| Hosni Mubarak’s release puts Egypt’s Arab Spring in reverse!

Hosni Mubarak’s release puts Egypt’s Arab Spring in reverse ~ , The Telegraph.

Hosni Mubarak’s imminent release from prison will confirm the worst suspicions of Egypt’s democracy activists, writes Colin Freeman

April 13, 2013 file photo, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters from behind bars as he attends a hearing in his retrial on appeal in Cairo, Egypt

Hosni Mubarak could leave prison as early as Wednesday afternoon Photo: AP

Counter-revolutionary forces” are blamed for everything in Egypt. Whether it’s fighting between different political factions, the burning of Christian churches by Muslim mobs, or just sinister gangs of thugs causing general mayhem, the obvious explanations seldom suffice. Whatever kind of trouble it is, there is never any shortage of people who will detect the presence of agents provocateurs, despatched by the fulul, as loyalists to Hosni Mubarak are known, to make it clear that Egypt without him equals chaos.

Most of the time, it is easy to dismiss such claims as conspiracy theories. Not any more. For the millions of people who took the streets to demand Mr Mubarak’s downfall in 2011, today’s remarkable court decision to free him on bail will be all the confirmation they need that the counter-revolution is alive and well.

For as any scan of recent events suggests, the revolution has indeed come full circle. First of all, the elected Muslim Brotherhood government that replaced Mr Mubarak is ousted. Protests against the coup are brutally snuffed out, with the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives. Large numbers of Muslim Brotherhood leaders are thrown back in jail, and the government talks of banning the movement altogether again.

Then, finally, Mr Mubarak finally looks like being a free man again, having started his various trials expecting to either die in jail or even dangle from a noose. He now faces a retrial on charges of ordering the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising, but given the amount of goodwill shown to him by the court already, a conviction hardly seems guaranteed.

Critics will say that this is a sign that whatever blows against Mr Mubarak’s regime were struck in 2011, they never quite reached the Egyptian judiciary, which they still believe to be packed with Mubarak-era loyalists. That, though, is hard to square with the humiliating way in which he has been treated during his prosecution, whereby he has frequently been wheeled into court in a hospital bed, his claims to be too ill to attend ignored.

At the same time, few would believe that his release on bail is a mere question of justice slowly taking its course, given that it comes just a few weeks after Mr Morsi’s removal. The former dictator retains supporters in high places among his old comrades in the military, and while some decided long ago that they no longer wanted him as president, they did not like the idea of a fellow ex-general languishing in prison for the rest of his days. Some, indeed, might be worried about facing the same fate themselves some time in the future, given the amount of blood on the military’s hands from recent weeks.

So what now for Mr Mubarak? Is this simply a legal hiccup before he is tried again, convicted, and locked up for good? Or is this the first step towards him spending the rest of his days at liberty, be it at his Red Sea villa, or in comfortable exile in Saudi Arabia, where he would find himself in the company Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali?

Right now, given the tide of events, the Red Sea or Saudi options look more likely. But the price, in terms of further trouble on Egypt’s streets, and disillusionment in the capacity of peaceful politics to ever change anything, may be very high.

After all, getting rid of Mubarak was the one thing that united both liberal secularists and the Muslim Brotherhood, the two sides whom last month’s coup has since set at loggerheads. Freeing him is likely to spark street demonstrations of potentially enormous size, with many protesters taking it as a direct insult to all their comrades who give their lives to get rid of him. An Egypt without Mubarak may well be chaotic, as the last two years have shown. An Egypt with him back again may be even more chaotic still.

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| The current conflict is between democracy, governance, and the military coup; not the Brotherhood and the opposition!

The current conflict is between democracy, governance, and the military coup; not the Brotherhood and the opposition ~  Tariq Al-Bishri, MEMO.

Tarek Al Bishry is an Egyptian thinker and Judge, considered one of Egypt’s top legal minds. He was born in Cairo on November 1, 1933. His grandfather, Salim Al Bishry, was shaykh of Al Azhar from 1900–1904 and 1909-1916. His father, ‘Abd al-Fattah Al Bishry, was president of the Egyptian Court of Appeal until his death in 1951.

On February 15, 2011 Al Bishry was appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to head the committee set up to propose constitutional changes in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

Al Bishry was a secular leftist but became a prominent “moderate Islamic” political thinker, which gained him respect as a bridge between the movements.

Tariq Al-Bishri
‘The 2012 constitution, which was disabled by the July 3 2013 coup, gives the ministry supported by the parliament almost full authority in policy-making and the management of the country’s affairs, far more than the president’s powers’

The matter at hand during this difficult time, which began with the events on June 30 2013 and culminated in a military coup on July 3 2013, is not the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and whether or not they will remain in power. It is in fact a matter of the democratic constitutional system which was a result of the January 25 revolution, and whether Egypt will preserve this system or if it will nip it in the bud, replacing it with the military coup that put Egypt under a new dictatorship that will last for decades to come.

The observation of events since July 3 indicates that we are facing an action carried out by the Armed Forces leadership and announced by the Commander in Chief and the Minister of Defence after a political meeting with some religious and political figures they had chosen to support. They announced the disablement of the constitution agreed upon by the Egyptian people and received 63.6 per cent of votes in a free and fair polling. Moreover, an interim president of Egypt was appointed, while the constitutional president elected in the fair and free presidential elections carried out by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, is isolated. The coup leader gave the appointed interim president the authority to issue constitutional declarations, and this is in effect for an indefinite period of time by a ministry that has not yet been formed and has decided to arrest the president. We have become a country without a constitution or recognised ruling system.

The question at hand is; what was the military coup if it wasn’t actually a military coup?

It has been said that the matter was about overthrowing the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, but the parliamentary elections, in accordance with the new constitution, were on the verge of being held. They were scheduled to take place at the beginning of June if it weren’t for the opposition’s call to invalidate the decision for elections, which was accepted by the court on grounds of formalities. However, they seemed legal except for some details concerning the electoral law, and even these obstacles were on the verge of being resolved and becoming part of the law, and the elections were close to being held. Moreover, it cannot be said that the Brotherhood would’ve taken control of the state’s agencies and institutions to ensure the results of the elections would be in their favour, because the facts of the coup that recently occurred prove that the state’s administration and security devices were not under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood no matter how hard they tried.

The significance of a non-Brotherhood majority in the upcoming parliament, which is expected due to the decreased popularity of the Brotherhood after coming into office (at the height of their popularity in late 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood had less than 40 per cent of the parliamentary seats and the president, a Brotherhood candidate, received 25 per cent of the votes in the first round and only 51.7 per cent of the votes in the second round against him and Ahmed Shafik) is that their decreased popularity in the upcoming elections would mean that the ministry would be formed without them, or that they would not have the majority vote.

The 2012 constitution, which was disabled by the July 3 2013 coup, gives the ministry supported by the parliament almost full authority in policy-making and the management of the country’s affairs, far more than the president’s powers. Moreover, this constitution dictates that the ministry overrules the president regarding the issuance of resolutions.

It was all on the verge of being put into effect in accordance with the constitution and sound constitutional procedures, but it was not. Moreover, the leaders of the armed forces moved to declare the suspension of the constitution and the country is, once again, in a state of governance that is neither constitutional nor democratic.

It may be said that the action of the Armed Forces leadership was a result of the people’s movement that took place on June 30, and that the movement was similar to that of the January 25 2011 revolution. This comparison is corrupt and untrue because the movement of the people on January 25 was a unified political action agreed upon by the people with one demand; the removal of Hosni Mubarak and his supporters from government and the establishment of a democratic system, while restoring the people’s liberties. Hence, with this unified demand, the Armed Forces had the right to take action in response to the people’s undisputed consensus.

As for now, the movement on June 30 2013 was an action divided among the masses gathered in Tahrir Square who opposed the government of the elected president, and the masses gathered in Rabaa Adaweya Square who supported the current elected president and his ministry and demanded he remain in power. This divided action between two different groups with opposing goals and demands can only be resolved through elections in accordance with the constitution. There is no justification for the Armed Forces to intervene and resolve the issue in favour of one side or the other, as this would be considered a partisan act in which it would support one political party over the other, and the Armed Forces is prohibited from engaging in politics. Such action would be far from the people’s interests and the preservation of national security, rather being biased towards one party over another and towards internal policies over others, which is be considered a coup.

At the moment we are not facing a battle between the Muslim Brotherhood in power and their opponents, because this battle could have been resolved in accordance with the 2012 constitution through parliamentary elections and what it will result in, including a ministerial formation that reflects the people’s true support for each of the feuding groups.

We are, however, facing a battle concerning democracy and the constitution, which relapsed due to the coup carried out by the Armed Forces leadership. This leadership took advantage of the popular opposition against the Muslim Brotherhood, and drove them to support it in the battle of killing the spirit of the January 25 2011 revolution, along with constitutional democracy, and to take us back to the brutal totalitarian regime.

I believe that the armed forces themselves, its men and people, are innocent of this, because they took to the streets based on orders from their leaders and took control of the country’s facilities, not to carry out a military coup, but to secure the facilities and the group of Egyptians who were expected to take action on June 30 in order for them not to be infiltrated with vandals. However, their leader took advantage of this action and gave it other political implications related to demolishment of the constitutional democratic system the Egyptians built. However, the leaders of the coup did not realize that by disabling the constitution and dismissing the President they brought down the ministry, whose leader would possess the legitimate authority of making orders.

The people must realize that their present quest does not concern the restoration of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, but the defence of the constitution and the democratic system. Moreover, they must make a political choice, not between supporting the Muslim Brotherhood or their opponents, but between defending democracy and supporting a dictatorship.

And to those who are now seeking to bridge the gap between the points of view, I have been asked by many to address this matter and contribute to it, and I say we are facing a dilemma, which is the fact that it is almost impossible for those who resort to a military coup to abandon it because their personal fate has become linked to the fate of the coup. Furthermore, to those who want to give up some constitutional democratic matter to avoid a physical coup, I say that this will create a dangerous constitutional precedent that will always threaten the democratic system, and creates the potential for forces to take action at any time to impose any of its demands in light of a political crisis, which was experienced by other countries, such as Turkey, Latin America, and Africa for decades.

May God save Egypt from this fate.

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The author is an Egyptian constitutional expert. This article is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Shorouk Newspaper on 10 July, 2013

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| International Women’s Day – A Time for Hope and Action!

International Women’s Day – A Time for Hope and Action ~ Raha Mirabdal,  NEO News.

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March 8th marks International women’s day, an occasion to reflect on the battles fought for the women’s rights throughout the world, a time to recognize hero’s and to examine the road ahead of us.

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Syrian women remain in the front lines of the fight for freedom in their country.

On this occasion Near East Observatory hails the women who continue their struggle for freedom, equality and justice, from the streets of Cairo to the Universities in Tehran. The Arab Spring has been a force for widespread social and political change in the Middle East, ending dictatorships and challenging limitations placed on women. Yet with these victories have come challenges, many of which focus on the role of women and their rights as citizens, mothers and activists.

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Egyptian Protest Sign: “Equality in rights and duties, or not?”

Egypt: An Inspiration Or A Defeat?

A striking example of this can be found in Egypt, where post revolutionary euphoria has quickly faded into concerns about the rights afforded to women under the new constitution. Many Egyptians fear that this will not only lead to gender inequality, but will lead to an increase in crimes against women including domestic abuse, and human trafficking.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, highlighted procedural and substantive concerns in regards to the constitution, noting that only seven women took part in the national assembly to draft the constitution. “Women, who were barely represented in the assembly, have the most to lose from a constitution which ignores their aspirations, and blocks the path to equality between men and women. It is appalling that virtually the only references to women relate to the home and family.”

Yet despite these challenges, the  women of Egypt remain strong in their resolve. Their dedication to pursuing justice and equality is an inspiration for all women throughout the Middle East and indeed the entire world. A statement released by the Coalition of Women with the Revolution on International Women’s Day 2013 gave the following assessment of the current challenges faced by Egyptian women:

“Women activists are targeted with sexual harassment and violence, including organized sexual torture, which reached its most violent in November 2012 and January 2013. In response, we, women and men, have formed groups to confront sexual harassment and expose these crimes, which contravene all international laws and conventions.”

Regional Growth or Stagnation?

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The education of girls remains a major issue for Afghanistan. Photograph: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Despite the short comings of the Egyptian revolution in regards to the rights of women, the region continues to have its share of highs and lows regarding women’s rights. From Afghanistan’s continual battle over the education of women, to Saudi Arabia’s recent push to include women in governmental positions, the battle lines are everywhere and there is no shortage of push for change. This alone should give us hope, as the battles for equality and justice may take time, but eventually they will succeed.

A compelling battle is being fought over the Morocco Penal Code due to the gender bias found in many laws, including laws which unfairly categorize women based on unreasonable labels. Amnesty International’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui raised concerns over rape laws which provide different punishments depending on the victim’s marital status or whether or not she is a virgin.

“The fact that rape is dealt with under the ‘decency’ offences section places the emphasis on morality and marital status rather than on the attack against the victim’s integrity.” Hadj Sahraoui said in the statement by Amnesty International  “We are worried that the proposed amendment to Article 475 still maintains the distinction between women who are virgins and women who are not, which is discriminatory and degrading.”

Though many of these laws may be appalling, the fact that they are slowly being changed is an encouraging thought for many women in the region, and demonstrates what dedication and collective action can achieve.

The concerns over the role of women are not only limited to the rule of law but also to everyday facets of life, including the work place. According to report by the  International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Middle East remains an area of concern in regards to gender equality in the labor force. In 2012, the share of women in vulnerable employment, (contributing family workers plus own account workers), had a 2 percentage point gap globally, but in the Middle East the gap was as high as  24 percentage points. Globally the participation of women in the work force has maintained a positive trend throughout the world at a rate of 56%. However the rate in the Middle East and North Africa remains at 32%, the lowest level of all regions. Despite these grim statistics, hope remains as the Middle East and North Africa have seen the strongest increase in this variable compared to all other regions, rising 3.7% over the last decade.

Michelle Bachelet executive director of UN Women, the UN’s entity for gender equality and empowerment has highlighted the barriers many women face when attempting to enter the work force. “While women worldwide contribute to the economy and its productivity, they continue to face many barriers that prevent them from realising their full economic potential. This is not only holding back women; it is holding back economic performance and growth. Guaranteeing equal opportunities for women and men is not just the right thing to do; it’s smart economics.”

 Recognizing Hero’s and Symbols of Feminine Power

The occasion of International Women’s day would not be complete without paying tribute to those who have inspired us and served as symbols of the struggle for  change and equality.

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Nasrin Sotoudeh remains inspiration as a political prisoner, a human rights lawyer and as a Mother.

Iranian human rights lawyer and political prisoner Nasrin Soutodeh has become a global symbol of resistance and strength, standing tall against a government that is known for its misogyny and mistreatment of women. Sotoudeh is currently serving a six-year prison term for her work as an attorney defending other Iranian dissidents and juveniles facing the death penalty. She was arrested in September 2010, and was accused of spreading propaganda and conspiring to harm national security and has been held in solitary confinement.

Sotoudeh’s notoriety has grown during her imprisonment, and her defiance of the regime has made her into a symbol of resistance. Despite the toll that imprisonment has taken on her and her family, Soutoudeh has maintained her principles and continues to bring attention to the inhumane practices of the regime, particularly the lack of due process in the judiciary, and the treatment of women as second class citizens.

Who could forget the courageous Malala Yousafzai, who stood up against brutality and violence in order to maintain her commitment to equal access to education for young girls in Pakistan. After her repeated defiance of the Pakistani Taliban,  Malala was shot in the head by those who sought to make an example of her. This plan backfired and Yousafzai and her message have become a world wide symbol of perseverance and bravery.

Malala underwent two successful surgeries to reconstruct her skull and restore her hearing, and was recently released from a hospital in England. Her story was not only an inspiration for those around her, but serves to remind us how powerful the action of a single individual can be. Her story is just one of many in a region which is undergoing continual change, as a new generation raises its voice to demand basic levels of equality, freedom and justice.

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Malala Yousafzai served as a powerful inspiration for women throughout the globe.

Lastly, Near East Observatory would like to recognize the bravery and dedication of the women of Syria. Of the 1 million refugees who have been forced to flee Syria, an estimated 2/3 of these individuals are women and children. As a result women have been forced into the forefront of not only the war, but securing and locating their family units, in war torn areas.

“The role of the Syrian woman is very important, she struggled a lot for the revolution, she sacrificed the most, she sacrificed her children. I am the mother of a martyr, I sacrificed my son, he’s been a martyr for two months in Damascus. We sacrificed our children, whom we worked very hard to raise, 20 years we raised them, and we gave them to the revolution,” said Um Mohammed in an interview, a Syrian refugee living in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Each year, on March 8th, women and men should take the time to recognize the importance of the battles which are being fought for gender equality. We must celebrate our victories and recognize our failures and look to the future, in the hopes that we can promise the women of tomorrow a more just and equal world than that of today.

Raha Mirabdal is a NEO associate and is in her final year of nursing school at the University of San Francisco in California. 

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