Monday, December 31, 2012

Revolution’s Cost

He told me to get off at the last kiosk on the highway that connects East with West Cairo. After the driver dropped me off, there was no one to be seen in the area. I walked down the concrete stairs by the side of the road. The stairs led me into the pit of this neighborhood named after a village that never was. There was Mahmoud, sitting in a coffee shop only meters away. He told me he had stood by the road for some time waiting for me but then had gotten cold and came down below. We walked together to his home, but slowly, because Mahmoud limped, and I wondered if he had ever made it up those makeshift steps or if he had merely said so out of politeness.

By the time we were finished with our interview I saw pain in his eyes. Earlier in the evening he had told me that he took painkillers, the effect of which lasted for two days, making it bearable for him to walk and work. Mahmoud works as a day laborer, a construction worker. Living meters away from the highway that leads past old Cairo and into the vast frontiers of the constant construction of "New" Cairo places him in the perfect location as a builder. But that is where his stroke of luck ends. His son Ahmed disappeared one year ago on the very day of my visit. During the course of the interview, Mahmoud told me that Ahmed limped the same way that he does.

I can only imagine the day Ahmed joined the battle against Central Security Forces and army soldiers who killed him that day outside the cabinet office on 17 December 2011. Ahmed had just returned to Cairo after losing his job in Alexandria two days earlier, like so many others. Egypt's economy, increasingly dependent on foreign pleasure seekers, had taken a hard hit as the number of travelers dropped greatly. The people who oiled the tourism machine stayed home penniless. Ahmed went to the front lines near Tahrir Square in demand of a future. I imagine that his lack of familiarity with the space and the conditions of the battle lines put him at a disadvantage in the face of his armed, trained attackers. Ahmed tried to escape the unannounced onslaught, struggling with his cursed leg. The boy was not fast enough, and was shot, captured, beaten, tortured, and finally murdered. His captors threw his lifeless body into the Nile. Ahmed carried no form of identification that day and was added to the list of disappeared—those eaten by the revolution. But his parents sought after him until—through the maze of paperwork, lies, and legal dead ends—they found him. The clothes he was wearing that day in a plastic bag allowed them to identify his bloated, charred body.

Ahmed is one of the many martyrs who remain unnamed—Ahmed Mahmoud Mohamed Bekheit. The opposition of such a frail person against a mighty state apparatus is at the soul of this revolution—people against a system that is meant to represent us, decide the best for us, provide for our welfare, and yet does the exact opposite wherever possible.

Ahmed's motives and desires like so many fighters remain unspoken—this one will forever hold his silence. With all the honesty I can muster, I write these feeble words, which he may have uttered but was never given a chance to.

A Paper that Buries a Murder

When Ahmed's bereaved parents finally found their son's body they were shocked. Mahmoud went to the deputy public prosecutor and lost all sense of control. “I cannot burry my son like this,” he said. He had just seen Ahmed's body after thirty-six days of searching. This was not the body of a person who had drowned, as the officials at the morgue had told him. Mahmoud's son was murdered. The bureaucrat told him to just burry his son because for seventeen days he had been "tortured." He did not imply that for the past seventeen days he had been tortured under police custody, but rather used the Arabic expression evoking the idea that his son's soul would remain tormented until receiving religious burial. The pretext of religious ritual would pave the way to clearing the members of the state apparatus of the crimes they had committed. The bureaucrat told Mahmoud to put his son at ease by burying his scorched and broken body and place his trust in the document that would prove the cause of his son's death: the forensics report. One year later that document has still not appeared and the records of Ahmed's body arriving at the police station on 22 December 2011 have disappeared, much like Ahmed did for those three weeks—criminally hidden from those who deserve to know.

Ahmed's eleven-year-old brother Islam is the last member of his family to have seen him alive. On the morning of his murder Ahmed had said he was leaving to run an errand. He was well dressed, and told his little brother he would go alone. Islam looked into the lens and told the world, "no matter what, I will not rest until those who did this to my brother and to all the other martyrs are brought to justice. Until I am older, bear this in mind." This revolution has shown a tendency to create new revolutionaries in the place of every fallen martyr.

These reflections on a video I filmed are only but an excerpt of the many details that are lost among the startling images captured and the breaking news written for immediate public consumption. These thoughts are an attempt to raise a matter of no triviality and that escapes the meta-narratives of revolution: the cost. Today the Muslim Brothers are attempting to build their hegemony of control. As this new political elite tries to erect its own empire of financial gain—justified by the "economic crisis" in a period of "instability”—this priceless cost that people pay is washed over in the process.

It is the risk of martyrdom that is at the heart of revolution. And it is the risk of martyrdom that is entailed in opposing a system of control. The names of Mina Danial, Sheikh Emad Effat and Jika may carry this revolution's loudest echo, but there are thousands others, recorded and unrecorded, who have borne this same cost.

It is the most powerful gift one can give—in Ahmed's case, as so often, without articulated intent. This is yet again, the cost of fighting for a freedom from the suppression performed today by the very men claiming to act in the name of the revolution, yet another set of criminals killing in the name of the state.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

An Excerpt from Egypt's "New" Constitution

This is the government's presentation on how Egypt's proposed constitution will affect the rights of workers: This sounds great, but here is how it is full of lies and deception: featuring:
Fatma Ramadan, the Vice President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions 
Ahmad Sayed Al-Naggar, economist at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies

In response to a government-sponsored campaign to promote the draft constitution currently under consideration in a national referendum, Fatma Ramadan, the Vice President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Ahmad Sayed Al-Naggar, economist at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, talk about what this document could mean for Egyptian workers.

Al-Naggar and Ramadan argue that the government campaign’s assertion that the draft constitution, if passed, would protect the social and economic rights of Egyptian workers is misleading. The new constitution does not set a minimum wage, but rather ties wages to productivity, which means that wages would be sensitive to shifts in market prices of production goods.

In reality, this means that if production were brought to a halt for any reason, workers would bear the costs in the form of diminished wages. For example, under this constitution, if trains were to stop working, owners of a factory could leave their workers without pay. While the draft constitutions stipulates a “maximum wage” per long-standing, widespread demands in Egypt, it only does so in the public sector, and provides a clause that allows the state to issue exemptions. This means that a maximum wage will be effectively nonexistent.

 While the document guarantees healthcare for “the poor,” it grants the state the discretion to define who constitutes “the poor,” which could deprive vast portions of low-income households from the right to healthcare. The wording of the draft constitution, they argue, force members of underprivileged communities to obtain a humiliating “certificate of poverty” from the state in order to receive treatment. The draft constitution stipulates that unions can be dissolved if they break the law. In practice, this means the state could criminalize entire unions for violations committed by individual members.

 To watch more videos in this series click here

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Images & Video from the Brotherhood's attack on the anti-Morsy sit-in by presidential palace

To clarify: I was not at the presidential palace while this happened, I followed this online, gathered images and links primarily from friends and people i know there and now am on my way to join the re-grouping at Roxy square near the presidential palace. Join us. Egyptian Vice President makes an announcement on air that gives Brotherhood members the green light to violently disperse peaceful sit-in at the presidential palace. One approaching Brotherhood march:
Some people trying to calm the situation as verbal attack begins:
After an initial small attack from the side of the Brotherhood, the situation calms:
Shortly thereafter the situation This is a man on the side of the protests hit by a rock by Muslim Brotherhood ranks:
In this video the Brotherhood attackers are doing exactly what we have become accustomed to soldiers doing when they attack Tahrir square sit-ins: destroying everything in site and then removing it from the scene, as if nothing had ever happened: The Brotherhood celebrate after destroying the anti-Morsy sit-in, lighting tents on fire, beating up protesters, stealing and breaking cameras:
Muslim Brotherhood march steal the sit-ins stock of food:
This sign on a Brotherhood truck reads: "Our strength is in our unity, Yes to the constitution of stability."
Is this the stability they are talking about? Forcefully attacking a peaceful sit-in with stones and sticks, burning tents and targetting especially journalists and cameras? The new occupiers outside the presidential palace walls then started wiping away the graffiti of the opposition:
The Brotherhood have one clear message: there is only room for the Brotherhood and not for anyone else and their opinions. While all this is taking place the Egyptian Vice President on Television speaks of engaging in "dialogue" regarding aspects of the constitution that opposition forces are in disagreement about. In such an environment of dictatorship "dialogue" is not a possibility. A peaceful march and sit-in entail "dialogue", its attack and destruction do not. We marched yesterday on the presidential palace because a new dictatorship is in the making, Morsy and the party he represents are repeating the very logic of governance that have ruled this country under the presidency of Sadat and Mubarak. We marched to put an end to that. We demand that this country be for all its residence, not just those in power no matter whether they are religious or military generals or whoever they may be. Join us.