A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, December 2, 2013

Egypt's Tightening Crackdown

The days of continuing, rolling protest in Egypt may be ending. Since the breaking up of the pro-Morsi demonstrations in August, Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators have regularly been broken up and the demonstrators arrested; last week human rights groups protested when 21 girls, seven of them under age 18, were sentenced to 11 years in prison. At Cairo University an engineering سtudent was killed (though the police claimed he had been shot by fellow demonstrators, which witnesses denied.)  All of this growing crackdown stms from Egypt's new law on demonstrations, which places severe restrictions on demonstrations (such as a requirement to notify the police three days in advance: see Ursula Lindsey's article here).

Now, the re-empowered Interior Ministry is expanding its scope beyond Islamists:  on Thursday and Friday, two of the best-known young secular activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmad Maher, were arrested. This has been building as the official media has been sounding a drumbeat against the young revolutionaries of January 25.

Ursula Lindsey at The Arabist published a translation of such a diatribe:
Political activists in Egypt vary according to gender. The male activist is unemployed, soft and effeminate, with long hair that is either braided or disheveled,  and he wears a bracelet and a Palestinian keffiyeh. He has a Twitter account, a Facebok page, likes to curse and use disgusting obscene expressions. He repeats slogans calling for a non-religious state, attacking heavenly religions and accusing them of being backwards and reactionary, and he defends the rights of sexual deviants.

On the other hand, the female activist takes on the male role -- she "mans up." She listens to the songs of Sheikh Imam and the lewd poetry of Fouad Haggag and Naguib Sorour. She "likes" all the pages that use foul language and puts pictures of the great revolutionary Che Guevara on her Facebook and Twitter profiles.   
You mean this Che Guevara? He sure sounds menacing. But wait: he's shaking hands with Nasser! And General Sisi is the reincarnation of Nasser, so I lose the train of argument a bit here ...

As if the new law and the crackdown were not enough, the Governor of Giza announced the following last week:
Ali Abdel Rahman, governor of Giza, announced the governorate has allocated a 3.5-acre piece of land to hold peaceful demonstrations as stipulated in the recently-issued law regulating protests.

The "free protest zone" will be located alongside al-Mansuriyya road close to the Giza Pyramids, he said.
It will be allocated for public meetings, processions, or peaceful demonstrations that could be staged without notifying the authorities as stipulated in the law, Abdel Rahman added.
It's not specified if he kept a straight face while announcing this; and to be fair perhaps the governor of Cairo will do the same across the river, but for those unfamiliar with the geography A on the map below is Tahrir Square. Since the story doesn't give a precise location for the reserved plot, B represents a spot where the Mansuriyya road comes nearest to the pyramids. The points are 15 kilometers apart,

As if in Washington we said demonstrations must move from the National Mall to someplace in the Maryland suburbs, or London moved Hyde Park corner to the English countryside.

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