Monthly Archives: December 2011

Common things between Egypt and Russia: protests

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USA will NOT rule us! - لن تحكمنا امريكا By Gigi Ibrahim

I can see a lot of commonalities between Russia and Egypt: authoritarian regimes in both countries made a lot of similar mistakes. I am pretty sure that they are unaware of each other’s mistakes, but Russia still has an advantage since no one wishes to repeat the Egyptian scenario.

Russian authorities do not seem to notice what happens outside of the country. Leaders do not give up on the old Soviet tradition of creating and demonizing external enemies. Russian authorities are ready to suspect any foreign country in its desire to destabilize and destroy Russia’s sovereignty. A concept of the external enemy worked well in the past, so why not use it now? Neighboring Ukraine became a victim of such demonization during the gas scandal of 2008-2009. With the help of the governmental media the state triggered negative attitude towards Ukrainians. Do we really need this? Do we need to hate the nation that is so close historically and linguistically to us? Well, country leaders did not seem to think about it.

The same situation happens nowadays. Hundreds of thousands of people went protesting in Moscow and across the country asking for transparency and accountability of the state. The governmental reaction has changed from: ignore to empty promises. In his recent Address to the Federal Assembly President Medvedev promised to implement various changes aimed at the liberalization of the regime. It is not a secret that he will not be the one to fulfill the promises, since his presidential term will be over in March. In fact no one will fulfill anything he promised.

At the same time the state keeps imposing conspiracy theories on masses. They suggest that opposition leaders take money from the US state department. That the students who went protesting were paid for that. You know people judge others based on their own expectations and behavior. The pro-Kremlin youth movement went marching and got paid for that, however, it does not mean that everyone else does the same.

The Egyptian regime used exactly the same rhetoric and accusations. Well, now see where they are. In fact, if you think about it, the US State Department should be totally broke by now if the USA has paid for all the protests across the world: Orange Revolution in Ukraine, Arab Spring, Russian protests and many more.

Politicians! Wake up! YOU forced people on the streets by not doing your job and stealing off the people! It must be really hard to admin that authorities both in Russia and Egypt failed in every possible way to create a state that functions properly. No one needs this conspiracy. People are simply unhappy with the current government – simple as it is!!!

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Women march on Tahrir

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Cairo never sleeps. You can order a pizza delivery at any time: at night or early in the morning. It is just like Moscow that does not sleep either. In Moscow you can have a haircut at 2 am if you want to. Protesters in Cairo don’t sleep either; protests are in a non-stop mode right now: whenever you switch on the TV you will see reports about it.

The shocking story of a veiled woman being undressed on the streets of the city by the local policemen still terrifies the nation. I cannot even imagine how this girl feels: everyone is attacking her trying to get an interview. I cannot imagine how it feels to be veiled and publicly humiliated. What happened to her is just beyond any understanding and is simply outrageous.

These scary images were spread virally across the world.

However, women of this country are not scared, they are not afraid to stand up for themselves by marching through Tahrir square. Thousands of them showed support for this girl who suffered this humiliation. It was clearly the biggest protest that women organized in Egypt, they openly declared their position and demanded the military to stop such abusive actions. Well it seems that military council simply ignored them; moreover it might be their new tactics to portray women-protesters as some sort of a disgrace.
Women with different background and economic standing were all united at this protest. Religion views, age and clothing styles did not matter at all.

You can see more images here and here.

Here is another video showing multiple cases of police brutality. A woman who made this video was trapped in her car on Tahrir square and was hiding in the car during the protest. Policemen are very well aware that a mobile camera could cause a lot of harm, therefore they were extremely aggressive with people trying to film the events, not to mention they destroyed all the professional cameras set on the surrounding buildings.

Those images became known due to the wide usage of the mobile cameras and social networking. It is impossible to imagine such a broad public discontent, let’s say, a hundred years ago – people simply would not know what happened.

My Russian Elections in Cairo

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A lot of my Russian speaking friends on FaceBook are actively discussing the past parliamentary elections in mother-Russia. There was a lot of dirt, falsifications, provocations and other sad moments. I could not observe it without having an anger attack; therefore I already had a vodka drink next to me.

Well it all seemed like a tragedy to me: people were constantly reporting on violations, some of them got detained for illegal election agitation, others for protesting against the unfair elections. My country is in agony – that’s what I thought. My country surprised me a lot with this unexpected out break of disagreement with the election results.

Elections in Russia took place last Sunday. Russian elections in Egypt [sounds sick] were held on Friday, since Sunday is a working day in this country. Being aware that I might encounter countless obstacles on my way to vote, I went prepared. I printed out the piece of Russian legislation stating that a person who was abroad for longer than 45 days is allowed to vote on elections without absentee voting certificate. Well I am well aware that russian bureaucracy is known for its bizarre and obscene rules. I even had a camera with me – just in case of some randomness. You never know …

Russian Embassy in Cairo

To my greater surprise, the local security guards let me in, they checked my documents and my bag and had nothing to say against my voting desire.

There were five people in the commission inside the Embassy, other Russians were coming in and out: people were voting. Even though I don’t have a local residency permit [it is still floating in some bureaucratic corridors of Egypt], they allowed me to vote.

On my way out I had a chat with the security guards, asked them on the number of people voted. They were friendly and told me everything I needed to know. Many people voted, how many? I have no idea. I guess everyone who wanted to vote did so. I was shocked that nothing happened to me in the Embassy and Russians there were friendly, normally I avoid any contacts with the embassy and its people at any cost.

However, it is not normal that I expect people in Russian embassy to be rude, it is not normal that I expect them to trick me and go there all prepared for a fight. Well I’d rather be prepared than go there and be defeated. You never know what nonsense they might impose on you the next second.
In the meantime, Moscow was in agony and people went on the streets. Masses disagreed with the results of unfair elections and went protesting.

It never happened before. After Mr. Putin took over the country no one could imagine this kind of protest happening in Moscow, people were rather cynical about the possibility.

And now see what’s happening. Inspiring. Encouraging

police against the protesters in Moscow by Ilya Varlamov

for more images from Moscow click here and here

Saddam – Putin parallels

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Several days ago I watched a mini-series about Saddam Hussein, his family and his deeds. It is called a House of Saddam, four series made by the BBC. Here is the movie trailer:

To be honest, I am not well educated on the topic. History of the Middle East never interested me. When Saddam came to power I was a little kid and hence don’t remember much about him from the news. When 9/11 happened I was still in high school – not that many memories left either. I remember the general excitement when the US invaded Iraq, people around me openly expressed their hatred towards the States and mischievously expected Saddam to kick asses of the Americans. I have no idea why people had such a strong level of hatred towards Americans, probably it has something to do with the Cold War past and the bad reporting of the then Russian media that was able to manipulate people. Well to be honest, people still hate Americans in Russia, even thought they don’t have any particular reason for that.

Well going back to the topic of the movie. This documentary presents Saddam as a sick psycho person (which he probably was), enjoying violence and power. At the same time he is not presented as religious at all: he is never shown praying or anything like that. Strangely enough he has written the Koran with his own blood. Now THAT is sick.

However, this movie highlighted once again that any totalitarian leader cannot solve the problem of his retirement or escape. Saddam was drowning himself and was taking his country with him. Many authoritarian leaders had to face the identical dilemma: what would happen to them and their families when they retire or what would happen to them after the coup. Different leaders solve this issue in a different manner. However, it seems rather obvious that there is no solution for that.

Russian father-of-the-nation Mr. Putin is facing the similar problem. I believe that Putin is an authoritarian leader who is slowly destroying the country and society. In case Putin resigns he might easily find himself imprisoned – it is not that difficult in Russia. I believe that this is one of the reasons why he became a Prime Minister after his Presidential term was over. Well that is why he will become the next Tsar (sorry – president) of Russia. Too many things are at stake…

In the meantime, in Egypt:
Muslim Brotherhood are taking over the parliament and some of my friends are somewhat freaking out on FaceBook. Well Muslim Brotherhood has some chances of ruining the country’s economy, but I don’t believe they have enough leverage to tighten the screws and, let’s say oblige all the women to wear headscarves. Time will show…

Important update:
The US embassy in Cairo has said that future exports of US-made teargas could be blocked if the Egyptian authorities continue to use it to cause death and injury. – as the Guardian puts it

FINALLY!