All posts by Nureen Khadr

A Note From the Opinion Editor

Regarding the Foghorn’s running of MEChA’s and other concerned student letters in this issue

Since our Foghorn April Fool’s issue, which offended a number of readers (an offense we did not intend and deeply regret), we invited the offended to publish letters of response. Instead, the Culturally Focused Clubs wrote the Foghorn a letter in response to the issue, but published it through their own e-newsletter, not allowing the Foghorn to publish it.

Continue reading

Egyptian General El Sisi: “Thank You For My Self-Nomination”

To my beloved citizens of Egypt:

 

This is a letter for all those who have over-glorified my actions and baked my future as your next president into cake. I do not deserve to have my picture on your chocolates and colognes, for I have done nothing to earn them. But I have earned your undying, political support and for that, I must thank you for my ultimate decision to nominate myself.

Since June 30 of last year, we have been a nation moving forward, united together under the cause we have rallied for since Jan. 25, 2011: the freedoms and prosperity we were deprived of under the dictatorial rule of Mubarak and our year-long bump in the road, Morsi.

I must admit I fear that you will call for my removal, as you did my predecessors, and no longer love me like you have all so ardently professed. Yet, I hope to prove to you that if — no, when — I do win the presidential elections (TBA), I will execute the vague vision that I have for Egypt. It helps that I am running unopposed; I have your unwavering loyalty to thank for that. Its strength has scared all other potential competition from even attempting to establish a campaign.

Until the election results are announced, I will make sure to clear the way for a smooth transition to this coveted office — by others, of course, not me. This means sweeping away the cobwebs of the previous regime and ensuring a clean slate for what I hope to accomplish.

I have all my branches of government partnering with me, in terms of executing this plan most efficiently. Speaking of executing plans, the judicial courts have sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death. This move is necessary in the eradication of any potential radical terrorists or future opposition. And thankfully, we have guaranteed a pristine press image of our nation with the imprisonment of any media personalities, journalists or writers that might report what we hope the world or our allies might turn a blind eye to.

We must remain the epitome of hope and simultaneous power in the region, or else we fall. Returning to past authoritarian regimes is not an option. We must continue to operate under the illusion of progress and action. Our AIDS/HIV cure will be a large portion in the development of this image.

And do not worry. You will be the first of the last to know when I do establish the platform I plan to run on, besides the complete and unshakable confidence I have that you will vote for me anyways.

Also, shut up your mouse, Obama.*

Tahya Masr**,

General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Deputy Prime Minister of Egypt

Recently Resigned Minister of Defense

Future President of Egypt

 

* In reference to a viral video clip featuring an Egyptian woman shouting her support for General el-Sisi and saying “Shut up your mouse, Obama” instead of ‘mouth’.

** “Long live, Egypt”

DISCLAIMER: This piece was printed as part of The Foghorn’s April Fool’s Day issue on April 1st, 2014. This article is intended to be satirical.

North African Football and Politics: A Love Story

The power of sports is internationally undeniable, able to make or break morale and relations on both a personal and national scale. In the Middle East and North Africa, soccer has become the unofficial language spoken by the inhabitants of all 22 countries across the region. While game results have incited riots and put international relations on edge, the positive impact “football” (as it is called in these three regions) has made cannot be ignored.

If neither politics nor religion can unite a whole nation, football definitely can. For Egyptians, the Pharaohs—what the national team is known as—hold more value than simply a few players out to win a title or an honorable rank. Winning one of the 32 berths (meaning a sports team has guaranteed a spot in the playoffs) in the 2014 Cup could rally Egyptians who seem to be tearing at the seams with more than 1,000 people dead since July 3 over political disputes.

Since former-President Morsi’s removal, there has been much political strain between friends and relative, with a divide more apparent than usual. As of now, citizens are gladly setting aside their differences in anticipation of hopefully seeing Bob Bradley coach the Egyptian national soccer team into its third FIFA World Cup qualification in 80 years. Excitement is tangible in the streets of a country with talk surrounding the chances of the team beating Ghana on both Oct. 15 and Nov. 15.

Just as there is hardcore competition in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona, and in the United Kingdom between Manchester United and Liverpool, there is a strong rivalry between al-Ahly and al-Zamalek in Egypt—red versus white. While this might create tensions between their supporters, it is also a common ground for conversation and dialogue that blurs socio-economic class lines. People swarm to street cafés and smoke shisha to watch friendly matches between the two teams and discuss the odds while unwaveringly standing behind their team and players. Sportsgoers set aside religious and political differences in the spirit of the game. In a sense, football is a religion to those in Egypt, as well as in Tunisia and Algeria. When the realities of their everyday struggles become too much, they turn to football and allow the possibility of victory to uplift their spirits. Football in North Africa is one of few developed institutions that has created an alternative public forum to let out frustration at the government and its stagnancy.

Since 2011, the beginning of the wave of the Arab Spring, football fans have been a large portion of the protestors that felled totalitarian regimes. Five years ago, a group of diehard fans in Egypt established themselves as the Green Eagles, a branch of the original European fan club movement, the Ultras. Behind them, they have rallied supporters across the nation in allegiance to the national team, and their capacity for influence is well-known. This year, the Associated Press named the Ultras network as one of the most organized movements in Egypt. Because of them, many were inspired to take to the streets and call for change. The members that join forge bonds of friendship and all support one another to express themselves as politicized football fans through patriotic music, art, and poetry. One Ultras’ song, “Horaya”, meaning “freedom”, was played across Egypt to remind the protestors what they were working towards.

While the Ultras are known for some violent altercations with the Egyptian police, overall their trend for positive impact is evident. They are everyday Egyptians passionate about their country and loyal to their team; all citizens cannot help but relate to their movement and their message. When they turned against the Mubarak regime, most football lovers followed. There is no doubt in my mind that without the strength of love for this game and the revered players who lead the way by example, the first wave of the Egyptian revolution in Jan. 2011 would have been defeated early on. Beyond that, there is a bond of trust with their supporters formed as a result of the Ultras’ tacit promise to not get sucked into the political game and become a puppet of any current or future leadership.

This worship of football is also mirrored in neighboring North African countries, Tunisia and Algeria. Tunisia will be facing Cameroon and Algeria will be against Burkina Faso in order to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. With the current transitional governments in these countries reforming their constitutions and policies, the hope for a better future and standard of living has been coupled with the stress of the unknown ahead. Simply qualifying for the World Cup 2014 is not only a matter of honor for these countries, but a boot of morale. The display of street celebrations at such an accomplishment would rival the San Francisco Giants riots that followed the World Series win last year—but on a national scale. And I predict that these economies will grow, even for just a bit, by a potential spike in sales of national flags, football apparel and gear, and other symbols of pride.

As sports columnist for Al Ahram newspaper, Hassan Almstkawy, so eloquently said to The Guardian, “It’s not just a game. Apart from war, only two things can bring millions and millions of people on the streets: revolution and football. Now we have both at the same time.”

Egypt Foghorn 2

A Civilian Coup: By the People, For the People

What defines a democracy has always been a central question in world politics. Yet Americans and other global superpowers alike have taken on the unearned role of drawing the lines that they believe outline a “true” democracy.

As an Egyptian born and raised in California, I was astonished at the American reaction to the events of July 3 – where the removal of an incompetent president was instantly labeled as a military coup. A military coup usually means that the military and its leaders are overthrowing a government so that they may take over themselves. Yet General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Minister of Defense, and the Egyptian military have repeatedly declared that they have no desire to govern the country. They have since set a plan to draft a new constitution according to the people’s wants, reestablish an elected Parliament and hold presidential elections once more, over the course of this year.

There are basic, Egyptian cultural traits that any outsider, whether a diplomat or not, will be unfamiliar with. Firstly, having met people from multiple and diverse backgrounds, as well as being well-travelled (at least, I would like to think), I have never seen or felt the level of patriotism and nationalism that literally rolls off the Egyptian people in waves. Sit in a café and hear a patriotic song? Everyone begins tearing up, swaying and singing along. There is such a basic pride in Egyptian identity that transcends religious differences. Most Egyptians do not even like to consider themselves Arab, because they believe themselves to have very different mentalities in regards to politics, lifestyle and much more.

Secondly, there is a bond of trust that most of the Egyptian population has with its military.

This stems from the requirement that all families have their sons enlist for the army at the age of eighteen for a duration of two years, meaning that most of el sha’ab – the people – view all the soldiers as their own sons. Yet beyond that, one can look back in history to really see how this relationship was built. The military has always used its respected authority to support the will of the people, as they are those that hold all the power in their eyes. This was seen way back in the revolution of 1952 when the people decided they no longer found the monarchy to be serving its purpose, and the army aided in the people’s revolutionary efforts.

As an American, my summer in Egypt protesting in front of El Ettahadiya (the presidential palace) on June 30 and celebrating in the streets after the military’s ousting of former President Morsi, was a wake up call. We live a life disconnected from the reality of the current events we attempt to understand through our brief skimming of the New York Times. Yet we continue to believe that as Americans, we have the right to pass judgement and act on the lives of people in other countries. Quite often, these are actions and opinions that are unwanted. For me, I will always view a true democracy as one that is by the people and for the people. While that idea mirrors the American model, it is not strictly applicable to only the United States.

The Egyptian people have finally realized how to make their voice heard, and they have now established the fact that the source of government legitimacy comes from the people. With a lack of a drafted constitution governing Egypt under Morsi, thirty-three million people took to the streets to informally impeach a president that spent his first year going against everything that the January 25 revolution stood for -  A’ash, Horeya weh A’adala Egtema’aya–“Bread, Freedom and Social Justice”.

There was also the fact that the former president, Mohammed Morsi, and his advisors looked out for only the Muslim Brotherhood’s organizational international interests. Nothing was done to improve standard of living; the country’s beloved satirical comedian, Bassem Youssef was interrogated for making fun of President Morsi, and he had tried to give himself unrestrained power above the constitutional limits traditionally set against the president of Egypt.

Ultimately, what happened on July 3 can only be called a coup in the sense that it was a sudden overthrowing of a presidency, but it was not a military coup as much as it was civilian coup. The military was utilized by the people as a vehicle to achieve their own undertaking – literally taking back their country and reclaiming their right to stand up to a government that does not abide by their will or act in their best interests.

Republican Senator with Gay Son Has a Heart

Since their serious loss last November, the Republican party has worked to rebuild its appeal by presenting its conservative platform in a more relatable light to the voters it alienated in the past election. One of the main contested positions is the topic of legalizing gay marriage. Up until this past Friday, March 15, all sitting Republican senators took a unified stance against the legalization, but due to a surprising turn of events for Ohio Senator Rob Portman (R), he has announced a change of heart and now endorses same-sex marriage and all the federal transformation its legislation would entail.

Two years ago, Senator Portman was faced with a confession from his now 21 year-old son, Will, regarding his sexuality. It came as a definite surprise to the senator that his son is gay, and in his op-ed published in The Columbus Dispatch, he speaks of the struggle he faced with respect to his Christian faith and the deep-rooted “…tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”

He has taken a different approach to conservative principles by affirming the fact that conservatives strongly believe in personal liberties and the least amount of government interference in the lives of its citizens. He goes beyond that by writing of his realization, as a result of speaking to his pastor and other religious and political leaders, that gay marriage would not be a threat to American and Christian values, but “a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.”

The timeliness of his announcement cannot be, and is not, a coincidence. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments against California’s Proposition 8. Just last month, multiple Republican leaders — including top aides to former President Bush, four former governors and two members of the House of Representatives — in an attempt to aid in rebranding the Republican party, signed a legal brief directed at the Supreme Court, advocating for a decision that would declare that gay couples have a right to wed under the United States Constitution.

The senator himself was a vocal supporter of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act passed when President Bill Clinton was in office. With the act currently under review by the Supreme Court and arguments scheduled this month, he felt he was pressed for time to finally publicize his shift on the matter of contention.

While the change of heart was only brought about when the social matter personally affected his family, it still took a great deal of courage to turn away from the comfort of remaining within his party’s boundaries publicly, and from his previous value system.

This is not the first time a prominent Republican leader is known to have a gay or lesbian child, but it is a refreshing first to see one of them renounce their previous stance on the controversy and openly back gay marriage and rights. Not only was it his son coming out to the country, but Senator Portman coming out of the conservative closet with a more liberal take on the question that continues to divide the nation.

Satire Proves Egypt’s Revolution didn’t Fail

Whether or not the Egyptian Revolution can be deemed successful is not clear, but the demands of the revolution were clear from the beginning: A’ash, Horeya weh A’adala Egtema’aya, meaning “Bread, Freedom and Social Justice” — a three word mission reminiscent of the French Revolution’s “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.

Many would say that Egypt’s only achievement since January 25, 2011 was the removal of former-President Hosni Mubarak. Still, Egypt is not the same Egypt that existed before January 2011. I am not simply writing about the intermittent violence in the streets, but about those genuinely participating, still calling for the basic rights they deserve.

Take the example of Bassem Youssef,  a former cardiothoracic surgeon. He found his calling in the most provocative occupation one could take on in the Middle East — a political satire comedian in the style of Jon Stewart, the first ever in the region. Before this, Egyptian state television and newspapers were routinely censored out of fear of the government’s reaction to controversial media statements. There was always a tacit line that could never be crossed, and many newscasters and journalists were imprisoned and made an example of for speaking out against the regime.

Youssef’s show “El Bernameg” (literally translating as “The Show”) is representative of the dam of oppression that broke with the fall of Mubarak’s administration. His humor and satirical responses to the political contradictions of the current government under President Mohammed Morsi educates people on the recent constitutional referendums and other national issues. Always pushing the boundaries, he goes all out in making fun of the president and other major politicians. His empowered viewers believe that the program speaks to the government on their behalf.

Social and political criticism is still not accepted easily in Egypt, even as so many have fought for the right to dish it out. Even prominent interview host, Emad Adeeb, found cause to sue “El Bernameg” for comparing his pre-revolution and post-revolution political stances, calling it “insult and defamation” — and in the process highlighting that no one, no matter one’s title or status, is above being targeted on the show. Youssef drew up a contract with the channel’s owner to make sure that no topic would be off limits for him, and despite all the controversy it sparks.  His YouTube channel continues to be the most subscribed-to channel in Egypt.

Egyptians know that they have not attained the complete democracy they have been fighting for these past two years, but at least now, Egyptians can speak their mind without fear; they know that for every inadmissible move the new President or government makes, they can grab their openly-furious signs and chant in the streets for change. Youssef’s “El Bernameg” represents the charged spirit of the country and its people. But, of course, this newborn freedom of speech, press and general expression is only one step in the direction of fulfilling the three demands of el thawra (the revolution).