Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Egypt: Al-Jazeera journalists arrested, equipment seized

New York, December 30, 2013 -- Egyptian authorities arrested four journalists affiliated with Al-Jazeera English on Saturday, accusing them of broadcasting without permission, according to Al-Jazeera and news reports.

The journalists--Cairo Bureau Chief Mohamed Fadel Fahmy; former BBC correspondent Peter Greste; producer Baher Mohamed; and Egyptian cameraman Mohamed Fawzy--were arrested as part of the Interior Ministry's campaign to apprehend members of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to an official statement issued on Sunday.

The ministry said the Al-Jazeera journalists were using two hotel rooms to conduct "illegal meetings" with the Muslim Brotherhood and to illegally broadcast news that harmed "domestic security," according to reports. The statement said that cameras and other broadcasting equipment were also seized.

The journalists were working from a room at the Marriott hotel in Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo at the time of their arrest, according to Al-Jazeera.

The Egyptian government declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization last week, under Article 86 of the Egyptian Penal Code. The decision stated that membership in the party or even the possession of its materials and publications was a crime.

Al-Jazeera described the arrest as an "act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists." The network, which is based in Qatar and funded by the Qatari government, and its affiliates have been consistently harassed by the Egyptian authorities through a series of detentions, raids, and acts of censorship. The crackdown on Al-Jazeera has been supported by many Egyptians, who accused the station of bias, an allegation Al-Jazeera denies.

"The Egyptian government is equating legitimate journalistic work with acts of terrorism in its efforts to censor critical news coverage," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa coordinator. "We condemn these arrests and call upon Egyptian authorities to release the journalists immediately."

Egypt was among the top 10 jailers of journalists when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1. At least five other journalists were behind bars, two of whom were affiliated with Al-Jazeera: Al-Jazeera Mubashir cameraman Mohamed Bader and Al-Jazeera Egypt correspondent Abdullah al-Shami.

Syria, Iraq & Egypt deadliest countries for journalists

Committee to Protect Journalists

Syria, Iraq, Egypt most deadly nations for journalists

The conflict in Syria, a spike in Iraqi bloodshed, and political violence in Egypt accounted for the high number of journalists killed on the job in 2013. 

December 30, 2013

Elana Beiser

Syria remained the most deadly place for journalists on the job in 2013, while Iraq and Egypt saw a spike in fatal violence. Two-thirds of journalist killings during the year took place in the Middle East.

Seventy journalists were killed for their work in 2013, down from 74 in 2012, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual analysis. CPJ is investigating the deaths of 25 more journalists in 2013 to establish whether they were work-related.

Pakistan, Somalia, India, Brazil, the Philippines, Mali, and Russia also saw multiple journalist deaths during the year, although the number of deaths in Pakistan and Somalia declined significantly. Mexico was notably absent from the list, with no deaths confirmed as work-related.

The proportion of victims who were singled out for murder was 44 percent, less than the historical average. Thirty-six percent of the journalists were killed in combat or crossfire, while 20 percent died during some other type of dangerous assignment.

The long-standing conflict in Syria claimed the lives of at least 29 journalists in 2013. That brings the number of journalists killed covering the conflict to 63, including some who died over the border in Lebanon or Turkey. Among the victims was Yara Abbas, a correspondent for the pro-government TV channel Al-Ikhbariya, who was killed when her crew's vehicle came under rebel sniper fire in the city of Al-Qusayr.

Yet the huge number of deaths in Syria does not tell the complete story of the danger to journalists there. The country saw an unprecedented number of kidnappings in 2013; about 60 journalists were abducted at least briefly during the year, according to CPJ research.

Late in 2013, at least 30 were still missing. Most were believed held by rebel groups. However, at least one journalist died in government custody during the year: Abdul Raheem Kour Hassan, the director of broadcasting for opposition station Watan FM, was arrested in January; authorities informed his family of his death in April, but did not give any details. The station said he was tortured to death at Palestine Branch, a feared Damascus prison operated by Syria's Military Intelligence Security.

At least 10 journalists were killed for their work in Iraq­, nine of them murdered, and all during the final quarter of the year. Unidentified gunmen opened fire on cameraman Mohammed Ghanem and correspondent Mohammed Karim al-Badrani of the independent TV channel Al-Sharqiya as they filmed a report on Eid al-Adha holiday preparations in Mosul in October.

It is unclear why they were targeted; the station has attracted ire from both Iraqi authorities and anti-government militants.

Amid stark political polarization and related street violence, things deteriorated dramatically for journalists in Egypt, where six journalists were killed for their work in 2013. Three were killed in a single day, August 14, as they covered raids by Egyptian security forces on demonstrating supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Since 1992, CPJ has documented the deaths of 10 journalists for their work in Egypt—nine of them since anti-government protests began in 2011.

Iraq and Egypt displaced Pakistan and Somalia, the second and third most deadly countries for journalists in 2012. Five journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2013, the lowest number since eight died for their work in 2010. While about half of the victims in Pakistan over the years have been singled out for murder, according to CPJ research, four of this year’s five deaths came in bomb blasts. The fifth was murder: Ayub Khattak of Karak Times was shot to death outside his home in October after reporting on the local criminal drug trade.

While Somalia continues to be a very dangerous place to practice journalism, the number of confirmed work-related deaths declined to four, plus one media worker, in 2013, compared with a record 12 in 2012. In both years, all of the victims were singled out for murder. Somalia’s government has made repeated pledges to fight the cycle of impunity in journalists’ killings, but has made almost no progress in solving any of the crimes.

In the meantime, CPJ research shows that journalists have stepped up their own security measures, while political groups and Al-Shabaab insurgents­—believed responsible for many of the murders—have wielded less lethal influence since 2012 elections.

As most of the deadly countries for journalists are or have been recently a setting for conflict or severe political turmoil, Brazil is a standout as a stable democracy where several journalists nonetheless have been killed for their work in recent years. In 2013, three were killed for their­ work—all of them provincial journalists murdered after reporting on local crime and corruption—compared with four in 2012 and another three in 2011. CPJ continues to investigate the motive for another five deaths during those three years.

Mali in 2013 saw its first journalist deaths since CPJ began keeping records in 1992. Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, veteran journalists at Radio France Internationale, were kidnapped as they finished an interview at the home of a Tuareg separatist leader in the remote Sarahan town of Kidal.

The bullet-ridden bodies of the journalists were found next to their vehicle outside the town.
While those killed in Mali were on international assignment, most journalists who die for their work are local people covering local stories, according to CPJ research. In 2013, nine out of 10 journalists killed were local, in line with the historical trend.
Some other trends that emerged from CPJ’s research:
  • In the Philippines, a country long plagued by deadly, anti-press violence, CPJ confirmed that three journalists were killed in reprisal for their work, and is investigating the motive in another six murders. Although it is difficult to determine the motive in many cases in the Philippines, the total number of journalist killings was the highest in four years.
  • In Mexico, another country where motives in journalist murders is hard to determine, CPJ could not confirm that any single journalist was killed for his or her work for the first time in a decade. However, CPJ is still investigating three killings to determine the motive.
  • Eight of the countries that saw a journalist murdered during 2013 are listed on CPJ’s most recent Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are regularly murdered and the killers go free.
  • CPJ documented the deaths of four media workers in 2013. One of them, José Darío Arenas, was a newspaper vendor who was murdered after helping a reporter write a story on mistreatment by prison guards in his town.
  • During 2013, CPJ documented the 1,000th death since it began keeping records in 1992. A video marking the journalist killings can be seen here, and a slideshow of some of the journalists killed over the years can be found here.
  • Prior to the 2011 uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, CPJ had not documented a single work-related death of a journalist in Syria since the organization began keeping detailed records in 1992.
  • The worst years on CPJ’s record are 2009 and 2012; 74 journalists were confirmed killed because of their work in each of those years.
CPJ began compiling detailed records on all journalist deaths in 1992. CPJ staff members independently investigate and verify the circumstances behind each death. CPJ considers a case work-related only when its staff is reasonably certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work; in combat-related crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment.

If the motives in a killing are unclear, but it is possible that a journalist died in relation to his or her work, CPJ classifies the case as “unconfirmed” and continues to investigate. CPJ’s list does not include journalists who died of illness or were killed in car or plane accidents unless the crash was caused by hostile action. Other press organizations using different criteria cite higher numbers of deaths than CPJ.

CPJ’s database of journalists killed for their work in 2013 includes capsule reports on each victim and a statistical analysis. CPJ also maintains a database of all journalists killed since 1992.

Clashes across Egypt leave at least 4 dead, scores injured


Friday, Dec. 27 2013

Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police clashed across Egypt on Friday, leaving at least four dead in protests after the army-backed government declared the group a terrorist organization.

The violence broke out after Friday prayers and the health ministry said 87 people were wounded in the clashes, which flared in Cairo and at least four other cities.

An 18-year-old Brotherhood supporter was shot dead in the Nile Delta city of Damietta. A second man was killed in Minya, a bastion of Islamist support south of Cairo, and a third person was killed in the capital, the interior ministry said, without providing further details.

A young man was killed late on Friday, the state news agency reported, after clashes broke out in the southern city of Aswan between security forces firing tear gas and Brotherhood supporters who burned two police cars.

Security forces detained at least 265 Brotherhood supporters nationwide, including at least 28 women, the ministry also said.

The widening crackdown has increased tensions in a country suffering the worst internal strife of its modern history since the army deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.

Security forces have killed hundreds of his supporters and lethal attacks on soldiers and police have become commonplace.

The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization after 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a police station on Tuesday, although the group condemned the attack and it was claimed by a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies had called for protests in response to the government decision.


Police fired birdshot and tear gas at student protesters at Al-Azhar university’s Cairo campus. Gunfire was heard in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, where demonstrators threw fireworks and rocks at police who used teargas, a Reuters witness said.

A number of police officers were injured in the clashes, the interior ministry said. A senior police officer in the city of Minya was injured during clashes between police and demonstrators that began when Brotherhood supporters threw stones at a local police station and attempted to break in, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

Some analysts say Egypt faces a protracted spell of attacks by Islamist radicals as well as eruptions of civil strife.

A student supporter of the Brotherhood was killed late on Thursday in what the interior ministry described as a melee between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood in Cairo.

On Friday, a furniture store was set on fire by residents of a Cairo suburb after police stormed inside and arrested three employees, having received complaints that the men had firearms and were Brotherhood members.

The government has said the violence will not derail a political transition plan whose next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.

Officials have issued a new round of harsher warnings against anyone taking part in protests in support of the Brotherhood, saying they will be punished under anti-terrorism laws that envisage five years imprisonment.

Jail terms for those convicted under the terrorism law can stretch up to life imprisonment and Brotherhood leaders face the death penalty.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy on Thursday and “expressed concern” about the terrorist designation of the Muslim Brotherhood and recent detentions, the State Department said.

The Brotherhood, which won every election since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, has been driven underground since the army deposed the freely elected Mursi in July.

Thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters have since been jailed. Mursi and other top leaders are also behind bars. Despite the pressure, the Brotherhood has continued near-daily protests against the Egyptian authorities.

In a statement condemning the government’s freezing of the funds of Islamist charity groups, the Brotherhood accused the government of spreading Christianity by empowering Coptic Christian charities over Islamic ones.

38+ MB supporters jailed under new 'terrorist' classification


Egypt arrests dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters under new anti-terror law

Thursday, Dec. 26 2013

Egypt increased pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday, detaining at least 38 of its supporters on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization the day after it was declared one by the government, security officials said.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who led the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July, said the country would be “steadfast” in the face of terrorism, after a small bomb went off in Cairo, wounding five people.

The government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group on Wednesday in response to a suicide attack a day earlier that killed 16 people in the Nile Delta, accusing the group of carrying out the bombing. The Brotherhood, which claims up to 1 million members, condemned the attack.

The move gives the authorities wider scope to crack down on the movement that propelled Morsi to the presidency 18 months ago but has been driven underground since the army toppled him.

Sixteen of the arrests were in the Nile Delta province of Sharkiya. The state news agency said those held were accused of “promoting the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood group, distributing its leaflets, and inciting violence against the army and police”. Security sources gave a country-wide total of 38 arrests on terrorism charges.

From now on, anyone taking part in Brotherhood protests will be jailed for five years, Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state TV. Jail terms for those accused under the terror law stretch up to life imprisonment. “The sentence could be death for those who lead this organization,” he said.

Terrorism charges will also apply to anyone who finances or promotes the group “verbally and in writing”. Publication of the Brotherhood’s newspaper, Freedom and Justice, was halted in response to the decision.

The state has accused the Brotherhood of turning to violence since the army toppled Morsi after mass protests against his rule. Since then, attacks on the security forces have become commonplace, with around 350 soldiers and policemen killed.

The Brotherhood denies turning to violence, saying the army has mounted a bloody coup and killed hundreds of its supporters.


The government says it will stick to its political transition plan. The next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution, after which elections will follow.

Sisi is widely tipped to win a presidential election expected next year, assuming he runs.

Some analysts believe the nation of 85 million people faces a protracted period of Islamist militancy, with attacks spreading beyond the restive Sinai Peninsula, the scene of the worst violence against the security forces to date.

The government has yet to make public any evidence to back up the charge that the Brotherhood staged the Nile Delta attack on a police station in Mansoura, north of Cairo.

The attack was claimed by the Sinai-based radical Islamist group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has taken responsibility for several other major bombings, including a failed attempt to kill the interior minister in September.

The small bomb that went off in Cairo smashed the windows of a bus. Abdel Latif said a second similar home-made device was found nearby and dismantled. The state news agency reported that the security forces had thwarted an attempt to set off a bomb outside a police compound in Kafr el-Sheikh province.

The Interior Ministry said it will secure polling stations for next month’s referendum by deploying secret police, combat units and explosives experts, according to a statement.

It said it would boost security at churches before January 7, when Coptic Christians, who make up about a tenth of the population, celebrate Christmas.

The Interior Ministry has opened three telephone lines for citizens to report suspected terrorist activities, including those by the Brotherhood, an official said.

The Brotherhood’s Islamist allies responded defiantly to the cabinet decision, vowing to continue protests.

“The putschists are a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood are peaceful patriots,” they said in a statement.

In the weeks after Morsi’s removal, the security forces killed hundreds of his supporters while dispersing their protest camps, and arrested thousands more, including most of the Brotherhood’s top leadership.

State prosecutors last week ordered Morsi and others to stand trial on charges including terrorism and conspiring against Egypt. They could face the death penalty.

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, the pro-Morsi coalition, called for a “week of anger” over the decision.

The public prosecutor’s office, which is investigating the Mansoura bombing, said there would be no comment until its investigation was complete.

3 prominent activists to 3 yrs in prison for violating 'protest law'

BBC News
Egypt jails Ahmed Maher and other secular activists

December 22, 2013 

Orla Guerin 

Three prominent Egyptian activists from the 2011 uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak have been sentenced to three years in jail.

Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel were found guilty of organising a recent unauthorised protest.

They were arrested after protesting in November over a new controversial law that restricts demonstrations.

The move will deepen concern in Egypt about a growing crackdown on dissent.

The three well-known activists have long called for greater democracy in Egypt.

Mr Maher and Mr Adel were founding members of the 6 April Youth Movement, which led protests to remove long-time President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The three were among a group of demonstrators outside the upper house of parliament in late November protesting over the new law, which states that public gatherings of more than 10 people must be authorised.

The military-installed government has defended the law, saying it is not intended to limit the right to demonstrate but rather to "protect the rights of protesters".

But its opponents say the law has in effect replaced a recently expired state of emergency, and is stricter than the measures in place during the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

The men are the first to be jailed under the new law. The court in Cairo found them guilty of holding a demonstration without authorisation and attacking police officers.

State-run television said the men had been sentenced to three years' hard labour. They have also been ordered to pay a $7,000 (£4,000) fine each.

As the verdict was read out, the courtroom erupted with chants of "Down, down with military rule! We are in a state, not in a military camp", Reuters news agency reports.

Until recently, the main targets for arrests by the authorities had been Islamists, many of whom continue to protest over the ousting by the military of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohammed Morsi in the summer after weeks of mass protests.

But recently dozens of liberal activists have been rounded up, our correspondent says.

The government maintains it is on the path to democracy, but that is not how it looks to many Egyptians, she adds.

Egypt: 15 year-old boy jailed for carrying a ruler with Brotherhood symbol

The Telegraph

Egypt: detention extended for 15-year-old boy found with pro-Muslim Brotherhood symbol on school ruler

Case of boy found with an anti-regime sticker at school highlights the extremes authorities are prepared to go

16 Dec 2013

Richard Spencer

Prosecutors in Egypt have doubled a 15-day detention period of a 15-year-old boy for having an anti-regime sticker on his school ruler and issued arrest warrants for two of his teachers and his father.
In one of a series of cases which have highlighted the measures the authorities will go to in their determination to end pro-Muslim Brotherhood opposition. The boy, Khaled Mohammed Bakara, was detained after his schoolteacher saw the sticker and reported him to the police.

The sticker showed a hand holding up four fingers - the sign used by supporters of the deposed Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, since the crushing of protests against his removal at a cost of hundreds of deaths at the Raba’a al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo. “Rabaa” means “four” in Egyptian Arabic.

The “Raba’a” sign, normally in black on a yellow background, has been held up at many subsequent demonstrations.

Khaled was initially ordered to be detained for 15 days pending inquiries into a claim that he possessed a “ruler bearing a sign that implies violence and offends the armed forces.”

He has subsequently been ordered to remain a further 15 days in detention at the Central Security Forces barracks in his home governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh.

At the same time, prosecutors issued arrest warrants for two of his teachers, one of whom was a relative, and his father, Mohammed Abdulghani Bakara, a fisherman, for “inciting” Khaled to take the ruler to school, along with two notebooks found in his school bag which also carried the symbol.

“Khaled has confessed that the ruler is his own, so there is no need to keep him in jail without bringing him to court,” his lawyer, Amr Ali al-Deen said. “But the prosecutor is now afraid to bring the case to court as it will harm his reputation even more than his reputation has already suffered. The case doesn’t even rise to the level of a misdemeanour.”

The arrest was ordered despite commitments from the military-backed authorities to freedom of speech, enshrined in a new constitution signed by the interim president, Adly Mansour, last week.

The constitution will be subject to a nationwide referendum next month, though the Muslim Brotherhood-led “Anti-Coup Alliance” announced on Monday that it would urge a boycott of the vote.

Khaled’s father told The Daily Telegraph he was still waiting for the arrest warrant to be executed. “Khaled is just a child,” he said.

“There is no background to this. Khaled is a placid child and not a trouble-maker. The whole situation is weird. We are waiting to see how it will end. There is no case to answer, they didn’t find him with a gun or a knife. It was just a ruler and there is no crime in the Raba’a symbol.”


Escalating harassment of Egyptian civil society & rights defenders

UN News Center
Egypt: UN cites ‘worrying escalation’ in harassment of civil society, rights defenders

20 December 2013 – The United Nations human rights office today called on Egyptian authorities to immediately release all individuals detained in relation to their work as human rights defenders, noting a “worrying escalation” in the harassment and intimidation of civil society in the country.

The call comes after at least 50 men in civilian clothes, who were later identified as police and security officers, raided the Cairo office of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights on Wednesday.

According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), six members of the non-governmental organization (NGO) were arrested and allegedly beaten, and three laptops, files and documents were seized.

“The raiding of a human rights NGO and the arrest of six of its members in Cairo on Wednesday night marks a worrying escalation in the harassment and intimidation of civil society in Egypt,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for OHCHR, told reporters in Geneva.

She said that five of the individuals arrested were released after some nine hours in custody, during which time they were reportedly mistreated. One prominent human rights defender, Mohamed Adel Fahmi, a member of the April 6th movement, remains in detention, his whereabouts unknown.

“We call on Egyptian authorities to immediately release all individuals who have been detained in relation to their work as human rights defenders,” said Ms. Shamdasani. “Intimidation of political opponents, activists and human rights defenders for peaceful exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association must be halted.

“An independent and impartial investigation needs to be conducted into the raid on the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights,” she added.

Egypt has been undergoing a democratic transition following the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago in the wake of mass protests. This past July, renewed protests, in which dozens of people were killed and wounded, led to the Egyptian military deposing President Mohamed Morsy. The Constitution was then suspended and an interim government set up.

Brotherhood bloc defeated in doctors' elections

Mada Masr
Brotherhood bloc defeated in Doctors' Syndicate elections

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jano Charbel

The Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral bloc has been voted out of its historic stronghold, the Doctors Syndicate.

Members of the group have dominated the syndicate’s councils for more than 20 years. Friday’s mid-term elections revealed the extent of the Brotherhood’s losses in both the Doctors General Syndicate, and in 27 regional branch syndicates across the country.

The Independence Current, a coalition of liberal, centrist and left-leaning physicians, captured 11 out of the 12 contested board seats in the Doctors General Syndicate. Members of the Current also defeated the Brotherhood-led Doctors for Egypt bloc in most syndicate branches in the governorates.

Candidates of the Doctors for Egypt bloc were, however, voted in for all seats open in the Fayoum, Qaliubiya, and Daqahliya governorates, as well as gaining a majority on the boards of the branch syndicates in Wadi al-Gadeed, Kafr al-Sheikh and Gharbiya.

Results in Menoufiya, Luxor, Red Sea, North Sinai, Sharqiya and Sohag were divided almost equally between the Independence Current and Doctors for Egypt.

Candidates from the Independence Current were more successful in Cairo, Alexandria, Minya, Assiut, Beni Suef, Qena, Aswan, Ismailiya, Suez and Matrouh — winning all of the seats in those branch syndicates. In Beheira and Giza, the Current won around 75% of the seats.

The Muslim Brotherhood has historically held sway over the boards of professional syndicates; in particular, the Engineers and Lawyers Syndicates. Since the 1980s, the group has also dominated associations of the medical profession, including doctors, dentists, veterinarians and, to a lesser extent, pharmacists.

The Independence Current now has a majority 15 out of 24 seats on the General Syndicate’s council. Elections in 2011 gave the Brotherhood bloc a firm grip over the council, holding 19 out of the 24 seats plus the post of the syndicate’s presidency.

On Saturday, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper marked the defeat of the Doctors for Egypt bloc with the headline: “Brotherhood loses its 28-year rule over the Doctors Syndicate.”

According to the report, a majority of doctors chose to vote against the “outlawed” group. The Brotherhood was banned by a court ruling in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s removal from office on July 3.

However, in all the previous years the group dominated the syndicate (under the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak), it was also a banned group. Saturday’s results, then, are about more than the ban, and reflect a broader societal shift against the group. There has been widespread approval of the crackdown on Brotherhood members and their supporters since Morsi’s ouster.

Mid-term elections were postponed for 19 years under Mubarak’s rule. Following the long-overdue general elections of 2011, Dr. Khairy Abdel Dayyem of the Doctors for Egypt bloc was elected to the post of General Syndicate president. He will remain in the post until the next election, which is scheduled for 2015.

Friday’s unusually cold weather and heavy rain may have contributed to the low voter turnout, which averaged less than 40% at most polling stations.

Despite the weather, however, there was vigorous campaigning and leafleting outside Cairo's Qasr al-Aini Teaching Hospital, by supporters of both blocs as well as unaffiliated candidates.

The two main blocs had mobilized and transported many of their supporters to the polling station, set up inside the hospital’s conference hall. Several buses, all bearing the campaign banners of candidates, parked outside the hospital.

“In light of the poor weather conditions today, we witnessed a medium turnout,” said Dr. Ahmed Fathy, a campaigner for the Independence Current.

“These elections are transparent, free and fair. We will respect the results, regardless of who wins or loses, for this is the democratic will of Egypt’s doctors,” Fathy said.

Judges oversaw the voting process at polling stations throughout the country, he said.

Standing at the entrance of the conference hall, Dr. Abdel Wahab Mohamed distributed fliers and booklets detailing the electoral program of Doctors for Egypt.

“Today’s elections affect not only Egypt’s doctors, but its hospitals and patients," he said.

Doctors for Egypt, he explained, is seeking to “improve the working conditions and rights of doctors nationwide, together with a more comprehensive and successful health care system, which should be available to all Egyptians.”

He continued, “We want to raise doctors’ salaries and improve healthcare facilities, especially in public hospitals, where full-time doctors are paid only a few hundred pounds per month.

“If salaries and medical conditions are not improved, doctors will find themselves unable or unwilling to work in these hospitals. Or, as happens every day, they’ll be eager to finish their work there to go work at private hospitals or clinics to supplement their poor incomes.”

He made no comment on calls for a strike made by Doctors for Egypt during last week’s general assembly meeting.

The Brotherhood were opposed to strike action taken by doctors in 2011 and 2013, which was led primarily by Doctors Without Rights, an affiliate of the Independence Current.

The Brotherhood’s bloc has called for a “gradual and escalatory strike” to begin this coming January, as part of its demands for the release of more than 100 doctors jailed since Morsi's removal. The call for strike action was denounced by many doctors.

“Both the Independence Current and Doctors for Egypt are in a political power struggle over the syndicate seats,” said Dr. Alaa Refai, an unaffiliated physician.

He criticized the “politicization” and “polarization” of the Doctors Syndicate along party lines.
“Unfortunately, both groups are fighting for their immediate interests, not for the professional interests of doctors as a whole,” he said.

Egypt's Women Fight Back

Foreign Policy

Egypt's Women Fight Back

DECEMBER 12, 2013

Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez

One afternoon in Cairo this summer, a young woman was brutally gang-raped in a crowd. Stumbling, badly hurt, into a subway station in search of help, she was subjected to humiliating examinations at the hands of skeptical authorities. Later, she would be beaten once more by her own "dishonored" family.

This story was told to me by someone intimately acquainted with its details, but who asked that the specifics be withheld to protect the victim. Heartbreaking anecdotes such as this have become all too familiar in Egypt over recent years. These attacks usually go unreported in the media, but talk of them nevertheless circulates widely through the country's garrulous streets, becoming an increasingly inescapable part of the national conversation.

This growing public perception of sexual harassment is now inspiring many ordinary Egyptians to become active parts of the solution. As awareness intensifies and coalitions coalesce, equality may soon be on the rise at last.

That said there is a long road ahead. While Egypt's political rollercoaster -- from autocratic strongman, to flawed democracy, to military rule -- has created a great many uncertainties, limitations on women in the public sphere, and rampant sexual harassment have remained tragic constants throughout.

On Nov. 12, Reuters released a poll that surveyed over 330 gender experts from around the Arab world in an effort to establish a ranking of the region's countries regarding women's rights and gender equality. Citing sky-high rates of female genital mutilation, anemic legal protections, ubiquitous sexual harassment, and limited professional prospects for women, the survey's respondents ranked Egypt 22nd out of 22 countries. Dead last.

As if that fact weren't depressing enough, many of the reported statistics underlying this finding are themselves harrowing in the extreme. In 2012 UNICEF found that, nationwide, 91 percent of women between ages 15 to 49 had suffered female genital mutilation. And according to a United Nations report from April 2013, over 99 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed at some point, nearly all of them physically.

Yet by some accounts, it wasn't always this bad.

"In 1957, the Nasser Constitution declared women to be the equals of men, and, by the 1970s, the Sadat government was already appointing female ambassadors and ministers," says Sallama Shaker, a visiting professor at Yale University, a former ambassador, and Egypt's first female deputy minister of foreign affairs.

"Later, First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, like Mrs. Sadat before her, personally oversaw an enhancement of women's integration into the economic life and development of Egypt ...  raising awareness of the fact that women's rights are human rights."

So what happened? Shaker's take is that the current plight of women in Egypt was brought about, or at least greatly exacerbated, by the Arab Spring and the advent of electoral democracy under the aegis of the Muslim Brotherhood. "While women played a very critical role in the uprisings of 2011," she says, "Morsi's regime denied women rights that had been granted to them as far back as Nasser."

Of course, some scholars have argued that the short-lived 2012 Morsi constitution was not all that textually dissimilar to its 1971 predecessor when it came to women's rights. It likewise bears remembering that the ancien régime under Mubarak was certainly not without its own high-profile scandals and allegations of sexual abuse by state authorities. That said, having more conservative-minded Muslim Brotherhood allies in power did seem to call into doubt women's ability to invoke the law as a societal equalizer, or even as a shield against abuses such as marital rape.

But Shaker finds cause for optimism in the Constitution Drafting Committee. Recent revisions to Article 11 of the newly drafted Egyptian Constitution, which will be submitted for final ratification over the next few months, now includes a commitment to "achieving equality between women and men in all of the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights mentioned in this constitution."

Shaker likewise characterizes the committee itself as including several "prominent" activists, and considers its chairman, Amr Moussa, to be a firm believer in women's rights. "The challenges remain immense," Shaker admits, "but the women of Egypt have been securing their rights since 1919, and there is no turning back. The djinn is out of the bottle."

Other voices are less sanguine, however, both about the past and the political future. According to Rebbeca Chiao, the co-founder of HarassMap, a leading effort to address sexual harassment and assault in Egypt, most of the high profile initiatives from the period predating the Arab Spring were more flash than substance.

For a government often under international pressure to make democratizing reforms of some kind, women's rights were seen as a safe avenue for doing so. There would be billboards, public discussions, and perhaps some superficial progress on the legal side (rapists could no longer escape punishment by marrying their victim, for example), but these changes rarely translated into significant benefits on the ground.

"When it comes to women's rights and sexual harassment, things have been getting worse for decades," she explains. "The problem has nothing to do with who's in power, but with society itself."

In fact, Chiao reports that some of the worst harassment she's ever seen took place on the very day Morsi left power. The celebratory atmosphere of the mass gatherings so emblematic to Egypt's 2011 and 2013 uprisings were accompanied by chilling displays of sexual violence. "People were happy, there were fireworks, celebrating on the streets.... Harassment became just another part of the party."

Chiao recalls: "There were women of all ages and backgrounds being violently attacked by a mob in full view of thousands of people. Scores of men would single out one woman and attack her sexually. A lot of these were rapes with fingers -- some even with knives. Many victims needed multiple surgeries afterwards, and practically nobody helped. Bystanders are the real problem. Not laws."

While international media coverage of the uprisings, along with high profile cases of Western journalists being sexually assaulted, have helped draw attention to the issue, most attacks occur far away from both the press and the authorities. The crisis is likewise deeply rooted, and it permeates all levels of society irrespective of age, class, or region. While it is often suggested that criminals specifically target unveiled women who are considered "atheists" (a term that bears a negative connotation in Egypt, almost on par with a slur), and that veiled women are protected by their religious adherence, this is simply not the case.

"Many men have this mentality that a woman is herself responsible for harassment, particularly if she 'tempts' men with how she dresses," Mariam Ibrahim, a graphic designer based in Cairo, explains.

"Yet my sense is that veiled women, often from lower social strata, actually get harassed more than do more westernized, middle class women, since they're perceived as safer targets. There's a greater possibility of them having nobody to back them up from a socially connected family."

If the problem is social, perhaps the solution can be as well. Activists such as Ms. Chiao and her colleagues very much believe this to be the case. "There is such a diverse and dynamic group of people working in Egypt on these issues right now," she says, "one organization isn't going to change everything, but a diversity of people and of voices can."

And that diversity is growing. Among her volunteers, at HarassMap, she says, more than 50 percent are now men, who are part of "a new generation that doesn't look at women, or their rights, as a means to an end."

One such young man is the 26-year-old Ahmed el-Habibi. "We must all be proactive and positive, and take action when we see incidents on the street instead of so readily blaming the victims," he tells me. "Women are the engine of change in all societies, and if we do not stand with them there can be no real change of any sort in Egypt."

Today, men like Habibi are increasingly lending their own strength to a coalition of women that is ever more insistent and assertive in defending their rights and proliferating messages of gender equality and justice. Deena Mohamed, a 19-year-old student and illustrator, recently made international headlines when her web comic, Qahera, went viral. Qahera features an eponymous hijab-wearing, ass-kicking superheroine that prowls Egypt's streets, wreaking havoc on misogynists, sexual harassers, and Islamophobes alike.

Referring to her work in the context of Egypt's recent upheavals, Mohamed rightly points out that women's empowerment has at long last becoming a powerful topic of conversation in Egypt today. "For a brief moment during the revolutions, Egyptians were in an atmosphere that seemed to welcome change, and this helped bring down a lot of barriers and taboos. Harassment is being talked about now, openly. Young people are increasingly championing women's rights, but change needs to come from within the system as well."

And perhaps it will. Charles Caleb Colton, a 19th century British admirer of Egypt, once said of the Nile that it "begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence." As more and more Egyptian men and women stand together on behalf of the rights and dignity of both sexes, we can be hopeful that their efforts may chart a similar course. Twice now, the youth of Egypt has shown itself capable of mobilizing to topple a government. Whether they can also take down an entrenched regime of socially institutionalized sexism remains to be seen. Should they succeed, it would truly be their most astounding revolution to date.

Monday, December 30, 2013

EGYPT: Police Brutality Remains Unchecked

BBC News

Egypt police brutality 'unchecked'

A grainy video circulating widely on social media has heightened concerns that police in the new Egypt are relying on old ways.

A blindfolded man lies on the floor, naked from the waist up. The skin on his shoulders and upper back is an angry red.

In the course of 30 seconds he appears to be whipped six times with a leather belt. His screams become high-pitched, like a wounded animal.

"I was arrested by mistake," he cries. "By Allah I didn't do that."

His tormentor keeps taunting him, telling him to say he is a woman.

The abuser's face is never seen and his identity is unclear, but police admit the man was arrested in the southern province of Minya. They say he was involved in a deadly attack on a police station.

The public prosecutor there ordered an inquiry after he was found to have visible injuries on his body. The security chief for the province is promising that the guilty will be punished.

"Assaulting any person is unacceptable," said Major Gen Usama Metawally.

"When I saw this regrettable video it made me so sad. If investigations prove that he was injured at a police station, no-one will escape punishment," he told the BBC.
Local journalist Aslam Fathi might be forgiven for having some doubts.

He had his own brush with the police in Minya on 31 October. When the BBC filmed him afterwards, he still had bruises under his eyes, and deep scratches on his forearms.

The reporter, for Egypt's MBC Channel, got into a row with an officer manning a cordon at the site of a collapsed building.

Police claim he attacked the officer. Aslam says he is the one who was attacked, and dragged away to a night of torture at a nearby police station.

"I was being beaten from all directions, even with batons. Whoever entered the room to do anything was told I had fought with an officer. They started beating me as well.

"I said I was ready to kiss the leg of the officer. I kept begging and begging for them to stop."

Far from stopping he says the assault intensified. He claims he was beaten and kicked for about two hours, before a more elaborate torment began.

"Someone put my hands behind my back, with shackles, and did the same with my legs," he said.
"They tied them together and hung me upside down from a log. My hands and legs couldn't stand the weight of my body. They kept beating me and saying that I would not leave the place alive."

Aslam was released the next day, and says he is mounting a case against the police, in spite of warnings about the risks.

"People told me the police would target my family, and there will be trouble," he said.

"Many people tried to frighten me, but I will proceed. Even if I made a mistake, why should I be tortured?"

Accounts of abuse are not limited to the provinces.

We met Muhammed Reda Othman, a marketing manager, outside the Cairo stadium. For him, the popular sporting venue now has sinister connotations.

He says he was held there overnight in August after being detained with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood during a sit-in. The next stop, he says, was a brutal reception at a police station.
"While we were being searched, they were beating us about the face and the chest," he said.

"Five plain-clothes officers were around us, grabbing us, intimidating us. All those beating us were saying we are going to kill you. It lasted about an hour."

Reform of the police was one of the key demands of the 2011 revolution that overthrew the long-time military ruler, Hosni Mubarak. (The uprising against him began on National Police Day).

Almost three years after his removal, a military-installed government is ruling Egypt, and critics say the security forces remain completely unaccountable.

It is not a case of the return of the police state, according to human rights campaigner Karim Enarrah, because it never went away.

"The Egyptian police were always notorious for being unprofessional," says Mr Enarrah of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

"They remain completely unreformed and unaccountable."

And on the rare occasions when police are put on trial for abuses, he says, cases tend to result in acquittals.

There has been plenty of talk of reforming the security forces in recent years but that's all it is, says Tamarra Alrifai, of the New York based Human Rights Watch.

"It's the same police, committing the same abuses, with the same impunity," she said.
The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police, now has a human rights division.

We asked the official in charge, Hussein Fekry, for a response to allegations of police brutality. We showed him the footage from Minya, and a second recording that appears to show a suspect being beaten all the way to a police van.

Both videos have been on social media for weeks. It was the first time he had seen them.
"In the first video (in Minya) there is nothing saying it was filmed at a police station," he said, after watching the footage in silence.

"The faces in the video are not clear. Who are these officers that you are asking me to bring to account?"

Mr Fekry told us police are being trained to be more sensitive, and are showing more self-control. But he said many employees of the Interior Ministry absorbed a culture of abuse.

"Torture and cruelty are part of human behaviour that doesn't stop by pushing a certain button," he said.

"We are trying to end it but most claims of ill-treatment during arrest are untrue. Many prisoners say they have been very well treated."

Muhammed Reda Othman is not one of them. What he recalls after his arrest are beatings, threats, abuse, and fearing for his life.

And he vividly remembers the words spoken by the officer who put him in the police van: "Forget the past two years."

1,000s of workers launch sit-in protest at state-owned steel giant

Mada Masr
Partial strike expands at Helwan Iron and Steel

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Over the past week the gargantuan Helwan Iron and Steel Company, Egypt’s largest steel mill complex, has witnessed its biggest industrial action since the historic protests at the company in 1989.

Demonstrations started at the company on Tuesday, November 26, and over the last week have grown to an estimated total of 5,000 striking workers — out of a total workforce of some 12,600 laborers.

Workers at this public-sector company have mentioned their willingness to escalate industrial action if their demands are not met.

The workers’ demands include: The operation of the company at its former capacity, the sacking of officials allegedly responsible for the company’s financial losses, the reinstatement of sacked/relocated workers, and the payment of overdue profit-shares.

However, administrators emphasize there are no profits to be shared, as the company has not been generating profits, but rather incurring losses  amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds  over the past few years.

“Although we are currently witnessing a partial strike, all the workers here have the exact same demands,” striking worker Mohamed Omar said.

Omar pointed out that three of the company’s four blast furnaces are presently out-of-order, or out of coke-fuel. “The company has come to a near-standstill  not because of our strike, but because of years of neglect and mismanagement from the administration.”

Another striking worker, Bassem Fawzy, commented that workers have closed 11 out of the 12 gates at the company. “We will escalate our actions to a complete strike and shut-down if our demands continue to be ignored.”

Fawzy claims that the administrators have a responsibility to provide the profit-sharing payments which supplement workers’ meager basic wages at the company  which amount to only a few hundred pounds per month. Fawzy considers these profit-sharing payments as an “overdue periodic bonus.”

Workers point out that they are owed a total of 16 months of these ‘profit-shares.’

“We have discussed moving our protest outside the company; taking it to the Holding Company for Steel Industries, or the General Union of Metallurgic Workers. Yet the new ‘protest law’ stipulates that we need authorization to stage such protests. This authorization has not yet been granted,” Omar said.

He added, “we don’t want to be jailed or labeled as outlaws, trouble-makers, or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. This is why our protests have been confined within the company’s walls.”

“We plan on raising our voices and escalating our actions  both inside and outside the company  if these legitimate demands of ours are not met,” Omar concluded, adding, “This is the largest and longest-lasting protest-action we’ve staged here since our 1989 protest.”

A protest action led by some 19,000 workers in July-August 1989, culminated in riot-police forcefully suppressing the industrial action. This crackdown resulted in the death of one worker, dozens of arrests, and subsequent allegations of torture and abuse in police custody.

Egypt: We Don’t Need Permission to Protest!

Tahrir ICN

Statement by Comrades from Cairo: We Don’t Need Permission to Protest

[The following statement was recently released by Comrades from Cairo]
We Don’t Need Permission to Protest!

To You at Whose Side We Struggle:

November 26 2013, we saw the first implementation of a new Egyptian law effectively banning any and all protest not approved and regulated by the Ministry of Interior. This is the same Interior Ministry whose soldiers have killed thousands of protesters, maimed tens of thousands and tortured unknown others in recent years. This security apparatus is acting with renewed arrogance since the July coup that returned the Egyptian Army to a position of direct authority.

Around noon on November 26, riot police attacked a protest commemorating the murder of Gaber “Gika” Salah one year ago. Announcing that the protest was illegal, police fired water cannons and then baton-charged demonstrators, arresting several.

Hours later, the ¨No Military Trials for Civilians¨ campaign organized a protest against the new anti-protest law as well as the inclusion of military trials for civilians in the constitution currently being drafted. This time, the police beat and arrested dozens, among them some of Egypt’s most renowned activists, the same people who fought the injustice and oppression of Mubarak, the SCAF, the Muslim Brotherhood, and now Abdel Fattah al Sisi and the puppet civilian government in place since the coup.

The public outrage that followed the release of footage of the police beating and sexually assaulting some protesters compelled authorities to release all female protesters as well as lawyers, journalists and a handful of prominent male detainees, while keeping 24 male protesters in detention. Protesters demonstrating against the same illegitimate law elsewhere across the country likewise remain in custody.

The events of the past week make it clear that the so-called justice system in Egypt, and the anti-protest law in particular seek little more than the suppression of any form of political activity or protest. The demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists provides the cover to crack down on dissent of any kind, including the continued calls for the revolution’s demands.

On November 27, six of the released female protesters informed the public prosecutor that they were the ones to call for the protest, which according to the new law would force the prosecutor to re-arrest them. The prosecutor ignored their claims, while extending the detention of the 24 male protesters, who have undergone continuous torture, by another 15 days. In the court, the detainees disrupted proceedings by chanting “down with military rule,” and have started a hunger strike.

On November 28, the repression continued as the police surrounded a student protest in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo University. After preventing anyone from leaving the premises the police forces fired tear gas, buck shot and live ammunition at the demonstrators and other students inside. The body of Mohamed Reda reached the morgue later that night, with gunshot wounds. His friends claim he was neither politically active nor participating in the protest.

The court in turn charged other students arrested in the protest with his murder. Hours later, the police stormed Alaa Abdel Fattah’s home without a search warrant, beat him and his wife and kidnapped him; all this for charges of organizing the protest on the 26th. The following morning the prosecution questioned him at the Cairo Security Directorate and extended his detention to four days pending investigation.

The protest law, draconian and kafkaesque in its very essence, is not the first time that laws effectively criminalizing protest have been passed since 2011. The army and the Muslim Brotherhood both attempted and failed to pass and enforce such laws.

This new one comes under the trappings of the rule of law, supposedly free of political weight, but its intention is clear: to crush dissent and further empower the police to use violence and lethal force. Egyptian lawmakers even have the gall to use oppression abroad to justify a crackdown at home.

This is not a call to reform the protest law. This is a rejection of all such laws and the system behind the law- a system that is merely a new face to the one we confronted on January 25 2011.

Following the military’s coup on July 3, the army’s head of command appointed a government that is made up of liberals, retired police and military generals as well as a few individuals considered participants in the January 25 revolution. In their attempt to outlaw any opposition on the street, the role of the liberals and deemed “revolutionaries” is to whitewash the violence of the security regime.

These figures are the handmaidens of the attempt to re-create a pre-January 25 Egypt where the regime’s murder and torture becomes the norm. It is their role to prevent outrage on the street. The justification for the return to this pre-January 25 state of normalcy is the fighting of “terror” and the need to impose “stability” and “order”.

We will not protest at the whim and convenience of a counterrevolutionary regime and its armed enforcers. After the generals’ latest attempt to co-opt the revolution by kidnapping the June 30 protests for their own desire for power, the January 25 Revolution has returned to the streets.

We will oppose the system everywhere we can. Stand by our side. This system must fall.