Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hello, words. I've missed you.

Words. Subtly shaping scenes or brazenly baring broken lives; coldly cutting to the core or whimsically weaving wishes. Beauty; ugliness; pain; love; forgiveness; entrapment. Art. The beauty of words lies in their truth; or perhaps it is their beauty that reveals their truth. And in that truth, the purity and simplicity of naked words - yet neither of those is truth; so, then, perhaps words also are lies.

Words manipulate, they trick. Words make the sinister seem scrupulous; the magnificent, mundane.

To craft words is to know words; to wield words wildly or willfully. A bit of both brings clarity - though sometimes opacity - with a dash of style, a pinch of wit and just a bit of poetry. Inspiration isn't charity.

Stripped of ornamentation, words are just as powerful. Tell a story with adjectives not adverbs. Describe the city by what you see - sidewalks cluttered with construction and pedestrians; white-and-black cabs and rusty motorbikes vie for space in crowded streets; a sandy haze settled low on a horizon of dusty rooftops - and others will see it, too.

Yet words are a capricious craft: the wrong word will rend and raze and render meaningless what was painstakingly built, purposefully created. The wrong word sits heavily, awkwardly, marring hate as fully as joy; loathing diluted to dislike, euphoria whittled away to simple synonyms of happiness and contentment.

Words are used and abused; cultivated and created. Words are a necessity; words are a luxury. They gather together and tear apart and stand between. Written or scribbled or intricately painted; crooned, whispered, shouted, spoken, sung. Intransigent. Maleable. Uncompromising. Submissive.

Hello, words. I've missed you.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mona Eltahawy speaks out about sexual assault by Egypt police

Mona Eltahawy speaks to CNN after being arrested, beaten, and sexually assaulted by Egyptian riot police.

She says, "I am one of many" who have faced such treatment and she wants the world to know the "brutality of the Egyptian police force." She says she finally refused to answer questions of the military investigations on the grounds that she is a civilian, and was released after about 12 hours in custody.

She says the Egyptian military apologized for the actions of the riot police and said they did not know why she was detained.

Mona was arrested sometime before 3:45am on Thursday, November 24, 2011 and released shortly after noon. For more on her ordeal, check her Twitter stream or these articles:
- Egyptian-American journalist arrested in Cairo
- Egyptian authorities release detained Egyptian-American journalist

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Questions over type of gas used against Egypt demonstrators remain unanswered

Every Egyptian who was in the streets during Egypt’s January uprising, it seems, insists the gas used against demonstrators over the past five days is much stronger than what was used in January.

There are rumors that Egyptian Central Security Forces are not using CS gas, known as ‘tear gas’ and commonly used to disperse demonstrations, but the more debilitating CR gas. One difference in the substances is that while water dilutes CS gas, it exacerbates the effects of CR gas.

Some have claimed that there are nerve agents in the gases used against demonstrators in Mohamed Mahmoud Street, which connects Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square to the Ministry of Interior in downtown Cairo.

Even Mohamed el-Baradei, a popular presidential hopeful and former director of the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, has suggested that the gas used by riot police against demonstrators isn’t just tear gas.

“Tear gas with nerve agents and live ammunition are being used against civilians,” Baradei said on his official Twitter account on Tuesday. “A massacre is taking place.”

According to Ministry of Health figures, at least 35 people have been killed since clashes broke out between demonstrators and CSF on Saturday morning. Thousands have been injured.

Medics on the scene say the symptoms they have seen over the past five days are completely different from those they saw during demonstrations in January.

One medic told me today that the chest pain, convulsions and seizures caused by the gas during the past weel were not seen at all in January.

Many consider this proof that a different gas is being used.

However, there is another factor: the vast majority of the gas used in January was expired. Most canisters listed a manufacture date of 1999 with a five-year shelf life. The majority of the canisters seen over the past five days - either personally or in photos - were manufactured in August 2010 and consequently are not expired.

“It’s possible,” one medic told me when asked if the new symptoms could simply be from non-expired tear gas. “We won’t know until it’s tested in the lab.”

Two medics today told me that Human Rights Watch and other international NGOs have taken samples of the gases and canisters to determine what they are.

Many gas canisters are marked ‘RIOT CS SMOKE,’ but many more bear no markings whatsoever.

Another medic said samples analyzed in the pharmacy revealed minute traces of cyanide, an extremely deadly poison.

No other sources have confirmed or denied this, and me was not given access to the report.

The Egyptian Ministry of Health says it is also analyzing samples and will reveal the full results without holding anything back.

Some, however, are skeptical.

“We can’t trust what the Ministry of Health says,” one medic in Tahrir Square told me. “They won’t tell us the truth.”

The names of the medics who spoke to me have been withheld for their safety.

This post was initially published at Youm7 English Edition (offline since Jan 2012).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

The heart of an activist

Until a few weeks ago, I knew Alaa Abdel Fattah simply as '@alaa,' a handle and a picture I had followed on Twitter for nearly two years.

I didn't realize until he was detained by Egypt's military prosecution last month that Alaa is the brother of Mona Seif, another Tweep I've followed for nearly two years and only met a few months ago and a staunch supporter of Egypt's No Military Trials for Civilians initiative.

On October 30, 2011 Alaa voluntarily responded to a summons by Egypt's military prosecution. In fact, he didn't just respond, he flew back to Egypt from the United States specifically to attend the summons. Alaa is essentially accused of attacking the military during violent clashes that left 27 dead on October 9 (read my experience that night here).

Alaa then refused to be investigated by the military prosecution on the grounds that he is a civilian, and he was consequently remanded into custody for investigation.

He's still in custody.

I've never met Alaa, but there are some things I know about him through others and through the actions of others. I know that Alaa is willing to fight for a cause he believes in. I know that Alaa is a person to be respected, in part because of the massive outpouring of support after his detention. I know that without people like Alaa, Egypt's January uprising would never have begun or been sustained.

Dozens of Egyptian activists and supporters have changed their user pictures on Twitter to versions of Alaa's avatar; a '#freealaa' campaign has flourished; some activists have changed their Facebook pictures to a picture of Alaa; political activist and long-time public figure Gameela Ismail announced a delay in the launch of her electoral campaign over Alaa's imprisonment; and Alaa's mother has begun a hunger strike.

In interviews posted on YouTube, Alaa is thoughtful and somehow reserved, but determined. The night before he flew back to Egypt to respond to the summons, an interviewer asked him why he was going back, why he didn't just stay in the United States.

"I've personally carried the bodies of comrades who did not run away from bullets. I cannot live with myself if I run away from something much more trivial," said Alaa. "How would I look at myself in the mirror if I hide or run away?"

Alaa's wife, Manal, was nine months pregnant with their first child when her husband responded to the military summons. It's reminiscent of Alaa's early years: his father was imprisoned and tortured as a political detainee.

This video gives you a look into the life of Alaa and his parents; how he was raised to be the man he is. In short, it gives some insight into the heart of an activist who embodies the spirit that inspired and sustained Egypt's January uprising; the determination and strength of spirit that continues to give me hope for Egypt's future:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To tell the story of Egyptians with humanity

I'll be honest: sometimes I wonder why I'm a journalist in Egypt.

Cairo is a dirty, polluted, crowded city. The streets are littered with trash; sand incessantly finds its way into my living room; my family is six timezones away. Everyone is always late, it's impossible to get sources to answer their phones, and Tweeps are more reliable fact checkers than state media.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I was reminded why I bother: it's because I want to tell the story of the Egyptians. It's because of the never-ending Egyptian humor; the smiles in the face of poverty; the perseverance in the face of persecution. It's because of the slow, steady determination that has kept Egyptians and the Egyptian identity intact over millennia, through invasion, occupation, and oppression.

It's because Egyptians inspire me.

Last night BBC correspondent Lyse Doucet spoke at a gathering of Egyptian and American journalists in Cairo. Her frank speech moved me - and others - nearly to tears. She spoke of objectivity; of obligation; of what it means to be a journalist in a conflict zone. She reminded me why I am a journalist, here and now, and why I care about reporting on Egypt.

"When you cover a happy story, cover it with joy," she said. "When you cover a sad story, cover it with compassion."

To be objective does not mean to be heartless. A good journalist must write with humanity.

I've often wondered what, exactly, is my role - as a foreigner and as a journalist - in Egypt. Both foreigners and Egyptians have told me I don't belong here, and both foreigners and Egyptians have told me I tell the story better than anyone else. I've written before about the line between professionalism and humanity, and that's something that comes to mind again and again.

Before Egypt's January uprising, as a foreigner, I was looked upon with suspicion. As a foreigner, I was thanked profusely. After Egypt's January uprising, as a foreigner, I am looked upon with suspicion. As a foreigner, I am thanked profusely.

It's a bit strange sometimes.

As a journalist, I am obligated to tell the truth as I see it at the time. I am obligated to tell both sides of the story. I am obligated to be objective.

But on January 26, 2011 I watched as a group of young men - unarmed, with their hands in the air as they chanted peaceful, peaceful - were without warning attacked with tear gas, tasers, sticks, and firearms by both uniformed and plainclothes police in the streets of downtown Cairo.

What is the other side of that story?

I don't know.

So what can I do, as a foreign journalist in Egypt? I can write. I can tell the truth, and I can tell it with joy and compassion, which so often seems to be lacking from mainstream media. I can tell the stories of a people and a place that have become dear to my heart, and I can do it in a way many other journalists either cannot or will not.

I've been told I have a way with words. I've been told I can draw people into my writing. I can use that way with words, coupled with common sense and a solid understanding of Egypt's politics and people, and I can tell the story of Egyptians.

That's why I'm a journalist in Egypt.

Monday, October 10, 2011

"The military has thugs," he told me

The hoarse cry came from a man dashing across Cairo’s Abdel Moneim Reyad Square on Sunday night. “The military has thugs! The military has thugs!”

He paused long enough to reiterate the statement to myself and another female journo moving in the opposite direction – “The military has thugs!” – before continuing toward nearby Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution.

Behind him, a group of military police became clearly visible as they rounded a corner. Among the uniforms were people in plainclothes carrying large sticks and clubs.

The clubs started to swing, and those still in the square ran for cover.

It was around 8pm. The clashes began hours earlier. “This feels like the 28th of January,” someone said, referencing Egypt's 'Day of Rage,' one of the most violent days of the uprising that toppled Egypt’s former regime earlier this year.

The cat-and-mouse game between military police and demonstrators continued into the night as wild rumors spread.

Near the Egyptian Museum, a group of four young people glanced between their cell phones and the scene around them, probably updating Twitter on the situation and their safety.

Twitter is a primary means for activists to keep tabs on each other during demonstrations in Egypt.

Earlier in the evening, the area by the Ramsis Hilton where the military police entered Abdel Moneim Reyad Square was occupied by demonstrators. This was where they carried the wounded from Maspiro, the nearby site of ongoing clashes between Coptic Christian demonstrators, military police and unknown plainclothes persons.

The clashes left at least 26 dead, according to the most recent figures from the Ministry of Health.

Some activists put the number much higher.

Clashes began when unknown persons attacked a Coptic Christian demonstration. When military police  finally intervened it was not to protect the demonstrators, according to eyewitnesses.

Christian demonstrators seeking refuge by the Hilton from the violence and tear gas told me, “The army is killing Christians.”

As the situation around the Hilton intensified, young men directed traffic away from the area. An armed personnel carrier and other vehicles burned, sending a dense black smoke into the air above the Nile.

A fire truck arrived, presumably to put out the fires. It was greeted with stones and rocks, but eventually allowed to pass.

Outside the Hilton, cries of the injured permeated sporadic chants of, “The people want the fall of the musheer,” Egypt’s military ruler, and “Where are our rights?”

One man’s screams faded into dull moans as he was placed on the ground after being carried from Maspiro on a blanket. A group of young men kept the crowd back to give the injured man air, only allowing me, as a photographer, near him, so I could document “what the army did to the Christians.”

A sudden stir in the crowd announced the arrival of Bothaina Kamel, the only woman to announce her candidacy for the Egyptian presidency so far. Wearing a bright orange reflective vest, Bothaina moved quickly through the crowd toward the Nile, the latest location of clashes between military police and demonstrators.

Many Muslims quickly joined their Christian brothers after clashes began. A Coptic man named Nabil told me that Muslims had saved his life twice that night.

Outside the Hilton, one Copt held a string of Muslim prayer beads along with his cross. “Both Muslim and Christian are here,” said another.

“Heard a Muslim guy urging other protesters, ‘let’s head to the front, I’m not gonna let the Christians take a bullet alone,’” tweeted activist Mosa’ab Elshamy. Such poignant moments are reminiscent of the early days of the Egyptian revolution, when Coptic Christians joined hands to protect their Muslim countrymen as they prayed in the streets.

Many Christians were angry, saying they felt they were being targeted. Coptic Christians comprise around 10 percent of Egypt’s population, and often say they are not treated equally to the Muslim majority.

“Christians will live in Egypt forever,” said one Coptic man, angrily blaming the extremist Islamic Salafi trend for being behind attacks against Christians. “They will not make us leave.”

While one man asked repeatedly, “Where is the United Nations?,” another insisted, “We are not asking for international protection.”

A number of activists reported a very different show of solidarity: “I cannot believe it the battle is over and the people who were hitting us from the other side have joined us,” tweeted Lilian Wagdy, an activist on the ground.

A few hours later, popular ‘tweep’ Mahmoud Salem, known on Twitter as ‘Sandmonkey,’ relayed a similar situation. He reported clashes between groups of Egyptians, all in plainclothes, with one side chanting, “The people and the army are one hand” and the other side “Muslims and Christians are one hand.”

Then, he tweeted, “In a very weird moment, both sides started chanting ‘one hand,’ stopped fighting, joined each other into one big marsh.”

At some point, the rumors started to fly, by word of mouth, on Twitter, and in the media.

Among the quickest to spread were claims that U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had announced that the U.S. would send troops to Egypt to protect Christian churches.

While the United States and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo emphatically denied the rumor, it still made the front page of some Egyptian newspapers on Monday morning.

Another rumor that has proven impossible to confirm claimed someone – either thugs or military personnel – threw dead bodies into the Nile. I have been unable to locate an eyewitness to this incident.

“I say again, I saw three military police throw dead bodies in the Nile, and another body was under their feet,” wrote Mohamed Elmoshir on Twitter.

Some rumors were true: shortly before midnight, I witnessed a military soldier shoot live ammunition in Tahrir Square, and videos of military vehicles driving at reckless speeds through crowds of demonstrators quickly appeared on YouTube.

As Monday dawned, Egyptians were angry, scared, saddened, and, perhaps most of all, worried. What would happen next? What did clashes between the army and the people mean for the transitional period? Blame for last night’s events has been placed on everyone from the demonstrators to Salafis to elements of Egypt’s formerly ruling regime to the military to the ubiquitous “foreign hand.”

One image, provided to the AUC Caravan, perhaps best illustrates the divisions and solidarity on both sides of the battle. In it, a uniformed military soldier carries an injured boy down a debris-strewn street. Another boy and a man in civilian clothes follow the soldier.

In the background, military soldiers and civilians stand, motionless.

**A version of this post was originally published at Youm7 English Edition (offline since Jan 2012).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

San Francisco mobile cutoff reeks of Arab authoritarianism

In an unexpected move for such a liberal U.S. city, San Francisco’s mass transport system shut off subterranean cell phone networks last week in an attempt to halt a planned protest. Since then, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) has faced criticism from not only the protest organizers but also a member of its board of directors, American civil liberties organizations and activists from across the world.

The demonstration organized for last Thursday by a cluster of groups called ‘No Justice, No BART’ was in protest of a BART police officer who shot dead a man in one of the subway’s stations on July 3. BART police said the 45-year-old victim had a knife.

On July 11, the protest group briefly shut down three BART subway stations. So, in preparation for the group’s second planned demonstration, BART shut off subterranean cell phone networks. The transport company defended the move by saying their goal was to protect passengers, adding that the protest group had said it would use mobile technology to communicate and organize.

The action is uncannily reminiscent of world dictators who use telecommunications regulation to keep themselves in power. In Egypt, a five-day telecom blackout was intended to halt a mass uprising that just a few weeks later toppled the country’s 30-year dictator.

“In Egypt, we so painfully felt the deadly impact of cutting off communications,” Egyptian activist Mohamed Abdelfattah told me. Abdelfattah was on the streets in Egypt’s Mediterranean city of Alexandria during the 18-day uprising. “During demos, we couldn’t reach families or friends or ambulances.”

“It's incredibly hilarious to hear such a tactic is used in a country that prides itself in promotion of democracy and human rights,” he added.

The so-called democratic “West” consistently denounces attempts across the world to block public unrest or expression with telecom limitations. Yet when faced with demonstrations at home, Western leaders – and apparently transportation authorities – are surprisingly quick to jump to the same tactics.

Just days before the San Francisco incident, British Prime Minister David Cameron considered “limiting” online social networking in an attempt to reign in riots in London.

On Friday afternoon BART officials acknowledged jamming underground cell services from 4-7pm on Thursday to prevent protesters from coordinating plans to stop trains.

“This group seems to want to challenge BART, challenge the police department,” Lt. Andy Alkire told CBS San Francisco. He called the decision to shutdown cell phone service on the subway platforms “a great tool to utilize for this specific purpose.” He did, however, call it an unusual measure.

The would-be protesters (who never materialized on Thursday) and others are furious with BART’s decision. An online petition titled, ‘BART: Stay Out of Our Cell Phone Service!’ received over 3,000 signatures from across the globe overnight.

Some activists have done more than create a petition: a group of anonymous hackers broke into a BART-affiliated website yesterday and posted contact information for more than 2,000 customers as a way to get back at the transportation authority.

The Associated Press called those calling for new demonstrations against BART “anarchists.”

Many are questioning the constitutionality of BART’s decision. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some civil libertarians “predicted legal action, or at least serious investigation by the Federal Communications Commission.”

In addition to denouncing BART’s move, the online petition states, “the FCC [Federal Communication Commission] has frequently published warnings in the past regarding the illegal nature of jamming cell phone services.”

The Associated Press reported that even a member of BART’s board of directors denounced the action. “I'm just shocked that they didn't think about the implications of this. We really don't have the right to be this type of censor," Lynette Sweet, a member of BART’s board, told the AP. “In my opinion, we've let the actions of a few people affect everybody. And that's not fair."

What Sweet says is “not fair” is exactly the reasoning BART’s deputy police chief used to defend the action. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, police chief Benson Fairow “said that BART considered the free speech implications posed by the cell phone shutdown but decided that those rights were outweighed by the need to protect the public.”

In response to my inquiry, BART Deputy Chief Communications Officer James Allison sent the following statement via e-mail: “BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform.

“Paid areas of BART stations are reserved for ticketed passengers who are boarding, exiting or waiting for BART cars and trains, or for authorized BART personnel. No person shall conduct or participate in assemblies or demonstrations or engage in other expressive activities in the paid areas of BART stations, including BART cars and trains and BART station platforms.”

The statement also said BART “accommodates expressive activities” that are protected by the U.S. and California State Constitution and “has made available certain areas of its property for expressive activity.”

The statement added that cell phone services outside BART platforms were not interrupted and that security personnel were standing by for customers seeking assistance.

It must be noted that BART did not ask cell phone providers to shut down towers near its stations or jam wireless signals. According to the Chronicle, BART owns and controls its subterranean wireless network and BART police ordered it switched off “after receiving permission from BART interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman, former general counsel for the transit district.”

Thus, no one outside the subway system was affected.

Even so, Abdelfattah, who began attending demonstrations in Egypt long before January 25, said it is never acceptable to shut down communications. He recalls being powerless when friends were killed or injured during Egypt’s uprising, without the ability to call for help. “We then realized the state should never have any control over communications,” he said.

“Being able to communicate is an irrefutable human right and cutting [communications] off in such a mass arbitrary manner should be regarded as a collective punishment,” he added.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees with Abdelfattah.

"All over the world, people are using mobile devices to protest oppressive regimes, and governments are shutting down cell phone towers and the Internet to stop them," Michael Risher, a staff attorney for the ACLU in Northern California, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's outrageous that in San Francisco, BART is doing the same thing."

"We don't want the government turning off cell phones in Syria, and we don't want them turning off cell phones here," said Patricia Shean, 72, told the Chronicle. "We deal with things differently here."

“It seems true that each country has its own particular fight for democracy and rights,” said Abdelfattah.

This article was originally published on August 15 at Youm7 English Edition (offline since Jan 2012).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Decision to remove Mubarak's name from public buildings overturned

A ruling to remove the name of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak from governmental buildings was overturned by a Cairo appeals court today.

The court that issued the decision in April acted beyond its jurisdiction, said the Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters. The case has been sent to the administrative court.

Supporters and opponents of Mubarak reportedly clashed outside the courthouse after the ruling was announced.

Mubarak’s name, and that of his wife Suzanne, was prominent on public buildings from schools to hospitals during his 30-year term as president of Egypt.

A metro station named for him was quickly renamed to ‘the Martyrs’ in the aftermath of the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak from power in February.

Popular opinion has insisted that Mubarak’s name be removed from everything from the metro stop to neighborhoods. Taxi drivers in a Sharqiya town refused to drive into the ‘Mubarak’ neighborhood earlier this year, demanding the neighborhood be renamed 'Martyrs' first.

Egypt's octogenarian former leader is set to go on trial August 3 for murder of demonstrators and corruption.

This post was originally published at Youm7 English Edition (offline as of Jan. 2011).

Friday, July 1, 2011

Egypt policeman dances with sword during clashes

This video by independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm is one of the most disturbing things I've seen lately: as his colleagues throw stones at demonstrators in downtown Cairo on Wednesday morning, one soldier (likely a higher rank, as he isn't wearing a helmet or shield) dances around waving a machete and a long police baton.

Everyone around him completely ignores him:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the international media gets Egypt wrong

An article by the Associated Press today began, “the long banned Muslim Brotherhood has been recognized as the Freedom and Justice Party.”

That’s not quite true.

What the article means to say is that the Freedom and Justice Party, founded by the long banned Muslim Brotherhood, has been recognized.

The difference is significant.

While Egypt’s political scene has accepted the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate actor, the organization which has been banned for decades is still, officially, banned. The Freedom and Justice Party was indeed founded by the Brotherhood and in the party the Brotherhood has its first legal political entity.

However, the party does not exclusively contain Brotherhood members, nor are all members of the Brotherhood automatically members of the party. According to one of the party’s founders, 25 percent of its members are not affiliated with the Brotherhood. What’s more, around 8 percent are women and Coptic Christians.

It remains to be seen how the party’s relationship with the Brotherhood will play out, but technically the Associated Press got its facts wrong.

This is only one small example of the international media’s frequent mistake when it comes to Egypt and the wider Arab world: they see only the surface and do not know, or do not understand, the nuances.

The problem is twofold: first, manpower and resources. Second, the target audience is, usually, not the Middle East.

The issue of distributing resources is something all newspapers and news agencies must come to terms with. International agencies must cover the entire world and consequently cannot devote too many resources to any one area. That said, the entire world is watching the Middle East now more than ever and consequently it is more important to get the facts straight than ever before. Small slip-ups could have far-reaching implications.

The second issue is arguably more important. News agencies want their stories to be understandable. It is one of the fundamental principles of journalism: convey your story to your reader so they understand what you’re talking about. But oversimplification to this extent does not help anyone. It certainly does not help the “West” understand the Arab world.

Journalism’s goal is not to defeat misperceptions, but the international media must learn to balance the simple goal of telling the news with a more complex duty to portray more than the surface of its subject.

When it comes to the Arab world, too often foreign media takes the easy road: they report what they see with their own eyes and talk with people it’s easy to talk to. Namely, other journalists and people who speak their language or are of their own social class.

Watching coverage of the Egyptian Revolution in the United States, many Americans thought to themselves, “Hey, it looks like America succeeded in Egypt. Everyone speaks English.”

Those reporting the world-changing events taking place in Cairo’s now-iconic Tahrir Square made the vital mistake of interviewing predominantly English-speaking Egyptians, probably because it was easier.

In the short-term such reporting may be easier. In the long-term, however, this sort of reporting misses what’s actually happening on the ground; it misses the opportunity to portray a different culture and a different way of thinking in a way its target audience – in this case, the Western world – can understand.

This is why the international media consistently gets Egypt wrong, and probably part of the reasons misconceptions about the region continue to prevail. It is no longer acceptable to skim the surface and write the easy story – if it ever was. The world does not only want the surface news. The world wants to understand Egypt.

This article was originally published at Youm7 English Edition on June 7, 2011.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Remembering Khaled Said

Some would argue his death started a revolution – or at the very least was one of its major catalysts. Khaled Said is still burned into Egypt's memory a year after his brutal death.

Today Egyptians gathered in Cairo, Alexandria and Fayoum to remember Khaled.

While the exact details continue to be disputed, Khaled was killed at the hands of Egyptian police in Alexandria on June 6, 2010. He was beaten to death and his body was dumped his home. Four days later his story spread rapidly across the internet after prominent opposition politician Ayman Nour publicized Khaled’s death and pictures of his mangled face.

Egyptians were outraged. Protests were organized. In Khaled’s home city of Alexandria, men and women stood along the corniche, the road separating the city from the Mediterranean Sea, every Friday afternoon. They dressed in black. They carried the Bible or the Quran, and they prayed silently for Khaled’s soul.

Stark images of educated, upper-middle-class youth stretching down the corniche drew more attention. These were not the small, violent demonstrations Egyptians were accustomed to. Those attending actually had something to lose.

Yet Khaled was not the first to die at the hands of Egyptian police. There were many before him. So why did Khaled Said, a 28-year-old businessman, draw millions of supporters to a Facebook page within days? Why were weekly demonstrations organized in Alexandria and Egypt’s capital, Cairo, for months after his death?

Ultimately, the answer is simple: Egypt’s politically inactive middle class considered him one of their own.

Shortly after news of Khaled’s murder was made public, an Egyptian friend told me why he – an upperclass Egyptian who wasn’t involved in politics and had the money for a good education – was so affected by Khaled’s death: “He didn't look for trouble, yet corruption killed him anyway. Maybe they've done worse things before, but this directly threatens me: this is a young guy who comes from almost the same background as me and most of my friends. He does the same things that I do. He stays out of trouble. And yet, this.”

My friend, like many other Egyptians, believed he could be next.

While some of those who publicized Khaled’s case were seasoned activists, many more were not. For the first time, portions of Egypt’s middle class went to the streets in public demonstrations – perhaps the most politically repercussive aspect of Khaled’s death.

In the earliest days of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution, the people taking to the streets were not underpaid laborers or career activists. They were Egypt’s educated middle class, and the first time they had gone to the streets was after Khaled’s death. There were chants for better wages and economic issues, but the calls for democracy, freedom, and human rights were louder. It was, in the beginning, not a bread uprising but a call for what many have termed the “Western” ideals of personal freedom.

The career activists and the politicians were there as well, but they were outnumbered by ordinary Egyptians. Soon the economic demands came. A wave of labor strikes has hit Egypt in the wake of the revolution. Now, people believe they have the right to make their demands heard.

Khaled’s death did not cause the Egyptian revolution. According to a recent poll by the International Republic Institute his death was not even a major motivating factor for Egyptians to participate in or support the revolution.

Khaled’s death was important in a different way. It catalyzed a realization among Egypt’s middle class, who could afford their basic needs: they were no longer safe simply by staying out of politics. For the first time, many decided long-term benefits of going to the streets outweighed the short-term risks.

Now, a year after his death, Egyptians remember Khaled. He is remembered not only as a martyr of the former regime, but as a symbol for everything Egyptians have lost and everything they stand to gain: the rights to life and liberty.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Egypt youth say NO to the SCAF

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been in charge of Egypt’s administration for 101 days.

Today, Egypt’s young revolutionaries are calling for Egyptians to fight the army-imposed media blackout of the military. They have called on Egyptians to blog, tweet, and post anything which breaks the silence on the military’s violations of human and civil rights. They are trying to create a united front in an attempt to open the scene to frank discussion of the military, and to stop what they see as the military’s escalating violations.

Hundreds of Egyptians have answered the call. Twitter is bursting with tweets and posts tagged with ‘#NoSCAF’ about the military, its violations, and what should happen next.

Activist Mona Seif, one of the first to call for the ‘NO SCAF’ campaign, tweeted early this morning: “Waking up to an internet flooded with posts exposing #SCAF is just amazing.”

“If the SCAF wants to ‘punish’ us for ‘criticizing the military’ and ‘spreading rumors,’ then they will have to arrest hundreds of netizens,” wrote Egyptian activist Ramy Raoof via Twitter.

Journalist and blogger Mohamed Abdelfattah said, “Today the Egyptian blogosphere sends a message: WE ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH THE MILITARY COUNCIL.” He has also compiled a list of blog posts against the SCAF: as of 2pm, 140 bloggers had written posts against the military council.

“Blog. Tweet. Post. Be Free. Evaluate the #SCAF today. This is being documented,” tweeted Ahmed Abdulhassan.

Indeed, an Al-Jazeera English producer tweeted in the morning that he was compiling an article about today’s campaign. The tweets of Mosa’ab Elshamy are among the tweets he plans to include. Mosa’ab was arrested by the Egyptian army last week and only recently released. His tweets about what he witnessed in custody are poignant, disturbing, and certainly revealing.

Egyptians have entered what is likely to be a long war, of which the fall of the Mubarak regime was only one battle.

It is a war in which the uniforms are ambiguous, observers are constantly switching sides, and the majority of the combatants have no idea what the strategy is, or, indeed, who it is they are fighting.

Many are fighting undefined notions of the “former regime” or the “counter-revolution.”

Among the most ambiguous players on the scene is the Egyptian army. Hailed as saviors by the vast majority of Egyptians when they swept into Cairo on January 28, ending a long 'Day of Rage' of bloody battles between the police and the people, the army was then charged with the country’s administration when former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11.

Immediately some began to wonder if the military – and its Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – would ever give up power. They wondered if, in fact, the SCAF would attempt to turn a true people’s revolution into a military coup d’état.

The army has now been in power for 101 days. Each day, mistrust has grown between the people and the army.

Stories of human rights abuses by the army are increasing. Citizens are calling out more frequently to end military trials of civilians. And most of Egypt’s young activists are well aware that Egyptian media is forbidden to write anything about the military without permission.

Yesterday, the SCAF released a statement on its Facebook page – created to communicate with the Egyptian people – saying unidentified websites were publishing false information about the army in an attempt to fuel chaos in the country and to divide the army from the people.

(The fact that the army releases all of its communiqués via Facebook is a story in and of itself.)

Egyptians have faced battle after battle in their fight for a secular, democratic country which will offer a better future – a “New Egypt” – for them and their children.

The war did not begin on January 25, 2011.

For many, it began decades earlier. Human rights lawyer Amir Salem participated in Egypt’s student demonstrations in the 1970s, and was arrested in the same Tahrir Square in which, thirty years later, he watched Egyptians gather by the millions to demand freedom. Salem has been arrested nine times but has tirelessly fought for the rights of prisoners, for activists, and was once the lawyer for Ayman Nour.

Prominent opposition figure Ayman Nour first began warning of the dangers of a continued Emergency Law twenty years ago, when he was a law student. As a young parliamentarian ten years later, he dared the Prime Minister to eat a piece of the rock-hard bread distributed to Egypt’s poor during a bread crisis.

Nour is one of millions of Egyptians who suffered under the hand of Hosni Mubarak: he spent four years in the infamous ‘Torah Prison’ for daring to challenge him.

Now, it is Mubarak’s cronies who are behind the bars of Torah Prison: those businessmen, politicians, and ministers who supported a corrupt regime which drained Egypt of its resources and dignity to provide greater and greater opulence to a smaller and smaller portion of the population. Even Mubarak’s sons are imprisoned.

But the battles are becoming increasingly hazy. Who is on what side? What is the so-called “counter-revolution,” who is behind it, and how can Egyptians unite against it? Everyone from young activists to political figureheads to religious leaders have called for Egyptians to unite together against the ‘counter-revolution’ – and then blamed each other of being part of it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Egypt's Constitutional Declaration: Full Text

People have been asking me where to find the text of Egypt's constitutional declaration in English, so here it is, straight from the Egyptian government:

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces,

Cognizant of a) the Constitutional Declaration issued on February 13, 2011, b) the outcome of the referendum on the amendments of the Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt held on March 19, the approval of which was announced on March 20, 2011 and c) the statement issued by the Council on March 23, 2011,

Decides the following:

Article 1
The Arab Republic of Egypt is a democratic state, based on citizenship; The Egyptian people are part of the Arab nation and work to achieve comprehensive Arab unity.

Article 2
Islam is the religion of the State, Arabic the official language; the principles of Islamic Sharia (Jurisprudence) are the main source of legislation.

Article 3
Only the people have sovereignty and are the source of all powers; the people exercise and protect sovereignty and safeguard national unity.

Article 4
Citizens may form societies, unions, syndicates and parties in accordance with the law. Societies of a hostile, clandestine or military nature are prohibited as are political activities and political parties based on religion and/or discrimination on account of gender or ethnicity.

Article 5
The economy of the Arab Republic of Egypt is based on promoting economic activities and social justice, safeguarding all forms of ownership and protecting labor rights.

Article 6
Public ownership is preserved, as each and every citizen shall take the duty of its protection according to the law.
Private ownership shall be safeguarded and may not be put under sequestration except in the cases specified in the law and under a court ruling. It may not be expropriated save for the public benefit and against a fair compensation in accordance with the law. The right of inheritance to it is guaranteed.

Article 7
All citizens are equal before the law. They have equal public rights and duties without discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.

Article 8
Individual freedom is a natural right and safeguarded and inviolable. Save for the case of being caught red-handed, no person may be arrested, inspected, detained or his freedom restricted or prevented from free movement except under an order necessitated by investigations and preservation of the security of the society.
Such order shall be given by the competent judge or the Public Prosecution in accordance with the provisions of the law.
The law shall determine the period of custody.

Article 9
Any person arrested, detained or his freedom restricted shall be treated in such a manner that preserves his human dignity. No physical or moral harm shall be inflicted upon him.
He may not be detained or imprisoned in places other than those defined by laws regulating prisons.
Any statement proved to have been made by a person under any of the aforementioned forms of duress or coercion or under the threat thereof, shall be considered invalid and futile.

Article 10
Places of residence are sanctified sanctity; they may not be entered or inspected save by causal judicial warrant prescribed by the provisions of the law.

Article 11
The law protects the inviolability of the private life of citizens.
Correspondence, wires, telephone calls and other means of communication are inviolable, confidential and may not be confiscated or monitored save by a causal judicial warrant and for a definite period in accordance with the provisions of the law.

Article 12
The State guarantees freedom of belief and the free practice of religious rites.
Freedom of opinion is guaranteed. Every individual has the right to express his opinion and to disseminate it verbally, in writing, illustration or by any other means within the limits of the law. Self-criticism and constructive criticism is a guarantee for the safety of the national structure.

Article 13
Freedom of the press, printing, publication and mass media shall be guaranteed. Censorship on newspapers is forbidden. Warning, suspension or abolition of newspapers by administrative means are prohibited. However, in case of declared state of emergency or in time of war, limited censorship may be imposed on newspapers, publications and mass media in matters related to public safety or for the purposes of national security in accordance with the law.

Article 14
No citizen shall be inhibited from residing in some place or be forced to reside in a particular place, except in the cases defined by the law.

Article 15
No citizen shall be deported from or prevented from returning to the country. Handing over political asylum people is prohibited.

Article 16
Citizens have the right to peaceable and unarmed private assembly, without the need for prior notice. Security men shall not attend such private meetings.
Public meetings, processions and gatherings are allowed within the limits of the law

Article 17
Any encroachment upon individual freedom or the inviolability of private life of citizens and/or public rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the law shall be considered a crime, for which criminal and civil lawsuit shall not be forfeited by prescription. The State shall grant a fair compensation to the victim of such encroachment.

Article 18
The imposition, modification or abolition of public taxes cannot be effected except in the cases decreed by law.
No one shall be exempted from their payment except in the cases specified by the law. No one should be required to pay additional taxes or imposts except in the cases specified by law.

Article 19
Penalty shall be personalized. There shall be no crime or penalty except by virtue of the law. No penalty shall be inflicted except by a judicial sentence. Penalty shall be inflicted only for acts committed subsequent to the promulgation of the law prescribing it.

Article 20
A defendant is innocent until proved guilty in legal trial, in which he is granted the right to defend himself. Every person accused of a crime shall be provided with counsel for his defense.

Article 21
The right to litigation is inviolable and guaranteed for all, and every citizen has the right to have access to his natural judge.
The State shall guarantee accessibility of judicature for litigants, and rapid decision on cases. Any provision in the law stipulating immunity of any act or administrative decision from the control of the judicature is prohibited.

Article 22
The right of defense in person or by proxy is guaranteed. The Law shall secure, for financially incapable citizens, means to resort to justice and to defend their rights.

Article 23
Any person arrested or detained shall be informed forthwith of the reasons for his arrest or detention.
He shall have the right to communicate, with whoever he deems fit to inform, and ask for his help in the manner regulated by the law.
He shall be promptly faced with the charges leveled against him.
Any person may lodge an appeal with the courts against any measure taken to restrict his individual freedom.
The law shall regulate the right of appeal in a manner ensuring decision within a definite period; otherwise release is imperative.

Article 24
Sentences shall be issued and enforced in the name of the people. Meanwhile, abstention from or obstruction of enforcing such sentences on the part of the concerned civil servants is considered a crime punishable by law. In such case, a person issued a sentence in his favor, shall have the right to lodge a direct criminal action before a competent court.

Article 25
The Head of State is the President of the Republic. He shall ensure sovereignty of the people, respect for the Constitution and rule of the law, protection of national unity and the social justice and shall tend to the boundaries between authorities in such a way as to ensure that each shall perform its role in national action.
The President assumes the powers provided in Article 56 of the Declaration save items 1 and 2 thereof.

Article 26
The President shall be an Egyptian citizen of Egyptian parentage and shall enjoy all civil and political rights. Neither of the President's parents should be a national of another country. The President should not be married to a non-Egyptian and should be no less than forty years of age (Gregorian calendar).

Article 27
The President is elected by direct secret ballot.
For the purpose of approving a presidential nomination, a nominee should win the endorsement of 30 elected members of Parliament, or 30,000 registered voters from 15 governorates with at least 1,000 endorsements from each of those governorates.
Members of Parliament and voters may not endorse the nomination of more than one candidate for president.
Parties with at least one elected seat in parliament may nominate one of their members in presidential elections.

Article 28
A higher committee under the name the "Presidential Elections Commission" shall supervise the elections starting with opening the door for nominations to announcing the results.
The Commission comprises the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court as chair, and the President of the Cairo Court of Appeals and the oldest deputy presidents of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation and the State Council as members.
The Commission's decisions are final, binding and non-violable by any means and/or authority. The Commission's decisions may not be suspended or abolished. The Commission shall rule on areas within its competences. The Commission's other competences shall be defined by law.
The Presidential Elections Commission is responsible for creating the committees in charge of supervising the ballot and counting the votes as described under Article 39.
Before being promulgated, the draft law on presidential elections shall be submitted to the Supreme Constitutional Court to rule on its constitutionality.
The Court shall return a decision within 15 days. Should the Court decide that an article(s) is unconstitutional, the decision should be effectuated on promulgating the law. Under all conditions, the Court's decisions are binding to all people and all state agencies and should be published in the Official Gazette within three days of issuance.

Article 29
The term of the Presidency is 4 Gregorian years starting from the date of the announcement of the result of the elections.

Article 30
Before exercising his powers, the President shall take the following oath before the People’s Assembly:

"I swear by Allah the Almighty to uphold the republican system with loyalty, to respect the Constitution and law, fully to look after the interests of the people and safeguard the independence and territorial integrity of the motherland".

Article 31
The President shall, within at most 60 days of exercising his powers, appoint one or more vice presidents, the responsibilities of whom the President shall determine. In the case that a vice-president is dismissed from office, the president shall appoint a replacement.
The same qualifications and rules of accountability applicable to the President shall apply to the vice presidents.

Article 32
The members of the People’s Assembly should exceed 350, of whom at least one half shall be workers and peasants elected by direct secret ballot. The definition of the terms "worker" and "peasant" shall be provided by law.
The President of the Republic may appoint a number of members not exceeding ten.

(Article 33)
The People's Assembly undertakes, immediately after its election, the legislative authority and decides the general policy of the state along with the public plan for economic and social development and the State's budget. It also takes over a supervisory role over the executive authority.

(Article 34)
The term of the People's Assembly is five years (Gregorian calendar) as of the date of its first meeting.

(Article 35)
The Shura Council is formed of a number of members set by the law provided that it should not be less than 132 members with two thirds elected through direct secret balloting, with half of them at least from workers and peasants. The President of the Republic appoints the remaining third.
The law sets the electoral constituencies of the Shura Council.

(Article 36)
The term of the Shura Council membership is six years.

(Article 37)
The Shura Council takes over, immediately after its election, studying and proposing what it deems a guarantee for maintaining national unity and social peace along with protecting the basic potentials of the society and its high values, rights, freedoms and public duties. The council should be consulted in the following:
1- The draft of the general plan for social and economic development.
2- Draft laws that are referred to it by the president of the republic.
3- All issues referred to it by the president of the republic that are related to the general policy of the state or its foreign and Arab affairs strategy.
The council briefs the President of the Republic and the People's Assembly on its opinion regarding any of these issues.

(Article 38)
The law regulates the right to candidacy to the People's Assembly and Shura Council in accordance with a specific electoral system set by the law. It is permissible that this system includes a minimum of women participation in the two houses.

(Article 39)
The law sets the preconditions that must be met by the members of the People's Assembly and Shura Council and specifies the regulations of election and referendum.
A higher commission, of complete judicial formation, undertakes supervision of the election and referendum starting with registration in the electoral lists until the announcement of the results. This all be undertaken in accordance with the law. Polling and vote counting are carried out under supervision of members of the judicial authorities who are named by the higher councils of these authorities and a decision should be issued by the higher commission on their selection.

(Article 40)
The Court of Cassation is the body in charge of verifying the membership of the People's Assembly and Shura Council MPs. Challenges are submitted to the court within a period that should not exceed 30 days since the announcement of the election results and the court settles the issue within 90 days later. The membership is considered null and void since the two houses are briefed about the court ruling.

(Article 41)
Measures for People's Assembly and Shura Council elections start within six months of announcing the operation of this declaration.
The Shura Council undertakes its powers with its elected members.
The President of the Republic undertakes, immediately after his election, completing the formation of the council with appointing one third of its members to complete the remaining term of the council in line with the law.

(Article 42)
Every member of the People's Assembly and Shura Council is sworn-in before his respective body before undertaking his task as follows:
"I swear by Allah the Almighty to honestly uphold the safety of the homeland and the republican system and to look after the people's interests and to respect the Constitution and the Law".

(Article 43)
Every member of the People's Assembly and Shura Council is not allowed, during his membership term, to purchase or hire any of the State's property. He is not also allowed to sell or rent to any State property any of his own property or have any form of transaction with it. He is not allowed to sign with the State any contract in his capacity as a supplier or contractor.

(Article 44)
Membership of any of the People's Assembly and Shura Council MPs should not be dropped except after losing a vote of no-confidence, not meeting one of the preconditions for the membership or losing the capacity of a worker or peasant on which he was elected or if he did not deliver the requirements of his membership. A decision on dropping his membership should be issued by a majority of two thirds of the members.

(Article 45)
In case of being caught red-handed in a crime, no criminal measures should be taken against any of the People's Assembly and Shura Council members unless after a permission from the body to which he belongs. In case the council or the assembly is not in session, permission is obtained from the speaker and the council or the assembly is notified at its first session.

(Article 46)
The judicial authority is independent and it is undertaken by courts with their various types and instances. Court rulings are issued in accordance with the law.

(Article 47)
Judges are independent and could not be relieved of their posts. The law regulates bringing them to account and they have no other higher authority in their rulings except the law. No any other authority is allowed to interfere in the cases or justice affairs.

(Article 48)
The State Council is an independent judicial authority and assumes settling administrative disputes in disciplinary lawsuits. The law specifies its other powers.

(Article 49)
The Supreme Constitutional Court is an independent judicial authority per se and is assigned, barring any other bodies, with judicial supervision on the constitutionality of laws and regulations. It undertakes interpreting legislative texts. All this is undertaken in line with the law. The law specifies other tasks of the Court and regulates measures that should be followed before it.

(Article 50)
The law specifies the judicial authorities, their jurisdictions, means of their formation and the preconditions and measures that should be followed for selecting their members.

(Article 51)
The law regulates martial judiciary, specifies its jurisdiction in accordance with the constitutional principles.

(Article 52)
Court sessions are to be held on public unless the court decides that a session is held behind closed doors, taking into consideration law and order or common rules. In all cases, the ruling should be announced in an on-public session.

(Article 53)
The Armed Forces is a public property and its mission is protecting the homeland and its territories and security. No agency or group is allowed to set up military or paramilitary formation. Defending the nation and its territories is a sacred mission and drafting is obligatory in accordance with the law. The law specifies the preconditions required for serving and promotion in the Armed Forces.

(Article 54)
A body named "The National Defense Council" should be set up under the chairmanship of the president of the republic. It is entrusted with looking into issues related to means of protecting the country and its safety. The law specifies its other powers.

(Article 55)
The police apparatus is a regular civil authority that is undertaking its job in the service of the people and guarantees their safety and security. It maintains law and order and public rules in line with the law.

(Article 56)
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces runs the affairs of the State. Under this framework it undertakes the following authorities:
1- Legislation
2- Approving the general policy of the State and the State's budget and supervising its implementation.
3- Selecting the appointed members of the People's Assembly.
4- Convoying the People's Assembly and Shura Council ordinary session and its adjourning and convening an extraordinary session and its adjourning.
5- The right to issue laws or objecting them.
6- Representing the State internally and externally and signing international agreements and treaties and they are considered part of the legal system of the State.
7- Appointing the prime minister and his deputies, the ministers and their deputies and relieving them from their posts.
8- Appointing civil and military civil servants and political representatives and relieving them in line with the law and approving political representatives of foreign countries
9- Giving amnesty from a punishment or commuting it. Complete pardon should not be extended except with a law.
10- Other powers and capacities of the president of the republic in accordance with the laws and regulations.
The council has the right to entrust its chief or any of its members to undertake any of its tasks.

(Article 57)
The Cabinet and ministers undertake the executive authority and the Cabinet in particular is allowed to exercise the following powers:
1- Participating with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in outlining the general policy of the State and overseeing its implementation in line with the laws and republican decrees.
2- Steering, coordinating and following up activities of the ministries and their affiliate bodies and public agencies and institutions.
3- Issuing administrative and executive decisions in line with the laws and regulations and following up their implantation.
4- Outlining draft laws, regulations and decisions.
5- Drawing up the draft of the State's budget.
6- Outlining the draft of the State's general plan.
7- Signing agreements on loans and extending them in accordance with the constitutional principles.
8- Following up the implementation of laws and preserving the State's security and protecting the citizens' rights and the State's interests.

(Article 58)
A said minister is not allowed, while in office, to undertake any other freelance job or financial or industrial activity. He is not also allowed to buy or hire any of the State's property or sell or rent to it any of his own property or make any related transaction.

(Article 59)
The President of the Republic, announces after consulting the Cabinet, a state of emergency in accordance with the law. This announcement should be referred to the People's Assembly within the following seven days to decide on it. In case the announcement is made while the assembly is not in session, the assembly should convene immediately to decide on the issue while taking into consideration the date mentioned in the previous paragraph. If the People's Assembly is dissolved, the issue is referred to the new assembly at its first meeting. The declaration of the state of emergency should be approved by majority of the members. In all cases the declaration of the state of emergency should not be maintained for a period of time that exceeds six months and should not be extended except after an approval by the people in a public referendum.

(Article 60)
Non-appointed members of the People's Assembly and Shura Council are to meet at a joint meeting at an invitation from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces within six months of their election to establish a constituent assembly of 100 members to take over outlining a draft for a new constitution of the country in a date that should not exceed six months since the formation of the constituent assembly. The blueprint is to be referred, within 15 days of its writing, to the people in a public referendum. The constitution is to be effective since the announcement of approval by the people in the referendum.

(Article 61)
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces remains exercising its powers specified in this declaration until the People's Assembly and Shura Council undertake their powers and until the election of a president of the republic and undertaking his job.

(Article 62)
All rulings approved by laws and regulations prior to this constitutional declaration remain valid and in force while they must not be canceled or amended in accordance with rules and measures mentioned in this declaration.

(Article 63)
This declaration is published in the official Gazette and be effective the second day of its publication.