Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Story behind the London Demo...

Just before I start telling you about the day and how it changed lots of the perceptions I had about us (us means Egyptians in the UK or London specifically) I just want to share with you the feeling i had upon seeing 2 situations that summarised a lot of what was giong through my mind:




1. This young fellow in the photo above is the son of Osama Roshdy who is one of the active people around here and he really helped a lot in setting the day, I found him giong to the police officers (who were dispatched by the local government to set up the place where we should stand, protect us, and see if there is anything we need) and he started talking to them, i did not really understand what was giong on until i realised that the blue banner he is holding is the one that has all the torture pictures of last Thursday. He was trying to tell the police officers about why we are here and about what is happening in Cairo, he was trying to tell him how the word "Police" has a totally different meaning where he comes from than here in the UK. Upon seeing that I realised that this is what we are really trying to do.. we want to get the message across to Europe, we want them to know about our Judges, our cause, our government, our suffering.



2. Mr. Kamal Bayoumi was one of the "Fedayeen" working against the English occupation of Egypt before the revolution, he then lived and experienced the 1952 revolution, the 1956 war, then he participated in the buliding of the High Dam in Asswan, afterwards he saw the 1967 defeat and the 1973 war. "Beat the Judges... Arrest the Journalists... WE will Previal" is the sign that Mr. Kamal held up high in front of the embassy, it suddenly came to me how it is a very true represetation of what he went through and of the stamina that stands behind his ever calm ever refreshing face. He fought the Imperialists, the Zionists, and now Dictatorship... he participated in building the High Dam and now he is supporting us to build our High Pride. It is so fascinating to have those kind of people who bind all your history together around you, it is so fascinating to always feed on their support, passion, encouragement, and stories... to always feel that you are a continuation of a strive for a dream that seemed so many times very close to be fulfilled but then suddenly disappeared. Those people teach us the meaning of how to "pursue" what you believe in no matter how many times you get disappointed, they teach us how to grow and tame a resilient "stamina" that would carry us forward and help us defy what might be impossible obstacles... and so Kamal Bayoumi carries on with his fight and we start ours.

---------------

How it all began:

We are a group of Egyptian young professionals, students, journalists, doctors, activists who are currently living permanently or temporarily in the UK. Most of us are very active participants in the cultural, political, and social scene in the UK and specifically London. We represent nearly all of the political spectrum in Egypt but it was never really reason for disagreements, rather, this diversity always exposed us to different ideas, approaches, and it really helped us in creating a very active social shpere that overlapped with other Arab and English communities in the UK. Like so many other Egyptians living abroad we are still very well connected with Egypt either on a personal level or through following up with its news and events. Still like so many other Egyptians we feel like we have a country that we are losing to somebody else who might carry the same nationality as ours but not the same values that we were taught our nation represents. Realising that there is a lot that we can add to convey the voice of the Judges and their supporters to the world we decided not to be marginalised again and to make sure we do make use of our contacts, resources, and talents. The result was "The Egyptian Committe for Support of the Egyptian Judges - London".

The intention is not a one off demo that reflects a sudden enthusiasim that would die away after a while, it is rather a sustained international campaign that engages with the different influential social and media circles in Europe that would help present the views of our Judges to Europe and specifically the UK. We aim at creating more awareness of the Egyptian cause and offering a counter argument to the official version that is usually propagated by the government abroad. We aim at making the support that the current UK government shows to the Mubarak regime a liablility and a burden through increasing the English public awareness to the consequences of that support and how it negatively affects the lives and security of Egyptian civilians who have to deal with the bruitality of the Police thugs. We aim at strengthening the point that there is a lively movement calling for freedom in Egypt that seeks to achieve democracy without the need for any intervention from the Western governments, a movement that is currently standing shoulder to shoulder with its Judges against thugs.

London Demo - May 13th 2006 - Minutes of the day


Release Our Detainees!

Hands Off our Judges!


I arrived at 11:55 with 3 banners that i prepared the night before as well as some flyers that were contributed by the Egyptian Bloggers who supported us. People started arrivying at 12 pm in front of the embassy, we were not that many in number yet however so we decided to stand on the corner untill enough people arrive, by 12:15 there were around 25 of us so we moved towards the entrance. To my surprise we found out that the police (whom we had takesn permission from previously to demonstrate in front of the embassy) had come and arranged for us the place where we will demonstrate (an instant comparison comes to mind with our honourable thugs), they put some iron barriers to identify where we should stand, some signs to re-direct the traffic and then five polic officers stayed with us for protection and help if needed.



One of the embassy staff was outside the entrance delivering some stuff to the inside of the building while we were gathering, when he saw us starting to gather he made a phone call and then two other diplomat looking guys came out (casually dressed) and took a glance at us before making some other phone calls. By the time it was 12:35 Dr. Kamal El Helbawy (Ex Ikhwan Speaker in Europe) had arrived with so many plackards that he prepared for that day. Mr Mohamed Abdel Hakam Diab (Journalist at Al Qods El Arabi) arrived while we were still gathering as well and he handed out to us the statement that would be delivered to the ambassador that we prepared the night before (he did some editing to it and removed the word "Excellency" or in Arabic "Sa'adat Al Safeer" from addressing the ambassador because he said it is against the Egyptian constitution) Sherif El Sayed arrived with some more packhards that he and some other friends prepared the night before. Some other Egyptians who we did not know from before arrived and they said they knew about the demo from the email chains that were going around.


A quick count of the numbers at around 1:00 showed that we were slightly over 50 demonstrators. At that point, Anne Alexander the representative of the Stop the War Coalition (her photo below while giving an interview to the BBC correspondant Inas Ismail)asked me if she could deliver a small message to the people from the coalition. Anne started speaking in a very clear Egyptian Accent Arabic about her time in Egypt studying Arabic at Alexandria University then she talked about the support the Coalition is going to give us over the coming period, she asked us to continue with the pressure on the government and to start thinking about contacting other NGOs and movements to build up support for the Judges. She pointed out the importance of working towards organising a demo on the coming May 25th to further support the judges.


Embassy Security


While we were standing we noticed that at one of the balconies of the building just next to that of the embassy (it is probably the residence of the smbassy staff) there was a man shooting us with a video camera from behind a curtain. Some people from crowd started shouting "Camera.. Camera".... and then suddenly without prior coordination from those demonstrating they all picked up their video cams and their cameras and started taking photos and shooting the guy. The coward then hide himself behind the curtains and stopped shooting, the people started laughing and clapped in a celebration of their petit victory. (In the photo below it is the second window from the left in the red building next to the brown embassy building, he was gone by the time i took this photo... i was not quick enough.)



Ahmed El Azzazy

There are some rumors in London now that Captain Ahmed El Azzazy from the Central Security Force (Amn El Dawla) who was a key figure in the May 2005 demonstrations as he was one of the main torture machines of those days demos has been transfered to the smbassy in London as a reward for his efforts back in Cairo. You can find the Kefaya accusation against him and other security officers here (he is number 7 on the list). It is said he was transfered to London to heat the competition between the rest of the thugs back in Cairo (definitly all of them would prefer the luxurious life of London to the dirty job of beating up those stupid angry protestors... the more the kicking of the protestors chests the higher the chances of a transfer to London or who knows.... maybe New York). This information will still be verified and if proved true then we will see the possibility if he could be legally pursued here in the UK for his crimes.



Above are protestors from whithin the area permitted by the police and below is Mrs. Safa El Sawy the Ex President of the Arab Club in the UK.




Speeches

There were some speakers at the end of the demo that ended with some cheering and the chanting of the Egyptian National Anthem, below is a brief of the speakers and what their speeches were about:



Mr. Ahmed Nasser: He talked about the current situation in Egypt and specifically about the recent events that involved the public torture of protestors in the streets of Cairo. He attacked the Mubarak regime fiercly and pointed out the panic attack that it must be going through at the moment.


Dr. Khadeeja Safwat: she is a Sudanese Ex Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University. She talked about the current political situation and its reflection on the Sudan. Dr Khadeeja stressed that the politics of both countries are strongly intermingled, and she confirmed her support for the Egyptian Judges in their cause.


Mr. Mostafa Abdel Aal: He is an Egyptian Liberal living in the UK, he talked about the importance of our efforts and about the feared Presidential Monarchy. He was synical of the fact that 70 million Egyptians were waiting for a president's son to be born, riased, and trained to be a president as if they do not have one single person who is qualified to take over.


Mr. Mohamed Abdel Hakam Diab: He is a Journalist with Al Qods Al Araby newspaper and one of the founders of the Egyptian British Cultural Forum. He talked about the importance of participation of the younger generations in the current movements. He stressed the fact that current brutality manifested by the regime is a sign of irrational decisions and confusion.


Dr. Kamal El Helbawy: he is the Ex Speaker of El Ikhwan in Europe, he talked about the importance of coordinating our efforts and making sure we inform the public in the UK about what is happening in Egypt.

Finally

One more step beyond the borders of fear, one more step towards freedom.....

Wait for us on Thursday May the 25th. (more information to follow soon).

19 Comments:

At 7:39 AM , Blogger Alia said...

Leaves one beaming with optimisim..
Members of the diaspora have always contributed to the result of national contentions... let's hope this contributes for the best! Keep up the wonderful work!

 
At 10:15 AM , Anonymous Nora Younis said...

Chapeau.. Seeing you brave guys doing this and holding banners in Arabic gives me a great feeling of Solidarity..
Thanks ya Zahran for such detailed and accurate coverage.. Could you also post links to the media coverage of this event? I heard there will also be something by the Egyptians in Canada.. any news??

 
At 12:59 PM , Anonymous MeMo said...

all i can say is
Great work
no .. alot more than great

plz if there is any thing that that we (egyptians at home) can do to help you online may be
once agan
great work keep it going
let every body see the ugly face of the system

 
At 5:25 PM , Anonymous Alif said...

I'd like to clarify something about obtaining permissions before demos which is abused here in Egypt as you probably know. Obtaining such permission in the free world - as far as I know - is a purely routine procedure that can be done by telephone and boils down to notifing the police to serve and protect the citizens. The police cannot deny them this right and the police' reply is not even required.

The plaincloth people who came to view you are likely intellegence, but no one can be sure of course. However Amn AlDawla is State Security Police, while AlAmn AlMarkzy Forces Are Centra Security

In all cases, go after all the bastards you can legally nail were you are. This would be the point when the Egyptian people start to really practice lobbying and cooperate.

tell us more about the British audience. Were there any? How did they react? Did you interact with them?

Salam,

 
At 10:33 PM , Blogger Zeinobia said...

it is a great thing you did in London guys and good luck on the 25th insh Allah

 
At 7:57 AM , Anonymous Amani Saied said...

I'm really jealous of you because I've never been in a demonstration myself! I'm sure it feels nice to sense this solidarity amond people for a good cause. I'm even proud of the British Police and of Ann Alexander. Why can't we have such police and such aware people in Egypt?


Well, as you said it in your blogg, 'One more step beyond the borders of fear, one more step towards freedom..... ' and we count on you, hoping to take part in that.

All my best wishes

 
At 1:25 PM , Anonymous Guy Taylor said...

I was proud to be there, as an non-Arabic speaking activist. Thankfully some of the speeches were interpreted for me!

I work for Globalise Resistance and as a result of the European Social Forum and the call from Egyptian activists we are helping to organise the protest on 25 May. I hope we see a lot more solidarity from the Brits there.

I attended the Cairo Conference this year and was really inspired to see such a diverse group of people getting together and working on the common ground we share - Muslims, Nasserites, Socialists and nationalists, as well as some who wouldn't put themselves in any category.

I have heard there will be a protest in Paris as well, on 24 may. My contact says:
Rassemblement devant l’Ambassade d’Egypte, le 24 mai à 14h, 56, av. d’Iéna, 16ème, métro Iéna
Pour tout contact : solidaritegypte@hotmail.fr

Will post details if I find any more.

 
At 4:08 PM , Blogger Waleed Elmasry said...

I wonder if there is a website for your commite guys, also if i want to share, is there any mailing list that ican be added to, please advice.I moved recently to the UK, and i would love to share.
Thank you in advance.

 
At 12:34 AM , Blogger Maxxed`ouT said...

i live in Paris .. please anyone who knows anything about what will be happening here keep me informed

 
At 7:31 AM , Blogger Faisal said...

Excellent! Keep it going!

 
At 10:48 AM , Anonymous Guy Taylor said...

Maxxed out: please send an email to the given address: solidaritegypte@hotmail.fr I'm certain they'll be delighted to hear from you.

Just thought people might like to see the new front page of the Globalise Resistance website - I nicked oneof the photos from here to give the whole thing a bit of impact. Hope you don't mind!

 
At 4:51 PM , Anonymous Guy Taylor said...

Hi again!

Just heard from a friend in South Korea that there will be a protest in Seoul (I imagine at the Egyptian Consulate or Embassy there) on 26 May.

If you have any friends or family there (I'm not sure how well the Egyptian diaspora is represented in Seoul), the contact for the event is CJ at atgcontact@hotmail.com.

The Koreans had an excellent protest last year in support of Kifaya, so expect a decent turn out there. Yi Ye-Song spoke from Korea at the Cairo Conference this year, good links!

 
At 2:55 PM , Anonymous Guy Taylor said...

Not wishing to get repetitive.... (well in this case I am!)

There will be a mass picket outside the Egyptian Embassy in Athens on May 25 at 7pm organised by the Greek Stop the War Coalition and the Athens Labour Center.

The contact for the Greek STWC is stoppolemo@yahoo.gr.

 
At 7:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am writing u from Canada. the political scene in Egypt is really boiling lately. I was wondering if there is some sort of a support chain in canada too? Please help me contact the right ppl to reach our same goal

 
At 11:11 PM , Blogger hebs said...

Everyone it was FANTASTIC and INSPIRING to see all of you today at Lancaster Hall meeting..I got a massive rush of adrenalin having so many like minded people and voices packed into one room..it was really great, I don't know how come I never knew about all of you before...I've obviously been looking in the wrong places! Will see you Wed and Thursday!

'If you think you're too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito!'

Heba Moussa

 
At 12:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi

What you thinking about it?

Vicodin

Bye

 
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At 1:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, I'm an Egyptian residing in Belgium and i am trying to get a figure on the number of Egyptians living abroad as part of my research. I see that you are based in London. Any clue how many Egyptians are in London? (Iam aware that you can only give me an estimate or a random figure of Egyptians residing in london not the visitors or students). if not, do you know where i can get these figures? All the best, marwa
please contact me on marwa.helmy@student.kuleuven.be

 
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