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Dispatches From Cairo: Fuel for the Fire

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Posted on Apr 1, 2012
AP/Amr Nabil

People line up in front of a gas station in Cairo. An acute fuel shortage has disrupted the city’s already congested traffic, with long lines of vehicles snaking around gas stations and drivers spending the night in their cars.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

We asked Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, an international artist who lives in Cairo, to share her perspective of life in Egypt after the revolution. In this entry, she writes about a fuel shortage and a sense among the people that more trouble might be approaching along with Egypt’s presidential election and the drafting of a constitution.

CAIRO—The Cairo metro has been very crowded since the seemingly inexplicable shortage of gasoline began here. Unhappy customers—many of them with bottles—wait for hours at petrol stations as lines back up traffic for kilometers. And the cycle escalates as hoarders sell thousands, even millions, of liters on the black market. A taxi driver told me he waited four hours and then was told no more gas was available.

How is it that Egypt has a shortage when huge quantities of gasoline are being sold on the international “brokering” market? And when within the last year four enormous oil-exploitation contracts have been signed with international petrol consortiums that have projected production of billions of barrels of oil in 2012? It should be remembered that Egyptian governments have at times used fuel shortages to distract the public from certain issues.

Other than the sometimes aggressive squabbling of frustrated motorists in the gas lines, things are unnaturally calm now as Cairo enjoys perfect spring weather. There is barely a trace of tear gas residue left on the ground. Everyone is smiling, feeling shakily positive. Those who can have chosen to selectively forget the worst of recent memories, but most sense a new wave of conflict, gathering at a distance and surging toward them.

There is a strange prickling at the back of the neck, an incipient panic that causes ghastly dreams and waking up in a sweat, heart pounding. Election campaigns, Egypt-style, are brewing, amid the usual government/political/social confusion about subjects the good people seldom delve into, like international and financial affairs. The questions in the hearts of the common folk now are not lofty. Is the bloodletting really over? Will everything be … somehow … OK?

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Why are we wary? Generally, life is good, alhamdulillah. People will need less fuel with warm weather arriving, and there are fewer low-flying military jets on exercise missions. In a way, it’s these lulling calms that are the worst: Everyone forgets, and then, wham, some idiot upsets the fragile equilibrium and there’s another wave of unimaginable, irrational savagery.

It is beginning to dawn on everyone that Egypt’s new 70 percent Islamist Parliament has no power in state affairs. It is not the government! It does not have access to the situation room. It will be allowed to affect only the social, moral and religious aspects of the nation’s government, which appears to be in the hands of an unofficial coalition of the ruling military council, Islamists and ex-members of the Mubarak administration.

However, the precipitously created and, as we have begun to understand, essentially impotent Egyptian Parliament has finally settled on its seating issues and committees and observation of religious rites and is actually focusing on some pending governmental actions. This Parliament seems like a well-intentioned and not-so-clueless organism that just hasn’t managed to get access to the inner chamber where the real decisions are made, and that is only starting to discover its own functions. Unfortunately, in its new and as yet unclear niche, it often wanders into abstract and competing political, religious and moral divergences.

It was always intended to be an interim parliament, in fact, created principally for the task of choosing the body that will write the constitution, after or before which a president will be chosen in an election. As an experiment in democratic form, the revolution rushed a superficial, mostly powerless Parliament into existence to placate the public’s demands for representation—without a constitution or clear job description. Now, many Egyptians are distressed over the fact that the group that has been selected by the Parliament to write the constitution and laws of the country is composed mostly of Islamic party members—and very few women. [Editor’s note: On Wednesday, liberals in the 100-member assembly that was elected to draft a constitution resigned from the body in protest against what they called the Muslim Brotherhood party’s attempt to dominate the proceedings and deny representation to minority groups and other political ideologies. Other boycotts occurred later last week.]

Egyptian writers are warning that political developments in the coming months and the arrival of a new constitution could pose a serious threat to Egypt’s revolution.” We have idiots for politicians that do not read daily newspapers,” Fares Khedr, a member of the Egyptian Writers Union, told Ahram Online. “If these people are drafting our constitution, say goodbye to Egypt.” Khedr declared that the assembly needs intellectuals because they represent Egypt’s conscience.

Recently some Muslim Brotherhood MPs accused the government of secretly creating the fuel shortage to highlight the ineffectuality of the Parliament and to demonstrate the people’s dependence on the government.

Some Egyptians are demanding to know who is responsible for the shortage, but they find that they are outside the government’s black box and are raising their voice futilely.


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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 5, 2012 at 10:42 am Link to this comment

Those who disdain the backward glance will keep making the same mistakes over and over.

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By gerard, April 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm Link to this comment

It is probably not as necessary to be “sure” as to be hopeful and open to all possibilities that protect and nurture life.  Trying to go forward while looking through the rear-view mirror is guaranteed to cause a crash.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 3, 2012 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment

This current moment, this turn of events with the Muslim Brotherhood, was not unforseeable.

gerard, i am glad that you have confidence in the long view, but I am also not so sure that we should console ourselves with such optimistic thoughts when people are about to go through a hard time. I could be wrong. I admit that. But I have been right so far.

Also I am not so sure that science will make us all better people.

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By gerard, April 2, 2012 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

I may be very wrong (and after all, I’m only reading tea leaves) but I expect that the Islalm-influenced doctrinaire governing powers in the Middle East will all die hard—but they will die, slowly and painfully, because the current trends of the world toward science and technology, plus the spread of democratizing influences like the Internet. space exploration and a sense of planetary unity will overwhelm all the old religious orthodoxies, including Christianity.  Buddism being less autocratic, more intuitive and less “hide-bound” will fair better in the coming years—if we “religious nuts” don’t blow ourselves up or destroy the planet first.

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By truedigger3, April 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment

Re: By OzarkMichael, April 2 at 2:17 pm
“The social, moral and political aspects of life are awfully important. Having an effect on those things is actually a lot of power. Plus they are drafting the Constitution and that is a lot of power.”
—————————————————————-
OzarkMichael,

What are you trying to say! I don’t get it! I have the deep suspicion that you are trying to be sly again and bullshitting everbody and pushing your tea party crap!
It is futile and useless to get into honest discussion wiht the like of you who are definitely brain washed or have an agenda!
I am sorry but it is the truth and I am very sad and apprehensive!!??

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

from the article:

It is beginning to dawn on everyone that Egypt’s new 70 percent Islamist Parliament has no power in state affairs. It is not the government! It does not have access to the situation room. It will be allowed to affect only the social, moral and religious aspects of the nation’s government…

The social, moral and political aspects of life are awfully important. Having an effect on those things is actually a lot of power. Plus they are drafting the Constitution and that is a lot of power.

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By truedigger3, April 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

Re: By OzarkMichael, April 2 at 9:48 am

OzarkMichael wrote:
“Does Obama want to hand power to the Muslim brotherhood? Planned it all along? Really?

sheesh. Even i dont believe that. “
————————————————————————
OzarkMichael,
Although I don’t like Obama and I wouldn’t vote for him or any Republican or Democrat, that is a sly cheap shot from you, Mr. Michael!
Supporting the Muslim Brotherhood is a part of a long term policy which is independent of any president!
If you have any questions then direct it to the Council on Foreign Relations or the State Dempartment
The US are supporting the rebels in Syria who are Muslim Brotherhood. The US supported the rebels in Libya who were Muslim Brotherhood. Go figure!
I have explanation for that but I leave that for a sly man like you to figure it out!!

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 2, 2012 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

The military are in a very difficult situation and are under tremendous pressure from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the USA to hand power to the Muslim Brotherhood and if that happen that will be the end of Egypt.

Does Obama want to hand power to the Muslim brotherhood? Planned it all along? Really?

sheesh. Even i dont believe that.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, April 2, 2012 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

@ truedigger3

The Flight Of The Bumble Roach written and perfomed by The Residents…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1OuttX6RXs

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By truedigger3, April 2, 2012 at 4:01 am Link to this comment

Re: By EmileZ, April 2 at 12:12 am

EmileZ,

I admit that I am not familiar with Sharif abdel Koddous, so I googled him and found out that he got praise from Amy Goodman, Rachel Maddow and many of those phony “progressives” who are nothing but fronts for the Democratic Party and covert supporters of Israel and overt loud supporters of the so called “humanitarian interventions”.
Many of those, the so called “progressives” supported the criminal attack on Libya and the complete destruction of a prosperous thriving modern society and the resulting killing of thousands of its citizens!

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, April 2, 2012 at 1:12 am Link to this comment

Ummm…

If truthdig were ever to for some reason have to find a more sophisticated replacement for Unger-Geoffroy, I would strongly consider recruiting Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

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By MeHere, April 1, 2012 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

The Egyptian people shouldn’t worry too much. Soon enough the US and its allies will come up with a solution aimed at imposing their idea of “stability” on the country.  Apparently, some covert democracy-building has been going on already and that’s very promising.

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By truedigger3, April 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm Link to this comment

Re: By vector56, April 1 at 4:36 pm

vector56,

Regarding Lauren Unger-Geoffroy, I totally agree with you. She is dishonest and full of shit.
Regarding what you call Mubarak’s cronies, I disagree with you. There are no more Mubarak’s cronies and if they existed they would have never allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to win the elections!
The military are in a very difficult situation and are under tremendous pressure from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and the USA to hand power to the Muslim Brotherhood and if that happen that will be the end of Egypt. Many enlightened Egyptians are aware of that including the military and are trying to find a way out of this mess and time will tell!. Egypt is in mortal danger!

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vector56's avatar

By vector56, April 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm Link to this comment

“As an experiment in democratic form, the revolution rushed a superficial, mostly powerless Parliament into existence to placate the public’s demands for representation—without a constitution or clear job description.”

The above statement is a “Ball-Face” lie!

Same on you Lauren Unger-Geoffroy; the core participants of the Egyptian revolution asked for more time to form political parties (the young people and Left in particular), but were hijacked by the Mubarak’s cronies and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In other words those who sparked the revolution were shut out by the already established political machine of the former Dictator and the Muslim Brother hood.
What you are trying to pull is unfair and dishonest.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, April 1, 2012 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

Good to have another dispatch from Cairo. Thank you Lauren Unger-Geoffroy.

It is beginning to dawn on everyone that Egypt’s new 70 percent Islamist Parliament has no power in state affairs. It is not the government! It does not have access to the situation room. It will be allowed to affect only the social, moral and religious aspects…

The Muslim Brotherhood has also figured out where the state power is. They just announced they are running a candidate for the highest office:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/31/us-egypt-brotherhood-presidency-idUSBRE82U0DL20120331

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