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Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

In 2006 I wrote a rant titled Why I Hate Ramadan. I posted it in 2007 and you can see the whole post here.  The post was concerned with the hypocrisies and inconsistencies in the way that Egyptians, and particularly Cairenes, practiced this month. The bulk of the post, not surprisingly, had to do with sexuality and sexual harassment. The article was intended to be argued within the Islamic frame of reference. Despite being written in a much different context than post-revolutionary Egypt and by a 5-years less intellectually mature me, the main points stand. I am copying the relevant portion here.

Temptations of the Flesh

I first came up against this several years ago when my much older (around 50 now) cousin was working downtown. It was Ramadan, and he complained about how, on his way home, he had to be very careful where he looked while passing by AUC because the girls there broke his fast. This immediately struck me as odd. First of all, broke his fast? Personally, I didnt exactly get a hard-on every time i saw a girl’s hair or arms. Second, how is it her fault?

Obviously, this has been a recurring theme. Every Ramadan I have to hear from my female friends about how much shit they get for walking around in what is usually as modest as you can get without wearing a tent. And every Ramadan I have to hear misogynistic Egyptian men, bitch about how unveiled girls break their fast. I think this is absolutely absurd.

It seems to stem from a widely accepted, by even the most liberal and secular of people, Egyptian belief that God created man with hormones and that he has no control over this and that is the duty of women to make sure that they don’t get men’s thoughts going (on a side note, this is, unfortunately, so institutionalized that until recently rapists could get off of charges by proposing to the girl and if a couple is caught having extramarital sex, guess who goes to jail? Yep! the woman for prostitution!). Absurd!

God created man (and woman) with a multitude of fleshly, earthly desires and urges. These include the need for food and drink, the urge for sexual satisfaction (both sexes, believe it or not), tendencies towards anger, greed, glutton, sloth and a weakness for temptations of alcohol and drugs. And on top of all this, he made it all available to man (and woman, of course) to test their mettle.

Some of this is obviously unacceptable (ie, a sin) regardless of context. Others, are a matter of regulation. God expects you to eat and drink, but not to be a glutton; to have sex, but not out of marriage, etc…

And in order for Muslims to learn to control their urges, we, thankfully, have Ramadan. A time of piety when one is expected to control all urges from food and drink to sex and anger. You’re supposed to develop self-discipline and patience. What does this have to do with sex? If you cant stop yourself from thinking sexual thoughts, it’s YOUR FAULT. No one else can take the blame for you. Seeing flesh is not what breaks your fast, it’s the unbridled lust that does.

Now, whether or not you think that women should be veiled is completely and utterly besides the point. Why? I’m not even going to bother with the argument about foreign or christian women, who aren’t bound by Islamic tradition. It’s a moot point when you consider this: Let’s say you’re standing around and Morkos (your coptic friend) is eating a sandwich or Sara (yes, she’s veiled. don’t worry) is smoking today because shhh-you-know-what. It’s so ingrained in our understanding of Ramadan that even a third grader can tell you that you will be further rewarded for your perseverance. So the next time you see a half-naked (and by that i mean that her forearms, face and hair are showing), stop thinking about jumping her. Think about god, lower your gaze and keep on moving. If you don’t stare at her long enough to cuss her out, you could just stand a chance of keeping those thoughts out of your mind.

In short, there is absolutely no excuse for sexual harassment. It is a disease. It reflects a lack of tolerance and acceptance. It is in part a symptom of decades-long entrenchment of power imbalance, the systemic institutionalization of a lack of personal dignity, and arguably culturally relative inconsistencies in the valuing of individually and community rights.

But most importantly it reflects a lack of personal responsibility. It entails the underlying fatalistic assumption that man cannot take ownership of his actions and destiny. While this may have been understandable before, there is no longer any excuse. If we want to build a new Egypt then we have to each take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. We have to also take on the responsibility of fighting the good fight in our daily lives and not just in Tahrir. People talk about partisan demands (mataleb fe2aweyya), but what they dont understand is that while we may have ridden Egypt of Mubarak, his legacy still stands in every institution and aspect of our society and we must all work within out circles of influence to rout out the pervasive corruption of our society. This is a fight on all fronts simultaneously. And what more important and worthy front than one that includes half of our society and that can be fought at every level, whether personal or societal?

Stop treating women like second-class citizens in their own land. Give them the dignity we have fought so long and hard to achieve for everyone. Take responsibility. Stand up to Sexual Harassment when you see it.

End Sexual Harassment.

#endSH

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Here’s an article by Vandana Shiva, Ph.D., a physicist, environmentalist, feminist, science policy advocate and director of Navdanya and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology essentially on how monoculture, non-organic, chemical-fertilizer-and-irrigation-dependent, non-renewable, genetically modified, corporate, IP-protected seeds are fucking farmers.

.. and an interview with her.

This is really, seriously, one of the most heinous crimes committed by the neoliberal, brettonwoods, corporate, capitalist agenda. It makes me nauseous every time i read about the issue. Within as little as a single growing season, entire regions of farmers go from self-reliance to debt so daunting that they see no solution but suicide. 200 THOUSAND in India in a dozen years. India is where it’s most visible, but i’ve read similar reports from Egypt.

Even without the suicides. So much economic devastation for profits.

So depressingly, painfully sad. And such a crime.

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I just heard that Salma Said, Khaled AbdelHamid, Malek, Sabri El Sammak and at least 3 journalists have been arrested outside of the Arab League building in  Tahrir.  The activists were protesting in support of Gaza

UPDATE 1:05pm The number i am getting is 13-15 arrests. Apparently they have been shoved into micobuses. The few that havent been arrested are being followed around downtown.

UPDATE 1:20pm 4 arrests in Arish. People are convening at Hisham Mubarak to discuss action.

UPDATE 3:05pm 21 detainees in three cars: 1 outside bahtim police station; 1 headed towards maadi (my guess is either the khayyala in basateen or somewhere around tora); 1 under dar el qada2.  Apparently there’s a “harsh crackdown at syndicate” with dozens more being detained as i write.

UPDATE 5:00 Several updates: Apparently massive out of control protest on ramsis at 330. Has been contained since with lots of violence. There are rumors of tear gas. Over 100 arrested. Rumors of people in modereyyet il amn. One tar7eelat car in Tagammo3 with 17 detainees including khaled abdalla, a lebanese reporter, laila soliman, rasha 3azab. truck number 27692. The one in bahteem has 13 people.

http://anhri.net/egypt/hmcl/2008/pr1231.shtml

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Police State 2.0

Once Again, Naomi Klein is right on the money. The disaster capitalism complex has found yet another (err.. repeated) field to plough in the Olympics. And somehow, they’ve managed to find a loophole to avoid legislation regulating what’s sold to china (both for security and human rights reasons), turning huge profits and setting up the Chinese government for years of upgraded capitalist authoritarianism (or McCommunism).

Most critically, as she points out, these systems/technologies/approaches are sure to be transfered elsewhere. As she has pointed out in her book “Shock Doctrine” disaster capitalism and the neoliberal wealth-gnerating machine has been fine tuning itself for decades compiling the lessons learned over more than half a century.

Excerpts:

The games have been billed as China’s “coming out party” to the world. They are far more significant than that. These Olympics are the coming out party for a disturbingly efficient way of organizing society, one that China has perfected over the past three decades, and is finally ready to show off. It is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarianism communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism. Some call it “authoritarian capitalism,” others “market Stalinism,” personally I prefer “McCommunism.”

The Beijing Olympics are themselves the perfect expression of this hybrid system. Through extraordinary feats of authoritarian governing, the Chinese state has built stunning new stadiums, highways and railways — all in record time. It has razed whole neighborhoods, lined the streets with trees and flowers and, thanks to an “anti-spitting” campaign, cleaned the sidewalks of saliva. The Communist Party of China even tried to turn the muddy skies blue by ordering heavy industry to cease production for a month — a sort of government-mandated general strike.

[..]

The goal of all this central planning and spying is not to celebrate the glories of Communism, regardless of what China’s governing party calls itself. It is to create the ultimate consumer cocoon for Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cell phones, McDonald’s happy meals, Tsingtao beer, and UPS delivery — to name just a few of the official Olympic sponsors. But the hottest new market of all is the surveillance itself. Unlike the police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, China has built a Police State 2.0, an entirely for-profit affair that is the latest frontier for the global Disaster Capitalism Complex.

[..]

There is a bitter irony here. When Beijing was awarded the games seven years ago, the theory was that international scrutiny would force China’s government to grant more rights and freedom to its people. Instead, the Olympics have opened up a backdoor for the regime to massively upgrade its systems of population control and repression. And remember when Western companies used to claim that by doing business in China, they were actually spreading freedom and democracy? We are now seeing the reverse: investment in surveillance and censorship gear is helping Beijing to actively repress a new generation of activists before it has the chance to network into a mass movement.

[..]

The numbers on this trend are frightening. In April 2007, officials from 13 provinces held a meeting to report back on how their new security measures were performing. In the province of Jiangsu, which, according to the South China Morning Post, was using “artificial intelligence to extend and improve the existing monitoring system” the number of protests and riots “dropped by 44 per cent last year.” In the province of Zhejiang, where new electronic surveillance systems had been installed, they were down 30 per cent. In Shaanxi, “mass incidents” — code for protests — were down by 27 per cent in a year. Dong Lei, the province’s deputy party chief, gave part of the credit to a huge investment in security cameras across the province. “We aim to achieve all day and all-weather monitoring capability,” he told the gathering.

[..]

It’s easy to see the dangers of a high tech surveillance state in far off China, since the consequences for people like Jun are so severe. It’s harder to see the dangers when these same technologies creep into every day life closer to home-networked cameras on U.S. city streets, “fast lane” biometric cards at airports, dragnet surveillance of email and phone calls. But for the global homeland security sector, China is more than a market; it is also a showroom. In Beijing, where state power is absolute and civil liberties non-existent, American-made surveillance technologies can be taken to absolute limits.

The first test begins today: Can China, despite the enormous unrest boiling under the surface, put on a “harmonious” Olympics? If the answer is yes, like so much else that is made in China, Police State 2.0 will be ready for export.

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I received this report from HRInfo. As usual, their translation into English is horrible. But i think it this case the general meaning is preserved. I’ve placed my corrections in square brackets (“[” “]”):

الحكومة المصرية تتجه لإغلاق ثالث جمعية حقوقية
تحت مبرر أن نشاطها تطوعي

القاهرة في 1يونيو 2008م.

قالت الشبكة العربية لمعلومات حقوق الإنسان “anhri.net ” اليوم ، أن الحكومة المصرية ممثلة في وزارة التضامن الاجتماعي تتجه لإغلاق إحدى أهم جمعيات حقوق الإنسان التي تعمل خارج القاهرة وهي ” جمعية العون المصرية لحقوق الإنسان ” تحت مبرر مثير للدهشة والسخرية وهو أن ميزانية الجمعية ” قليلة ” وليس لديها موارد مالية ضخمة ، وكأن الحكومة تعاقب نشطاء الجمعية على عملهم التطوعي وعدم تلقيهم لأي تمويل !.

وكان نشطاء جمعية العون المصرية ورئيس مجلس إدارتها قد علموا بأن وكيل وزارة التضامن في محافظة القليوبية قد طلب من موظفيه عمل تقرير عن نشاط الجمعية تمهيدا لحلها ، نظرا لنشطاها الملحوظ في مدن محافظة القليوبية ولجوء العديد من المواطنين لها في التصدي للانتهاكات التي يتعرضون لها على يد جهاز الشرطة و لمساعدتهم في تجاوز أزمة الخبز المنتشرة في مصر ، وفوجئ وكيل الوزارة أن الجمعية ونشطائها يعملون بشكل تطوعي كامل ، مما حدا به أن يطرح هذا المبرر المثير للسخرية لإغلاقها.

وقال إسماعيل بدر المحامي ورئيس مجلس إدارة الجمعية للشبكة العربية لمعلومات حقوق الإنسان” إن جمعيتنا مشهرة بالقانون و أغلبنا محامين ، ومنذ بدئنا نشاطنا في عام 2006 ، ونحن نعتمد على اشتراكات الأعضاء وتبرعاتنا الشخصية ، ورغم قلة مواردنا فقد اكتسبنا سمعة جيدة والتف المواطنين حولنا ، وهو ما أزعج الحكومة المصرية ، فقررت السعي لإغلاق الجمعية أو تجميدها”.

وقال جمال عيد المدير التنفيذي للشبكة العربية لمعلومات حقوق الإنسان” بعد أن أغلقت الحكومة المصرية جمعية المساعدة القانونية لحقوق الإنسان ، ودار الخدمات العمالية والنقابية ، تتجه لإغلاق إحدى أهم الجمعيات الحقوقية خارج القاهرة ، وهذا القرار لو صدر فسوف يسيء لسمعتها ويوضح بجلاء عداء الحكومة للجمعيات الجادة وانتهاكها المستمر لحق تكوين الجمعيات”.

القسم الخاص بجمعية العون المصرية لحقوق الإنسان على موقع الشبكة العربية لمعلومات حقوق الإنسان :
http://www.anhri.net/egypt/aid

http://www.anhri.net/press/2008/pr0601.shtml

The Egyptian Government is Heading to Close Down the Third Rights Association under the Pretext of “the Voluntary Activity” !


Cairo: 1st June, 2008

“ The Egyptian government [re]presented in the Ministry of Social Solidarity is going to close down – one of the most important human rights association based out of Cairo- the Egyptian Awn (Aid) Association for Human Rights under a surprising and ironic excuse [/astonishing and ridiculous pretense], alleging that the association’s budget is “small” and doesn’t have any huge financial resources, as if the government is punishing the association activists for their voluntary work, and not receiving any funds [funding, as in from donor entities]!”, said the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (anhri.net)today.

The Egyptian Awn (Aid) Association’s activists and chairman have learnt that the deputy in chief of the Ministry of Solidarity in Qaliobya governorate instructed his employees to make a report about the activity of the association preparing for dissolving it, because of its remarkable activity in the Qaliobya governorate cities, and a large number of people approach it to confront the violations they are exposed to by the police agencies, as well as assisting them in overcoming the nationwide crisis of the “Bread”. The ministry’s deputy in chief was shocked by that fact that the association and its activists are working entirely as volunteers, what made him put up this ironical [ridiculous] pretext to close it down.

“Our association is publicized legally [officially registered], and most of us are lawyer[. S]ince we started our activities in 2006, we have been depending on our members’ subscriptions and personal donations[. D]espite of our limited resources we gained an excellent reputation and could develop closer people around us. [This is what] annoyed the government, hence decided to undertake closing it down or suspending it.”, said Esmael Badr the advocate and the association chairman to ANHRI.

Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (anhri.net) stated: “ the Egyptian government after closing down the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid, and the and Center for Trade Unions and Workers’ Service, is intending to close one of the most important rights association out of Cairo, if such a decision come out, it will become a blemish in its image, and will exhibit clearly the government hostility towards the serious associations, revealing its constant violation of the right to association.”

The Egyptian Awn Association for Human Rights’ section on the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information web site is:
www.anhri.net/egypt/aid

http://www.anhri.net/en/reports/2008/pr0601.shtml

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It’s good to know that even AUC is not immune to the spread of labor strikes. When some 500 workers at the new campus work site got food poisoning, they were apparently supported by hundreds who protested at the campus (Arabic). This led to AUC promising to take action. Naturally, State Security was there to serve and protect.

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I’d heard late last week that Wael Abbas’ shut-down YouTube account had been reactivated. Apparently, according to Wael, that’s all that has been done – as opposed to “restored”, as they claim in their statement. Everything on the account has, it seems, disappeared. If that’s the case, then what a lame, meaningless, empty, face-saving gesture!

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