(Symposium) Cultures Of Freedom And Contending Visions Of Governance: Voices From The Arab And Muslim Worlds

Click here for Conference program (PDF)streetartcairo
(via Lucia Sorbera)

Click here for the Event page.

Click here for the Key speakers Facebook page.
(with links for free registration)

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Despotism and unmaking of the Egyptian Citizen (conference paper)

I will be giving a presentation this Friday titled “Despotism and the Unmaking of the Egyptian Citizen” at the New Law School, seminar room 342. University of Sydney. At 1.15pm – 2.45pm.
This is part of a panel that includes Lucia Sorbera (presenting Gender, Politics,and Political Legitimacy in Egypt), Sara Verdi (On Memorialisation, AUC) and Walid El Khachab (Popular culture and Reclaiming the public space: Resistance in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, York University). Chaired by May Telmissany (University of Ottowa).
The conference starts this Thursday at 9.15am, and ends on Friday evening. Details on the conference can be viewed here: http://whatson.sydney.edu.au/events/published/symposium-cultures-of-freedom-and-contending-visions-of-governance-voices-from-the-arab-and-muslim-worlds

Conference program (PDF): Conference Program – April 9-10 2015

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How New Beginnings Are Made – From Hannah Arendt to Alain Badiou (Lecture)

Arendt Badiou

click here for the Facebook event.

في السابعة من مساء الخميس 2 أبريل يقدم لكم عمرو علي محاضرة بعنوان (صناعة البدايات من حنا آرنت إلى آلان باديو). تتناول هذه المحاضرة ظاهرة البدايات الجديدة وكيفية حدوثها في العالم، والآليات التي تعزز خلخلة – إن لم يكن اقتلاع – الإطار السياسي والاجتماعي الذي يعرقل التدفق “المتوقع” للتاريخ ويتيح لأشياءٍ جديدة أن ترى النور، والأحداث في المجال العام- وفي أوجها الثورة – التي تخلق مزجًا جديدًا غير متوقع في عالم السياسة. عمرو علي باحث دكتوراه في جامعة سيدني بأستراليا وزميل زائر في مركز برلين للعلوم الاجتماعية ومحلل لشؤون الشرق الأوسط.

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Shimaa ElSabbagh in art

I have been absolutely gutted since Shimaa ELSabbagh (also spelled as Shaimaa el-Sabbagh) was killed by security forces two weeks ago as she headed to Tahrir Square to lay flowers on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the 2011 Egyptian revolution. While I never personally knew Shimaa, we shared numerous common friends who have been in tears and heartache since that tragic afternoon. Many will ask why focus on Shimaa when other protesters also die. That is true, Sondos died the same day in Alexandria but she got little attention. Since 2011, countless lives have been lost and we don’t hear much about them. But what makes Shimaa’s death much more sharper is that her final moments in life were filmed. As a human, you can only react to the theatrics that will naturally shock you and scar it into your memory for life. It doesn’t mean we think less of other deaths. It is why we are moved by the imagery, followed by the posthumous story, of past icons such as Khaled Said, Omar Salah and Mina Danial. Shimaa’s demise will not be in vain, and she will hopefully be a signpost to illuminate the other lesser known activists killed by the state.

I believe memorialisation is important to sustain the story of Shimaa and all that she stood for. She was a writer, poet and activist, and Egypt has lost an irreplaceable asset. An innocent woman killed while carrying flowers. Like I have said before, Pablo Neruda’s words are the most appropriate here: “You can crush the flowers, but you cannot delay the spring.”

These are some of the painted, hand-drawn and digital images of Shimaa that have been floating around social media. RIP.

 

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Why does the Egyptian state hate its citizens so much? What Peter Greste’s freedom says

As you all know by now, Peter Greste has been
released and this is great news for Peter, his family, everyone that was campaigning for his release, and for overall justice. Greste was a tragic case of being caught up in a geopolitical entanglement between Egypt and Qatar. Greste’s case was helped not only by a thawing of tensions between Egypt and Qatar, but Sisi released Greste in order to legitimise his regime on the international platform and brandish “progressive” credentials to Western governments. Moreover, this could be a sign that the judiciary is being tamed and consolidated under the wings of the new regime. Yet politicised judicial decisions are not going to disappear anytime soon.

Now that Greste has left Egypt, the focus should be on his journalist colleagues still in prison, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy (who could be released soon) and Mohamed Baher. Egyptian activists and human rights workers are delighted with the news of Greste’s release, but rightly point out that there are tens of thousands of political prisoners still languishing in jail and who don’t have the luxury of a Western passport to get them out. A week ago, activist and poet Shimaa Elsabbagh was killed by security forces while she was heading to Tahrir with colleagues to lay flowers on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the 2011 revolution – sparking international outrage. The release of Greste and the murder of Shimaa has raised the spectre in activist and civil society circles of what value even exists in Egyptian citizenship rights? After all, an Australian journalist is freed, and a Canadian journalist will probably renounce his Egyptian citizenship to also be freed. Which begs the question, why does the Egyptian state hate Egyptian citizens so much? What started in 2011 is far from over, and the struggle for bread, freedom, dignity and social justice in Egypt continues on a very long road.

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Egypt’s Long Walk to Despotism

Published in the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

There is a menacing wind sweeping through Egypt engulfing bureaucrats, journalists, judges, celebrities, and the average “patriotic citizen” in its path, remolding them into carriers of despotic ideas. This system is not a clear-cut case of top-down power relations in which an established power asserts itself over its supporters and against its opponents, real and imagined. Rather, in this system, the citizen is brought center-stage in the political arena. Egypt is currently witnessing an age-old political phenomenon of citizens’ “voluntary servitude” to a repressive order – specifically, despotism. Through their collective complicity, citizens hand a carte blanche to the state for violence, nepotism, and corruption.

The dishevelled Mickey Mouse costume, worn by a regime supporter. The sign reads “Sisi does not need to take an oath because the people trust him." Tahrir Square, Cairo, 8 June 2014 (the day of Sisi’s coronation). Photo by Amro Ali‬‬

The dishevelled Mickey Mouse costume, worn by a regime supporter. The sign reads “Sisi does not need to take an oath because the people trust him.” Tahrir Square, Cairo, 8 June 2014 (the day of Sisi’s coronation). Photo by Amro Ali‬‬

While despotic regimes rely on violence for control, this violence is rarely targeted toward the average citizen. Rather, one of the paradoxes of despotism is that it relies on citizens’ “passions” and psychological isolation, making them anxious to gain the meager favors of the regime.1 Mutual suspicion forms the cornerstone of despotism and prevents the “communication necessary for any organized political opposition.”2

In Egypt, the citizen plays a role in reinforcing the repressive status quo – from a middle-aged woman reporting innocent journalists to the police to a sycophantic lawyer suing an actor who deviated from the state line. The fertile ground of suspicion enables the creation of legislation on a community police that would allow citizens the power to arrest each other and is also manifest in the many citizen’s names and photos posted on Facebook, who are tarnished with labels like “terrorist” and “foreign agent.” An old Egyptian proverb says, “Oh Pharaoh, who turned you into a tyrant?” “No one stopped me,” he replied.

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How the Egyptian regime strengthens the student opposition it is trying to eliminate

Published in Al-Fanar on Arab Higher EducationAlexUni

Click here for the Arabic translation

In the midst of the protest violence and security crackdowns that gripped Egyptian universities this fall, Hazem Hosny, a political science professor at Cairo University, spoke about what could turn out to be an ominous sign for the regime: “I believe that at present a new opposition is being formed, even if it has perhaps not yet fully crystallized…This opposition stands mostly outside the traditional parties, and is made up of educated and avant-garde young people who understand what is happening around them.”

His view correlates with the political and social indicators that are pointing in the direction of an inevitable amassing blowback. As the regime clamps down on the universities that seem to be the last visible site of opposition to the regime, it is not in fact, destroying student politics, but dispersing them.

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Interview on ABC Radio on Egypt’s latest situation

“Description: ABC radio Interview with Amro Ali on the latest situation on Egypt, discussing protests, human rights, state violence, and Peter Greste’s case, and if this spells the end of the revolution or if it is just a temporary derailment.”

Link to audio file: http://sydneydemocracynetwork.org/audio-abc-radio-interview-with-amro-ali-on-the-latest-situation-on-egypt/

 

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Message to Mahienour El-Massry

Mahietrial

Today, marks 100 days of activist Mahienour El-Massry’s imprisonment. Recently, Mahienour’s sister, Miral El-Massry, asked me to assist in collecting messages to send to Mahienour in order to lift her spirits up. So this blog post form was made with the aim for you to send your message of support to Mahienour. She has plenty of time to read these messages in her jail cell, and she would be more than happy to receive them. Your message will be printed, along with others, and passed onto Mahieniour through Miral. Please write in Arabic only (English letters will only be given to her after her release). I advise that you write in a separate text file/word document then paste it into the message box in case something happens and it’s lost when you click submit. Defamatory and not so kind messages will be removed. All messages need to be sent by Tuesday 16 September. Thank you.

UPDATE 19/9/14: The submit form feature has now been disabled, thank you to everyone who sent messages to Mahienour via my blog form post. They were absolutely beautiful and uplifting. Some were just mind-shuddering. I hope Mahie (Mahienour) someday allows them to be published, as they were that good and reaffirmed the noble qualities of people and their determination for a better future. The messages have now been given to her sister Miral. The English messages will be translated into Arabic so they can quickly be vetted by the prison authorities and passed onto Mahie, which would otherwise take months for it to be vetted in any other language but Arabic. Thank you again.
Amro

 

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ABC News 24 Interview on Peter Greste

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