February 26, 2012
Egypt NGO Trail encores (delay to April)
The murky and ongoing political trials against NGOs backed by foreign money took another strange twist in the delay to 26 April. God alone knows what is going on now in Egypt, which is sliding chaotically sideways.
However, in this NYT/IHT arty, I rather more Trial of Nonprofit Workers in Egypt Is Abruptly Put Off - was struck by this:
But another contingent of lawyers had turned up to argue on behalf of Egyptians who they said had been harmed by the activities of the nonprofit groups, which officials of the military-led government have charged with stirring unrest in the Egyptians. They shouted back accusations the defendants and their supporters were agents of the United States.Emphasis added. That is a line of agitation - clearly by Salafistes - that is quite dangerous.
As though to complete the sense of a climactic unleashing of pent-up bad feeling between the two longtime allies, another group of protesters outside the courthouse chanted for the United States to release from prison Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian jailed for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. Some here have argued he should be released in a prisoner swap for the Americans on trial in the case.
American diplomats, Egyptian lawyers and others involved said the efforts to resolve the case had foundered amid a breakdown in the lines of authority within the military-led transitional government in the final months before the generals have pledged to leave power. American officials say they have tried to find Egyptian counterparts who might intercede, but Egyptian leaders say they cannot intervene in the judicial process.
If the case is not resolved, Congress and the Obama administration have vowed to cut off the $1.55 billion in annual aid to Egypt, potentially rupturing the three-way alliance among Washington, Cairo and Jerusalem that has been a linchpin of regional stability.
There is no dispute that the two groups and their staffs have broken the letter of Egyptian law. Both groups sought, but never received, licenses from the Egyptian government, and both are openly financed from abroad. They therefore violate two restrictions on civil groups left over from government of Hosni Mubarak, the strongman president who was deposed a year ago. But both groups have been tolerated here for years, along with scores of Egyptian nonprofit groups that also break both rules.
But the case has continued to move forward, and the American threats to cut off aid have set off a new wave of Egyptian nationalism.
The arty elsewhere notes the idea being mooted by American officials of some deal to let the Americans go, the Egyptian nationals with short sentences. I would advance the opinion that such would be quite damaging for American image overall.
However, few choices exist.
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I know you have taginiste tendencies make you prefer remain in The Magic Kingdom and shun Oum El Dounia, but had you set foot in Cairo lately you would have seen a sit-in, dating from February 2011, by Omar Abdel Rahman's relatives outside the US Embassy. They set up large banners and posters of the blind sheikh, some bearing his Azharite headgear, which makes him look like Father Christmas. We all thought it was rather festive.
Obviously, considering SCAF is not all that tolerant of sit-ins generally, one wonders whether their allowing of this near a foreign embassy surrounded by army vehicles is a giant finger to the Yanks, saying "you want democracy, you got it."
The sit-in is mostly manned by Abdel Rahman's sons (he seems to have had at least 20 or so) and some supporters from the Gamaa Islamiya, which now has a few MPs. They are quite active and show up in surprising places, and have even gotten this swap idea mentioned in parliament. It has virtually no chance of getting somewhere, though, even if their persistence and media-savviness have gotten them some attention and some ill-thought-out endorsements from some religious figures.
Posted by: Arabist at February 26, 2012 10:53 PM
I have heard, with no direct checking of truth, that the arrests are an F.U. to both the USA and SCAF by remaining Mubarakite elements in the interior law enforcement. Makes sense in a surface plausible way but whether it is factual or not, I have no idea.
Posted by: matthew h at February 26, 2012 11:28 PM
Tagine? Oh my you have been in Oum Eddounia too long.
But I am a Tajinista indeed.
Anyway, I very much credit your note re SCAF (the you want democracy, here it is" finger part...
Between the Neo Mamlouk manouevering and the lunatic Salafi-Takfiri fringe, Egypt is not in a good spot.
I was on a conference call with an investor recently, with some Arab investors, one of whom chortled a little bit about American difficulties which provoked the response from another (Arab) investor: "just wait until they get mad at you..." with a follow-on discussion about whatever the feelings about Americans, the out-of-control politicised trial had the others feeling like Egypt was not a destination.....
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 27, 2012 05:51 AM
I was also about to write something about the Sheikh Omar Fan Club, since I accidentally wandered into their sit-in late last year, and ended up having a long chat with two of his sons and a couple of other Gamaaa-enthusiasts. Pleasant little space, kind of a Salafi picnic area, and very welcoming and friendly guys, though somewhat unduly preoccupied with the influence of Judaism and Freemasonry over world affairs.
They also wanted me to know that they are strongly opposed to terrorism and extremism. A message slightly undermined by banners declaring the martyrdom of a third brother, who had recently been caught by a US drone strike while in bad company in the AfPak region.
On Sheikh OA himself, they did claim they'd managed to push the demand for his release through all government institutions except the SCAF itself, whatever that meant. I recall they had a recommendation for his release from a judge or something of that sort.
Posted by: alle at February 27, 2012 12:07 PM