Archive for the ‘El Baradei’ Category

NY Times: U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings

17/04/2011 3 comments

New York Times,  April 14, 2011


WASHINGTON — Even as the United States poured billions of dollars into foreign military programs and anti-terrorism campaigns, a small core of American government-financed organizations were promoting democracy in authoritarian Arab states.

The money spent on these programs was minute compared with efforts led by the Pentagon. But as American officials and others look back at the uprisings of the Arab Spring, they are seeing that the United States’ democracy-building campaigns played a bigger role in fomenting protests than was previously known, with key leaders of the movements having been trained by the Americans in campaigning, organizing through new media tools and monitoring elections.

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington, according to interviews in recent weeks and American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.

The work of these groups often provoked tensions between the United States and many Middle Eastern leaders, who frequently complained that their leadership was being undermined, according to the cables.

The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department.

No one doubts that the Arab uprisings are home grown, rather than resulting from “foreign influence,” as alleged by some Middle Eastern leaders.

“We didn’t fund them to start protests, but we did help support their development of skills and networking,” said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, a Washington-based advocacy and research group. “That training did play a role in what ultimately happened, but it was their revolution. We didn’t start it.”

Some Egyptian youth leaders attended a 2008 technology meeting in New York, where they were taught to use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy. Among those sponsoring the meeting were Facebook, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School and the State Department.

“We learned how to organize and build coalitions,” said Bashem Fathy, a founder of the youth movement that ultimately drove the Egyptian uprisings. Mr. Fathy, who attended training with Freedom House, said, “This certainly helped during the revolution.”

Ms. Qadhi, the Yemeni youth activist, attended American training sessions in Yemen.

“It helped me very much because I used to think that change only takes place by force and by weapons,” she said.

But now, she said, it is clear that results can be achieved with peaceful protests and other nonviolent means.

But some members of the activist groups complained in interviews that the United States was hypocritical for helping them at the same time that it was supporting the governments they sought to change.

“While we appreciated the training we received through the NGOs sponsored by the U.S. government, and it did help us in our struggles, we are also aware that the same government also trained the state security investigative service, which was responsible for the harassment and jailing of many of us,” said Mr. Fathy, the Egyptian activist.

Interviews with officials of the nongovernmental groups and a review of diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks show that the democracy programs were constant sources of tension between the United States and many Arab governments.

The cables, in particular, show how leaders in the Middle East and North Africa viewed these groups with deep suspicion, and tried to weaken them. Today the work of these groups is among the reasons that governments in turmoil claim that Western meddling was behind the uprisings, with some officials noting that leaders like Ms. Qadhi were trained and financed by the United States.

Diplomatic cables report how American officials frequently assured skeptical governments that the training was aimed at reform, not promoting revolutions.

Last year, for example, a few months before national elections in Bahrain, officials there barred a representative of the National Democratic Institute from entering the country.

In Bahrain, officials worried that the group’s political training “disproportionately benefited the opposition,” according to a January 2010 cable.

In Yemen, where the United States has been spending millions on an anti-terrorism program, officials complained that American efforts to promote democracy amounted to “interference in internal Yemeni affairs.”

But nowhere was the opposition to the American groups stronger than in Egypt.

Egypt, whose government receives $1.5 billion annually in military and economic aid from the United States, viewed efforts to promote political change with deep suspicion, even outrage.

Hosni Mubarak, then Egypt’s president, was “deeply skeptical of the U.S. role in democracy promotion,” said a diplomatic cable from the United States Embassy in Cairo dated Oct. 9, 2007.

At one time the United States financed political reform groups by channeling money through the Egyptian government.

But in 2005, under a Bush administration initiative, local groups were given direct grants, much to the chagrin of Egyptian officials.

According to a September 2006 cable, Mahmoud Nayel, an official with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, complained to American Embassy officials about the United States government’s “arrogant tactics in promoting reform in Egypt.”

The main targets of the Egyptian complaints were the Republican and Democratic institutes. Diplomatic cables show that Egyptian officials complained that the United States was providing support for “illegal organizations.”

Gamal Mubarak, the former president’s son, is described in an Oct. 20, 2008, cable as “irritable about direct U.S. democracy and governance funding of Egyptian NGOs.”

The Egyptian government even appealed to groups like Freedom House to stop working with local political activists and human rights groups.

“They were constantly saying: ‘Why are you working with those groups, they are nothing. All they have are slogans,’ ” said Sherif Mansour, an Egyptian activist and a senior program officer for the Middle East and North Africa at Freedom House.

When their appeals to the United States government failed, the Egyptian authorities reacted by restricting the activities of the American nonprofit organizations.

Hotels that were to host training sessions were closed for renovations. Staff members of the groups were followed, and local activists were intimidated and jailed. State-owned newspapers accused activists of receiving money from American intelligence agencies.

Affiliating themselves with the American organizations may have tainted leaders within their own groups. According to one diplomatic cable, leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt told the American Embassy in 2009 that some members of the group had accused Ahmed Maher, a leader of the January uprising, and other leaders of “treason” in a mock trial related to their association with Freedom House, which more militant members of the movement described as a “Zionist organization.”

A prominent blogger, according to a cable, threatened to post the information about the movement leaders’ links to Freedom House on his blog.

There is no evidence that this ever happened, and a later cable shows that the group ousted the members who were complaining about Mr. Maher and other leaders.

In the face of government opposition, some groups moved their training sessions to friendlier countries like Jordan or Morocco. They also sent activists to the United States for training.


Source: New York Times


Excerpts from a New York Times Interview with Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei on Sept. 7, 2007

14/04/2011 1 comment
Published: September 17, 2007On his childhood:

I grew up in a conservative household. That was the life of the time in Egypt, a conservative, middle-class household. [I had] good caring parents, with lots of roots but a lot of affection and love. But it was basically a conservative upbringing; we focused on values, focused on education. I was exposed, early on to a lot of things which I still enjoy, like classical music. My father used to love classical music.

– Did your mother wear a headscarf?

No, only lately, she started to wear them. When I was growing up, there was not a single woman in Egypt that was wearing a scarf. That was not the thing. This is all the last ten years, I would say.

– So she has started to wear one now?

Five, ten year. I think it’s more of a … I don’t know whether it’s peer pressure. It’s tradition now. This is one of the issues I discuss with her every single day, that it doesn’t make sense for you to wear it. But, in a joking way. She’s 82, so I’m not going to change the way she thinks now. But this is one of the contentious issues I have with her, that I tease her about it.

– To what extent does your religion help shape your world view?

Not much, as much as any religion. To me religion is the core values [with] which I felt as comfortable Christians, with Buddhists, with Jews. I don’t see much difference. […] Egypt at that time was multi-cultural. I remember I used to play squash. I bought the equipment from a shop that was run by Australians. My father used to go rowing and his trainer was an Italian. My mother used to go to a tailor, “Madame Euphegine”, she was French. My parents used to buy me toys from a shop, Mr. Zak, who was Jewish. Egypt was in a way was very much, religion was not something people talked about. […] But, religion to me, at that time, and continues to be, it’s a good guiding set of principles which I share with everybody else. My daughter’s husband is British, my first girlfriend was Jewish. I never really felt that religion is a major factor I have to take into account.

– On becoming a lawyer:

I always wanted to be a lawyer. I don’t know why. […] I guess law was always interesting to me because you deal with constants. I like to deal with constants, abstracts, constants and reason and ration, rational approaches to things. I don’t know, I never really thought why I wanted to study law. But if you ask me, whether I would do it again, absolutely. I love law, more in the sense of having a structured approach to dealing with irrational approach. You learn how to think in a rational way, in a logical manner. That helps you in anything you do in life.

– On his role as IAEA Director General:

I would probably say: I’m not a technician fixing cameras. People would like to downsize me, put me in the job of a technician fixing cameras but I don’t see my role like that.

– On running for a third term:

I thought two terms was more than adequate. I’ve done my duty as a public servant and it was time to move on. Less stress and something new in my life. It was 99% decided that I should not stand up for a third term. My daughter was very much pushing me not to go and my wife also, although she said, “it’s up to you”. But the whole family was not really keen that I should run again, including myself.

– You could have left with the legacy of Iraq…

That is correct. Iraq was behind us. It was a great achievement for the Agency and myself that we at least proved ourselves in such momentous issue. To be on the right side. I could have left and basked in the good will of public opinion and moved to the lecture circuit. I had three or four offers at that time from the Fletcher School [at Tufts University], the Kennedy School [at Harvard University], to go and do whatever Fellow teaching, write books. Everything was set to go. Then of course, I got the message from our friend [then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Mr. [John R.] Bolton, that the US is not ready to support me and it took me one day to put my name on the back on the ballot. Really … the second day. It was a sense of revulsion, that basically, this decision should be made by me and not by anybody else and even if you do not want to support me, that’s your choice, but you can not tell me in advance. Don’t try.
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Reuters Special Report: Inside the Egyptian revolution

13/04/2011 7 comments

Reuters, Apr 13, 2011, By Marwa Awad and Hugo Dixon

In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.

The three men he approached — Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer by training, and Adel’s cousin Ahmed, a chemist — had all left Egypt for jobs in London.

Inspired by the way Serbian group Otpor had brought down Slobodan Milosevic through non-violent protests in 2000, the trio studied previous struggles. One of their favorite thinkers was Gene Sharp, a Boston-based academic who was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The group had set up a webpage in 2004 to propagate civil disobedience ideas in Arabic.

At first, the three young Egyptians’ activities were purely theoretical. But in November 2005, Wael Adel came to Cairo to give a three-day training session on civil disobedience. In the audience were about 30 members of Kefaya, an anti-Mubarak protest group whose name means “enough” in Arabic. Kefaya had gained prominence during the September 2005 presidential elections which Mubarak won by a landslide. During these protests, they had been attacked by thugs and some women members had been stripped naked. Bahaar joined Adel on the course and his career as an underground trainer in non-violent activism was born.

Adel taught activists how to function within a decentralized network. Doing so would make it harder for the security services to snuff them out by arresting leaders. They were also instructed on how to maintain a disciplined non-violent approach in the face of police brutality, and how to win over bystanders. Read more…

Mohamed ElBaradei

29/03/2011 13 comments

Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, born June 17, 1942, is an Egyptian law scholar and diplomat. He was the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an inter-governmental organisation under the auspices of the United Nations, from December 1997 to November 2009. ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei was also an important figure in the 2011 Egyptian protests which culminated in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.

Family and personal life

ElBaradei was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt. He was one of five children of Mostafa ElBaradei, an attorney who headed the Egyptian Bar Association and often found himself at odds with the regime of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. ElBaradei’s father was also a supporter of democratic rights in Egypt, supporting a free press and an independent judiciary.

ElBaradei is married to Aida El-Kachef, an early-childhood teacher. They have two children: a daughter, Laila, who is a lawyer living in London. They also have one granddaughter, Maya.

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Wael Ghonim

27/03/2011 4 comments

Born 23 December 1980 in Cairo, Egypt, Wael Ghonim is an Internet activist, computer engineer and since January 2010 the Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa. In 2011, he became an international figure and energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt after his emotional interview, following 11 days of secret incarceration by Egyptian police; for investigations regarding him being the admin of a Facebook page “We are all Khaled Saeed”, which is thought to be one of the main reasons that sparked the Jan 25 revolution.

Wael Ghonim was born to a middle-class family in Egypt and grew up in Abha Saudi Arabia until he was 13 years old, then he moved back to Cairo, currently he resides in the United Arab Emirates. He earned a BS in computer engineering from Cairo University in 2004 and an MBA, with honors, in marketing and finance from the American University in Cairo in 2007.
Wael’s career to date has included a period as a consultant to the development of the Egyptian e-government portal. He also helped in the launch of Islamway, one of the most visited websites in the Arab world. currently and since January 2010, he works as the Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa based at Google’s UAE office in Dubai Internet City in Dubai.

Role in setting the stage for the revolution.

After Ayman Nour, leaked the photos of Khaled Said’s dead body on June 10, 2010, Wael Ghonim, picked up the news and set up the famous “We are all Khaled Saeed” facebook page, which played a key role in moving and integrating the protests of the 25th of Jan revolution.

Prior to that, Ghonim also set up the official campaign website for opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and volunteered as a tech consultant for other opposition groups, according to Ziad Al-Alimi, a senior aide to Mr. ElBaradei. Ghonim and ElBaradei then concurrently campaigned for the coming November 2010 Egyptian election and built up an opposition network in support for ElBaradei. This network included the April 6 Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the independent labor unions now making up the bulk of the protests.
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