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The New Arab

The Egypt Report: Playing the blame game

Date of publication: 8 November, 2017

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Last week saw the Egyptian regime reeling over the assassination of 16 policemen in the Western Desert.

The details of the October 20 attack are still vague with conflicting reports over the number of casualties. The Egyptian government quickly retaliated, reporting that it had avenged its security personnel, killing "a large number of terrorist elements".

On the heels of the attack came a reshuffle of the security apparatus' top tier, with President Sisi replacing Mahmoud Hegazy with Mohammed Farid Hegazy as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. The backlash to Mahmoud Hegazy's demotion carried the weight of the week's anger over what appeared to be gross security breaches unaddressed by the regime.

In an unprecedent display of disapproval, Hegazy's son took to social media affirming that his father was "above" any title or post. Days earlier, key former heads of the regime and its security apparatus - including former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and former Armed forces chief Sami Anan - also voiced their disapproval of the government's mismanagement of the Western Desert ambush, calling it "a betrayal".

#WeNeedToTalk

The time has come for yet another youth conference to be hosted by President Sisi. But unlike previous conferences this one is set to be an international affair. The advertised theme of the conference is #WeNeedToTalk.

The announcement of the hashtag set Egyptian social media ablaze - but not as Cairo may have hoped. Egypt's Twitterati soon hijacked the hashtag with images and descriptions of the Egyptian regime's abuses against its youths for speaking out.

In a not-so-ironic turn of events, TV talk show host Doaa Salah was sentenced to three years in prison only days after the conference was announced, for talking about sperm donation and sex outside of wedlock. The regime pushed back using celebrities including musicians, actors and football players to promote the conference - causing further backlash against those individuals as collaborators with the oppressive regime.

Egypt is facing an epidemic of human rights abuses the likes of which the country has not witnessed in decades - if ever. Human Rights Watch reported there are 60,000 political prisoners currently held in Egypt, a fact President Sisi completely denied during his visit to France in late October - leaving many activists puzzled.

Germany has in turn cancelled a training programme that was to be conducted by German police to help Egyptian counterparts fight cyber-terrorism. The German government said the termination of the agreement was due to concerns that Egyptian police could misuse the knowledge and crackdown on activists.


 

The Egyptian Pound has been floating for a year. On November 3, 2016, the Egyptian government unpegged its currency, aiming to achieve four main goals: First, to bring an end to black market currency. Second, lowering inflation. Third, achieving economic stability. Finally, establishing confidence in the economy to boost investment.

The effect of the devaluation? An official 98 percent decrease in the value of the Egyptian Pound to the US Dollar, bringing the price of $1 to 17.64LE. A doubling of inflation- from 14 percent in 2016 to 32.9 percent in September 2017. And a rise in foreign and national debt from 113.3 percent of GDP in 2016 to 124.7 percent of GDP in 2017.

Infographic: Floating the Egyptian Pound - One year on



Sur-reality TV

A legal professional said, on national television, that raping women wearing ripped jeans was a "national duty" and sexually harassing them was a "patriotic right". The lawyer was not reprimanded in any way for his promotion of criminality - in fact, he doubled down, reiterating his statements in national newspaper Al Watan.

It may seem odd to some that Doaa Salah's televised remarks on consensual relations between adults quickly landed her in jail while the promotion of rape on the same medium was allowed to pass with nothing more than a wag of the National Council of Women's Rights' finger - but Abla, this is Egypt - the country whose capital city was named the most dangerous for women and whose president ordered non-consensual virginity tests on women protesting for their freedom, a country where 99 percent of women have endured sexual violence.

A postcard from Egypt

A young girl stands wrapped in an Egyptian flag as Palestinians gather in Gaza City to celebrate after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement [Getty]

A young girl stands wrapped in an Egyptian flag as Palestinians gather in Gaza City to celebrate
after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement [Getty]


After nearly a decade of blockading the Palestinians of Gaza, the Egyptian government hosted the warring Palestinian factions as they reached an agreement by which Hamas handed over the Rafah border crossing to the Palestinian Authority, thereby recognising the PA's control over the strip.

Revolutionary resemblance

Esraa Eltaweel, an independent photojournalist, was born in 1992. She has taken part in and documented the protest movement in Egypt since the initial uprising in 2011, and continued to document protests against the ruling military council, SCAF, during the transitional period.

During protests marking the first anniversary of the uprising Esraa was shot in the leg and spine. Due to her injury Esraa was wheelchair-bound for months and continues to use crutches for assistance. Esraa and her family had no political allegiances and she maintained the independence of her work.

After the July 2013 coup, Esraa visited the anti-coup sit-ins at Rabaa and Nahda Squares to take photographs. On June 1, 2015, Esraa, along with two friends - Omar Mohamed and Sohip Saad - disappeared.

She was found in a women's prison 15 days later. Though she was told by her arresting officers that they believed her to be innocent, Esraa was put on trial charged with the crime of being a member of the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and "spreading false information".

Then 23 years old, Esraa sent letters from her cell describing the physiological torture she endured and her numerous unanswered pleas for medical attention. She appeared in court with her crutches, crying, an image that sparked international condemnation. The Egyptian government succumbed to pressure and Esraa was released seven months after her initial disappearance, the court citing medical reasons.

Today, Esraa maintains a low profile but continues to speak out on behalf of Omar Mohamed who was sentenced by a military court to 25 years in prison.

 

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