It does take time …

… if you are trying to build something new from the scratch – like the people in Tunisia and in Egypt do. And in Lybia.

They have the chance to build a new democracy.
A democracy the people can believe in, a democracy which includes new fresh faces, new principles such as participation, transparency, reputation, equality, sharism … where people count, not necessarily money. Where many – not to say all – benefit from.

Why aren’t we patient and give them all the time they need to re-build their country?
Why don’t we support them to think in “new” ways?
And find something new for ourselves along these processes.
The protest in the so-called “Western” world clearly show that the kind of democracy we are facing needs an overhaul as well …
Why is there this urgency in new elections? In building a “new” government?
Belgium is without a government since 2010 and is still “running”.
Can these governments be “new” after thirty or more years of dictatorship?
In a dictatorship there is no such a thing as an opposition!
The opposition is usually send to jail.

Something “new” has to evolve!
We have to disenthrall ourselves to become able to think anew!
We are talking here about a very significant change in culture, in the mindsets of people.
And this can’t be achieved in a 7 month period.
But we are demanding it!
I don’t understand why.

Just think about when the Berlin Wall fell.
How long did it take to “unify” East and West under peaceful and wealthy conditions?
Some people would argue it’s still in progress. 22 years later!
And the way it was done wasn’t very democratic. Was it?
People weren’t ask.
It was done for them.
But participation wasn’t a real option back then.

This is different today.
So what can we do? How could such a process look like?

Take Egypt as an example.

    • Analyze exactly what are/were the reasons people go/went out on the streets and protest?
    • Take these problems seriously and tackle them!
    • Go to the roots of the problems!
    • Trust the people and enable them to come up with their own solutions!
    • Let them build their own local infrastructure and support them by doing so!
    • If they build it by themselves, they will support it!
    • Let them fail! They will learn from their failures and do better in the future!
    • Invest in enabling people and NOT in military tools and infrastructure to protect them!
    • It means investing in education, investing in local, small businesses.
    • It means build upon the diversity on what Egypt has to offer and NOT was the “Western” world needs.
    • Existing “democracies” shouldn’t teach them what to do, but enable them to realize their own ideas!
    • They should teach them about the mistakes they’ve made and learn together how to do it better!
    • Form some kind of “transition committee” – based on transparency, participation and openness – which deals as contact for any kind of (foreign) aid
    • Invite other countries to participate!
    • And give them time!

I think Egypt can play more than other country in the Arab World a key role in this transition phase. Simply because of its tremendous history! It’s been a role model many times …

 
——

I  highly recommend to read David Sims‘ book “Understanding Cairo – The Logic of a City out of Control”. He analyzes in detail how the “informal” structures are working and functioning and gives many examples in housing, road construction and basic infrasstructure, smal businesses.

Tahrir Square teaches me a lot these days …

.. I wish more friends from Europe and US were here to support these proud people. They need it. And above all they deserve it!

What Tahrir Square (as a symbol for the entire country of Egypt) is teaching me these days is:

  • Why elections right now doesn’t make any sense at all, they simply would strengthen SCAF
  • Western governments still haven’t learnt how to handle the uprises in the Arab world – the are still supporting SCAF and they are lusting for elections! They still rely on systems they know …
  • Transition needs time. Just think about how long it took to re-unite East and West after the fall of the Berlin Wall (in peace). It took them decades to stand up against Mubarak, give them time and let them grow!
  • Building something new from the scratch can’t be done in a week, not even in a year. So build and support structures in which this new system can emerge! Think differently from what we’ve done in the past.
  • Let the people participate. Right from the beginning. It’s their country and they aren’t walking blind.
  • If Egypt will succeed, sooner or later the entire Arab world will follow.

    I’ve picked 2 picts from a serie of Egypt Protest photos, published on Cryptome.

    pray zone

    war zone

People aren’t walking blind …

Last night Egyptian actor Khalid Abdalla spoke to Al Jazeera English from Tahrir Square. This interview is so important and impressive because of quite a few reasons:

  • WE are facing the opportunity to rebuild this counry from the ground up WITHOUT the army imposing itsself upon us and killing, arresting and torturing people and wanting to be above all of us.
  • SCAF has no future in Egyptian government.
  • The pressure here is NOT coming from government but from the situation SCAF has created in the last 9 month.
  • WE have many alternatives for this important transition phase (names a couple …)
  • People know completely what they want … they want to see SCAF step down
  • People aren’t walking blind.
  • Elections NOW are a recognition of SCAF authority – this is why I am and many others are not going to vote! (A friend of mine told me these days “elections right now would be INHUMAN!)

 

New York is not America …

… and Cairo isn’t Egypt. In any way you can think of.

We went about 1.5 hour south of Cairo, 40+ degree on an endless desert road. Final destination: the urban hinterland of Fayoum where farmers and fishermen live and work.

People in their villages experienced the revolutionary days totally different from those in Cairo. There were protests for 2 or 3 days, but military and police immediately cracked down on them. So people watched it on televison – and kept on fighting their daily struggle to survive: meaning making enough money to feed the family … don’t even think about sending their kids to school. BTW: the non-official illiteracy rate is about 60-70% in Egypt!

We spoke to a few people – and to be very honest – I am not sure if some of them simply “re-phrased” what they’ve heard on TV – make up your own mind when you see the videos (we’ll subtitle them, they will be available soon).

This gentleman here, being enthroned on the balustrade of the veranda and surrounded by at least 20 neighbours – yes we were the “attarction of the day” in this village – told us there for their lives it doesn’t make any difference who controls Cairo – none of them ever had and ever will take care of the poor.

He owns land close to the village but he can hardly make a living from it.


This man below runs a hardware store, located just right next to the main road – actually all stores and all houses in this area are located right next to the main road.

He told us that he went to the protests in the village in January – but just to see what was going on. He didn’t actively participate. When we asked him if he experienced any changes since then he said: “At least once in my lifetime I smelt the air of freedom”.

Besides all the poverty and the frustation we saw this day, there was one promising thing which these people in the desert share with their fellow citizens in Cairo: Both won’t accept a military regime and both won’t accept an Islamistic Egypt. No doubt on this!

Snapshots from Tahrir Square after Friday Prayers

Mohamed Atia, 44, Hamam City, Mars Mardroh State

1. When was the first time you went to Tahrir Square?
January 28, 2011. And I stayed until February, 12.

2. What has changed since then?
Nothing. It got even worse: corruption increased, unemployment increased, prices skyrocketed.

3. How does it feel in your heart?
Very unpleasant: We and all the others who didn’t participated in the revolution yet are ready to protest again.

4. If you would have ANY role in government, what would you do?
I would send millions of Egyptians to Sinai and to the West to protect Egypt.
For Sinai I would provide industrial machines and in the west water is key to solve the problems.

5. What are the next steps for Egypt to take?
As a nation we have to take care that we don’t split into various ethnic groups who fight against each other. Just like we see in
Syria, Somaila and Irak. We are one!

Magda Ahmet Mohamed, 58, Cairo – Her son was killed during the unrests.

1. When was the first time you went to Tahrir Square?January 25, 2011, The day of the Revolution.

2. What has changed since then?
Nothing has changed! Except the fact that all our sons are dead.
The Ministry of the Interior offered money for compensation. But this is not about money. I demand the execution of thoses who killed them.

4. If you would have ANY role in government, what would you do?
The Ministry of the Interior and the police should be in love with their poeple. They must stand with the people not against them. They shouldn’t try to fool us. We Egyptians are preciuos people and government should treat us accordingly.

To achieve justice and leverage society as a whole I would give money to the poor.

5. What are the next steps for Egypt to take?
We need to decrease youth unemployment.
We need to provide food and housing for everybody.
We should stop fosussing on the rich!
We should educate the young people!

Fathy Aboamar, 55, Menya State, 6th October City

1. When was the first time you went to Tahrir Square?
25 Januar. Since then I stayed at Tharir Square every single day and participated in various sit-ins.

2. What has changed since then?
Now we are facing an ongoing struggle between Islamistas, the Liberals and the Seculars.

3. How does it feel in your heart?
This struggle dispossess the revolution aside. Neither the Liberals nor the Seculars have a broad basis in the streets of Egypt.
All foreign media interviews only Liberals and Seculars – there are hardly any chances for the Islamists.

4. If you would have ANY role in government, what would you do?
If I’d have a role in ISLAMIC government I’d apply the Sharia of Allah for all Egyptian people.

Wael Hanafy, 24, Cairo, Egypt

1. When was the first time you went to Tahrir Square?It was January 25. And I stayed there until the step down of Mubarak!

2. What has changed since then?
No change happened until now! We are just about to start “cleaning” up with corruption.

3. How does it feel in your heart?
It’s a very good feeling.
At least we as a nation start to feel that there was something wrong in Egypt.

4. If you would have ANY role in government, what would you do?
We should take legal actio for anyone who did any kind of abuses/crime!
We would justify our martyr.
And then we should focus to develop our country.

5. What are the next steps for Egypt to take?
Like China and Japan we will take the steps to become a more productive country.
We have many resources – we should use them wisely to become a great country again. Just like China and Japan.
We have to think seriously about how to implement technology and science.

First day in Cairo, August 11

The descend into Cairo International Aiport was spectacular. Besides some bumpy air and unexpected curves we overflew the entire city – we could see the huge huge city in its grey-beige colour, the waterside of the Nile, the Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square, the desert around. Amazing. Only by seeing it we could sense the smell and its rhythm.

Getting our visas and clearing customs went fast and so – after a highly appreciated cigarette in the hot sun – we got into a white cab to drive downtown. Now we could feel the rhythm of the city: endless traffic jams, self organizing traffic flow, the never ending sound of the hooters and a blustering driver – but after an hour we arrived safely at hour hotel right next to Nile.

The bell caption at the hotel entrance hesitated to welcome us – we most likely didn’t look like their “regular clientele”;-) But we’ve made it and after a refreshing welcome drink we underwent a 10 minute instruction to our hotel room … finally I kicked the butler out! Enough is enough;-)

For diner we went to La Bodega, Zamalek in the iconic Baehler Masion … a place I first went to last March. A beautiful dining room with the flair of the 20ies, an atmosphere which has nothing, really nothing to do with traditional Islam and most likely a spot where corruption, money laundering take place first hand. But nevertheless a wonderful place to start a trip to Cairo. Their food is divine and reasonable.

After dinner we walked up the lively street and vistited El Sawy culturewheel. It is an all-purpose, private cultural center and it’s considered one of the most important cultural venues in Egypt. According to Aljazeera, the center gets more than 20000 visitors monthly and its website receives approximately 150000 visitors/month.

It’s huge: art exhibits, theatre performances, panels on the current political events, indoor and outdoor dining, live music, bars, cafes, movie theatre, readings … and many happy people enjoying late evening hours during Ramadan. Very diverse range of people: male, female, young and old, business and leasure, wealthy and poor, straight and gay … The place was packed.

We left around midnight – still sweating …