Monthly Archives: November 2011

Egypt: Russian media reports and a second day of voting

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My mum has been nervous for me for the past week. She’s been writing me emails, demanding my calls and daily reports on the situation in Egypt. Well I understand that she is worried but she cannot really understand that everything is fine here; that I am safe.

And I was wondering why she was so nervous: there was nothing horrible going on in the country. As it appeared Russian news outlets simply fail to report the events accurately. Well Russian media simply reports a bunch of lies and misinformation. For some reason the media tries to scare people off by reporting that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to take over the country and kick out all the Russian tourists wearing bikinis on Egyptian resorts.

Well let’s see what’s happening. Russia Today is a biggest example of this kind of disappointment for me. However, it is not a surprise that the quality of the reporting is not even close to any journalistic standards: Russia Today is fully sponsored and dependent on the Kremlin, therefore, the channel obeys what the Kremlin has to declare. Here is a good article on contradicting reporting of Russia Today versus Al Jazeera while covering the revolution in Egypt.

Moving on. The one and only political show that I watch on Russian tv is called Nedelya (A week) that provides analysis of the current events for the past week. The most recent episode of this show reports on Egypt as well. This program does not have a reporter in Egypt, therefore, correspondents decided to interview some religious leaders from the Caucasus: a region with the biggest Muslim population in Russia. So these religious leaders declared that it was the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who started the twitter/facebook revolution in Egypt. [Hmm.. interesting. My friends who go on Tahrir every day said the opposite.] Moreover this TV program scared the perspective Russian tourists that bikinis will be banned on the beaches of Egypt and even now women feel uncomfortable wearing a T-shirt in Cairo. [Hmmm… really???]

Another article in the Russian press reported that two women-journalists were raped on Tahrir square. The article also informed that Reporters without Borders (RSF) advised to stop sending female journalists to Egypt due to the countless cases of sexual harassment. Well no link to the RSF web site was provided. So I have no idea where they got this info from. NO ONE WAS RAPED ON TAHRIR. STOP THESE LIES!!!

In the meantime:

Egypt has a second day of elections. And majority of my friends here are excited.

And Something Remarkable Is Happening in Egypt:

There are four stories to be told in Tahrir: tear gas suffocation and death; extreme police brutality; incredible acts of sacrifice, and the foundation of a new social contract.

Lines waiting to vote By monasosh

people who voted demonstrate their inky fingers

Egypt: Tahrir news over the past weekend

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Obviously my day starts with AL Jazeera. Couple of days ago I was scared and even started taking some anxiety pills. To be more precise I was mixing them with vodka. Today … well people have this tendency to adapt to circumstances fast. Today I am still worried. But I am not worried for my life but rather for the future of the country and its people. I am worried that Americans might decide to do the same shit here, just like they did in Libya. No one wants this.

I am sad that civilians on Tahrir suffer a lot, that the military forces use three types of tear gas that causes seizures, rushes, vomiting and coughing with blood. Al Jazeera provides a detailed article on so called “non-lethal” weapons that the government uses against protesters in Egypt, Greece and the US nowadays. Well, these measures can hardly be called non-lethal.

“Those with already existing conditions, such as asthma or lung disease, are at higher risk. However, if large doses are inhaled, particularly in enclosed space, it could damage lungs and lead to death, even for healthy people. But it depends on the dosage.”

Asphyxiation causes death on Tahrir. Doctors are not able to help everyone. Blood donations are needed. People keep sleeping on the square. And I must say it is not really hot at nights in here. So the situation seems pretty drastic.

The recent outrageous story involving an American/Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy has discredited the police forces even more. This world renowned journalist was detained on Tahrir, where she was on the front line with protesters. She was kept in the ministry of interior over nights where she was severely beaten and sexually harassed. They let her go for unknown reason, but there are many that were detained and still kept imprisoned. How many stories do remain unknown? Mona was vocal about it, but not everyone’s voice can be heard. It is shocking and scary. Yet at the same time, I am amazed that people keep protesting on Tahrir no matter what.

One girl at work said something like: “it never happened to her, this journalist made this whole story up. It is not the job of the police officers to do that.” Clearly she is biased against the revolutionaries since she is married to a police officer who now has to be on Tahrir. I remember expressing the saim opinion when someone poisoned Litvinenko with radioactive polonium in London. I could not believe that Russian officials are that insanely stupid to kill a person in such a manner. Well now, I think that it was them who killed this person.

I read the news, watch Al Jazeera, talk about these events with my friends, and I am falling in love with this nation that is ready to fight till the end: they have nothing to lose but their lives. I have never seen such a level of sacrifice anywhere else in the world.

In the meantime women of Egypt also participate in this second round of the revolution.

Tahrir Battle Supporters salute the revolutionary women of Egypt - Banner saying, "Egyptian women will not leave tahrir Square"

Another important thing: all these clashes between Christians and Muslims seem rather exaggerated by the media. It all seems like some sort of the governmental manipulation. Look at this picture: Christians protect Muslims while they pray.

Tahrir Square, Cairo: Christians protecting Muslims at prayer.

Egypt: Tahrir nightmare continues. Evacuation plan for me? – No says the Embassy

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Yesterday one good friend of mine expressed her sentiments about Russia: she is nostalgic and wants to come back and live in Russia. Well she is not like me: she does not live in some revolutionary Egypt, but in a cozy Brussels. Brussels, with its bureaucracy, Belgian chocolate and a heart of Europe. Nevertheless she says she belongs to Russia and is not afraid of living there.

So can anyone explain me why I feel way more comfortable living in revolutionary Egypt rather than in cold corrupt bear-type country Russia? And I can tell you why. I love Egypt for the absence of rude people in shops, for presence of friendly people everywhere. I like the fact that when I go to the neighboring supermarket people who work there shake my hand when they see me, they know my name, greet me and smile. And it is a genuine smile – not a fake one. This never happened to me in Russia.

Today I decided to make a call to the Russian Embassy in Cairo and ask them about the possible evacuation plan from Egypt. So here is the literal conversation I had with the Embassy:

Me: hello, guys do you want me to leave you my number and address in Cairo?
Embassy lady: WHY?
Me: well, in case you decide to evacuate Russian citizens from Egypt?
Embassy: hmm, well if that happens, you will find out about it from the news.
Me: !!!???
Embassy: if we decide to evacuate Russians from Egypt – give us a call and … oh… you need to arrange it yourself anyways.

I love you fucking mother Russia.

THAT is why I hate when people label me as Russian. I don’t want to be associated with this country just because I have its citizenship. I am from Vladivostok and care about my city more than about this whole big corrupt and rotten country of bearcats in Kremlin.

And just to make a comparison:

Polish Embassy in Cairo made announcement on FaceBook in a group called polacy w egipcie that the Embassy needs to collect all the data of Polish and Polish-Egyptian families with their addresses, phone numbers and passport details in case of anything

My quick FaceBook search of “Russians in Egypt” or “Russian Embassy in Egypt” did not bring any fruitful result.

Well, to be honest I am not planning to escape, run away, evacuate or what else. I am staying here and really amazed by this nation.

In the meantime on Tahrir:

Tahrir Square on November 22nd By lilianwagdy

"The Friday of One Demand" A man waving the Egyptian and Syrian flags sits above a banner honouring the "April 8 Officers," a group of army officers who joined a sit-in at Tahrir Square that was violently dispersed by security forces. Many of the officers were arrested and face military prosecution. By Al Jazeera English

Tahrir Sq on Nov 20 CSF and Army break into the square By lilianwagdy

Egypt: veils and gays; nudity and women rights

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Veils around me still seem frustrating. I believe that women here don’t really have a choice and oftentimes they chose to wear a veil because it is easier and more acceptable in the society. There is a common belief that veils prevent you from being harassed on the streets- wrong assumption, even women wearing all black and covering their faced get sexually harassed here. Yet, they say it is their choice. Well let it be so.

I never really understood the whole double standard thing in most of world religions: there are more restrictions imposed on women rather than on men regarding the behavioral code, dressing standards and many other things. According to the Russian orthodoxy women are not allowed to go to a church without a headscarf or anything covering their hair. In Islam women are supposed to wear veils and cover their bodies. To be honest men are also obliged to cover themselves, but they are not supposed to wear veils. It is not nice to show your knees, that’s why shorts are not very popular here.

However, the perception is shifting, and some people (women to be precise) also do not support the idea of women wearing veils. One of the most recent online campaigns is aimed at challenging men, practically asking them: how does it feel to wear a veil? Some activists made men pose in veils and uploaded their pictures online. I personally don’t really get the message. Why should someone make men wear a veil for 5 mins just to take a picture and then take it off? I suppose the larger effect can be achieved if men [imagine!] wore it for one day and went [let’s say] to work like this! Now THAT would be a scandal!

a veiled man

Well the scandal is coming up this January. An LGBT group of Egypt [yes, there is one] is wishing to march on Tahrir on Jan 01. Apparently they have chosen this particular day since less people would be present on the square. Some of them will massive hangover after the New Year’s Eve Celebration. However, the chances of LGBTs being beaten up are pretty strong, and it is sad. LGBTs were never openly present in the society. Homosexuality is rather considered some sort of a weird disease or a sickness. Therefore a lot of people have to suppress their nature. Well LGBT community was a apart of the revolution and now they want to be present in the society – which is not surprising.

The National Egyptian Gays Day

However, it seems to me that sexual revolution in this country is inevitable. Another Muslim girl provoked online public by posing nude and uploading her nude pictures on her personal blog. Well it would not be a surprise in some other societies, but not here. Here it was a clear protest against the machism. At the same time the girl did not do anything new. And relativist judgments, such as” it is “unacceptable” and is “inappropriate” in certain societies is a total biggest crap. We all are human beings, we live in the same word. These things are universal. And there is nothing wrong in nudity.

Like one of my friends would say: “in my humble opinion “I see the biggest problem in mothers who raised lazy ass boys, who have no idea how to cook, clean the house, do their own laundry, be on their own and respect women’s freedom and independence. Mothers pass their precious sons to wives, who are supposed to do the same: clean, cook, do the laundry, plus: provide sex services and go to work, earn some money in the meantime. It is a sick vicious circle. And besides, a woman should be noble here. Unless women realize these things themselves – nothing will be changed. Us women should believe in ourselves more and not let masculinity dominate over us.

On Tahrir

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Policemen threw pepper sprays on protesters. Protesters equipped with masks threw it back on policemen.

Since I don’t have a good internet connection at home and cannot really follow what’s happening on Tahrir today, I cannot watch livestreaming Al Jazeera, let me tell you what happens in my life in relation to Tahrir.

Well Egypt is on fire. Egypt is in pain and I personally admire this nation for all the courage that people have shown these days.

What surprises me the most is the following: imagine the same scenario of a revolution in Russia [well no need to imagine, let’s just go back in time to 1917, or a little bit earlier], what would happen? A scenario of a “take away and divide” – all the oligarchs and anyone who has anything valuable will lose it in a second. What happened here on the eve of the revolution? Those with money and some power went on the streets with protesters and escaped the fate of being expropriated [using Lenin’s terminology]. This is impressive. Clearly Mubarak and top officials found themselves in a troublesome situation, but there was no vandalism on the streets of Cairo.

What’s happening now? People get killed, people get injured, but they still go there. They organize donation boxes and medical aid points, they coordinate the protest and stay on Tahrir no matter what. I notice more and more commonalities with Russia the more I see what’s happening here. Russians are like bears: unless they are in some serious, severe, real pain they can ignore some minor difficulties and wounds, unless you get them real angry by pocking their eyes with a stick – they might keep sleeping. Only then, when a bear wakes up, blind, seeing things with one eye, those with a stick will regret the moment they started this whole game. The same happened here: Egyptians suffered a lot, incredible poverty, little investment in infrastructure and healthcare, deteriorating life conditions of ordinary people and a lot of lies. And here is the outcome: the nation said ENOUGH and went protesting on the streets.

To be honest I did not know that something was happening on Tahrir yesterday. I’ve spent the entire day by the Pyramids and smoked sheesha downtown. Only on the way back home someone called and said that something was up on Tahrir again. My mum got scared this morning and was panicking a lot. But this city is soooooooo big and the area where I live is really safe, so that I did not even sense the difference.

I hope everyone stays safe tonight, and the Tahrir nightmare will end soon. I wish no one would get hurt. Egyptians truly deserve the best in this country.

Eid al-Adha in Cairo

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Eid al-Adha by Green Prophet1

I disappeared again.

This time I had a legit reason: a long vacation in this country. And I thought only Russians keep celebrating New Year for 10 days in a row; apparently Muslims celebrate Eid for 7 days.

I was a bit terrified of this holiday: seeing rivers of blood and dead animals in the city streets is not in the most pleasant experience. My lack of education regarding the local culture and traditions sometimes seems shameful even for myself. So I was fully convinced that this celebration represents human savagery, that killing animals on streets is just barbarian, not to mention disgusting. However, after several conversations on this topic with people around me I realized that they see things differently.

A little bit of a background info: Eid al-Adha [or Kurban Bairam] is a festival of sacrifice. According to a legend god asked Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as a sign of obedience to the god’s will, and Ibrahim planned to do so [this part seems pretty cruel to me: why would a god ask such a thing?]. Then the god supposedly stopped him from killing his own child and ordered to sacrifice a sheep instead. Ever since, Muslims around the world celebrate the god’s mercy [sic] and sacrifice animals. This may seem bloody, messy and brutal; however, there is waaaaay more humane to the animals compared to what happens to them in slaughter houses. Moreover this is a holiday for poor people, the ones that cannot afford eating meat. And this day they can eat it for free.

Some of my friends here give money to a butcher or buy animals for this holiday and give all the meat to the poor. Therefore I find this charitable idea rather positive than negative. More than 50% of the Egyptians live below the poverty line nowadays. This figure is astonishing. And the food is needed. Nonetheless blood rivers and cars covered in blood [for the good luck – sic again!] still seem barbarian to me.

In this regard is was struck by the Russian reaction on similar celebrations in Moscow. Last year the perception was negative and aggressive. This year there is less aggression since authorities have banned slaughtering animals all across the city and allocated only three spots for these purposes in Moscow. Where does this negative attitude come from? Or everyone has happily forgotten that Russia is a multi-religious country, with more than 20 millions of Muslims. That areas with the Muslim population have been a part of Russia for centuries now. And besides, it turns out to be the most humane way of killing animals compared to the one in slaughter houses. Some people do not even bother thinking about it. Sure thing it is easier to buy a piece of meat in a store, put it in your plastic bag and ignore a beggar on a street. It is easier to judge someone’s “barbarian” traditions and be simply racist and nationalistic for no particular reason.

something to consider

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WE ARE FREE

Well obviously I started reading a lot of news on Egypt: its political and social situation. And I must say that Egypt is a real mess right now. Revolutionary euphoria was followed by the everyday problems and dilemmas.

 

I am a bit terrified and worried at the same time: clearly Egypt is placed in a very interesting position at the moment. Different political powers are trying to affect each other, on top of that religious organizations have something to say while the situation is controlled by the military that was not present on the political scene before. Prior to coming to Egypt I was shocked by the news informing that Egypt will ban bikinis on its beaches, will oblige women to wear veils and other sick news of this kind. Well I don’t see any of this happening in this country so far.

 

Some people say that it might happen and authorities will impose certain restrictions on the society, including the foreigners. However, the bikini and alcohol bans and any other ban of such kind will most likely affect the county’s tourism area that provides substantial income for the state. Taking this in consideration some other people would object that if Egypt goes this way the country would attract other type of tourism: a religious tourism. So tourists from strict religious societies across the Middle East [such as Saudi Arabia] would come to Egypt for holidays. Well, this might sound legit , but rather hardly achievable in reality. Nevertheless Muslims are not the only ones who live in this country, the largest minority group – Coptic Christians, represent 10% of the population. And they will never support mandatory veil plans or any other restricting ideas.

 

Various political parties were organized/mobilized all across the country. Religious aspect represent a murky area: no one can predict what will happen. Actually I was not aware that “Egyptian law forbids the formation of political parties that make references to religion in their platforms. The Building and Development Party, formed by al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, was denied registration because its platform was too explicitly Islamist” – as the Carnegie Endowment think tank puts it.  So this is a good thing and things are not as bad as they might seem from another country.