Friday, March 31, 2017

Trump-Sisi meeting confronted with protest campaigns on streets & online

The New Arab
#FreedomFirst: US activists blast Trump meeting with Egypt's Sisi

March 30, 2017 

Activists in the United States have launched a campaign to highlight rampant human rights abuses in Egypt in the run-up to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's White House meeting next week.

The "Freedom First" campaign run by US-Egyptian former political prisoner, Mohamed Soltan, kicked off on Thursday after activists put up thousands of anti-Sisi regime posters in Washington DC.

"This campaign is an effort to harness that same energy and build on it to do the same for others who remain in the grips of injustice," Soltan told The New Arab
A press statement said: "President Trump is scheduled to meet with Sisi, who Trump has called a 'fantastic guy' with whom he has 'good chemistry'."

"Sisi has also overseen horrific human rights abuses, including the massacre of more than 1,000 activists in a single day, and the jailing of more than 40,000 activists and journalists without charge or trial," it added.

The campaign hopes to raise awareness about the tens of thousands of prisoners of conscience in Egypt and the at least seven US nationals unjustly imprisoned on politicized charges.

One Egyptian-US dual citizen being held is activist Aya Hegazy, who worked with homeless children until police raided her charity in May 2014 and arrested her and the staff at the Belady Foundation for Street Children.

Hegazy has since been imprisoned on charges of exploiting minors and encouraging them to join political protests led by the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Soltan, whose father is a leading Brotherhood official, was arrested in August 2013 and sentenced to life in prison for allegedly attempting to "destabilize" the country.

He was deported to the US in June 2015 after going on a 489-day hunger strike, causing relatives to fear for his life. His father, Salah was sentenced to death in the same trial as his son and remains imprisoned in Egypt.

"I never lose sight of the immense effort it took on the part of thousands of people, many of whom had never met me, to save my life," Soltan said.

Soltan had originally planned to kick off the campaign with ad spaces on the Washington DC Metro, however, the transport network rejected the ads, arguing they violated its ban on "issues-oriented advertising."

In 2013, then-army chief Sisi led a military coup against Egypt's first freely elected leader - the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi - amid mass protests against his presidency.

The overthrow unleashed a deadly crackdown on Islamists, with more than 800 peaceful protesters killed in a single day when police dispersed a Cairo sit-in demanding Morsi's reinstatement.

Egyptian courts have since sentenced hundreds of Islamists to death, including Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

This week, the White House announced that Sisi would make an official visit to visit US President Donald Trump on April 3 to "discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues".

The hashtag #FreedomFirst has gained traction on Twitter shortly after it was introduced on Thursday with social media activists calling attention to individual cases of political prisoners under the Sisi regime.

Mubarak is free again; What does this say about Egypt?

Washington Post
Hosni Mubarak is free again. What does this say about Egypt?


After six years of procedural and legal maneuvers, former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is free. The top Egyptian appeals court acquitted him of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 popular revolt. Mubarak’s expected freedom comes as many leaders of that revolt languish in Egyptian prisons. The other members of Mubarak’s regime put on trial in 2011 have also been set free. How did we get to this place?

In the weeks and months following the toppling of the former Egyptian strongman in 2011, calls for justice on Cairo’s Tahrir Square turned into unified demands for prosecutions of Mubarak and other officials responsible for human rights abuses and economic crimes.

By August 2011, Mubarak, his sons and a number of his top officials were on trial, accused of corruption and ordering security forces to use lethal force against protesters during the revolution.

The sight of Mubarak in the defendant’s cage became a defining image of the Arab Spring. The trial stunned Egyptians, many of whom doubted until the last minute that their autocratic leader would be brought to justice.

Egypt is not unique. Oppositions throughout the world have to balance the desire for justice with the political constraints inherent in the absence of an all-out revolution, coup or military victory.

Retributive measures are frequently replaced with more lenient policies. The possibilities for accountability are determined by the distribution of power among key actors prevailing at the moment of transition. The greater the strength of old elites vis-à-vis the new ones, the less likely are criminal trials and other forms of retributive justice.

The Mubarak trial began primarily in the context of a revolutionary moment in which the power of the “street” was at its peak and the then-ruling military council faced intense popular pressure to prosecute Mubarak and his top officials. Yet, even when the revolutionary logic was at its height, protesters had to contend with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces’s (SCAF) determination to use its powers to protect its privileges and to move the country toward elections on its own terms.

The Mubarak trial was one of concessions made by the SCAF in a bid for legitimacy. After the parliamentary elections of December-January 2011-2012 conferred electoral legitimacy upon the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the party sought to negotiate the terms of the forthcoming handover of power with the SCAF in anticipation of the central role it hoped to play in governing the country.

Yet, the military allowed the trial to go forward, and even after 2013, President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi appeared in no hurry to free Mubarak. Why?

Interest in ensuring stability, building its legitimacy and protecting its extensive economic and political privileges drove the military’s approach. Key military figures, al-Sissi included, have also attempted to co-opt the “spirit” of the revolution, which was broadly popular, for their own purposes.

For example, the military has simultaneously detained and repressed young revolutionary protesters while at the same time going to great lengths to attempt to co-opt the revolutionaries and the revolution, even giving special medals to the martyrs who died during the uprising. The military’s decision to allow the trial to move forward was part of broader goals than just stability and momentarily pacifying protesters.

Indeed, the military sought longer-term legitimacy from the “street” by co-opting the revolution and buying support for an early transition plan. As such, the military largely conceded to demands for justice in an ad hoc, reactive way, such as allowing for Mubarak’s prosecution after days of large demonstrations.

The decision to place Mubarak and his associates on trial was a clear response to rising public pressure — and it also created a lasting perception of the trial as political spectacle. That political perception underscored how hastily prepared the trial was.

It was not clear until the last moment that the trial would actually go forward. Public pressure was central to Mubarak’s trial in the first place — and it raised questions as to whether any judge would be able to render a verdict without regard to public opinion.

Judges were fully aware that anything less than a guilty verdict would lead to massive street demonstrations. Despite this public pressure for a conviction, state officials effectively blocked the prosecutor from gathering sufficient evidence to establish Mubarak’s alleged role in ordering the killings.

As the initial symbolic force of the trial started to wane, its shallow nature did not escape the notice of those who paid the highest price for it. As a mother of one of the victims said, “We didn’t ask them for financial compensation or pensions. They are doing that only to pacify people’s anger. All we want is fair trials.” Beyond popular anger at the shortcomings of the Mubarak trial remained broader concerns about more far-reaching reforms.

The shortcomings of the Mubarak trial, and his ultimate acquittal, may lead one to argue that the prospects for transitional justice were inherently limited in the aftermath of a popular, but still incomplete, political revolution. The truth is that the Mubarak trial was possible precisely because its genesis was associated with a time when the revolutionary logic of the Egyptian transition ruled.

Under its subsequent, negotiated, logic (and then its rollback after 2013), the possibilities for transitional justice greatly diminished. The sight of Mubarak being rolled into the defendant’s cage to be tried for his crimes was a powerful symbol of what 2011 represented for Egyptians and other Arabs.

Never before had an Arab leader been held accountable in such a visible way. Yet, the fact that the trial was ultimately shallow, and that the conviction was ultimately overturned, is an equally potent indicator of just how short the revolution fell of accomplishing its goals of justice.

*Artwork by Carlos Latuff, courtesy of Latuff Cartoons

Egypt's judiciary is the counter-revolution

Mubarak acquitted & released from army hospital; Meanwhile, 1,000s of political detainees languish in their prison cells

Thanks to Sisi's judiciary...Dictator Mubarak is acquitted & released from "detention" in luxury hospital ward

Justice for 800+ murdered protesters - Egypt's very independent judges acquit Mubarak & his entire regime, along with all police forces

 *Artwork by Carlos Latuff (2012 & 2014) courtesy of Latuff Cartoons

Toppled dictator Mubarak freed after 6 yrs in luxury hospital ward

The Guardian
Hosni Mubarak: Egypt's toppled dictator freed after six years in custody 

Ex-president acquitted this month on all charges of murdering protesters before he was ousted in Arab spring uprising in 2011

Friday 24 March 2017

Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak has left the Cairo military hospital where he had been held in custody for much of the past six years, and returned to his home in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, his lawyer said.

Mubarak, 88, was acquitted by Egypt’s highest appeals court on 2 March of conspiring to kill protesters in the final verdict in a long-running case that originally resulted in him being sentenced to life in prison in 2012 over the deaths of 239 people in Arab spring protests against his rule. A separate corruption charge was overturned in January 2015.

He left the Maadi military hospital on Friday morning and returned to his home, where he had breakfast with his family and a number of friends, according to a report in the privately owned newspaper al-Masy al-Youm. His lawyer, Farid al-Deeb, told the paper that Mubarak thanked those who had supported him throughout his trial.

The strongman, who ruled Egypt for nearly three decades, often appeared in a frail state during his court appearances, attending on a stretcher and wearing dark sunglasses, but the appearances put paid to repeated rumors of his death.

Mubarak was also healthy enough to appear at the window of his hospital room to wave to supporters gathered outside on occasions including his birthday and the anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 war with Israel.

For those who worked to topple the former dictator, Mubarak’s freedom marks a grim moment in Egypt’s modern history. Yet some reacted with little more than resignation as his release became imminent, numbed by the years of political turmoil since his fall.

Mubarak’s democratically elected successor, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown in a popularly backed military coup in 2013. Many see echoes of Mubarak’s style of leadership in Egypt’s current leader, the former general Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

“I’m neither sad nor disappointed,” said Tarek el-Khatib, whose brother, Mustafa, was killed in the struggle to topple Mubarak. “I’d have been surprised had things happened otherwise. Politically, everything flew in this direction and paved the way for the normality of this moment.”

Over the past six years there have been repeated efforts to punish family members and business associates who profited from Mubarak’s regime, largely without lasting consequence. Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, were freed in October 2015, with a judge stating that they had served adequate jail time on charges of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

The notorious steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, formerly the secretary general of Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic party, was named as an honorary leader of a political party in 2016, although he had previously served three years on corruption charges.

Despite describing the revolution that ended Mubarak’s rule as “a turning point in Egypt’s history,” Sisi and his military-backed government are regarded as the autocrat’s political heirs.

“I think that Mubarak’s release was something expected as his students are ruling the country,” said Mahienour el Massry, an activist and lawyer who served 15 months in prison under Sisi’s rule. “The same regime, the same corruption, the same brutality.

“Mubarak might be released, but in the eyes of those who believe in the revolution he will always be a criminal killer and the godfather of corruption,” she said. “This might be another round that we have lost, but we will keep on fighting to change the inhuman regime that releases criminals and imprisons innocent people.”

Others were less hopeful. Mubarak’s freedom meant the families of those killed were “now praying for divine justice”, said Mohsen Bahnasy, a human rights lawyer who served as a member of the commission of inquiry into military abuses committed during the 2011 revolution.

Egypt’s highest appeals court previously rejected demands by the families of those killed during the uprising to bring civil suits against Mubarak for his role in the deaths of protesters. An official inquiry later concluded that 846 people died and a further 6,467 were injured during the revolution, as Egyptian security forces violently suppressed the protests which packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square.

“The Mubarak acquittal is of significant symbolic value in that it reflects an absolute failure of Egyptian judicial and legal institutions to hold a single official accountable for the killing of almost 900 protesters during the January 25 revolution. It is indicative of a deeper, compounded crisis of transitional justice,” said Mai el Sedany, a legal expert with the Washington thinktank the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

“This is a clear message to all Egyptians that no one will be held accountable for any corruption or oppression in this country – the state is loyal to its men and will continue to be,” said Khatib. “Don’t dream of any revolution again.”

Mubarak’s release comes amid an economic crisis following years of political tumult and worsening security. Egyptians complain of empty pockets and rumbling bellies as inflation exceeds 30% and the government tightens its belt in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund.

“The economic crisis we are living in and the high prices take priority over everything, as does the fear of terrorism. That is what preoccupies ordinary citizens, not Mubarak,” said Khaled Dawoud, an opposition politician who opposed the Islamists but also condemned the bloody crackdown on them.

“When you see the group of people who show up and cheer and support him, you are talking about 150, 200 people,” he said, referring to occasional shows of support outside the Maadi hospital when Mubarak was there.

*Additional reporting by Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Cairo*
*Photos by Mohamed Abd El Ghany and Youssef Boudlal courtesy of Reuters

Portland anarchists fight the system by fixing potholes

The Huffington Post  
Anarchists In Portland Are Fighting The System By Fixing Potholes  
Punk is still dead, though.  


Sebastian Murdock

In 1977, the Sex Pistols said anarchy was about destroying the passerby. In 2017, anarchy is apparently about fixing potholes.

A group of anonymous anarchists in Portland, Oregon, ― where else? ― have taken their version of anarchy to the streets to help their local communities by fixing unsafe potholes themselves. The project, which began in late February, is the coolest thing to happen to punk after Green Day officially ruined it for everyone.

“The roads in Portland were getting worse and worse, and like everyone else, we were just waiting for someone else to fix it,” a member with the Portland Anarchist Road Care, or PARC, told The Huffington Post in an email. “We sort of reflected on the situation, and asked ourselves the questions made famous by John Lewis: ‘If not us, then who? If not now, then when?’ Two days later we were patching holes.”

On Facebook, PARC is keeping their more than 4,000 followers updated with their progress. So far, they said they’ve repaired five potholes. They said they believe in community solutions over “hierarchical institutions like government.”

It might seem confusing. Anarchism usually tends to conjure up images of angry men in Guy Fawkes masks setting things on fire. But that’s not what PARC is about.

"Many of the critiques we have received from the left have said we should be tearing the streets up, rather than paving them,” PARC told HuffPost. “We find this view ableist, classist and antisocial. To us, anarchy is about building community and creating networks of solidarity and mutual aid."

The anarchists have also faced criticism from ― you guessed it! ― the government. Dylan Rivera with the Portland Bureau of Transportation told HuffPost that fixing potholes should be left to professionals.
“Patching can pose a risk to the individuals doing the patching because there’s traffic moving on these streets, and they may not have the proper equipment or training to make a safe work zone for themselves.”

What the anarchists are doing is illegal, Rivera said. But he sympathizes with them, saying he understands the public frustration with potholes, especially after a heavy rain and snow-battered winter.

“Portlanders are very community minded,” Rivera said. “They express themselves in many ways, whether its parades or helping neighbors out in snowstorms, and so we see what these folks are doing as really an extension of the community mindedness of Portlanders.”

Rivera also mentioned that earlier this month, the city spent a full day to fill more than 900 of the dangerous road hazards. Rivera said weather conditions also need to be dry for city workers to fix the potholes. PARC disagrees.

“[The PBC] use the excuse of not being able to pour hot asphalt in the rain, but there are alternatives,” PARC said. “The method we use, called cold patching, is less permanent than the hot asphalt that is traditionally used, but it is able to be used in the rain. There are steel road plates that could be laid over the worst of the potholes, which measure easily over ten feet long.”

Rivera said the city has used cold patching in the past before, but not often because it’s a temporary solution. Instead of fixing paved roads, which are maintained by the city, Rivera suggested the anarchists could offer help to neighbors who live on gravel roads as they’re not maintained by the city. He said as long as the property owners are agreeable to it, citizens can help patch those holes up.

PARC said they have received an influx of volunteers to help, and plan to “mobilize hundreds of people all across the city.” 

“[Anarchy] is about claiming communal ownership over our spaces, be they public, work, educational, or otherwise,” PARC said. “Our work directly puts that ideology into practice. They are our roads, we use them every day, and we will fix them together.”

Keep raging against the machine, citizens.

*Photos courtesy of PARC webpage, and Reuters

Nationwide bread protests as gov't moves to cut subsidies

Middle East Eye
Egypt bread riots: Protests erupt after subsidy cut hits poor

Crowds take to streets in Alexandria, Giza and other areas after government cuts supply of subsidised bread amid economic crisis

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Egyptians took to the streets in several cities on Tuesday in angry demonstrations at government cuts to bread subsidies in the face of a deep economic crisis and food rationing.

Reports and videos on social media showed crowds in central Alexandria protesting after bakeries refused to take paper subsidy cards, which many poor Egyptians use to gain a government ration of bread. Protests were also reported in Minya, Desouk, and the Imbaba suburb of Cairo.

They come days after the minister of supplies, Ali Moselhy, cut by two thirds the number of subsidised loaves bakeries were allowed to dole out per day to cardholders. A separate electronic card scheme was not affected.

Protesters clashed with police and blocked the main street in Imbaba as they demonstrated against the government decision.

Montaser Awad, who was protesting in Giza, told Middle East Eye: "Most of the families in poor areas have paper cards. We have been trying for years to get the electronic card, but you have to bribe the employees to follow up.”

Somaya, a housewife from Imbaba, said that by 10am, all 500 of the subsidised loaves had been handed out, meaning she could not get her daily 20 loaves for her family.

"The government is trying to limit the spending, so they apply pressure on the poor. I get 20 loaves for a family of five," she said.

Somaya said people expressed their frustration at those in control, and then turned their attention to police when they arrived.

Social media reports suggested police had fired warning shots over the heads of demonstrators in Imbaba, although Middle East Eye is unable to verify the reports.

Said, who works at the Monera al-Gharbiya government supplies office, said that the problem has been taking place for two days now. He added that several people from the ministry and the province came here to negotiate with the locals but in vain.

The office where Said works was stormed by the citizens while chanting against the government. "There were about a hundred, men and women. I cannot blame them. But we are just servants at the government. We face the same problems at our houses.”

Said explained that the orders were to stop dealing with the paper cards. “We used to distribute 1,500 loaves but now we only do 500 now," he said.

"These types of cards are called the golden cards, which include the paper cards and the poor who don't have any cards."

“The reason why the government is doing this is because they saw that the amount of bread consumed by these golden cards are huge. They decided to cut it.”

Abdel Sabour, another protester, managed to get five of the 20 loaves he had hoped for. "I haven't had breakfast. The government has to withdraw this decision."

Police officials and national security agents have asked protesters to return home, saying their demands would be satisfied if they stopped protesting, according to tweets from protesters.

Social reports said the rail link between Cairo and Minya in Upper Egypt had also been blocked by protesters.

Protesters also blocked railway station in Desouk, 80km east of Alexandria in the Kafr el-Sheikh province.

"We want to eat! We want bread!" protesters chanted in what appeared to be peaceful protests, according to Egyptian journalists on the ground.

The government recently lifted subsidies on staple foods, and has suffered shortages of other basic foodstuffs, as Egypt faces a currency crisis and rampant inflation that has hit more than 20 percent.
Moselhy replaced Major General Mohammed Ali el-Sheikh as minister of supplies in February following widespread shortages of sugar.

The Egyptian minister of foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, was in Brussels on Monday to discuss the social and political situation of the country with EU member state foreign ministers.

Shoukry said he hoped the EU would understand "the nature of the reform process undertook by Egypt" and said he understood the existing political and security challenges.

*Read also: Supply Ministry rescinds cuts in bread subsidies following protests

Judiciary grants Mubarak final acquittal; Counter-revolution complete

The Guardian
Mubarak acquitted in final ruling on Egypt's Arab spring deaths

Former Egyptian president cleared of involvement in death of protesters during 2011 uprising that ended his reign

Egypt’s top appeals court has found Hosni Mubarak innocent of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that ended his 30-year rule, marking the final ruling in a landmark case.

Mubarak was the first of the leaders toppled in a wave of Arab uprisings to face trial. In scenes that captivated Egyptians, he appeared in a courtroom cage on charges ranging from corruption to complicity in the murder of protesters.

The case has traced the trajectory of Egypt’s Arab spring, with Mubarak originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators during the 18-day revolt – an uprising that sowed chaos and created a security vacuum but also inspired hope for an era of democracy and social justice.

But an appeals court ordered a retrial that culminated in 2014 in the case against the former president and his senior officials being dropped. An appeal by the public prosecution led to Thursday’s final retrial by the court of cassation.

The 88-year-old ailing former leader resides in a Cairo military hospital, where he served a three-year sentence for a separate corruption case. The military overthrew Mubarak’s successor, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, in 2013.

After a hearing that took most of the day, Judge Ahmed Abdel Qawi announced to cheers of approval from the Mubarak supporters who filled the courtroom: “The court has found the defendant innocent.”

The court also rejected demands by lawyers of the victims to reopen civil suits. That left no remaining option for appeal or retrial, according to a judicial source.

The families of those killed, who had attended the trial early on, were not present on Thursday. Their lawyers condemned the verdict as politically motivated.

“This ruling is not fair and not just. The judiciary is politicised,” said Osman al-Hefnway, a lawyer for the families.

Mubarak’s supporters cheered “long live justice” as the verdict was read out and unfurled posters of the former leader.

*Photos courtesy of Reuters and the Associated Press

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalized Jewish cemetery in USA

The Independent
Muslims raise thousands to repair vandalised Jewish cemetery
Campaign more than doubles its cash goal

Jon Sharman

Muslim groups have raised tens of thousands of dollars to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalised amid a wave of anti-Semitic threats sweeping the US.

More than 100 headstones were toppled in the 123-year-old Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Missouri at the same time some 11 Jewish community centres received bomb threats across the US. All bomb threats were determined to be hoaxes.

Now campaigners organised by the Mpower Change and CelebrateMercy Muslim groups have pledged some $55,000 (£44,000) to repair the graveyard. Their target was just $20,000, and organisers Linda Sarsour and Tarek el-Messidi say the rest will go to repair other vandalised locations.

They wrote on their fundraising page: "While these senseless acts have filled us with sorrow, we reflect on the message of unity, tolerance, and mutual protection found in the Constitution of Medina, an historic social contract between the Medinan Jews and the first Muslim community."

A regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said she reacted emotionally when she saw the damaged headstones in University City.

“To see their lives desecrated this way is horrific,” Karen Aroesty told the St Louis Post-Dispatch. She did not speculate about whether the damage was caused by a hate-fuelled attack, but she did have suspicions as to the motivations behind the destruction of the headstones.

The St Louis Rabbinical Association denounced the destruction as “horrifying and disgraceful acts of vandalism” in a statement released on Facebook. “Planning is underway for a community clean-up effort,” they said.

Donald Trump spoke against anti-Semitism on Tuesday.

“Anti-semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop”, he told MSNBC.

He added that anti-Semitism was “age-old, and there’s something going on that doesn’t fully allow it to heal. Sometimes it gets better and then it busts apart.

“But we want to have it get very much better, get unified and stay together," he said.

*Photo courtesy of USA Today

5 times in 20 months, Sisi meets reps from Zionist groups

Mada Masr
Sisi meets reps from US-based Zionist groups 5 times in 20 months

Sunday - February 19, 2017

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with representatives from US-based pro-Israel organizations in Cairo on Sunday, for the fifth time in 20 months.

A delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which includes several groups supporting the Israeli military and self-professed Zionist organizations based in the United States, visited Cairo to discuss a number of issues with President Sisi, according to statements issued by the presidency that were published in Egyptian newspapers.

Sisi first met with a number of similar groups in Cairo in July 2015, followed by meetings in February and December 2016, and more meetings on the sidelines of the 71st United Nations General Assembly session in September 2016 in New York.

Sunday’s meeting included discussions on regional developments, including the situations in Libya and Syria, according to several Egyptian media outlets, as well as a review of counter-terrorism measures and efforts to prevent the funding of militant organizations in the region.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (AIPAC) includes the following groups: The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement (MERCAZ USA), Religious Zionists of America (RZA) and the American Friends of the Likud (AFLikud).

AIPAC describes itself as America’s bipartisan lobby to support Israel, while the FIDF advocates educational and training initiatives for Israeli military personnel, along with the provision of material assistance for Israel’s troops, support for Israeli widows and orphans and medical assistance for wounded members of the Israeli Defense Forces.

The ZOA describes itself as a group that promotes Jewish identity in Israel and other occupied Arab territories and helps prepare new generations of Israeli leaders.

ARZA works to provide material support to its partner organizations in Israel, along with promoting travel and tourism to the occupied territories, while MERCAZ USA promotes unity among Jews worldwide, with Jerusalem as the capital of the “homeland.”

In February 2016, AIPAC issued a statement after meeting with Sisi that said the two-hour meeting covered a wide range of domestic and international issues, including Egypt’s relations with the US and Israel, regional threats, especially those posed by terrorist organizations and their supporters, and Iran.

“The Jewish leaders said that they had an open and very productive discussion and that they were impressed by the President’s analysis on a wide variety of issues,” the statement added.

In December 2016, Egypt’s Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry joined Sisi in meeting the American Jewish Committee (AJC). 

According to a statement issued by the AJC, they “conferred with President Sisi and senior Egyptian officials on the importance of strengthening US-Egyptian ties and the mutual benefits of increasingly close strategic cooperation between Egypt and Israel.”

Gov't shuts down center for torture rehabilitation & treatment

New York Times
Widening Crackdown, Egypt Shutters Group That Treats Torture Victims

CAIRO — The Egyptian police on Thursday shut down the offices of an organization that treats victims of torture and violence in the latest escalation of a harsh government crackdown against human rights defenders and civil liberties groups.

The organization, Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, is one of several groups to have their offices closed, their assets frozen or travel bans imposed on their leaders in the past year. Prominent lawyers, journalists and others considered a threat to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have also been singled out.

In justifying the sweeping measures, Egyptian officials say they need to regulate Western-funded groups that threaten the stability of the Egyptian state and aid terrorism. Critics say Mr. Sisi is seeking to consolidate his control by silencing even the mildest sources of dissent.

Since coming to power in 2013, his government has locked up tens of thousands of opponents and effectively outlawed public protests. Now, many fear, President Trump’s support for Mr. Sisi could embolden the Egyptian leader to go further.

Mr. Trump has embraced Mr. Sisi as a “fantastic guy” and invited him to the White House. Mr. Sisi was notably silent about Mr. Trump’s recent ban on travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Al Nadeem Center, which was founded in 1993, has been fighting for survival since last February, when the government first threatened to close it, citing vague health regulations. The center has provided therapy to about 1,000 victims of police abuse, its founders say, and cataloged instances of police torture, unlawful killings and illegal abductions.

Such abuses have a strong political resonance in Egypt. Public anger at widespread police misconduct was a leading cause of the January 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Early on Thursday, about 50 police officers turned up at the center’s offices and put wax seals on the doors, said Magda Adly, a founding member of Al Nadeem. “I don’t understand how a regime with an army and a police force can be scared of 20 activists,” she said in a phone interview.

Al Nadeem had challenged an order to close issued by an administrative court in Cairo last February. That case is still being heard, so it was not clear why the police decided to enforce the order on Thursday. In a statement, Amnesty International said the closing represented “yet another shocking attack on civil society” by Mr. Sisi’s government.

“The move exposes the chilling extremes to which the authorities are prepared to go to in their relentless and unprecedented persecution of human rights activists,” said Najia Bounaim, Amnesty’s deputy regional director, at the group’s regional office in Tunis.

Mr. Sisi has struggled to deal with a painful economic crisis in recent months. Yet he faces little opposition in the news media or in Parliament, which is filled with his supporters. In recent months lawmakers drafted a bill that would place further stringent restrictions on the operation of aid groups in Egypt and that has met with stiff criticism from Egypt’s Western allies.
Mr. Sisi has not indicated whether he intends to sign the bill into law.

Among the groups singled out by the government measures is Nazra for Feminist Studies, which campaigns for gender equality and helps victims of sexual violence. Along with its founder, Mozn Hassan, it received the 2016 Right Livelihood Award, known to some as the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Since last year, Nazra’s bank accounts have been frozen, and Ms. Hassan has been prohibited from leaving Egypt. The group has laid off most of its 50 staff members and has been forced to leave its office. Ms. Hassan faces criminal charges that carry a potential sentence of life imprisonment if she is convicted.

“This is the harshest crackdown on the human rights movement in Egypt since the 1980s,” Ms. Hassan said. “It’s so clear from the presidential rhetoric that they do not want us to exist. They want to destroy us.”

Drop Charges; Change Laws that Restrict Right to Organize & Strike

Drop Charges; Change Laws that Restrict Right to Organize, Strike

*Photo courtesy of Reuters

Partial strike in Egypt's largest textile mill - Mahalla's Misr Spinning & Weaving Co.

Mada Masr
Mahalla textile workers initiate partial strike, warn of comprehensive industrial action

Tuesday - February 7, 2017 

More than 2,000 workers at the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in the Nile Delta City of Mahalla initiated a partial strike on Tuesday, and warned of a comprehensive strike starting on Wednesday which could potentially involve all of the company’s factories and nearly 17,000 workers.

The strike has affected five factories within the state-owned company, accounting for approximately one fifth of its productive capacity. Workers at the company, which is Egypt’s largest textile mill, are demanding the payment of overdue bonuses and augmented food allowances in light of increasing inflation rates and the recent implementation of austerity measures.

They announced that they will launch a comprehensive strike across all of the company’s Mahalla factories within two days if their demands are not met.

One of the striking workers, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mada Masr that the strike began in a factory manufacturing bed sheets, which is primarily operated by female workers.

They said, “We are all demanding that our incomes be augmented in line with the constantly rising cost of living, and that our basic wages be increased so that we are able to cope with the new austerity policies.”

Despite being a state-owned company, Misr Spinning and Weaving Company workers are not granted the national monthly minimum wage of LE1,200 allocated to public sector employees.

On average, their total wages range between LE900 per month for recently employed workers, to approximately LE3,000 for the most senior manual workers.

“Even this monthly minimum wage is insufficient to provide for workers and their families these days. A minimum basic monthly wage of LE1,500, in addition to bonuses, would be a good starting point so that workers can make ends meet” the worker lamented.

The strikers are demanding the payment of an overdue 10 percent annual “social bonus,” authorized by the Finance Ministry in 2015, calculated based on a workers basic wage.

They are also lobbying for their daily food allowance to be increased from LE7 to LE10, and for monthly bonuses of LE220 to be included in basic wage calculations, rather than being issued separately as a bonus payment. The worker said that those on strike believe this is in keeping with rising prices, proposing a higher allowance of LE20.

Other demands raised include the re-operation of several stalled factories and production lines within the company, the reinstatement of punitively sacked workers and the recall of the local trade union committee.

The company’s employees have been attempting to recall the union committee and replace it with an independent union since December 2006.

According to the textile worker, “This union doesn’t represent us. It represents the company’s management. It always aligns itself with the management’s policies, and always follows the stances adopted by the Textile Holding Company.”

The Textile Holding Company is the state’s umbrella company, responsible for administering 32 affiliated textile companies nationwide.

The independent Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services issued a statement on Tuesday calling on security forces not to take punitive actions against Mahalla’s textile workers for exercising their constitutional right to strike, stipulated in Constitutional Article 15. In recent months strikes at several other companies have been met with a security crackdown.


Read also:

Mahalla textile workers temporarily call off strike, 5 strike leaders face disciplinary hearings

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Police arrest 80+ football fans on anniversary of stadium riot

Associated Press
Dozens arrested on anniversary of deadly Egypt soccer riot

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Egyptian security forces arrested dozens in central Cairo on Wednesday, the anniversary of a soccer riot that killed over 70 fans in 2012.

Lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told The Associated Press that over 80 people were taken into custody, with some arrests made near the club grounds belonging to the Al-Ahly team.

Most of the victims of the rioting five years ago were fans of Al-Ahly. The rioting was Egypt's worst soccer disaster to date and one of the world's deadliest.

The lawyer said the police likely made the arrests Wednesday on suspicion those detained had planned to stage a protest. Public gatherings without a permit are banned under Egypt's draconian anti-terrorism laws.

Mounir said the detainees were undergoing security checks and officials would determine whether to release them or press charges. In 2015, a court declared Al-Ahly's hardcore "Ultras Ahlawy" fan group a terrorist organization.

The arrests came as Egyptians gathered in cafes all over the country to watch the national team play Burkina Faso in the first semifinals match of the African championship in Gabon. At least a dozen police and security forces' vehicles as well as armed troops were stationed near the Al-Ahly club grounds in the evening Wednesday.

In 2015, an Egyptian criminal court in the Mediterranean city of Port Said sentenced 11 people to death over the riot. No officials or security personnel were among the convicted. A court is set to review the appeals of the convicted later this month.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IFFCO Oils Co. workers launch boycott of company products to protest sackings, arrests & police raids

Mada Masr
IFFCO workers launch boycott campaign to protest sackings, arrests and sit-in dispersal

January 31, 2017

Workers at the International Foodstuffs Co (IFFCO) in Suez have launched a campaign calling for a boycott of the company’s products after 27 workers were sacked, and a sit-in at the company was forcefully dispersed by police forces on January 2.

The campaign to boycott the company’s products, over 100 of which are produced in Egypt, was announced during a labor conference held at the office of the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services (CTUWS) on Friday. It is a response to the implementation of measures which violate workers’ rights by the local administration.

According to Ahmed Bakr, the secretary general of IFFCO’s local union committee, 27 workers have been barred from entering the company since police forcefully dispersed a sit-in in early January. Among those sacked are all nine members of the local union, including Bakr.

Workers launched the sit-in to demand the augmentation of their wages in line with increasing inflation rates, and the payment of overdue bonuses.

Bakr told Mada Masr that prosecutors referred criminal charges of instigating strike action to trial, “even though the right to strike is protected by law, and is safeguarded in the Egyptian Constitution.”

Twenty one of the 27 workers stood trial at the Suez Criminal Court for their involvement in the industrial action, and were acquitted on Sunday. They described the verdict, which has cleared them of any wrongdoing, as a victory which upholds their rights as workers.

The privately owned United Arab Emirates-based company, which produces oils, foodstuffs and other consumer goods, has 37 production plants worldwide. It is owned by the Allana family, listed among the top five wealthiest Indian families in the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2016.

Regarding the potential for the boycott to negatively affect wages of IFFCO workers, Bakr said that his fellow workers are overwhelmingly in favor of the campaign, until the rights of all employees and unionists are restored.

He told Mada Masr: “The company is implementing punitive measures against our coworkers, many of whom are afraid to speak up for their rights, especially since the administration sacked the entire union committee.”

According to Bakr, 200 striking workers, many of whom were briefly arrested during the sit-in dispersal, were prevented from entering company grounds until they signed an agreement with administrators pledging to refrain from pursuing industrial action again. “They were forced to sign these papers, and if they refused they were threatened with the loss of their jobs.”

Additionally, administrators at IFFCO’s branch in Suez claimed that the workers’ sit-in had cost the company LE4 million in losses, and accordingly deducted LE500 from each of its 600 workers for going on strike.

The workers have been demanding the reinstatement of the local union committee, and the 27 employees who are currently prevented from returning to their jobs at the company, he said.

The company’s administration could not be reached for comment.

In addition to the alleged infringements on labor and union rights, Mohamed Saeed, president of the local union committee, claimed that he was blindfolded, threatened and summoned for questioning by National Security Agency (NSA) officers in Suez regarding the strike.

He said that during the strike, he was “told to return to the company, to call off the strike, or return to the NSA to face subsequent measures against me.” Saeed added that his apartment was repeatedly raided by police forces.

The CTUWS’ legal consultant Rahma Refaat commented that “boycott campaigns in Egypt may be more symbolic and promotional, whereas they tend to be more successful abroad.”

She suggested that IFFCO’s workers “focus on a boycott centering on your most popular product. Fern Butter, for example.”

Bakr asserted that the boycott is not an open-ended action against the Allana family. “If our boycott does succeed in upholding workers’ rights at the company, then we will call it off.”

The union has requested international solidarity from labor unions and federations, and consumer rights groups. He argued that an effective boycott campaign in the UK or USA could have a great impact on IFFCO’s distribution centers there, saying Allana and IFFCO “would be afraid to lose customers and investments, or even afraid to have their name was tarnished.”

Recent years have seen a crackdown on industrial action in Egypt’s public and private sector, and the state has increasingly turned to the deployment of security forces to arrest workers and impose exceptional legal measures to punish those detained.

Parliament extends term of un-elected labor union federation’s board by another year

Mada Masr
Parliament extends un-elected labor union federation’s board for another year

Tuesday 24, January 2017 

Jano Charbel

Egypt’s parliament extended the term of the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation’s (ETUF) board on Sunday by another year, despite elections already being more than five years overdue.

The last extension of the board’s term of office for a period of six months was approved by parliament in July 2016, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi previously extending its term by a year in May 2015.

The ETUF’s senior board members were selected and appointed by the minister of manpower in 2011, and current Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan is also a ETUF official.

The Trade Union Federation’s last elections were held in October and November 2006, although they were declared void by an administrative court, as they were conducted without judicial supervision. Despite the court verdicts, the leaders of the ETUF remained in office from 2006 to 2011.

With the outbreak of the 2011 revolution against President Hosni Mubarak, the ETUF’s board was dissolved, and a draft law was prepared under the caretaker minister of manpower to replace the outdated 1976 Trade Union Law, which stated that the only legally recognized labor federation in Egypt was the ETUF.

Parliament’s manpower committee, which is dominated by ETUF members, voted to retain the current leadership for 12 months, unless a new trade union law is issued during this time, which would mean elections could take place.

MP and leading ETUF member Mohamed Wahballah told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper that a draft trade union law, along with other labor legislation, is currently being discussed in parliament to encourage investment in Egypt.

“The extension of the ETUF’s term from six months to a year reveals that this governmental federation is merely working to keep itself in power for the longest period of time possible, without having to deal with votes or elections,” Talal Shokr, a member of the Independent Union of Pensioners, told Mada Masr, adding, “It is also striving to prepare a trade union law that maintains its privileges, and that sidelines independent unions.”

The ETUF was established in 1957, and acted as the country’s sole labor federation from that time until the advent of the first independent trade union in 2009.

In February 2016, the ETUF filed a lawsuit hoping to outlaw independent trade unions.

If the new legislation is passed, Shokr commented, Egypt will once again be blacklisted by the International Labor Organization. The ILO declared Egypt to be a state that violated international conventions on trade union rights for many years. In April 2016, the ILO called on Egypt to stop repressing independent unions and uphold workers’ rights to freedom of association.

The Egyptian state voluntarily ratified the ILO’s conventions on freedom of association (Convention 87) and the right to organize (Convention 98) in the 1950s, but has since failed to uphold its provisions.