Realizing death

In two weeks, it will be the anniversary of one of the worst days in Egypt’s modern history. In addition to the hundreds that were killed on that single day, Aug. 14, and hundreds more in following days and months, many friends and colleagues had close calls. It’s the anniversary of when many of us, myself included, narrowly escaped death. The sight and sound of whizzing bullets is still very much alive. A lot has happened since, here and in the region. And it only made the idea of death much more real. It has become a constant possibility with the name of every fallen journalist/colleague, when seeing the scars and implications of gunfire injuries still visible a year later, and especially when every morning starts by checking that friends covering war zones are still alive. I’ve been bracing for the worst for more than year, but more so ahead of these two weeks. And the passing of a dear friend this year was a reminder that death isn’t only tied to danger or certain jobs. This is not meant to be as bleak as it sounds; this realization of death has translated into an attempt to enjoy life as much as fearing its loss and it often comes with an urge to always tie up all loose ends.

هو أنا بقيت بأشتم ليه

من ثلاث سنين كنت بأتعمد أتكلم  بصوت واطي وأنا بأحكي لأعز أصدقائي عن الشتيمة اللي اتقالت في خناقة حضرتها، شتيمة تعتبر مقارنة باللي بأقوله دلوقت ولاحاجة. في أصدقاء كثير بيستغربوا التغيير اللي حصل من ساعتها، زملاء الدراسة من الزمن البعيد ممكن يحصلهم صدمة لو عرفوا الشتائم اللي على لساني: في العربية رد فعلي لغباء السواقيين اللي حواليا تطور من حمار لعرص وعلق، أول كلمة بتيجي في بالي كرد فعل لأخبار كتير بأسمعها هي احا، ده غير الإستخدام المتواصل لكلمة بضان، اللي شايفها أدق وصف لناس وحاجات كتير حواليا.

التغير مش تغير في الشخصية، لسه الشتيمة جوه العربية و الزجاج مقفول ولما بأفتحه بأشرح للسواق التاني بهدوء أو بعصبية إزاي كان هيلبس كام عربية فبعض، واستخدامي للألفاظ المسماة بالبذيئة محدود وسط دوائر الأصدقاء المقربين ولسه زي ماأنا مابستخدمش أي نوع من الشتيمة في خناق أو نقاش وخاصة مع ناس مأعرفهاش.

التغير هو مجرد تقبل لإستخدام مصطلحات كانت تصنيفها للجزء الأكبر من حياتي هو عيب وغلط ومايصحش، إالخ، إلخ، يعني أقدر أقول إن الحواجز النفسية والإجتماعية اتكسرت أو أتغير مفهومي للأباحة\قباحة والبذاءة.

 السؤال اللي طرحته على نفسي وأصدقاء سألوه هو ايه سبب، ممكن التعرض لـ والتعود على سماع الألفاظ ديه بصفة مستمرة، الألفاظ اللي أصبحت متاحة بطريقة مباشرة أوبالتلميح في حياتنا، في الشارع، والإعلام، شبكات التواصل الإجتماعي (تويتر، فيس بوك)، إلخ. يمكني تعرضي ليها أكتر شوية.

بس كسر الحاجز النفسي المرتبط بفهمي للبذائة أساسه النقاشات أو الخناقات بتاعة الكام سنة اللي فاتوا، بعد كام مرة من محاولة اقناع ناس أعرفها إن ماينفعش تقتل شخص أو توافق أو تبرر قتله لمجرد اختلافك معاه، بعد كذا نقاش عن التعذيب قدام مبررات من نوعية “في ناس ماينفعش معاها غير كده”، وبعد سماع تبريرات لحالات اغتصاب سواء في السجون أو الإعتداء الجنسي الجماعي، الأباحة\قباحة اللفظية بيبقى ليها تعريف تاني، أقل وطأة من قبل كده.

مثلاً يعني ايه أكثر اباحية من عرض بديهيات الإنسانية للنقاش وسماع تبريرات لإنتهاك الجسد سواء بالقتل أو التعذيب أو الإعتداء الجنسي؟ محتوى الحوار في حد ذاته نزل لدرجات أوطى من الشتيمة. هل لمجرد أن احنا اتربينا إن الشتيمة غلط ده يخليها عيب في حين نقاش ييرر الجرائم البذيئة يعتبر محترم لمجرد خلوه من لفظ ما؟ مااحنا المفروض اتربينا على تقديس حاجات زي الحياة، كنا بنتعاقب على الضرب أكتر من الشتيمة وفكرة القتل بالنسبة لينا حاجة بعيدة عن حياتنا.

والموضوع مش مقتصر على الكلام فقط، في مفاهيم ومعتقدات عن الأدب والاحترام فقدت معناها بالنسبة ليا مع كمية العنف والجثث اللي شوفتها، ايه أكثر قبحا من طفل يتقتل أو يتعذب أو ينتهك جنسياً وفي نفس الوقت تلاقي اللي يبرر أو يقبل ده (سواء من وزراء أو رؤساء وزراء أو حتى ناس عادية؟ أكيد مش الشتيمة.

الشتيمة ممكن تعبر عن مستوى اقتصادي أو اجتماعي وأظن أن ده سبب تصنيفها كأباحة\قباحة غير مقبولة في حين نقاشات اساسها تبرير وتشجيع الإنحطاط الأخلاقي مازالت تصنف كرقي لمجرد تجنبها بعض الألفاظ.

الأسئلة ديه دايما في بالي وساعدت أنها تشيل جزء كبير من تخوفي من استخدام الشتيمة، لكن مش كله، لسه مش عايزة أي نقاش بشارك فيه يتحول لشيتمة وبرده مش عايزة يوصل لمستوى من العهر إن أحنا نناقش إذا كان القتل والتعذيب والإغتصاب مفيد ولا لأ.

Five months in news

Here are links to articles and news stories I wrote the past five months.

**16 women journalists on the Middle East front lines

 –Flattered to be listed among these brave women.

Lawyers in Muslim Brotherhood case seek new judges – CNN, Feb 22

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Lawyers representing Muslim Brotherhood members in a jailbreak case that includes former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy called Saturday for the judges to be changed.

As has been the case in previous proceedings, Morsy appeared in the courtroom from inside a soundproof glass box, a requirement he rejected last Sunday as a “farce.”

Read more

Detained Al Jazeera journalists appear in court as trial opens – CNN, Feb 21 – With VIDEO

Cairo (CNN) — Three Al Jazeera journalists were among eight who appeared at a hearing in a Cairo prison court Thursday, accused along with 17 other defendants of spreading “false news” and having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt declared a terrorist organization in December.

“Tell her I love her. Big wedding when I get out,” Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy told journalists in a message to his fiancee, appearing in high spirits on the first day of his trial, despite a worsening shoulder injury.

Read more

Facing new charges, Egypt’s Morsy taunts court from glass cage – CNN, Feb. 16

 (CNN) — Deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Sunday taunted court officials who placed him in a soundproof glass box during his trial on conspiracy charges, a proceeding cut short by his lawyers’ objections.

“If this farce continues, leave the trial,” Morsy told his lawyers through a microphone. “Those who are afraid of my appearance before the people have no public support,” he added.

Read more

**In second court date, Morsi struggles to be heard from his glass cage – Mada Masr, Jan. 30

Standing in a soundproof glass cage, deposed President Mohamed Morsi made his second public appearance since his July ouster on Tuesday in the first session of what his lawyers described as a “show trial.”

Along with 130 others, Morsi is charged with helping to facilitate a mass prison break from the Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011, where he himself had been incarcerated.

Read more

**Egyptian activists behind bars on uprising’s anniversary – CNN, Jan. 25, With Video

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — As Egypt marked the third anniversary of the January 25 revolution, many of the activists associated with it were behind bars, awaiting trial, or facing a vilification campaign that turned heroes into traitors.

Meanwhile, the police whose brutal force stoked their anger three years ago vowed to protect the weekend celebrations.

Read more

**Normalizing Conspiracies with an Egyptian Puppet – EgyptSource/The Atlantic Council, Jan.9

Officials from the mobile phone operator Vodafone were questioned last week by Egypt’s public prosecutor about coded messages allegedly hidden in one of their online ads. The video, said to contain a secret message for terrorists, features internet sensation Abla Fahita, a puppet who rose to fame mocking Egyptian housewives who use the internet as their source of recipes and gossip.

The Prosecutor General saw that the report, filed by a wannabe singer and fame-seeking conspiracy theorist Ahmed “Sbyder,” was worthy of investigation and questioning. The prosecution didn’t ignore it like other complaints, including  an earlier request for an investigation into how a TV anchor acquired and aired recordings of activists’ phone calls.

Read more

Egypt’s government fails to end civil strife, terrorism – Al Monitor, Dec. 30

The sight of blood and charred debris, the screams of loss and pain and the rising death toll often leave people speechless, unable to comprehend a thought.

The state of shock swiftly turns into hysteric consensus over any idea that appeals to the crowd or part of it. Probing questions are quieted or dismissed as preposterous.

Declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, even though a court is still to give a verdict to that effect, caters to this reaction and helps in distracting from the unpopular type of criticism directed at the government.

Read more

**Mosa’ab Elshamy: On escaping death and capturing tragedy – Al Akhbar English, Dec. 16

As the deadly crackdown on the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi was coming to an end on August 14, word spread that a photographer called Mosa’ab Elshamy was killed. It wasn’t long before the 23-year-old photographer assured his friends and colleagues that it was another Alexandria photographer by the same name who had been killed at the same Rabaa al-Adawya square where he was taking photos. The relief was soon replaced by the realization that another set of strangers were mourning the loss of their friend. This type of tragedy and conflict is what Elshamy is skillful at documenting.

Read more

Prison sentences for women as Egypt clamps down on protest –CNN, Nov. 28

Cairo (CNN) — Lengthy sentences handed down to 21 women and girls who were arrested at a pro-Morsy demonstration have highlighted growing unease over the Egyptian authorities’ treatment of dissent.

The protesters, including seven minors, were sentenced Wednesday in Alexandria after being arrested at a demonstration in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsy earlier this month.

Read more

And follow up here

Also watch Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Alaa Eldin Ezzat, whose daughter Ola was sentenced to 11 years in jail.

Egypt’s old and new battle over revolutionary discourse – Al Monitor, Nov. 21

CAIRO — On the evening of Nov. 18, Helmy al-Sayed carried a placard that almost got him kicked out of a march in downtown Cairo. The words on it and the ensuing argument represented the type of problems march organizers wanted to avoid by holding it a day before the second anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes and away from other events planned by opposing groups.

Read more

The Nonsensical Distance in Egypt’s Protest Legislation – Al Akhbar English, Nov. 18

Cairo – Walls. Walls. Walls. The geography of Cairo’s traffic has been gravely altered by the cement walls blocking streets to the Ministry of Interior, the cabinet and the parliament, all in close proximity, in addition to other facilities in central Cairo.

Read more

**Notes From Egypt’s Show Trial – The New York Times, Nov. 6

CAIRO — DURING a court recess on Monday, I approached the floor-to-ceiling, webbed-metal cage confining Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt, and seven other defendants.

I sneaked a peek past a security guard. Mr. Morsi stood surrounded by his former aides and fellow defendants from the Muslim Brotherhood. They were dressed in white garments, as required by the authorities. He wore a blue business suit.

Read more

Youssef Turns the Joke on His Former Fans – Al Akhbar English, Oct. 29

Cairo – Bassem Youssef was facing a challenge in the build-up to the first episode of “al-Bernameg” following a four-month hiatus. Opposed to common belief, it wasn’t an issue of lack of material after Mohamed Mursi and Islamist TV channels disappeared from the scene. It was Youssef’s own audience, those who had avidly cheered and defended his painful mockery of Mursi and co. Now that they are supporting the state and status quo, and, like their Islamist counterparts, nodding to TV channels whose content is rich in material for Youssef’s show, the joke essentially would be on them.

Read more

Has Egypt Lost the Plot? – Al Monitor, Oct. 14

CAIRO — Posters of Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi outnumbered all other trinkets sold or distributed during the street celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 War. The day turned into “Sisi Fest,” rather than a celebration of Egypt’s armed forces, during which a campaign for the general’s presidency found large numbers of supporters.

Read more

National Songs in Tune With the State – Al Akhbar English, Oct. 4

Cairo – Most Fridays, state-owned and private radio channels blast a single genre of music all day long: national and patriotic tunes. Instead of around-the-clock political analysis on the weekend or airing songs that might be insensitive to whatever is going on, a growing library of classic and contemporary national songs has been providing a safe programming choice since the January 25 uprising made Friday the day of protests.

Read more

قراءة سريعة ل”خبر” الأهرام الرمضاني

 نص الخبر: مصدر يكشف برقية أمريكية للجيش المصرى: لا تفكروا أبدا فى إسقاط مرسى.. وأوباما حاول تهديد السيسي

البرقية المختصرة: الخبر بيقول إن أمريكا بعتت رسالة تهديد من اربع كلمات، ساسبنس اخر حاجة. على اساس انها SMS  بين اتنين مش رسالة من حكومة لحكومة، وباعتينها اكيد بالعربي بما إن “لاتفكروا أبدا فى إسقاط مرسي” استحالة تيجي في اربع كلمات بالإنجليزي.

وبعدين المشهد المهيب للبوارج الأمريكية وهي بتهدد السواحل المصرية وطيارات الجيش بتاعنا بترد على التهديد بتهديد، المفروض منه إني اصدق ان الجيشين وقيادتهم اتهبلوا، داخلين في تهديدات صريحة بالحرب على السواحل المصرية، وده طبعاً بسبب الSMS  اياها.

المفروض إني أفهم من المشهد إن أمريكا في عز تذبذب موقفها من الأحداث في مصر كانت بتهدد بحرب علشان مرسي، يعني أمريكا بقالها كام سنة مش عارفة تحدد موقفها من ضرب إيران بس اخدت قرار التلويح بالحرب في كام ساعة علشان خاطر مرسي. يعني محمد don’t mix  مرسي في خلال سنة بقى أهم لأمريكا من تهديد السلاح النووي الإيراني، بقى “حليف أمريكا الأكبر في الشرق الأوسط”، ده طلع جامد اوي واحنا مش واخدين بالنا. واللي زاد وغطى إني المفروض برده أصدق أن الجيش المصري في ظل اللي هو فيه في سينا، وهو لسه بيستلم اخر شحنة طيارات من أمريكا وضباطه بيتدربوا هناك، بيخاطر بادخال نفسه في حرب مع أمريكا.

 ياريت قاعدة عامة نتعامل على اساسها الفترة الجاية: لو هنأفلم على بعض ياريت يكون الكلام مستوحى من حاجة تانية غير مسلسلات رمضان. مش معنى ان في ناس بتضيع وقتها في الفرجة على غادة عبد الرازق وعلا غانم ومصطفى شعبان انها مستعدة تصدق ان العالم وقياداته السياسية والحربية بيتعامل بنفس الطريقة. بس برده كل شيء ممكن، ماحنا صدقنا ادهم صبري زمان.

(انا مش هاعلق على خبر السيسي ادى مرسي تليفونه فمرسي راح مكلم منه امريكا، واتفاق الشاطر وباترسون ان مرسي يدير مصر من رابعة، علشان ده مستوحى من نكت القهاوي مش حتى المسلسلات).

Overdue personal/professional update

Since as readers of this you’ve been involved in the saga of the temporary closure of Daily News Egypt, I assume you would be interested in this overdue update.

The paper, as seen from the last post, closed down after the owning company liquidated its assets. Later, an investor and a newspaper owner bought the name and hired a new team, who are doing a great job covering the confusing events. The archives are there but the stories are slowly making it back to the website.

The old team briefly worked on a new project, Egypt Monocle, but has since moved on to different projects. Former DNE Chief Editor Rania Al-Malky is operating the Monocle. Others have moved to Egypt Independent, which closed down last April, and have recently contributed to the launch of Mada Masr. (Read more about local English-language journalism).

I’ve taken this as an opportunity to go back to the field as a reporter. The few years I spent behind the news desk were challenging but turned frustrating as the events unfolded without enough chances to report them first hand.

Now I blog for Al-Akhbar English under the name Labyrinth and contribute to Al-Monitor, among other publications and websites. I’m also a freelance TV producer with CNN and occasionally contribute to cnn.com (You might be interested in reading & watching this package on Egypt’s missing).

I’ve come to love the freelance work and schedule and the associated lifestyle. It allows me the time to think and get more confused with the events, as you will see in upcoming posts.

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

That was my day yesterday. The editorial team behind Daily News Egypt was to get one more slap on the face Tuesday.

I hate to discuss this. We always resisted being the story, even when the paper was censored. But it’s difficult to remain mum for no good reason.

I thought we were dealing with respectful people. I thought the owners of the paper would sustain a shred of decency, but I was proven wrong.

We went to pick up our salaries for April, which we were told by the owners we should be grateful to take. While employees in other departments took theirs, an order was made to exclude the journalists and editors. The reason? “A problem with one of the investors with the editor over ‘passwords’”. But we left everything including access to our virtual profiles and emails at the office before we were effectively kicked out. No one asked me for any “passwords” until I went to get my salary. And even if a “problem” persists, why punish a team of 15 for a problem with one person?

Well, the “passwords” seem like a mere excuse to me. The editorial team is the one that led the move to file a complaint at the labor office, after being told by the owners and the liquidator (who also served as the supervising accountant and auditor for the company over the years) that court is our only option to get the outstanding financial rights.

Like the sudden closure of the DNE website for a couple of days last month, the owners seem to be making decisions affecting the paper and its staff based on any phone conversation they don’t like. Ironically, when we reminded the owners they owe us and the whole staff financial rights more than just salaries, they told us to talk to the liquidator they appointed because legally they had no control over the company assets anymore. This “control” is only effective when they want to change something.

It was heartbreaking to see the tears in my colleagues’ eyes, shocked by this spat of humiliation. Journalists have repeatedly put their lives at the line to get the story out and everyone has sacrificed a lot personally and professionally to get around the ever scarce resources. On Tuesday, we kept reminding each other to keep our chins up; this situation didn’t reflect on us as much as those who forced it on us.

I really expected it to go gracefully, or at least with less drama. Instead, we have to deal with erratic and spiteful decisions. Shame!

Read the statement by the staff over Tuesday’s events. (It’s mirrored on all of our individual blogs).

Make sure to read DNE business reporter Reem Abdellatif’s take on the investors of the paper here.

Related posts

Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Daily News Egypt offline

The Inside Story from DNE Staff

The original editorial staff of Daily News Egypt (which you can now follow on @OriginalDNE) would like to inform our loyal readers of the latest developments since the paper stopped printing. We had chosen to not go public with the story and our ordeal out of decency but were today pushed to speak out because we have been denied our most basic right, the salaries for the month of April.

Since we were informed of the owning company’s termination (Egyptian Media Services, which published Daily News Egypt), we were told that we have no financial rights pending, even though this is in violation of the Labor Law. We were informed, however, that we will be paid our full salaries for the month of April. This was noted in the termination letter we were handed on April 22, 2012, in which we were also informed that it would be our last working day. On that day we took our belongings from the office and handed in anything we had,such as a video camera, etc. The next day the locks on the office door were changed.

We left the office and decided to pursue legal action since the company’s liquidator told us we had no rights to severance packages for years of service ranging from two to seven, and this can only be resolved with a court order, thus encouraging us to file a complaint at the labor office for our financial rights. We did so, preceded by a complaint at the Dokki police station on April 24 and have been talking to a lawyer to pursue next steps.

We waited till the beginning of May to obtain our salaries. When we found out that the salaries were ready at the office, we went there to pick them up only to be informed that the editorial staff will not be paid. Other departments in the company got paid.

The owners allege that we have passwords that we have not handed in. This is untrue as everything we had access to was left at the office when we were told it was our last day, including passwords to the wire services which are even written on a whiteboard in the news room. They have full access to all usernames and passwords from our work PCs.

We are not holding any passwords hostage. We want to take this chance to inform our readers and followers that the original DNE staff is no longer affiliated with this brand. We are however, sticking together and forming a new venture.

Please follow us on @OriginalDNE and stay tuned. Your support is highly appreciated.

Related posts

Disgusting. Humiliating. Ugly.

Daily News Egypt website is back

Daily News: eulogies, thank yous and endings

Daily News Egypt offline