Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Clash - Guns of Brixton

The Clash classic "Guns of Brixton" from "London Calling" Album - 1979

Egypt Brutally Tortures "Hezbollah Defendants"

Hezbollah operative in Egypt trial protests 'brutal torture'
October 28, 2009

By Samer al-Atrush (AFP)

CAIRO — A Lebanese Hezbollah operative on trial in Egypt for allegedly plotting attacks in the country on Wednesday accused his interrogators of "brutal torture" that has left him deaf in one ear.

Mohammed Mansur, on trial with 25 other defendants, told AFP during a break in a court session that he and all the others had been "brutally tortured," saying his health was failing.

"All the detainees have been tortured. I lost hearing in my right ear because of the constant torture. I was electrocuted and beaten," he said.

The men are accused of plotting attacks against ships in the Suez Canal and tourist sites. Most of the group, including five Palestinian suspects and one Sudanese, were rounded up between late last year and January.

Four of the defendants, among them the alleged Lebanese ringleader Mohammed Qublan, are being tried in absentia by the state security court after they fled the country.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has said Mansur is a Hezbollah agent in charge of smuggling weapons to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

One of Mansur's lawyers said Mansur had admitted in questioning that he proposed attacks against "Israeli targets" in Egypt to avenge the assassination of a senior Hezbollah commander, but was turned down by his superiors.

"I am innocent of any charges regarding attacks towards Egypt," said Mansur, who was kept in a black metal cage in the courtroom along with the other defendants.

"My task was to send support for our brothers in Gaza. I am in the resistance, like (the late French president Charles) De Gaulle. He's the hero of France, right?" said Mansur.

A handwritten letter by the defendants obtained by AFP alleged they were all tortured with electric shocks.

Local and international human rights groups say torture is routine in Egypt. "Every year, we have 12 to 20 deaths from torture in the country," said Hafez Abu Saada of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights.

Earlier this month, the Islamist Hamas rulers of Gaza said Egyptian security men tortured a senior official's brother to death in prison in the northern city of Alexandria. Egypt denies the allegation.

And Egyptian security officials say the defendants in the Hezbollah trial have been examined by doctors who found no traces of abuse.

The government has also dismissed accusations that the charges of plotting attacks in Egypt were fabricated to damage Hezbollah, which is not known to have carried out attacks in the Middle East outside Lebanon and Israel.

In an acerbic speech in December, Nasrallah accused Cairo of complicity with Israel during its 22-day war against Hamas in Gaza that ended in January, outraging the Egyptian government.

Egypt has accused Iran, Hezbollah's chief sponsor, of being behind the alleged plot and promised that the prosecution's evidence would "astonish" the Tehran government.

But the defence says the prosecution has not presented the evidence it said was in its possession, such as explosives and arms allegedly found with some of the defendants.

Good Riddance to the Billionaire Minister of Transport

Transport minister resigns after train crash
27/ 10/ 2009
By Saif Nasrawi & agencies

Egyptian Transport Minister Mohamed Mansour resigned on Tuesday, three days after two trains collided in the town of Ayyat south of Cairo, killing 18 people, official news agency MENA reported.

“President Hosni Mubarak accepted Minister Mansour’s resignation,” according to an official presidential source quoted by MENA, adding that the latter had taken responsibility for the accident.

“I resigned from a sense of political responsibility,” Mansour said at a Tuesday press conference after personally submitting his resignation to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif.

Opposition groups have called for the impeachment of Mansour, in office since 2005, on various charges, including negligence and misuse of public spending.

Zakaria Azmi, leading MP for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and Mubarak's chief-of-staff, accused Mansour on Monday of misusing state funds allocated to the transport ministry.

“What was the final result of all the money spent on advertisements?” Azmi asked, in reference to a costly ad campaign for Egypt's national railway system broadcast on Egyptian television last Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s General Prosecutor has charged three railway workers with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the disaster. He said that the two drivers, along with a third man who was supposed to be monitoring the tracks but allegedly left his post, were also charged on Monday with "damaging the public interest."

In September 2002, a criminal court acquitted 11 low-ranking railway officials tried for negligence for their roles in a train crash that killed 361 passengers, also in the town of Ayyat. The presiding judge at the time claimed that the government had "only referred low-ranking officials to courts while leaving the big ones untouched.” He added that the causes of the 2002 accident were to be found "within the entire railway authority system,” which he described as "dysfunctional."

Last Saturday's crash was caused by an errant water buffalo that wandered onto the tracks, authorities and eyewitnesses said. The first passenger train stopped after hitting the animal before being rear-ended by a second train traveling at full speed.

Mansour’s admission of responsibility -- and subsequent resignation -- represents a first in Mubarak’s 28-year rule.

Spokesmen for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, called Mansour’s resignation “insufficient."

“Mansour should be impeached for the accident," spokesperson for the group's parliamentary block Hamdy Hassan told Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition. "Although we know very well the regime would never put one of its own ministers on trial.”

Hassan went on to describe the minister’s resignation as “a cosmetic move" ahead of the NDP’s sixth party congress, scheduled to begin on Friday.

Mansour has been widely perceived as a member of an inner circle of technocrats and businessmen known for their closeness to Mubarak's influential son, Gamal. The upcoming party congress will be held amid widespread speculation that Mubarak is grooming the 46-year-old Gamal for the presidency.

Before his appointment as minister, Mansour was CEO of the Mansour Group, one of Egypt’s top private-sector conglomerates, boasting over 11,000 employees and annual turnover in excess of $1 billion, according to the group’s website.

The group’s most prominent international franchises include General Motors, Caterpillar construction, Philip Morris/Marlboro and McDonald’s. It is also a local distributor of IBM, Microsoft, HP, 3COM and Compaq products.

Since Mansour's appointment, Egypt has seen a number of transport-related disasters, of which the 2005 sinking of a ferry boat -- the "Salam 98" -- en route to Egypt from Saudi Arabia was the deadliest, killing 1033 passengers.

In February 2002, Transport Minister Ibrahim el-Demiry was dismissed over Egypt's worst ever train crash, when the bodies of at least 361 passengers were recovered from the wreckage.

Egypt's national railway system is the biggest in the Middle East with almost 5,000 kilometers of track, according to official figures from the Egyptian National Railway Authority, which employs some 86,000 people.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

In Support of Niqab & Bikini, Especially Bikini

Although I believe that the niqab (full face veil) is unnecessary and is a patriarchal tool to control women, I support those women who chose to wear the niqab - from their own free will/conviction.

Banning the niqab is a violation of women's rights, employment and educational rights, personal rights, and human rights in general.

The women of Egypt should be allowed to wear whatever the hell they want to wear - from the higab (head scarf) to the niqab, and from mini-skirts to bikinis.

More bikinis please!

Veil Ban at Islamic School in Egypt Fuels Debate - NPR

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Siege on Gaza Continues

First Published 2009-10-19

The siege against Gaza, which began years ago, tightened to an almost total lock-down in June 2007 and continues to this day. And though the United States, Egypt, the EU and the UN move slowly - if at all - international groups and activists are working to end it, reports Nadia Hijab.

The Goldstone Report has rightly focused international attention on the crimes committed during Israel’s offensive against Gaza in December-January this year. Even if the United States quashes it at the United Nations Security Council -- where it is likely to go now that the Human Rights Council has adopted it -- the report will make human rights violators think twice.

But it doesn’t end the Israeli siege of Gaza. The siege, which began years ago, tightened to an almost total lockdown in June 2007 and continues to this day. It is not just a war crime. As the Goldstone Report put it, depriving the Gaza Palestinians of their means of sustenance, employment, housing and water, freedom of movement, and access to a court of law and an effective remedy, could amount to persecution, and a competent court could find “that crimes against humanity have been committed.”

And yet, the siege continues.

While Israel bears direct responsibility for the persecution of the Gaza Palestinians, many others are complicit. Most complicit is the Obama Administration, which has done nothing to end the siege, and has no visible plans to do so -- notwithstanding this week’s remarks by National Security Advisor Jim Jones that “we do not accept the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Alongside the United States, European and other governments have a responsibility to uphold the Geneva Conventions and their inaction makes them complicit. Indeed, former British minister Clare Short and the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza have recently taken legal action against the European Union for not suspending its trade agreement with Israel, as required by the human rights provisions of Article 2.

Other accomplices: The Palestinian Authority, transfixed by its feud with Hamas, turns a deaf ear to repeated United Nations alarms about the malnutrition of Palestinian children, dying patients, erupting sewage facilities, and eroding water systems.

And Egypt, which briefly opens and then shuts its Rafah border with Gaza, partly because of its agreements with Israel and the international community and partly for political considerations that include keeping up the pressure on Hamas.

And Hamas, which remains determined to maintain its hold on authority -- because it won a majority in parliamentary elections, to uphold the spirit of Palestinian resistance, and for political gain.

Egypt, which is brokering Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks, may reopen the Rafah border once a deal is cemented and the P.A. can staff the border under the aegis of international observers. However, although the reconciliation document has been signed by Fatah and agreed by Hamas according to some of its senior representatives, the process has hit a snag, partly due to the fallout from Mahmoud Abbas’ initial decision to postpone consideration of the Goldstone Report.

And the Palestinians of Gaza suffer under Israel’s siege.

This has left it to people from around the world to try to break the siege themselves. Three separate initiatives are scheduled to converge on Gaza in the next few months: the Free Gaza Movement, the Viva Palestina convoy, and the Gaza Freedom March.

The Free Gaza Movement, launched in 2006 by Palestinian and international volunteers, has challenged the siege by sea. In 2008, lawyers, journalists, academics, and others sailed five times to Gaza carrying medical and other supplies. But Israel rammed the sixth ship and kidnapped and briefly imprisoned the passengers on the eighth. Undeterred, the Free Gaza Movement is raising money for a flotilla of passenger and cargo ships to set sail soon.

Viva Palestina volunteers have challenged the siege by land, organizing two convoys of humanitarian goods in February and July. Another convoy sets off on December 5, picking up volunteers in London and Istanbul.

The Gaza Freedom March involves hundreds of international activists who plan to cross the border at Rafah and to march alongside the Gaza Palestinians on December 31st, aiming to reach the border with Israel.

Enthusiasm for the march in Gaza is understandably high, given the Strip’s isolation, with thousands reportedly planning to march with the internationals. Among other things, youth groups from around Gaza are planning dance, theatre and music shows to welcome the visitors. University student unions hope to strike for the day to bring out the numbers, and women’s groups are also aiming to mobilize their members.

All of these international volunteers have been speaking out when they get back home and pushing for change in their own government’s policies that allow Israel to keep its siege in place. Perhaps their sustained efforts will finally shame their leaders into action to end the persecution of the Palestinians.

Nadia Hijab is an independent analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Copyright © 2009 Nadia Hijab

(Distributed by Agence Global)

Egypt Fatally Tortured Brother of Hamas Spokesman

Hamas claims member tortured to death in Egypt jail
October 13, 2009

GAZA CITY — Hamas charged on Tuesday that the brother of one of the Palestinian Islamist group's chief spokesmen was tortured to death in an Egyptian prison, a claim denied by Cairo.

"Yusef Abu Zuhri, 38, the brother of Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, was martyred in an Egyptian prison as a result of torture," Fawzi Barhum, the other main spokesman for the group, told AFP.

Abu Zuhri was arrested in April in the Sinai town of El-Arish following what Egyptian security officials said was a tip-off from members of the secular Fatah party who had fled Gaza when Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

Sami Abu Zuhri said his brother died after weeks of "brutal torture in an Egyptian prison" that led to severe bleeding.

He added that his brother was briefly treated at Egypt's Alexandria University hospital but was returned to his cell before the bleeding had been stopped.

In Cairo, interior ministry spokesman General Hamdi Abdel Karim denied that torture was the cause of death.

Instead, Abu Zuhri "died a natural death from a drop in blood circulation," Abdel Karim said without elaborating on the causes.

An Egyptian security official said the man suffered from liver and heart diseases and was transferred to a prison hospital at the end of September.

An autopsy said he died of natural causes, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media.

Former detainees and human rights groups have repeatedly accused Egypt's security services of torturing prisoners, and earlier this year the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights said 13 citizens had been tortured to death between June 2008 and February 2009.

Egypt has been brokering Palestinian unity talks for several months and has been trying to get Hamas and their secular Fatah rivals to sign on to a reconciliation agreement later this month.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize?!! BULLSHIT!

WTF?! How? Why?

Obama hasn't done shit for peace. US armed forces are still occupying Iraq & Afghanistan, and Obama is now spilling his armed imperialism over into Pakistan.

Obama has failed to apply any real pressure on the Zionists to pull their settlements out of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or the Golan Heights. Furthermore, he has done absolutely nothing to end the Egyptian-Israeli siege on Gaza.

Nobel Peace Prize My Ass!

National Post: Obama's Norwegian Booby Prize

Huffington Post: Obama and the Peace Prize: Too Much, Too Soon

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Abbas Resignation Petition - كس أم أبو مازن

Click here to read & sign the Mahmoud Abbas Resignation Petition (for Palestinians)

Abu Mazen is a Zionist collaborator and war criminal who must be put on trial for the inhuman crimes which he encouraged the Israeli armed forces to perpetrate during the war on the besieged Gaza Strip from December 2008 - January 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

2 Anarchists Criminally Charged for Using Twitter at G-20 Summit

Anarchists 'used Twitter to inform protesters of police movements' at G20 protests
October 5, 2009

Two anarchist protesters have been criminally charged with using Twitter to inform other demonstrators of police movements during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh.

By Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Elliot Madison, 41, and Michael Wallschlaeger, 46, both from New York, face charges of hindering prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possessing criminal instruments.

They were arrested on the first day of the economic summit last month after police tracked them to a Pittsburgh hotel after a tip-off.

Police say they found the two men sitting in front of computers, wearing headphones and using maps and scanners. They are said to have been using Twitter to inform protesters on the ground of police movements.

The FBI raided Madison's home in New York and spent 16 hours searching it.

They found items including anarchist literature, gas masks, goggles, face masks and test tubes.

Madison's lawyer Martin Stolar said the FBI search was illegal because agents had taken items that "have nothing to do with the government's investigation."

He said Madison and his wife are political activists who provide legal support to protesters. Madison is a social worker.

A judge ruled the FBI cannot examine items seized in their search until Mr Stolar's application for their return is resolved.

Around 5,000 people took part in G20 protests and 190 were arrested.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Struggle for Independent Trade Unions in Egypt

Pending legality: the growing politicization of Egypt’s labor
Sunday 04 October 2009

A year before the parliamentary elections, signs of labor organization are evident
By Saif Nasrawi

Egyptian political activists often joke that their country has only five organized groups: the state’s civil and military bureaucracy, Sufi orders, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Orthodox Church, and the Ahly football club. But a new group might be added to that list soon. With rising labor militancy, the Egyptian workers are increasingly searching for their own free unions to institutionally address their deteriorating economic conditions.

Disillusioned with the 52-year-old, state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and facing unemployment due to the government’s privatization plans and the global economic crisis, calls for establishing independent trade unions to defend workers’ rights are finding even greater resonance.

Following the December 2008 founding of the General Union of Real Estate Tax Authority Employees (RETA), several industrial and service sectors’ workers and employees have voiced similar intentions.

"We are currently studying means for the establishment of independent union committees, and we are determined to end our memberships in the Egyptian Trade Union Federation. We hope to realize these goals by utilizing all the legal and constitutional channels available to us," said Ali Fattouh, a strike leader and driver at the Public Transport Authority (PTA), in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Fattouh’s remarks came few days after a two-day strike by about half of the PTA’s 48,000 drivers, fare-collectors and mechanics in August protesting their low wages, unpaid insurance, and harassment by traffic police. PTA workers renewed calls for a strike last week, saying the government has failed to follow through on commitments made in negotiations that ended the August strike.

Plans for creating independent trade unions have also been circulating among Egypt’s school teachers, university professors, Education Ministry administrators, postal workers, pensioners, and air traffic controllers.

“The RETA set the example for other workers and civil servants to follow. It’s indeed the single most important independent political project in 2009," said Khaled Ali, head of the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.

Once a far-fetched idea only discussed behind closed doors in Egyptian leftist parties' and NGOs' headquarters, independent trade unionism has gained momentum with Ghazl el-Mahalla Textile Company workers, who launched a series of massive strikes and sit-ins from 2006 to 2008.

In addition to demanding better payment, bonuses, and industrial safety, a few thousand of the 27,000 Ghazl el-Mahalla workers resigned en masse from the ETUF and begun discussing setting up an independent trade union for textile workers.

Independent observers have long accused the officials in ETUF and its affiliated factory union committee of venality, siding with the management during strikes, and fraud within union elections.

“Like the parliament and the government which have gradually turned into puppets in the hands of businessmen, the ETUF has been pulled by the same strings," Kamal Abu Eita, president of RETA told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

In December 2007, thousands of property tax collectors staged an 11-day sit-in outside the Finance Ministry in downtown Cairo demanding a raise in their salaries. Although the strike was opposed by the General Union of Bank, Insurance and Finance Employees, part of the ETUF, the government conceded to the demands of real estate tax employees by awarding them pay rises of over 325 per cent.

Along with a handful of strike leaders, Abu Eita managed to collect more than 37,000 signatures of the nearly 45,000 property tax employees to form Egypt’s first independent union since 1957.

“Establishing a free union is a natural right granted by the Egyptian constitution and the various international labor treaties which have been ratified by the government," Abu Eita said, referring to Article 56 of the Egyptian constitution, which guarantees the creation of syndicates and unions on a democratic basis and the International Labor Organization Convention 87 on freedom of association.

Abu Eita’s move to establish an independent union has met considerable challenges, especially from the state-controlled ETUF officials, who blame him with attempting to “politicize" the labor movement and bring about its eventual disintegration.

Makram Labib, head of the state-backed real estate union committee in Daqahliya Governorate, accused Abu Eita of mixing politics with trade unionism. “I gradually sensed that he was trying to transform the real estate tax authority into a political platform," said Labib, who was another strike leader organizing the December 2007 sit-in.

“As long as our economic demands were fulfilled by the government, calling for the establishment of an independent union is highly unrealistic when the country heads towards the 2010 parliamentary election, which could be followed by a possible transfer of presidential powers," Labib said, apparently referring to Abu Eita's declared opposition to a transfer of power from President Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal.

Abu Eita, a member of the opposition Nasserist Karamah party and an activist in the Egyptian Movement for Change (Kifaya), strongly dismissed the accusation. “Our initial intent was to protest the fact that the majority of union committee officials including [head of ETUF] Hussein Megawar are actually members in the ruling National Democratic Party, therefore we could not have tolerated the idea of mixing our struggle with the agenda of other political parties. It’s purely about our own rights," Abu Eita said.

Labor experts believe that workers’ struggles have been steadily shifting from narrow economic demands, like better wages, benefits and insurance, to the more political question of defining their relation to the state vis-à-vis the ETUF. Many, however, underscore the influence of political parties in shaping the workers’ agenda.

“Workers are extremely suspicious of political parties trying to take advantage of their own causes, so they always strive to deliberately distance themselves from them," said Khaled Ali.

“There is also a tactical dimension to trying to avoid the wrath of the government and its security apparatus."

A senior leader within RETA said that members of the union debated whether to participate in a national strike which was called for by some cyber-activists last April to demand better work conditions. “There was an almost unanimous decision to stay away from the strike to escape any accusations of mixing politics with trade unionism," the RETA leader told Al-Masry Al-Youm on condition of anonymity.

Fearing a domino effect that could trigger aspirations for independence among Egypt’s nearly four million public sector workers, the ETUF launched a counter-strategy to tighten its grip on property tax collectors.

Three weeks ago, the North Giza prosecutor’s office interrogated Abu Eita for trying “to spread false information about the ETUF" and “addressing the public in the name of a trade union without the right to do so," both of which are misdemeanors carrying sentences of imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of LE 100.

The case against Abu Eita was filed by Farouq Shehata, president of the state-backed General Union of Bank, Insurance and Finance Employees (UBIFE), who accused Abu Eita of illegally representing the property tax collectors.

Attempts to weaken the RETA went further when Megawar decided last month to form a special logistical committee to study the necessary legal procedures to establish a new trade union for all employees working in the Finance Ministry, including the property tax collectors.

According to the ETUF’s critics, Megawar’s plan was intended to de-legitimate RETA, utilizing specific articles within Law 35/1976 which prohibits multiple union memberships.

Article 19 of the law states that no "union committee member is not allowed to join more than one general trade union, even if he practices other professions."

Six months after RETA members presented their required foundation documents to the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration, the government's administrative body responsible for authorizing the establishment of trade unions, they still lack legal authorization.

On 15 September, 49 Egyptian rights groups demanded that the ministry recognize RETA as a legal body. “The ministry’s deliberate denial of RETA’s right to exist represents an unjustified burden that forces it to concentrate on establishing its legitimacy rather than defending its members’ interests," said the groups.

Legalizing RETA will not only shield it against the state’s intervention, but is also a conditional requirement for it to open a bank account through which membership fees can be collected.

Rahma Refaet, the program director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services, argued that the government lacks a coherent strategy for dealing with the challenge imposed by RETA in particular and the entire labor movement in general. “Cracking down on workers by means of arrest, intimidation, suspension from work could be highly risky and expensive," Refaet said.

“With Egypt’s rising economic liberalization and integration into the global market, some politicians within the NDP have started to realize the importance of creating a mechanism for collective labor bargaining."

Refaet clarified that the workers’ distrust of their undemocratic and unrepresentative union committees usually leaves them with the option of going into strike as their first and only negotiation venue.

Estimates of financial losses incurred during work stoppages, sit-ins and strikes are not available, but with over 1600 incidents of labor protest that took place since 2006, it’s reasonable to assume that they exceeded hundreds of millions of Egyptian pounds.

With Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif’s plan to privatize government-owned industries and distribute stock in them to citizens for free—a move many believe is a hoax to do away with more than 100 public sector companies—labor's desire for independent trade unions is not expected to wane.

“If socialism cannot be built in one country, a truly independent trade unionism cannot survive in only one sector," Abu Eita emphasized.

“The continuation of selling public sector factories, the rising inflation, and the inefficiency of ETUF, are but factors which will perpetuate the workers’ struggle in Egypt."

*Additional reporting by Jano Charbel
*Photograph by Hossam El-Hamalawy

The Coup - Ride the Fence

Take a look around and be for or against, cuz you can't do shit if you're riding the fence

Egyptian Parkour Teams Raise Awareness About Global Warming

Unconventional sport with an environmental message
Sunday 04 October 2009

Dozens of Egyptian youth gracefully somersault, vault over obstacles, leap off walls, back-dive, cart-wheel and hand-spring before Cairo audiences
By Jano Charbel

Last week, a group of young Egyptians engaged in an unconventional mix of acrobatic gymnastics and break dancing, known as parkour, to raise environmental awareness. The Parkour Egypt team performed the show for spectators at the Wadi Degla Sporting Club in the Tagammu el-Awwal district of Cairo, during which they discussed the problems of climate change and global warming.

A day later, parkour teams Egy-Flow and Team Free Alex performed their show in al-Azhar Park, near downtown Cairo. In sporty reference to combating global warming, the participants wore t-shirts reading: Jump start the climate deal with a power sector carbon budget, Drop global power sector emissions by at least 10% by 2020, and Roll out clean, green electricity across the world.

"We are organizing these events here in Egypt in coordination with Parkour Generations and Sandbag," Mohamed Sobhy, the organizer of the event and one of Egy-Flow's team instructors, told Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition. Parkour Generations is a London-based academy of experts from around the world, while Sandbag is a UK-based group that works to promote awareness of and actions to combat global warming. "This is a joint effort between these two groups, and we are happy to take part in this global effort here in Egypt. Other parkour teams across the world are conducting similar events in their own countries on September 26," explained Sobhy, adding that the events in Cairo were delayed for a few days due to technical problems and other complications.

According to the campaign's website (, the One Giant Leap campaign, which took place on September 26, 2009, was "The world's largest ever international parkour jam. Raising awareness of climate change and calling for an effective new global deal." The jam reportedly included 3,500 parkour runners who participated in 100 cities and 35 countries around the world.

Parkour is derived from the French word parcour meaning: to run through (a route) or to go all over. It was coined in reference to parcours du combatant or parcours du sapeur-ompiers, obstacle courses for training French soldiers and firefighters respectively. It is also referred to as l'art du déplacement, or the art of movement, and was established as an art and sport in 1997 by French citizen David Belle. Parkour include such moves as the tic-tac, climb-up, cat leap, cat balance, roll, pop vault, swing, dyno, drop and many others. The popularity of the sport soared following the 2004 release of the French movie Banlieue 13 (District 13), starring David Belle, and the 2006 James Bond flick Casino Royale, both of which include thrilling parkour moves in intense chase scenes across buildings. Since then, parkour has spread from France to the four corners of the earth.

"In Egypt, parkour is usually practiced in sporting clubs or parks, less frequently on the streets or in empty buildings," said Amr Mahmoud, an instructor with Team Free Alex. "So far no one has broken any bones, thank God. This is because the first thing we teach the members is how to land safely and how to dismount correctly." He displayed a number of drop and roll techniques which “decrease the force of impact upon landing."

In Egypt, and around the world, parkour is practiced primarily by men, although women have begun to get involved in this exceptional sport. Egy-Flow's chief instructor, 26-year-old Mohammad “Tiger" said, "Almost all the team members are between the ages of 18 and 22. We have only a handful of members who are either older or younger than this age group." Tiger also teaches a number of his team members Capoiera, an art form of Afro-Brazilian origins that combines dance moves with martial arts techniques. Tiger is experimenting with the fusion of Capoiera and parkour moves. All the members of the parkour teams in Egypt are male, except for one.

Passant Omar is currently Egypt's only traceuse (woman acrobat in parkour terminology), and perhaps the only one in the Arab world. This 18-year-old girl has been practicing with Egy-Flow for three months. She said “I would really like to see more girls participating in this sport, but we are confronted with numerous social and familial pressures. People keep telling me that this is a dangerous sport, or that this is a man's sport, but my team members encourage me to continue and to excel. I am determined to continue practicing this sport."

There are four different Egyptian teams which practice this risky and exhilarating sport. The first team to be established was Parkour Egypt, which was founded in Giza in 2006, and currently has well over 50 members. A second parkour team was established six months later, but remained nameless until August 2007 when they chose the name Egy-flow. This second team - which now has more than 50 members - practices parkour in the Nasr City, Heliopolis and Doqqi districts of Greater Cairo. The sport then spread to Alexandria where, in August 2008, the parkour Team 2DF was established, and currently has 20 members. Finally, Team Free Alex was established in December 2008 and presently has 15 members. There are said to be others who practice parkour in Egypt in the Nile Delta city of Tanta and other governorates - on an individual basis - but have not yet established their own teams.

At the closing of the parkour event at al-Azhar Park, Mohamed Sobhy announced that his team, amongst others, will be performing at the American University in Cairo, as part of an awareness campaign against the hepatitis C virus, on 14 October.

*Photographs by Nasser Nouri