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Thread: Egypt News

  1. #41
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    Egypt blocks 21 websites, including Al Jazeera


    Websites were blocked for being affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or for being funded by Qatar, security sources said

    Egypt has banned 21 news websites, including the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, for "supporting terrorism", state news agency MENA and security sources said on Wednesday.

    Reuters tried to access five websites named by local Egyptian newspapers and broadcasters, including the Al Jazeera website, and found them all inaccessible.

    There was no immediate official comment available. An official from the National Telecom Regulatory Authority could not confirm or deny the news, but said: "So what if it is true? It should not be a problem."

    MENA cited a senior security source as saying the websites, which also included some Egypt-focused outlets hosted abroad such as Masr Al Arabiya that the government says are financed by Qatar, were blocked because they supported "terrorism".

    "A senior security source said 21 websites have been blocked inside Egypt for having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well [as] publishing lies," MENA said.

    The security source said legal action would be taken against the websites, MENA reported.

    Two security sources told Reuters the websites were blocked for being affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or for being funded by Qatar.

    Cairo accuses Qatar of supporting the Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt in 2013 when the military removed elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule.

    However, Mada Masr, an Egyptian news website based inside the country which describes itself as progressive and has no Islamist or Qatari affiliations, was also inaccessible on Wednesday.

    The Huffington Post's Arabic website also was inaccessible, although the international version was accessible.

    Mada and the Huffington Post were not named by security sources - who said there were 21 websites but named only five - as part of the list of blocked websites.

    The block follows similar actions taken earlier on Wednesday by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who got into a war of words with Qatar and blocked Al Jazeera and other websites.

    Qatar said hackers had posted fake remarks by its emir against US foreign policy but Saudi and UAE state-run media reported the comments anyway.


  2. #42
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    Egypt: Gulf siege against Qatar should include Turkey

    June 14, 2017

    The Egyptian president has called on allies in the Gulf to escalate the diplomatic row with Qatar to include Turkey, the New Arab reported.

    According to the news outlet, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi urged Gulf leaders to expand their boycott until Ankara gives up support for Qatar. He is reported to have said that this would maintain the pressure on Doha to respond positively and help bring a speedy end to the regional siege.

    The sources said that Al-Sisi raised the matter during a meeting with the King of Bahrain, Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa, last Thursday in Cairo. They added that Al-Sisi pushed for the escalation of the Arab campaign and accused Turkey of funding and hosting groups classified as “terrorist” such as the Muslim Brotherhood or organisations in Syria.

    According to the news outlet, Al-Sisi has not received a response to his suggestion. The sources pointed out that the Gulf countries were keen; however, to at least neutralise Turkey from assisting Qatar in the crisis.

    After his visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the King of Bahrain sent his Foreign Minister, Khalid Bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, to Turkey to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an attempt to ease the conflict – especially in light of the agreement by Ankara to send Turkish troops to Doha.

    Egypt’s desire to escalate the matter with Turkey follows Erdogan’s sharp criticisms of the current Egyptian regime since the overthrow of the first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in a military coup.

    Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is scheduled to visit Qatar today, said that his government aimed to protect the security of the region as a whole not just a particular country and he added that he hoped the dispute with Qatar would be resolved before the end of Ramadan.


  3. #43
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    Rabaa field doctor: ‘They burned them dead and alive’

    Dr. Hanan Al-Amin was in a makeshift operating room in the Rabaa field hospital when security forces burst into the room and ordered her and another doctor to leave. A patient was on the table with his abdomen open – they had found six bullets in his liver, his spleen and his diaphragm.
    She told the officer that she couldn’t leave her patients, pointing to three other people in front of her. He took his gun and shot each one of them in the heart.
    “At that point I lost the ability to think,” she recalls. “All I could think is that there is no way this person is a human being, there’s no way we’re in Egypt, there’s no way these are my people,” says Al-Amin and begins to cry at the memory.
    “My life paused on 14 August 2013” she says eventually. “I can’t move on to the 15th, my life agenda stopped on that day.”
    It was four years ago today that security forces advanced on protesters in Rabaa Square who had gathered to protest against the ouster of the country’s first elected president Mohammed Morsi.
    For 12 long hours snipers fired indiscriminately into the crowd, bulldozers crushed the camp beneath their tracks and security forces set fire to the tents.
    Once they had massacred as many demonstrators as they could they turned to the field hospital where a number of doctors including Al-Amin were volunteering. Some 1,000 people died that day.
    Protesters begun congregating roughly one and a half months before the massacre. Al-Amin lived opposite and in the beginning would go for a few hours a day before or after work at the University of Zagazig, where she was a paediatrics professor.
    As the days went by and the protesters continued to demand their rights she decided to commit herself to serving in the square. Al-Amin began to feel it was the nation’s cause and the future of her children.
    “I wanted to set an example for people to volunteer,” she says, “for peaceful demonstrations and to rescue the country and demand a better life for the people.”
    As top of her school, not just her class, when she was young Al-Amin was confident she could be a good doctor. But nothing she had learnt at school or university could prepare her for what she saw in the square that day.
    “Never for one second did I imagine throughout the whole time of studying and being a doctor for 30 years that I’d have to treat the severity of the wounds I saw in Rabaa,” she says. “I saw what was done to Palestinians during the Nakba by the Israeli occupation but I never thought I would see Egyptians doing it to their own people.”
    “I never thought that I’d see so many people who are protesting and demanding their rights be wounded by their own army and police who are put in place to defend them,” she adds.

    A file photo dated July 26, 2013 shows an aerial view of Rabia Adaweya Square where tens of thousands people protest against the military coup that removed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt [Mohammed Elshamy / Anadolu Agency]

    In the days before the massacre Al-Amin herself participated in the demonstrations. In the afternoons, when most people were resting, they organised women’s marches to help motivate others. She would go out for an hour or so then come back and continue working. “They were my way to recharge,” she recalls.
    “I felt like the demonstrations were really what kept everything alive in the square. On some days when I didn’t go out I could see them and it would give me motivation and I would wish I was out there with them. We saw all the marches and protests that started at Rabaa or anywhere else as a form of reviving our intention and hope.”
    A lot of the doctors in the field hospital were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood but not all of them, she says. The director of the hospital, for example, was not; there were also groups among the protesters who simply believed in Egyptians’ right to live freely.
    “Everyone believed in the people’s rights to express their opinion and people’s right to self-determination,” she continues. “We believed in our right to exercise democracy, that the Egyptian people that wowed everyone with their revolution have the right to live their lives in the way they want to.”
    But this was not enough to save people that day.
    The massacre began at 7am and from the start Al-Amin and her colleagues worked tirelessly to try to treat the wounded. By around 3pm there was barely any medication left, she recalls, not even pain killers. “I was just standing there helpless, I couldn’t do anything. In those moments I hated myself and hated medicine. I just hated everything,” she says.
    Terrified children had gathered in the mosque in search of safety but were suffocating from the tear gas. Ambulances were prevented from entering the square: “It was a war zone,” she says. “The whole aim behind that was to instil fear and intimidate the people. They declared genocide on us that day.”
    Hospitals around Rabaa square were equipped but Al-Amin says they were given direct orders from authorities not only to block the ambulances but prohibit them from admitting patients. Even the surrounding pharmacies were instructed not to supply medication.
    As Al-Amin was escorted out of the field hospital by the man who shot her patients, a young boy called out to her not to leave him. She didn’t dare to look at him in case he was shot too.
    Outside she turned to see smoke rising out of the hospital, which was still full of wounded people. Security forces set fire to it – “they burned them dead and alive,” she says.
    Al-Amin knows one doctor who was shot in the back and is now paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. But some of the doctors were spared that day. Perhaps God destined some of them to live so they could bear witness to the massacre, Al-Amin suggests. Or maybe the criminals were too busy killing the opposition.

    Because people at the protests were so afraid of repercussions from authorities they smuggled their children’s bodies out of the square wrapped in cloth and hidden in baskets, and then buried them. Many did not wait for official death certificates as they were too scared their loved ones or siblings would be punished by association.
    Some time after the massacre one of the officers admitted they had scooped up 700 bodies in the metal plate of a bulldozer and transported them to Gebel Al-Ahmar near Heliopolis and buried them, some dead and some still alive. That’s why Al-Amin believes the death toll is likely to be far higher than 1,000.
    Security forces had three clear goals on the 14 August 2013, she reflects. First, they wanted to eliminate everyone who was there; second they wanted to send a message of fear and intimidation to anyone else who was considering opposing the regime. Finally, they wanted to portray this as a military victory.
    What they’ve succeeded in doing, says Al-Amin, is splitting society in two. “One half has been killed and the other half is happy they’ve been killed,” she says. “The split that emerged will take years, if not decades, to heal.
    “Anyone who was involved will be punished,” she continues. “We will see them punished in this life time in order for the people to heal.”
    As for the international community, “they stood watching silently from 7am to 6pm while not Muslims but the human race were being burnt and killed and murdered before the eyes and ears of the world. That day is a day of shame and disgrace for humanity as a whole,” she reiterates.
    “As a paediatrician I have never loved and hated a profession more than on the day of Rabaa. I felt the true value of medicine. I loved my profession because I felt the value of it but I also hated it so much because I’ve never felt so helpless. I never thought that I’d ever be a helpless doctor. I never thought I’d see a patient in front of me without being able to treat them.”
    The effects of Rabaa will be felt for years to come, she says. Some people were so afraid of the government their children weren’t treated in the aftermath and are suffering the psychological effects today. Some have been orphaned; many have fathers in prison.
    “I am certain that the children who were in Rabaa are our strategic treasure,” says Al-Amin, “because after witnessing Rabaa they will refuse to live as slaves”.


  4. #44
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    Muhammad Mahdi Akef, the Muslim Brotherhood’s own Mandela figure, is finally free

    On 1 April 2008, I learned that the authorities in Egypt had ordered Alhiwar TV channel to be removed from Nilesat, the Egyptian-owned satellite, one of three through which Alhiwar was being transmitted to the Arab world. Just one day earlier, I had finished recording a set of six programmes with Muhammad Mahdi Akef, who was at the time the General Guide (or top leader) of the Muslim Brotherhood. The programmes were for my weekly Morajaat (biographical) series on Alhiwar. He spoke to me about his childhood, his youth, and his participation in the Egyptian resistance against the British occupation of Egypt and the Zionist occupation of Palestine. Above all, though, he told me about the twenty years that he spent in prison from 1954 to 1974.
    Early on in his term of imprisonment, he complained jokingly to senior members of the movement incarcerated with him that upon completing his prison sentence it might already be too late for him to get married. Omar Al-Tilimisani, who became the third General Guide of the Brotherhood, told him: “Don’t worry. The girl you will marry is already in her mother’s womb.” Indeed, a year after he was released twenty years later, at the age of 47, he married a twenty-year-old woman who had not yet been born when he was sent to prison by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime.
    Last Friday, 22 September, Muhammad Mahdi Akef passed away in an Egyptian prison at the age of 89. He is famous for being the first to hold the title of “ex-General Guide” since no one before him had left office while still alive. Traditionally, the post-holder was there until he died, but Akef campaigned several years before being elected for the term of office to be restricted to six years renewable for one term only. Following the death of his predecessor, Ma’mun Al-Hudaibi, in 2004, Akef was elected as the 7th General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood. Upon the expiry of his first term in 2010, he refused to be nominated for a second term and was succeeded by Muhammad Badi’, the current General Guide who is now serving a life sentence in prison.
    Despite his age and health problems, the military junta imprisoned Akef soon after the military coup in July 2013 that toppled Dr Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically-elected civilian president in the history of Egypt. The coup authorities refused to release him despite repeated appeals from lawyers and human rights organisations. He was sent to jail by a military court on the pretext that he showed contempt for the country’s judiciary.

    Akef was born in 1928, the year in which the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt by Hassan Al-Banna. He joined the movement at the age of 12 and remained a loyal member until he passed away, getting to know Al-Banna and working closely with him. He impressed the group’s founder when he first met him and was encouraged by him to pursue his education in the field of sport. Akef was physically well-built and had been an eager sportsman. At the age of 17, Al-Banna recruited him to serve in the group’s secretive “special organisation”, a quasi-military setup designed for special missions, primarily against the British troops occupying Egypt and against the Zionist invasion of Palestine.
    He was jailed by all successive governments in Egypt since the movement was first persecuted in 1948. Akef’s only crime was to be involved in the struggle for his country’s independence and for his people’s emancipation from the shackles of despotism. In 1954 he was among the thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members who were detained by the country’s military ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser, after he fell out with the movement which had helped him to topple the monarchy only two years earlier. Twelve of them were sentenced to death, including Akef who was number seven on death row. Following the execution of numbers 1 to 6, the regime ordered the sentences of the six remaining defendants to be commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour.
    Despite the length of his incarceration and the hardships he experienced, this was not a man who bore grudges. When a group of angry and frustrated young Brotherhood prisoners reacted to the severe persecution and torture with the idea of “takfir” (excommunication), he was one of those who engaged them in lengthy discussions to dissuade them from going down that dangerous path.

    Three years after his release in 1974, Akef travelled to Saudi Arabia where he worked until 1983 for the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY). He was responsible for the organisation of Muslim youth camps around the world. However, he could not continue in the job because of what he perceived as a change of direction by the Saudi-sponsored organisation under the guise of what was called at the time “Saudisation”, the official policy of replacing foreigners with Saudi nationals in key posts. Going to Europe in 1983, he spent four years in Germany heading the Islamic Centre in Munich. While there, he became increasingly involved with the Brotherhood’s International Organisation. This was a loose body coordinating the various chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood around the world.
    The time he spent in Europe exposed him to those aspects of Western life, such as democracy and civil liberties, which impressed him and had an impact on his thinking. It is not unlikely that the experience played a role in determining the direction taken by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a decade later.
    Upon his return to Egypt in 1987 he was elected to the movement’s top leadership body known as the Guidance Bureau. During that same period, he won a parliamentary seat and served for three years as part of a sizable Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc of thirty-seven MPs. The Brotherhood had still not been allowed to run independently for parliament but did so through a special arrangement with the opposition socialist Labour Party with which it forged a political alliance.
    Parliamentary life provided the right environment for the Brotherhood to develop, for the first time, well-documented official positions about democracy, human rights, women’s rights and minority rights. The role played by Akef in this process was well-known and came to be a source of concern for the authorities. The movement seemed to be receiving a facelift, showing it to be tolerant and engaging, something which was bound to embarrass a regime bent on banning it and others from participating in any form of political activity.
    In the mid-1990s the Muslim Brotherhood suffered a series of major blows. The first was an internal dispute that led to the split of a group of young leaders. Akef was associated with that dispute because he was commissioned by the Guidance Office to instruct a group of young men in the organisation, who had already been involved in the Trade Unions, to explore the prospects of setting up a political party. He himself was strongly in favour of the idea of creating and registering a political party to be used as a platform for political activities while the parent group remained focused on religious and educational missionary activities.

    Headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt File photo]

    Enthusiastic about the project, and rather than submit their findings to the group’s leadership as required, the young men went all the way and applied for the registration of a political party. They were told that they had not been given the mandate to do so and were instructed not to appeal should the application be met with rejection from the Egyptian authorities. Apparently, the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood did not want to be drawn into confrontation with the regime that banned the formation of new political parties. The application was turned down and the young men did not heed the advice of their elders and insisted on appealing. The Mubarak regime accused the Brotherhood of playing games and of embarking on some sort of a division of labour. Insisting that the dispute within the group was not genuine, the regime was bent on curtailing the movement before legal proceedings ended with it being given a licence to participate in politics.
    In 1996 the regime launched an onslaught on the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing it of plotting against the government. Akef and several of his comrades were tried before a military court and given jail sentences of various terms; he served three years in prison. While behind bars, he heard of the deepening crisis within the movement but there was little he could do from his prison cell.
    Although he sympathised with the young men who eventually split from the Brotherhood and formed Al-Wasat Party, he disagreed with their action. He was adamant that working from within to change things for the better was their best option. Nevertheless, he maintained good relations with them and provided the channel through which communication between them and the movement was resumed later on and even developed into cooperation.

    Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood pray during a protest in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, outside Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo, Egypt, 29 July 2013 [Ahmed Asad/Apaimages]

    When I interviewed Akef, he spoke to me about his vision as leader of the Muslim Brotherhood; he wanted above all to empower the new generation. He found himself leading a rapidly growing movement with a broad base of young men and women but one that had still been restricted by old ways and an ageing leadership. I was talking to a man already in his eighties but who spoke with the zeal and ambition of the youth. Young men in the movement loved him because of his approach. They felt that he related to them and understood their needs and grievances. He always spoke to them about the need for what he called “renewing the blood of the movement” and delegating responsibilities to those who are capable.
    Akef was already eighty-five years old when he was detained by the current military regime in Cairo four years ago. His health had been deteriorating and continued to do so until his death. It is very likely that he was sent to prison because the regime feared his potential to unite the Brotherhood, to heal any rifts occurring within it, and to halt the drainage of its talented young men afflicted with loss of hope, loss of direction and frustration in the wake of the major blow that their movement was dealt by the counterrevolution that killed the Arab Spring. Without the wisdom and vision of leaders such as Muhammad Mahdi Akef, the Muslim Brotherhood organisation was left orphaned, in distress and in a mess.
    Upon hearing the news of his passing away, his family readied themselves for his funeral. However, the authorities banned them from holding the customary congregational prayer. His brief funeral procession, from the prayers to the burial, was only allowed to take place at 2am on Saturday. Less than a dozen people were allowed to take part and only his wife, his daughter, his grandson and his lawyer were allowed to attend.
    To many people, this must have been reminiscent of the restricted funeral allowed for the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan Al-Banna, who was assassinated by agents working for the British-supported monarchy in 1949. Only Al-Banna’s father and a group of close female relatives were allowed to attend. The assassination of Hassan Al-Banna never achieved its intended goal of finishing off the movement. Similarly, the death of Muhammad Mahdi Akef or his assassination — he was denied medical treatment — will likely play a role in reviving the Muslim Brotherhood and inspiring sympathisers and supporters across the world.
    Like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, whose iconic image was created by the Apartheid regime he fought against for many decades, Akef has been turned into an icon by one of the most brutal regimes of our times. Just as Mandela was an inspiration to many people globally, Akef will always inspire young people in Egypt and around the Muslim world in their struggle for freedom and dignity. Perhaps the only difference between Mandela and Akef is that the former managed to take that “long walk to freedom” while Akef was released from prison only to be carried to his grave.


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