Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘Suez’ Category

What’s Behind the Wave of Terror in the Sinai

Posted by vmsalama on November 22, 2013

In just five months, Egypt has suffered more than 200 attacks.
By Vivian Salama
sinai

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

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

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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 »

Egypt’s Canal Cities and the Cost of Neglect

Posted by vmsalama on January 27, 2013

Some brief thoughts on the unrest in Port Said this week…. While the verdict against a group of soccer hooligans (who many allege to have been innocent) sparked the riots, there are a great many underlying economic and political issues that may have driven people in the canal cities to spill out into the streets this week.

The Porto World resort in the northern Egyptian city of Ain El Sokhna appears suddenly in the desert like a magnificent mirage. Miles of rolling sand dunes come to an end where this colossal complex begins, with pristine swimming pools and fountains and luxury villas imbedded in the sandy hills. It was one of the pet projects of the Hosni Mubarak administration, which had vowed to invest billions on tourism and real estate development as a means for boosting economic activity, embarking on projects that often involved intricate planning and engineering to get water and other resources to manmade oases like this one.

Some 55 kilometers away, the canal cities of Port Said and Suez offer a shockingly contradicting reality. Homes are dilapidated and roads unkept. Water supplies at nearby wells are filthy from dust and pollution continues to pile in the streets. Government neglect is part and partial of life in these cities — home to more than one million residents — and resentment has grown in recent years as many watched the government pour its resources into the country’s sprawling tourism resorts, while leaving its own citizens begging for the most basic services.

At least 50 people were killed in Port Said over the weekend following death sentences against 21 soccer fans in connection with the death of 73 soccer fans in a post-game riot last year. The verdict sparked an uproar as family and friends raided the prison in Port Said where the defendants were being held, claiming that the true perpetrators have gone free and that security forces rounded up a bunch of innocent boys to save face. The upheaval prompted President Mohamed Morsi to declare a state of emergency in the three canal cities — Port Said, Suez and Ismailia.

Port Said was the sight of a 1999 attempted assassination on former President Hosni Mubarak. Since then, many residents I’ve spoken with claim that they were cut off —  alienated from the many basic services that their fellow Egyptians in Cairo or Alexandria may have enjoyed. What’s more, one of Egypt’s most frequented Free Zones sits in Port Said. While it had the potential to bring a great deal of commerce-driven-business to the canal cities, many claim it was neglected and poorly promoted, and residents could not reap the benefits. Residents of Port Said and Suez who are old enough to have lived through the wars with Israel in the 1950s and 60s feel they did a great deal for their country. These cities were regarded as a frontline in those wars, sine the Suez Canal was greatly at the heart of tensions after then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser declared it a nationalized asset of Egypt. Much was lost in those wars and many had hoped that the government would repay them for their sacrifices. They are still waiting.

Indeed, events of the past two years have caused many economic and social issues to surface, but the grievances of the canal cities run deep and residents there say their fight for justice and equality has lasted the greater part of the past 50 years.

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Israel, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood, Port Said, State of Emergency, Suez, Tourism | Leave a Comment »

Morsi Declares Emergency Amid Soccer-Ruling Chaos

Posted by vmsalama on January 27, 2013

Jan 27, 2013

By Vivian Salama

Daily Beast (click here for original link)

Egypt’s president has set a curfew and declared a state of emergency amid nationwide violence sparked by an Egyptian court ruling against ‘ultra’ soccer fans. Vivian Salama on the rising power of the young group of men.

Egyptian demonstrators hurled rocks and clashed with security forces in the early hours Monday, many in defiance of a 30-day state of emergency issued by President Mohamed Morsi in three governorates amid escalating violence following the sentencing of soccer fans in the Mediterranean city of Port Said.

Port Said chaosThe Egyptian courts handed down a ruling against almost two dozen soccer fans Saturday—known locally as the “ultras”—igniting a wave of chaos in the streets nationwide and opening a new chapter in Egypt’s volatile revolution. A day after the two-year anniversary of Egypt’s popular uprising, the courts announced the first in a series of verdicts in Egypt’s deadliest-ever soccer riots, sentencing 21 fans of the Port Said team to death.

The response nationwide was instantaneous. Family members and devout soccer fans, outraged by the sentences, stormed the prison holding the defendants and set fire to buildings and cars around Port Said. Ultras rushed the Suez Canal port, threatening to shut down the waterway. They set fire to local Muslim Brotherhood offices—a slight to the president who is a member of the group. The death toll has topped 50 in two days of violence mainly in Port Said, according to the Health Ministry.

The curfew is effective from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailiya, and Suez. “I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt—it’s my duty,” Morsi said in a late-night televised address Sunday. “There is no going back on freedom, democracy, and the supremacy of the law.” (click here to read more…)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Economy, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Port Said, Religion, Salafi, State of Emergency, Suez, United States | Leave a Comment »