Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt on Al Jazeera: Part II

There have been many developments in the situation in Egypt since my last post, but I don't think that there is anything essentially new to add to those previous observations. I'll just share several interesting videos/programs from Al Jazeera, and a couple of noteworthy discussions.

The latter, first.

- I was watching the news on Germany's international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, and their "Middle East Analyst" in the studio (German, though I didn't get the name. Sorry.) made the following remark (paraphrased):
"This is the moment in the Arab world. The Americans should seize the moment and really support the uprising of the people in the region. They should realize that this is the way to democratize the region, and not by the 'Iraq method'."

He also said he expects Yemen and, probably, Jordan to follow suit. If unrest continues, he said we should be watching Algeria and Saudi Arabia, too (agree with most, though the last one sounds like a stretch. But then, who knows?).

Image from CTV News.

- On the subject of that U.S.-made tear gas... There have been many more reports and images of those coming out. These canisters have not only wounded (and in some cases killed) protesters, but have, obviously, done irreparable damage to the U.S. image in the Arab world. (Not that it's news. But being all over TV and given the circumstances, it makes matters for American public diplomacy much, much worse.)

Here is what Blake Hounshell of the Foreign Policy Magazine shared on Twitter:
"As far as everyone tells me the USG provides zero aid to the interior ministry; it's all big hardware for the military: tanks, planes, etc."

Followed by:
"The key question about the tear gas is the export license; unfortunately the State Dept. office that handles that is closed until Monday."

Good point. Although I'm in no position to say whether any of the foreign aid money provided to Egypt goes directly (or indirectly) to buying this American-made tear gas, it is beyond doubt that these canisters represent the U.S. support for Mubarak's oppression of his own people.

Regarding Hounshel's second point: yes, the money used to buy the Mubarak-regime-protection gear (for the Interior Ministry) might not be coming from the U.S. itself. Neither should they be "sold" (literally) by the U.S. Government. Yet, the images and reports of American-made tear gas, produced by a "tactical weapons company", Combined Systems, based in Pennsylvania, are certainly speaking much louder to the Arab people than any statement Obama or Clinton will make.

In short, American foreign policy and its private sector are working against it public diplomacy. Not news. Just really dangerous.

And on to the second section.

This week's Listening Post was of course devoted to the the events in Tunisia and its ripple effects all across the region. The program came out on Wednesday, 2 days before Friday, the major day of protests. Yet, the analysis and the predictions seem to be pretty accurate, touching upon social media and the importance of Arab satellite TV.

Al Jazeera also reposted a documentary made back in 2008. Provides useful background on and a very interesting insight into the current political situation. Certainly recommend watching:

Lastly, an interesting discussion with the representatives of the young "political activist" generation in the country. Explains a lot about how people feel and what they are hoping for:

And to end on a lighter note, several tweets from the mock "Hosni Mobarak" (the father) and "Gamal Mobarak" (the son):

- @HosniMobarak: "For sale: One government. Never used, but probably doesn't work. "

-  @GMubarak: "Looking for a new pad. Anyone know of a cheap place with Internet access and a view of Big Ben? "

- @HosniMobarak: "@ Why with a view of Big Ben? I'll buy the Big Ben for you."


  1. But I am a bit worried: bands attacking random citizens? Is that a way to protest against a government?

  2. It was launched in Tunisia then it leaped to Eygpt .I am really wishing those revolutionist movements will spread to rest of Middle east and a real and transparent democracy will dominate middle east make sure thats is the common desire ....

  3. Democracy will not materialize overnight in Egypt or anywhere else. In fact, there are symptoms, as many experts indicate, that it is being eroded in many places all over the world that it seemed to have become the “only game in town.”
    While I sympathize with the people of Egypt and admire their courage and resolve (how many individuals in the so-called “advanced” or “transition” democracies would dare to challenge such a dictatorial regime?), I am not sure at all that they will get what they want. Yes, probably, the dictator will have to go, though it is not a certainty. Will that lead to democracy? I strongly doubt it. I think whatever the outcome, it will not be democracy in the short run. Most probably, the people’s expectations and hopes will be dashed, again. That will make them even more disaffected and will fuel Islamic militancy.

    There is a question that keeps bothering me. What an ordinary person can (and/or should) do when something like the current events in Egypt is happening in another country, i.e. not in his or her country? Well, obviously some people can take part in protest actions near embassies, etc. This is happening now, with some people acting as activists. They are not numerous, though (I mean people other than ethnic Egyptians in other countries).
    Yes, also some high-tech-savvy individuals are helping to restore internet, twitter, etc. for Egyptians. But other than that?

    It seems like our focus is more on discussing than doing things. We are progressively becoming “couch activists” (while some are even “couch revolutionaries”).
    I think this is where our solidarity stops.

    And a quote from Time, “The Administration is caught in a bind, but it's more strategic than just moral: Supporting tyrants loathed by their own people but willing to do Washington's bidding in international matters is a decades-old U.S. tradition in the Middle East, as well as in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The problem with Mubarak is not simply that his methods are at odds with professed U.S. values; it's that his brittle autocracy appears to have entered a period of terminal decline, with the U.S. potentially on the wrong side of history.” I find this logic fascinating but pathetic. If Realpolitik is at odds with values and prevails, can those values be designated as such? Values are not mere pronouncements but principles that their holders profess and adhere to, at any cost…

    Well, and an end note: The Egyptian authorities shut down Al Jazeera. But not CNN, BBC, etc. Wonder why?

  4. I've read a bit more on the topic, and it doesn't seem well portrayed in Bulgaria media, obviously the focus isn't on isolated cases of vandalism... is it? I don't know much about the situation. Thanks for the coverage, Lena...