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Egypt

Economy

Ukraine War, North African Food Shortages And Whiff Of A New Arab Spring

Rising tensions in wheat productions, explosion of oil prices, fear of the unknown, could the Ukraine war lead to a popular Arab uprising similar to the one in 2011?

TUNIS — History tells us that in 2010-2011 the rise in prices for raw materials, especially wheat, was one of the main causes of the uprisings that spread across the Arab world.

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Today, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is putting many of the world's economies dependent on wheat imports to the test, notably in North Africa. This prompts the question: Could there be a second “Arab Spring?”

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India Faces Monumental Challenge As War Chokes Agriculture Market

There is no country that has more hungry mouths to feed than India, which faces not just food inflation that is roiling the global markets but also vulnerability to fertilizer production costs.

NEW DELHI — There is no such thing as a localized conflict in a globalized world. Sooner rather than later, fallouts from the Russia-Ukraine war will overwhelm the operations of developed and developing economies alike, leading up to the largest, and possibly, the worst food crisis the world has seen in decades.

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The focal point for the imminent crisis emerges from the pivotal position the two countries occupy in the global food exports matrix. Ukraine and Russia together command a lion’s share of exports in wheat, barley and corn.

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The Mirage Of Egypt’s New Capital City

In an area the size of Singapore, Egypt is building its new capital. Constructed under the close control of the military and the head of state, the city embodies the grand ambitions of an increasingly autocratic president. But will it turn out to be a ghost city?

CAIRO — The concrete structure rises to a height of 1,263 feet (385 meters) on the edge of an expressway, where asphalt, as soon as it is laid down, lets out acrid fumes. With its double collar that licks the sky, the Iconic Tower is already the tallest building in Africa. It is also the flagship of this vast assembly of open-air construction sites over 450 square miles, an area the size of Singapore, which will be the location of the new Egyptian capital.

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Butterfly Wings & Wheat: How The Ukraine War Could Spark Global Food Crises

In an interconnected world, we are faced again with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect" when a localized conflict can have far-reaching consequences and trigger lasting crises. For our world's broken food systems, the war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call.

-OpEd-

Could the conflict that erupted in Ukraine cause a new bread revolution in Egypt? Alas yes, the conditions are in place for this — and other similar upheavals — to happen.

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The outbreak of war in Ukraine — which is upsetting, unexpected and utterly unjustifiable — again leaves us feeling powerless and overwhelmed by circumstances far beyond our control. In a deeply interconnected world, this also forces us to again reckon with the negative implications of the so-called "butterfly effect:" how a dramatic event limited to a specific geographical area can have unexpected consequences in faraway areas of the planet, laying the foundations for serious and lasting crises.

Here, I want to focus specifically on the agri-food sector, in light of a sad fact: conflict and hunger are intimately connected phenomena, when one occurs the other follows almost naturally.

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Geopolitics
Ehsan Salah

Why Middle East Countries Flipped, And Joined Push For Russia To Halt War

Just two days after they'd signed an Arab League statement that did not condemn Russia and instead called for diplomacy, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined 138 other nations in a UN resolution demanding Russia halt its invasion of Ukraine.

CAIRO — Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates joined 138 other nations to vote in favor of a United Nations General Assembly resolution demanding Russia halt its invasion of Ukraine and withdraw all troops.

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The move Wednesday by the three regional power brokers came just two days after they signed onto an Arab League statement that did not condemn Russia and instead called for diplomacy, an avoidance of escalation and consideration of the humanitarian situation.

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Society
Nada Arafat

COVID Exposes Harsh Reality Of Egypt's Public Schools

In Egypt, private schools are driven solely by profit. As the economic effects of COVID-19 forces families to choose cheaper schools, many parents are forced to confront the country's endemic education problems. And they're discovering that expensive private schools are better in outward appearance only.

For the past several months, Heba Ismail has been wracked with feelings of anxiety and guilt over her son’s future and mental health.

It all started when her husband lost his job amid the coronavirus pandemic and they could no longer afford the fees for seven-year-old Ali Eddin’s private school. She transferred him to a cheaper experimental public school — a type of school that teaches part of the curriculum in English. However, far from being a smooth transition, Ali Eddin’s experience at the new school was “devastating,” Ismail says, prompting her to keep her son from attending classes and getting him tutored at home. “If I had the money, I would transfer him back to his old school, no question,” she says.

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Geopolitics
Osman El Sharnoubi

When The Only Way Out Of Prison Is The Price Of Your Citizenship

Several notable political prisoners in Egypt have renounced their citizenship to gain freedom. The choice is a difficult one to make personally, and the practice is highly questionable politically.

CAIRO — On January 8, Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath arrived in Paris after Egyptian authorities released him from prison and deported him after over 900 days in remand detention. He walked out of Charles de Gaulle Airport with his wife Celine Lebrun-Shaath to a cheering crowd of supporters. Yet the conditions of his release were no cause for celebration — Shaath was forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship in exchange for his freedom.

Shaath's detention was part of a continuing crackdown on political dissent under Egypt's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has trageted liberal critics.

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Society
Mada Masr

Inside Egypt's Shocking Rise In Capital Punishment

While executions were once rare, Egypt has become a global leaders in judicial killings amidst growing secrecy around the legal system.

CAIRO — It was around noon on February 20, 2019 when Mounira* first heard the news. She was at home watching television when a news bulletin flashed on the screen announcing that nine prisoners had been executed that morning at dawn, among them her 27-year-old son Fouad*. A year earlier, the men had been convicted of the 2015 assassination of Public Prosecutor Hesham Barakat and sentenced to death. The sudden announcement struck her like a thunderbolt.

Fouad was arrested in 2015 and tried in a military tribunal (Case 514) about which there is no public information. He was eventually acquitted, yet while in detention, he had been added to the assassination case.

“When he received an acquittal in the first case, I held out some hope that he would come out of the public prosecutor [assassination] case as well. I told myself, ‘these aren’t sham trials, they actually look at the case files,’” Mounira said.

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Geopolitics
Mohamed Tozy

Autopsy Of The Muslim Brotherhood's Failed Political Project

A decade after the Arab Spring, the Islamist political movement driven by the Muslim Brotherhood, from Egypt to Morocco and beyond, continues to flirt with more extreme Salafist elements to build popular support — and continues to show its utter incapacity to properly run a national government.

-Analysis-

The momentous setback of the Moroccan Justice and Development Party (PJD) this past September has had everyone in the political world talking, including Islamists themselves. Abdelilah Benkirane, the former prime minister who returned as the head of the party following an extraordinary congress on Oct. 30, emphasized the responsibility of the party itself in this defeat, including "internal quarrels and renouncing the values of Islam and the fundamentals of Islamist militancy, including selflessness."

The outgoing party leaders, instead, described the defeat as a kind of puzzle, even leaving the doors open to "deep state" conspiracy theories.

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Future
Gado Alzouma

Why Africa Has So Few Nobel Prizes In The Sciences

Even as it celebrates this year's literature prize going to Tanzanian author Abdulrazak Gurnah, Africa is again completely absent from the list of Nobel winners in science. In research as elsewhere, money is the key.

Nobel Prize recipients from around the world have been celebrating their achievements this month at their respective award ceremonies. But besides Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner in the literature category, the African continent was largely absent from the awards — most notably in the science categories. But this is nothing new.

With the notable exception of Egypt, which boasts a Nobel Prize in chemistry, and South Africa, which has five in chemistry, physiology and medicine, over the years Africa only has obtained Nobel Prizes for literature or peace. By comparison, the United States leads the way with 296 laureates, followed by Germany and Japan, with 94 and 25 awards respectively.

Many would be tempted to find the explanation for this poor African performance in a lack of "predisposition for science" or "scientific spirit" among our people. This is not the case: The capacity to produce scientific breakthroughs and to make discoveries does not lie in any "superior intelligence," in a supposed "genius," in alleged "genetic predispositions," or in the culture of the people.

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Geopolitics
Abdullah El-Haddad

​An Egyptian Son's Plea: For​ My Father And Arab Spring Reconciliation

Essam El-Haddad, a senior adviser to President Morsi, was jailed more than eight years ago. His son Abdullah continues to fight for his father's liberation, which he says is a necessary path toward national union in post-Arab Spring Egypt.

-Essay-

CAIRO — My heartbeat quickens as I see my mother's name flash on my phone screen. I stop everything I'm doing and try to remember to breathe. I lift the phone to my ear and brace myself for the bad news that will inevitably come about my father who has been locked in an Egyptian prison for more than eight years. They say things get easier with time, but these phone calls flout that rule. Nothing about them gets easier, especially when I'm receiving them in forced exile.

My father, Essam El-Haddad, was a senior adviser to President Mohammed Morsi. He was received by foreign governments and met with officials around the world. Now, at 67 years old, he languishes in solitary confinement. Despite his failing health, he has been denied medical care, having suffered four heart attacks since his detention. The little we know about my father's circumstances we learned through the rare occasions our family was allowed to visit him by Egypt's prison authorities. These visits have stopped since 2016.

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Society
Nada Arafat

Harder Time: How Egypt Cuts Prisoner Communication With Loved Ones

Letters from inmates provide a crucial link with the outside world, and yet the process of sending and receiving them in Egyptian prisons is both arduous and arbitrary as an extra means of control.

CAIRO – Abdelrahman ElGendy says letters were a crucial lifeline for him during the time he spent locked up in five different prisons between 2013 and 2020. "Letters were not only important, they literally saved my life," he says. "I was only living because I was looking forward to them from one visit to the next, and I would read them over until the paper became worn and torn."

Last month, the family of imprisoned software engineer and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah — who had been held in remand detention for over two years until his referral to emergency trial last week — announced it would take legal steps to ensure that Abd El Fattah is able to send letters to them following a period when prison authorities refused to allow him any correspondence.

According to the family, besides prison visits once a month, Abd El Fattah's letters are the only way they can gain assurance of his condition, and when his letters are denied, that in itself is an indicator that his treatment in detention is worsening. The numerous legal requests and official complaints by the family have been met only with silence by authorities.

While letters provide a crucial link between prisoners and the outside world, the process of sending and receiving them in Egyptian prisons is an arduous one as a result of arbitrary restrictions put in place by authorities.

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Society
Dalilah

Online Anonymity: Between Fear And Political Power

CAIRO — I've been thinking lately about my relationship with anonymity, and the way my understanding of it — which used to be somewhat one-sided — has been evolving, both in personal writing and in political work. In a polarized environment, we become trapped in a reactive position, especially as some of the approaches adopted recently by feminist organizations have come under heavy attack. Our energy is consumed by creating a discourse to counter our attackers, preventing us from reflecting more deeply on our tools and approaches. It seems that anonymity will be part of our arsenal for some time, so I believe it's important to understand it as a wide-ranging approach in which we can occupy different positions. Examining it in this way may help us arrive at a better understanding of its potential as well as its limitations.

Some years ago, I wrote a personal piece about a very private experience that caused me an immense sense of pain and frustration. I felt defeated by all the institutions of the regime. The experience made me realize that my body is not my own, no matter how much I try to take possession of it. I realized that the obstacles that stood in my way were institutional and structural, and that it was beyond my individual ability to change them. I published the piece under a pseudonym, but I also said how much I wished I could publicly declare the experience as mine, to own my anger and pain in front of everybody.

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Egypt
Osman El Sharnoubi

Grocery Shopping In Egypt: Local Ingredients Meet Global Trends

A new high-end food retailer, Gourmet, is helping reshape Egypt's supermarket industry.

CAIRO — A few months ago, I decided to challenge Gourmet.

Egypt's most prominent high-end grocery chain had earned a reputation for stocking ingredients that were hard to find anywhere else. For foodies, Gourmet had opened the door to previously inaccessible recipes. I'm not a foodie, but I do have access to The New York Times" cooking app after one of my colleagues generously gifted me a subscription. Standing outside Gourmet's branch in Maadi, I scrolled through the app looking for a dish that was — in orientalist parlance — "exotic." I eventually landed on a recipe requiring several ingredients unlikely to be found in any Cairo supermarket: Thai red curry paste, Fresno or serrano red chile, unsweetened coconut flakes and baby spinach. The dish? Red curry lentils with sweet potatoes and spinach.

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Egypt
Yasmin El-Rifae

Honor Killings, #MeToo And The Future For Egyptian Women

Women in Egypt have definitively broken the silence around sexual violence — but what comes next?

CAIRO — About two weeks ago, Dalia's doorman, landlord, and neighbors — at least three men in total — suspecting her of having sex or some kind of sexual interaction with a guest, forced their way into her apartment in the Cairo neighborhood of Salam, beat her and either threw her out of the window or terrified her so much that she jumped. The National Council for Women, missing the point, said in its press release that Dalia's body was found "fully clothed." Newspapers reported that the prosecution had ordered a vaginal examination of her corpse.

Two weeks earlier, a draft of a long-awaited personal status law was shown to the public. The draft does nothing that women hoped it might to advance their legal standing — it in fact regresses it in several areas. The bill further diminishes women's already embattled legal and financial guardianship rights over themselves and their children: Being of legal age is not enough to legally consent to marriage — a woman's male relatives can object to the marriage within a year. Being the mother of a child is not enough for a woman to issue their birth certificate, open a bank account for him/her, or consent to their surgery — a power of attorney granted by the child's father or court document is necessary.

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Egypt

Long Lines, Mixed Message As Egypt's Vaccine Rollout Sputters

Only about 150,000 of the country's 100 million people have been vaccinated so far against COVID-19, and in some crowded health centers, people wait hours only to be turned away.

CAIRO — Vaccine centers across Egypt have witnessed long wait times, insufficient supply and bureaucratic procedures that have made it difficult for many to secure shots to boost their immunity against COVID-19.

At one Cairo hospital, a Mada Masr correspondent witnessed the long lines first-hand, and Doctors Syndicate council member Ibrahim al-Zayat said that the alarming overcrowding situation is worst in the more densely populated areas of Upper Egypt and Cairo.

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