Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category
Posted by vmsalama on November 22, 2013
In just five months, Egypt has suffered more than 200 attacks.
By Vivian Salama
Writing to a network of followers and potential followers around the world, the Mauritanian-born cleric Sheikh Abu al-Mundhir al-Shinqiti, one of the world’s most prominent jihadi ideologues, described a religious obligation for Muslims to take up arms against the Egyptian army. “The goal of the security campaign that the tyrannical army in Egypt is directing in the Sinai is to protect Israel and its borders after jihadi groups in the Sinai became a real threat to it,” the letter, dated October 17, said. “Jihad in the Sinai is a great opportunity for you to gather and unite under a pure flag, unsullied by ignorant slogans.”
Hundreds of miles from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s tumultuous revolution, the long-neglected Sinai Peninsula has become the frontline for the military’s fight against extremism. Having operated in a quasi-lawless state there for decades, jihadi groups are now finding an opportunity to ride on the coattails of discontent following the July 3 military-backed coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the interim government’s subsequent neutering of the organization.
Many militant groups see the Islamists’ fall from grace as justification for their claims that the creation of an Islamic state can only be achieved through violence, and not through the moderate political campaign waged by the Muslim Brotherhood following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In response, the military has launched an unapologetic crackdown in the Sinai in an effort to crush any group or individual that might challenge its authority or uphold the legitimacy of the now-defunct Morsi regime.
While the military declared an end to a three-month state of emergency earlier this month, a strictly enforced curfew remains in effect in Sinai from 6 P.M. to 4 A.M., with military checkpoints commonplace across the peninsula. And while Egyptian tanks were barred from certain areas of the Sinai following the 1978 Camp David Accords, Israel authorized Egypt to deploy two additional infantry battalions to the region after Morsi’s ouster to counter terrorist threats. It did not end there. In September, the military stepped up its campaign to rid northern Sinai of militants, with Army Spokesman Ahmed Ali saying it would be “taking action against terrorists, instead of merely reacting to terrorist attacks.” That same month, dozens of homes were bulldozed and trees removed along the roads from the northern town of Al-Arish to Rafah, the border city with Gaza, according to witnesses and media reports, as the military prepared to create a 1,640-foot-wide, six-mile-long buffer zone around the Rafah border crossing. Schools in northern Sinai began the 2013-14 academic year five weeks later than scheduled amid fears that children would be at risk.
The military’s “heavy-handedness is more out of lack of experience than anything,” said Mokhtar Awad, an Egypt researcher at the Center for American Progress. “If the [militants'] goal is to make the military look weak then they can do that. I always compared [militancy] to a virus—that if it does spread to [the Nile] Delta and Upper Egypt, they won’t be able to control it.” (more…)
HERE ARE SOME OF MY OWN PHOTOS FROM THE 2004 TERRORIST ATTACK IN TABA, SINAI:
Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama
Israeli Search and Rescue Crews on the scene after an attack on the Taba Hilton in Sinai, Egypt (2004)//Photo by Vivian Salama
Posted in Africa, Al-Qaeda, al-Sisi, Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Coup, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Insurgency, Intervention, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Journalism, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinians, Politics, Protests, Sahara Desert, Sinai, State of Emergency, Suez, Terrorism | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on November 23, 2012
by Vivian Salama
Nov 23, 2012
The Daily Beast (Click here for original link)
A day after being hailed for mediating the Israel-Hamas truce, Egypt’s president issued a decree giving himself sweeping powers—uniting the opposition and protesters against him. Vivian Salama on the fallout.
A decree from President Mohamed Morsi is sending shock waves across Egypt, driving hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on Friday back to Tahrir Square and other protest points across the country.
In a decision seen as disturbingly reminiscent of Egypt’s former status quo, Morsi issued a decree Thursday exempting all decisions made since he took office from legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. He also sacked the prosecutor general, an unpopular figure with many Egyptians, for failing to issue harsher sentences against Mubarak regime officials. Morsi also declared that the courts cannot dissolve the committee that is writing the country’s new constitution.
Crowds of protesters greeted the decree on Friday with chants of “Wake up, Morsi, it’s your last day,” and a familiar call from the earliest days of the revolution, “The people want the fall of the regime!” Secular leaders including Amr Moussa, Hamdeen Sabbahi, and Mohamed ElBaradei, once political opponents, marched arm in arm in solidarity through the throngs. A Photoshopped image circulated on Facebook of Morsi in a Nazi uniform, raising his hand over the caption “Heil Morsi,” suggesting what protesters see as his desire to create a totalitarian state.
Demonstrations turned violent in a number of cities, including Cairo and Alexandria, and casualties were reported in al-Mahalla, Assiut, and Suez, where shouting matches between pro-and anti-Morsi protesters quickly escalated into clashes. Morsi opponents torched local branches of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Morsi is a loyalist.
The latest upheaval threatens the very concept of reform in a region hungry for change. In the five months since a majority of Egyptian voters just barely elected their first post-revolution president, the Arab world’s most populous nation has been forced to come to terms with a transition seemingly running amok. In some ways, change has come quickly since the revolution’s beginning nearly two years ago. A civilian, Islamist president is in office, two firsts for this ancient society. Voters elected a new parliament, and then that parliament was dissolved. Military generals sought to thwart the transition, and then the generals were dismissed. State media, once gagged by Hosni Mubarak, found its voice—and then lost it once again. (more…)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Judiciary, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Protests, Salafi | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on August 13, 2012
by Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Aug 13, 2012
Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, proved the power of his might Sunday with a shakeup both rumored and surprising to many—sacking the head of the military, Egypt’s de facto ruler throughout the transition period, and several other key members of the distrusted Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Morsi resolved to scrap a constitutional document that handed sweeping powers and autonomy to Egypt’s military and ordered the retirement of Hussein Tantawi, defense minister and commander of the armed forces, and Chief of Staff Sami Anan, awarding both men state medals and appointing them presidential advisers. He also made his highly anticipated selection of vice president, naming Senior Judge Mahmoud Mekki as his deputy.
While many saw the expanding powers of the military as an attempt to hijack the revolution, the shuffle comes amid a violent standoff with militants on the Sinai Peninsula near the border with Gaza, and an overall lapse in security nationwide. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhoodand Egypt’s first civilian president, was viewed by many as nothing more than a figurehead, since measures taken by the military left little room for a second-in-charge. This latest move leaves many observers questioning whether Morsi’s ability to seize authority had been underestimated.
“This is a palace coup and a very risky one,” said Paul Sullivan, a North Africa expert at National Defense University. “Firing most of the SCAF is a bold move that could backfire at Morsi. He has been losing credibility with the Egyptian public since his election. The Sinai attack was seen by many in Egypt as a sign of Morsi’s weakness, not the military and intelligence people. Now he is trying to turn the tables on them.” (more….)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hosni Mubarak, Israel, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on July 18, 2012
Had a fascinating chat with a 25-year old man who until 6 months ago, served in the Egyptian military as a tank driver. He was assigned to the Rafah post, the Egyptian border city with Gaza. Here are some excerpts from our discussion:
“I was in the middle of nowhere when the revolution started last year. We didn’t really understand what was happening. We heard people are in Tahrir protesting and we heard that our colleagues in the military were clashing with them. If I was there, I would have joined the people to protest, but I wouldn’t have fought with the soldiers. they are my brothers.
[WHERE WERE YOU WHEN MUBARAK RESIGNED?] We didn’t know anything about it until 5-6 days later. We didn’t believe it. Imagine you are in the desert and somebody tells you Hosni Mubarak resigned — you wouldn’t believe it. You’ll laugh and tell him he’s dreaming! It wasn’t until a soldier came from Cairo and told us what happened that we really said ‘oh. this is real!’ And even then, I didn’t REALLY believe it until I returned to Cairo 6 months ago. It was like traveling to another world. The city was so different. Even the people were different. I have been back for 6 months now and I am still not used to it.
“We used to sleep in a school in the (Sinai) desert, about 450 km from Cairo. Our beds were small and on some nights, the bombs that fell on Gaza were so strong, it would throw us from our beds, even though we were across the border. I swear to you. Sometimes we saw the Israeli soldiers. We didn’t talk to them very much. There was an incident near the border where 3 of my military colleagues were killed while doing a patrol. Bullets hit their car (He showed me video on his cell phone of the bullet-ridden jeep). Nobody told their families what happened because it would make them too upset. But we think there was a clash between drug smugglers and Israeli soldiers, and the Egyptian soldiers were in the wrong place. We weren’t supposed to talk about it otherwise it could make problems with Israel.”
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hosni Mubarak, Israel, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on June 24, 2012
by Vivian Salama
Jun 24, 2012
Daily Beast (click here for original link)
Cairo erupted in cheers for Egypt’s first-ever president-elect—but the country is still fractured. Vivian Salama on the tough road ahead for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
In a victory 84 years in the making, Mohamed Morsi, a U.S.-educated engineer and head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Egypt, was officially named the country’s first-ever president-elect, 16 months after Egyptians ousted their president of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, in a popular revolt. The victory positions Islamists to lead renewed calls for revolution against the military rulers, accused by many of hatching a soft coup to monopolize power.
Morsi clenched the presidency with 51.73 percent of the vote, while his opponent Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, earned 48.24 percent, according to Farouq Sultan, head of the election commission and chairman of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. Euphoria instantly erupted in Tahrir Square as tens of thousands of Morsi supporters and pro-revolutionaries shot off fireworks, waved flags, and cheered in a frenzied celebration. Drivers honked car horns, and people ran through the streets shouting “God is great!”
“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Salah El-Din, 28, a Morsi supporter celebrating in Tahrir Square. “Dr. Morsi will defeat the military, and the power will belong to the people again.”
Celebrations extended to the neighboring Gaza Strip as well, where supporters of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, rejoiced at news of an Islamist Egyptian president.
Morsi, who earned a doctorate in engineering from the University of Southern California, is considered a soft power in the Muslim Brotherhood and has long been overshadowed by more conservative members of the group. He has run on a free-market platform, but with a heavy emphasis on improving social services. While his official platform does not mention the military, he has repeatedly said that no institution will be above the Constitution once he is sworn in July 1. He has vowed to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for statehood, and while he has made provocative comments about Israel, once calling it a “vampire” state, he has repeatedly promised that the Camp David accords will remain untouched. (more….)
Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Obama, Politics, Protests, Salafi, State of Emergency | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on June 12, 2012
Hello from Vienna International Airport where I am passing the time with my good friend Riesling, trying to drown out the sound of disgruntled babies by focusing on my trip to Egypt. I’ll be there for the next few weeks covering the historic presidential elections (and the inevitable fallout). Egypt certainly knows how to keep the drama alive, pitting two of the least likely candidates against each other — one, a member of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the other, a Muslim Brotherhood strongman. Already the folks I talk to and the people writing on Facebook and Twitter seem to be echoing the same sentiments: regardless of the outcome of this week’s vote, the revolution continues. But who, then, is voting? And how could a potential boycott skew the outcome?? Are Christians voting for Ahmed Shafiq, terrified of the prospects of electing a Islamist president? Are young, disenfranchised Muslim youth or theEgyptian expats in the Gulf helping to bolster Mohammed Morsi?? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I wrote the following article in this week’s Newsweek International, exploring the powerful influence of Warda Al-Jazairia and singers from her genre. If only Arab leaders could command such a regional following.
The Algerian Rose
Newsweek International (click here for original link)
By Vivian Salama
June 10, 2012
The release of the song “El Watan El Akhbar” (“The Great Nation”) seemed to capture the sentiments that were running wildly through the hearts of young people across the Arab world. Longtime rulers were falling victim to an outcry for liberation. The lyrics, by legendary Egyptian composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, read: “Nothing but the triumph of the Arab people, my country, my beloved. In Yemen, Damascus and Jeddah, you are sweet, oh victory … Between Marrakech and Bahrain, the same tune for a perfect unity. Oh you, whose soil is the makeup of my eye; my country, O fortress of freedom.”
The year was 1960. An air of emancipation was sweeping through Arab nations, as people sought to free themselves from colonialism and to embrace an era of nationalist resistance movements. Pan-Arabism was a concept championed by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and it seeped into the political discourse of countries across the region, urging Arabs to come together in the face of tyranny. “El Watan El Akhbar,” a collaboration by some of the Arab world’s most famous singers, including Algerian legend Warda Al-Jazairia and Egyptian heartthrob Abdel Halim Hafez, stirred the vehemence and imaginations of people from Morocco to Bahrain.
Decades later, Arabs are once again fighting tyranny—this time, from within. While leaders have become targets of discontent of their citizens, the legacies of many singers, like Warda, Egypt’s Oum Kalthoum, and Lebanon’s Fayrouz, with their gallant, patriotic lyrics, continue to inspire and unite the Arab people in a way many politicians tried—and failed—to do. And they will continue to do so even in death, as evidenced by the massive outpouring of grief at the death of Warda, the Algerian Rose, at the age of 72 on May 17 in Cairo.
Today, very little else links the highly contrasted Arab people beyond music and art, particularly that which touches upon three very basic sentiments: love, God, and nation. Even now, as several countries across the Middle East and North Africa usher in a new hodgepodge of leaders, nostalgia remains for the triumphant era of pan-Arab awakening. (more…)
Posted in Algeria, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, dictatorship, discrimination, Dubai, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Policy, Gaza, Hosni Mubarak, Iraq, Islam, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, Mubarak, Music, Newsweek, Oman, Politics, Protests, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Warda | Leave a Comment »
Posted by vmsalama on April 6, 2012
Look who’s visiting Washington!!
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington
By Vivian Salama
The Daily Beast
Click here for original story
There was once a time when U.S. officials shunned Arab Islamist parties, frowned on their election victories, and denied them U.S. visas. But times are changing.
Delegates from Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in Washington for their first official visit since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. Only days after announcing their party’s candidate in the first presidential election since the revolution, the visiting delegates have met with members of Congress and White House officials and held public discussions at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Outlawed under the Mubarak regime, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line Salafist parties have emerged, not surprisingly, as a powerful force in the Egyptian elections, thwarting the secular groups that are believed to have been the drivers of last year’s revolution. As a group that founded itself on the principles of grassroots activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has long resonated with the people of Egypt, where at many as 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.
The delegates sent to Washington were all articulate English speakers, two of whom hold doctorates from U.S. institutions. They were non-evasive, answering impassioned questions from the Georgetown audience about religious persecution and Sharia law. The message was not specifically linked to Islam. They did not criticize—or even mention—Israel. They stressed that Egypt is open for business and encouraged free trade and foreign direct investment. (more…)
Posted in Allies, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Christian, Christianity, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Flip-Flops, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Obama, Politics, Tunisia, United States | Tagged: Washington | Leave a Comment »