Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Solidarity – Freedom For All

Solidarity - Union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests

In 2011 I made a conscience decision to leave Egypt because I had a premonition that sectarian rule will reign supreme. Not that I had the ability to see into the future, but my logic told me that Egyptians will elect parties running on a religious platform since it is easier to believe that a religious man can be trusted and will do the right thing, than to debate candidates and comprehend their ideologies. Logic also dictated that there is nothing holy about politics and that politicians hiding behind the cloak of righteousness and religion, whether be it a beard or a veil, are nothing more than a fox in sheep’s clothing. Thus I moved to the US.

While living in New York, I participated in stand-ins and protests against the Brotherhood (I will not associate my beloved religion with this group) because I firmly believed that they would infringe on the freedoms of our nation and that their only loyalty was to their group and no one else. I didn’t want my niece to grow up without the freedom to choose how she dressed, what she did with her body, and to be deprived of the chance to become anything she wanted to be.  Having moved away from the apex of events, I had a more objective view. I was liberated from the fear of a future lost and doomed destiny. This doesn’t mean that I was objective throughout the entire Jan 25 revolution, on the contrary. I was among the group of people marked with the moniker “The Party of the Couch – Hezeb El Kanaba”. I firmly stated that Mubarak wasn’t as bad of a tyrant as Tahrir painted him to be, and I still stand by this statement. Sequestered for 12 days in a small Cairo apartment with my mother, brother, sister, and her three young children, not knowing if I had a job after the curfew, not knowing what kind of future my niece and nephews would have, completely giving up on any kind of future for myself, I was appalled that a bunch of kids who did not work and thus didn’t pay taxes would demolish the country and bring it to a standstill. I feared a civil war. My world was shattered in a matter of days and I couldn’t envision a life beyond the moment. I wished someone would go down and just gathering everyone in the streets and reset Egypt back to my normal operating procedure. I didn’t care about the freedom of others as long as my status quo and the safety of my family were maintained.

While in New York, although my future was still MIA, I reflected on the situation more clearly. I am not going to justify my change in stance, for my convictions within 2011 were wrong. Yet, as much as I loathed the brotherhood and everything they stood for, I supported their freedom to practice politics in the state. I support the freedom of those who support the brotherhood as much as I support the freedom of those backing the army and Al Sisi. To me they are exactly the same. I roll my eyes at inane Facebook and Twitter comments, but I support the freedom of these people to express their point of views despite how stupid they seem to me. Although I was among those standing at Etihadyia on June 30, enjoying the festivities, I didn’t support the ouster of Morsi, as it didn’t help the implementation of democracy in the country. Yet, I was happy and relieved when he left and I can understand the elation of my friends still living in Egypt upon the departure of the brotherhood. I don’t support any criminal actions performed by the brotherhood’s leadership or members, or any citizen for that fact. I personally believed that Sisi remaining as minister of defense and a counter force to an elected president would have been better for the country, yet I respect the freedom of those who voted for him or Hamdeen, as well as the freedom of those who boycotted the entire process. I firmly believe that democracy represents the freedom of citizens to practice politics and participate in the process accordingly to their desires. I also believe that Freedom is absolute and cannot be segmented into acceptable freedoms and regulated ones.

With the ouster of Morsi and the ascendance of Sisi, I became somewhat optimistic. I saw a future beyond the moment. I admit that my optimism was attributed to pre-2011 status quo, yet the pragmatists in me wouldn’t rest on her laurels. I knew that Egypt will not rewind to a time before the revolution and that Sisi is not Mubarak. I was apprehensions because I didn’t know his political tendencies. I feel that he is leaning more towards a socialist state than capitalist. I fear protectionism of industries and nationalization of corporations akin of Nasser era. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that Egypt would revert to the worst of Nasserizm and Bushizm with the infringement of citizens’ basic freedom to peacefully protest, express their opinions, censorship of media, and intelligence surveillance of Egyptians.  We are being bullied by the state and the government. Within the last few months we have witness atrocities of the most cowardly nature. The cancelation of a satirical TV show or dramatic series seems a silly issue but it exhibits a weakness I wasn’t expecting of the Sisi regime. If the rulers’, government, and citizens cannot take criticism of any kind, how will we evolve.

Regardless of my opinions, whether agreement or disagreement, I call for the immediate release of activists, journalist, the deregulation of media, and the prosecution of any and every criminal activity that has been proven with concrete evidence beyond any doubt. If for anything, it will give the country a clean slate to start anew. If the president will not intervene, I call upon the constitutional court, namely Egypt’s only living former president Adly Mansour, to right the wrongs and to be our moral compass. To any Egyptian who calls for the right to vote, the right to a respectable existence, the right to safety and stability, we must all standup for what is just. For today the freedoms of someone external is being violated, tomorrow it will be yours.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Serenity Now - Egyptian Edition

Having moved back to Egypt, I've been observing the general atmosphere. Although I've only been here a week, yet not having the sanctuary of knowing that I'll soon retune to a place I prefer, I've become more attuned to my surroundings. I'm not going to catalogue everything that is wrong with the country, or compare it to the US. There's no benefit in doing either. This piece is rather a reflection on our ability as Egyptians to live in Egypt. 

In 2011, I made a conscious decision to leave the country. Everything bad, everything disgusting, everything appalling about Egyptians came out after Jan 25. Although, I willingly lived and worked in Egypt for the entirety of my adult life, the country - post Jan 25 - suffocated me. I decided to leave, in order to continue loving it. It make sense that all our bad habits would surface midst the turmoil Egypt is witness at the moment. When something boils at high temperatures, all impurities and imperfections rise to the top. Egypt has been simmering for the past twenty years. Hopefully we can skim off the layer of scum soon.

Now, after three years of toil, the country has digressed to the dark ages. The neglected streets, power outages, and exaggerated prices are reminiscence of the 80s. Yet, the worse thing about Egypt at the moment is the overwhelming sense of negativity that permeates the country. Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, every breath I breathe is saturated with negative vibes. Everyone I talk to, they are all complaining, all the time. Whatever happened to Al Hamed Lellah, Thank God. Do we have nothing for which we are thankful? I understand that Life's a Bitch, with a capital B. All of us endure the hardships of living in Egypt and life in general. The last thing we need is to be burdened with other people's aliments. We can offload every once in a while, but our only dialogue has become a constant array of whining and moaning. If you are unfortunate enough to glimpse at local TV programs, you'll be assaulted with a slew of national "newah" complaints, or God awful soap operas. Our streets are void of smiles and laughter. If you greet someone with Al Salam Alaykoum, you either get a begrudged mumble in reply or nothing at all. When have we become such a miserable nation. The most enduring thing about Egyptians, was our ability to smile and make fun of dire situations.

I'm a firm believer in Karma. If we wallow in negativity, we'll only reap negativity. Life is too short to spend it being angry. I try to be positive as much as I can. I try to ignore all the little irritants and not bother myself. I try to maintain relationships with people I truly value and care for, and shun those who emit negative energy. Each morning, I'll try to start my day with reciting at least one positive thing about living in Egypt. I expect the list to be short and brief. I also expect it to grow with every sunrise. Hopefully, I'll discover things I couldn't see before. Hopefully, we, the Egyptians, will embrace happiness for a better future and remember that smiles and greetings are charities for our souls.