Monday, February 28, 2011

What Dictators Are Really Scared About.

Libya is about to get its No Fly Zone

" The U.S. military is repositioning naval and air forces around Libya, a Pentagon official said on Monday, as international demands intensify for an end to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule. 
"We have planners working and various contingency plans and I think it's safe to say as part of that we're repositioning forces to be able to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made ... to be able to provide options and flexibility," said Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman." (
 Now that most expats have been evacuated, the hammer is about to go down.

The declining price for sex

"When attractive women will still bed you, life for young men, even those who are floundering, just isn't so bad. This isn't to say that all men direct the course of their relationships. Plenty don't. But what many young men wish for—access to sex without too many complications or commitments—carries the day. If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we'd be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on. Instead, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (which collects data well into adulthood), none of these things is occurring. Not one. The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it. And it's all thanks to supply and demand." Slate
As usual for this type of research article, a giant tub of salt is required. 


This website picks the most interesting photos from Google StreetView.

Middle East & North Africa Instability Index 4

  • Libya
    • Expect the battle of Tripoli to happen within 7 days. Most probably this Friday.
  • Egypt
    • Stock market is going to open tomorrow,
    • The old regime PM has not resigned. He is going to get demoed again this Friday.
  • Tunisia
    • The old regime PM has resigned.
  • Bahrain
  • Oman
  • Morocco

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Male Pill breakthrough from Indonesia?

"On the remote Indonesian island of Papua, tribesmen have long noticed the curious effect of a shrub called “gandarusa.” 
If you chew its leaves often enough, men say, your wife won’t get pregnant. 
Indonesian scientists, who have transferred this folk method from the jungle to the lab, claim they can extract the shrub’s active ingredient and mass produce it as an over-the-counter pill. 
If they’re right, they will accomplish what Western pharmaceutical giants have researched but failed to deliver for decades: a birth control pill for men. 
“With luck, it could be released late this year, but it will probably be sold in stores early next year,” said Sugiri Syarief, the head of Indonesia’s state-run National Family Planning Coordination Board."
Global Post

The Irish Uprising

In an election dominated by fear and anger over the financial implosion that led to an €80bn bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Ireland's once most successful political party Fianna Fáil suffered a historic and devastating defeat, with its support estimated at only 15%. Just months after agreeing to the bank bailout it was on course to be beaten into fourth place by a slew of independent candidates – its worst performance since Eamon De Valera founded it in the 1920s.The Guardian

Big Picture on Fashion Week

Lemming's behavior

"HUMAN beings like to think of themselves as the animal kingdom’s smartest alecks. It may come as a surprise to some, therefore, that Iain Couzin of Princeton University believes they have something to learn from lesser creatures that move about in a large crowd. As he told the AAAS meeting in Washington, DC, groups of animals often make what look like wise decisions, even when most of the members of those groups are ignorant of what is going on." Economist

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Libya by Exodus

"Bosnia: 150 Bosnians left the country on Friday on Turkish boats from Benghazi and a some by air.
Brazil: Malta harbour authorities said on Friday that 3,000 Brazilian workers were due to arrive overnight on a cruise ship.
Bulgaria: Around 100 Bulgarians are expected to leave Benghazi on a Turkish ship.
Canada: As of Thursday, nearly 200 Canadians had been, or were about to be, evacuated on planes and ships arranged by other nations. A C-17 military transport plane is due to fly out more evacuees from Tripoli.
Croatia: 28 Croatian workers have left Benghazi on an Italian military ship bound for Malta. A plane from Zagreb landed in Tripoli and Croatian officials were trying to reach the remaining 125 workers.
Germany: Three ships, two frigates and a supply vessel, are heading to the Libyan coast to help evacuate German citizens. They are currently anchored off Valetta.
Greece: 227 Greeks and Cypriots have been evacuated from Tripoli and Sabha on three C-130 military aircraft. Two Greek frigates have also be sent to waters off Libya and island of Crete.
India: The foreign ministry said it has sent a ship to Benghazi to evacuate at least 1,200 Indians and is seeking permission for its planes to land in Tripoli for other evacuations.
Ireland: Efforts are underway to get a plane back to Tripoli to evacuate about 70 Irish citizens. An air force plane returned to Malta from Tripoli with no passengers on board, according to media reports.
Italy: The foreign ministry said it planned to send a C130 aircraft on Friday to evacuate remaining Italians in Libya. The remaining Italians in the country were expected back within the next 48 hours.
Netherlands: The Dutch foreign ministry said on Friday 50 Dutch nationals remained in Libya, 25 of whom were looking to leave.
South Korea: A chartered plane carrying about 200 nationals took off from Tripoli on Friday for Cairo and another is scheduled.
Spain: Spain is planning the evacuation of a small number of Spaniards from outside Tripoli, the foreign ministry said.
Syria: Two vessels have been sent to pick up Syrians from different areas in Libya, along with flights from Tripoli.
Tunisia: At least 7,000 of the 30,000 Tunisians in Libya have left so far. A ferry has been sent to the port of Benghazi to transport more back home.
Turkey: As of Friday, 8,360 Turkish citizens have so far been evacuated on two ships and 26 planes. Another 12 planes were sent on Friday, including eight military aircraft, as well as a military ship and two ferries.
USA: A US-chartered ferry, carrying around 150 US citizens, arrived in Malta on Friday and another catamaran was due to dock later in the day. A chartered aircraft was also due to leave a Tripoli airfield for Istanbul.
Vietnam: Vietnam has so far evacuated about 1,300 of 10,482 citizens from Libya." Guardian

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The limit of intervention

About Libya, it is unwise to rush and impose No Fly Zone as long as there are still substantial number of foreign  citizens in Libya. Evacuation is key right now - any military intervention will really have to be the last resort otherwise you are going to get a lot of foreigners killed (hundreds of thousands Egyptians, 15K Turkish, and tens of thousands of other nationalities). The Libyans have been sorting the situation it out amongst themselves for the past couple of days.

The Libyan Army is split.

The problem is not about the flights, it's about the ground travel safety to reach the point of evacuations. Any military intervention risks the targeting of expats by Qaddafi irregular forces at their homes or during their travel to safety.

You have to allow time the Libyan people to form their own legends and build their inter-tribes solidarity in fighting Qaddafi. These factors will be critical in post Qaddafi era. A premature intervention disturbs this process.

What the international community (read NATO) can do is to support the communication channels between areas in Libya. They need satellite phones and Internet links so people can coordinate. There is also growing needs for emergency rations, medicines and medical support for the people of Libya.

Supplies are being transported right now by citizens of Egypt through the Eastern Border. People are collecting blood, foodstuff and medicine to be transported to Eastern cities.

Right now the uprising has not been overrun by Qaddafi forces. When they are or close to being overrun, that's the time you intervene militarily. I bet there are have been hectics preparation on the ground (coordination with local leaders, etc) between NATO members and the uprising movement to prepare for any eventuality.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hilarious but sad state of digital movies

Middle East & North Africa Instability Index 3

Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate

"BRITAIN: Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday Britain planned to send a charter plane to Libya to bring out Britons and was dispatching a Royal Navy frigate to waters off Libya in case it was needed to help nationals. 
BOSNIA: A Bosnian plane, due to evacuate from Tripoli the first group out of up to 1,500 Bosnian citizens from Libya, is awaiting a permit from authorities there, said Zoran Perkovic, the assistant foreign minister. 
BULGARIA: A Bulgarian government airplane took off for Tripoli and a second plane was due to depart on Tuesday. About 1,500 Bulgarians live and work in Libya, some in Libya's second biggest city of Benghazi. 
CANADA: Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said on Tuesday Canada intended to evacuate its citizens. Ottawa, which earlier in the day said it had no such plans, announced the evacuation after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to crush a growing revolt. Cannon said the first Canadian flight would arrive in Tripoli on Thursday. Of the 321 Canadians registered with the embassy, 91 have so far expressed a wish to leave." Reuter

  • Libya
    • The most current estimates right now put the death toll to over 1000
    • Evacuation is happening at furious pace.
    • The prospect of No Fly Zone and humanitarian air drops increases as more foreigners being evacuated.
  • Egypt
    • Low level ranking police protested in front of the Internal Ministry building in Cairo and they threw some molotovs which cause some minor fire.
  • Morocco
  • Yemen
  • Bahrain
  • Iran 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Middle East and North Africa Instability Index part 3

  • Libya
    • Qaddafi sick and twisted speech promised doom for Libyan people
    • Eastern Libya is under complete control of the protesters
  • Bahrain
    • 100,000 people showed up in demonstration today at Pearl Square. The largest to date.
  • Egypt
    • Large number showed up in Tahrir square today to demand faster reform. Peaceful.
  • Morocco
  • Yemen
    • President vowed not to step down (he is next - after Qaddafi is done)
  • Tunisia

Monday, February 21, 2011

Libyan End Game

There are a lot of calls for No Fly Zone imposed on Libya. It makes moral and imperative sense to suggest so to protect the wholesale slaughters of civilians. On the other hand, an imposion of No Fly Zone will involve cooperation of neighbouring countries (Egypt, Tunisia) and NATO (Turkey, Britain, USA, Italy).

The problem is these countries (except US) have a sizeable expats community on the ground (25K just for Turkey, hundreds of thousands for Egypt) and this type of air intervention risks reprisals on the ground by the forces local to Qadaffi.

Any Air blockade will have to be enforced with Naval blockade as well and those risks shooting war with Libyan Navy (who dared to fight anyway).

It is not an easy call to make.
UN Security Council though, can get off their asses and provide a strong resolution that pave a way to immediate and strong No Fly Zone enforcement.

But the best bet right now for the Libyan Army to honor their oath to protect their country, not to their government. Get it done folks. You don't need foreign intervention and this time, your institution will be revered forever in your countries' folklore and legends.

Gene Sharp - the philosopher of non violent revolution

Gene Sharp is the world's foremost expert on non-violent revolution. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages, his books slipped across borders and hidden from secret policemen all over the world.
As Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine fell to the colour revolutions which swept across Eastern Europe, each of the democratic movements paid tribute to Sharp's contribution, yet he remained largely unknown to the public. 
Despite these successes and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2009 he has faced almost constant financial hardship and wild accusations of being a CIA front organisation. The Albert Einstein Institution based on the ground floor of his home is kept running by sheer force of personality and his fiercely loyal Executive Director, Jamila Raqib. BBC

Middle East & North Africa Instability Index 2

These are what the Qadaffi is doing to his own people

Bomb victim? -
Sniper victim?

Seif Qadaffi, Douche Numero Due

  • Libya
  • Morocco
    • The protests in several cities went mostly peaceful and uneventful. 
    • There were some small scale riots - here and there - but so is football matches. Nothing to worry about at this moment.
  • Egypt
    • No bad news
  • Bahrain
    • Stalemate
  • Yemen
    • Stalemate

Sunday, February 20, 2011

While MENA burns

1. Guangdong: 12.2% growth, $689 billion
2. Jiangsu: 13.5% growth, $620 billion = Turkey: $614 billion
3. Shandong: 12.5% growth, $597 billion = Indonesia: $540 billion
4. Zhejiang: 11.8% growth, $411 billion = Sweden: $406 billion
5. Henan: 12% growth, $333 billion = Greece: $329 billion
6. Hebei: 12.2% growth, $306 billion = Denmark: $309 billion
7. Liaoning: 13% growth, $265 billion = Thailand: $263 billion
8. Sichuan: 15.1% growth, $256 billion
9. Shanghai: 9.9% growth, $255.6 billion
10. Hunan: 14.5% growth, $241 billion = Finland: $238 billion
11. Hubei: 14.8% growth, $239 billion = Colombia: $234 billion
12. Fujian: 13.8% growth, $209 billion = Ireland: $227 billion
13. Beijing: 10.2% growth, $208.7 billion
14. Anhui: 14.5% growth, $185.8 billion = Egypt: $188 billion
15. Inner Mongolia: 15% growth, $176 billion = Chile: $163 billion
16. Shaanxi: 14.5% growth, $151.8 billion

17. Heilongjiang: 12.5% growth, $150 billion
18. Guangxi: 14.2% growth, $144 billion
19. Jiangxi: 14% growth, $143 billion
20. Tianjin: 17.4% growth, $138 billion = Algeria: $140 billion
21. Shanxi: 13.9% growth, $137.7 billion
22. Jilin: 13.7% growth, $130 billion = Hungary: $129 billion
23. Chongqing: 17.1% growth, $119.5 billion = Kazakhstan: $115 billion
24. Yunnan: 12.3% growth, $109.4 billion
25. Xinjiang: 10.6% growth, $82.1 billion
26. Guizhou: 12.8% growth, $69.6 billion
27. Gansu: 11.5% growth, $62 billion = Libya: $62 billion
28. Hainan: 15.8% growth, $31.1 billion = Uruguay: $31.5 billion
29. Ningxia: 13.4% growth, $24.9 billion = Kenya: $29 billion
30. Qinghai: 15.3% growth, $20.5 billion = Turkmenistan: $20 billion
31. Tibet: 12.3% growth, $7.7 billion = Papua New Guinea: $7.9 billion (The Atlantic)
This is a list of China's provinces economic power compared to other countries in the world. 

Middle East & North Africa Instability Index

View Mapping Violence Against Pro-Democracy Protests in Libya in a larger map

  • Bahrain
    • Army is off the street. Pearl Square full of protesters. Political stalemate. A call for national dialog by the King and Crown Prince.
  • Libya
    • Eastern Libya is in full uprising. Protesters are being killed left and right (over 100 so far).
    • Armed insurrection probability is high.
    • There are organized efforts from Egypt populace to supply Eastern Libya since the anti Qaddafi protesters control the border between Libya and Egypt.
  • Yemen
    • Day 10 of protests in Sanaa, capital of Yemen.
    • Occasionally violent but largely peaceful so far.
    • Do not forget that Yemen is one of the most highly armed society in the world. 
  • Egypt
    • Banks opens today after being closed most of last week.
    • There are further possible of strikes this week which will undermine the economic recovery.
    • The security is slowing coming back in the outer suburbs of Cairo.
  • Tunisia
    • No data  yet.
  • Iran
    • Thousands are still in jail after the march last week.
    • There are reports of sporadic protests in Tehran today.
  • Morocco
    • Stable.
    • Interior Ministry promised not to intervene in protests.

Free Citizens of the World:

For a long time the people of Libya have suffered under the madness of their ruler, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, and his government. For too long, the people of Libya have suffered in silence. In the recent Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, fear has vanished from Arabs all over the region. It is time to be silent no more.

Despite the efforts of the regime to send in mercenaries, cut off land communications, and ban their populations from getting the truth, the people of Libya have stood up to claim what is their human birthright: Freedom.

Anonymous is willing to bring its help to the brave people of Libya. Anonymous declares by this statement its engagement with them in the common goal. We, the people, will not remain silent while dictators fire upon their citizens. We, the people, will not remain inactive while the powerful crush peaceful claims with violence.

The time of dictatorship regimes is over. The time of oppression has come to an end. We, the people, will walk fearless towards the global goal. Anonymous sends this message to the Libyan people: You are not alone. The world is once again watching. Your brothers and sisters are watching. Anonymous extends its arms to you in solidarity at your time of struggle. Together, we will achieve what you are fighting for and Mankind will be free at last.

We are Anonymous.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.

Smart Morocco

The Interior Minister of Morocco has promised that the security forces will not intervene in any of the protests being organized today and tomorrow.

The more you fight the protesters, the bigger they become and you will have to kill a lot of them (and risk armed insurgency - like Libya) or have the Army abandon you and you lose your power (like Egypt and Tunisia).

Let people protests. Take the lazy way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Middle East Coverage

There are a  lot of protests across the Middle East right now and we haven't covered any of them yet. That will change from today. I've been taking a break from revolutions coverage this week.

Right now what you are seeing the profound effect of the maxim that "Revolutions are contagious". We are seeing defiant protests in Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Iran. There are other protests in Iraq and Jordan but those countries rulers are smart enough not to crack down on peaceful protesters.

The Egyptian economic is going to take a beating for a while, not just because of its famous 18 days peaceful revolution. The region is experiencing a turmoil and that will scare off investors and tourists.

It is a good time though to visit Egypt. The Winter is still on and there are less tourists to crowd you. You will get substantial discounts on the hotels and other amenities as well.

Check out, an initiative by a bunch of my friends to initiate dialogs and develop proposals for the development of Egypt.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Indonesian model

"The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt today is significantly different from the Islamist movement driven by Ayatollah Khomeini that ended up grabbing power in Tehran. It has renounced violence in both word and deed for decades and undergone a significant process of moderation. It lacks a charismatic leader such as Khomeini and has already confronted limits to its popular backing through its unofficial participation in parliamentary elections. The current protests in Egypt have focused on non-religious concerns and not featured Islamist slogans or objectives. The Muslim Brotherhood will certainly play an important role in post-Mubarak Egyptian politics, but Egypt is not ripe for a radical Islamist revolution. 
In Indonesia, a dictator who had ruled for more than two decades—holding himself out as the only guarantor of his nation’s stability and serving as Washington’s steadfast ally—tumbled from power after a brief but intense surge of protests led by students and a smattering of NGOs that had managed to survive in the narrow margins of Indonesian political life. The Clinton administration stayed with the aging tyrant almost to the bitter end, issuing tepid calls for reform, refusing to believe he could fall so quickly and worrying deeply about what might follow—chaos, an Islamist takeover, or an actual breakup of the country. 
Yet, despite its abrupt, unprepared transition, absence of any deep experience with democracy, entrenched security forces with blood on their hands, and location in a largely undemocratic neighborhood, Indonesia navigated a shaky but remarkably successful passage to democracy. Today, it is the largest democracy in the Muslim world, enjoying rapid economic growth at home and actively supporting democracy in its region. Four Islamic political parties are represented in Indonesia’s parliament and the president’s cabinet, but their vote share has diminished over the past ten years, dropping below 30 percent in the last parliamentary elections. Moderate Islamic values have gained ground in the society generally; Islamic radicalism, after lashing out violently, is marginalized." (TNR)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Transnations Uprising

"As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.” 
For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth movement called Otpor, which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene Sharp. The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr. Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify repression in the name of stability. 
The April 6 Youth Movement modeled its logo — a vaguely Soviet looking red and white clenched fist—after Otpor’s, and some of its members traveled to Serbia to meet with Otpor activists."
NY Times

Friday, February 11, 2011

Night of Liberation

I got more pictures on Facebook, It's "public" but you need an account.

Farewell Friday

Source of image is unknown.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt BREAKING: Military has told Mubarak to Step Down, an Announcement to happen tonight.

The Egyptian Military Council has met (without Mubarak) and has stopped an expected announcement by Hosni Mubarak to step down and appoint VP Omar Suleiman as President.

The Egyptian Military has told Mubarak that they will not support Omar Suleiman as President and has requested that power should be transfered to the Military.

The Egyptian Military is positioning itself as being a steward for setting up elections for a Democratic Egypt and not a permanent political presence.  There are of course concerns about what role the Military will actually play, however, the people seem to be more amenable to a Military steward rather than anyone affiliated with Mubarak's NDP.

It is now expected that Mubarak will make an announcement tonight, but there it is unclear whether he will appoint the Military, the VP or the head of the parliament/cabinet to power.

Watch Al Jazeera for updates.

UPDATE: Mubarak spoke, and delivered nothing new to the debate.  Aside from further angering the crowd by referring to them as "his children" and taking soul credit for all changes happening to the constitution, which are not here nor there has there is not any real input by the protesters, he said nothing helpful.

It is very interesting that State TV and the Military had made statements that alluded to Mubarak stepping down and "making history" this evening, but it seems that those reports were wrong.  It will be interesting to see what the Military will do, because we know that tomorrow will be another (possibly the largest) protest yet.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

When the night comes

A night market has developed in Tahrir square - not just for ideas but also the common fares you find in Cairo's streets. You would see Koshari stands, peanuts carts, tea stands. Semi permanent camps of clumsy plastic sheets mushroomed in pieces of earths between asphalt roads. Music blared from screeching loudspeakers and the night was dimly lit by yellow street lamps barely able to pierce the moonless sky.

Throngs of people you would find in corners of Cairo street were there - it was 9.30 PM and people were still coming up, in small groups, little hands of tots and children clinging to their mothers. The army had moved the check point to the downtown side of Qasr el Nile bridge; a sign of improved safety. Three lines of civilian checkpoints were still there, a sign of vigilance.

Large portraits of the martyred - all young - were hang between lamp posts - only meters from the bold red KFC restaurant now covered with posters and sign. Some pictured show them smiling, the dream of youth before taken violently by the people who were supposed to serve them. Some pictures showed them in their lifeless state, of their deaths, with blood under them and evidences of head wounds.

Nisrin and I brought 10 candles and the crowd with lit candles on their hands started to form in front of the martyrs. We lit two and shared the rest with grateful people who were seconds ago wished they had brought one. In minutes rows of candles flickered lighting up the large posters and brought solemn calm to people that gathered around.

There were easily ten thousand strong in this night vigil - every corner offered something different; one provided steady beat of Egyptian drum with rhymes of poetry recited to the downfall of the regime; Om Kalthum cried her heart out for her country in another corner. The night protest - at least tonight - had a very different feel compared to the days. It was reflective and less angry but defiant just the same.

Photographs of an Egyptian revolution - you need FB account to view the albums

Departure Friday (Feb 4)

Million March (Feb 2)

Rage Friday (Jan 28)

    Jan 25 (

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Indonesia finally crosses Middle Income threshold

Indonesia’s gross domestic product surpassed $3,000 per capita for the first time last year, the statistics agency said on Monday, lifting the young democracy of 240m people into the league of middle-income countries. 
While the middle-income threshold itself (as defined by the World Bank) is arbitrary, it is worth pausing to reflect on how it happened: thanks largely to the emergence of a middle class that could be putting the country on a new growth trajectory. 
“Indonesia may have entered a period of accelerated development”, said Cyilus Harinowo, an economist former and central bank director. “South Korea experienced a very high growth rate once it reached this tipping point”. FT

"announced on Monday, opening the door to Africa's newest state and a fresh period of uncertainty for the fractured region. 
Hundreds of south Sudanese danced, screamed and waved flags as the announcement was broadcast on a line of TV sets in a square in the center of the southern capital Juba. 
A total of 98.83 percent of voters from Sudan's oil-producing south chose to secede from the north in last month's referendum, the chairman of the vote's organizing commission Mohammed Ibrahim Khalil said.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Cairo: Resuming work day - also - Martyr's day

  1. Traffic Jam is back.
  2. Most banks are open.
  3. The Cairo Zoo in Giza is open.
  4. Christian Coptic performed a Sunday Mass in the square.

It's another day and I am looking forward for the business activities to resume to close to normal level this week. Food delivery also works.

"Tahrir square is friggin' awesome tonight! Seriously! After getting searched,the ladies/men apologize for the inconvenience, then you get welcoming by a marching band, then the square is one big freedom fest, and on ur way back the marching band thanks u and invites u again tmrw and asks u to post ur pics on 'fas-bok'. Love it!" (Luli)

Welcome to the future - 2 hour jetpack

Check the video out at Wired.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Day of Departure - Field report from Tahrir Square

Picture from earlier today.

I am glad to report that peace and festivity in Tahrir Square has returned. Man, what an amazing crowd.

The crowd size is a bit smaller at 1 - 2 PM than last Tuesday's Million March - but everybody is back. There is understandably less children today. Man, women, young, old, they are all back.

There are three tanks with around 20 soldiers setting up checkpoints in front of Kasr el Nile bridge at the Gezira island section. Then you walk through the length of the bridge to get another military checkpoints. After that, there were two more civilian checkpoints checking your ids. They also keep repeating the mantra of "be peaceful".

Once you passed all these checkpoints, there were crowds forming lines on two sides tunelling you to the square like an Egyptian wedding. People chanted and sang and waved flag as you walk through this human corridor. Tahrir square revealed itself in its glorious setting at the end of this.

The scene of the battlefield was a distance from the far end of Tahrir square, near the Egyptian Museum. Four tanks and a human chain cordoned this area to discourage people to come near it. I did not witness any scene of rock throwing from my vantage point. I saw men and women with bandages on their arm and head - they wore it like a badge of honor.

This is the fourth time I visited the square - the sense of defiance is stronger and there is a confidence and much earned pride in the air of having defended this place for the past two harrowing days and force peace so ordinary people and observers like me can be part of it without fear.

I saw a couple of journalists on the scene with their visible cameras interviewing people. When I was queuing in the check point, there's a working class looking person being interviewing by a foreign journalist via a translator. He said "we are civilized people, just like Germany or France. We want to make sure that our protests remain and always be peaceful".

I don't know how this will end but if the pride, the sense of community, the love of country and the dignity that have been shown today in the square and in the last 11 days, Egypt's best days are ahead of it.

I was a bit reluctant to go out today because yesterday there were instances of foreigner and journalists being targeted by thugs in the surrounding streets. Everything went smoothly without a hitch. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today, this Friday, is one beautiful day.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Egypt #8: Mubarak is "Fed Up", Says He Wants to Quit

In an exclusive interview with ABC's Christiane Amanpour, Hosni Mubarak has stated that he wants to leave office, but fears that "chaos" will reign if he does.  Read the whole interview here.

Its an interesting stance for Mubarak to take, undoubtedly coached and pre-meditated. It definitely plays more on foreign governments, who likely have a stereotype of Egyptians as disorganized and impulsive, more so than the Egyptian people, who have a real understanding of the social tectonics of their country.  I will say I've had similar stereotypes from my experiences in Egypt, but honestly I haven't seen those traits anywhere in these peaceful, organized and communal protests over the weekend.  It's reaffirmed my belief that democracy brings ownership and pride to the people.

In addition, Mubarak continues to beat the Muslim Brotherhood fear drum.  The fact is: This isn't their revolution.  They aren't in the majority.  They have only slightly more societal legitimacy than Mubarak.  Perhaps they would have been a good bogeyman had they lead the charge, taken leadership, jockeyed for power or not appointed their interests to El-Baradei (a Western educated, liberal Muslim Egyptian), but the fact is: The MB has been as lost in this revolution as the Egyptian government (or the US/UK/EU for that matter).  Reported to be the most organized group in Egypt, it is apparent that they have been either disorganized or disinterested in becoming the next despotic Middle Eastern government.  What ends up playing out could still put the Muslim Brotherhood in a leadership position, but that seems unlikely.

He also denies that the pro-Mubarak protesters are under his pay or order.  An outright lie for anyone who has followed Egyptian politics in the last 20 years.  He practically invented hiring thugs to do things unbecoming of uniformed police officers (Iran thanks him for this oppressive innovation!).

Reports are that there is still violence in Tahrir (expected to get worse as the night continues).  There were a number of journalist beaten, harassed, or detained (some now released) today.  State television is showing a calm, empty Tahrir on  TV, contrasting with Al Jazeera's live footage of protests and skirmishes in the square.  The new Vice President has also criticized "other Arab" governments for inciting Egypt's youth to revolt, a thinly veiled dig at Qatari backed Al Jazeera's mostly balanced coverage of the protests.

The Egyptians will hold their ground, and nothing will be the same.  Mubarak needs to pass the buck to the Egyptian Military who needs to appoint Ayman Nour or El-Baradei to form a temporary government, make changes to the constitution, organize elections, and encourage a new multi-party political system. (I apologize if this last part is presumptuous and probably wont be what happens. If anyone has an idea of how things would play out when Mubarak leaves office, I would love to read it).

UPDATE: Sobering analysis of the current protester, military and Mubarak dynamic.  Has Mubarak already won?  If you are in Egypt, read this, spread it.

Egypt #7: Violence, Gun Fire Erupts in Tahrir

The fact that Al Jazeera is still alluding to these "pro-Mubarak protesters" as anything less than hired authoritarian thugs is a farce.

Tahrir Square, assailed since early Wednesday, has taken a turn for the worse with gun fire and Molotov cocktails being hurled at peaceful protesters by government thugs.  There are reports of at least 4 killed.  There are still women and children in the square, unable to leave.

The real protesters have barricaded Tahrir to protect themselves.  There have been skirmishes along the main elevated artery where thugs and protesters have battled for the higher ground.

I have no idea how Mubarak thinks this will play out.  There is no way now that people can go back to their lives.  There is no way that he can step down and save any face.  He will never again be able to call himself Egyptian to the Egyptian people.  There is no trust, and no legitimacy.  Any government that colludes with him (including the US) will have sold their own standing for piasters.

Al Jazeera is still carrying Tahrir Square live with live reports from people in the square.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Egypt #6: Pro-Mubarak and Protesters clash, Military looks to support Mubarak

The internet has returned to Egypt, it is unclear what the thinking was behind that move, but it was likely under the pressure of foreign governments. And with that, Dody is back, definitely read his on the ground account of the protests a few entries down.

Mubarak has decided not to go quietly.  Today, pro-Mubarak forces (in plain cloths, but suspected to be police or paid supporters) road into Tahrir square on trucks, horses and camels sparking violence in, what for the past few days, has been an orderly and safe Tahrir Square.

The US, UK and EU are all pushing for Mubarak to step down well before his September deadline.

Reports of wounded protesters and Military turning to a draconian crowd control role are coming from Al Jazeera.

Any hopes that Mubarak would go seem to be dashed.  He will likely need to be removed by force, and the military looks at this point to be turning on the protesters.

In other Middle Eastern news: Jordan has reshuffled its cabinet and the Yemeni president has said he will also not seek re-election. It looks like other Middle Eastern leaders are trying to get ahead of the popular storm and will move to a more representative government without being cornered as the bad guy, like Mubarak.  

We are not out of the woods yet

The Internet is back up but the political situation are yet to be completely resolved. This Friday can be trouble. I will upload more picture later on the day. I am leaving my office right now and connect from home.

Raw Notes: Rage Friday

Today I got teargassed. Motherfucker.

I am writing this at 9 PM local time - the army is taking control of the street and you can hear the military helicopters criscrossing the sky. I have 7 Egyptian men with me in the room. They are talking about the event of the day. Most of them were out on the street starting noon. So was I except that I did not do the Friday prayer for the clear reason that I am not a Muslim. I am not an Egyptian either.

I was on the street covering the demonstration that rooted in Mohammed Ahmed mosque located at the heart of Mohandessen. I brought with me a cheap ass camera and a 2000 dollars 300 mm camera I borrowed from my friend.

My house is almost accross from the Sheraton Cairo Dokki - being in a small street that was just across it. As I type this document, a crowd is disarming the 7 Central Security Forces truck and putting all the batons and shields and putting them in a white taxi. The time is 9:17 PM.

Welcome to new Egypt. Fuck you all, we are here to rock.

In the day, the demonstration quickly move off the Gamaat El Dowel street.

9.25: a small crowd is cornering a lowly paid soldier. He is crying. I am worried. 10 meters from my building is a gas station and the reach of the 7 trucks are in fron of the gas station. There are also about 16 cars being parked on this small street. If some fuckers tried to burn the trucks, this whole place is going to fucking explode. Fuck.

Mostafa and Taher went down to check out what's up.

As we speak right now there is a sense of eerie calm in Cairo. The army is in town. The police stopped fighting and exploding tear gas. Oh, did I tell you they fucking teargassed me?

back to the demonstration. I was in the same street 4 days ago, Jan25, the awesome day that turned the tide. At that time, the street returned to normal five to six minutes after the demo passed. This time, there were crowd gathering after the first wave. I followed immediately behind the first wave up to the 6th of October when I realized that there was a second wave of protested 50 meters behind me. I was too distracted by the pretty American girl walking alone on the street.

Nearing dokki square, I strated to fell the effect of tear gas. i continued along in the middle of the end of the protested and I found myself in the old place, in my neighbourhood. The protested once again

By the way, the famous NDP headquarter that's burning right now? It's located to the fucking Egyptian Museum. Better fucking pray that the fire did not latch to the Museum otherwise we can kiss gazillion of mummies and other precious artifacts of Egyptian history.

9:35. OK, the commotion on the street outside my house is now over. The neighbourhood people manage to call people down and kick some troublemakers out. Welcome to the lawless night of Cairo Friday.

I saw a bunch of foreign women on the street in the demo today. Some were good looking. Yes, women were on the street. I saw multiple families with young children wrapped in Egyptian flag. One little boy was in tears because he was getting the effect of lingering tear gas in the air.

So I stayed on Tahrir street in Dokki for an hour, taking pictures and checking out the crowd. I stumbled on Luli and her sister and brother. I did not expect her. She called me 3 AM last night being pissed about the mobile and land Internet being cutt off. She had previously determine not to join the protester - but the fucking insane decision by the Egyptian government to cut off Internet and Mobile Phone networks in Friday.

A friend of the house (we got guys staying over the house from time to time) worked for Etisalat, and his team was instructed to implement measures to cut off Internet and disable GSM network for Friday. He called Mostafa at 11 PM yesterday and we got fucking surprised and mad. By that time, the SMS service have been out for 2 hours.

Etisalat, Mobinil and Vodafone are the three major telecommunication carrier for Egypt. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you for cooperating with the regime, you coward piece of shit. But thanks to your cowardice, the whole Egypt finally figured out how fucked up and scared the regime is.

We reached a stalemate

21.44PM: I was just informed that the persont that took out all the weapons from the Central Security Forces trucks on my street was a police officer. The army is probably ordered the disarmament of the Central Securit Forces. booya.

Where was I? OK, we have been switching channel between Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera, BBC News and CNN International. Thank God we don't have fucking Fox News in Egypt otherwise I would have throw out the TV. Fuck you Fox News.

Today I felt completely safe among the crowd. At Dokki stalemate, the police probably lob around 50 or 60 tear gas.

22:00 I was informed that that in 30 - 60 minutes, troops will be completely deployed in Cairo and Alexandria. The Ahram newspaper head announced thae Mubarak is going to make a speech once everything is under contro. Man, this is fucking UNPREDICTABLE. I have no fucking idea whether Mubarak is going to resign or is he going to give a big fucking finger to the Egyptians.

Yes, newstalker, the curfew is being fucking ignore. What do you expect, Egyptians never follow any law.

Alright, I got teargassed when I tried to reach my home from the other side. Too bad that my street was flooded with tear gas and when I tried to reach my building front door in the smoke of tear gas, I found the door was fucking LOCKED.

One kind kid happened to be around and he gave me oninon to put near my eye. That's how fucking terrible a teargas is. You put fucking onion on your eyes to feel better.

30 minutes after, the police ran out of tear gas and they just gave up trying to control the square. So the protesters to the square in front of Sheraton Cairo. I rushed up to the square and met Mostafa with Suzy and others. Mostafa and I then climbed up to the 9th floor of our building to take better view of the square of the gathering crowds.

What a fucking joyous sight to see.

At 3 PM, the adzan, call to prayer rang out and people started to make a line to do a prayer. People started to pray on the street, on the square, in the time of the revolution. They needed all the support from above today.

I went down from the rooftop around 4 and started to make more pictures on the square from the ground level. Soon after, there's cheer going out, GIZA people has arrived. I watched southward and saw these .

22:09. Gibbs is on BBC. We are all listening to his careful speech.
There's a question about whether he knows of clashes between National Police and National Army.

22:20 More police officers take more equipments out of the security trucks.

Back to earlier in day. Reinforcement from Giza has arrive. Stream of people with yellow banners walk calmly, man, women with hijab or Niqab, young, old. I stood on a ledge on the road and took their pictures. They were friendly and excited to see me. Many of them gave out the V finger.

22:24. Tony Blair is on. Blah, blah, blah, middle east blah. Fuck him.

22:25. I am sitting in the living room. We have Amr, xx, loai friend, osama, yasser, taher and mostfa. Where the fuck is loai.

By the way, we still don't have fucking Internet and fucking email.

About 10 minutes ago, we heard a loud bang. Mostafa informed us that it was a police car exploded. He came down from Amr place.

This house is the house of revolunary. Can I hear a booya?

22:29: Gibs answering a question about el-baradey.
Free baradey. Free baradey. Free baradey.

22:31. We are listening tentatively to Gibb on.

22:31 great question on Vodafone. Why the fuck did it turn the off the Internet and network.

I never care for white house briefing but i am glued. Also because there's nothing to do tonight.

23:34 lulu appears.

22:36 oh, landline phone is working. Just the fucking mobile doesn't work. Fuck you again Vodafone, Etisalat and Mobinil.

22:39. We are watching aljazeera now - showing picture of earlier that.

22:45 ever heard the song fuck the police? well that's the theme of the night right now.

22:51 I am tired.

Mona Eltahawy on Democracy Now

Translate speak2tweet

Translations of voice messages from Egypt via speak2tweet

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Egypt #5: Mubarak to step down in September, does not quell protests

Mubarak made another late night plea to the people: He will be stepping down in September (when the normal 6 year elections take place) and will not run for re-election. He has vowed to stay in Egypt, and die on Egyptian soil.

There are reports that the move was under the pressure of the United States.

Now taking an editorial spin: This is way too little, too late.  Mubarak should have stepped down and had Suleiman (or preferably El-Baradei) oversee new elections (without participating of course).  This would have at least had the possibility of success.  The protesters need at least the win of Mubarak stepping down disgraced, and if the US was any party to this compromise, it was of very poor calculation on their part.

On the other front: International citizens are being evacuated en-masse.  According to the comments below, Dody is safe and still participating in the protests and will likely stay in Egypt for the immediate future.  The economy has ground to a halt in Egypt, but their appears to still be food and other necessities available to protesters.

Mubarak will fall, now it is just a matter of when.  The biggest question now becomes: What will take his place?

Google, Twitter and SayNow bring Tweeting-By-Phone to Egypt

I just saw in TechCrunch, that through the Google Blog it was announced that Google has worked over the weekend with Twitter and SayNow to provide a "speak-to-tweet" service, no internet connection required. How cool and useful is that for a weekend project?
So how does it work? "anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail in on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialling the same phone numbers or going to"
If you get in touch with Dody, let him know!!