciliation will not be possible.

Egypt blocks Algerian humanitarian-aid convoy into Gaza

Egyptian authorities had stopped an Algerian humanitarian-aid convoy from crossing into the Gaza Strip from Sinai, a Palestinian NGO said Friday.”Egypt’s decision to block the entry of the aid convoy is very unfortunate and does not reflect the positive spirit that has recently characterized Gaza-Egypt relations,” the National Committee for Breaking the Siege of Gaza said in a press statement.

On Friday, Egypt re-closed its border with the Gaza Strip after having opened it to Palestinian pilgrims for the last four days for their travel to Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, Gaza’s border authority said.

Blockaded by Israel by air, land and sea since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh — the Rafah crossing — is controlled by Egypt, which has kept it tightly sealed for the most part since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, in a 2013 military coup

Remember Raba’a al-‘Adawiyya and Nahda

Remember how on 14 August 2013, Egyptian security forces raided two camps of protesters in Cairo: one at al-Nahda Square and a larger one at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square.

On November 14, FMA head Dr. Hisham Abdelhamid held a press conference and announced that the final death-toll for Rab’a was 627, including 377 bodies autopsied at the official morgue, 167 bodies identified in Iman Mosque Rab’a Square and another 83 bodies that were taken to different hospitals around Cairo. The quasi-official National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) released a report on the Rab’a dispersal in March 2014, in which it cited the figure of 624 civilians killed.

These figures, though, ignore compelling evidence of additional uncounted bodies in morgues and hospitals across Cairo documented by Human Rights Watch researchers and Egyptian human rights lawyers on August 14 and in the days immediately following the Rab’a dispersal. Based on an extensive review of evidence, which compared death lists put out both by the official FMA and quasi-official NCHR and human rights lawyers and other survivors, Human Rights Watch documented 817 deaths in the Rab’a dispersal alone. Human Rights Watch also reviewed evidence of a possible 246 additional deaths, documented by survivors and civil society groups. This evidence, in addition to credible reports of additional bodies taken directly to hospitals and morgues without accurate record or known identity, and individuals still missing from Rab’a, it is likely that over 1,000 protesters were killed in Rab’a alone.

Of course this count omits the bodies burned to cinders with flamethrowers and the many dead picked up by bulldozer sweeps and dumped in landfill on army land on the Suez road.

Normalising extra-judicial killings of opposition youth in Egypt

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior Ministry is no longer interested in covering up extra-judicial killings in firefight scenarios as has been the case up until now. The killings in cold blood are now blatant and the Egyptian government officials involved are unapologetic.

The first such incident involved the discovery of student Tharwat Sameh last Monday on a desert road near Cairo whose body clearly displayed the ugly imprints of torture, a mere two days after his arrest in October 6 City. The second involved the simple announcement by the Interior Minister of the “liquidation” of Omar Abdel Baki, charged according to state newspapers for demonstrating and incitement to violence.

These incidents represent an unprecedented escalation in the cases of physical liquidation of dissidents which have totalled 222 since January. The gross affront to any form of decency by the Egyptian junta has grown apace since the events surrounding the torture and summary execution of Italian student Giulio Regeni attracted little comment or response from the EU and the US, who continue to blindly back the junta. This impunity is the direct cause of the new hellish environment. 

But enough is enough and the call by lawyer Haytham Abu Khalil to increase external pressure on the Egyptian Junta for its crimes against humanity comes at a crucial juncture.

Egypt: consolidating repression under Sisi

Public criticism and peaceful opposition to the government remain effectively banned in Egypt, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2017. Security forces routinely tortured detainees and forcibly disappeared hundreds of people during 2016.

Having jailed tens of thousands of political opponents since the military’s removal of former President Mohamed Morsy in 2013, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government in 2016 took unprecedented steps to criminalize human rights work and cripple independent civil society groups.

“President al-Sisi’s government is consolidating and escalating repression,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Absent strong responses from the international community, authorities will continue to squeeze the space for exercising basic freedoms into nothing.”

In late November, Egypt’s parliament approved a highly restrictive draft law on associations that, if signed by al-Sisi, would place the work and funding of independent groups under supervision of a committee including representatives of the Interior, Justice and Defense Ministries and the General Intelligence Service, Egypt’s top spy agency.In September, a Cairo criminal court approved a request from a panel of investigative judges to freeze the assets of three human rights groups and the personal assets of five people who founded or led such groups.

Authorities have banned at least 15 group directors, founders, or staff members from traveling outside Egypt, most of them in 2016, since the judges opened their investigation into the foreign funding of such groups. On December 7, one of the investigative judges ordered the arrest and interrogation of Azza Soliman, founder of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance. Soliman was released after paying bail, but it was the first time the judges had ordered the arrest of a human rights defender.

Activists fear the judges will eventually charge them with illegally receiving foreign funding, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.Officers of the Interior Ministry’s National Security Agency routinely tortured and forcibly disappeared suspects with few consequences. Many of the victims were accused of sympathy with or membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Between August 2015 and August 2016, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, an independent group, documented 912 victims of enforced disappearance by the police, 52 of whom had not reappeared by the time the group issued its report.

Between January and October 2016 alone, 433 detainees were able to register claims that police or prison officers mistreated or tortured them in custody, according to the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture. When these claims were reported in November, authorities froze the Nadeem Center’s assets and banned its co-founder, psychiatry professor and longtime anti-torture activist Aida Seif al-Dawla, from leaving the country.

Mohamed Morsi is dying of neglect in jail

The life of imprisoned former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi is in danger because of his deteriorating health and lack of treatment. A week ago today, his lawyer Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsoud filed a complaint with the public prosecutor asking for an investigation into the medical negligence he is facing. He told them he experienced two diabetic comas this month and did not receive proper treatment in prison, and is demanding to be moved to a private hospital at his own expense. No one is listening

 

Germany once again profiting from creating divisions it pretends it wants to heal, this time in Egypt

Egyptians have become used to pictures of Sisi in the embrace of the Coptic Church ever since the June 30 2013 jamboree in Tahrir Square and the 3rd July coup it immediately led to. As the blood flowed, torture, political imprisonment, disappearances and outright extra-judicial killings mushroomed, the Coptic clergy stood firm behind the tyrant.

Many Copts have stood aghast not only at this, but over the fact that their clergy never demanded accountability from Sisi over the Supreme Military Council’s obvious direction of the massacre by the Egyptian army of demonstrating Christians at Maspero on October 9 2011. Furthermore no challenge has been forthcoming over the release from prison of ex-interior minister Habib over pretty overwhelming evidence that he was behind the 23 January 2011 Alexandria Church Bombings.

Merkel, a fervent supporter of the Egyptian junta, visiting Egypt to finalise a contract on behalf of Siemens for three power stations and for ThyssenKrupp for several 209/1400 attack submarines, makes a rhetorical demand it seems for Muslims in Egypt to ‘… support persecuted Christians’. More recent bombings in Coptic Churches in Alexandria and Tanta are blamed on ISIS, which fits in well with Sisi’s self-proclaimed mandate on the ‘war on terror’. Little evidence is provided for the accusation and little time is spent pondering on the simple fact that even a jaded Coptic population is not in a hurry to lay the blame at the door of their Muslim counterparts for the atrocities.

Now the Catholic Pope is visiting Sisi to stand shoulder to shoulder with a Coptic clergy largely believed by the Egyptian population to be a tacit collaborator with the bloody Egyptian régime in this game of charades. Meeting with al-Azhar is a meaningless gesture as this religious body has zero independence from the state, and currently zero credibility with Muslims on the ground. Is the Vatican being paid to visit Egypt and make these absurd gestures? Is this a reboot of its collaboration with the Germanic neoliberal hegemon, when it backed Franco Tujman’s ZNG neo-Ustashi blackshirts in their attacks on the Serbs living in Croatia in 1991, which started the Yugoslav Civil War? Is this Pope not aware that as yet Sisi has not properly accounted for the torture and summary execution of Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni by his thugs? Of course he is.

 

The Clash – الإشتباك

The year is 2013, the army has just unseated Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and pro-army and pro-MB factions clash on the streets. A reporter and photographer are arrested and thrown into the back of a police van, which is the sole camera setting; soon, other demonstrators from both sides are chucked in – along with, in one particularly chaotic scene, a lenient cop. They are crowded in there for hours in the boiling heat with no water and a plastic bottle to pee in. Through the grille-meshed window they get glimpses of the turmoil on the city streets.

At first, it looks like a no-budget movie with about a dozen people shot in a single location, but the director, Mohamed Diab, stages some spectacular riot scenes outside, which are all the more staggering for intruding on this enclosed space so unexpectedly.

The movie stunningly replicates that sense of inside and outside that must be felt by witnesses to any historic moment: the private debate, the enclosed conflict, and the theatre of confrontation unfolding beyond. What a dynamic piece of cinema.