Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding

News, December 2012


Al-Jazeerah History


Mission & Name  

Conflict Terminology  


Gaza Holocaust  

Gulf War  




News Photos  

Opinion Editorials

US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)




Editorial Note: The following news reports are summaries from original sources. They may also include corrections of Arabic names and political terminology. Comments are in parentheses.

New Egyptian Constitutional Declaration Appeasing Opposition, Referendum on December 15


Referendum still set for 15 December, constitutional declaration replaced

Egypt Independent Al-Masry Al-Youm Website

Sun, 09/12/2012 - 00:27

The constitutional referendum will be held on its previously specified date of 15 December and the constitutional declaration issued by President Mohamed Morsy on 22 November has been largely canceled , Mohamed Selim al-Awa announced in a press conference following the conclusion of a "national dialogue" meeting on Saturday night.

Awa, appearing with the eight other members of the committee who drafted the new constitutional declaration after the nearly nine-hour meeting's conclusion, said that the new constitutional declaration will be immune from judicial appeal.

According to the new declaration, if a majority of Egyptians vote no to the draft constitution, then a new Constituent Assembly will be elected in three months, and will have six months to draft a new one.

Morsy called the meeting on Saturday after a week of protests against the referendum and constitutional declaration and violent clashes between his supporters and opponents that killed at least seven.

The new declaration, Awa said, would not remove judicial oversight of Morsy's decisions, but the president is still tasked with protecting the revolution and its causes, and his appointment of the new Prosecutor General Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah will stand.

The new declaration also reaffirmed the retrial of figures responsible for protester deaths in the uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak and called for investigations into the deaths of those who were killed in last week's clashes in front of the presidential palace.

In the original declaration, Morsy also stated that Mubarak regime figures would be retried for the deaths of protesters nearly two years ago in the 25 January uprising.

The president announced earlier today that he would not be taking part in the meeting in order to ensure the neutrality of its conclusion.

Speaking on the 90 Minutes program on the Satellite Mahwar channel on Saturday evening shortly before the press conference Prime Minister Hesham Qandil had said Morsy had "no objection" to delaying the referendum.

Palace sit-in continues, Abu Ismail threatens to break it up

Al-Masry Al-Youm Sat, 08/12/2012 - 21:10

Dozens of demonstrators protested in front of the presidential palace on Saturday evening, in solidarity with the ongoing sit-in of hundreds of demonstrators.

The protesters' main demands are the repeal of President Mohamed Morsy's 22 November constitutional declaration expanding his powers, and the halt of a planned referendum on the new draft constitution which is planned for 15 December.

Central security forces stationed at the palace continued to prevent traffic from passing in front of the palace and on its side streets, refusing to remove part of the concrete wall on Merghani Street.

Meanwhile, Salafi preacher and former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail called for the palace protesters to vacate the area by tomorrow. He called on his supporters to go and break up the sit-in if the protesters had not left by then.

Edited translation by Egypt Independent from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Hands off: Initiatives grow fighting sexual harassment in Tahrir and elsewhere

Jano Charbel, Egypt Independent, Sat, 08/12/2012 - 20:01

“Don’t go there” and “Stay out for your own safety” have been the menacing messages from alarmist male protesters with which many women are welcomed into Tahrir Square, the cradle of the Egyptian revolution.

The reason: rampant cases of sexual harassment, assaults and even rape of women in and around the square.

Seen as a way of deterring women from participating in protests, sexual harassment has become a focus for activist groups, filling the gap of inaction by the state.

“Harassers are not allowed entrance” was the message hung up by some of these groups in the square. But the problem is bigger than banners.

The problem

Tahrir, which was the focal point of the uprising that deposed Hosni Mubarak last year and remains a central gathering point for major protests since the 25 January revolution, has been plagued with numerous incidents of sexual harassment and physical assaults against women, including female protesters, journalists and passers-by.

These cases appear to be perpetrated by individuals as spontaneous outbursts of mob violence, and organized harassers working in tandem to assault females in the square.

Dina Farid, founder and coordinator of the Banat Misr initiative, says “there is a concerted effort to scare away people from the square — especially female protesters.” The group has reported about a dozen cases of sexual harassment or assault within just three days.

“We have reported both individual [and] isolated acts of harassment and organized mob harassment,” Farid says, clarifying that mobs of harassers act in groups to encircle and assault females.

Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment Coordinator Aalam Wassef also suggests there is a deliberate attempt to scare women away from the square.

“Harassers are targeting women with the intent of making the square feel threatening and unsafe,” he says, adding that organized harassers also seek to tarnish the image of Tahrir Square.

“Some cases of harassment are spontaneous, like the everyday cases of harassment against women that take place across Egypt’s streets,” Wassef says.

However, many cases of mass harassment are attributed to “mob mentality,” or, in some cases, “mobs that work in coordination to collectively harass women.”

“In previous occupations of Tahrir Square, we’ve noticed that coordinated and organized mobs of harassers often carry weapons with them. They are quite likely paid and armed to do so,” Wassef says.

He comments that organized acts of sexual harassment or assault were utilized against protesters during the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and presently under the regime of President Mohamed Morsy.

Reem Labib, another volunteer from Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment, also sees a conspiracy in the widespread harassment in Tahrir.

“Egyptian women are subjected to harassment on a daily basis, yet organized harassers in the square utilize violence to target not only women, but also the revolution. They use both physical and psychological violence against protesters in the square,” Labib says.

In her film “Sex Mobs and Revolution,” filmmaker Ramita Navai reveals that harassers hailing from a low-income Cairo neighborhood were previously paid by men tied to the Mubarak regime to disrupt protests, and that they are still paid to do the same. But they refuse to identify who is paying them now.

Perpetrators’ use of arms is further fueling suspicion about conspiracy, while the victim can be a mother, a veiled or a conservatively dressed woman.

“Some of the [group] harassers apprehended have been found to be carrying knives, while others have been found with drugs and pills,” says Farid.

Mohamed al-Azaly, lawyer and volunteer with Banat Misr, says that “while some have been found carrying drugs, most of the harassers are sober and are well aware of the acts they are committing against women.”

“It doesn’t make a difference whether a woman has her hair uncovered, or is wearing a hijab or even a niqab,” Azaly says. “All these women have been harassed here in the square.”

He says he had helped pull out two women donning the full face veil from a collective assault against them in the square.

“They were a mother and her daughter, both of whom were dressed in conservative Islamic attire, and nonetheless they were attacked,” Azaly says.

“Many of the women harassed have violently had their clothes ripped off in these assaults,” Farid adds.


Over the course of the past week, three volunteer groups have emerged in Tahrir to patrol and protect women and girls from sexual harassment and assault in and around the square. Their work includes both prevention by monitoring and protection by helping out victims and intercepting the attackers.

The first to make its appearance was Banat Misr Khatt Ahmar — literally translated as Egypt’s Girls Are a Red Line — which has been involved in monitoring incidents of harassment around downtown Cairo since the Eid al-Adha holiday in late October.

Banat Misr resumed its operations, this time exclusively in Tahrir, on 29 November. The group has about 30 members, including males and females, all of whom wear white T-shirts with the group’s logo clearly emblazoned on them.

There are clearly more male volunteers in this group than females. The female volunteers are said to be more involved in the counseling and psychological assistance of women subjected to harassment or assaults in the square.

Azaly explains the group’s tactics in weeding out harassers from the square.

“Together, we rush to the scene of the harassment. We form a cordon around the harassers and pull them out. We then take them to our tent, where we have them call their parents, or wives if they are married, to come claim them from the square.”

Azaly adds that if the harassers do not cooperate, they send them to Qasr al-Nil Police Station, and that most of these harassers are “either released the same day, or are held in detention for a day or two.”

“As of yet, no victims have been willing to press charges against their harassers — perhaps from fear of stigmatization, a drawn-out judicial process or other considerations,” Azaly concludes. “We hope that women will be willing to follow through with these legal steps against their harassers. If so, then the harassers may truly be held accountable and brought to justice.”

Farid says they take photos of the perpetrators to identify them in the future, and to keep them away from the square, but says they have not taken down their names or personal ID information.

The Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment group, also known in Arabic as Quwwa Ded al-Taharosh, made its first appearance on 30 November, when protests returned to Tahrir Square after Morsy’s controversial constitutional declaration, through which he claimed additional powers for himself. Mosireen, a revolutionary media collective, and other volunteers established the group.

Consisting of 30-some members, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment also wear white T-shirts or sweatshirts with a red logo reading “Against Harassment” on the front and “A Square Safe for All” on the back. It uses the same group tactics employed by Banat Misr in weeding out harassers.

Wassef says this group reported about five cases of harassment on its first day alone.

Both Banat Misr and Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment have provided the public with social networking sites and telephone hotlines through which people can report cases of harassment or assault and other related information.

A third volunteer group known as Tahrir Bodyguards could not be reached for comment. It has been reported that this group has built wooden watchtowers from which to monitor incidents of harassment within the square.

Protesters have climbed these watchtowers and protested from above, yet no volunteers could be seen on these towers.

Wassef explains that there should be wariness about the terminology in use, which reflects the depth of the problem. He explains that the word taharosh, or sexual harassment, has replaced the much milder word, mo’aksa — roughly translated as heckling or chiding — to describe “these unwelcomed actions” against women and girls.

In his group’s experience, there are several degrees of sexual harassment, ranging from verbal to touching or groping, stripping and other forms of violent action, as well as rape.

“Rape does not necessarily involve penetration with the harassers’ genitals. Rape can be perpetrated with fingers or other objects,” Wassef explains.

Nonetheless, many activists continue to use the term “sexual harassment” as opposed to “sexual assault,” even when describing cases where women have been physically or sexually attacked.

But other than volunteer-based initiatives to combat sexual assault, more wide-ranging activities are needed to end this plague.

Wassef thinks the state, through its Egyptian Radio and Television Union, could be the most effective in combating sexual harassment.

“If only they’d launch anti-harassment ads, public service announcements, documentaries and awareness-raising programs, then we would have a very effective tool with which to confront harassers,” says Wassef. “Yet the authorities lack the will to do so.”

Banat Misr’s hotlines can be reached at 012-8034-4414 or 010-1687-6333.

Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment’s hotlines can be reached at 011-5789-2357, 012-0239-0087or 010-1605-1145.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly.


Egypt’s president cancels decree that sparked protests


  • 35209239226970557.JPG

    Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (4th L) attends a meeting with Vice President Mahmoud Mekky (3rd L) and other politicians and heads of parties at the presidential palace in Cairo on Saturday. (Reuters)

Arab News, Sunday 9 December 2012

Last Update 9 December 2012 12:18 pm

Reuters, CAIRO:

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has canceled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked huge protests, but did not delay a referendum on a constitution as his opponents had demanded.

The announcement came from the spokesman for politicians and other figures who took part in a national dialogue on Saturday convened by the Islamist president. But the main opposition group stayed away, so the talks had little credibility among protesters.

One of the opposition’s main demands was to scrap a referendum on a constitution that was drafted by an Islamist-led assembly. Liberals and others quit the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.

But that vote will go ahead on Dec. 15 as planned.

Officials said those at Saturday’s talks had discussed a delay but found legal obstacles prevented any change in the date for the referendum.

The president issued a new decree in which the first article “cancels the constitutional declaration” announced on Nov. 22, spokesman Mohamed Selim Al-Awa told a news conference. Last month’s decree had led to protests and deadly violence.

The new decree excluded some elements from the old decree that had angered the opposition, including one article that gave the president broad powers to confront threats to the revolution or the nation, wording that the opposition said gave him arbitrary authority to act.

Another article in the old decree had put beyond legal challenge any decision taken by the president since he took office on June 30 and until a new parliament was elected, a step that can only happen when a new constitution is in place.

Although that article was not repeated, an article in the new decree put “constitutional declarations including this declaration” beyond judicial review.

The new decree also outlined steps for setting up an assembly to draft a new constitution should the current draft be rejected at a referendum the decree said would be held on Dec. 15.
The spokesman for the main opposition coalition that boycotted Saturday’s talks, the National Salvation Front, said his group would meet on Sunday to discuss the announcement, but added his personal view was that it was not enough.

Egypt president scraps decree that sparked protests

Egypt president scraps decree that sparked protests | Reuters

Sat Dec 8, 2012 9:32pm EST

CAIRO (Reuters) -

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has cancelled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked deadly violence, but did not delay this month's referendum on a new constitution as his opponents had demanded.

The announcement that Mursi had scrapped his November 22 decree followed hours of talks on Saturday at his presidential palace, billed as a "national dialogue" but which was boycotted by his main opponents and had little credibility among protesters.

One opposition group dismissed Mursi's efforts at appeasement as the "continuation of deception."

His opponents have demanded Mursi scrap the vote on December 15 on a constitution that was fast-tracked through an assembly led by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Liberals and others had walked out, saying their voices were not being heard.

Islamists have insisted the referendum should go ahead on time, saying it is needed to complete a democratic transition still incomplete after Hosni Mubarak's overthrow 22 months ago.

The military, which had run the nation during a turbulent interim period after Mubarak fell, stepped into the crisis on Saturday to tell feuding factions that dialogue was essential to avoid "catastrophe." But a military source said that was not a prelude to the army retaking control of Egypt or the streets.

After Saturday's talks, the president issued a new decree in which the first article "cancels the constitutional declaration" announced on November 22, the spokesman for the dialogue, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, told a news conference held around midnight.

But he said the constitutional referendum would go ahead next Saturday, adding that although those at the meeting had discussed a postponement, there were legal obstacles to taking such a step.

The political turmoil has exposed deep rifts in the nation of 83 million between Islamists, who were suppressed for decades, and their rivals, who fear religious conservatives want to squeeze out other voices and restrict social freedoms. Many Egyptian just crave stability and economic recovery.


Islamists and more liberal-minded opponents have both drawn tens of thousands of supporters to the streets in rival rallies since Mursi's decree last month. Seven people were killed in violence around the presidential palace, which has been ringed by tanks.

The spokesman for the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, which stayed away from Saturday's talks, said his group would meet on Sunday to discuss a response to Mursi's initiative to cancel his old decree.

But Hussein Abdel Ghani added: "My first personal impression is that it is a limited and insufficient step. We repeatedly said that among our top demands is for the referendum to be delayed."

The April 6 movement, which helped galvanize street protests against Mubarak, said in a statement about the outcome of Saturday's talks, "What happened is manipulation and a continuation of deception in the name of law and legitimacy."

The new decree excluded some elements from the old decree that angered the opposition, including an article that gave Mursi broad powers to confront threats to the revolution or the nation, wording opponents said gave him arbitrary authority.

Another article in the old decree had put beyond legal challenge any decision taken by the president since he took office on June 30 and until a new parliament was elected, a step that can only happen when a new constitution is in place.

That was not repeated, but the new decree said that "constitutional declarations including this declaration" were beyond judicial review.


The new decree outlined steps for setting up an assembly to draft a new constitution should the current draft be rejected in Saturday's referendum.

In addition, the opposition was invited to offer suggested changes to the new constitution, echoing an earlier initiative by Mursi's administration for changes to be discussed and agreed on by political factions and put to the new parliament to approve.

Amid the violence and political bickering, the army has cast itself primarily as the neutral guarantor of the nation.

"The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus," the military statement said. "The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."

The army might be pushing the opposition to join the dialogue and for Mursi to do more to draw them in, said Hassan Abu Taleb of the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He discounted the chance of direct military intervention, adding, "They realize that interfering again in a situation of civil combat will squeeze them between two rocks."

But the military seemed poised to take a more active role in security arrangements for the upcoming referendum.

A Cabinet source said the Cabinet had discussed reviving the army's ability to make arrests if it were called upon to back up police, who are normally in charge of election security.

According to the state-run daily al-Ahram, an expanded military security role might extend to the next parliamentary election and, at the president's discretion, even beyond that.

(Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Fair Use Notice

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.




Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah & &