Stuff you should read

Thoughts on “Black Wendsday”

Posted on Tuesday 31 May 2005

I think the “Association of Egyptian Mothers Response” is actually a great idea, because what happend at the Referendum made me personally so sick that it took drinking half a bottle of Vodka at a party to take my mind off of it. Anyway…

The Good news is that the campaign is gathering steam, and even garnering some publicity: According to Al Jazeera, this internet campaign was started by Hiba Rauf Izzat, a political science professor at Cairo University. The movement is also paralleld by this other campaign , called the “White Ribbon national apology campaign”. You know you are definitely becoming politically savvy, when your cause has a colored ribbon.

The “White Ribbon” movement was initiated by Ghada Shahbandar – a teacher and member of the Kifaya (Enough) movement which staged the 25 May protest – together with two other women, a television presenter and a housewife.

“Since we initiated this campaign, by emails and SMS (text messaging), we have had tremendous feedback and support … It was originally a personal initiative but we are trying to work out a more organised plan to maintain the momentum,” Shahbander said.

She said that 4000 ribbons had already been produced and that the official launch of the initiative would take place on 1 June, when protesters gather in front of the journalists union building in Cairo where the incidents took place.

Their choice of White Ribbons to protest the violence the women were subjected to that day by men is telling, since the International White Ribbon campaign is about ending men’s violence against women. Guess it doesn’t get more obvious then that.

My only fear is the reaction Habib Al Adly might take if he became informed of those campaigns, especially the one demanding his resignation. The man has been on thin ice and in hiding ever since the last terrorist attacks, and there is talk that he is running out of favor with Mubarak for not managing to keep the country stable in this crucial year, and for committing a number of stupid mistakes afterwards which he hides with blatantly unbelievable lies. The man is cornerd and he might be compelled to take extreeme measures in order to make this campaign look trivial. I mean, i wouldn’t be surprised if he orderd the arrest of every woman that’s dressed in black tommorow, just to save face in front of the President.

Oh well…

Either way, the women who started these campaigns are commendable, for standing up and fighting for themselves and for their rights in a country where most men are too afraid to do anything about the daily injustice and opression they experience. Call me Mr. Inspired, but i am going to work all decked out in black tommorow in solidarity with those brave women who refuse to be bullied and silenced.

The Sandmonkey @ 9:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The Association of Egyptian Mothers response

Posted on Tuesday 31 May 2005

Disclaimer: This is an e-mail that has been circulating Egypt written in arabic, as a response to what happend to women during the referendum. I said if it was ever translated , then i would definitely post it, and now i am standing by my word and will provide commentary on it in my next post. (Thanks Baheyya for the translation)

An Invitation from the Association of Egyptian Mothers
All of Egypt Will Wear Black on Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Honourable Citizens, Children of EgyptOn 25 May, the day of the referendum, women and girls participating in peaceful demonstrations demanding democracy in Cairo at the Press Syndicate were subjected to harassment and sexual assault in public, perpetrated by simple people rented by thugs of the National Democratic Party and supervised by generals of the Interior Ministry.

We the Egyptian Mothers who dream of a better future for the homeland and a better life for our children have decided to invite the Egyptian people to leave their homes as usual next Wednesday, the 1st of June, but wearing black on their way to work or while running their daily errands.

Every citizen and responsible person before God disapproves of what happened, even if they are not political activists nor care for public activism. We only ask that they leave their house that day as on any ordinary day, but wearing black, and to invite those around them to do the same and explain to them the importance of this symbolic public protest.

As for activists, we call on them in all of Egypt’s provinces to coordinate peaceful, silent vigils in front of their syndicates or in their universities or in certain public places they agree on, in silence and complete solemnity in their black clothes.

The Egyptian Mothers is not a political movement, it is the voice of the silent majority of women, housewives and working women. But they have realised today that the Interior Ministry has overstepped all red lines, and that silence today is a crime and we must stand up in united formation as a united people to defend the Egyptian woman and girl.

Our demand is clear, it is a single demand: the resignation of the Interior Minister.

All of Egypt will wear black in silence on the 1st of June, from the extreme North to the extreme South, its men, women, youth, and aged people, sadness in its streets and a wound in its heart.

The people’s demand is simply the resignation of the Interior Minister. We have stood by watching for a long time, but we have decided to go out next Wednesday, for the first time, in defense of the honour of Egypt’s women citizens, women and girls, in police stations and on the street and in demonstrations.

On the 1st of June, all of Egypt will be dressed in black, for the sake of our daughters who were assaulted and had their clothes torn in the street because they dared to say enough instead of remaining silent. We will go out this time (and we are not from the Kifaya movement) to tell Interior whose role it was to protect us: the game is over.

A day of silent popular mourning and a single demand: the resignation of the Interior Minister.

Afterwards, we will either return to our homes and our daily lives, in the way of Egyptian women and their familiar struggle for their daily bread, family, and children since the dawn of this civilisation and throughout the history of this peace-loving homeland, or we will think of a next step if our demand is not met.

We emphasise that we are not from the Kifaya movement and do not belong to any political force, legal or otherwise. But when the Egyptian woman pays the price of her political participation with the sanctity of her body and her honour, then every Egyptian mother and all of Egypt will go out in clothes of mourning to tell the Interior Minister:

We want your resignation…today…now.

We will see you all on Wednesday, the 1st of June, a normal day, in our black clothes, calmly, and in bitter silence, for the sake of a free future.

The Sandmonkey @ 9:03 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Is it just me…

Posted on Tuesday 31 May 2005

Or is this just redicilous?

The Sandmonkey @ 8:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Business as usual

Posted on Tuesday 31 May 2005

That was a nice break!

Ehhh…..

Ok, back to politics and world events!

The Sandmonkey @ 8:48 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
10 Things I love about Egypt

Posted on Monday 30 May 2005

Posted by Hello
This is the post that, for the past 3 weeks, Twosret and Highlander have been hounding me for. Apparently pointing out the bad things in Arab countries, Islamic culture or Egypt has caused some people to view me as a negative Egypt-hating person or something. I normally wouldn’t give a damn about what people thought of me, but I realized that I’ve managed to post for 6 months now without emphasizing the positive things- or rather the things I love- about Egypt, which personally bothers me cause I really do love this country, and that’s something I always thought I showed in my writing. So I am writing this for 3 reasons: 1) To shut Twosret and Highlander up, 2) To actually show the positive things about this country that I personally love and 3) To give the people who read this blog a glimpse of who I really am, besides the prolific cynical Pro –US political junkie sandmonkey blog personality, which you have either learned to love or hate, but still can’t stop reading what he writes. :-)

Ohh, and because Blogger sucks, I couldn’t put up the pictures that I wanted to put up, except for one, so instead I have linked to other people’s posts that have these pictures or ones similar to them . Sorry about that and hopefully i will be able to post those pictures tommorow.

Anyway, here it goes…

1) Cairo at night: I love the way Cairo looks at night: that big old city that never sleeps shimmering with the lights of its buildings, reminding you of how beautiful it really is, because you always seem to forget for some reason during the course of your day. You can walk around at 2 am, and you realize that you are still surrounded by people who are still up and who fill the streets, and yet they are not the scary kind that you usually encounter in big urban cities in other countries, but rather just regular folks who just happen to be up for some reason of their own. And the damnedest thing is, no matter what time it is, you can always find some place to go that's open: a restaurant, a café, or even a supermarket if you feel like buying whipped cream at 3 am (For hot choclate of course, you dirty minded person you). Hell, if you ever get the urge to buy furniture here at 3 am, I am sure we can find a place that will sell you some. And the best thing is: You always feel safe here, no matter how empty the streets get and no matter how late it is. I always missed that living in Boston, since I was located near the Southend / Roxburry area and you always had someone stabbed or shot there every once in a while. Back there it’s normal, but here, here it’s something that wouldn’t cross my mind twice as I walk around, because I know that MY city is safe.

2) Smoking Shisha: Which is the same as smoking Flavord Tobacco from Hookah pipes ( you know, that thing the Caterpillar was puffing on in Alice in Wonderland? That’s it) in cafes all over Cairo. Here you can say that Shisha cafes are the Egyptian equivalent of pubs and bars: It’s where everybody goes and hangs out and relaxes and smokes away. If you go to any respectable Shisha place they will have more then 6 flavors of Tobacco for you to chose from, and they will range from fruits such as Apple to Cherry to cantaloupes, and artificial flavors like Cappuccino and Cola, so there is always a new flavor to try. I go and smoke shisha twice a week, because it’s healthier and cheaper then smoking cigarettes, it calms me down if something is pissing me off, and they only do it right here. I’ve been to Shisha Cafes in Boston, New York and California, and I still can’t find a place that makes it the same way my favorite place does in Mohnadeseen.

3) The writings of Ehsan Abd El Qudouss: Ehsan Abd El Qudouss , in my own personal opinion, is the best egyptian writer and novelist of this past century. I know, I know, some of you will be angry because I chose him over Naguib Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize and all, but hear me out first. Mahfouz, as good as he is, had a specific theme that was carried out throughout all of his novels and work, and that’s the theme of Generational conflict and how people of the same bloodline always end up paying for their predecessors sins or repeating their mistakes. Ehsan, on the other hand, never had a specific theme that encompasses all of his works together. Hell, you can’t even define his work or lump it in one category, because it’s all so multifaceted, complicated and different from one another. If anything, his books were known to be honest portraits of Egyptians and the Egyptian society in general at whatever time period the book was written, and no matter how good or bad they behaved, you always related to them in some way. Hell, you knew those characters in your real life. Another cool thing about his writing is the way he writes women: It could be argued that he was the most feminist egyptian writer there was, because the women in his books are never stupid or secondary characters that the middle-eastern culture demands them to be compared to the big male Hero. On the contrary, in his stories they are strong and smart characters who always have an agenda of their own and they are the ones who control the real events, yet never fail to be sympathetic, no matter how evil or bad they get. The man wrote stories that fearlessly and accurately chronicled the socio-political changes in Egyptian society and culture from the 1940’s to the 1980’s and yet you can relate to his characters even if you couldn’t relate to their time. That's what makes him so good in my opinion.

4) El Hussein / Khan el Khalilly: Ahh, old Cairo. What’s not to love? Sure, it’s a tourist trap, but it has the best food, the best shisha, and that enchanting old cairo ambiance that just envelopes you with its warmth and friendliness that you immediately feel relaxed and at home. I make sure I go there at least once a month, sit down in a café , order a shisha and just get lost in that mix of everyday people chatter and the aroma of the various egyptian hot drinks that no self-respecting Egyptian café lacks. It’s my own form of meditation so to speak.

5) Koshary: People often cite Foool ( Egyptian style cooked fava beans) as the ultimate Egyptian meal and undisputed national dish, which is something I always disagreed with: Gulf countries and Lebanon have their own way and recipe of making Foool, which means that it is not exclusively Egyptian. However, there is one food that is exclusively Egyptian, and that’s Koshary. Koshary is a plate made of rice, lentil, chickpeas, noodles, pasta, friend onions, tomato and garlic sauce, and it is as delicious as it is fattening. And its exclusively Egyptian: I’ve never seen it served in any Arab country, or even in Egyptian restaurants in foreign countries, probably because it’s cardiac-arrest-in-a-meal. But it’s definitely my favorite Egyptian food and my own personal nominee for the post of Egyptian national dish.

6) Sinai: Ahh, where to begin? It’s all good: Whether you go to Sharm El sheikh to swim or to Dahab to dive or to St. Catherine Monastery and Mount Sinai for the History. I love it all, but there are 2 specific locations that I always love to go to : Abu Galoom in Dahab, and Taba. Abu Galoom is this natural reserve where no cars are allowed to drive. You walk for a mile and you are there, in the middle of nowhere, greeted by the nicest Bedouin people you will ever meet. They will take care of you and feed you as you spend the night there. You could go snorkel there or you could just do what I do: lay on your back, relax and just gaze at the most beautiful assortment of stars and constellations in the clearest sky you have ever seen, while the light of the full moon glimmers on the water and make it seem like it’s made of liquid silver. Time just stops when you are there, I swear. As for my second favorite place, it is this spot in Taba, where if you stop your car and looked at the water, you could see both Eilat in Israel and Aqaba Bay in Jordan, and you realize that the physical distance between those 3 countries is so close, yet in this reality we live in, they are worlds apart. I know it sounds corny, but that always gets me for some reason.

7) Mariam George: The current Miss Egypt. She makes me feel Patriotic. GO Egypt!

8) The Poetry of Salah Gaheene: If Robert Frost is the great American Poet, then Salah Gaheene is definitely the great Egyptian poet, although for completely different reasons, least of them is his style of poetry. Salah is considered to be a renaissance man by many: He was a poet, a cartoonist and a philosopher. He is, however, most famously known for his poetry, especially his “Rubayat” (four-line poems). His poems were short, written in common egyptian Arabic, simple and easy to memorize, which is what made them so popular amongst common Egyptians. However, in those short poems, that's where his true genius shows: The man had the ability to deliver a whole message or moral or philosophical concept in just 4 rhyming lines using very common language and terms, which assured that no matter how smart / stupid / cultured / ignorant you were, you got it. His genius was in his poetry apparent simplicity and hidden complexity. If anybody truly employed the “Less is more” principle in poetry, it’s this guy.

9) Taking Felookah rides on the Nile: Felookahs are Egyptian sailboats, usually used to sail in the Nile. You go with a group of friends, bring some drinks, and just enjoy a beautiful day of sailing and feeling the interesting relaxing sensation of the warmth of the Cairo sun contrasted with the cool wind blowing in the Nile. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

10) Horseback riding at the pyramids at night: Now this, for sure, is my absolute favorite thing to do in Cairo: Just go to the Pyramids area at night and rent a horse, and just go horseback riding next to the Pyramids and the Sphinx, while the daily Laser Show goes on, illuminating them in the middle of the night. It also works wonders with the ladies: You take a girl there horseback riding on a full moon night, and she will be so overwhelmed with the romantic atmosphere that she will be yours that night. One day I am going to propose to the girl that I am going to marry there, I just know it.

And that’s all folks, at least for now. This was originally supposed to be a 15 Things I love about Egypt post but it became so big that I had to cut it down to 10, which sucks. On the bright side, this gives me a chance and the material to write a follow-up post some time in the future, hence more Egyptian positivism, which is never a bad thing, you know?

Till then,

The Sandmonkey @ 1:54 am
Filed under: Only in Egypt
Words, words, words

Posted on Monday 30 May 2005

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections


“Stood in firelight, sweltering. Bloodstain on chest like map of violent new continent.

Felt cleansed. Felt dark planet turn under my feet and knew what cats know that makes them scream like babies in night.

Looked at sky through smoke heavy with human fat and God was not there. The cold, suffocating dark goes on forever, and we are alone.

Live our lives, lacking anything better to do. Devise reason later. Born from oblivion; bear children, hell-bound as ourselves; go into oblivion.

There is nothing else.

Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose.

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us.

Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.”
Alan Moore, Watchmen


“What I want is to be needed. What I need is to be indispensable to somebody. Who I need is somebody that will eat up all my free time, my ego, my attention. Somebody addicted to me. A mutual addiction.” Chuck Palahniuk, Choke


“Some people like to ease into the day. I usually feel better after killing something”
Garfield


“Never give anyone your full trust, because sooner or later everyone will betray you. 99 % of your friends are just potential enemies waiting to be created!”
My Father


My Horoscope:

Gemini (May 21 – June 21): You are really pathetic. I feel so bad for Geminis pouring their heart out to anyone who will listen, though no one does. What is it with you guys? You are always too passionate about everything … from books to burgers. If you like something everyone will hear about your teary, T.S Eliot rendition of how this wonder has come to you and left you oh-so quickly. It is really fucking sickening. I know you cannot ever be less sensitive than you are know but come on people, at least give us a break. Go whine to your own kind!


” The Terror of falling is not the earth rushing up, smiling and effusive, to embrace you like an old friend you had hoped never to see again. Nor is it the fear of impact, the teeth-ratteling jolt, like the violent thrust you close your eyes and brace yourself for in the night.

It is the sense of betrayal, as you arch earthward like a shooting star and look down to see no one there waiting to catch you.” Judy Budnitz, Flight

The Sandmonkey @ 1:17 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Politics Free day

Posted on Monday 30 May 2005

Today is politics-free day. Politics is not to be discussed in any way today. Me and you both could take a break.

So, Instead i will dedicate today to non-political stuff and i should have that “Things i love about Egypt” post finally up by the end of the day.

So stick around, it should be good!

The Sandmonkey @ 1:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Amr Moussa is a HACK!

Posted on Sunday 29 May 2005

My fellow egyptians will tear me a new one over this, but i don’t care, it has to be said: Amr Moussa- the Arab Leauge secretary general- is a HACK and we should all stop respecting him. I know that it is blasphemy to say this for some reason, but the dude has finally lost all credibility in my opinion, especially after his performance in the WEC debate with Liz Cheney. Let me show ya what i mean:

Moussa told participants at the annual regional forum – among whom were both Arab and Western economic and political leaders – that the question of democracy and reforms in the Arab world was important, but the Palestinian question would continue to dominate the scene.
US First Lady Laura Bush and US Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick spoke at the forum of “a spring in the Middle East,” and praised recent democratic reforms in the region for which they gave President George W. Bush much credit. Moussa, however, did not agree with their assessment.

There will be no spring or autumn or winter or summer without solving [the Palestinian] problem,” said Moussa to loud applause and cheers from the audience. “We want our friends in the United States to know that this is the consensus in this region. We are not going to change our minds, because this is a case of justice denied to people.”

Oh really Amr? What about our people huh? Forget about the palestinians for a second, and asnwer me: What about the egyptians? Are you saying that we will never have democracy unless the palestinian problem is resolved? Ok, forget about the egyptians: what about the Saudis? What about the Syrians? What about the algerians? What about the Libyans? They should never have democracy until the palestinians have their freedom? Isn’t that just a little redicilous ?Is that your #1 priority as a secretary general of a body comprised of all arab countries and supposed to represent all arabs?

Luckily, Liz pointed that shit out:

But Cheney was quick to reply by saying that “it’s difficult to speak of a consensus when people aren’t able to speak and give you their voice.” She cited the poll conducted at the WEF where people were asked what is the biggest obstacle to reform in the Middle East. Seven hundred leaders participated in the “Town Hall” poll and 64% blamed Arab governments for failure to introduce reform, while only 24% blamed the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ohhhh, good one. Let’s see how you get out of that one Moussa.

Moussa clarified saying, “We are not saying reform must stop and wait till we solve the Palestinian question… Now we are talking about freedom, part of the freedom is the freedom of people. Part of the rights are the rights of people and part of the rights is the self-determination of people. We don’t want a double standard and I believe that Liz Cheney will hear that from each and every Arab official she is going to meet. The Palestinian question is a sine qua non for security and stability in the Middle East.”

We don’t want a double standard? So if we demand democracy and freedom and the palestinians don’t get any, that’s a double standard? Wait a minute, the palestinians did have a democratic elections, and the Lebanese seem to be getting one despite the palestinians being under occupation, so what are you talking about? And i am sorry, she will hear that from every Arab official she meets? Are those the same arab officials who are representing undemocratically elected dictatorships and have only the interests of their despotic arab rulers in mind?And Amr, aren’t those same rulers the ones who fund your your little Arab League and basically pay your salary? And isn’t that the same reason why you never ever worked to advance democracy in arab states? Or forget about democracy, when was the last time you got mad at an arab country for human rights violations or torturing their own people? I mean, i am not asking you to critisize Egypt, cause that’s where you live and you were Mubarak’s secretary of State for a really long time, but how about the Gulf countries? Wait, right, they pay your salary. I forgot, my bad! Ok, go on. Attack the US for the palestinian issue, god knows you don’t have a way of your own to solve it and the US sure doesn’t fund your little dictators club. And it’s a sure fire way to get you applause too. Right? I mean, even Liz called you up on it:

The crowd applauded but Cheney said Moussa used the Palestinian issue as an excuse for hampering reforms. “I think it’s very important for us not to use this issue,” she said, adding that “it’s a nice way to use it, Mr. secretary general, to get some applause from the audience.” The audience answered with loud boos.

“Let me finish,” Cheney said. “It seems to me to look at who is doing what to the Palestinian people. The biggest donors are the Europeans and the US. We should stop using [the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] as an excuse not to deal with reform and not to deal with democracy.”

And she is right you know. Even about the donors thing. Someone once asked in one of my posts “what has the US ever done for the palestinians?” Well, check this out:

The Bush administration is channeling tens of millions in additional dollars directly to the Palestinian Authority, overcoming some opposition in Congress in hopes of boosting the political fortunes of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Congress has approved $275 million in Palestinian aid for this year and is considering Bush’s request for an additional $150 million for next year. The new direct aid was to be part of that package.

(I am sure the commenter is just looking for the words to express her gratitude to the US for their aid to the “never corrupt” Palestinian Authority.Hmm.. Anyway…)

Now Back to Mr. Moussa for a minute.

Listen, Amr, I understand. You are a Hack. It’s ok! I mean you did get kicked out of your old job as Secretary of State because you were getting way too popular with the egyptian people over your daily verbal attacks on Israel, and he considerd you a threat to his rule, so he made you Secretary General of the Arab League, and that’s the only job and source of Income you currently have. I get that. I also get that in your new job, it’s not enough to kiss up to Mubarak anymore, but you actually have to kiss up to every goddamn country in the league, otherwise they will challenge your rule and deny you funding, and you just wanna make money. But come on man. Have some concern for the rest of the arabs who are not palestinians, or at least have some respect for us and our opinions. Because in all honesty, if you asked the average arab living in their own country, if they would rather see their own country be democratic and free, where they keep their rulers in check and where their individual rights is respected or if they would rather stay the way they are, but have the palestinian problem resolved once and for all, and for the palestinians to be free, well, they would chose option #1. I am sorry, but that’s the way it is. People are selfish like that i guess.

So please, Amr, do us all a favor, and don’t speak for us. And if you could, maybe you should develop some sort of backbone and start calling for reforms in arab countries yourself. Sure, it might cause you your job, but i am sure an unselfish great man like you would see the greater good in it all and not mind the sacrifise. Right?

Yeah, right!

The Sandmonkey @ 2:20 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Lebanese elections starts

Posted on Sunday 29 May 2005

Today Lebanon gets ready to start the first free elections in more then 15 years of Syrian occupation, and the situation provides me a with strange amaglam of emotions: Intrigue, happiness and dissapointment. The Happiness comes from seeing an actual arab country holding actual free democratic elections without them having to be occupied by foreign troops or having those in power use their powers to intimidate voters and forge the elections. It amazes me that this would happen in a country that was war-torn with secterian violence and was regularly drawn into confrontations with Israel because Syria-using Hezballah- used its land to attack it, and thus ended up always getting Beirut bombed. But the Lebanese managed to overcome all that, kick the syrians out through peacefull demonstrations and now they are getting their own free elections. So, Yay for them.

The Dissapointment comes from the reality of the elections itself, and how there isn’t any real campaigning going on. Alliances are formed and reformed in the backrooms in order to share the power equally, which is leading to many seats being won automatically by candidates because there is no one opposing them in their districts. The Harriri/Jumbalatt alliance is a perfect example of that: 9 out of 19 seats in Beirut have already been won by them and the elections hasn’t even begun. This sort of thing must seem almost anticlimatic after the sense of bold changes that’ve been sweeping the country ever since Rafiq Al-Harriri got assassinated on Valentine’s Day. I guess, in my opinion, an election is as good as the people running in it and the passion they incite. Take the last US election for example of a heated election: You had Bush faithfulls on one hand, and you had the Any-body But Bush crowd on the other. Kerry didn’t even count, nobody really was excited about him, cause it was really all about Bush Love and Hate. And you really had no idea who would end up winning till that fatefull last day. That was an election.

Which brings me to the Intrigue part: this will actually happen in this election, but not until June 12, and it will be a showdown between Harriri’s Future Movement Alliance Christian member Qornet Shehwan and the Free Patriotic Movement leader General Michel Aoun, who returned to Lebanon from a 15 year Syrian imposed exile earlier this month and is running independent of the opposition coalitions, despite their calls for him to join them, because of his own lust for power, and belief that the Christians are being given a raw deal in this election. This is gonna be heavy and tough to call, because among the christian youth Aoun is popular as a figure, but his actions and rhetoric has driven away many would-be supporters and the appeal of the Harriri’s alliance is also undeniable and transcends secterian lines since it includes christians, muslims (both sunnis and shia) and Druze. So it’s too close to call at the moment and that makes it exciting, because if Aoun wins, the lebanese political scene will be very lively and interesting. You almost do want him to win in order for the two sides to keep each other in check, you know?

Ehh, well, we will see.

Until that day, i would like to send a congratulations to every lebanese person i know and any lebanese person who reads this blog: You guys did it and you inspire us all, so thank you for providing us with hope that we- arabs- are capable of doing this on our own.

GO LEBANON!

The Sandmonkey @ 2:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
A message to every Iraqi: Please talk to this guy!

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

This is a message to every Iraqi who lived under Saddam’s rule and knows what a murdering tyrant he was: Please set Mostafa Beckry- the owner and Editor in-chief of El-Osboa newspaper- straight once and for all on the actual nature of Saddam Hussein. Please, do it, because the man is killing me with his newspaper articles and editorials, which could be described as nothing less of blatant Saddam-worship.

Two weeks ago he published a “top secret” transcript of a conversation between Donald Rumsfeld and Sadam Hussein, which he acquired from an anonymous source in the Pentagon (yeah cause that’s plausible), and naturally Sadam looks like the Hero who refuses to budge and tears Rumsfled a new one and Rumsfeld looks like a begging thief who can’t respond and who is too eager to make a deal with Saddam to stop the iraqi patriotic resistance against the american troops who just can’t take it anymore. This week he describes him as the Legend, the thorn in the side of the american and zionist imperialists, the legitimate leader of Iraq and the couragous Hero who will not break under the inhumane conditions that the US is subjecting him to, which include-gasp- taking his pictures in his skivvies. NOOOOOOOO! Anything but that, you know? Forget about the torture, rapes, and murders: they showed him in his underwear. That’s so horrible that my heart is bleeding so hard right now, you have no idea!

Ok, so here are his e-mails : mostafaback@gawab.com and mostafabak@hotmail.com . Please please please drop him a line and tell him what you really think of him and his Saddam worship. And please, if you are Iraqi and you know how it was like under Saddam ( ITM, HealingIraq, Iraqiexpat, Iraqirising, and anyone else) please drop his clueless ass a line and set him straight, because i really think he needs it. Ok?

Sigh

The Sandmonkey @ 4:07 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
The UN-US Love-Hate relationship

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

The UN has a really weird relationship with the US, one , if put in human terms, would resemble that of relationship with an emotionally abusive but money-needy partner: The UN doesn’t like the US doing things on their own or not listening to them more, and berates them publically for it every chance they get, yet they always come back to them begging for money and asking them to overlook old trespasses, cause “why are you bringing up old stuff?” and “But we can change, really, we can!”. Perfect example:

The United States should stop using a “big stick” policy with the United Nations, which needs more funding to do an effective job, a senior U.N. official told lawmakers on Thursday.

Mark Malloch Brown, chief of staff to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, defended the world body to the House of Representatives International Relations Committee and said while there were still problems, reforms had begun.

“We know that while we have made enormous strides … we have some real issues of audit oversight, management accountability, financial disclosure and general performance that we urgently need to get right,” he said.

The United Nations has been dogged by scandals, from sexual abuse by peacekeepers to corruption in the now-defunct U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

But forget all that, the real problem is the approach the US is taking, at least according to Mark Brown.

Asked by one lawmaker why he thought the United States was unpopular among many U.N. members, the top U.N. official said a less heavy-handed attitude would help.

“Often the U.S. manages to project itself in the forum with a big stick rather than with a hand reached out. More of the latter would help,” Malloch Brown said.

So, the US, besides handing out money to UN member countries that need their money but hate them personally, has to also be nice to them? Isn’t that like bribing people to like you? Hmm…

Oh, and as for the Big Stick approach thing, here is what Mr. Brown means:

Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the U.N. over reform efforts and the oil-for-food scandal, is drafting legislation to make changes in the world body and one proposal would tie U.S. funding to the success of reforms. “We are opposed to legendary bureaucratization, to political grandstanding, to billions of dollars spent on multitudes of programs with meager results, to the outright misappropriation of funds represented by the emerging scandal regarding the oil-for-food program,” said Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, chair of the panel.

So, the US is against spending money on failed programs-by their ownadmission- and want the funding to be tied to successful reforms. Oh, very unreasonable. Very unreasonable indeed. The US should instead give them a blank check and say “Don’t worry, i won’t ask you for any results or anything like that, that would be rude and heavy handed of me. And Forget about a receipt. After all, i should trust you guys blindly. I am sure you are looking out for me and my best interest.”

Riiiigggghht!

The Sandmonkey @ 2:44 am
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Lindsay Lohan may be insane!

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

Disclaimer: Given that the majority of traffic coming here is still from people searching the web for Lindsay Lohan and getting this story, i felt that it is in my best interest to post about her every once in a while. And remember, i am only doing this for the children. HA! Beat that!

I am really starting to worry for poor Lindsay Lohan: the pressure of not being considerd a “serious actress” seems to be getting too much for her to handle. So, apparently in order to be more respected and not considerd a child actress anymore, she decided to do the only thing she can do- besides having talent- and remove her freckles. Check this out:

Many freckle-faced kids hate their splotches, but teen queen Lindsay Lohan may have actually done something about it. Recently, it seems the Herbie: Fully Loaded star has been on a quest to transform herself so that she’ll be taken more seriously as an adult actresses. The Mean Girl has slimmed down (at 5’7″, she’s an alarming 112 lbs.), glammed up (she’s bleached her trademark red locks ), and now, it looks like she’s doing away with her freckles.

Cause as we all know, anorexic freckless-free blonde “actresses” get all the respect in the world. Wait, no, they really don’t!

Yep, it’s official, Lindsay Lohan is slipping.

The Sandmonkey @ 2:25 am
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The Arab Response to Bush’s comments

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

There were so many people crying bloody murder at Laura Bush’s comments on the Egyptian referendum, that it’s rather refreshing to see Bush- the actual president mind you- step up and critisize the shit that went down that day:

Q: Mr. President, President Bush, the First Lady under the Egyptian pyramids this week enthusiastically endorsed Mubarak’s first steps towards direct presidential elections. Two days later, Mubarak supporters attacked the opposition in the streets. Was it premature to back Mubarak? What’s your message to Mubarak now?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I also embraced President Mubarak’s first steps and said that those first steps must include people’s ability to have access to TV, and candidates ought to be allowed to run freely in an election and that there ought to be international monitors. That’s — and the idea of people expressing themselves in opposition in government, then getting a beating, is not our view of how a democracy ought to work. It’s not the way that you have free elections. People ought to be allowed to express themselves, and I’m hopeful that the President will have open elections that everybody can have trust in.

While the majority of naysayers will say that it isn’t much, it’s kinda refreshing to see the Arab’s press response to actually report it fairly ( Responses compiled By Abu Aardvark here). I agree with Abu Aardvark’s opinion, that provided Bush saying the right things the right way, the arab world is more likely respond to him and give him the benefit of a doubt.

And by the way, unlike his predecessor, Bush’s wife doesn’t try to play president, nor are her comments also what he believes in. So, do me a favor and don’t freak out like that next time. The woman was put on the spot and was trying to be polite and diplomatic is all.

The Sandmonkey @ 1:38 am
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More Referendum stuff

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

Just in case you didn’t have enough, the Arabist has an excellent article about his first-hand referendum experience. Go check it out!

The Sandmonkey @ 1:32 am
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Pardon moi

Posted on Saturday 28 May 2005

Ok, i am apologizing to all the people (Especially Karim El Sahy and Manny) who have sent me e-mails and haven’t gotten a response yet: I am SORRY for not replying faster, but i have been in a “read e-mails but don’t reply” mood lately. I know, it’s a shitty excuse, especially from someone who is a confessed attention-whore and who hates to be ignored, but it’s the truth. And if it would make you guys feel any better, it’s not just you. It’s almost everybody who e-mails me.

I promise to get my shit together and e-mail you guys back by tomorow at the latest, work be damned.

The Sandmonkey @ 1:29 am
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Conversations, conversations

Posted on Friday 27 May 2005

*Me and Sally talking yesterday!*

Me: I need to get drunk tonight. I am feeling depressed

Sally: Why? What’s wrong?

Me: Well, it’s the referendum thing. (confused silence) Have you read my blog Today?

Sally: Nope!

Me: Well, it went badly. NDP people attacked Kifaya demonstrators, some of them were police in civilian cloths; they attacked foreign press people, and beat up women and tore their cloths off. It was nasty.

Sally: Well! Ehh, what did you expect? I mean , did you expect it to go smoothly and for it to be really democratic and stuff? Come on, you know better then that.

Me: No, no, I didn’t expect it to go smoothly. I knew that shit like that was gonna happen. It’s just…

Sally: What?

Me: They beat up women. They beat them up and tore up their cloths . That never happened here before. I mean, this is Egypt, we don’t do things like that to women in public. It was never this low, you know? And that’s what’s depressing me. You know?

Sally: I know.. I know!


*Me and Emi walking from Sequoia to the car last week*

Emi: Yes, I am a socialist democrat, and I am proud to be. I even worked for Paul Wellstone. How do you like that Mr. Heartless libertarian man?

Me: you worked for Paul Wellstone? Really? Isn’t that the dude that died?

Emi: Yes, and I even worked on the Mondale Campaign.

Me: Mondale? The geezer? really? LoL.

Emi: Don’t smirk like that. We are right and you are wrong, and one day everyone will know it.

Me: Oh, really. Ok. Hold on one second. (Calling for the kid walking behind us) Yanz, Yanz. Come here for a second. (He comes over) Yanz, this is Emi. Emi, this is Yanz. Yanz is from East Germany, so he lived half of his life under communism, and the other half he has been living in unified Germany as its government became more and more socialist, so you can say he knows all about this from First-hand experience. Yanz, Emi is a socialist and she thinks everyone should become socialist. You two talk now.

( I ran forward, and I almost fell on the floor laughing when I heard Yanz scream..)

Yanz: COMMMIEEEEEEEE!


*Me and My Aunt today*

Aunt: Did you hear? They announced the results of the referendum. 83% said yes, not like before when it was like 97% and 98%. This means this thing was legitimate. I am so glad.

Me: Allright, I will ignore the legitimate part this time and let’s assume that 83% really said yes. 83% of what exactly? Do you know?

Aunt: 83% of the people who voted.

Me: well, how many are those exactly? Do you know?

Aunt: to be honest, No!

Me: OK, there was 53% turn out in this referendum, so the 83% you are referring to is 83% of the 53% turn out. You follow me so far? Ok. In this referendum the government says that there was 23 Million registered voters, because most of us couldn’t get registered anyway, and 53% of those 23 Million showed up at the polls. Out of those 53% who showed up, 83% voted yes. So in Reality, its more like 9 million people saying yes, and speaking for the 72 million of Egyptians in this country. That’s slightly more the 10 % of the population deciding for the rest.

Aunt: Oh.

Me: It doesn’t look that good when I put it this way, huh?


I need to take a break from politics, cause I talk about it way too much.

Hmm…

The Sandmonkey @ 9:17 am
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Sickening

Posted on Thursday 26 May 2005

Just in case you don’t feel like clicking on the many many links provided in my last post, or you wanted to know more about our very depressing “democratic experiment“, here is more post-referendum roundup:

Baheyah ( a Kifaya member) posts more pictures ( also here , here and here) of the violence perpetrated by the Pro-Mubarak demonstrators against the Kifaya protesters.

Alaa gives his own account of being attacked by the NDP goons during the demonstrations while the police didn’t interfeere and was actually asking him questions while the demonstrators were attacking him and injuring his leg and head and breaking his glasses. The police were more interested in getting his camera then protecting him. He ended up losing his laptop as well.

AFP has an article in arabic that shows a picture of beat up female Kifaya protesters getting arrested, and dragged by police in civillian cloths.

Al Jazeerah reports that the voter turn-out was very low in cairo compared to the rural area, which in turn are not expected to have more then a 30%- 35% turnout. The article estimates voter turnout in cairo to be between 5-30%. Al Ahram reproted that they expected the turnout to be more then 70%, and for some reason had pictures of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak putting in their votes as well.

Orientalism’s Photo Essay has sparked a good discussion in its comments section.

Al-Arabiyah (another arabic article) reports the different methods NDP Business men were bribing people so that they can go and vote in the referendum. Methods to encourage the “democratic process” included: an offer of 30 EGP and a dinner meal; 40 EGP and 4 bottles of Soda ; and A pill of Viagra ( i am not kidding) and a dinner meal or their monetary equivelant in EGP.

And last but not least…

Abu Aardvark has an excellent round-up himself, the only drawback is that it’s filled with criticisms against Laura Bush- who just visited Egypt and – for praising Mubarak’s reforms as a small step in the road to democrcay during her visit. As if somehow if she didn’t praise it, they-NDP goons- wouldn’t have done what they did yesterday to the demonstraters. Check out the other picture of a female demonstrater getting beat up in the middle of that post.

Now if you excuse me, i have to go throw up. Nope, i am no longer suffering from a cold. This is just a side-effect of our own democracy in action. I am sure if you read those links you would udnerstand.

Have a nice day!

The Sandmonkey @ 6:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Requiem

Posted on Thursday 26 May 2005

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar


Plainclothes government agents beat protesters and watched as President Hosni Mubarak’ ‘s supporters punched other demonstrators Wednesday, marring a referendum on whether to let more than one candidate run in presidential elections.Female protesters in particular seemed to be targeted for beatings by both plainclothes state security agents and pro-Mubarak supporters, according to several witnesses and Associated Press.

“This is the first time this sort of beating and humiliation has taken place here in Cairo,” said Abdel Halim Qandil of the opposition group Kifaya. He said it had been a problem before in provincial areas.

The government had no official reaction to the violence. Security officials said the clashes were between Mubarak supporters and Kifaya members, and that security officials were not involved. But AP reporters saw plainclothes agents taking instructions from both uniformed and non-uniformed government security officers.


Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow


Go to Orientalism’s Blog for a Photo Essay that will show you how things really were like yesterday.


Life is very long


“Standing in front of the pyramids, First Lady Laura Bush said Monday that building democracy is a slow process, and she praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for what she called an important first step toward open elections.”I think he’s been very bold and wise to take the first step,” Bush said of the president who has served 24 years without facing an opposing candidate for re-election.”


Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow


“Nour, the opposition candidate, responded sourly to the remarks. “It shows she doesn’t understand anything at all. She made a statement that suggests she doesn’t know she was in Egypt. It was comical,” Nour said in an interview at his headquarters after the theater demonstration. Ismael, his wife, asserted that the Bush administration has given a green light to government repression through warm greetings to Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif during his visit to Washington last week and by the first lady’s comments. “Through its attitude, the administration gives confidence to the regime that it can be aggressive,” she said. “It can crush even a small demonstration with impunity.”


For Thine is the Kingdom


“He couldn’t go up 7 stairs to take the Photo-OP of voting at the referndum yesterday. Not even seven stairs. The man is 77, wants to rule Egypt for another 6 years, yet can’t walk up 7 stairs. You know that he gets wheeled everywhere before and after any Photo taking? They never show it, because we have to maintain the image of the healthy fit president, but they wheelchair him everywhere when there is no foreign press around. God help us all”

A Family Member, who is in politics and was with the President when he went and casted his symbolic vote, to my father yesterday.


This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Poem by T.S. Elliot

The Sandmonkey @ 1:30 am
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“That’s a lovely shade of Lipstick you are wearing, Mr. President!”

Posted on Wednesday 25 May 2005

Posted by Hello

Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak during his televised national address to encoruage people to vote in today’s referendum yesterday. It may not seem that apparent in this picture, but the man had a ton of Make-up on, in an attempt to look younger then he really is. I have to admit that it did work, Mubarak- who is 77- looked 73, 74 years old tops.

Disclaimer: The writer of this blog doesn’t think that our great democratic president looks anything like a clown in this photo. And despite heavy rumors to the contrary, he doesn’t think our great national leader looked like an aging transvestite in any way shape or form. So please, do not spread such viscious rumors, because the writer of this blog is scared shitless as it is for posting this picture. He just couldn’t help it. To his defense he suspects he has some kind of political OCD or something, but can’t find his medication anywhere in egypt. So please, mr. Friendly Egyptian Intelligence Mukhabarat guy, leave him alone. He just doesn’t know any better.

The Sandmonkey @ 4:27 am
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The requisite Egyptian Referendum post

Posted on Wednesday 25 May 2005

Since this is an Egyptian blog after all, i figure it is my nationalistic duty to post about the historical referendum to amend the Constitution, that should allow multi-party presidential elections in the future, as long as the opposition candidates are chosen by the current Party in power and considerd not to be a threat to their own candidate. Naturally this pisses some people off, but since everyone knows that Mubarak will win in the next election anyway, nobody cares about their objections. Ohh, and per order of our great minister of Interior, no political demonstration of any kind will be allowed or tolerated in order to facilitate the electoral process, maintain the country’s stability, and support the egyptian democratic experiment ( Those are his own words, i am not making this up to be a smartass).

Now, some people plan on boycotting this referendum, some people may think the whole thing to be a great opprutunity to engage in democratic refroms and bring democracy to egypt, and some confused people actually think that this is the regular presidential election refrendum and intend to vote “Yes to Mubarak”on the ballot like they always do. I belonged to the camp of people who believe that the whole thing is rigged anyway in order to pass the constitutional ammendment and that my vote didn’t really count. However, this fiery post by Hellme stated that if i don’t participate then i am not a real egyptian, which put me on the defensive, and made me wanna go out and vote a big fat NO on the referendum, because i think the amendment isn’t fair, and that the moment it gets passed it will be impossible to amend it. Not to mention, i had to prove that i am a real egyptian to Hellme, cause i felt that my nationalistic street cred was at stake here.

Unfortunately, i found out that i can not go and participate, because i didn’t have a registerd voter card, and you can only get those in November ( mighty convenient for a September election, don’tcha think?) for some reason. I was informed that i can go to the polls in my voting district and see if my name is there (they are suppsoed to automatically add your name when you are 18, but they almost never do), but no one can tell me what my voting district is: Some say it’s wherever i was born, others say it’s wherever i got my national ID and other swear up and down that it’s wherever i got my driver license. This now puts me in a new dilemma, cause i was born in one district, got my ID in another, and got my driver’s license in a third one (because that was the one where they just gave it to me without even taking the test). So now i am all confused on where to go, and even if i do a run-around on all three districts, there is a huge chance that my name is not gonna be listed on any of the records, and it would just be a big exercise in futility.

So i am gonna stay right here, use my cold as an excuse for not doing anything today, and just wait and observe the eventual death of our democracy by the passing of this ammendment; and it will pass, because they want it to pass, you know it and i know it. I am amazingly not feeling that bad about it, maybe because i feel that all those people who are gonna go and vote yes actually don’t deserve any better then to live in a dictatorship, or maybe it’s because my cold medicine has a sinful amount of Codeine in it, and i am on my second bottle today.

Oh well…

The Sandmonkey @ 3:40 am
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