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Archive for February 2012

Caravan editorial Feb. 26: Representation and transparency

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Hundreds of students from different universities marched last week to Parliament. They had four main demands: No constitution under military rule; no presidential elections under military rule; swift trials of all those responsible for killing protesters; and finally, student representation on the committee that will draft the country’s constitution.

I am not so sure that last one is going to guarantee that representative student voices will be heard. If this request is granted, which students will be chosen to participate in the drafting process? Will it be the ones who marched to Parliament? Will their selection be democratic, and more importantly, transparent?

Among the marchers was a self-proclaimed elected delegation of 13 students who were meant to go into parliament and deliver the students’ message to the People’s Assembly’s education and youth committees as well as the PA Speaker Mohamed Saad El Katatni. However, these students were denied entry to the parliament building and seven other students were let in for unknown reasons. Obviously the 13-student delegation were outraged and refused the offer to have three of them join the seven inside (10 students were meant to meet with MPs that day).

They accused the seven of being affiliated with State Security (rebranded into National Security) or being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Regardless of whether or not these accusations are true, (one can easily imagine it was rather a lack of organization on the part of the MPs involved) the delegation had the right to be indignant. Or so it would seem on the surface. We need to examine how these 13 were chosen in the first place. Presumably the 13 representatives from public universities were chosen by their student unions, although the process of selection was never published to the public – an alarming problem in of itself. We do know, however, that the 13th warrior representing AUC was chosen through internal elections within a body called the “AUC Student Movement”

The question then becomes, what gives this “AUC Student Movement”, a body of less than 100 unelected students such executive powers. They would argue, with some validity, that they are the only ones taking action, as recent student marches prove. The fact remains that they are unelected. The would also argue that if such a representative were to be chosen by popular vote of the student body, it would quickly become the popularity contest we see every year in student government elections. And they would be right.

The problem here is not that they elected a person from within their own ranks, for that is indeed the more practical and effective solution. What is an issue, however, is labeling themselves as students, regardless of whether or not they clarify that they do not represent the entire student body. It all boils down to the roles we choose to adopt, or the hats we wear if you will. It is unethical for one to wear more than one.

If you’re going to be a revolutionary then fine, you do not need popular mandate. Mubarak would have won a referendum fairly in February but the right thing was to oust him and the revolutionaries did, without the majority’s consent. However, going to parliament and speaking on behalf of one of the country’s largest sectors – students – does require popular mandate. And popular mandate can only be achieved through elections and a transparent publicized process, not behind closed doors and amongst a minority, no matter how active and admirable this minority is. Furthermore, the argument that they are not representing the entire student body but rather a certain group is problematic as well. Why does this certain group get special privileges, what about all other groups on campus?

This is an opportunity squandered. Instead of representing the interests of the entire student body and gaining real legitimacy, it was wasted on furthering the views of like-minded individuals. Finally, if you want to be revolutionaries and not reformers, that’s fine. In my opinion even better, but do not select representatives and make demands as anything more than just yourselves. One hat at a time, please.


Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

February 27, 2012 at 2:53 am

Posted in AUC, Egypt, Opinion

AUC New Cairo Campus: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy

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The Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Egypt’s de-facto ruling body, is not about to go. Not just yet. Soon maybe, for SCAF is in its most vulnerable state ever since it assumed power last year, but as the cliché goes: nothing is more dangerous than a cornered general.

And in its desperate hour the military council resorts to all sorts of cheap mind tricks to divert attention away from it. Away from the fact that it is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians, the latest batch meeting their end in Port Said less than a fortnight ago, away from the thousands injured in peaceful protests turned deadly street battles, from over 16,000 imprisoned as a result of unfair military trials, a large number of which on trumped up charges for daring to oppose their khaki-sporting overlords.

The latest of the cheap mind tricks seems to be not-so-subtly accusing The American University in Cairo of following in the footsteps of such esteemed players like Israel, Hamas, Qatar, Al Jazeera, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood (oh how the times have changed) and Hezbollah in trying to destabilize Egypt, bring its state down, invade it, burn it, split it into four or five mini-states, etc. etc. etc.

The tale this time is that AUC is at the center of an American plot to bring about “the destruction of Egypt by Egyptian hands”. This revelation comes to us in the form of one of SCAF’s famous Facebook statement (most professional militaries have Facebook accounts, right?) only this time SCAF used their backup account, “The Administrator of the SCAF’s Official Facebook Page”- quite the mouthful – the one they use when accusing people of things for which they have no evidence (see: April 6 Youth Movement, NGOs, Wafd’s weekly newspaper).

According to the admin page, which technically is an unofficial page except for the fact that the official SCAF page “likes” it on Facebook, AUC is one of the invisible “arms” (it seems the “hands” have evolved, it has been a year, after all) of the United States administration’s plot that eventually leads to the invasion of Egypt in 2015.

This begs several questions: why would the Americans plan to invade one of their key strategic allies in the middle east, integral to Israel’s survival, a role Egypt plays against the wishes of the vast majority of the population, thanks – in no small part – to SCAF itself?

If SCAF has uncovered an American plot, why is Crown Prince Lieutenant General Sami Anan gladly meeting with U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, the top U.S. military official, i.e. the man supposedly planning Egypt’s invasion according to the narrative?

That is because “the American invasion” subplot is only for local consumption. Accuse foreign-funded NGOs and a university with “American” in its name, even though it has no official links to the U.S. government beyond receiving USAID, which SCAF receives the lion share of ($1.3 billion), at home to prey on the people’s nationalist feelings and divert attention from your corrupt rule and failed administration while still receiving U.S. officials in order to maintain your best friend and sugar daddy. Good plan, except for the fact that some Egyptians can read English and some Americans can read Arabic. SCAF can be forgiven for this small oversight though, who knew?

Why is SCAF picking on a small college with a student population of 7,000 – of which a majority cannot get through their first class without their Latte (I prefer Mocha) – for doing the same thing virtually every student union in the country has announced doing? How is showing documentaries and holding lectures aiding in an invasion plot exactly? It’s not like the general strike is exactly working here anyway.

SCAF’s days are numbered, it’s panicking and it’s backed in a corner. That means the revolution is still going at full force, but also means it faces grave danger.

Written by Ahmed Aboulenein

February 13, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Posted in AUC, Egypt, Opinion