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February 4, 2011 The Future of Egypt- The New Chief of Staff Fiasco - History

February 4, 2011 The Future of Egypt- The New Chief of Staff Fiasco - History

A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 4, 2011 The Future of Egypt- The New Chief of Staff Fiasco

The week has come to an end. The protests continue, but Mubarak remains in Egypt. There is some sense that the most dangerous moments for the regime might have passed. It's not clear. Without going too far out on a limb, I believe a deal will be reached for Mubarak to depart, while maintaining much of the current government structure. I believe the departure of Mubarak will remove much of the steam from the protesters. Egypt will not be the same, and there is a real threat of a fundamentalist take-over. On the other hand, I think too many Egyptians have seen what fundamentalism looks like and they may not like it. Certainly the Egyptian Army, who have seen what the Islamists did to the "professional soldiers" of the Iranian military are not going to want to be a part of an Islamist state. I therefore think that the fundamentalist threat may be overstated. I certainly could be wrong, but I am at least marginally optimistic that the future of Egypt may not have Mubarak, nor any Muslim Brotherhood in leadership position. 

Israel continues to be obsessed with the soap opera story of the appointment of a new Chief of Staff. Without going into the details again, none of what I have seen gives me a sense that the defense establishment is in good hands. If they are making military decisions the same way they are making personnel decisions, Israel could be in trouble.


Egypt President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi: Ruler with an iron grip

The retired field marshal's supporters say he has restored stability to the country, but critics argue it has come at a heavy cost to human rights.

More than 1,000 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces and tens of thousands of people have reportedly been detained in crackdowns on opponents of the government.

Mr Sisi has also struggled to end an insurgency by jihadist militants based in the Sinai peninsula, who have killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians in unrest which began before he came to power.


Timeline: What’s Happened Since Egypt’s Revolution?

“They tried to humiliate us and taunt us with names while they tortured us, trying to break us and destroy our dignity. They would say, “Are you happy with your revolution now?”
— Ramy Essam, singer

Military officials detain a protester as they clear revolutionaries who had camped out in Tahrir Square on March 9, 2011. (FRONTLINE)

Oct. 9: Military Crushes Christian Protest At Maspero

“We came under gunfire and were pursued by armored vehicles… It was a horrible scene. I could not find Mina. …Then someone told me he had been taken to the hospital. There I found Mina in the morgue. He looked like he was sleeping, with a smile on his face.”
—Mary Daniel, Mina’s sister

Armored vehicles confront Coptic Christian protesters at Maspero on Oct.9, 2011. (FRONTLINE)

Nov. 28: Muslim Brotherhood Sweeps Elections

May 23: Presidential Elections Begin

Ballots cast in the parliamentary elections in Nov. 2011. (FRONTLINE)

June 15: Military Grabs More Power

June 30: Morsi Sworn In As President

“Here we are, the first democratically elected president in the entire history of Egypt. And it was like stepping into the warm sunshine after a long, long cold winter.”
— Wael Haddara, senior advisor to President Mohammed Morsi

Newly elected President Mohammed Morsi opens his suit jacket to show he’s not wearing body armor, meaning he has no fear. He is sworn in as president on June 30, 2012. (FRONTLINE)

Aug. 12: Morsi Orders Top Generals To Retire

Morsi greets Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, as he appoints him to the post of defense minister. (FRONTLINE)

Nov. 21: Morsi Grants Himself More Power

Nov. 29: Islamists Finish Draft Constitution

“Women, Christians, intellectuals, all these were sidelined in the new constitution. They would say, ‘You can have liberty of expression, freedom, etc. — if it is in conformity with Sharia.’”
— Mona Makram-Ebeid, former member of Parliament (2011-2012)

Dec. 4: Egyptians March On Presidential Palace

Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a rally in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4,2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Jan. 25: Protesters Return To Tahrir

April: New Protest Movement Emerges

Stacks of petitions for the new revolutionary group Tamarod, which means Rebel. The group claimed it gathered 22 million signatures calling for early elections to oust Morsi. (FRONTLINE)

““If the street becomes the way of removing a democratically elected president one year into his mandate, then no other presidency will survive in the future.”
— Wael Haddara, Morsi’s senior advisor

Sisi, appearing on state television. (FRONTLINE)

June 29: Sisi Demands Concessions

Anti-Morsi protesters rallied by the Tamarod movement fill the streets of Cairo on June 30, 2013. (FRONTLINE)

July 1: Military Gives Ultimatum

“I will not allow anyone to dispute my legitimacy. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable! Unacceptable!
— President Mohammed Morsi

July 3: Military Removes Morsi From Office

“The armed forces couldn’t plug its ears or close its eyes as the movement and demands of the masses calling for them to play a national role, not a political role as the armed forces themselves will be the first to proclaim that they will stay away from politics.”
— Gen. el-Sisi, in a speech after removing Morsi from office

Military planes fly over protesters rallying against Morsi, trailing the colors of the Egyptian flag. (FRONTLINE)

July 4: A New President Steps In

July 8: Morsi Loyalists Gunned Down

July 9: Military Vows To Speed Transition

July 26: Egyptians Rally For Sisi

“The animosity against the Brotherhood is so intense that there really does seem to be a desire to just wipe them off the political playing field. And I’ve had conversations with people where their solution is, in Arabic translates to, ‘Just round them all up.’ … How do we function as a country when we’ve rounded up 15 percent of the dissidents?”
— Ashraf Khalil, independent Cairo-based journalist

Sisi appears on state television to ask Egyptians to take to the streets again in support of the military’s fight against terrorism on July 25,2013. (FRONTLINE)

Aug. 14: Military Breaks Up Protests

A Morsi poster lies amid the charred rubble after the attack at Rabaa mosque. (FRONTLINE)

Aug. 15: U.S. Condemns, But Keeps Aid Coming

Obama gives a statement on Egypt, saying he “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken” by the government and security forces. He cancels a biannual joint military exercise, scheduled for September, but opts not to cut the $1.3 billion the U.S. provides annually in military aid. “America cannot determine the future of Egypt,” he says.

Aug. 22: Mubarak Released From Prison

Egyptian medics escort former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 85, into an ambulance after after he was flown by a helicopter ambulance to the Maadi Military Hospital from Torah prison in, Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Sept. 1: Morsi is Charged with “Inciting Killing”

Sept. 5: Top Minister Survives Assassination Attempt

“God allowed us to break the security system of the Minister of Interior … through a suicide operation committed by one of Egypt’s lions that made the Interior butcher see death with his eyes, and what is to come will be worse.”
— Statement from the Mujahedeen’s Shura Council of Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, which claimed responsibility for the attack on a jihadi website

“The decision is not Sisi’s or the government’s, it is the Egyptian people’s decision. Presidency in Egypt is a commission, not an honorary position, so if Sisi doesn’t take the job when asked by the people, he will be putting himself in confrontation with the Egyptian people.”
— Khaled Al Adawi, the campaign founder

An opponent of ousted President Mohammed Morsi holds up a poster of Egyptian Defense Minister General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi with an Arabic words that read: “The lion of Egypt” during a rally at Tahrir square, in Cairo, Egypt, late Friday, July 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


Egypt said to convey to Hamas long-term truce with Israel must see prisoner swap

Egypt has notified the Hamas terror group that Israel says any long-term truce negotiations must include the subject of a prisoner exchange between the sides, according to a Saturday report.

Hamas has so far insisted on separating prisoner negotiations from any discussions related to a potential long-term truce or the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, sources told the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper.

Two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers are currently being held in Gaza. Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed entered the Strip of their own accord, and their families say they suffer from mental illness. Hamas is also holding the bodies of Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers who were killed in the Strip during the 2014 Gaza war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government came under harsh criticism for not demanding a prisoner swap as part of the original deal to end the recent fighting.

However, sources told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Cairo informed Hamas of the prisoner swap request after Israel linked it to any further negotiations.

The message was passed to the terror group in its third meeting with the Egyptian security delegation since the ceasefire began last Friday.

Meanwhile, the Walla news site reported that the head of the Egyptian intelligence service Abbas Kamel, will arrive in Israel on Sunday for talks with Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, as well as other senior security officials.

The report said Kamel will also visit Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before he travels to Gaza for further talks on stabilizing the ceasefire, which could include the matter of a potential prisoner exchange.

Additionally, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi will fly to Cairo on Sunday for talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

The reports came after Defense Minister Benny Gantz said earlier this week that Israel will not permit the full reconstruction of Gaza or the entry of any aid that is not humanitarian, until the terror group releases the two Israeli civilians and the two bodies.

Hamas officials in the terror group told the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper in response that they “cannot be blackmailed.”

Israel has over the years worked to secure the release of the soldiers’ bodies and the civilians, often using the Egyptian military, which maintains ties with both Jerusalem and Hamas, as an intermediary.

Hamas has sought, in exchange, the release of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — members of Hamas and of other terror groups.

Some of the prisoners were freed during the 2011 prisoner exchange deal but re-arrested during a 2014 crackdown on the terror group in the West Bank following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Meanwhile, a week after a ceasefire brought an end to 11 days of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces is reportedly already preparing for the next round of fighting, with senior army officials said concerned an escalation from the Gaza-based terror group could come at any time.

Hamas officials have also threatened to resume rocket attacks if Israel seeks to impose a new status quo on Gaza following the recent fighting, after some Israeli officials called for a harsher response to the terror group, including the renewal of assassinations of Hamas leaders.

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Egypt: The New Dictatorship

On July 3, 2013, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, appeared on national television. Clad in a military uniform and black beret, he announced that he was acting on &ldquoa call for help by the Egyptian people&rdquo and seizing power from the Muslim Brotherhood. Since winning parliamentary elections in 2011 and the presidential election the following year, the Brotherhood&mdasha grassroots movement founded in Egypt in the 1920s&mdashhad stacked the government with Islamists, failed to deliver on promises to improve the country&rsquos deteriorating infrastructure, and attempted to rewrite Egypt&rsquos constitution to reflect traditional religious values. These moves had provoked large demonstrations and violent clashes between supporters and secular opponents.

Sisi declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and jailed its leadership&mdashincluding the president he had deposed, Mohamed Morsi. Six weeks later, on August 13, he ordered the police to clear Brotherhood supporters from protest camps at two squares in Cairo: al-Nahda and Rabaa al-Adawiya. According to official health ministry statistics, 595 civilians and forty-three police officers were killed in exceptionally violent confrontations with the protesters, but the Brotherhood claims that the number of victims was much higher.

That fall, Sisi launched a sweeping crackdown on civil society. Citing the need to restore security and stability, the regime banned protests, passed antiterrorism laws that mandated long prison terms for acts of civil disobedience, gave prosecutors broad powers to extend pretrial detention periods, purged liberal and pro-Islamist judges, and froze the bank accounts of NGO s and law firms that defend democracy activists. Human rights groups in Egypt estimate that between 40,000 and 60,000 political prisoners, including both Muslim Brotherhood members and secular pro-democracy activists, now languish in the country&rsquos jails. Twenty prisons have been built since Sisi took power.

In October 2013, President Barack Obama demonstrated his disapproval of the violent crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters by suspending military aid to Egypt. The aid&mdashincluding a dozen F-16 fighter jets, twenty Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 US Abrams M1A1 tank kits&mdashwas restored eight months later. By that point, Sisi had shed his military uniform and become Egypt&rsquos civilian president, winning more than 95 percent of the vote in a stage-managed May 2014 election. But Obama kept his distance, refusing to invite Sisi to the White House.

Donald Trump, who has spoken bluntly about &ldquoradical Islamic terrorism&rdquo and appears to share Sisi&rsquos view that the Muslim Brotherhood is involved in such activity, quickly signaled his support for the military government. Sisi was the first Arab leader with whom Trump spoke after his inauguration, and in April the US president invited him to the White House for what was described as a cordial private meeting. According to reports, Trump did not broach the subject of human rights violations, and observers believe that his embrace may embolden the Egyptian leader to extend his repressive policies.

But recent events in Egypt have raised the question of whether the tradeoff Sisi has offered the Egyptian public&mdashkeeping them safe in exchange for an authoritarian state and far-reaching restrictions on civil society&mdashis working. In the northern Sinai Peninsula, an Islamic State&ndashaffiliated group called Sinai Province has launched an alarming number of attacks on security forces in recent months. The group has claimed to have killed 1,500 people&mdashincluding security forces and &ldquocollaborators&rdquo&mdashsince the beginning of 2016. (Egyptian military officials say that number is wildly exaggerated.)

International peacekeepers describe the fighting in Sinai as starting to resemble the conflict in Afghanistan, with a committed army of religious fundamentalists, rocket and sniper attacks on foreign military observers, and defections by government troops angered by the state&rsquos persecution of Islamists. &ldquoThey are globally inspired local insurgents,&rdquo Major-General Denis Thompson, the Canadian former commander of the peacekeeping force, said in a recent interview. &ldquoAnd their effort is really to use the [ISIS ] brand to attract recruits, and locally they&rsquore trying to redress many long-standing grievances they have with the Egyptian government.&rdquo Abuses by the military may also be drawing more local men to the ISIS cause. In late April, Human Rights Watch urged the US government to suspend military aid to Egypt after a video surfaced showing troops executing eight captured insurgents, then planting rifles next to their corpses to make it look as if they were killed in combat.

Meanwhile, a previously unknown militant group called Lewaa El-Thawra (Revolution Brigade) has taken the Islamist insurgency to more populous parts of the country. At dawn on a Saturday morning last October, a senior Egyptian army officer who commanded forces in the Sinai was shot dead by members of the group outside his home in an affluent Cairo suburb. In early April, the group injured a dozen policemen in an attack on a training academy in the Nile Delta. &ldquoThe current regime has destroyed the people&rsquos revolution, killed its members, and imprisoned others,&rdquo the brigade declared in a video released last fall, announcing that it was going to war to avenge the Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda killings. &ldquoOur message to the Interior Ministry&rsquos mercenaries is that you all will be fired upon soon.&rdquo

Far more worrisome for Egypt&rsquos stability, however, has been a series of large-scale attacks on the country&rsquos Coptic Christian minority. Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt&rsquos 90 million people, have been repeatedly attacked since the 2011 revolution, and numerous churches have been bombed. Many Christians blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for this violence and supported the coup that brought Sisi to power.

Some Egyptian intelligence officials believe that jihadists, facing pressure in other parts of the Middle East, are intent on opening a new front in Egypt. Many of the six hundred Egyptians believed to have fought with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have apparently abandoned the conflict in recent months and drifted home. With its erratic security forces, proximity to other jihadist battlefields, large Christian minority, repression of Islamists, and large population of young Muslims unmoored and angered by the authoritarian rule of Sisi, Egypt may present a rich opportunity for jihad.

Ayman Abdelmeguid, a member of the now outlawed April 6 Youth Movement, a secular opposition group that helped launch the Egyptian revolution, spent several weeks locked in a small cell with dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members last year after his arrest for violating the protest law. Many of these young men, who faced indefinite incarceration without trial, had been drawn to jihadism, he told me, by their experience in Sisi&rsquos prisons. &ldquoThe guys who started to shift toward violence had the sole idea of revenge and breaking the regime,&rdquo he said. &ldquoThey argued that the regime deliberately killed, tortured, raped, and imprisoned them and their families and friends and hence deserved an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.&rdquo If these men were released, Abdelmeguid told me, they would be ripe candidates for recruitment by jihadist groups.

After the Palm Sunday attacks, Sisi ordered the seizure of copies of a private newspaper critical of the regime and declared a three-month state of emergency, the first he had imposed since the aftermath of the violence in Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda in 2013. The law allows him to dispatch civilians to State Security Emergency courts, where no appeals are permitted overrule court decisions that aren&rsquot to his liking monitor and intercept all forms of communication and correspondence censor and confiscate publications impose a curfew shut down businesses and seize property.

On May 8, an Egyptian court sentenced the Muslim Brotherhood&rsquos spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, and two deputies to life in prison for &ldquoplanning violent attacks&rdquo following the Rabaa al-Adawiya killings. The public prosecutor&rsquos office had charged the men, along with three dozen other Brotherhood members, with &ldquopreparing an operations room to confront the state and create chaos in the country&rdquo and &ldquoplanning to burn public property and churches.&rdquo

Sisi has meanwhile created three permanent regulatory bodies to monitor the press: the Supreme Council for Media Regulation, the National Press Authority, and the National Media Authority. Composed of panels of journalists and government officials, the new bodies can fine or suspend publications, broadcasters, and individual journalists&mdashincluding the foreign media. Democracy activists I talked to, who were already chafing under a dictatorship that one called &ldquofar worse than the Mubarak era,&rdquo say there now appear to be few, if any, checks on Sisi&rsquos power.

Moises Saman/Magnum Photos

Supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi at a rally outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya Mosque, where hundreds of protesters were killed the following month in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood ordered by President Sisi, July 2013

How did Egypt reach this point? In The Egyptians: A Radical History of Egypt&rsquos Unfinished Revolution, Jack Shenker, a former correspondent for The Guardian in Cairo, examines the brief period of hope that followed Mubarak&rsquos downfall&mdashand the unraveling that led to Sisi&rsquos police state and the crushing of the country&rsquos democratic aspirations. As Shenker tells it, Sisi&rsquos primary interest has been to safeguard the military&rsquos hold on power and the vast network of financial interests&mdashland holdings, corporate investments, and businesses&mdashit has accumulated over six decades. He has used the threat of terror to justify a clampdown on any kind of dissent.

Shenker draws a straight line from Sisi back to Gamal Abdel Nasser, who took power following a military coup in 1952. Under the stringent terms of a bargain that Nasser struck with his citizens, writes Shenker,

a new nationalist government would ensure healthcare, education and employment was available to all. But&hellipthere was no room for anti-regime protest or democratic participation by the masses those who tried to intrude upon the realm of governance would be cast out from the national family as unpatriotic and dangerous, and face punishment.

After Nasser died of a heart attack in 1970, his successor, Anwar Sadat, kept the police state intact but took away the safety net that had guaranteed Egyptians employment and subsidized basic commodities. Islamist army officers assassinated Sadat in 1981, an event that brought Hosni Mubarak to power. Also under the guise of fighting terror, Mubarak imposed a state of emergency immediately after Sadat&rsquos assassination, stifled political activity, jailed thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members, and unleashed his state security forces to keep the population in line. Meanwhile, his National Democratic Party (NDP ) served as a patronage machine for a coterie of businessmen-politicians who, in later years, gathered around Mubarak&rsquos son and heir apparent, Gamal Mubarak. Public utilities and other state-owned assets were sold off for a song to Mubarak&rsquos NDP cronies, who often plundered them, laid off thousands of workers, and then resold them for huge profits.

By the late 2000s, Shenker writes, &ldquounemployment had risen so sharply that one in four Egyptians was out of work among the millions who had been born since 1981 and knew no other leader than Mubarak, the jobless figure was estimated at over 75 per cent.&rdquo On the surface, Mubarak&rsquos Egypt was stable, secular, and welcoming to tourists, but few of those who came to gaze at the pyramids and cruise down the Nile had any sense of the corruption, police brutality, and gross disparities of wealth that were breeding discontent among the population.

Shenker identifies several causes of the 2011 revolution: the rise of social media, which offered an alternative to the self-censored press of the Mubarak era the stirrings of an organized opposition during a political opening caused by the US invasion of Iraq and President George W. Bush&rsquos quixotic determination to democratize the Middle East pockets of activism such as Mahalla, an industrial town in the Nile Delta that, in 2008, became the setting for a lengthy strike that attracted wide support and the excesses of Mubarak&rsquos thuggish security forces. The tipping point may have come in June 2010, when Khaled Said, a young man who had posted photos online of police engaging in illegal activity, was arrested in a Cairo Internet café, dragged into an adjoining building, and beaten to death. When photos surfaced of Said in the morgue, his face bloody and disfigured, a protest page was started on Facebook that attracted hundreds of thousands of followers.

Months later, in December 2010, a wave of protests erupted against Tunisia&rsquos president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, forcing him to flee soon after and further mobilizing a generation of Egyptians fed up with stagnation, powerlessness, and state-sanctioned violence. Beginning on January 25, 2011, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square, starting the uprising that less than three weeks later brought down Mubarak.

There is general unease about the army and its growing power. We have become accustomed to tanks rolling through our streets most of the soldiers are young, and in many ways just like us. But while the military leadership has arrested former business leaders and ministers, and corruption cases are now being reviewed, it is also becoming much more assertive about curfews, and activists have been alarmed by reports that people detained during the revolt were tortured.

About a week after Mubarak stepped down, two young protest leaders, Ahmed Maher, the cofounder of the April 6 Youth Movement, and Wael Ghonim, were taken to meet Sisi, then head of military intelligence. As Maher recalled when I met him in Cairo in February, Sisi told him:

&ldquoYou are heroes, you did miracles, you brought down Mubarak, you did something we failed to do for years, but now we need you to stop demonstrating.&rdquo I told him, &ldquoThe revolution is not complete. We need to change the structure of the government.&rdquo I met Sisi three times after that, and he said the same thing: &ldquoWe need to be united, stop demonstrating.&rdquo Sisi hated the protests.

As Shenker presents it, however, a behind-the-scenes bargain was struck that seemed to offer both sides advantages: the Muslim Brotherhood would let the military keep its assets and control the crucial ministries of Interior and Defense. The generals would cede to the Muslim Brotherhood day-to-day governance and allow it to write a new constitution. Yet the Morsi government lasted barely a year before Sisi overthrew it, jailed Morsi, and began reconstituting the police state.

Why did the revolution fail? In the four years since the military coup, journalists and historians have offered a number of explanations. According to some, the military cabal set out to sabotage the elected government from the start, blocking fuel supplies and creating electricity shortages to undermine popular support. Shenker places the blame squarely on the Brotherhood. &ldquoOnce he had the tools of the authoritarian state at his disposal, Morsi turned upon the revolution,&rdquo he argues, &ldquobreaking strikes, beating protesters,&hellipdefending the security apparatus against popular demands for reform.&rdquo

The essays collected in Egypt and the Contradictions of Liberalism: Illiberal Intelligentsia and the Future of Egyptian Democracy, edited by Dalia F. Fahmy and Daanish Faruqi, single out a different culprit: the country&rsquos liberal elite. In an essay about the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamad Elmasry, an Egyptian-American analyst of Arab media, argues that Morsi was set up as a bogeyman by secular democrats who had initially embraced his electoral victory as expressing the will of the people but subsequently recoiled from his Islamist vision.

In late 2012, Morsi was engaged in a battle with Mubarak-appointed judges, who had already dissolved parliament and were threatening to break up the constitutional assembly and reverse Morsi&rsquos decree keeping the military out of politics. Morsi issued a controversial new edict granting himself, for a limited period, sweeping powers and shielding his decisions from judicial oversight. That same day, the opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted: &ldquoMorsi today usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt&rsquos new pharaoh.&rdquo Tens of thousands gathered outside the presidential palace demanding that he withdraw the order, and violent clashes broke out between anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi factions. Elmasry argues:

The decree&rsquos negative ramifications were grossly exaggerated in the Egyptian media and political circles. Disagreeing with Morsi&rsquos decree&mdashwhich was mishandled on a number of levels&mdashwas politically legitimate. Claiming that Morsi had turned into a dictator, however, represented a gross exaggeration, and fed an already existing myth about the Muslim Brotherhood&rsquos alleged dictatorial, anti-democratic fantasies.

Some of the country&rsquos leading secular democrats joined Tamarod, a grassroots campaign&mdashallegedly orchestrated by the military&mdashthat collected millions of signatures in an effort to force early elections and drive Morsi from office. In the aftermath of Sisi&rsquos seizure of power, Faruqi and Fahmy note in their introductory essay, prominent liberals lined up behind him. Alaa al-Aswany, the popular novelist who had taken part in the protests in Tahrir Square, praised the general as a &ldquonational hero&rdquo Saad Eddin Ibrahim, one of the Arab world&rsquos most respected pro-democracy reformers, lent &ldquohis enthusiastic support to the overthrow of Morsi, going so far as to support then General Sisi&rsquos presidential ambitions&rdquo and the respected journalist Ibrahim Eissa, a &ldquochampion of liberal values,&rdquo transformed himself into a &ldquopolitical reactionary&rdquo who applauded &ldquothe arrest of the April 6th Youth Movement founder Ahmed Maher, questioning the movement&rsquos patriotism.&rdquo Maher would end up spending three years in the notorious Tora Prison, mostly in solitary confinement.

In an effort to shut down Revolution Country, the state pressed Egyptians to turn in on themselves. A microbus passenger turned provocateur spoke of rebellion on a journey when a fellow traveller agreed with her criticisms of Sisi, she hauled him off the bus and denounced him as a terrorist to the security forces. Schoolchildren were detained for sporting potentially seditious stickers on their pencil cases. A man who named his donkey &ldquoSisi&rdquo was thrown into prison.

Today Egypt&rsquos former revolutionaries are quiet, dispirited, and fearful. During two visits to Cairo in November 2016 and February 2017, I tracked down a dozen members of the April 6 Youth Movement, which a judge outlawed in 2014. Most had spent time in jail during the last four years. They were among the lucky ones: other members were still serving prison terms of up to twenty years, convicted by pro-Sisi judges and prosecutors of a raft of trumped-up offenses including assault, blocking roads, and &ldquothuggery,&rdquo a catchall term for troublemaking introduced by the SCAF in 2011. Ahmed Maher was now under around-the-clock surveillance and, according to the terms of his release, was obliged to spend every night for the next three years at a local police station. &ldquoEven when I was in prison I had more freedom than I have now to criticize the regime,&rdquo he told me. He had frequently smuggled out eloquent critiques of the Sisi dictatorship, published in the Egyptian media and in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, and sharp denunciations of the conditions at Tora. &ldquoI have to be very careful now, I don&rsquot want to end up in prison again.&rdquo

Nearly everyone I talked to in Egypt believed that Sisi&rsquos authoritarianism would only breed more violence and terror. One unseasonably cold afternoon in February, I visited an old acquaintance, Gamel Eid, a lawyer and the head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, in his office in Maadi, near the Nile. Eid has defended many political prisoners in recent years, including the prominent photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, known as Shawkan, who was arrested while covering the August 2013 crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters at Rabaa al-Adawiya. Charged with murder, Shawkan has been sitting in prison, awaiting trial, for nearly 1,400 days. &ldquoThe general prosecutor can extend detention as long as he wants. It&rsquos outside the law,&rdquo Eid told me. &ldquoMany times we find a person after a few months, [held] in a secret prison. It often means that he was kidnapped, tortured.&rdquo

Khaled Dawoud, a prominent journalist and leader of a small liberal opposition party, is among many in Egypt&rsquos intelligentsia who supported Sisi&rsquos removal of Morsi&mdashhe still refuses to call it a &ldquomilitary coup.&rdquo But he believes that Sisi&rsquos position is more fragile than it appears. In Dawoud&rsquos view, the dictator has staked his legitimacy on effectively fighting terror and turning around an economy that collapsed after the 2011 revolution he has failed on both counts. The economy remains stagnant, with tourism down, inflation high, and huge, failing infrastructure projects such as a $9 billion expansion of the Suez Canal sucking up the country&rsquos hard currency. Meanwhile, Sisi&rsquos repression, Dawoud argues, has done little but foment anger. The Internet, he said, was the only free space left, &ldquoand they are chasing us there. People have been arrested for administering Facebook pages.&rdquo

When I talked to him in February, Dawoud predicted more violence and extremism in the months to come. &ldquoLibya is in shambles, and hundreds of fighters are coming back here intent on blowing things up,&rdquo he told me. &ldquoEgyptians who go to Syria are coming back to Egypt, having learned [to make bombs], and they&rsquore screwing us. How can you solve this? By giving people political space.&rdquo Sisi has shown no inclination to do that, however, and with a new friend in the White House, he seems likely instead to shrink this space even further.


Egypt hopes new discoveries from ancient times will tempt post-pandemic tourists

CAIRO (AP) — Workers dig and ferry wheelbarrows laden with sand to open a new shaft at a bustling archaeological site outside of Cairo, while a handful of Egyptian archaeologists supervise from garden chairs. The dig is at the foot of the Step Pyramid of Djoser, arguably the world’s oldest pyramid, and is one of many recent excavations that are yielding troves of ancient artifacts from the country’s largest archaeological site.

As some European countries re-open to international tourists, Egypt has already been trying for months to attract them to its archaeological sites and museums. Officials are betting that the new ancient discoveries will set it apart on the mid- and post-pandemic tourism market. They need visitors to come back in force to inject cash into the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy.

But like countries elsewhere, Egypt continues to battle the coronavirus, and is struggling to get its people vaccinated. The country has, up until now, received only 5 million vaccines for its population of 100 million people, according to its Health Ministry. In early May, the government announced that 1 million people had been vaccinated, though that number is believed to be higher now.

In the meantime, authorities have kept the publicity machine running, focused on the new discoveries.

In November, archaeologists announced the discovery of at least 100 ancient coffins dating back to the Pharaonic Late Period and Greco-Ptolemaic era, along with 40 gilded statues found 2,500 years after they were first buried. That came a month after the discovery of 57 other coffins at the same site, the necropolis of Saqqara that includes the step pyramid.

“Saqqara is a treasure,” said Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany while announcing the November discovery, estimating that only 1% of what the site contains has been unearthed so far.

“Our problem now is that we don’t know how we can possibly wow the world after this,” he said.

If they don’t, it certainly won’t be for lack of trying.

In April, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s best-known archaeologist, announced the discovery of a 3,000-year-old lost city in southern Luxor, complete with mud brick houses, artifacts and tools from pharaonic times. It dates back to Amenhotep III of the 18th dynasty, whose reign (1390–1353 BCE) is considered a golden era for ancient Egypt.

That discovery was followed by a made-for-TV parade celebrating the transport of 22 of the country’s prized royal mummies from central Cairo to their new resting place in a massive facility farther south in the capital, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.

The Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh is now home to an archaeological museum, as is Cairo’s International Airport, both opened in recent months. And officials have also said they still plan to open the massive new Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza Pyramids by January, after years of delays. Entrance fees for archeological sites have been lowered, as has the cost of tourist visas.

The government has for years played up its ancient history as a selling point, as part of a yearslong effort to revive the country’s battered tourism industry. It was badly hit during and after the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak and the ensuring unrest. The coronavirus dealt it a similar blow, just as it was getting back on its feet.

In 2019, foreign tourism’s revenue stood at $13 billion. Egypt received some 13.1 million foreign tourists — reaching pre-2011 levels for the first time. But in 2020, it greeted only 3.5 million foreign tourists, according to the minister el-Anany.

At the newly opened National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Mahmoud el-Rays, a tour guide, was leading a small group of European tourists at the hall housing the royal mummies.

“2019 was a fantastic year,” he said. “But corona reversed everything. It is a massive blow.”

Tourism traffic strengthened in the first months of 2021, el-Anany, the minister, told The Associated Press in a recent interview, though he did not give specific figures. He was optimistic that more would continue to come year-round.

“Egypt is a perfect destination for post-COVID in that our tourism is really an open-air tourism,” he said.

But it remains to be seen if the country truly has the virus under control. It has recorded a total of 14,950 deaths from the virus and is still seeing more than a thousand new cases daily. Like in other countries, the real numbers are believed to be much higher. In Egypt, though, authorities have arrested doctors and silenced critics who questioned the government’s response, so there are fears that information on the true cost of the virus may have been suppressed from the beginning.

Egypt also had a trying experience early on in the pandemic, when it saw a coronavirus outbreak on one of its Nile River cruise boats. It first closed its borders completely until the summer of 2020, but later welcomed tourists back, first to Red-Sea resort towns and now to the heart of the country — Cairo and the Nile River Valley that hosts most of its famous archaeological sites. Visitors still require a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the country.

In a further cause for optimism, Russia said in April that it plans to resume direct flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resort towns. Moscow stopped the flights after the local Islamic State affiliate bombed a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, killing all on board.

Amanda, a 36-year-old engineer from Austria, returned to Egypt in May. It was her second visit in four years. She visited the Egyptian Museum, the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and Islamic Cairo, in the capital’s historic center.

She had planned to come last year, but the pandemic interfered.

“Once they opened, I came,” she said. “It was my dream to see the Pyramids again.”

El-Rays, the tour guide, says that while he’s seeing tourists starting to come in larger numbers, he knows a full recovery will not happen overnight.

“It will take some time to return to before corona,” he said.

I’ll tell you the truth: Life here in Israel isn’t always easy. But it's full of beauty and meaning.

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February 4, 2011 The Future of Egypt- The New Chief of Staff Fiasco - History

In early June 1996, Al Jazeera’s small building in the Qatari capital of Doha started to come to life as dozens of producers, journalists and technicians gathered from all around the world.
Piloting sessions started. Each member of the cramped newsroom was looking forward to the day when they could present the news as it happened, the day when differing opinions would be aired and given time, and when peoples’ intellect would be respected.

Construction begins on Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha (1996).

After five months of piloting, Al Jazeera went live on November 1, 1996.
In late November 1996, Al Jazeera broadcast its first live talk show, “Shariah and Life.” Its consistent guest was Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, and the first presenter was Ahmed al-Shaikh. The programme was not a purely religious talk show. It was a call-in show that tackled modern living - intersecting with religion and social justice - with an open mind.

New offices of Al Jazeera Arabic (left) and original building (right), circa 2016.

It was later followed by “The Opposite Direction” programme, presented by Faisal al-Qassem. The first episode was an honest debate on the performance of the GCC.

The two programmes were an unprecedented step in an Arab media that had imposed very strict restrictions on debates related to religion and politics despite the need for honest discussion.

What's in a name?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Al Jazeera is: What does the name mean? The dictionary definition of “jazeera” in Arabic is “island” or “peninsula,” but the name carries symbolic meaning. All of the following apply:

  1. It can refer to the Arabian peninsula in general.
  2. It can refer to Qatar, which is a peninsula within the Arabian peninsula.
  3. Al Jazeera as an island of professional journalism in a part of the world where professional journalism is traditionally not prevalent.

The story of our logo

Al Jazeera’s logo is non-traditional for any TV station, but its simple beauty led it to become one of the most ubiquitous designs in the Arab world.

In 1996, Al Jazeera’s founders announced a local competition in Qatar for whoever would like to submit a design. Hamdy Al-Sharif, an Egyptian artist who had been working for Qatar TV since 1973, decided to enter a few designs, playing with the Arabic letters in different calligraphy styles. But while he was driving to submit his papers, he was thinking about the teardrop-shaped keychains that were popular in the Arab world at the time. So he pulled over and scribbled an extra design with a pencil in his car. He put that design at the bottom of his pile, thinking that it had no chance.

The next day, he got a call from the management of the yet-unlaunched channel telling him that his design had been chosen. Today it’s one of the most recognizable branding logos in the world.

Variations of the word "Al Jazeera" in Arabic were considered prior to the water droplet concept.

1998 - Change in Format

In the first year of broadcast, Al Jazeera's news bulletins were always on the half-hour, to avoid going head-to-head with the bulletins of the state-owned media that dominated the Arab media landscape at the time.

Jamal Rayyan anchored the first newscast of Al Jazeera on November 1, 1996.

That changed on May 16, 1998, when Pakistan announced it would carry out its first nuclear tests in response to India's nuclear tests. At the time, Al Jazeera was not a 24/7 news channel. The news broadcasts started at 4:30pm Doha time.

The prime minister of Pakistan at the time, Nawaz Sharif, was expected to announce the new experiment in a national speech at 4pm Doha time. Al Jazeera changed its broadcast schedule to begin at the top of the hour from that day onward.

Expanding to the World Stage

One of Al Jazeera's first bureaus was in Baghdad. For years, the United States and Europe had imposed sanctions on Iraq, and relations were consistently hitting new lows.

From Al Jazeera's coverage in the late 1990s: "Where is the siege on Iraq heading?"

On December 16, 1998, "Operation Desert Fox" was launched. US and British aircrafts and ships bombed Iraq for four consecutive days. For the world's media, Al Jazeera was a major source of video footage and information about what was happening, and that was one of Al Jazeera’s first introductions to a non-Arab audience.

1999 - Al Jazeera Becomes a 24/7 Broadcaster

On January 1, 1999, Al Jazeera became a 24/7 news broadcaster. It took 2 years and 2 months after launch to reach this moment, with incremental expansion along the way.

Original newsroom, late 1990s.

Within those two years, the size of Al Jazeera's staff had trippled, reaching about 500 journalists and employees.

A Bureau in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the Taliban government had given permission for three international media organisations to open bureaus in the capital. Al Jazeera was one of them. The decision to open the Kabul bureau in May 1999 was a significant step forward for the international role that Al Jazeera would play in the years to come.

Clamping Down on Al Jazeera Part I: 1999-2001

Kuwait was the first country in the world to take overt punitive measures against Al Jazeera. In June of 1999, the Al Jazeera bureau in Kuwait was shut down temporarily, after an Iraqi caller insulted the Emir of Kuwait in a live, call-in show.

In March 2001, the Palestinian Authority shut down the Al Jazeera bureau in Ramallah. Al Jazeera had just aired a promo for an upcoming documentary about the Lebanese Civil War, and it was deemed as an affront to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

In August of 2001, Mauritanian authorities made a formal request to Qatar to stop broadcasting Al Jazeera to its citizens, which was ignored. Elections were set for October, and the campaigning was becoming heated. Nouakchott accused Al Jazeera of provoking public disorder.

A News Leader in Palestine Coverage

In Palestine, the Second Intifada erupted following the visit of a former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, to Al Aqsa Mosque on September 28, 2000.

On the second day of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (Sept 30) Muhammad al-Durra, 12, was shot dead by Israeli forces in Gaza, while he and his father Jamal were trying to shelter themselves behind a concrete cylinder. (Photo: AP)

Clashes began to spread throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel began assassinating Palestinian leaders, and launching air and ground attacks on Palestinian cities, including missile strikes against Palestinian Authority offices in Ramallah on October 12.

Al Jazeera was the channel of record on the crisis for the next four years.

On November 11, 2004, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat succumbed to a mystery illness, amidst a campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to assassinate Palestinian leaders of all political backgrounds. His body was transported back home from France, where he was being treated, and he was buried in Palestine.

Yasser Arafat died on Nov. 11, 2004, in what is widely believed to be an assassination by poison.

About a year later, on August 15, 2005, Sharon implemented his plan to withdraw from Gaza, while retaining control of the occupied territory from sea, air and land.

The Rocky Road of Relations with Morocco

In October 2000, officials from the Moroccan Interior Ministry ordered Al Jazeera correspondent Iqbal Ilhami to stop working with Al Jazeera temporarily. She was allowed to continue working eventually, but over the years she and other Al Jazeera journalists would have their accreditation revoked by Moroccan authorities from time to time.

In July 2005, Moroccan authorities temporarily revoked the accreditation of Al Jazeera Rabat correspondent Abdul Salam Razaq after airing an interview with a Western Sahara activist.

In November 2006, on Al Jazeera's 10th birthday, the Channel began broadcasting from Morocco a nightly news show, focusing on North African issues: Al-Hasad al-Magharibi (The Maghreb Bulletin). Morocco was the ideal location for Al Jazeera's huge production facility, as it enjoyed greater press freedom than its neighbors.

By May 6, 2008, the permission to broadcast from the country was cancelled.

On June 7, 2008, the bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Morocco, Hassan Rachidi, was arrested for the coverage of protests in Sidi Ifni, in southern Morocco. People had demonstrated over poor living conditions and joblessness, and there were reports of a security crackdown. Rachidi's accreditation was cancelled, and he was fined $6,000 for "disseminating false information in bad faith."

In June 2008, Rachidi, the bureau chief in Morocco, was arrested and fined by Moroccan authorities.

By January 2009 he left the country. He later served in several leading roles in the newsroom of Al Jazeera Arabic, and management of bureaus in the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2009, Morocco revoked the accreditation of two more Al Jazeera journalists, Anas Ben Salah and Mohamed Bakkali. The two were reassigned by Al Jazeera in other countries.

In October 2010, Moroccan authorities revoked the accreditation of all of the remaining Al Jazeera correspondents in Morocco.

On October 29, the government announced that it had suspended Al Jazeera's operations in the country. Morocco's Information Minister Khalid Nasseri said that Al Jazeera's reporting in the country "was a daily insult to Moroccans." Al Jazeera issued a statement reiterating its commitment to "an editorial policy based on the principal of providing alternate opinions," adding that its "coverage of Moroccan issues has always been professional, balanced and accurate."

The five Al Jazeera correspondents who lost their accreditation were:

  • Mohamed Fadel
  • Iqbal al-Hami
  • Mohamed Faqih
  • Abdelhak Esshaseh
  • Abdelkader Kharoubi

Eventually, the government allowed Al Jazeera journalists to resume reporting in Morocco.

2001 – Going Digital

On January 1, 2001, Al Jazeera launched one of the first major Arabic-language news websites on the Internet. It continues to be the go-to source of information for millions of people worldwide.

The beta version of Al Jazeera's website, circa 1999.

9/11 Changes Everything

September 11, 2001, was a turning point in the history of the entire world - and the Middle East in particular.

After the attacks of 9/11 in the United States, the whole world was wondering, “Who did this? Why?”

Much of what the world knows about Al Qaeda and its leader at the time, Osama bin Laden, came from videotapes of bin Laden aired on Al Jazeera, where he ruminated on global affairs and East-West relations.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahiri in the Qandahar region of Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera soon became one of the primary sources of news coming from the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Days after 9/11, the Pentagon signed a contract with The Rendon Group worth $16.7 million to monitor Al Jazeera. The contract called for Rendon to track "the location and use of Al Jazeera news bureaus, reporters and stringers, both regionally and globally. The . . . effort will provide a detailed content analysis of the station's daily broadcast. TRG [The Rendon Group] will also chart event-related regional media coverage to identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances."

The second moment of impact at the World Trade Center in New York on Sept 11, 2001.

On October 7, the US launched the ongoing war on Afghanistan, and soon occupied Kabul.

Al Jazeera aired a tape of bin Laden discussing the US war on Afghanistan two hours after the initial bombing began.

Bin Laden disappeared for years. He was killed by US forces in Pakistan almost 10 years later, on May 2, 2011.

9/11, the Kabul Bureau and Al Jazeera's Tayseer Allouni

US officials claimed that Al Jazeera was wrong to broadcast the Bin Laden tapes, and accused Al Jazeera of endangering the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Before seizing full control of Kabul, US forces shelled Al Jazeera’s Kabul bureau on November 13, 2001.

Al Jazeera’s Kabul Bureau Chief Tayseer Allouni, a Spanish citizen of Syrian descent, was evacuated from Afghanistan.

Tayseer Allouni was Al Jazeera's first bureau chief in Kabul.

On a visit to see his family in Grenada, Spain, in September 2003, he was arrested by Spanish police and sentenced to seven years imprisonment on 26 September 2005. Al Jazeera launched a campaign to fight for freedom of the press, and the unfettered right to interview newsmakers and access sources of information.

Allouni was released from jail on October 6, 2006, but served the rest of the term under house arrest.

Upon regaining his freedom, he has taken up residence in Doha since March 11, 2012.

Al Jazeera Cameraman Winds Up in Guantanamo

After the US launched a war on Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Al Jazeera's bureau in Kabul was one of the busiest news bureaus in the world.

Sami Al Hajj, a native of Sudan, was a cameraman for Al Jazeera, and was in Pakistan on December 15, 2001, when he was detained and handed over to US forces, who deemed him an "enemy combatant."

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al Haj was arrested in Pakistan in mid-December 2001 and transferred to Guantanamo by US forces.

Sami was transferred to Guantanamo Bay internment camp, and endured horrendous conditions for years. To protest the treatment, he and several other prisoners went on a hunger strike starting in January 2007. He remained on hunger strike for 438 days, until he was released, on May 1, 2008.

On the 10th anniversary of his release, Al Jazeera published his memoirs, Prisoner 345: My Six Years in Guantanamo.

Al Jazeera journalists stand in solidarity with Sami, circa 2007.

Sami is currently the Director of the Public Liberties & Human Rights Centre at Al Jazeera.

Clamping Down on Al Jazeera Part II: 2001-2003

In December 2001, Jordanian security forces detained Al Jazeera correspondent Yasir Abu Hilala for 24 hours. He had been covering a demonstration in support of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden in the southern town of Ma'an. Security forces also detained another one of Al Jazeera's correspondents in the Amman buruea, Sowsan Abu Hamda, for questioning.

Yasir Abu Hilala went on to become the Jordan bureau chief for Al Jazeera, and later the Managing Director of Al Jazeera Arabic, from July 24, 2014, to May 10, 2018.

Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Amman (2001), Yaser Abuhilala.

In March 2002, Egyptian security forces arrested the Al Jazeera crew covering a pro-Palestine demonstration at Alexandria University. Al Jazeera was the only media organization covering the event.

On May 10, 2002, Bahrain banned Al Jazeera for two years.

In June, the Saudi government accused an Al Jazeera programme of insulting the country's royal family. The channel was banned from covering the pilgrimage to Mecca the following year and was later barred from the country except to cover special events, with special permission.

In November 2002, Kuwait shut down the Al Jazeera bureau again, after the Channel reported that the entire northwestern part of the country was shut down for US-Kuwaiti war exercises.

On March 4, 2003, the New York Stock Exchange banned Al Jazeera's financial correspondents - Ammar Sankary and Ramzy Shibr - who used to report from the floor of NYSE.

Al Jazeera in China

Al Jazeera established a bureau in Beijing in 2002. It opened a fascinating window into China for the Arab world, and vice versa. Al Jazeera's reporters covered the events of Tibet in 2008, providing exclusive footage of the clashes between monks and security forces inside the Dharamsala monastery. The bureau covers all aspects of life in China, including the situation of the Muslim communities in East Turkestan, and provides access to neighboring countries, including North Korea and Myanmar.

In 2017, Al Jazeera expanded its China operation to launch a digital presence in Mandarin. Al Jazeera content is also available on Weibo.

Long-serving Beijing Bureau Chief Ezzat Shahrour (1962-2017).

On December 23, 2017, Al Jazeera's legendary and long-serving bureau chief in Beijing, Ezzat Shahrour, passed away at the age of 55. He was succeeded by Nasser Abdul Haq.

A Bureau in Somalia

Al Jazeera's bureau in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, opened in 2003.

By this time, Al Jazeera had 23 bureaus and about 1,300 employees.

2003 – Serving the English-speaking world

In late 2002, Al Jazeera launched its English website, with a mix of original reporting and translation of Al Jazeera Arabic content.

Look and feel of Al Jazeera's English-language website in 2004.

Four days after the United States launched its ongoing war on Iraq (March 20, 2003) the site was hacked.

It continues to be a leading source of global news and analysis.

2003 - Iraq War Brings Al Jazeera to the Forefront

On March 20, 2003, the United States and its allies launched their land invasion of Iraq.

Al Jazeera had crews in all major population centers in Iraq, and went to great lengths to cover the unfolding events.

While other media told people where the rockets were fired from, Al Jazeera was showing where they land.

US forces bombed Al Jazeera's bureau in Baghdad on April 8, 2003, killing war correspondent Tarek Ayoub. Al Jazeera assistant cameraman Zouhair Nadhim, who was on the bureau's roof with Ayyoub, was injured in the blast.

Al Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayoub was killed by US forces while covering the war in Iraq (April 2003).

Al Jazeera's former Kabul bureau chief, Tayseer Allouni, had just finished an overnight shift reporting from the rooftop of the building.

Allouni then went to visit friends in the Palestine Hotel, where foreign journalists were based. US forces bombed the hotel, killing José Couso, a Spanish cameraman for Telecinco, and Taras Protsyuk, a Ukranian cameraman working for Reuters.

The following day, US-led forces announced they had occupied Baghdad.

Entry Into the World of Sports

On November 1, 2003, Al Jazeera Sports Channel was launched.

For 9 years Al Jazeera Sport Channel was a runaway success.

This channel was spun off in 2012 and merged into a new and independent company, beIN Media Group.

Al Jazeera Journalists Face Deranged Tortured in Abu Ghraib

Salah Hassan El-Ejaili was a cameraman for Al Jazeera in Baghdad. On November 3, 2003, he was filming the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack on a US military convoy in Dialah. US forces arrested him, and repeated a popular refrain of US forces and politicians in Afghanistan and Iraq: the false claim that Al Jazeera has advance knowledge of attacks.

After a few days, US forces transferred Salah to Abu Ghraib prison, which was built by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to hold about 13,000 prisoners.

Salah was made to endure horrendous torture in Abu Ghraib, as was one of his colleagues in the Al Jazeera Baghdad bureau, Suheib Badr Darwish, who was arrested on November 18, 2003.

Salah was released a month later, on December 18, 2003. Darwish was released on January 25, 2004.

Salah is party to a lawsuit against the US sub-contractor that was managing Abu Ghraib at the time, CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The proceedings were ongoing as of 2019.

The lawsuit of Al Jazeera journalist Salah Hasan and other Iraqi citizens against their abusers was still active in US courts as of 2019.

2003: Paying the Price for Truth in Darfur

Al Jazeera provided extensive coverage to the conflict in Darfur, Sudan, which erupted in February 2003.

In December 2003, security forces in Khartoum arrested Al Jazeera correspondent Islam Saleh on charges of "airing news containing false information and biased analysis aimed at smearing Sudan's image."

By January 2004, Sudanese officials were considering the suspension of Al Jazeera's license to operate in Sudan. Security forces requested the suspension, but it was not carried out by Sudan's Press & Publications Council.

In February 2004, Saleh was accused of "defaming Sudan by spreading fake news." He was sentenced to one month in jail and a fine of one million Sudanese pounds ($400).

Death and Intimidation in Iraq

In the first year of US occupation of Iraq, 21 Al Jazeera staffers were arrested. They were all released later without charge, but the continuous stream of run-ins with the new authorities was indicative of the uncomfortable sitation.

The Iraqi Transitional Government Council, created by the United States, ordered a two-week suspension of activities for Al Jazeera's Baghdad bureau in September 2003.

In the same month, US forces detained an Al Jazeera crew in Baghdad headed by Atwar Bahjat. (Atwar was one of Iraq's best-known journalists. She left Al Jazeera in February 2006, and was assassinated three weeks later, while reporting in Samarra.)

Maher Abdullah (1959-2004), one of the most well-known faces of Al Jazeera. Pictured here reporting live from Baghdad.

In his State of the Union Address in January 2004, US President George W Bush referred to Al Jazeera as a source of "hateful propaganda" coming from the Arab world.

Iraq's US-installed interim governing council again prohibited Al Jazeera from covering its activities for a month.

On April 5, 2004, US forces attempted to enter the Iraqi city of Fallujah, but were confronted by fierce resistance and suffered human and material losses. Al Jazeera provided rolling coverage from Fallujah, which was subjected to the wrath of the US military after four American mercenaries working for Blackwater were killed there in March.

Referring to Al Jazeera’s exclusive coverage of the battle, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld replied: "I can definitively say that what Al Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable."

Verbal attacks by US officials against Al Jazeera escalated. As the quagmire in Iraq broadened, media sources reported on supposed unpublished minutes of a discussion between US President George W. Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair dated April 16, 2004, where the two allegedly discussed a US air raid on Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha.

David Blunkett, a former British interior minister, revealed in his memoirs published in October 2006 that, during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he suggested to Blair that the British military should bomb the Al Jazeera television transmitter in Baghdad.

On May 21, 2004, Al Jazeera cameraman Rashid Hamid Wali was killed by US sniper fire in the southern Iraqi city of Karbala as he was filming clashes.

On August 7, 2004, the interim Iraqi government ordered a one-month closure of Al Jazeera's Baghdad bureau. The shutdown was extended indefinitely in September, and the bureau was sealed for more than six years. The ban was finally lifted on March 3, 2011.

In 2013, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission suspended the licenses of Al Jazeera and nine other channels. Al Jazeera continued to work from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the autonomous region located in the northern part of the country.

On April 14, 2016, the CMC withdrew Al Jazeera's work permit in the country for one year. A year later, the ban was lifted, and Al Jazeera resumed work in its Baghdad bureau.

Introducing Quality Assurance

The first report of the newly established Al Jazeera Quality Assurance Department was released on July 16, 2004.

The Department's task was to define standards, monitor output and make sure it adheres with Al Jazeera’s editorial policies and the highest international technical and journalistic standards.

The Division publishes Al Jazeera's "Editorial Standards" guidebooks.

In 2012, the Department was elevated in stature to become a Directorate - investigating matters of accuracy, fairness, balance and taste in Al Jazeera coverage, and making recommendations for continual improvement.

2004: Investing in Journalist Development

Al Jazeera Media Training Centre was established on February 24, 2004, with the dual mission of providing continual development for Al Jazeera journalists, and training journalists from all across the world. It provides courses in all facets of journalism, media-related technology, the management of news organizations, and public communication. Beginning and mid-career journalists hone their skills with some of the best trainers in the world here.

Inside the auditorium of the Al Jazeera Training Institute.

A decade after its establishment, the center expanded to become the Al Jazeera Media Training Institute. The Institute has an extensive network of strategic partnerships with reputable media institutions and circles - all well-known on a local, regional and international level. The Institute continues to consolidate its relations and partnerships, and build new strategic partnerships with various media schools, in order to create a realistic media environment. The Institute also provides media institutions with consultancies to help them develop their potential and attain their strategic plans.

2005 - Al Jazeera Mubasher (Live)

Acting as the eyes and ears of the Arab world, Al Jazeera Mubasher was launched in early 2005 to give viewers real-time footage of global and regional events. Remote feeds and on-the-ground cameras broadcast political gatherings, press conferences, discussions and meetings, bringing audiences the latest on political, social, cultural and economic affairs.

Screenshot from Al Jazeera Mubasher.

A branch of Mubasher focused on Egypt (Mubasher Misr) was launched during the Arab revolts against dictatorship in 2011. The channel was moved from Cairo to Doha after the coup d'état led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in July 2013. Amidst a relentless clampdown on the channel's journalists, Mubasher Misr was suspended on December 23, 2014.

Al Jazeera Film Festival

On April 18, 2005, Al Jazeera held its first International Documentary Film Festival in Doha, headed by film director Abbas Arnaout.

For 11 years, the Festival and annual awards ceremony became a meeting point for filmmakers and innovators worldwide.

Al Jazeera's film festival was a major event in the region up until 2015.

The first year focused on Arabic-language made-for-TV productions only. The second year accepted entries from the Arab and non-Arab world. By the third year, documentary feature films (ie, not produced for television) were included, and this continued until the last time the Festival was held: November 26-29, 2015.

2005 - Focus on Under-reported Areas

In the spring of 2005, Al Jazeera was one of the first media organisations to provide extensive reporting on the depth of the famine in Niger. Tens of thousands of people in central Africa were on the verge of starving to death.

Coverage of the famine in Niger (2005).

After the crisis received global attention - due to the reporting of several media organizations, and a concerted diplomatic effort - aid trickled into the region.

Harassment of Al Jazeera Journalists in Pre-Revolution Egypt

In November 2005, an unidentified assasilant attacked Ahmed Mansour, one of Al Jazeera's star talk-show hosts in Egypt.

In April 2006, security forces questioned Hussein Abdul Ghani, the bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Cairo at the time, about Al Jazeera's coverage of bomb blasts in the Sinai peninsula.

On January 28, 2008, Egyptian police detained Al Jazeera journalist Howadya Taha and her documentary crew. Security forces confiscated her tapes and charged her with tarnishing the country's reputation. Taha produced a documentary on the torture of citizens in Egyptian police stations.

2006 - NSA hacks into Al Jazeera

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency had hacked into Al Jazeera’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) as early as March 2006.

The NSA Signals Intelligence Directorate reported that it was accessing and reading the internal communications of Al Jazeera’s journalists and managers. The agency said that Al Jazeera was amongst a group of hacked institutions that had “high potential as sources of intelligence.”

Al Jazeera is a consistent target of hacks from states and non-state actors.

The extent of the spying, and whether it is ongoing, is unclear.

Covering the Game-changing Palestinian Election

One of the few free and fair elections in the Arab world took place in the occupied Palestinian territories on January 25, 2006. Al Jazeera provided blanket coverage of the vote for a legislature, and was the first to report that Hamas had won while other media organizations were waffling. After it became clear that the two major Palestinian parties would not be able to create a government of national unity, and the world community moved to nullify the results of the elections, Al Jazeera named the Hamas government in Gaza, "the deposed government," much to the ire of the Palestinian Authority, based in Ramallah.

Israel Attacks Lebanon

Al Jazeera had a significant role in reporting the July 2006 war from both sides of the borders. Its correspondents covered the loss of life - more than 1,000 Lebanese and 165 Israelis - and the severe damage to Lebanon's civilian infrastructure. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced on both sides of the conflict.

2006 - Global Think Tank Launched

The Al Jazeera Center for Studies was founded in 2006 to provide deep research and data to Al Jazeera's journalists, and provide public platforms for the global exchange of ideas.

The Center is home to world-class researchers and authors. The Center hosts ad hoc seminars and background briefings by opinion leaders and decision makers, and publishes policy briefs and analysis throughout the year.

The Center organizes the annual Al Jazeera Forum, bringing thinkers, politicians, academics and journalists together to discuss regional and global transformations.

The University of Pennsylvania's Index ranks the Center in the Top 5 (out of 480) public policy research institutions in the Middle East and North Africa. (The Index is the result of an international survey of over 1,950 scholars, public and private donors, policy makers, and journalists who help rank more than 6,500 think tanks using a set of criteria developed at the University.)

2006: Launch of Al Jazeera International

Al Jazeera International (later renamed Al Jazeera English) launched on November 15, 2006, at midday GMT.

The channel was a major investment in the future of global media, bringing together some of the best English-speaking journalists from anywhere in the world together, under one roof.

At launch, the channel broadcast from Kuala Lumpur, London, Washington and Doha, but over time, the major news studios were set in Doha and London.

Original concept for Doha newsroom and studio of Al Jazeera English.

In the channel's newsrooms, people from dozens of different nationalities focused on the concerns of the Global South, providing fresh perspectives on the issues of our times. For years, the channel's motto was, "Voice of the Voiceless.

Within months of launch, the Channel cemented its position as a global presence in the media landscape, attracting audiences of millions in all four corners of the globe.

Exclusive Coverage of the Ogaden Issue

In 2007, Al Jazeera was one of the few media organisations that managed to enter Ogaden, a bitterly disputed region between Somalia and Ethiopia.

Al Jazeera filed five reports on the conditions of the residents of the province, triggering years of tension between Ethiopia and Al Jazeera.

Ten years later, Al Jazeera opened a bureau in Addis Ababa, on September 14, 2017.

2007 - Al Jazeera Documentary Channel

On July 1, 2007, Al Jazeera launched the Arab world’s first documentary channel, named Al Jazeera Documentary Channel.

The Channel supports Arab filmmaking by serving as an advocate for the Arab documentary industry. It airs portraits of the people and places that make up our world—raising awareness and inspiring millions of people across the Middle East.

Al Jazeera Documentary launches (2007).

The Channel has encouraged talented directors, writers, producers and visionaries who believe that documentaries are a unique and beautiful platform, and this has allowed the Channel to resonate with Arab audiences for more than a decade.

Making Human Rights Part of the Newsroom

Steeped in the belief that strong and vocal media can advance the cause of basic human rights, Al Jazeera established a permanent Human Rights desk within all of its newsrooms on November 1, 2008.

The desk focused attention on violations of civil liberties everywhere, with a special focus on the Arab world.

The Human Rights desks were reorganized and expanded into a Department in 2013. In 2015, the Public Liberties and Human Rights Centre was launched.

The Al Jazeera Center for Public Liberties & Human Rights participated in the General Assembly of the African Journalists Federation (Khartoum, Dec 13-14, 2018).

The Centre launches campaigns to create awareness of international humanitarian law and prevent the erosion of rights. With a special focus on the freedom of the press, the Centre also champions the cause of ending impunity for crimes against journalists.

All year round, the Center organizes workshops and seminars bringing human rights defenders together from different parts of the world.

The effort has been led by Sami al-Hajj, the only journalist to have been detained and tortured at the US internment camp in Cuba, Guantánamo Bay.

In Gaza, Al Jazeera is the Eyes and Ears of the World

Three years after withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched a major military offensive there, starting on December 27, 2008. One of the first Israeli bombings was aimed at a graduation ceremony for police cadets, and Al Jazeera provided blanket coverage for the 22 days of war. By the end of the first day, more than 200 Palestinians had been killed, and by the end of the fighting, more than 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis had been killed.

The United Nations later reported that war crimes and crimes against humanity may have been committed in Gaza. The report was headed by South African Justice Richard Goldstone.

The Gaza wars unfolded live on Al Jazeera.

The Second Gaza War took place in November 2012, and again Al Jazeera was there, inside the Gaza Strip and on the Israeli side of the border.

In the Third Gaza War of July 2014, more than 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were killed.

Al Jazeera's bureau in Gaza continues to be the eyes and ears of the world in the embattled Strip.

Tension in Yemen

The years 2009/2010 were tough for journalists in Yemen.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh (resigned in 2012, assassinated in 2017) was waging war on Al Qaeda in Yemen, and a rebellion in the northern provice of Saada.

While covering a protest in Abyan, Al Jazeera journalist Fadhl Mubarak was seriously injured by unknown assailants in June 2009.

In March 2010, security forces broke in to Al Jazeera's bureau in Sana'a and confiscated broadcast equipment.

In November 2010, security forces temporarily detained a four-man Al Jazeera crew: Mubarak, Ahmed Shalafi, Sameer al-Nimri and Abdul Ghani Al-Shimairy.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla - Al Jazeera Live From the Sea

In May 2010, activists from around the world set out to travel by sea to connect to the people of the Gaza, despite the air, sea and land blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinians in the Strip. The convoy of boats was called, "Gaza Freedom Flotilla."

Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal El Shayyal on the Mavi Marmara, which was leading the Gaza Freedom Flotilla when Israeli forces boarded and attacked on May 31, 2010, killing 10 people.

Partnering with WikiLeaks, Exposing Abuse in Iraq

In 2010, Al Jazeera teamed up with WikiLeaks to broadcast a series of programmes exposing the operations of US forces in the Iraq war.

Wikileaks had obtained a trove of 400,000 documents dated from 2004-2009, indicating that torture was sanctioned at the highest levels, that hundreds of Iraqi civilians had been killed at US-managed checkpoints in Iraq, listing violations by a major US mercenary firm, Xe (formerly Blackwater, currently Academi). amongst other abuses.

In April, Al Jazeera had covered the WikiLeaks video footage of a US army helicopter attack in Baghdad in which 12 people died, including two Reuters journalists.

Some of the papers showed that the United States attempted to keep a death count throughout the war, in contradiction to the famous pronouncement of US Army Gen (ret) Tommy Ray Franks: "We don't do body counts" (March 23, 2002). Franks was Commander of the US Central Command at the time.

Al Jazeera partnered with WikiLeaks to provide an uncensored view of the war. The coverage was condemned by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Years later, the US Army intelligence analyst who leaked the documents, (born Bradley Manning, now Chelsea Manning), was pardoned from her 35-year jail sentence.

Palestine Papers - Al Jazeera Leaks Trove of Information

For four days in 2011, 23-26 January, Al Jazeera revealed to the world the "Palestine Papers."

The special coverage was dedicated to exposing the inner workings of the negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. The coverage was based on more than 1,600 confidential documents, including memos, e-mails, maps, minutes of meetings, draft agreements, strategy papers and PowerPoint presentations from 1999-2010.

The disclosures offered a candid picture of the negotiation process, covering the Palestinian Authority's willingess to:

  1. Concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem
  2. Be "creative" about the status of Al Aqsa Mosque
  3. Make compromises on refugees and the right of return

Al Jazeera also exposed the nature of US pressure on Palestinian officials, and details on the extent of "security coordination" between Palestinian officials and their Israeli counterparts.

"The revelations from the heart of the Israel-Palestine peace process are the product of the biggest documentary leak in the history of the Middle East conflict, and the most comprehensive exposure of the inside story of a decade of failed negotiations," reported The Guardian, who partnered with Al Jazeera on this investigative project.

2011 – Birth of Al Jazeera Balkans

On November 11, 2011 (11-11-11), Al Jazeera Balkans was launched in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with major broadcast centers in Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb.

Inside the studio of Al Jazeera Balkans Channel, which covers - and brings together - one of the most important parts of the world.

With impartial reporting that places people at the centre of the story, Al Jazeera Balkans has become a platform for open-minded journalism, along with serious debate.

As the first regional news channel, Al Jazeera Balkans delivers programming and analysis in all local languages, providing local context to the topics that impact people at a regional and international level.

Broadcasting to nearly 4 million homes in the region and reaching viewers in more than 30 countries, Al Jazeera Balkans provides our audience with a breadth of coverage previously unavailable in the region. As part of the Al Jazeera Media Network, the Channel has access to more than 70 bureaus around the world, giving the people of the region the global coverage they want, from a local voice they trust.

Desperation & Hope From Tunisia

In December 2010, Al Jazeera was among the first global media organisations to report on a story circulating on Arab social media. The story was about a young man, Mohamed Bouazizi, who had set himself on fire after a police officer humiliated him as he was trying to earn his living in the southern Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid.

An interview with a tearful Ahmad Khifnawi in Tunisia went viral. "We have grown old waiting for this historic moment," he said.

That incident was a flame that sparked massive people-power revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen, in addition to smaller movements that were contained through the implementation of reforms in Morocco and Oman.

By January 14, 2011, the long-time strongman of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had fled to Saudi Arabia and resigned.

In Egypt, the protests that began on January 25, 2011, led to the resignation of another decades-long leader, Hosni Mubarak, on February 11, 2011.

Al Jazeera dedicated all of its resouces to covering the Arab revolutions, giving voice to the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of people who yearned to live in freedom.

Clampdown on Al Jazeera Part III: 2011-2012

Throughout the Arab world in 2011, peaceful demands for change were facing brutal repression, and Al Jazeera's journalists were on the front lines of history in the making.

By March the government in Yemen had cancelled accreditation for Al Jazeera to operate there.

In the same month in Libya, the crumbling regime of Muammar Gaddafi detained an entire crew from Al Jazeera: Ahmed Vall Ould Dine, Ammar Hamdan, Lotfi Messaoudi and Kamal Talloua.

Poster demanding the release of Al Jazeera's journalists detained during the coverage of the Libyan revolution.

In April, Syrian forces arrested Al Jazeera journalist Dorothy Parvaz. She was held in Syria starting on April 29, and then deported to Iran, before finally returning to headquarters in Doha after the 19-day ordeal.

In June, Al Jazeera journalist Osama Sidahmed was beaten by soldiers of the Sudanese Army while he was reporting in Ad-Damazin, in the Blue Nile state (southeast).

In August, Al Jazeera journalist Samer Allawy was visiting his family in Palestine when he was detained by Israeli forces.

In July 2012, Al Jazeera's Omar Khashram was seriously injured by shrapnel when a bomb went off near where he was reporting in Aleppo, Syria.

Al Jazeera English journalist Dorothy Parvaz was arrested by Syrian forces on April 29, 2011.

In November 2012, a cameraman in the Khartoum bureau - Ali Mustafa - was arrested and held for more than seven months by Sudanese forces. That government informally accused Al Jazeera of prior knowledge of a military coup against President Omar Bashir.

Cutting Through the Fog of War

Being the journal of record in the region, Al Jazeera has been on the frontlines in conflict zones since its birth. And its courageous reporters have paid the ultimate price time and again.

Eleven of the Arab world's finest journalists have been killed while reporting for Al Jazeera:

In Libya, Al Jazeera Arabic cameraman Ali Hassan al-Jaber was killed as he covered fighting near Benghazi on March 12, 2011. The Qatari father of six was 55 years old. He held a master's degree in cinematography from Egypt, and had started his career in 1979.

Al-Jaber was the first foreign journalist killed in the Libyan revolution.

In Yemen, Al Jazeera journalist Mubarak Al-Abadi was killed by a mortar shell while covering clashes between pro-government and rebel forces in Al-Jawf province on August 5, 2016.

(See entry on journalists killed while covering Syria's war.)

Despite the high risks and difficulties of covering the wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the Arab world, Al Jazeera's journalists strive daily to get the facts straight and present solid information and analysis to the world.

By the end of 2018, Al Jazeera was officially banned from more than a third of Arab countries.

Egypt's Attempt at Freedom & the Crackdown on Al Jazeera

In the final days of the Mubarak regime in January 2011, the Egyptian government cancelled the license of Al Jazeera to operate in Egypt, withdrew all press accreditations for the Network and blocked the satellite transmission of Al Jazeera on Nile Sat, which is owned by the Egyptian government.

Al Jazeera doubled down on its coverage of Egypt. In Tahrir Square in 2011, protesters had installed a huge screen tuned to Al Jazeera around the clock.

Al Jazeera provided 24/7 coverage from Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Egyptian Revolution (2011).

In February, Egyptian security forces arrested Al Jazeera's bureau chief in Cairo at the time, Abdul Fattah Fayed, along with Al Jazeera English correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin and journalists Ahmed Yousif and Osama Abdul Aziz Hassan.

In one of the regime's final acts of desperation, Al Jazeera's offices in Cairo were ransacked in February as well.

When former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down on February 11, 2011 - after ruling the country for three decades - Al Jazeera broadcast the iconic image of hundreds of thousands of cheering Egyptians in Tahrir Square, with no commentary.

On July 3, 2013, the Egyptian military carried out a coup against the elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and suspended the constitution.

Security forces broke into Al Jazeera's bureau in Cairo and arrested 28 staff members, all from Al Jazeera Mubasher in Egypt, including the head of the Channel, Ayman Jaballah. They were all released, but Jaballah was later sentenced in absentia.

Also in July, Egyptian forces arrested Al Jazeera Mubasher cameraman Mohamed Badr. He would remain in jail for seven months before his acquital and release.

In the summer of 2013, Al Jazeera’s teams were spread across the country. One team was deployed in Rabaa al-Adawiya square, which had been a place for thousands of people to protest the coup peacefully up until August 14, 2013, when the military moved in to destroy it. Al Jazeera provided extensive coverage of the massacre that was committed there, described by Human Rights Watch as "one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history." Hundreds of people lost their lives in the square.

Four Al Jazeera journalists were detained. One of the reporters for Al Jazeera Arabic, Abdullah al-Shami, was detained without charge for 10 months. He went on hunger strike for four months, and was finally released on June 17, 2014, and relocated to the headquarters in Doha. On September 8, 2018, al-Shami was sentenced in absentia to 15 years imprisonment.

Poster calling for the release of two Al Jazeera journalists, Abdullah Al Shami and Mohamed Badr, who were detained in Egypt in 2013.

Al Jazeera Mubasher's license to operate in Egypt was revoked.

And an entire crew from Al Jazeera English were detained for two days: Baher Mohamed, Russ Finn, Adil Bradlow and Wayne Hay.

In September, it was discovered that the Egyptian military was behind a sustained effort to distort the satellite signal of Al Jazeera, which was (and still is) free to air across the Arab world.

Four months later, four journalists with Al Jazeera English - Mohamed Fawzy, Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy – were arrested on December 29, 2013. Fawzy was released shortly thereafter, but the rest spent more than a year in jail. Al Jazeera launched a global campaign to protest the violations of press freedoms, #JournalismIsNotaCrime.

In June 2014, an Egyptian court sentenced Fawzy, Greste, Mohamed, Fahmy and five others to prison terms ranging between 7-10 years. The five are:

  • Khalil Bhanasy
  • Alaa Bayoumi
  • Anas Abdul Wahab
  • Dominque Kane
  • Sue Turton

Greste was released on February 1, 2015. Mohamed and Fahmy were released on February 12, 2015.

In May 2014 - taking a cue from Syrian authorities who had confiscated the property of one of Al Jazeera's most prominent talk show hosts, Faisal Alkasim - Egyptian authorities confiscated the personal property of Ahmed Mansour. Mansour was also a star talk show host. By October he had been sentenced in absentia to a 15-year prison term. In response to an Egyptian arrest warrant, Mansour was detained for a short while at the airport in Berlin in June 2015.

In June 2016, Egyptian courts sentenced one of Al Jazeera's former News Directors, Ibrahim Hilal, to death, while putting out an arrest warrant for Ayman Gaballah, the Managing Director of Al Jazeera Mubasher.

In December 2016, one month after Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary on compulsory inscription in Egypt, the authorities in Cairo arrested Mahmoud Hussein, an Egyptian journalist working in the headquarters of Al Jazeera in Doha. Hussein had traveled to Egypt to visit his family. As of mid-2018, Hussein had spent almost two years under interrogation, without charge.

Countless Egyptian journalists - some affiliated with Al Jazeera, others not - have been pursued relentlessly since the media crackdown that began in 2013.


Coptic Christians in Washington area torn over Egypt’s future

With a new doctoral degree from Harvard and a stint at the World Bank behind her, Iris Boutros was mulling job offers in the international development field a few months ago.

But last week, she boarded a jet and headed instead into the maelstrom of post-revolutionary Egypt. She is jobless but determined to make a difference in her parents’ homeland, which shaped her identity as a Coptic Christian.

“I felt for the first time in my life that I had a chance to affect change,” Boutros said, sipping wine in an Adams Morgan cafe one evening shortly before leaving for Egypt. It would be her first visit to the country. “Many of our elders are afraid, and even some of my friends say I am insane to go back, but what’s the point of having all these fancy degrees if I don’t use them to help my own country?”

Boutros, 36, is on the far edge of an uneasy change that is sweeping the Washington region’s Copts as a swirl of horrific and hopeful events shakes their homeland. Over the past 30 years, the area’s Copts — a proud but insular group of about 3,000 Orthodox Christian immigrants from Egypt — have worked hard, educating their children, building quiet, mostly suburban lives, and establishing a solid niche in government and professional work.

Close-knit and church-centered, they have clung to an ancient faith and bewailed the suffering of family and friends back in Egypt, where Copts have long been a harassed minority in a nation that is 95 percent Muslim. At the same time, the community has faced new fears of persecution in the United States, from Islamic extremist groups and from suspicious Americans who might mistake them for Muslims.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials at St. Mark Coptic Church in Fairfax covered its Arabic sign so the church would not be confused with a mosque and targeted. After a Coptic church was bombed in Egypt in January, holiday worship services here were held under tight security because of fear of a similar attack.

Until recently, Copts have largely kept a low profile, avoiding politics and policy debates, cautiously watching from a distance.

Now, however, the growing tumult in Egypt has made it impossible for many to remain aloof. Outraged by the Egyptian church bombing that killed 23 worshipers on New Year’s Eve, and galvanized by the generally peaceful pro-democracy rebellion that erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the community has found itself plunged into heated debates over where Egypt is headed, whether to join the fledgling local protest movement and how much the United States should intervene.

Some in the Coptic community, particularly the younger generation, envision a bright future for their ancestral homeland with the chance, at last, for true freedom.

Steve Messeh, 26, a financial analyst in Fairfax who grew up in the Washington area, has become an active member of Coptic Solidarity, a two-year-old movement that presses for the rights of Copts in Egypt.

“Growing up in America, I heard about how Copts were persecuted through history, but I never really empathized until now,” Messeh said. “In our community, reaction to the revolution here ran the gamut from anger to fear. We have no idea where it will lead, but we have to take a stand.”

As more local Copts become engaged in the political and religious power struggles unleashed by the Arab Spring, they have been drawn into controversy at home. Many fear Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt are poised to dominate the revolution and coming elections, exposing Copts to more persecution.

A few have called on Washington to intervene. Others defer to church leaders in Egypt, who oppose foreign interference as too provocative.

This spring and summer, several local Coptic groups joined forces with Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) in a legislative campaign to create a special Middle East envoy for religious minorities. The plan was highly controversial in Egypt, and its passage in August drew strong protests from Muslim groups and officials in Cairo, as well as reproaches from some Copts.

“The Christian envoy bill created a huge uproar. The government in Cairo calls us traitors and spies, and anti-Americanism is at an all-time high,” said Raouf Youssuf, a retired State Department officer who lives in Vienna. “Everyone in our community feels strongly about what’s happening in Egypt. We want the revolution to bring freedom and rights and jobs, but we fear it is going on the wrong track.”

Many of Youssuf’s peers, retirees with memories of persecution who are accustomed to deferring to the church, remain reluctant to get involved.

Copts in America have fiercely maintained their identity as Egyptian Christians, even while becoming U.S. citizens and often going to work for the federal government as engineers, diplomats or administrators. They know by heart their thousand-year history of suffering and survival in Egypt, where Copts once held power but now are a small and beleaguered minority.

The first wave emigrated from Egypt in the 1970s, and there are now more than 200,000 Copts living in a dozen states. They socialize mainly through their churches, and almost all marry within their faith.

Most Washington area Copts live in Northern Virginia. On Sundays, hundreds of families crowd into St. Mark for worship, Communion, lunch and child-centered socializing.

The Orthodox services are long and highly ritualized, with bearded, black-robed priests swinging incense and deacons chanting prayers in the ancient Coptic tongue.

In an adjoining basketball gym, children play while waiting for Communion, adults chatter in Arabic and English, and a young priest, Father Anthony Messeh, head of the youth ministry, delivers rousing, often hilarious sermons, illustrated with cartoons.

“Our faith comes from 2,000 years of history, and we want to teach our kids about the martyrs and the saints so they don’t take anything for granted,” said Claudine Hanna of Leesburg, a mother of three. Her husband, Ihab, an engineer, was working in the Pentagon on Sept. 11 and survived.

“We love Egypt, but we are Americans first,” she said.

To a growing number of ambitious young Copts who have spent their lives here, the struggle unfolding in Egypt has created a vital new link to a homeland they barely know and to a faith they once associated mostly with tortured Roman-era saints. Few have taken the plunge like Iris Boutros, abandoning a safe future at home for a risky ad­ven­ture abroad. But more and more are thinking about it.

“In the past, the Copts from my generation only went home to see their relatives or the pyramids, and the Copts in Egypt never came out of their churches,” said Nermien Riad, 35, who runs a nonprofit agency in Merrifield called Coptic Orphans.

Riad spent the summer in Cairo.

“Now you can feel enormous energy in both groups,” she said. “There is more violence, but there is also more hope. There is a huge opportunity for us, and the revolution has already done half the work.”


President: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Retired Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president in May 2014, almost a year after he removed his elected predecessor, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi, from office in a coup.

He had served as armed forced chief under Mr Morsi, and was a key figure in the interim government which took over after the ouster.

Some Egyptians celebrated the possibility that Mr Sisi would bring stability to a country in upheaval since the removal of long-term leader Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011. Others worry that he represents a return to the authoritarian security state that prevailed under Mr Mubarak.

Mr Sisi won a second four-year-term in March 2018 against a sole minor opposition candidate. Human rights lawyer Khalid Ali and former prime minister Ahmad Shafiq withdrew from the race, and the former armed forces chief of staff Sami Anan was arrested.

In addition to Egypt's struggling economy, President Sisi also has to deal with an Islamist insurgency on its borders with Israel and Gaza.


Egypt-Sudan hold military exercise amid crisis with Ethiopia

Commando and air forces from Egypt and Sudan concluded a five-day military exercise at Merowe air base in northern Sudan on April 5, amid a deadlock in talks with Ethiopia over a hydroelectric dam project Addis Ababa is building on the Blue Nile, a tributary of the Nile River.

According to an Egyptian military statement, the exercise, dubbed “Nile Eagles 2,” included joint sorties by multirole fighter jets to mimic the attack of hostile targets and protect vital targets. The drill also featured storming operations, concealment and camouflage operations.

“The Egyptian army stands side by side with the Sudanese army in the same trench to defend it as both armies look forward to a more promising and safer future,” Lt. Gen. Mohamed Farid, the chief of staff of the Egyptian army, said at the conclusion of the military exercise.

He said the joint training will contribute to boosting security of both Egypt and Sudan and underlined the importance for the two countries “to work together against common challenges against the borders.”

Farid said it is important for the two countries to “face joint challenges in order to secure the borders and protect resources,” stressing the need to “quickly implement the exercise to complete an exchange of expertise in order to maintain both countries’ national security.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the drill, Gen. Mohamed Osman Al-Hussein, the chief of staff of the Sudanese Armed Forces, said the joint exercise will help boost relations between Egypt and Sudan and integrate their national security.

Hussein, however, said that the exercise “was not targeting a certain country,” amid reports about a possible military attack against Addis Ababa over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

While Ethiopia says that the GERD aims to generate electricity and achieve economic development, Egypt fears that the project will imperil its water share from the Nile, the country’s only source of freshwater. Sudan, meanwhile, is worried about the safety of its dams and about regulating water flows.

Ethiopia has rejected calls by Egypt and Sudan to postpone the second filling of the dam reservoir until an agreement is reached on the operation of the project.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said April 6 that the latest round of trilateral talks between the three countries in Kinshasa, Congo, failed to make any progress, citing Ethiopia’s rejection of a Sudanese proposal — backed by Cairo — to form an international quartet made up of the African Union, the United Nations, European Union and the United States to resolve the dispute.

“Egypt will take all measures to protect the country’s national security at the proper time,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the private ON TV. The top diplomat said Cairo is coordinating with Khartoum on the GERD crisis. “The unilateral filling of the dam foretells dangerous developments that will threaten the region and international peace and security,” he said.

Shoukry, who flew to Khartoum for talks shortly after the Kinshasa talks, continued, “Egypt and Sudan will not allow any harm to the two countries.”

Sudan, for its part, blamed Ethiopia’s intransigence for the failure of the talks, saying Khartoum is considering all options to deal with the dam dispute.

“This Ethiopian intransigence requires Sudan to consider all possible options to protect its security and its citizens,” the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources said in a statement.

On April 7, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi renewed his warning to Ethiopia of the risk of a conflict over the dam project. “I tell our Ethiopian brothers, 'We should not reach the level that you mess with a water drop in Egypt, because all options are open,'” Sisi said. ”Cooperation between each other and building together is much better than that we disagree and struggle.”

On March 30, Sisi warned that there will be “inconceivable instability in the region” if Egypt’s water supply from the Nile was affected by the GERD.

Gamal Mazloum, a military expert and adviser to the Nasser Military Academy affiliated with the Egyptian army, told Al-Monitor over the phone, "Relations between Egypt and Sudan are strategic and their ties began to improve following the overthrow of the Islamist regime of Omar al-Bashir.”

Egypt has recently moved to strengthen cooperation with Sudan, signing a military pact with Khartoum on March 2. The rapprochement also included military exercises as well as efforts to achieve joint cooperation in industry and trade.

Mazloum said a recent border dispute between Sudan and Ethiopia and the deadlock in talks on the GERD indicate that the two countries could carry out a joint military action against Addis Ababa.

“The military option is still on the table if Ethiopia continues its intransigence on reaching a binding agreement on the GERD,” Mazloum said. “I still believe that if the situation comes to the point of a military action, it will not be in the interest of Ethiopia or stability of the whole region."

Mazloum, however, still hopes for a breakthrough in the negotiations between the two countries on the dam project. “I believe that there could be a last-minute breakthrough, otherwise the situation will explode in a way that will harm the interests of all countries of the region,” he noted.

Ayman Abdel Wahab, a specialist in Nile Basin affairs at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said the failure of the Kinshasa talks was expected.

“There was nothing new in this round of talks as there was no real pressure practiced on Ethiopia to change its position,” Abdel Wahab told Al-Monitor over the phone. “I believe we are heading to escalation that will put all parties at a point of clash.”

Abdel Wahab believes that Cairo and Khartoum will seek to escalate diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia by going to the UN Security Council, the African Union and with countries that have investments in the region in the coming few days to heap the blame on Ethiopia for the failure of the negotiations to reach an agreement on the dam project.

“If Ethiopia moved on with completing the second filling of the dam reservoir, this will be the death knell for the negotiations and this will trigger a reaction from Egypt and Ethiopia,” he said.

Abdel Wahab concluded, “Staging a joint Egyptian-Sudanese military action against Ethiopia remains possible as a last card in response to the Ethiopian intransigence.”


Watch the video: 4th February 2011 (January 2022).