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The Egyptian Revolution, Class Conflict And The Meaning Of ‘Thuggery’

Essay: The aftermath of revolution can carry society toward democracy or facism. Understanding where Egypt will wind up means listening to the words used to describe the conflicts that erupt.

Marwa Maziad

CAIRO - Political science has long taught us that the shape of a political system that emerges in the wake of a revolution is largely defined by the alliances forged among the different social classes.

When the middle class is strong and allied with the elite, as was the case in France, England and the United States, a democratic system is formed. Instead, when a conservative elite allies with the military -- and the middle class, farmers and workers are marginalized -- a fascist system may emerge. When farmers are strongest, like in early 20th century China and Russia, the ground is more fertile for the coming of a Communist regime.

In the current transitional stage, we should pay attention to the alliances being forged between different social groups. The language we use can be a clue. Let us for instance contemplate the word "thug", the Arabic equivalent for which is derived from a Turkish word for a weapon.

This word has an essentially classist connotation. When we use it to refer to people who have been paid money by members from the former regime to attack peaceful, civilized protests staged by other classes, we attach a classist meaning to the term -- since it reflects an economic relationship between a payer and a payee.

If we use it to mean an ordinary citizen who has revolted against the marginalization of his class and who uses violence to voice his/her rejection of these conditions, this is still a classist definition. This citizen has chosen to respond, as an individual or a member of a class, to discrimination against the class to which he /she belongs. This discrimination may have been an institutionalized practice by the police or a social form of violence exercised by other classes.

Both ways, that person is branded a thug because he/she does not fit the description of the civilized, educated, peaceful protester. This description is symptomatic of an underlying class problem that Egyptian society may not be ready to tackle.

I don't support the use of violence in protests, but I am only trying to find an explanation for those bouts of violence. If our discussions in the media continue to perpetuate the same classist image of thugs then we will be no different from the international media which have produced stereotypical images of Muslim and Arabs as being terrorists.

We'd better be careful how we choose to describe ourselves. We should also pay close attention to the alliances currently being formed, for they will shape Egypt's political system in the future.

Read the entire article in Al-Masry Al-Youm

photo - Ahmad.Hammoud

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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