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Dispatches From Cairo: Egypt’s War on NGOs

Posted on Dec 30, 2011
AP / Ahmed Ali

A protester gestures during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Friday. Several Egyptian rights groups accused the country’s ruling military council of using “repressive tools” of the deposed regime in waging an “unprecedented campaign” against pro-democracy organizations.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

(Page 2)

In fact, in Egypt there is a lack of accurate information in almost every aspect of society—current events, public understanding of laws, punctuality, the work of researchers and experts, knowledge of government and security operations. The effect is an acceptance of inexactitude that permeates the culture and allows the people to tolerate an ever-changing kaleidoscope of “truth” and vastly inconsistent facts and figures manipulated in glaringly blatant ways. The lack of basic information has been an obvious barrier to cohesive partisan choices based on facts and has deeply complicated the transition to an effective democratic process.

While the generals pretend to be reluctant rulers, the power remains in the hands of the military, which by design fosters confusion and fear that thwart the shift to a new system of government. A good example of the obfuscation is the current, almost undecipherable electoral procedure—a referendum, two elections of three rounds each for a legislature, another referendum on a constitution, and then a presidential election. Domination of the elections by conservative forces such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis is no surprise; they offer a mirage of stability. The people know the Quran and Shariah. Allah is great. God save us.

On Friday, those supporting the ruling generals finally had their own demonstration square, and dueling protests took place in central Cairo, thankfully a few miles apart.

In the Abbasiya district, some hundreds of pro-military demonstrators accused foreign journalists of manipulating reports of military abuse and charged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with interfering in Egypt. One sign bearing a picture of Clinton said, “Hilary stay out of Egypt’s business and better watch your husband’s wandering eye.”


Square, Site wide

Foreign reporters were not allowed in, and many Egyptian journalists were driven out of the area and in some cases, they said, physically attacked amid accusations that they were helping to destroy the nation.

The protest against the generals occurred in Tahrir Square, where the demonstrators held up pictures of “bluebrawoman” and other images. It was the largest protest since February, estimated by some at more than 100,000. The crowd was peaceful and actually euphoric, as in some earlier moments of the revolution, with women being protected symbolically. Revolutionary pride was regained for the day.

* * *

On Wednesday, I walked across the metro tracks en route to my home, going over the covered bridge, happy to discover that it was newly endowed with light. I held up my scarf to cover my face, to keep from attracting male attention and also to protect against a strong wind carrying dirt from the deep drifts of garbage along the inside of the bridge; skinny cats caroused nearby. I bought some taffies at the candy shop at the bottom before climbing the 100 steps to go over the bridge.

In the new orange light (such a relief from the previous darkness), I saw the small, curled body of a boy lying in a pile of garbage, barefoot and filthy with his arms around a large plastic soccer ball. I stopped to see if he was dead or alive. He seemed alive by the way his arms held his ball. People passed and looked at me hesitating there. I shot them a questioning, worried look: Is this child OK? Do we just assume he’s sleeping and has parents nearby? But they avoided looking at him, and their disdainful glances made it clear that they thought I should too.

I decided the boy was all right, just taking a nap. I shifted my eyes toward the bottom of the steps on my side, seeking the usual beggars. Perhaps he was with one of them. I saw four or five beggars in their usual spots, unmoved to clear the rubbish around them. Plastic bags and sandy dirt flew through the air.

I looked back at the boy. I wouldn’t wake him. A dozen possible stories entered my mind. He had fought with his parents, he’s sleeping here awhile and he’ll go back to them.

I left my bag of taffy. He didn’t move. I was going to say something to the beggar woman I see everyday on the bottom of the steps, but the couple who passed me on the bridge looked at me again as if I was impolite to be concerned.

No statistics here.

There had been several kids like the boy in Tahrir, running around with purpose, bringing water, food, doing errands, finding a welcome and a sense of belonging—there among the legs of an Egyptian revolution that will become their world.

Now, what NGO will help the boy I saw that night?

As I count the casualties of 2011 in this fading year of cataclysmic shift, I have been thinking of that child. I even dreamed about him and the ball—he was laughing.

He was gone from the spot the next day, the day NGOs went down.

Happy New Year, Egypt. Koll sana wenta tayeb. May the next year be good to you. Insha allah.

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By Ana Maria Alonso, January 4, 2012 at 12:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The NGOs in Egypt are not neutral. They are part of the Middle East Partnership Initiative formed by the Bush gov’t after 9/11/2001. What is behind them is a neoconservative project to promote “democracy” in the Middle East (just in case the dictators did go down & to improve our image). See “US democracy promotion in the Arab Middle East since 11 September 2001” by K. Dalacoura

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By chris massey lynch, January 3, 2012 at 5:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

SCAF are Scum.                          Which part of the words” Police State”  Do people not understand?

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By Howard, January 2, 2012 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

Oh my goodness ! Never thought anyone could blame
Israel after reading this article. Or reading of the
irrational assault on the NGS’s in Egypt by the
uninformed on the street at the behest of the military.
Writer before me will next say its Israel’s doings
that causes the sun to rise in the east.

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By Rehmat, January 1, 2012 at 11:51 am Link to this comment

It’s a polical charade. Both the ruling military junta and many anti-government NGOs are working for US-Israel interests. They want to keep genuine democracy away from Egypt and other Muslim countries. The western experience of democracy in the ME is very bitter. Most of the time, free elections have given power to Islamists, who are anti-Israel.

Not many people, including the protesters, know the evil people behind the Youth Movements which have spearheaded the street protests against the locally hated regimes. The Alliance of Youth Movement (AYM) was given birth by the US State Department in 2008 an inaugural summit meeting in New York city in 2008. The meeting was attended by members of variety of Jewish thinks, like Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and Israel-firsters officials from National Security staff, Department of Homeland Security advisers – and the Jewish-controlled mainstream-media, such as, Google, Facebook, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and MTV. The meeting was attended by actress Whoopi Goldberg, Facebook Co-Founder Dustin Moskovitz and Ben-Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, James K. Glassman. AYM has held annual meetings in Mexico city and London (UK) since then….

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drbhelthi's avatar

By drbhelthi, December 31, 2011 at 9:13 am Link to this comment

Although the army leadership of Egypt were trained in the US War College, one wonders if they are in the process of severing the umbilical chord.  Their current deportment demonstrates insight into what eventually happens to 3rd world nations and their leaders, after the GHWBushSr/Obama/Miss Hilly brand of democracy” has taken hold, and U.S. pimpery is installed in leadership.  The GHWBushSr/NATO destruction of Libya and Muammar AL Gadhaffi may have had an impact.

One tends to think that the army leadership of Egypt fully comprehends Mr. Fish´s Boo Hoo, which, accurately reflecting modern history, is much more than a cartoon..

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, December 31, 2011 at 7:40 am Link to this comment

I am not in the mood to use the events in Egypt as evidence for my own causes. That is why I didnt comment on the last article and wasnt going to comment here, but instead I write a brief ‘thanks’.

The situation in Egypt is very sad, where once there was so much joy. It must be much harder for Lauren Unger-Geoffroy to write, but she does a fine job and I hope she can continue.

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sofianitz's avatar

By sofianitz, December 31, 2011 at 5:52 am Link to this comment

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has said repeatedly it will not tolerate foreign interference in the country’s affairs.” 
SCAF is, in an of itself, the largest foreign interference in Egypt’s affairs.  To the tune of $39.3 billion (through 2009,and counting) since the 1974 Camp David Accord, the United States has paid off the Egyptian military establishment, to the point that they now control over 40% of Egypt’s private economy.
You notice that the US Embassy, and the US intelligence agencies were not among the American institutions challenged by SCAF.  They go there every day to find out what to do next.

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By, December 30, 2011 at 9:26 pm Link to this comment

For a nation that appears to have made significant changes to repress the truth of an NGO such as Human Rights Watch is very bold and very wrong. The uninformed may believe that NGO’s are simply a front for lobbyists may know much more than me. I have witnessed their work in more than 140 countries and support their actions in everyway possible. On the other side of that coin, I have had the displeasure or seeing what really occurs in these countries that have won their freedom from one oppresive dictatorial leadership to another that will loot the remaining coffers until they are tossed out or strung up. The opportunity to do the next correct thing has passed them by and now with the reduction in the US military they will be required to account to the private sector, without the former support from NATO.  This is by no mmeans a threat it is simply the reality of the changes that are coming. Previously we evacuated several thousand people whose lives were at risk and we will gladly do it again due to the primary fact that Egypt has gone from the frying pan to the fire. People should have at the very least some basic rights and that is the reason the former dictators of North Africa have been removed. They should be very careful in what they do and who they do it to. Subjegation is a valid reason for war, they have set a poor example of their permitted insurgency and may wish to rethink their intentions if they continue to subjegate the people of Egypt any further than this false government in place already has.  They may last six weeks longer unless they rethink their position. If anyone believes the current ruling body achieved this on their own merit.  Halloween is over.

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By gerard, December 30, 2011 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment

“The lack of basic information has been an obvious barrier to cohesive partisan choices based on facts and has deeply complicated the transition to an effective democratic process.”

Turn toward Washington, D.C., bow three times, repeat the above statement, and then pray for the release of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning, for the continued open Internet, and for all the many journalists killed in the struggle for open information and truth.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, December 30, 2011 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

NGO’s are just another front for lobbyists.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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