Sunday, August 31, 2014

Students can now be expelled for criticizing Dictator Sisi

Mada Masr

Students could be expelled for criticizing President Sisi

Friday, August 29, 2014


The boards of two public universities have now decided to expel any student who insults or defames President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Following a precedent set by the University of Beni Suef, the board of Ain Shams University agreed on Thursday to expel any student who insults Sisi.

Quoted on the privately owned Sada al-Balad news website, vice president of Ain Shams University, Mohamed al-Toukhi, stated: “The university shall refer to a disciplinary hearing any student who insults any symbol of the state, not merely President Sisi.”

"This is not a punitive measure to expel any student at will,” Toukhi claimed.

Students would instead be expelled as soon as the disciplinary board determined their responsibility for “wronging” state officials with insults, he added.

In another statement to privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, Toukhi claimed that such insults against state officials are a violation of university regulations.

On Friday, privately owned Al-Mougaz news website published a critical response to the new university rules, from the head of the student union at Zaqaziq University.

Student union president Mohamed Sherbini commented that expulsion for criticizing Sisi or other state officials “is an injustice against students.”

Sherbini added that he believed students should only be expelled if they actively interrupt the academic year, or are found responsible for destroying university property.

Organized primarily by Islamist-leaning students since the July 3 ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, a host of protests in and around university campuses have resulted in arrests of hundreds of students, along with the deaths and injuries of tens of others during security crackdowns.

The presidents and boards of several public universities have called on the Ministry of Interior to deploy police forces both inside and around campuses to quell opposition student protests.

In statements to state-owned newspaper Al-Akhbar Al-Youm on Friday, the Minister of Endowments called on universities, especially the Islamic Al-Azhar University, to remove professors affiliated to or sympathetic with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa commented that “extremists” and “affiliates of the terrorist society” must be purged from universities ahead of the academic year.

Public universities are scheduled to begin their academic year on September 27.

Gomaa added that this should apply to both professors and deans sympathetic to the Brotherhood.

In Al-Masry Al-Youm, Gomaa was quoted as saying that action must be taken against the group known as “Academics Against the Coup” whose names and identities are purportedly known to Al-Azhar University’s board.



*Caricature by Adam Zyglis

Video posted of police laughing, posing with bloodied corpse

Bloomberg

Egypt Probes Video of Alleged Police Abuse of Bloodied Corpse

August 28, 2014 
 
Salma El Wardany
 
Egyptian officials are investigating three policemen seen in a Youtube video allegedly posing with the blood-soaked corpse of a man while laughing and placing a cigarette in his mouth.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim ordered the probe, the head of security in Qalioubiya province, Mahmoud Yosri, said today by phone.

The circulation of the images comes as rights activists and groups such as New York-based Human Rights Watch say the nation’s security forces have been using the same abusive tactics employed under ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

The dead man was a criminal who was killed in an Aug. 26 shootout with police, and the image was filmed at a local hospital where the suspect had been taken after the incident, Yosri said.

Egypt has seen a surge in arbitrary arrests, detentions and “harrowing incidents of torture and deaths in police custody” and a sharp deterioration in human rights in Egypt in the year since President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the army, London-based Amnesty International said July 3.

 Last month, a video circulated on social media sites showed a prisoner lying on the floor and later dying after allegedly being beaten by security forces in a Cairo district police station.
Egyptian officials have repeatedly denied that the police torture detainees.

Deadly working conditions, stalled factories lead to increased labor protests

Mada Masr
Laborers protest deadly working conditions, stalled factory production

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Jano Charbel


Workers across Egypt took to the streets this week to protest against dire working conditions and the government’s lack of response to their demands.

On Tuesday, two workers died and another three were hospitalized after being injured while preparing waste-water drainage networks for housing projects in the southern Minya town of Samalout.

The prosecution is currently investigating the incident, reported the state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram.

Privately owned media sources have reported that the deaths fueled unrest, but those reports have not appeared in state-owned media.

Prior to Tuesday’s incident, more than 70 workers at the Samanoud Felt Company in Gharbiya staged a sit-in with their families at the state-controlled General Union of Textile Workers. More than 1,100 of the company’s employees have been left unemployed and unpaid since work at the factory was halted in May.

A local union committee member, Hesham al-Banna, told Mada Masr that “we called off our sit-in protest after some 28 hours of being ignored and locked out of the General Union.”

“We were not able to meet with Abdel Fattah Ibrahim [the union’s president] and were not given an audience with other officials inside,” Banna continued.

The protesters — a group including 61 female workers, 12 male workers and several of their children —“all had to sleep outside on the sidewalk, awaiting any response or recognition,” he said.

According to Banna, the Samanoud Felt Company “is stalled due to obstinacy of state administrators, a lack of capital investment and no spare parts with which to repair machinery.”

However, Ibrahim claimed that “the General Union of Textile Workers is open to all laborers employed in this industry” in press statements published in Al-Ahram on Monday and Tuesday.

He refuted Banna’s claims that the general union had shut its doors to the protesting workers.

Furthermore, Ibrahim asserted that the Samanoud Felt Company would be fully operational by the beginning of September and that overdue wages would be paid in full by this time.

However, it is not the General Union of Textile Workers which determines such policies, but rather the Holding Company for Textile Industries and the Ministry of Investment.

Responding to Ibrahim’s comments, Banna said, “He’s a liar and has no authority to make such statements.”

“We’ve had no wages since May, and prior to that we’d only been paid 60 percent of our total wages,” he added.

Banna said that he had lost faith in Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s Cabinet, describing the prime minister as feloul (a remnant of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime). However, Banna did not implicate President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his complaints.

During the presidential in May, Banna had expressed hope that the Samanoud Felt Company “would be up and running within two months.” He actively campaigned for Sisi in the election, believing that he would champion labor rights.

“The presidency is seeking to salvage the textile industry, but is not yet able to do so,” said Banna. He concluded, “We demand that the government respect our humanity. Respect our right to work, to receive our overdue wages, and to return to work. We are productive workers, not slaves or beggars.”

Workers at the stalled Tanta Flax and Oils Company were also protesting this week against the state’s inability or unwillingness to make their company operational and reinstate its work force.

On Sunday, a delegation of Tanta Flax workers filed an appeal and a list of grievances with the Ministry of Investment, calling on the ministry to get the company back on its feet.

The Tanta Flax and Oils Company has been stalled since September 2011, when an Administrative Court ruling nullified its privatization contract on the basis that it had been sold for far less than its real market value.

The same court issued nearly identical rulings in six other similar cases three years ago. However, most of these companies have not yet been reincorporated into the public sector.

Worker Gamal Othman told Mada Masr that “until 11 months ago, some 480 workers were being paid their wages, although there has been no production there for well over two years.”

“Why do the authorities insist on not re-operating our company?” Othman asked. “Why did the Holding Company for Chemical Industries choose to incur hefty losses by paying workers their wages while there is no production? Why doesn’t the Ministry of Investment and the Holding Company move instead to re-operate the company and generate profits, or at least cover their expenses?”

“We are in a state of limbo that is being perpetuated by the Holding Company for Chemical Industries,” Othman argued. “The law is on our side, but the authorities are not.”

The Tanta Flax workers have scheduled a meeting with the investment minister next week, during which they hope the ministry will authorize the company’s re-operation.

Workers from the Nahr al-Khaled Garments Company in the Suez Canal City of Port Said also launched an open-ended sit-in on Monday.
 
Hundreds of workers from the garment company are protesting against the administration’s decision to punitively relocate 14 workers and independent labor organizers to distant branches of the company.

Egypt’s independent union organizations have expressed solidarity with these workers and support their right to freely organize their ranks.
 
*Photo by Virginie Nguyen

Egypt hypocritically calls on USA to respect right of protest

Mada Masr
Egypt calls on US to respect right of protest

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

 
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on American authorities on Tuesday to uphold international human rights standards and to respect protesters’ rights to freedom of assembly in the city of Ferguson, Missouri.

The comments were made in light of heavy-handed security tactics by Missouri’s authorities following the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American on August 9.

statement issued by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Badr Abdel Atty called on American authorities “to exercise restraint, and respect the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”

It was met with skepticism, sarcasm and ridicule on social media networks.

“Laughing not permitted… Egypt calls on America to respect the right of peaceful assembly in light of protests in Ferguson,” Abdel Rahman Salah wrote on Twitter.

Another Egyptian Twitter user commented that if the events in Ferguson were happening in Egypt, there would be at least 100 fatalities due to the crackdown.

Following the murder of Brown, Missouri’s governor authorized the deployment of heavily militarized police forces, imposed a state of emergency and curfews, and gave the green light for the use of smoke and tear gas canisters against protesters, as well as rubber bullets.

Dozens of arrests have been reported and the National Guard has been deployed to the city in hopes of quelling unrest and racial tensions.

Abdel Atty’s comments affirmed recommendations by the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, issued on Monday. In his statement, published on the UN News Center Website, Moon expressed hope that local and federal investigations will “shed full light on the killing and that justice will be done.”  

Last year, Egypt banned all forms of public assembly that are critical of the ruling government.

Presidential Decree 107 (2013), the “Law Regulating Right of Assembly, Processions and Peaceful Protest” strictly limits the freedom to protest and peaceful assembly, while granting police sweeping powers to forcefully disperse protests, even those that are officially authorized.

According to this law, the Egyptian police are empowered to use batons, water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and even live shotgun shells against protesters. The law also imposes penalties of imprisonment ranging from two to seven years and/or fines of up to LE300,000 ($US 42,000) for violations.

This year, the anniversary of the armed crackdown on Islamist protest camps at Rabea al-Adaweya and Nahda squares on August 14, 2013 — which left hundreds dead (estimates range from 400 to over 1,200) — saw fatal violence. Egyptian police shot dead at least five civilians protesting against the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to mark the violent dispersals.

On August 11, security authorities at Cairo airport barred representatives of Human Rights Watch from entering the country. Their report regarding the August 14 crackdown was denounced and dismissed by Egypt’s ruling authorities.

A host of mainstream Egyptian TV channels have recently pointed the finger at human rights violations in Ferguson.

Mention has not been made of the scale of fatalities during the August 14 dispersals, the state of emergency and curfew imposed across most of Egypt for three months, or the over 800 Egyptian civilians killed during the January 25 uprising of 2011.


*Photo by Virginie Nguyen

_____________

Mada Masr

Washington fires back at Egypt’s comments on Ferguson

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

During the US State Department’s daily briefing on Tuesday, Deputy Spokesperson Mary Harf responded to the recent Egyptian Foreign Affairs statement regarding the Ferguson protests, saying that the US practices freedom of expression that isn't upheld with the same respect in Egypt.

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Badr Abdel Aty had said in a press conference on Tuesday that Egypt “closely monitors” the protests in Ferguson and reiterated the United Nation’s calls on the US to exercise “self-restraint” and “respect the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.”

Large protests had broken out in Ferguson, Missouri and were met with a violent police response following the killing of a teenager by a police officer.

“We here in the United States will put our record for confronting our problems transparently and openly and honestly up against anyone else’s in the world. And we, when we have issues here, confront them in that way, as you’ve seen over the past few days, and we would call on other countries to do the same. And unfortunately, we haven’t always seen that, so we’ll keep calling on them to do so,” Harf said in a response to a question about Egypt’s comment.

Asked whether she believed the Egyptian comment is meant as an answer to the US criticism of the Egyptian government, Harf continues, “People are free to say what they’d like. They are free to weigh in on issues. That’s the beauty of freedom of expression that we hold very dearly here in the United States. That freedom of expression hasn’t, quite frankly, been upheld with the same sort of respect in Egypt.”

Social media has responded to the Foreign Ministry’s statement with sarcasm as Egypt has imposed strict limitations on freedom of assembly and expression in the past year, issuing a Protest Law that requires a permit from the Ministry of Interior before assembly and arresting thousands of demonstrators in the past period, sentencing many to lengthy jail sentences.

Harf refused the comparison between the situation in Egypt and that in Ferguson, reiterating the US government’s concern about the human rights situation in Egypt.

Similarly Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Hany Abdel Latif gave advice to the US police during a phone interview on Sada al-Balad station on Tuesday regarding the treatment of protesters.

Abdel Latif urges the US police to negotiate with protesters and refrain from the use of excessive force. The Egyptian police is notorious for violence against protesters, as well as for practicing other forms of human rights violations, such as torture of detainees

Israel & Egypt bar rights groups from monitoring their crimes

International Business Times

Gaza Strip: Amnesty and Human Rights Watch 'Barred from Entering Gaza Strip'

August 18, 2014 



*Photo by Siegfried Modola courtesy of Reuters

Egypt: Police arrest 17 Palestinian refugees fleeing Gaza war

Ahram Online



Palestinians reportedly entered North Sinai through cross-border tunnels with plans to travel to Alexandria and then Europe
Sunday 17 Aug 2014
Egyptian authorities said on Sunday that 17 Palestinians have been arrested while trying to illegally enter the country in attempts to flee ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip, state-run news agency MENA reported.

The Palestinians were arrested after they illegally reached the North Sinai border town of Al-Arish via underground tunnels with Gaza. They were headed to the Mediterranean city of Alexandria from where they intended to illegally cross to Europe, MENA said.
The densely-populated Palestinian territory has been devastated by a more than month-long assault by Israeli forces that has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians.
The United Nations said 425,000 of the strip's 1.8 million people have been displaced by the war.
Approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees live in UN-run camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank after they or their families fled or were displaced during the 1948 war that saw Israel's founding.

Israeli-trained police deployed to quell Ferguson protests

Electronic Intifada



Since the killing of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police in Missouri last weekend, the people of Ferguson have been subjected to a military-style crackdown by a squadron of local police departments dressed like combat soldiers. This has prompted residents to liken the conditions on the ground in Ferguson to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine.

And who can blame them?

The dystopian scenes of paramilitary units in camouflage rampaging through the streets of Ferguson, pointing assault rifles at unarmed residents and launching tear gas into people’s front yards from behind armored personnel carriers (APCs), could easily be mistaken for a Tuesday afternoon in the occupied West Bank.

And it’s no coincidence.

At least two of the four law enforcement agencies that were deployed in Ferguson up until Thursday evening — the St. Louis County Police Department and the St. Louis Police Department — received training from Israeli security forces in recent years.

Brute force

It all started when a yet to be named Ferguson police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. According to witnesses, Brown was attempting to surrender with his hands up when a Ferguson police officer emptied his clip into Brown’s body, shooting the teen up to ten times.

For hours police left Brown’s lifeless body sprawled in the street uncovered as a growing number of residents gathered nearby, demanding answers from authorities. Police responded by deploying K-9 units and riot squads to crush the crowd, predictably inciting a riot, which police used to justify more brute force.

But the people of Ferguson refuse to submit and have mobilized every single day to demand justice for Brown and an end to the racist, undemocratic regime they live under.

Hands up, don’t shoot” has become their rallying cry, a symbol of Brown in his last moments and what it means to be black in America, where every 28 hours an African-American is killed by a self-styled vigilante, security guard or police officer.

Still, police did not relent, prompting one Ferguson protester to shout at a row of military-style tactical vehicles, “You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”

“Will we as a people rise up like the people of Gaza? Will our community be bombed like last night with tear gas? That was a terrorist attack,” remarked another Ferguson protester to The Daily Beast.

Meanwhile, journalists were manhandled and detained. Police were caught on video deliberately firing tear gas at an Al Jazeera America film crew as they were setting up their equipment.

Even elected officials weren’t spared. Missouri state Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal was tear gassed and St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who had been documenting the unfolding police repression in Ferguson on social media since just after Brown’s murder, was arrested.

As the situation spiraled further out of control, Palestinians began tweeting advice on dealing with tear gas to the people of Ferguson.

Cops become soldiers

Domestic policing in the US has a long and sordid history rooted in the violent control and subjugation of communities of color, so the police violence directed at the predominantly black residents of Ferguson is nothing new.

But the widespread militarization on display in Ferguson is part of a more recent trend that began three decades ago with the introduction of the disastrous “war on drugs” and dramatically escalated with the “war on terror” — leading directly to the counterinsurgency-like tactics deployed against the people of Ferguson by civilian police officers who more closely resemble combat soldiers in Afghanistan than domestic cops.

This cop-to-soldier transformation has been facilitated by the US government through mechanisms like the Pentagon’s 1033 or military surplus program, which funnels excess military gear to law enforcement agencies across the country. The program’s motto: ”From warfighter to crimefighter.”

In 2013 alone, the program showered US police departments with nearly $450 million worth of military equipment.

St. Louis County law enforcement agencies, including the Ferguson Police Department, participate in this program and have received military-grade rifles, pistols and night vision equipment in recent years, though it’s unclear if the equipment is being used in Ferguson now.

As The New York Times reported in June, the scaling down of US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan means “former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.”

“During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” the newspaper added.

Ferguson police also receive money from the Department of Homeland Security as part of a grant program that has doled out billions to US law enforcement agencies to purchase military-style equipment, like the APCs charging through the streets of Ferguson.

In the last five years alone, Missouri has received nearly $70 million in DHS money for law enforcement related programs.

Emulating apartheid

While there is a wealth of scholarship on police militarization in the US, there has been little to no examination of the ways Israel’s security apparatus facilitates it.

Decades of testing and perfecting methods of domination and control on a captive and disenfranchised Palestinian population has given rise to a booming “homeland security industry” in Israel that refashions occupation-style repression for use on marginalized populations in other parts of the world, including St. Louis.

Under the cover of counterterrorism training, nearly every major police agency in the United States has traveled to Israel for lessons in occupation enforcement, a phenomenon that journalist Max Blumenthal dubbed “the Israelification of America’s security apparatus.”

Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv.

In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website.

Until Thursday night, the St. Louis County Police Department appeared to be the largest most militarized and brutish force operating in Ferguson. “St. Louis County Police” was scrawled across the side of most of the tactical unit vehicles and appeared on the combat-style uniforms of officers aiming assault rifles at peaceful protesters.

The ADL boasts of sending more than 175 senior US law enforcement officials from 100 different agencies to the seminar since 2004, which are “taking the lessons they learned in Israel back to the United States.”

The ADL is just one of several pro-Israel groups forging close ties between US cops and Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus.

Another is the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative think tank that claims to have hosted some 9,500 law enforcement officials in its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) since 2004.

LEEP “takes delegations of senior law enforcement executives to Israel to study methods and observe techniques used in preventing and reacting to acts of terrorism” and “sponsors conferences within the United States, bringing Israeli experts before much larger groups of law enforcement leaders,” according to JINSA’s brochure.

Former St. Louis Police Department police chief Joseph Mokwa is listed as having traveled to Israel as part of a LEEP conference in February 2008.

Following nationwide outrage and embarrassment, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon pulled St. Louis County Police forces out of Ferguson and placed the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge of policing demonstrators. The St. Louis Police Department voluntarily removed its officers from Ferguson.

As a result, Ferguson no longer looks like occupied territory, though the underlying issue, Michael Brown’s murder, has yet to be addressed.

Meanwhile, the scope of Israel’s influence on US law enforcement remains virtually ignored by the media despite the troubling implications of emulating an apartheid regime actively engaged in ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

The culture of racism and impunity that has long plagued American policing is deadly enough as it is. Adding Israeli-style repression to an already dangerous mix guarantees disaster.


*Photo by Jeff Robertson courtesy of the Associated Press