Monday, November 30, 2009

Ayman Nour: A visit to Gaza

Ayman Nour

After the conclusion of the official reception of my trip with Amr Mousa to Gaza on the occasion of opening the first session of the Palestinian National Council, I received an invitation from a Palestinian Member of Parliament to attend a meeting at the Social Club of Gaza. His name, as far as I remember was Hamadah El-Fara’ena.

In that meeting, I was introduced to a high profile group of Palestinian leaders who belong to the Intifada generation. The most prominent among them were Marawan Barghouthy from the Fatah movement, Abdul Khalek Al Natshah from Hamas, in addition to some other independent political activists.

In the meeting, I had a feeling that I am seeing a different Palestine, unlike the one I left in despair at Arafat’s house, which I sneaked out of to attend the activists’ meeting. There, I saw a real image of the fire burning inside Palestine! I was transformed from a cold conversation at Arafat’s house about personal memories on public and private meetings and phone calls to a real hot debate on the future of Palestine, criticizing the newborn presidency, constitution, and Oslo 1993.

I was an eyewitness to the exchange of serious accusations between liberal and independent leaders. They mentioned the absence of transparency and democracy. They were preoccupied by the involvement of the Palestinian Authority with the ill mechanisms of building the state via importing the worst examples of ruling regimes in the Arab world. They did not want individualism, monopoly, and corruption to be the pillars of establishing the newborn state. They also had big doubts regarding the injustice of diplomatic developments.

The representatives of Hamas, in the meeting, discussed the fragile balance indicated in Oslo and described it as a “domination peace!” This term stole my ears and I could not forget it until I read it again in Raymond Irawan’s book Paixet Guenne Entx Leanationa in 2004.
I saw the power of the Intifada removing the accumulated clouds of division and weakness in the sky of Palestinian national unity. It strengthened hope in reaching a comprehensive and unified solution.

Israel succeeded in planting a burning cord into the powder keg, by involving Arafat, and later, Abbas, into transformational phases, which gave the Israeli side more space to impose a negative rhythm on the development of social movements. They ran into signing conventions based on the logic of steps and testing the ability of the newborn authority to guarantee Israel security – or rather, suppressing Islamist radicals and secularists.

The internal crisis of Palestine cannot be reduced to the conflict between Fattah and Hamas, or illusionary (made in USA) groups of “moderates” and “extremists.” This is a mere echo of the naïve division of the world into the “Empire of Good” and the “Empire of Evil” by Reagan in his infamous Orlando Florida speech to the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983. The same concept came to the surface once again by Bush after the September 11 attacks.

My evidence on the inaccuracy of this reduction of the internal Palestinian crisis to a conflict between moderates and extremists is that the majority of Palestinian politicians who participated in the aforementioned meeting are in jail, now.
If we look into the “Prisons” Initiative launched by Marawan Barghouthy of Fatah and Abdul Khalek Al Natshah of Hamas, we realize that the Palestinian-Palestinian conflict is not a conflict between moderation and extremism. It is a conflict between two views of managing a homeland which is not found yet.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ayman Nour: Human dignity in Egypt

Like cows, chickens, rabbits and ants, the blood of Egyptian people is cheap, and their dignity is valueless. Why Egyptians were insulted in the Gulf, died in Iraq, and got abused in Libya, Lebanon and most recently beaten in Sudan? Why harming an Egyptian is a crime without punishment; an easy action with no reaction?
Is it because we are good, sensitive, and religious? Like soda, we rise up in a moment and calm down in the next moment! Is it because we are a nation of giving without limitations and taking nothing, eating nothing, having no place to sleep, or live and then thank God for the grace?
The physical attack by some Algerians against Egyptians in Sudan, last week, is not an incident, but a result of many previous incidents in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, and Jordan. Why, then, should we be so angry against Algeria?
Why should we be so angry against any of those who insulted us? Absolutely, it is our fault and not their mistake. We have lost our honor when we gambled on the sincerity of others and forgot to preserve our dignity within our homeland.
Wherever you go in the Arab world, hurtful words are poured like dirty water over our heads accompanied by the tales of Egyptian labor without any reaction from our embassies, which always take disgusting and shameful stance towards such insult.
Speaking of Egypt as the big sister and the heart of the Arab world is nothing but verbal eloquence, which today’s world cannot understand. The discourse of the weight of Egypt no longer exists. Egyptian weight is measured by its political and economic power. It is measured by neither its huge population nor the years of service and long age of its president.
The powerful and the rich are the real rulers of this era. They can force the whole world to respect them, regardless of the rules of national compassion, the similarity of blood type, and the relationship to the descent Sibawayh.
It does not matter at all; the amendments made by the Egyptian Ministry of Interior on the Egyptian passport, by making it lighter, smaller, and well protected against falsification. The fact that this passport represents prestige and respect in the eyes of others is what really matters. That is if the Egyptian people seeking dignity can find it in their homeland first.
Egyptian communities abroad reflect the situation in their homeland. If the Egyptian citizen is beaten and insulted in his own homeland, what should we expect from strangers, even if those strangers hold the same religious beliefs, the same language, and the same historical background? The Egyptian has gradually turned into a half human, quarter human, and then the remains of a human! And, the remains have no value in the eyes of others.
Egypt is dwelled in by weevils from head to toe and is almost falling down due to its failure in different activities: education, poverty, despotism, and corruption. We no longer have a way-out to save Egypt and Egyptians’ reputation and dignity. Instead, we should burn fire in the forest of weevils, and await the birth of a new tree.
When we are ruled by King «Sun» or Louis IX, who believes that everything in this country is his property, there will be nothing valuable in the country except the king himself. Then, long live the king, and hell takes the rest.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ayman Nour: Public Prosecutor is not Independent, Mr. Aboul Gheit

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, committed a fallacy while commenting on the Public Prosecutor’s decision to prevent me from traveling to the U.S. last week. He stated that “the prosecutor’s decision has nothing to do with the Egyptian government!” Apparently, Aboul Gheit does not know that the Public Prosecutor of Egypt is affiliated with the Egyptian government, not another country. The Public Prosecutor’s office is an essential part of the executive authority headed by President Mubarak, who assigns the public prosecutor via a presidential decree.
Aboul Gheit’s statements from Sharm El-Sheikh encouraged opening a thorny file to answer the critical questions: Does the Egyptian public prosecutor truly represent the social structure including its sectors, parties and various forces? Is the public prosecutor, merely, a crown of the executive authority with its one political color and one party? Is the public prosecutor biased in fulfilling the direct and indirect demands of the head of the executive authority on the expense of the social structure, which the public prosecutor represents?
First of all, let’s examine the mechanism of selecting the Public Prosecutor in Egypt. Despite his unlimited powers, the public prosecutor is not selected or nominated by the General Assembly of the Cassation Court. In other countries across the world, the public prosecutor is hired by the Cassation Court and is usually given a judicial role. In Egypt, it is quite different. In Egypt, article 119 of Law 142/2006 stipulates the necessity of the approval of the Supreme Council of Judiciary on the selection of the Public Prosecutor, Assistant Public Prosecutor, Attorney General, and other members of the Public Prosecution. However, the President of the state – who is also the head of the executive authority – selects the Public Prosecutor with a presidential decree, with complete disregard to the aforementioned approval of Supreme Council of Judiciary.
This statuesque emphasizes the absolute power of the head of the executive committee to hire whoever he wants in this very critical position. Subsequently, neutrality and independence is absent. There is controversy around some cases in the Mubarak era. The most prominent is hiring Councilor Ragae’i El-Arabi, in 1991, as a Public Prosecutor, on the backdrop of his work in the “politically motivated” State Security Prosecution. He was selected for the vital position despite the long line of worthy older names. Another controversial case was that of Maher Abdul Wahed, who did not serve at the Cassation Court or at least as an Assistant Prosecutor or an Attorney General! In one day, he moved from an administrative job at the executive authority, as Assistant Minister of Justice to be the Public Prosecutor!
The Public Prosecutor is not only hired according to the sole order of the head of the executive authority, but was also fired in the same way until recently! The unusual general assembly of Alexandria Judges Club made a resolution to amend article 67 of Law 46/1972 with the purpose to give the Public Prosecutor immunity against dismissal. Yet, this immunity does not mean independence under the applied policies of carrots and sticks!
In Egypt, the absence of neutrality and independence is not limited to selecting the Public Prosecutor. However, they are extended to the roles of the whole judiciary system, including its administrative and financial independence. The Minister of Justice – who is also a member of the executive authority – interferes in the work of the Public Prosecutor. This proves the lack of independence claimed by Aboul Gheit.
Article 62 of Law 46/1972 entitles the Minister of Justice to delegate the members of the Public Prosecution to do additional tasks in different administrative authorities upon monetary compensations. The administrative authority which receives the deputized public prosecutor can dismiss him at any moment. Again, this carrot and stick policy violates the claimed independence of the Public Prosecutor and other members of the Public Prosecution. One of the most flagrant examples is deputizing prosecution members to State Security Affairs, which approves the verdicts and sentences ordered by Emergency Court, which falls under the direct control of both the President of the State, as the military ruler, and the Prime Minister, as the vice military ruler.
During the past few years, the executive authority delegated the members of the Public Prosecution and the assistants of the Minister of Justice to supervise judicial inspection of various prosecutions, the technical office of the Public Prosecutor, heads of Appeal Court and General Attorney office.
The structural independence of the Public Prosecution is also systematically violated. This can be proved by the huge difference between formal legal allotments and actual payments in the form of annual salaries. Since 2004, the margin of difference reached to 234,649,782.2 LE. This huge difference is abused by the executive authority, which has the absolute power of giving or deducting according to the level of obedience by the Public Prosecution.
Other blatant examples of violations include preventing me from traveling and earning my living, monitoring and spying on my private communications, and most importantly refusing to execute legal verdicts for the El-Ghad Party and myself. This is a severe, shameful, double standard policy in the time of unashamed tyranny!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Egyptian Activist Nour Presses For More Rights in Political Process

Ayman Nour giving interview to VOA, 3 Jun 2009Ayman Nour giving interview to VOA (03 Jun 2009)

Egyptian authorities recently banned opposition leader Ayman Nour from traveling to the United States where he was invited to speak to several organizations. While Egyptian authorities say the ban is lawful, Nour's supporters say it is the latest in a series of moves aimed at marginalizing opposition groups ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.

Ayman Nour, the main challenger to President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election in 2005, is no stranger to political pressure.

He founded the opposition el Ghad party, created to represent a liberal democratic perspective, with a strong interest in human rights. Nour used the party as a platform to call for constitutional reform, limiting the president's powers and opening presidential elections to multiple candidates.

The opposition leader was recently blocked by Egyptian authorities from traveling to the United States to attend conferences at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and other groups.

The U.S. State Department has called on the Egyptian government to reconsider its ban.

Nour says he has been barred from teaching at any state universities. He says he cannot access his bank accounts and cannot participate as a candidate in any elections. He was also jailed shortly after the 2005 elections on charges of forgery and spent over three years in prison before being released in February in what he describes as a ploy to get him out of politics.

Egyptian authorities say the travel ban was a condition of his early release from prison. Nour disagrees. A lawyer by profession, he says he knows his rights and is not giving up.

He says that opposing political corruption, particularly the kind of corruption he's seen after the elections and since his arrest, is not a choice, but a duty.

Cairo University professor and member of the ruling National Democratic Party's advisory committee Mohamed Kamal rejects Nour's claims and says the politician has plenty of freedom.

"I think there is some exaggeration in these accusations," Kamal said. "Ayman Nour is free to engage in whatever campaign he wants to engage in. He has access to the people. He has access to the media. Maybe the question he doesn't ask himself is whether this cause that he carries the flag (for) is popular among Egyptians or not."

Other opposition groups say they, too, are hampered in their attempts to participate openly in Egyptian political life. Not far from Kamal's office, Muslim Brotherhood students at Cairo University protest moves they say are aimed at keeping them out of the student union elections.

On the national level, the Muslim Brotherhood are banned from officially putting forth candidates for election. The Egyptian constitution forbids political parties based on religion. The group has done well despite the law, with 88 members who ran as independents now in parliament.

According to Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker Akram Shaar, there are concerted efforts by the ruling party to keep opposition groups at bay.

He says everyone ranging from opposition groups, the mainstream and everyday honest citizens who love their country are prevented from taking part in a true and open dialogue. He said they are also prevented from taking part in elections and from having their opinions heard.

In a wider effort to keep up pressure on Egypt's ruling party, Nour joined forces with the Muslim Brotherhood and several other opposition groups to launch a campaign called Did Al-Wirasa, meaning "against inheritance." Its name is a reference to the president's son, Gamal Mubarak, head of the National Democratic Party's policies committee, who is widely seen as being groomed to take over from his father.

Nour says that it is every citizen's right to choose and to be a part of the country's decision-making process. He says the new campaign is aimed at curbing any decisions taken without the people's vote. Nour says people want to choose who rules them.

81-year-old President Mubarak, who has been in power for 28 years, has yet to say if he will seek another six-year term in office. Likewise, his son has not announced his plans. But many believe that what takes place in next year's parliamentary elections will set the tone for what happens in the 2011 presidential vote.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ayman Nour: Egypt opposition versus the government

Egypt is the land of wonders. The first anniversary of the burning the headquarters of the el-Ghad Party coincides with the fifth anniversary of establishing it. I am astonished by the ability of those involved in burning my office to keep their self respect! I wonder how they dare to look right into the eyes of their children, spouses, and the whole of Egyptian society. I dare them to look into my eyes. No matter how mean and liars they are, they cannot stand long.
Some of the criminals, who committed the attack and the burning, claimed that they were in a “nonviolent” protest on Emergency Law. Others claimed that the purpose of the “nonviolent” rally was to condemn the allies of the US and the agents of Israel. Ironically, the leaders of the rally are mentioned on the CIA website. Some Egyptian newspapers – including the al-Wafd daily – condemned this already. At the same moment, this so-called “unbeatable fighter” who claims that his rally is against Israel was mentioned in Israeli media as an expected visitor after signing a business agreement with an Israeli agriculture company. One of the experts from this Israeli agriculture company is working at his office.
Egypt is the only country in the world where the ruling party selects its opposition groups and assigns its rivals. If they like an opposition activist, they will give him a license to launch an “opposition” party. If they dislike him later, they throw him in prison for years; sometimes for the same license they previously gave to him!
When Mostafa Kamal Helmy became the director of the Parties’ Affairs Committee, he infected it with some of his characteristics as a former teacher. PAC now applies the rule: good manners are preferred to intellectuality. I doubt that, one day, we might find a sub-line on the banner of the PAC reading: “discipline, pruning, and reform!” Currently, Pac director is the Secretary General of the ruling National Democratic Party. The members of PAC are the pro-regime officials from the ministries of Interior, Justice, etc. In case this committee rejected your request, you can yearn to the “Court of Parties,” which is run by judges, NDP members, and high profile governmental officials. If the PAC does not notify you with its decision, they have the right to put you in jail at any minute. Simply, the materials you submit are usually used as proof of you violating the law, in case they refused your request. If the committee chooses not notify you or send you to prison, they can plant thorns in your head. They send you someone who barely knows something about efforts you made for establishing your party and let him claim that he is a “partner” and even worse drag you down into a conflict of the leadership of your own party! Then, you find yourself obliged to prove owning a right of your own. This is the most successful strategy the government uses to exhaust you and sometimes cripple you, if you wanted to practice real opposition politics.
The judiciary cannot be of any help. If you file a claim, you have to wait for many years. If you wait and respect the rules until you finally have a verdict, the PAC still keeps the right to validate this verdict or not, and you have to wait for another supporting verdict to the first verdict. You can hold as many public conferences as you can, and the committee still keeps the right to pay attention or disregard you at all. This happens all the time in Egypt.
Egyptian political parties are either unauthorized, banned, or terrified from losing their license. The El-Ghad Party is a living example to this horrible disorder. Only 89 days after establishing the El-Ghad party, the PAC decided to solve the situation by imprisoning its leader and founder.
However, this did not lead to the results they were looking for, as we ranked second in the presidential election. Thus, the committee decided to shake us! One week after the presidential elections, they started the shaking game, but we stood strong in the face of the earthquake. Hence, the regime and its PAC decided to apply a new strategy: genocide. They arrested young members, besieged our activities, banned the party newspaper, and burnt its headquarters.
When will the regime and the so-called Parties Affairs Committee realize that political parties are not born by governmental decisions or killed by anonymous fires?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

EGYPT: Activist Ayman Nour blasts authorities for travel ban

EGYPT: Activist Ayman Nour blasts authorities for travel ban
November 5, 2009 | 6:45 am


Opposition leader Ayman Nour has attacked the ruling regime after he was barred from traveling to the United States, where he was invited to speak about Egypt's political climate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Nour and a number of Egyptian politicians, including Gamal Mubarak -- a top official in the ruling National Democratic Party and the son of President Hosni Mubarak -- were invited to the Carnegie event. Nour said he is convinced that his travel ban was intended to prevent anti-government figures from spoiling Gamal Mubarak's trip.

"Mubarak's son wants the lion's share of the Egyptian political sphere, whether that is inside or outside the country," Nour said. "But I will not give him such pleasure, and I will take part in the Carnegie seminar through video conferences."

The founder and former head of El Ghad opposition party, who was also planning to take part in a number of conferences organized by the Egyptian community in the U.S., previously said that the Egyptian public prosecutor had issued an administrative decision preventing him from going to the U.S. and other nations in the Middle East and Europe.

Gamal Mubarak is being groomed to succeed his father, a scenario resented by many Egyptians who have suffered under the government's economic programs and repressive human-rights policies and don’t want a Mubarak dynasty. Nour and fellow opposition activists and parties recently formed a coalition under the slogan Mayehkomsh ("You don't have the right to rule"), rejecting any succession plan.

After losing to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's first contested elections in 2005, Nour was sentenced to five years in prison on what are widely regarded as trumped-up charges of forging signatures in order to establish El Ghad party. He was released on health grounds in February and since then has only been allowed to leave the country to receive healthcare abroad.

Nour, who has been touring Egyptian cities to interact with citizens and demonstrate his political vision over the last few months, can't run in the 2011 presidential elections because of his earlier conviction.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Reject Anti-Semitism and Respect Egypt's Pluralism

Published on Wall Street Journal

Monday, November 2, 2009

The authors of "Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic?" (op-ed, Oct. 26), Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros, quote me at a conference I was invited to attend in the city of Port Said, Egypt shortly after my release from prison after contesting President Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections.

I would like to clarify a few points regarding the statements attributed to me in the article. First, neither myself nor my party, El-Ghad, were the organizers of this forum. I was invited to attend in my personal capacity, and to make a short statement. I was not responsible for any graffiti or items placed on the banners in the conference.

Furthermore, my statements referred specifically to Israel's conduct during the Gaza war, which in my opinion was highly objectionable.

I was distraught over the excessive loss of civilian life in Gaza, and I regret that my comments were expressed in a way that was unclear and that may have understandably offended.

Anyone examining my record can easily discern that I have always supported and upheld Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, and have strongly opposed calls of aggression against Israel.

I have also consistently called for a peaceful and just resolution to the Arab Israeli conflict. I gave a recent interview published in Commentary magazine where I stated, "El-Ghad supports every treaty made by Egypt before and will keep it going. We want to ensure peace with every country in the world."

I would like to conclude that the "anti-Semitic" label is one that I strongly reject. My critiques pertain to the conduct of the state of Israel in certain contexts and not to the Jewish people as a whole. The history of Egypt is replete with contributions from Jewish Egyptians, and that history of pluralism that once defined Egypt is one that I recall fondly and deeply respect.

Principles of religious pluralism and mutual respect and tolerance are principles that I strongly advocate not just in my position as a political activist, but as a human being.

Ayman Nour