February 07, 2014
CAIRO — After the January 25 2011 revolution, Egypt’s political sphere suddenly cracked wide open for stormy debates about concepts that swung between the super shallow and predictable, to the extremely deep and philosophical.
The ongoing disagreements and political struggles have generated much re-evaluation, as well as some aggressive reactions. One of the most widely impactful phenomena born during this period is labeling. Due to this labeling, many have complained that opinions are not being discussed as much as the individuals behind them are.
Here’s a dictionary of terms to use in a conversation about the revolution to demoralize your opponents without having to actually prove your point or try to understand where they’re coming from.
The Tahrir people — Bitouå al-tahrir
This was the phrase used in the very early days of the revolution to describe the masses of demonstrators sitting in Cairo’s central public square, blocking traffic and stopping the tourists from coming to Egypt.
2 million people protesting in Tahrir Square on Feb 11 2011. Photo by Jonathan Rashad via Creative Commons.
The revolutionaries — al-sowwar
Under pressure from internal and external sources, the state-controlled media outlets had to change their tone and stop being aggressive toward demonstrators. The resulting acceptance of revolutionary acts was accompanied by fatherly attempts to contain the demands and isolate them from the possibility of real change.
Revolutionary youth — shabab al-thawra
After the fall of Mubarak’s regime, which was beneficial to more than one political player in the scene, there were two main “unmentionables” that needed to be eliminated from the equation. This was not a coup, nor was it an Islamic revolution. There had to be a figure to reward/blame who was not an actual body with any actual ambition. Anybody between the age of 16 and 40 who expressed support for the revolution were called “revolutionary youth.” There were subtle implications of recklessness and lack of both vision and organization.
Human rights people — bitouå ho.ou el-insan; later turned into ‘activists’ — noshataa
Democracy, public participation, critical masses, coexistence and political balance maps. Strange expressions like these were being heard for the first time by a lot of people. Many felt even just the way these words sounded were an alien concept. A tough reaction was taken toward mumblings of this sort.
Honorable citizens — mowatineen shorafaa
When Egypt was being ruled by a bunch of old army generals calling themselves SCAF, a lot of unfortunate events happened on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere. Violence between demonstrators and police had become too mainstream, so demonstrators decided to fight each other. The residents of a specific area would sometimes rise up to throw stones at demonstrators chanting anti-SCAF chants. Since then, people showing unconditional support toward the authorities have been called honorable citizens. Other expressions, suggesting that such people work in the sex industry, have also been used.
The couch party — hizb al-kanaba
If you can’t convince a person why revolution is a good thing, you can just call him a member of the couch party. He will not like you anymore, but it will spare you finding difficult answers to his, and maybe your own, taboo questions like: Why is the revolutionary act so holy? What is martyrship? Is revolution good because it’s a revolution, or because of the way it changes things? ... etc.
Remnants of the Mubarak regime — feloul
We all know who the bad guys are? … Cool, let’s move on.
Lime squeezers — åasiry al-laymoun
For a lot of Egyptian revolutionaries and intellectuals, bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power — even though it turned out to be a threat to their own lifestyles and personal values — was a better choice than voting for Ahmad Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister and the strong face of the old regime’s ambitions. In Egypt, squeezing the proverbial lime on yourself is what you do when you force yourself into a choice you hate. It’s an act of weakness by a group of people who don’t have many choices.
Soft elite — al-nokhba al-tariyya
The values behind which choosing Morsi was being justified needed to be completely eliminated. Voices going on about things like “the necessity of respecting the people’s choice” and similar (soft) opinions needed to be discredited as quickly as possible. Certain other players did not want such pressures bringing into question the legitimacy of their plans.
Glue sniffers — shammameen al-kulla
After the euphoria of January 25, it was quite difficult to justify going out onto the streets. The elephant in the room finally became talked about: You brought this mess to the country and it’s time for you to shut up, for ever. Any solidarity with physical presence on the ground, any alignment with pure revolutionary values in contrast to real practical political gains, is called “glue sniffing.” And you will be preserved by society as a “glue sniffer,” like the homeless children who live on downtown Cairo streets and sniff glue to get high, a lot of whom were killed during revolution by police. This specific label — after June 30, 2013 to increase further in importance — with its obvious classist insensitivity and cruelty is very reflective of the reactionary nature of the majority who benefited from the system. Waiting for the economy, security and general morale to be bad enough for your argument to shine is such a capitalist technique.
Freelance activists — noshataa al-sabbouba
With a deliberately cartoonish impersonation of a fake posh accent, you can call any individual talking about democracy a “freelance activist.” This label contrives to associate these values with corruption, bad intentions and alien-ness from Egyptian society. Now the aggression against these democratic opinions is aimed toward socially isolating them and whipping up the hatred of the general public.
Sheep — khirfan
The Brotherhood are famous for being very organized. The have very tight hierarchy and leadership protocols. A lot of young people among the Brotherhood have been called “sheep” for following assignments they have from above without personal critical thinking. I don’t know how people using terms like these thought they would help the Brotherhood youth like them more, but what I know for sure is that it didn’t create a very friendly environment.
Sawiris’s dogs — kilab sawierse; later ‘Tawadros’s dogs’ — kilab Tawadros
A lot of voices among the Islamist project really, really hate Christians. They also think that any harm to the political Islam project is nothing but a Christian effort to destroy Islam. A lot of journalists or public voices who were critical of the Brotherhood’s performance have been called the dogs of Tawadros (the pope) because they have probably been pet by him to bark at the Muslims.
Terrorists — irhabiyeen
After the military’s interference in the political sphere, for some reason a lot of terrorists suddenly appeared and wanted to kill Egyptians. Anti-military acts — starting from bombing cars and gunfights with military personnel, all the way down to throwing stones, demonstrating or writing anti-military Facebook statuses — were all considered terrorist acts. Long story short: Terrorists don’t like the military, the military likes you, and so if you don’t like the military, you are a terrorist.
Coupers — inquilabiyeen
People who think that June 30 2013 wasn’t a military coup don’t like it being called a military coup. People who think it was a coup don’t like it being called a revolution. People who think June 30 was not a coup don’t like being called coup supporters and the people who think it was a coup like calling them so. Eventually, the people who don’t like June 30 2013 being referred to as a coup decided that it is a coup and they like it way.
Photo by RamyRaoof via Flickr
Military boot lickers — laåiquy al-biyada
The word used for “lickers” is such sophisticated, classic Arabic. Even though it’s meant to spread among people as if it’s organic, there is an Islamist flavor in it that you can sense, maybe because it sounds like it was formulated in the 1940s. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood are not behind it, you will very much likely be accused of being a Brotherhood member if you use it. Because very few people are able to understand that being critical of the military could be practiced without benefiting the Brotherhood.
Effeminates — mokhannathein
The more grandiloquent version of the term “sissies” — how ironic — was manufactured by intellectuals who aligned themselves with the military to describe the intellectuals who didn’t. It is used usually in conversations in which people are talking about the gravity of using excessive force against demonstrators, or random arrests. The term, sunk in misogyny, is quite reflective of the failed state of Egyptian intellectualism right now. The failure that Egyptian intellectuals sensed in all their attempts to communicate with the masses of Egyptians, either through democratic battles for political participation, through media appearances, or through trying to have any real impact on the culture.
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The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
October 21, 2021
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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Kayhan is a Persian-language, London-based spinoff of the conservative daily of the same name headquartered in Tehran. It was founded in 1984 by Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, the owner of the Iranian paper. Unlike its Tehran sister paper, considered "the most conservative Iranian newspaper," the London-based version is mostly run by exiled journalists and is very critical of the Iranian regime.
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