Monday, March 28, 2011

State Television in Egypt

State television building in Cairo.
I have finally been able to upload the video interviews I took at the protest last Friday, March 25, 2011, in front of the State Television Station in Cairo.   The woman in this video happened to have been a TV broadcaster for State TV a couple years ago.
This is the link for this video:

Here is the link to this video:

This video is available at this link:

Here are some more photos of this protest.

I was surprised to see the military soldiers wearing helmets, like the riot police wore when there were violent clashes with protesters.  I also saw a number of soldiers wearing bright red helmets.  From what I saw, this protest was completely peaceful.
Here's a link to the first blog entry I did about that protest.

During the revolution, the contrast between the state television network and other networks was pointed out occasionally by the AlJazeera station.  They showed clips of what was being shown on State Television or somethings showed a split screen of the mass protests shown on AlJazeera and other international stations as compared to what was being shown on state television.  I took some pictures these split screens being shown by AlJazeera.  The following shots were from February 5, day 12 of the 18 day revolution.

Here is an article from Time online discussing the coverage of the revolution (or lack of) by Egypt's state television.,8599,2046510,00.html

During the revolution, the government blocked the Arabic station of AlJazeera so most Egyptians had no access to what I was watching on the English AlJazeera station.  

It was interesting that AlJazeera reported at the end of the revolution that State Television was, for the first time, showing photos of Tahrir Square full of protesters.  Here's a screen shot I took then.

Egypt, Libya, & AlJazeera

Egypt's foreign minister has said that Egypt will take no action with regard to Libya other than trying to assist the Egyptians who had been living in Libya and are now coming back into Egypt.  Here is a link to an article about this:'Egypt%20to%20stay%20out%20of%20Libya%20conflict'

But there are many efforts by groups and individuals in Egypt trying to assist the Libyan people.  Our church said they had two trucks going with food and medical supplies about to go to Libya.  A Libyan friend of ours whose son goes to school with our son said there are places all around Cairo collecting supplies to send to Libya.  Our neighbor said he was planning to travel with one of the groups taking medical supplies to Libya.  

Plus there are many nongovernmental organizations going to the border to help the tens of thousands of refugees that are pouring out of Libya.  Here is video of one of my classmates, Ellen, who just got back from the Libyan border.  Unfortunately the lighting isn't great because I spoke to her at night after our evening class.

This video can be viewed at this link:

Meanwhile, in Libya, the fighting continues with this video from AlJazeera discussing how the rebels struggle with inferior weapons and little training.

Our Libyan friend in Cairo told me that in towns near Tripoli, Quadaffi soldiers were deciding who to target by asking children in school which of their parents watch AlJazeera at home.  Throughout the Egyptian revolution and the rest of the protests happening around the Middle East, AlJazeera has been courageously covering these stories, even when their crews are detained, their office burned and two of their crew killed (one in Cairo and one in Libya).  Here's a link to a story about their office in Cairo getting set on fire:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The colorful New Egypt

Part of the New Egypt means taking pride in how Egypt looks and instilling this pride in children.  One group is painting a beautiful wall mural in one community in Cairo.  The organizers are a group of young people in their 20's with art degrees: some art teachers, some graphic designers, some looking for work in the arts.   They got paint and the painting supplies from a local store that donated them.  Then they teamed up with some people who live in a housing project behind the wall and the children from those apartment buildings did much of the painting of the mural.  

The children loved the project.  Here are some photos and videos with the kids and the beautiful wall.

This video is found at this link:

Here's a link to this video:

My son wanted to try painting too so one of the kids handed him a roller and he joined in.

Here's a photo of all the adult artists organizing this project.
Here's a video introducing some of the people in the above photo.
This video is available at this link:

Here's another video interview I did with one of the painting organizers a week before:

Here's a link to this video:

A video of another women organizing this painting, Nesma, is found at an earlier blog entry at this link:

Here are some photos of the almost completed mural:
This next photo shows the wall and the housing project behind the wall where many of the children working on the mural live.

Thank you to all the artists organizing this project and all the children who helped with painting!  You have done a beautiful thing!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Protest at Cairo's State Television building, March 25, 2011

I went to Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday, Friday, March 25, to see what the weekly Friday afternoon protest was like.  It was a smaller crowd than usual when I got there in the late afternoon.  I saw one group of protesters with flags chanting and marching out of the Square.  I heard they went to the State Television Network building to a rally there.  I went there and found one or two thousand protesters.  

Protesters were demanding a change in the leadership of State Television since they believe State Television has been bias before and during the revolution and continues to be so post-Mubarak.  Other protesters were objecting to a proposed law that is currently being considered by the military that would criminalize protesting.

Below are some photos and a video I took at the protest.  I’m working on uploading other videos of interviews I did while I was at the protest and will post them once I'm able to upload them.

Here’s a link to an article discussing three different protests in Cairo yesterday.

Here is the link to this video:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Police Protests in Cairo and Ministry of Interior on Fire, again

Photo by Diaa Hadid, printed in the Huffington Post. 
Fire at the Ministry of the Interior

The Ministry of the Interior building was on fire again on Tuesday (March 22).  One article speculated that the fire was started either by the police protesters rallying outside the building or people on the inside who perhaps wanted to destroy evidence of police misconduct or corruption.   Here is a link to an article about this story:

But one source yesterday said that the Ministry's report to the Cabinet, which the Cabinet seems to have adopted as fact, said the fire was caused by electrical problems.  Here's an article on this:

Since Mubarak resigned, there have been periodic reports about former ministers being investigated on charges of corruption and having travel bans imposed against them so they could not leave the country.  The latest development, Tuesday, was that criminal charges had been brought by Egypt's public prosecutor against the former Information Minister and the former Finance Minister regarding misuse of public funds for using $6 million in state funds to fund election campaigns between 1981-2010.  

On March 8, 47 police officers were arrested based on allegations that they had destroyed documents of police misconduct.  Here is a link to an article about this:  There was also a fire on March 2 at the Central Auditing office which would be one location where documents on officials' corruption would be found.  
This latest fire started on the middle floors of Ministry of the Interior, a 6 story building.  Reports were that protesters were prevented from entering the building so would seem unlikely that a fire started several floors up because of the protesters.  

Police Protests and Strikes
The police protesting were demanding higher wages (i.e., $200 per month which would be a significant increase)  and health care benefits.   There have been numerous police protests here since Mubarak resigned, sometimes for high wages, sometimes to say sorry to Egyptians for the conduct of shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters during the revolution, and sometimes to demand information about what happened to the hundreds of their colleagues who were missing after the revolution and couldn't be reached by cell phone by their families.  Here's a photo of one police officer I talked to at an earlier protest who told me right after the revolution there were as many as 2,000 missing police officers who were no longer reporting to work and whose whereabouts were unknown.  
There was a strike of 500 Cairo Airport police earlier this month for higher wages.  Here is a link to an article about that:
On the topic of strikes, yesterday's Egyptian Gazette Reuters’ article entitled “Egyptian Cabinet Approves Law on Strikes” discusses how the Cabinet  proposed a law to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that would criminalize strikes imposing prison sentences and/or  fines as high as 500,000 Egyptian pounds ($84,060)  as penalties  for strikers and those inciting strikes.  The military adopted this new law.  They get the power to adopt this law because of the emergency law, which the military had promised to lift when they took power in mid-February (without specifying when that lifting would occur).   Here's the link to this article if you'd like to read more:

Discussion of the role of the police

The role of the police in Egypt has been extremely controversial for many reasons.  During the revolution, I heard that 16 police stations were burned on one particular day at approximately the same time, implying it was part of an organized plan.

Many members of the public dislike the police because of the regularity with which detainees are beaten and tortured, sometimes resulting in death as in the case of Khaled Said which sparked the revolution.  Here's a link about his story:

One human rights attorney described the role of the police in an interview I did with him when the revolution was happening.  I posted this interview in February, but if you didn't see it then, here it is again:  

This video is available at this link:

For a month after the revolution, there were three or four tanks guarding the police station in our neighborhood, about 3 blocks from our flat.  One night we heard gunshots, which I later heard was an attack on the police station; the tanks appeared after that.  

The tanks left about a week ago, when it was announced that the security forces were being dissolved.

A strange and interesting thing happened around the same time the tanks disappeared.  I was walking home from the metro after my night class, around 9pm, and I saw about 10-15 men of varying ages standing in the road near the police station holding large, beautiful floral arrangements.  They all had the protester necklaces around their necks.  I asked them what they were doing and one of them who spoke English said they were going to present the police with the flowers.  One of them handed me the single carnation in the photo below.

They presented the flowers to the police and there was about a half hour of talking as we all sat and stood in a half circle around the desk of the captain or other high-ranking officer whose office we were in.  I couldn't understand that conversation since it was in Arabic, but the tone was respectful and sometimes friendly with people laughing.  After a while the head officer said something asking about who I was.  I heard him say something about Ingleezi, meaning English, then people looked my way and one of the protesters came to ask me who I was and what I was doing there.  I explained that I was a student and I lived in the area and that one of their group had invited me to come in with them when they were presenting the flowers, so I did.  The group then resumed talking with the police and the meeting soon ended on a cordial, friendly note.  

We left and the protesters shook hands with various officers who lined the hallway when we were leaving.  The protesters presented carnations like the one they'd given me to various officers in the hallway.  

It was a very kind event and I think everyone involved appreciated it.  I was still amazed at the whole situation.  I talked to some of the protesters more outside about what they hoped would come of this meeting.  One of the protesters explained that before this, the public didn't even enter police stations; they're generally seen as off limits.  But they wanted lines of communication between the police and the public to be more open.  They also said they wanted to thank the police for helping to protect their neighborhood during the revolution, noting that there was little damage in this community compared to some other parts of Cairo.  

I asked one of the younger protesters (--- most were middle-aged men, some professors, some businessmen), about whether there might be some protesters who would not want flowers to be brought to the police station.  He said that all the protesters would approve.  I  asked him about the issue of police torture, a concern that has been raised by protesters, journalists and human rights groups.  He said, "No, no, no... we are all Egyptians."  Then they got into a car, I thanked them for letting me join their event, and they drove away.  

Maybe that was not the right setting for me to have asked that question of the nice man who had included me in their thoughtful, remarkable event.  I do appreciate and marvel at how segments of Egyptian society are taking it upon themselves to heal the divisions that exist.  There is something very poignant about bringing beautiful bouquets of flowers to the police... something that would never happen in the U.S.  But at the same time this kind and altruistic gesture exists alongside the fact that torture is still continuing here.  Here is a link to an article from yesterday's Egyptian Gazette discussing the recent torturing of female protesters:  

On the positive side (and their are many positives, including the wonderful flower-presentation just described), there seems to be greater freedom of the press.  That this article about Amnesty International was printed in the local paper and that I am allowed to write these comments in my blog without repercussions, is certainly a positive thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More voters' perspectives on Egypt's referendum

Here are some more videos from people I interviewed on the day of Egypt's referendum (Saturday, March 19) and one person I spoke to the following day discussing why he voted yes on the proposed constitutional amendments.  This first interview is a little soft, unfortunately, because we were keeping our voices low since we were in a room where another attorney was interviewing a client.    
Here's a link to this video:

Here is a video explaining what the process was for voting.  The battery ran out at the very end of this video, so the last word is cut off.  She says she is voting no on the amendments.

Here's a link to this video:

Here's the link to this video:

Here's the link to this video:

Monday, March 21, 2011

77% of Egyptians in favor of constitutional amendments

Egyptians have approved the proposed constitutional amendments with a vote of 77% in favor.  There were 14.1 million voters in favor of the amendments and 4 million against, with a total voter turnout of 41% of the 45 million eligible voters.   

Below is a photo of Mohammed Attiya, Chairperson of the commission overseeing the elections, as he announced the election results.  Mr. Attiya echoed what I heard many voters say as they stood in line for hours yesterday waiting to vote:: “This is the first real referendum in Egypt’s history,” he said.   

Here is a link to a New York Times article about the election:
Photo from the New York Times.  Aris Messina / Agence France-Presse.  Getty Images
Below are more videos of voters I talked to yesterday at the polls:  
Here's a link to this video:

This video is at this link:

Here is the link for this video:

Here's the link to this video:

Here's the link for this video:

This is the link for this video:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Egyptian Voters Making History, part 2.

This is part 2 for today’s blog on the referendum:
Voting lines from the morning.
I went by our neighborhood polling place about an hour before it closed today.  The lines were shorter, but still about a half a block in each direction for the women's and men's lines.  It was still peaceful and well-organized.  The army had not been present in the morning but were there with the police in the evening.  The feeling was still content and happy for voters in line.
The only time I saw anyone unhappy in the line was at one point in the morning when a few people in the street started chanting, I think urging people to vote "no" in the referendum.  There was one voter in line who seemed angry about this and yelled something at them, I assume telling them to stop chanting.  Other than that, everything I saw was quiet, orderly and celebratory.

Here are some videos I took this morning at the voting poll.  I have quite a few more that I'm still working on uploading with YouTube.

Here is the link for this video:

Here is the link for this video:

Here's a video of the inside of the high school where our neighborhood votes, taken from looking through the outside gate where the line of voters were waiting to get in.
This video is available at this link:

These elections seem to make things very easy for voters, requiring only an identification, and providing special accommodations for elderly people who were taken to the front of the line and allowed to go straight in to vote.   Here's a photo of a police officer helping an elderly person go straight into the voting poll without waiting in line.
When the lines were a couple blocks long in our neighborhood, I heard that police were informing voters of other polling places that had shorter lines where they could also go to vote.  It seems to be much easier to vote here than in the U.S. where voters must go to one particular voting poll and if their name is not on the list, then they're sometimes not allowed to vote or must instead fill out a 'provisional ballot' which may or may not be counted.

I was surprised and happy to see that no one objected to me taking pictures and shooting videos outside of the polling place.  The police were monitoring things in the morning and the police and army were there when I went by an hour before polls closed and no one said a word to me when I was taking photos.  Many Egyptians were also taking photos of themselves and their friends and family members in line and after voting.  

I haven’t found any news saying any results yet from the referendum today.  Here’s a link to an article from today discussing some updates on the elections and the positions of notable Egyptian leaders.  The article discussed how there were about 17,000 judges and members of the judiciary as well as 36,000 soldiers and police guarding and overseeing the polls.  The judiciary is very well respected here so their active involvement in the polls is sure help the fairness of the process. 

A couple days before the election, I received an email from the American University in Cairo’s law department inviting Egyptian students to participate in a training, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, on monitoring of the elections.  Official election monitoring at this point can only be done by Egyptians. 

I was surprised to read that ElBaradei was attacked by Islamists when he went to vote.  He had to leave the polling place without voting.  There was also some problem in one southern province where members of the judiciary had been unable to get to their posts until the army air-lifted them in.  Polling hours were extended from 7pm until 9pm in that area.

Here's a video I took about 45 minutes before the polls closed in my neighborhood:
This video is available at this link:

Update on Libya:

Though Quadafi had said that there would be a ceasefire because of the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a No Fly Zone, he defiantly initiated 14+ hours of attacks on the city of Bengazi, the city where the protests first took hold which has been governed by those opposing Quadaffi for the last couple weeks.   
A press conference from the U.S. Pentagon was broadcast on the news and announced that 110 cruise missiles shot from U.S. war ships have hit more than 20 targets in Libya.  French aircraft have also participated in air strikes.  
Christian Science Monitor online caption:  "A French Mirage 2000 jet fighter taking off for Libya from the military base of Dijon on Saturday, March 19. Officials from the United States, Europe, and the Arab world have launched "Operation Odyssey Dawn" to protect civilians as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces attacked the heart of the country's rebel uprising."  Anthony Jeuland/AP
State TV in Libya is showing scenes from today of Quadafi supporters rallying around the compound where he is staying.  I assume this is to try to discourage air strikes against his compound.

A summit was held in France today to discuss the situation in Libya.  Hillary Clinton and prime ministers or foreign ministers from Britain, Canada, Germany, Norway Italy, Qatar, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Belgium, Spain and Poland.  Egyptian presidential candidate, Amr Moussa   Here is a link to a New York Times article about this:

Saturday, March 19, 2011


12:00 Noon

I just came back from the voting place in our neighborhood at the Canal Street School in Maadi.  The lines are incredible!  The men’s line goes about two blocks and the women’s line goes a block in the other direction.  I interviewed many people and will be posting videos as quickly as YouTube allows me to upload them.  Everything is peaceful and people all reported they are happy to wait in line for as long as it takes.  One man at the front of the line reported he came at 8am and so had been there almost 3 hours waiting in line.  But he and others are happy and proud to be there, knowing they are part of history. 

Here's a link to this video:

Of the people who volunteered who how they were voting when I spoke to them, the vast majority said they were voting “NO”.  This included young and older people.  Some reported their families were split on how to vote with each side spending a long time trying to convince the other, then ultimately deciding each person should vote as their conscience dictates.  The “YES” votes said they wanted stability and to have things move along.  The “NO” votes offered many different reasons.  Some said they wanted a whole new constitution rather than just amendments on a few things.  Others said things were moving too fast and there needed to be more time for people to become educated about the issues.  Some said they didn’t want the new constitution determined by Parliament since with the parliamentary elections coming as early as June, there would not be enough time for political parties other than the National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood to get organized to have decent representation in Parliament. 

The woman in the above photo is showing her finger dipped in pink ink to show she voted.  The process for voting was very simple.  People present their ID card and the number on the card is recorded.  Then they vote and dip their finger in indelible ink.  
The most striking thing about interview people in line is that almost everyone I talked to said this was the first time they had ever voted.  The gentleman in the photo above was one of the proud first-time voters, bringing his baby daughter to be part of this event.  They also said everyone in their family and all their friends were planning to vote.  This truly is historic!  One man commented as he walked past me, “Freedom.” 

Tahrir Square the day before the Referendum on Constitutional Amendments

I went to Tahrir Square today for the regular Friday protest after morning prayers which finish around mid-day.   Tomorrow is the first referendum post-Mubarak to see whether Egyptians will vote yes or no on the proposed constitutional amendments.

Here's an article that summarizes the constitutional amendments being voted on tomorrow.  

My impression is that the NO votes are strong with the youth, but YES votes are more likely from the more established people such as the National Democratic Party voters [Mubarak’s party] and the Muslim Brotherhood who are going to be more skilled at getting their people to the polls.   I talked to a few youth on the metro who had been in Tahrir Square protesting for Mubarak to resign, yet they had no idea there was an referendum this Saturday.  Many everyday people seem unaware of tomorrow’s vote.  Here are today's photos from in and around Tahrir Square.  

Face painting is all the rage.  For only 1 genee (an Egyptian pound worth 17 cents), you can get the Egyptian flag painted on your cheek.

The pink building with the dome on top in the background is the Egyptian Museum.

Here are some videos from the Square with more still uploading, hopefully to be posted tomorrow.

This video is available at this link:

This video is available at this link:

This next video is of one of my classmates at American University in Cairo's law department.
You can view this video at this link:

This video is at this link:

This video was from shortly after Mubarak resigned.  I included it here because the speaker talked about his impressions of the Egyptian Constitution.
This video is available at this link:

This is a poster from the vote no people.  The white Arabic symbol in the center means "NO".  

On our way home from Tahrir, a rock or something else round and hard, was thrown at the subway car we were in, breaking the outside window.  The inside glass pane did not break and no one was hurt, but people were very surprised.  This kind of random violence rarely happens here.  I wondered if it was an effort by someone to try to keep people away from the polls tomorrow.  

The good news is I haven't heard about any other acts of violence lately and no intimidation related to the vote tomorrow.   

I was also impressed by how tolerant everyone seemed to be about respecting peoples' right to vote as they chose.  A couple of the Egyptians I spoke to talked about how this will be the first fair election in a long time and everyone will respect the outcome because that's democracy.  Egyptians are very proud of their new democracy.