It’s been two years since the Egyptian military ousted democratically-elected President Mohammed Morsi, replacing him with Army General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
Al-Sisi has promised stability but his time as president has been anything but peaceful. Violence still rages throughout parts of the country, and reporters are being thrown in jail simply for doing their job.
On this edition of Global Journalist, we look at how the country has arrived at this point, and where it’s going in the future.
Our guests this week:
*Stephen Zunes, a professor of politics and the coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco
*Jonathan Moremi, a journalist who’s covered the country for more than 35 years for outlets including Daily News Egypt
*Adel Iskander, a professor of communication at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and co-editor of the Arab Studies
*Emir Nader, a political reporter for Daily News Egypt
The arrest in Berlin last weekend of Ahmed Mansour, famous journalist of the Qatar based Al Jazeera network, made headlines all over the world. The fact that Germany with its high reputation as a politically stable democracy acted on behalf of Egypt, a regime that is nationally and internationally accused of ignoring the rule of law, send shockwaves not only through the Arab but also the Western world. Barely three weeks after the disputed visit of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany in the eyes of the world seemed to have changed course to play the wilful executioner to Al-Sisi‘s attacks against a free press.
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When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived for the press conference in the Berlin chancellery last week, they were late. “We had a little delay,” apologised the Chancellor, “we had a problem with the elevator. We went up and down several times but finally, with the help of the second elevator, in the end managed to be here.” President Al-Sisi wore a broad grin on his face.
The symbolism of this was not lost on the political observer. For decades, from President Nasser to Sadat and Mubarak, the interim government under SCAF, President Morsi and now Al-Sisi, the relationship between Egypt and Germany has been constantly going up and down, and a chance to find the second elevator to finally reach a mutual position has so far not emerged.
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In a surprise move of transparency the German government has disclosed a list of all the arms exports from Germany since 2002. The socialist left party Die Linke had demanded to know what arm sales had received clearance by the governments of both the social democrat Gerhard Schröder and his successor Angela Merkel from the Christian Union (CDU). The question of arms sales has become a highly disputed topic in Germany’s political debate as the opposition is criticising that Germany is the third biggest arms exporter of the world and the fifth biggest supplier of arms to the Middle East.
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A few weeks ago I bought the book “The General’s Son” by Miko Peled, an Israeli. His father – Matti Peled – was one of the most respected Israeli Generals fighting in the 1967 Six-Day-War at the side of people like Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon. As a colonel in the preceding 1956 war against Egypt, when Israel conquered the Gaza Strip and Sinai, Peled had been made military governor of the Gaza Strip. As his son writes: “This was a defining role for him, and it influenced his entire life.”
However, after his experience as governor in Gaza in 1956 and the bloody, albeit short war in 1967, the elder Peled’s views changed. He had seen too many atrocities not only from the enemy but from his own army too, atrocities that chilled the blood.
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Human Rights Watch Tuesday released a disturbing report about the ongoing human trafficking and torture in eastern Sudan and Egypt, urging authorities of both countries to finally take effective steps to stop the atrocities. The 79-page report “’I Wanted to Lie Down and Die’: Trafficking and Torture of Eritreans in Sudan and Egypt” documents how for years Egyptian traffickers have tortured Eritreans for ransom in the Sinai Peninsula, including through rape, burning and mutilation. It also documents torture by traffickers in eastern Sudan and 29 incidents in which victims told Human Rights Watch that Sudanese and Egyptian security officers facilitated trafficker abuses rather than arresting them and rescuing their victims. Human Rights Watch speaks of thousands of Eritreans who have been kidnapped and subjected to unbearable violence in the Sinai Peninsula, and the organisation has received new reports as recently as November 2013 and January 2014.
“Egyptian officials have for years denied the horrific abuse of refugees going on under their noses in Sinai,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Both Egypt and Sudan need to put an end to torture and extortion of Eritreans on their territory, and to prosecute traffickers and any security officials colluding with them.”
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Egypt once more has managed to get itself into troubled water. On 29 December 2013 it arrested three journalists from the TV channel Al Jazeera English in their hotel room in Cairo.
The journalists, award-winning Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, who is the bureau chief of Al Jazeera English in Cairo and has worked for CNN and the New York Times, award-winning reporter Peter Greste, an Australian formerly working for the BBC, and the Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed have been held in the notorious Tora prison ever since with both Fahmy and Mohamed subjected to solitary confinement under harshest conditions for weeks.
Only a few days ago were they moved to another ward and now share a cell with their Australian colleague. Fahmy, who suffered a broken shoulder during the arrest in December, has been denied any medical treatment and is yet to see a doctor. Instead, he is being forced to sleep blanketless on the concrete floor. His family filed another request after he was moved, but so far the authorities have not reacted.
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