10 February 2012

Day of Gathering (Links)

Every Friday (known as Yom el-Goma--'the day of gathering' in Arabic) I will post links here under this heading that I have accumulated over the week that do the best job of summing up the week's events in Egypt.

Not sure whether I will separate them by day or event at this point, we'll just see how it evolves over time. Unless in quotes, all the commentary underneath links is my own.

Since I just decided to rejig this blog yesterday, this post is very light on linkage.

Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo all week to take on security forces in response to the incredibly tragic events in Port Said last Wednesday that left 74 dead.

While it may never really be known for sure, many believe that the tragedy was not an accident but a ploy set up by police to enact revenge on fans of Cairo's al-Ahly football club, many of whom are active in the youth revolutionary movement. 

Yezid Sayigh at Foreign Policy's Middle East blog does a great job of summing up the intentions behind the on-going criminal trial of several NGO (Non-Government Organization) workers. The money quote:
"[T]he campaign against pro-democracy activists and NGOs is not the badly misjudged action of a military council (i.e. SCAF) flailing desperately as it struggles to retain control of Egypt's transitional process and protect its special powers and exclusions from civilian oversight. Rather, it is a calculated ploy."
The referral to criminal court of 43 "pro-democracy advocates" (including 19 Americans) on Sunday is the perfect way for the military council to show the Egyptian people they need them (them = SCAF) to retain some semblance of power in order to safeguard the country from outside controls. By putting Americans and Europeans on the stand and charging them for engaging in "pure political activity", SCAF effectively puts a face on the previously mythical danger of "foreign influence", playing the nationalism card for all its worth (see: below).

Not only that, but SCAF also endears itself to the population by calling the US's bluff to pull aid.

From an Egyptian newspaper: Uncle Sam threatens "aid" while the Egyptian stands for "dignity"

I may end up being completely wrong on this, but I don't see a scenario where the White House pulls the military aid to Egypt. The situation in the entire region is too volatile (see: Iran) to risk anything even remotely related to Israeli relations.

The kidnapping is the latest in a series of abductions in the peninsula. Last week two American tourists and 18 Egyptian border guards in the area were briefly held hostage on separate occasions before being released unharmed. 

While there has always been some level of tension between the Bedouin and the Egyptian government, the past year has seen an extreme escalation of illegal activity in the region. In addition to the abductions, the natural gas pipeline that runs through the Sinai to Israel and Jordan has been attacked a dozen times over the year.

These actions have a potentially devastating effect on (Egypt and) the Sinai's tourism industry. Besides Mt. Sinai and the monastery, the peninsula regularly attracts a large number of European, Russian and Israeli tourists to coastal resort towns on the Red Sea like Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab and Nuweiba. While the resorts themselves are probably safe, attracting people to those spots will only get more difficult if this trend continues.

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