Egypt Today rounds up this week’s news and milestones
By Ahmed Mansour and Kaylan Geiger
33 Killed in Sinai Attacks, El-Sisi Blames ‘Foreign Hands’
The government declared a three-month state of emergency in North Sinai after 33 security forces were killed on October 24 in two attacks. The attacks have been labeled the worst anti-government violence since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The first attack took place in Al-Kharouba, northwest of Arish, where thirty people were killed. A car bomb attack targeted two armored vehicles, reported to have been filled with ammunition and weaponry, causing a large explosion and a high death toll.
The second attack occurred when gunmen opened fire on an Arish checkpoint, killing three security forces.
On October 25, President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi stated that the attacks received “foreign support.” At the time of press, no group had claimed responsibility for the attacks but they bare a striking resemblance to attacks by the Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. The group has reportedly given its support to the terrorist group fighting in Iraq and Syria, DAISH (Dawlet al-Islam fil Iraq wal Sham
or Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS)).
“We are steadfast and moving in one direction; restoring Egypt to its position. This is not easy. It requires patience. There will be suffering, pain and blood. We will all pay [this price] for our country.” — President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi in an official statement
“The family strongly condemns this heinous criminal incident and holds coup authorities fully responsible for neglecting security and protection of the lives of soldiers. Junta authorities are preoccupied with protecting the coup regime and its symbols.” — Osama Morsi, spokesperson for former President Mohamed Morsi’s family, in an official statemet
Cairo’s Pollution Problem Reaches Dangerous High
Cairo and other governorates throughout Egypt were overcome by a thick, dark plume of smog this past week as pollution levels hit a dangerous high.
Several governorates reported an increase in respiratory infections and diseases as a result of the relentless smog, which returns to Cairo every year in October and November due to farmers burning leftover straw, according to The Cairo Post
Cairo is notorious for its air pollution, which is a staple on the city skyline and visible from the air when flying into Cairo International Airport. Industrial plants and factories are the biggest culprit in producing large quantities of pollution that taint Cairo’s sky.
In 2007 the World Health Organization released a study that claimed Cairo inhabitants inhale more that 20 times the acceptable air pollution every day, the equivalent to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.
“These days more than ever, the United Nations is taking the matter of air pollution seriously, and I totally agree. Global warming is taking over and we all can see that through the severe climate changes that are taking place now days. The ways to resolve air pollution is very hard and it requires a lot of work and the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of environment should start working on them as soon as possible”
— Dr. Ahmed Hassan, environmentalist, to Egypt Today.
“Indeed, the Ministry of Environment is working on fixing this. In cooperation with the traffic police, we decided that a fine will be applied to car drivers that own a car with smoke coming out of their exhaust pipes. Anyone who would burn trash in the streets will be arrested and subjected to a fine. Our surveillance is mainly focused on the urban areas of Egypt. As for the factories, by law, they are forced to apply air filtration on their chimneys to decrease the amount of polluted air. Any factory that will not abide by those regulations will be punished, and in extreme cases, shut down. The ministry is also planning to plant a lot of trees and increase the amount of greenery, because as we all know that green filters the air better than any man. We are working as hard as we can to make things better for the people; it’s our main goal now to clean the air, the water, and modify the soils so that the Egyptian citizen would live the proper life he deserves”
— Mohamed Hanafy Khafaga, media spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment, to Egypt Today
Egypt in Ongoing Negotiations Over Ethiopian Dam
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have taken part in ongoing negotiations in recent weeks, discussing the logistics of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The latest meeting between the involved parties ended with an agreement to receive offers from consultancy firms that would conduct studies on the dam’s effect on water supply.
Egypt and Ethiopia are slated to take place in another round of talks November 1-3, initially planned for October 22, to further discuss preparations for the dam.
The dam has been the source of a major dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia in past months, with tensions reaching an all time high when Ethiopia said it would push forward with the dam’s construction while Egypt claimed that the dam would encroach upon water sovereignty.
After meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at the African Summit and the United Nations General Assembly, El-Sisi promised to visit Ethiopia as a show of good relations between both countries. As of yet, no trip has been planned.
Long ago, no country would dare to cross Egypt, but now the Nile basin countries want to take over one of the most important symbols in Egypt, the reason why I call it a symbol is because the Nile is Egypt, just like the Pyramids are Egypt.”
— Mohamed Al-Ghafeer, a political activist, to Egypt Today
“Egypt should have a very strong position against the Nile basin countries, specially Ethiopia, there should be excessive negotiations and if the matter is not resolved Ethiopia should know that war is a solution that could be used. From what I researched, the Ethiopian army will not stand a chance, even in the current condition Egypt is going through.”
— Sami Sameer, political expert at Al-Ahram Center, to Egypt Today
Press Freedom in the Spotlight Once Again
Egypt’s tango with press freedom found its way into the spotlight again after several stories involving journalists surfaced last week.
An Egyptian court set a January 1 date for the appeals hearing of three Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned over charges of spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The trial of the journalists, including Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed among others, has received a great deal of international attention and has been decried as an attack on press freedom. They were sentenced to seven years in prison on June 23.
In a meeting with the Arab Journalists Union on October 20, President Abdul Fattah El-Sisi remarked that he believes the Al Jazeera journalists should have been deported and not incarcerated, even though some of the journalists imprisoned are Egyptian. El-Sisi also said the judiciary is an independent body and he would not comment on any court ruling.
On October 16, the Supreme State Security Prosecution charged privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm’s Editor-in-Chief Ali El-Sayyed and journalist Ahmed Youssef with embezzling confidential documents. The documents allegedly claim to expose the rigging of the 2012 presidential elections. El-Sayyed and Youssef were detained, questioned and released on bail pending further investigations.
“This matter takes me by surprise. The fact that Egypt Today
is writing about press freedom means that the press is free to write about whatever they want. So I wonder why all the journalists are complaining? In Hosni Mubarak’s Era, could any newspaper or magazine write what they wanted to write about? Of course not, so let’s not concentrate on the untrue and focus more on the hard work and progress that the government is making.”
— Anwer Khalid, a journalist at the government-run Al-Ahram newspaper, to Egypt Today
“Egypt’s national security is threatened these days, and the media is not working on making matters better, they are working on making it worse. The government, these days, has to interfere with what’s being said in the media and filter them and that is all for national security. I totally agree that decreasing the freedom of press these days is essential.”
— Sherif Taher, Political analyst and Member of Strong Egypt Party, to Egypt Today
“We should be able to say whatever we want to say, the media was once used as a tool to give rights back to the people and it should always be this way. This is not what we fought for in the January 25 Revolution. I remember what Bassem Youssef once said in a show with John Stewart, that the Muslim Brotherhood allowed for freedom of the press more than the current regime does. Feels like we did all for this nothing.”
— Mohsen Mohamed Raaouf, political activist, to Egypt Today
, activist Asmaa Mahfouz from travelling. A leading figure in the January 25 Revolution, Mahfouz was prevented from traveling to Thailand on October 21 due to a travel ban. No reason has been given for the ban. In other news, a travel ban was lifted on October 22 for activist Amr Hamzawy and journalist Abd El-Halim Qandil.
, The Carter Center’s operations in Egypt. The center, which has monitored elections in Egypt since the January 25 Revolution, says it will close its Cairo office and stop monitoring elections due to Egypt’s deeply polarized political environment and restrictive policies.
, Egyptian squash player Mohamed Elshorbagy the U.S. Open final against Egyptian player Amr Shabana. Elshorbagy has also risen to the number one spot in the PSA World Rankings.
, Alaa Khaled and Ibrahim Abdelmeguid in the Seikh Zayed Book Award’s top literature list. Khaled’s memoir Faces from Alexandria
and Abdelmeguid’s novel This is Cairo
were among ten books by Arab authors on the list.
, Egyptian musician Hani Mehanna to five years in jail on fraud charges. Mehanna is accused of unlawfully acquiring public funds and illegally receiving over LE 3 million from the Bank of Alexandria.