Weekly Roundup – May12-16, 2014

05/16/2014 . By TIMEP

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This Week on TIMEP

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Farewell, Bassem Sabry – By: Nesreen Salem

The last time we sat and talked was April 18, 2014. You were about to embark upon writing a novel and wanted to pick my brain about a couple of details on which you were unsure. Though you had carved your path as one of the most respected and successful political writers in Egypt…

Why Should Fair Trials for MB Suspects be Important to Egyptian Christians? – By: Ishak Ibrahim

Many people asking for fair and just trials for members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have faced extensive criticism, including even accusations of supporting terrorism and undermining the state by questioning the conduct of its institutions…

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TOP STORIES

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Legal & Political Institutions

A spokesman for the committee in charge of amending Egypt’s election laws said that two draft amendments will be announced tomorrow–one referring to exercising political rights, and the second will increase the number of seats in parliament by approximately 30%. [Ahram]

The Tamarod, or ‘Rebel’, movement has taken steps to form a political party. The group’s spokesman announced that they have begun collecting endorsements from members in order to establish a party. Tamarod recently announced its support for Sisi in the presidential elections. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr]

The recently banned April 6 Youth movement, however, has called for a complete boycott of the elections, saying that the elections are merely “pav[ing] the way for the arrival of a dictator.” [Ahram, Mada Masr]

Egyptian embassies worldwide reported a high voter turnout on the first day of expat voting in the presidential elections–some figures reported between 87,000-100,000 voters. Turnout was reported to be particularly high in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany, Italy, France, England, and New York. [Ahram, Mada Masr]

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Economy

A group of lawyers has filed a suit against Egypt for allowing coal imports into the country. The case was filed against the prime minister and the ministers of industry, electricity, environment, and petroleum–citing increased health risks for residents residing near cement plants whose health has been affected by factories’ use of coal. [Mada Masr]

The number of tourists in Egypt in March dropped 32.4% compared with March of last year. Approximately 755,000 tourists visited Egypt in March, according to CAPMAS, whereas last year over a million traveled to the country. [Zawya]

Reportedly, the blueprint of a project to link the Kingdom and Egypt with an electric power grid is in its final stages and the project may be offered for bidding by early next year, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Water and Electricity Saleh Al-Awaji has said. “The electricity link between the two countries may be realized in the next three years after the start of the execution work,” he added. [Saudi Gazette]

Egypt’s finance minister said that Egypt will speed up its structural reform agenda by cutting energy subsidies, “regardless of whether it strikes a deal on IMF financial aid.” The minister said, “We need to get the wheel moving again and this will requires us to reestablish confidence in the Egyptian economy, primarily through comprehensive structural reform measures” [Daily Sabah]

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Security Sector

During a press conference, Egypt’s Minister of the Interior, Mohamed Ibrahim, claimed that security forces have broke up 40 terror cells and arrested 225 suspected militants since April. Those arrested allegedly belong to the terrorist organization Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, and its affiliate, Ajnad Misr, as well as “secret cells affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.” [Ahram]

The Cairo Court for Urgent Matter upheld its decision to permanently allow police presence on university campuses. The verdict mandates that security forces immediately implement the court’s decision–meaning, police forces will be redeployed to university campuses promptly. [Ahram]

Clashes broke out at Cairo University and Al Azhar University between pro-Morsi students and police forces. The students started a rally, and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, which the police tried to disperse by firing teargas at the students. Other smaller pro-Morsi protests took place in haram, Mohandessin, and Omrania in Giza. [Ahram]

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Gender & Sexuality

Although a sexual harassment law was approved by the Egyptian cabinet and just prior to that, a man was convicted for verbally sexually harassing a woman in Cairo, Egyptian women are skeptical that the new law will be effective due to lax police response to harassment and deeply entrenched social norms in Egypt. [CS Monitor]

After the approval of a draft law on sexual harassment, Sophia Jones talks to police officers in Cairo to gauge their reactions. Many officers said that they had no even heard of the law, some officers believed that sexual violence was not an issue in Egypt, others equated sexual harassment to flirting, while one police captain said “if a woman is wearing provocative clothing, the change needs to come from her.” These interviews, in a small way, show the overwhelming attitude toward sexual harassment in Egypt. [Huffington Post]

Vice News examines feedback from civil society in Egypt after the approval of the new law on sexual harassment. Although a law is a step in the right direction, many concluded, society needs to undergo substantive change as well. [VICE]

Sondos Shabayek, an Egyptian filmmaker, activist, and founder of the “BuSSy Project”, writes on finding a space for women and men to express the realities of life in Egypt. She says, “You can’t talk about sexual problems with your husband. You can’t talk about how your boss harassed you. You can’t talk about how the taxi driver grabbed your ass. And you can’t talk about wanting to have sex because this makes you a prostitute in the eyes of society. But a man can brag about his sexual adventures day and night in public.” [Open Democracy]
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Marginalized Groups

Egypt’s two main trade unions in Cairo and Alexandria met and declared their support for presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al Sisi after signing a document pledging to suspend labor strikes until Egypt’s “road map” is completed. [Al Monitor]

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Rights & Freedoms

Two political prisoners in Egypt face serious endangerment to their health due to their prolonged hunger strikes. Mada Masr reports on Mohamed Sultan, an Egyptian-American who was detained for alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood last August and has been on hunger strike for over 100 days. He spoke of the conditions of prison at a recent court hearing, indicating that he may not survive to be present in court again. Al Jazeera reported on Abdullah Elshamy, an Al Jazeera journalist who has been held without charge since last August and has been on hunger strike for 112 days. Elshamy’s most recent medical examinations report severe organ failure, and Elshamy’s condition is life threatening. [Mada Masr, Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who has been detained without charge since August 2013, was moved from Tora prison to an unknown location on May 11. Amnesty International projects that he “may have been subjected to enforced disappearance, which would put him at increased risk of torture and other ill-treatment.” Human Rights Watch is calling for the immediate release of Elshamy, saying, “Practicing journalism is not a crime. Egypt’s disregard for basic rights like free expression is nothing less than shocking.” [Amnesty, HRW, BuzzFeed]

The trial of Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Peter Greste, and Beher Mohammed resumed today. A new defendant joined the proceedings today, Khaled Abdel Rahman, who was allegedly arrested a “short time ago.” Three lawyers representing the journalists resigned from the case, citing that the Al Jazeera network has been using the arrests and trials to tarnish Egypt’s image. The lawyers quit after the prosecutors demanded that the journalists pay LE1.2million for copies of the evidence against them. [AP, Ahram]

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Foreign Relations

The UAE finance minister said that the country had no immediate plans to release any more financial aid to Egypt. He told reporters that the UAE is in talks about support for Egypt, but they did not have plans “for now” for additional financial aid. [Ahram, Reuters]

A group of African and United Nations human rights experts called on Egyptian authorities to comply with international and regional legal standards in light of the recent mass death sentences handed down in Egyptian courts. “Following the two mass trials, Egypt’s legal system is in critical need of being reformed, in line with international and regional standards,” stressed the nine UN experts, together with the Chairperson of the Working Group on Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings in Africa. “A failure to do so is likely to undermine any prospects for long-term reconciliation and justice in the country.” [UN.org]

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