Sunday, February 27, 2011

doors I saw in Toronto

Hello dear readers,

Sorry to have been away from posting and not leaving you an explanation; I had gone to Toronto for six days to visit my sister and her family and my brother and his family. Today, I am posting a few images of doors that are among the photos I took as I walked the streets of downtown Toronto, sometimes with my sister, sometimes with my brother.
My sister, Della, her daughter, Emma, and her son, Jake, and I went to eat lunch one afternoon at Tasty Corner in Kensington Market, a multicultural neighbourhood in Toronto with a long history of immigrant settlement. Today it is a mixed neighbourhood of students, young families, musicians, hippies, the elderly, and people from all walks of life and ethnic origins. If you visit Toronto, you will see everyday multiculturalism before your eyes when visiting Kensington Market. Della's two boys live in a house in the Kensington Market area with their other band members; their band Nightbox has just released their EP and they have been playing various gigs around Toronto. I took this photo looking out to the street intersection from inside the restaurant. I ordered a potato roti that turned out to be as big as a pillow. If you are hungry, I recommend Tasty Corner.
Kensington Market is full of small independently owned businesses, many of them ethnic shops, like the fish store above (I think Portuguese in origin), which have been in business for years and years. Outside this fish shop's front door, on the small tiles it looks like an image of a young woman striding by the sea with a bag of fish had been painted some time ago.
Global Cheese, as their sign says, speaks your language in cheese. We stopped off to pick up cheese -- their selection is HUGE -- and olives. This shop is another long time inhabitant of Kensington Market. I bought some Kashkaval cheese (yellow sheep milk cheese), goat cheese, and large green olives to bring back home. I wrapped the olive container in three plastic bags, cushioned it among the clothing in my suitcase, and prayed the olives wouldn't burst out en route! Thankfully, they did not. I enjoyed some this morning as I ate a very gooey and yummy melted Kashkaval grilled cheese on pita manaoush sandwich, sprinkled with the Jordanian zatar our friend Zaid brought back from his last trip home.
My sister and I also stopped into a Tibetan shop to browse. The man behind the counter smiled at us, but he did not speak English; this, of course, is not a problem as we all know the language of money. I bought a wool hat lined in fleece for $12; she bought a pale lime green sleeveless summer top. The front window reflects the second hand and vintage shops across the street.
Just up the street from the Tibetan shop, my sister stopped in at a Jamaican shop where she likes to buy shea body butter, which she swears by. I took a photo from inside the shop looking out. I can't remember the name of the shop or the shea butter brand, but I'll ask my sister. You can make your own shea body butter, too, if you have the time.
One day, after dropping her daughter/my niece at her high school, my sister and I walked down to Forest Hill Village. This door frame is made of broken china. It frames the front doors of a closed down restaurant, Hope Street Cafe, just up from Spadina in Forest Hill, an upscale neighbourhood in Toronto.
This is a hinge on one of the doors of Grace Church-on-the-hill, an Anglican church that we passed on our walk down Forest Hill Village where we stopped in at a bookstore and a bakery. There was a sign out front that the church was holding a concert.
This is not a door, but it is what is behind the door of the Cobs Bread bakery where we stopped in to buy some raspberry danishes, cinnamon buns, chocolate swirled croissants, and other tasty sweets to bring to our brother's house for tea time later. This bakery just opened at the beginning of this year, and I must say the raspberry danishes are dee-lish.
Beside the bakery is a bookstore and beside the bookstore is another door, a door that tells the visual story of who is walking around with a camera!
Another walk, another day, on our way to the Bata Shoe Museum on Bloor Street, I noticed that above the front doors of this University of Toronto building, the embossed script read Department of Household Science.

"It's what we used to call "Home Ec" or home economics," I told my sister. "The classes where we learned the science of being housewives." This building is evidence of the institutionalizing of "domestic science" as it was called in the day. I have no idea what home ec is called today, but I am sure the schools are teaching something similar to it, but for both genders.

The Lillian Massey Department of Household Science has an interesting history; the building now houses U of T's Department of Classics and the Centre for Medieval Studies, as well, there is a Club Monaco clothing store in the section of the building fronting Bloor St.
Here's an old photo of the Department of Household Science (approximately 1920), taken before the city of Toronto widened Avenue Road, which is now a multi-lane busy downtown street full of traffic. For a history of the building read Nostalgia Tripping: The Lillian Massey Department of Household Science by Agatha Barc, which is where I found the black and white photo.
A love-ly door on a house along the way to hiking an icy trail in High Park with my brother, his wife and their two sons. Of course, we didn't know at the time that the trail was a glossy sheet of ice. However, we managed to emerge unscathed. Mercury points to the sky outside the door where I slept.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

is the West interested in assisting democracy?

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) was recently held in Abu Dhabi (it ended on Thursday, Feb. 24th). It is the largest defence and security event in the Middle East and North African region. According to the IDEX website, there were 900 exhibitors, but according to the Times of Pakistan there were 1060 exhibitors. The exhibitors eager to share their military technologies for sale include Canadian companies like AirBoss -Defense, Canadian Association of Defence & Security Industries, DAVWIRE, and Canstar Arms Development Corp, among others to discover if one has the time to scroll through the pages and pages of participants. Maybe you will find your country there, too.

(I'm having some problems formatting text and uploading images today, so bear with me.)

As protests crackdowns continue, West lines up to sell arms

British, European and US weapons manufacturers are participating in the region's largest arms bazaar, hoping for a share in the world's fastest-growing arms market. by Praveen Swami

"Facing budget cuts at home, western arms firms are desperate for a share of the lucrative Middle East market. "The post-financial crisis reality," said Herve Guillou, president of Cassidian Systems, a subsidiary of European aviation defence group EADS, "is that today it is clearly the Middle East that is seeing the biggest growth." Iran's growing military power has pushed Gulf states into their largest-ever military build up, making purchases worth £76 billion from the US alone in 2010. The largest acquisitions were made by Saudi Arabia, which is spending £41 billion on F-15 fighter jets and upgrades for its naval fleet.

The six Gulf Cooperation Council countries - Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait - along with Jordan will spend another £41 billion on defence in 2011, according to Frost and Sullivan, a research firm."

below are some excerpts from an article that discusses the recent situation in Bahrain:

A Revolution Paused in Bahrain by Cortni Kerr and Toby C. Jones

An uncertain calm has settled over the small island kingdom of Bahrain. The wave of peaceful pro-democracy protests from February 14-17 culminated in bloodshed, including the brutal murder of seven activists, some of whom were asleep in tents, by the armed forces. On orders from above, the army withdrew from the roundabout on the outskirts of the capital of Manama where the protests have been centered, and since shortly after the seven deaths it has observed calls for restraint. Thousands of jubilant protesters seized the moment to reoccupy the roundabout, the now infamous Pearl Circle. In commemoration of the dead, the demonstrators have renamed it Martyrs’ Circle.

The killing is done for now, but it is too early to tell if the cold peace between the regime and the dissidents will last and, if so, how long. Bahrain’s revolution is not over, but its outcome is far from decided.

Toward Defiance

At the heart of the uncertainty is the question of whether the royal family can muster the political will to see through substantive political reform at long last. On February 20, the crown prince acknowledged the “clear messages from the Bahraini people...about the need for reforms,” though what the changes might be, he did not say. The majority of Bahrainis greeted his vague words with pronounced cynicism, and with good reason, for they know the country has been down the road of false promises before.

Friday, February 18, 2011

as the world sits by and watches the carnage

I am reading and watching disturbing reports from Manama, Bahrain. Both my daughter and my son are there (along with my niece and other family) and I have warned them to stay home! Do not go out! Please!

Please listen to Lucas Oleniuk's report Chaos in Bahrain, which is accompanied by photos.

There have been more killings of Bahraini protesters by "security forces." (I hate that term; I think we know by now that these forces, wherever they are, in the ME or in Canada-- the recent G20 abuses by "security forces" for one-- are terrorizing forces that cause much fear and damage to people, to citizens seeking to express their voice against government policies).

I am sure you have read the reports about the 3 a.m. attack by "security forces" on sleeping unarmed people who had set up protest tents in the Pearl Roundabout, a majestic landmark in the heart of Manama. Many deaths and injuries were reported, including missing people, bludgeoned people, people stolen away to the military hospital or in military vans to who knows where, the violent beating of doctors, and other horrors.

On the latest developments, AJE reports that

"Shots were fired by soldiers around Pearl roundabout in Manama, the Bahraini capital, a day after police forcibly cleared a protest encampment from the traffic circle.

The circumstances of the shooting after nightfall on Friday were not clear. Officials at the main Salmaniya hospital said at least 66 people were injured, some with gunshot wounds to the head and chest.

A doctor of Salmaniya hospital told Al Jazeera that the hospital is full of severely injured people after the latest shootings.

"We need help! Our staff is entirely overwhelmed. They are shooting at people's heads. Not at the legs. People are having their brains blown out," a distraught Dr Ghassan said, describing the chaos at the hospital as something close to a war zone."

Earlier I read on CBC News that

Bahrain police attack hospital

"Riot police attacked protesters with tear gas and gunfire at a hospital compound in Bahrain's capital on Friday.

The hospital is a triage centre in Manama that was housing most of the victims after riot police on Thursday attacked a protest camp in Pearl Square, leaving at least 230 injured.

"Just in the last 15 minutes, tear gas and some rounds have been fired into that hospital. There has also been very heavy gunfire around the site of the tent cities where protestors were evicted," Martin Chulov of the British newspaper the Guardian told CBC News.

"Everybody is trying to assess the fallout from this situation now but we do believe there are wounded.""

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be with the Revolution PM Harper!

Be with the Revolution. poster from Egyptian protests in 2008, precursor of 11/2/11

A comparison between the statements of Canada's PM Stephen Harper and US's Barack Obama following 11/2/11, the Egyptian People's Revolution, shows to what lacklustre bankrupt depths Canada's leadership has taken the moral stance of our country. We oughta be ashamed of ourselves. When we see a people's movement for justice and democratic reforms right before our eyes, striving for the very values that Canadians champion, our PM talks about stability in the region. I hope Canadians write their PM and MPs to voice their outrage about Harper once again putting egg on Canada's face globally.

Following the Egyptian people's immediate liberation through their mass movement that successfully ousted Mubarak and his corrupt government, upon hearing the news, the Canadian Prime Minister used an inane metaphor -- "you can't put the toothpaste back into the tube" -- to describe the Egyptian people claiming their freedom. His disrespectful off-the-cuff remark may be stupid coming from the mouth of the average person on the street --or in school -- who doesn't keep up with foreign news and hasn't a clue that there even was an Egyptian Revolution (sad, but true), but it is inexcusably inappropriate and mind-bogglig coming from the mouth of Canada's head of state.

Later, after Canada's opposition parties congratulated the Egyptian people, our PM issued a statement. To my utter shame and fury, he didn't even mention the Egyptian people's courageous struggle and success! He did not mention their sacrifices, their mass mobilization, their deaths for those values Canadians trumpet: free speech, public assembly, democracy, and justice.

What did Harper say? He said Canada respects Mubarak for stepping down and he expressed his encouragement for stability in the region and .....drum roll, please.....for Israel. Now, why am I not surprised that he has to drag his pro-Israeli stance into what should be a celebration of the Egyptian people's Revolution? Why does he want to deny them their revolution?

Be with the Revolution PM Harper!

Here is part of what Harper said:

"Canada will continue to support Egypt in implementing meaningful democratic and economic reforms. We will also continue to encourage and support Egypt’s efforts to promote regional stability and peace, including with Israel as well as continued respect for peace treaties in the Middle East. "

Read the full text from the PM's Office here.

As Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic stated on Question Period about Harper's comment and statement: "I think it's indicative of how this government treats foreign affairs .... We had democracy happening on the streets and overthrowing repressive government, and this government talks about toothpaste and doesn't talk about the people of Egypt in its statement."

In comparison, Obama's speech, while he too spoke about stability and peace, he notably recognized the Egyptian people, their struggle, their sacrifices, their dreams, and the inspiration they are to the entire world. He talked about the inspiring force of their non-violent struggle as a beacon signalling change for the entire world. Obama spoke of the Egyptian people as a moral force. A guiding force. Below, read an excerpt from his statement and then compare what he said to what our PM said.

"The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.
This is the power of human dignity, and it can never be denied. Egyptians have inspired us, and they’ve done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence — not terrorism, not mindless killing — but nonviolence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more.
Today belongs to the people of Egypt, and the American people are moved by these scenes in Cairo and across Egypt because of who we are as a people and the kind of world that we want our children to grow up in.

The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people — of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world."

Read the full text of Obama's speech here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

ancient lions I have known

The Lion ~ by Gwendolyn MacEwen

To love is to be remarkable, and flawless.
It is to wear the yellow crown of a flawless beast

It is to inhabit the flawless and exceeding universe

It is to summon the wonderful numbers
Which add up to the mighty stars.
It is learning to divide and multiply by these numbers.

I swear by all the famous, ancient lions I have known
That the mighty children yet to come
Will foster finer stars.

For they are the true lords, born of morning,
Whose coming will call us down
Like a deck of cards.

To love is to be remarkable, and flawless.
It is to wear the yellow crowns
Of all the gods.
Lion bas-relief on the Ishtar Gate, Babylon. In the 1920s-30s, Ishtar's Gate was excavated in Iraq then taken (stolen) in pieces by the archaeologists and reconstructed in Germany. Most of Ishtar's Gate glorifies the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (the largest part is, however, in storage), with parts of the gate and lions in museums all over the world, including the ROM in Toronto. And what's in Iraq? A fake gate.
A piece of the Processional Way of the Ishtar Gate at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. I took this photo last summer when I visited the ROM. I was stunned when I came upon the lion bas-relief. At first I thought it was a fake, a replica. I stood in front of the lion for quite some time, shocked as I realized it was authentic. I felt distress. How is it that a piece of Ishtar's Gate is in Toronto and in Iraq there is only a fake? Of what injustice am I hailed into?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

from 9/11 to 11/2/11

people praying in Tahrir Square

Having one's days interrupted by a revolution is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence!

11/2/11 is truly an historic moment, not only for Egypt but for the entire world. It signals hope in a world where narratives of fear since 9/11 have dominated headlines and psyches. A new narrative has come to life, one of hope and inspiration that has a grammar of possibility in its message. And the harbingers of hope are the same folks who have been so demonized through the racialized Islamophobic “us and them” “war against terrorism” constructions:

its messengers are Arabs, primarily Muslim Arabs, specifically Egyptian Arabs.

11/2/11 is a healing balm laid on the palimpsest of 9/11.

Overnight, serious challenges to dominant stereotypes have emerged. The very people who the discourses of the West have constructed as inherently violent, despotic by nature, backward, and stuck in time are now shown to be world leaders of non-violent democratic change. Perhaps now some will be able to differentiate the people from the ruling elites and see how politics and power -- such as who is in power, why, and which Western nations help support that abuse of power and why -- and how economics shape actions and possibilities or the lack of them, not religion or “race,” and see through the representations of Arab people towards the realities of Arab people.

What has occurred in Egypt is truly monumental as it heralds positive change spearheaded by everyday people with little else but dreams in their head and digital technologies in their hands. Average people — with no heros or leaders — worked collectively to plan, organize, and mobilize to change their own lives, took their demands to the street, and were determined to see it through to the end no matter what obstacles the powerful ruling regime — with its secret police and military, control of TV and Internet access, coffers of money, and Western political and economic support — put in front of them.

And as we all bore witness to these 18 days, by going out onto the streets of Egypt to demand democracy these everyday people put their bodies at mortal risk. It is important to keep in mind that social media did not cause the Egyptian Revolution; social media was a tool for people to get their bodies out into the streets, into public space, to help mobilize and create unending strategies to respond to the unexpected that they were confronted with, and to show through their numbers and their voices that the time for freedom was now.

And to the awe of the entire world the Egyptian people’s revolution was successful! Last night at 6pm Cairo time, President Mubarak resigned his office, which was the key demand of the opposition movement as it signals the end of state repression and the beginning of democratic change.

Central to the success of the Egyptian Revolution of 11/2/11 is the April 6 youth movement, particularly their organizing, use of social media, and commitment to non-violence. A recent half-hour documentary, Seeds of Change, chronicles how the April 6 activists had been planning, organizing, and mobilizing for non-violent change in their brutal police state since 2008. The documentary is truly inspiring as it shows how young people, step-by-step, with no political power nor money, planned a revolution — and succeeded in bringing down a powerful government that has the strongest US supplied military in the Middle East.

The people were up against a lot — many died and were injured — but they were successful in this first step towards democracy through their planning and persistence, the use of social media, and the timing of other unexpected events that helped their mobilizations pick up both speed and force, i.e. numbers. This includes the Tunisian Jasmine revolution which erupted following month long demonstrations against unemployment, police brutality, corruption, and rising costs in Tunisia, that came to a head when 26 year old Mohamed Bouazizi, the sole supporter of his extended family of eight, set himself on fire following cruel police harassment; as well as, following the killing of Egyptian Khaled Said by Egyptian secret police because he posted a video online showing police buying illegal drugs, the circulation through social media of photos of his tortured body and the creation of a Facebook page We are all Khaled Said).

Because of this monumental, historic revolution, Egypt, already a country of great history and of interest to Western people, will receive even more tourists. Many people — including me! — will put visiting Egypt at the top of their list of travels. People visiting Cairo will not only make The Egyptian Museum a must-see stop, but also the now famous Tahrir Square and the street in front of the museum where the frontline ran. We can bear witness to those who died in the struggle, who lost their lives in Tahrir Square. We will feel the tears, the blood, the exhaustion, and the elation of the anti-government demonstrators who struggled so valiantly in Tahrir Square. Visitors will be eager to walk in awe of the history of Tahrir Square, the literal and symbolic heart of the 11/2/11 revolution. And what better place to signify the call for freedom than the aptly named Liberation Square?

Friday, February 11, 2011

to the Power of the Egyptian People!

What an exciting time in history! What an amazing explosive jubilation! It was a sudden thrilling shock to me to find out when I returned to my office after class, opened my computer to watch AJE to find out what was happening in Egypt, and heard the short speech by Suleiman saying Mubarak has resigned.

I was stunned. Speechless. Oh, my. Oh, my.

The crowds are ecstatic! I am listening to the outpouring of emotions and it is indescribable. There is a swell of jubilation, a wave, an ongoing outpouring of 30 years of fears and tears being released like an explosion into a new possibility; I don't even think there is a word for it, nor could I even begin to explain what Egyptian people are feeling at this moment.

Watching the crowds in Tahrir Square is very emotional. I am overwhelmed by this moment, by the success of people, by the power of the people, by the power of non-violent means, by the sheer determination of the Egyptian people through non-violence to make REVOLUTION happen.

Where were you when the Egyptian Revolution succeeded? When Egypt was re-born through the power of its people? I will remember this day forever.

Mark this day on your calendar; it's a day of positive change not only for the Egyptian people or the Middle East but for the world. Who said revolution was dead?

This historic revolution will light up the whole world.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Death by Facebook

AP photo of the posters that Egyptian artists are creating non-stop to express in visual form why Mubarak has to go.

Of course, right now I am glued to my TV watching AJE, waiting with the crowds in Tahrir Square, listening (in translation) what Mubarak is saying. Truly, his rhetoric doesn't stop, his paternalistic rhetoric. One truly needs a sense of humour to understand his stubbornness, his total inability to understand what the masses are saying and demanding. He seems to think HE is part of the revolution rather than the reason for it. He keeps aligning himself with "the people -- indeed, he said that "all Egyptians are lying in the same trench." Truly mind-boggling.

The crowd is starting to get restless and I hear shouting. They have taken their shoes off and are waving it at Mubarak.

I can only leave you with a joke my friend Rasha told me the other day:

Mubarak reaches the pearly gates and is met by Gamal Nasser and Anwar Sadat.

Nasser and Sadat welcome him to the hereafter.

Nasser says, "I am here because of poison."

Sadat says, "I am here because of bullet." (he was assassinated)

Both Nasser and Sadat look at Mubarak and ask him, "Why are you here?"

Mubarak says, "Death by Facebook."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Open Letter to PM Harper on the Egyptian people's call for Pres. Mubarak's resignation

Below is the letter that I wrote for a group that I am involved, which we sent out to the Canadian Prime Minister and other federal officials involved with Canada's foreign policy. Please feel free to copy or use any sections of the letter to draft your own letter to PM Harper et al. The email addresses of the ministers are at the end of the post.

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you as Canadian citizens and residents of Canada who uphold justice, human rights, and peaceful and non-violent actions and solutions, both within Canada and throughout the world. Today, we are witnessing an historic grassroots demand for immediate political, economic, and social change in Egypt.

Because defending human rights is part of upholding Canadian values, we were pleased that on your recent visit to the US you addressed the present upheaval in Egypt and spoke of the importance of human rights and the peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt.

For 30 years the Egyptian people’s human rights, including voicing their opinions on the policies and practices of the state government and gathering in public assembly, have been suppressed under President Mubarak’s rule. Currently, in response to massive on-going Egypt-wide demonstrations, Pres. Mubarak has promised reforms and allowed some concessions. However, due to ongoing violations of their human rights and a history of broken promises, pro-democracy Egyptians are unhappy with the slow progress towards justice. They demand that Mubarak must step down immediately and a new constitution be enshrined in law for true democratic change to begin.

We are writing you today to ask you to continue to speak out in support of the legitimate demands for justice by the massive pro-democracy movement in Egypt that insists on the resignation of Pres. Mubarak. By respecting and supporting the call by the majority of the Egyptian populace for Mubarak’s resignation, for constitutional change, and for the immediate application of democratic principles and human rights, we believe that both democracy and stability will come to the Egyptian people and to Egypt.

As Canadians concerned with justice, we believe Canadians and Canada will benefit from a democratic Egypt; hence, we urge you to support the call for Mubarak’s immediate resignation.

Human Rights Education

email addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

find the email of your MP here:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

the emotional rollercoaster of the Egyptian uprising

Those thugs are nothing but the ugliest face of poverty.. Hunger makes humans lose humanity itself. Blind & cruel they become. #jan25 #egyptby Dima_Khatib via twitter at 2/2/2011 11:06:39 PM6:06 PM

Watching on the Internet and on TV the Egyptian uprising and the repressive government and pro-Mubarak forces who are trying to destroy the people's demand for regime change has been such a roller-coaster of emotions for me. At times it is simply horrifying and terrifying to watch (e.g. the photo above of the camel trampling a cameraman, the diplomatic van driving over people, the dead bodies of protesters lying under bloody white sheets in the morgue, among many, many others).

Other times I feel elation and joy knowing that, as Al-Alam writes (see link towards the end of this post), "True to their promise the pro-democracy groups drew a remarkable eight million people (ten percent of the population) throughout Egypt on [Tuesday, Feb. 1]."

Then again, sometimes I shake my head in disbelief over digesting what some, who are as out of touch with the masses as Mubarak, say; such as Italy's own corrupt head of state Berlisconi stating he supports Mubarak as Mubarak is considered in the West -- particularly the US -- as the wisest of men!
Also, the juxtaposition of all the contradictions that exist in Egypt keep appearing unexpectedly, stunning me in their exposure of complexities, such as this Reuters photo above that shows army tanks in Tahrir Square, a small group of men praying (some using old newspapers as their prayer mats), people demonstrating, and garbage piling in the street. It has also been reported that many Egyptians have been cleaning the streets and getting rid of the ubiquitous garbage. This morning watching AJE, I saw a clip of a slim well-dressed fashionable young man going up to a bank machine in Cairo trying to access his money. I was stunned; the image could have been in any city. It looked like this well-groomed guy with his immaculately manicured hands was completely undisturbed and unconcerned with what has been going on in Cairo, in Tahrir Square where many men, who have not even had a chance to shave since Jan. 25, joke that they are all starting to look like they are of the Muslim Brotherhood.
An opposition supporter makes the victory sign while resting near Tahrir Square in Cairo, February 5, 2011. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

I couldn't help thinking of the contradiction: the hands that are active in Tahrir Square are such a contrast to the manicured hands of the well-to-do man looking for money.
@LaurenBohn tweets: In #Tahrir: one of my fav posters thus far (fyi the art has been amazing) -- #Egypt personified as bride, pulled by both #Mubarak and people. #Cairo #Jan25

I have also been fascinated with the street art and the slogans that have been appearing in the signs that the anti-government demonstrators have been making and carrying. The sign above shows Egypt as a bride being torn in two directions: Mubarak on one hand, and the masses of people on the other hand.
photo Guardian UK Egyptian Protesters Makeshift Helmets

And yet other times I have even laughed out loud because of the sheer absurdity -- but so necessary and practical -- of the makeshift tools, like improvised helmets made of kitchen pots and discarded disposable water bottles, and shields made of traffic signs and grills, that evoke an almost medieval-like sense that those fighting the government have had to take up to continue their battle. I saw the man above being interviewed on AJE. He said he was returning to Tahrir Square to continue demonstrating against Mubarak so his neighbour gave him this cooking pot to protect his head.

And, Egyptians being Egyptians, their non-stop biting humour continues even amidst the exhaustion and struggle. I read a joke online that goes something like this:

"One of Mubarak's speech writers runs into Mubarak's office and tells him: 'You have to say good bye to the people!'

Mubarak looks up and asks, 'Why? Are they all leaving Egypt?'"

image from Mubarak's Dictatorship Must End Now.

Below are a few excerpts from Esam al-Amin's article "Mubarak's Last Gasps." The article discusses many critical points about how Mubarak's regime is implicated in the violence against the pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square. In these excerpts Al-Amin talks about who some of the mob of the pro-Mubarak people who stormed Tahrir Square on Wed. Feb. 2nd.


There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” --V. I. Lenin (1870-1924) “Victory is accomplished through the perseverance of the last hour.” --Prophet Muhammad (570-632 AD)

"Meanwhile, the last touches of a crude plan to abort the protests and attack the demonstrators were being finalized in the Interior Ministry. In the mean time, the leaders of the NPD met with the committee of forty, which is a committee of corrupt oligarchs and tycoons, who have taken over major sections of Egypt’s economy in the last decade and are close associates to Jamal Mubarak, the president’s son. The committee included Ahmad Ezz, Ibrahim Kamel, Mohamad Abu el-Enein, Magdy Ashour and others.

Each businessman pledged to recruit as many people from their businesses and industries as well as mobsters and hoodlums known as Baltagies – people who are paid to fight and cause chaos and terror. Abu el-Enein and Kamel pledged to finance the whole operation.Meanwhile,the Interior Minister reconstituted some of the most notorious officers of his secret police to join the counter-revolutionary demonstrators slated for Wednesday, with a specific plan of attack the pro-democracy protesters.

About a dozen security officers, who were to supervise the plan in the field, also recruited former dangerous ex-prisoners who escaped the prison last Saturday, promising them money and presidential pardons against their convictions. This plan was to be executed in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, Damanhour, Asyout, among other cities across Egypt.
Around 2 PM on Wednesday Feb. 2, the execution of the plan of attack ensued in earnest. Over three thousand baltagies attacked from two entrances with thousands of rocks and stones thrown at the tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators gathered in the square, while most attackers had shields to defend themselves against the returning rocks. While a few were armed with guns, all baltagies were armed with clubs, machetes, razors, knives or other sharp objects.

After about an hour of throwing stones, the second stage of the attacks proceeded as dozens of horses and camels came charging at the demonstrators in a scene reminiscent of the battles of the middle ages. The pro-democracy people fought back by their bare hands, knocking them from their rides and throwing their bodies at them. They subsequently apprehended over three hundred and fifty baltagies, turning them over to nearby army units.

They confiscated their IDs which showed that most assailants were either NDP members or from the secret police. Others confessed that they were ex-cons who were paid $10 to beat up the demonstrators. The camel and horse riders confessed to have been paid $70 each.

The third stage of the attack came about three hours later when dozens of assailants climbed the roofs in nearby buildings and threw hundreds of Molotov cocktails at the pro-democracy protesters below, who immediately rushed to extinguish the fires. They eventually had to put out two fires at the Egyptian museum as well. By midnight the thugs started using tear gas and live bullets from a bridge above the protesters killing five people and injuring over three dozens, ten seriously.
By morning, the Tahrir Square resembled a battleground with at least 10 persons killed and over 2,500 injured people, 900 of which required transport to nearby hospitals as admitted by the Health ministry. Most of the injured suffered face and head wounds including concussions, burns and cuts because of the use of rocks, iron bars, shanks, razors, and Molotov cocktails. Al-Jazeera TV and many other TV networks around the world were broadcasting these assaults live to the bewilderment of billions of people worldwide.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sally and Ahmed are two names

Sally Magdy Zahran. Killed in Tahrir square. Update: waiting for confirmation from a source. Sally may have fallen off a balcony. Bludgeoned to death, hit in the back of the head with a bat.
Ahmed Basyony. Killed in Tahrir square. Teacher (art) in Faculty of Arts - Helwan University. Father of two kids: Adam and Salma. Painter and musician. 31 years.

Other names listed on Spreadsheet: Killed in Egypt

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egyptian government cracks down further on journalists

Fire and looting have broken out against several buildings around Cairo in new fighting following a day of clashes in central Cairo between anti-government protesters and regime backers. Toronto Star image.

Find live updates, tweets and photos and excerpts about the Egyptian uprising on the Toronto Star online; the Star's Sandro Contenta and Jayme Poisson are live in Cairo. You may need to visit the page tomorrow to start the live updates again, as the link changes.

Two dozen journalist unaccounted for, arrested, attacked in #egypt on thursday #jan25 #tahrir

by AymanM via twitter at 1:33 PM

BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet has tweeted:

"Egypt State TV Anchor Shahira Amin said she took ''spur of moment " decision to resign. Went to Tahrir Square instead #Jan25 #Egypt"

by Toronto Star edited by Toronto Star at 1:30 PM

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch told the paper:

"Egyptian authorities should immediately and safely release our colleague and the other human rights monitors detained today. The authorities should immediately halt the arrest and harassment of independent witnesses to the orchestrated attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Egypt."

by Toronto Star at 12:53 PM

At least 10 dead in violent clashes in Tahrir Square by Maggie Michael. excerpt:

"The government increasingly spread an image that foreigners were fuelling the turmoil and supporting the tens of thousands in the street who for more than 10 days have demanded the immediate ouster of Mubarak, this country’s unquestioned ruler for nearly three decades.

“When there are demonstrations of this size, there will be foreigners who come and take advantage and they have an agenda to raise the energy of the protesters,” Vice-President Omar Suleiman said in an interview on state TV.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley condemned what he called “a concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo.”

Pro-government mobs beat foreign journalists with sticks on the streets outside downtown Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the protests. Dozens of journalists, including ones from The Washington Post and The New York Times, were reported detained by security forces. One Greek print journalist was stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver, and a photographer was punched in the face by attackers who smashed some of his equipment. The Arabic news network Al-Arabiya pleaded on an urgent news scroll for the army to protect its offices and journalists, and Al Jazeera said two of its correspondents were attacked.

Human rights activists were also targeted. Military police stormed the offices of an Egyptian rights groups as activists were meeting and arrested at least five, including one from the London-based Amnesty International and another from New York-based Human Rights Watch, the groups said."