Geopolitics

Inside The Muslim Brotherhood’s Plans For Egypt’s Future

The Islamic organization's new chairman Dr. Badie, and another top Brotherhood official, tell La Stampa that after Mubarak is forced out the government will finally be chosen by the people. And if they choose an Islamic state?

CAIRO - "My husband would have been very happy to speak to you, but he's in jail." The wife of Essam El Erian, spokesman for the Muslim brotherhood, sounds distraught on the telephone, but not desperate. Banned by the government, the Brotherhood and their families have gotten used to roundups by the authorities. "They took him on Friday, after prayers, I don't have any more news about him. The best thing, if you want to speak to Mohammed Badie is to go in person to the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood."

We take El Erian's advice and head straight for the Manial district, and an address on a beautiful residential street along the river, called El Malek El Saleh. Waiting for us at the top of the marbled front steps are two security guards dressed in black. We explain that we have an appointment, but they already know: a quick security search, and we find ourselves in the waiting room on the first floor. In a gentle Arabic cadence, a secretary lets us know that Dr. Badie, the new General Guilde of the Muslim Brotherhood, is expected at a meeting of opposition leaders, and would be able to offer us just a few minutes of his time. We head up to the second floor, where a carved wooden door leads to his dark offices. This organization is officially banned in Egypt, as the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has equated them with Al Qaida, thanks in part to their old links with Osama Bin Laden's deputy, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri. Still, the nameplate on the door does not try to hide where we are: first in Arabic and then in English, "Muslim Brotherhood."

Badie, 67, a trained veterinarian, who last year became the eighth head in the history of the organization founded in 1929, is said to want to focus the Brotherhood on more social activities. He hails from the more traditionalist wing of the organization. Bearded and wearing a traditional fez, he lays out the Brotherhood's position: "Our line is clear: the regime has failed and is now collapsing. There is only one way out: Mubarak must listen to the people, and resign. Then the people will decide how they want to be guided."

We ask if the sudden swell of the protest has caught him off guard. "It does not matter. It only counts that it is happening, and that we support it." And will the revolution be used to create an Islamic state? "This is something the people must decide."

Before leaving for his meeting, Badie introduces us to Sherif Abul Magd, a professor of engineering at Helwan University, who has ruled the Muslim Brotherhood in Giza: "He speaks for me."

Abul Magd wastes no time, and in perfect English goes on the attack: "Mubarak is stupid, or he is getting bad advice. The regime is finished. The people on the streets are demanding his resignation, and what does he do? He names (Omar) Suleiman as Vice-President and (Ahmed) Shafiq as Prime Minister, two men from the military. Is this the message he wants to send? Doesn't he understand that to salvage the situation he should at least have chosen civilians? Anyway, these are his problems. For us, he's finished. "

For now, however, Mubarak is still in place. But as he shifts on the couch that faces out the window toward the river, Abul Magd explains the strategy: "Continue the protest until he resigns." The tanks worry him, but ultimately he "believe that ultimately the army will line up with the people, and against the dictator. In any case, the protest should not challenge the military: we do not want a bloodbath. The protesters should peacefully demonstrate every day to repeat their demands: the government will not hold on for long. What can he do? If tomorrow Mubarak blocks access to Tahrir Square, we'll go elsewhere. Stopping the demonstrations is easy, all he has to do is resign."



If this happens, the Muslim Brotherhood already has a plan in place. Abul Magd explains: "The Constitution provides that in such cases the leader of the Parliament assumes the presidency on an interim basis. In our opinion, it is not enough: he should be complemented by five highly respected judges from different backgrounds, to create a presidential committee. This committee should make changes to the Constitution in favor of more democracy, and then hold elections within two months for Parliament and the presidency. At that point the power will be back in the hands of the people."

Before being arrested, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Essam El Erian had told us that the protests had caught the organization by surprise, a sign that it is not all-powerful in Egypt. "This should reassure the West," Abul Magd says.

But do they have the power to create an Islamic state? "We are convinced that Islam is the best model of life. Just look at our laws, 80% of which are inspired by Muslim principles," Abul Magd says. "The Islamic state is not in conflict with democracy, but it must be left to the people to choose it." And if you are chosen, will the peace process with Israel continue? "Why, there is a peace process? Israel only wants to impose its will, with the help of the Americans and (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud) Abbas.The PLO no longer represents the Palestinian people, peace is impossible without an agreement with Hamas."

Abul Magd shrugs off the suspicion that the Muslim Brotherhood is an offshoot of Al Qaeda: "Al Qaeda no longer exists. Maybe it existed years ago, but now is just an invention of the CIA to justify the war on terrorism. "

It is time to leave, for Abul Magd to join Badie at the summit of opposition leaders, and he offers to accompany us in his car. On the way, we encounter a roadblock of vigilantes, who block the road with sandbags, "You see? This is fault of the police, who have disappeared," he says. "They've also opened the doors of the prisons to send the criminals in the city. It is part of a plan of the Ministry of the Interior to terrorize the people, and give Mubarak an excuse for his crackdown."

Abul Magd says the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters will not be intimidated. "These leaders are traitors who deserve a court martial. But meanwhile, our people already controls the streets."

Read the original article in Italian

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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