Category Archives: Arab world

The Good, the Bad and Saudi Women, who drive


SaudiWomandrivingAfter a joyous couple of months, during which I was captured by surf and Sri Lankan chill, I had the warmest of receptions in Lowlands Country by both my dear friends Rick and Louis and the weather. Having spent last summer in Central America, experiencing long summer days, with sunsets after 10 pm, which used to be so normal once, have become something to marvel at.



Drive, Baby, Drive

While enjoying a fabulous spring and beginning of summer in western Europe, a country at the bottom of my ‘wanna-go list’ came in the news, as it attempts to catch up with modern times. Saudi Arabia has lifted the ban on female motorists. It made me think of cultural relativism and the absoluteness of good and evil. As part of social liberalism and political correctness- there might be a fine line between the two- one is not to judge other people’s practices and beliefs based on one’s own culture. It is considered ethnocentric and just not terribly sophisticated in the eyes of many intellectually inclined lefties.

Travel vs. Residency: the Dark Fairy Experience

During my time at the African Med, a bit more than eight years ago, I realised that experiencing a culture while travelling, is something completely different than doing so while actually living in said culture. I absolutely loved my first time in Egypt. I was based in Umm ad-dunya, my beloved Cairo, for a few weeks. It was Ramadan, which is a very festive time, a bit like Christmas in this part of the world, just with no alcohol and better weather. Life was tame during the day, but after sunset and iftar, the evening meal to break the fast, the city was captured by a festival atmosphere, which was a true joy to experience. During Eid I travelled to the oasis of Siwa in the west of the country, near the Libyan border, where life in the desert seemed peaceful and almost idyllic.

About 18 months later, when I had been living in the country for about six months as part of my academic year abroad, I realised I was far less open-minded towards other cultures than I had previously assumed. Being used to undertake stuff on my own, I found it hard to discover that, women, who want to do stuff solo are rather vulnerable in Egypt, and one needs the ‘protection’ of a man. Ideally your husband or father, otherwise a brother. As a foreigner you need to rely on a male friend, who will always be from a wealthier family, well-travelled and used to friendships between men and women. It’s not that I found my own culture superior, it’s just that I really didn’t dig that aspect of Egyptian culture.

Relative to Culture or Universal Good

Many of us have been raised in a culture of relativism: there is no such thing as absolute good or evil. What is considered okay in one culture is seriously frowned upon in another (sex before marriage, alcohol consumption, female circumcision.) Although I have been conditioned not to judge a foreign culture based on my own experiences, beliefs and practices, I am reconsidering the relativity of good and evil. I do believe there is absolute evil. How relative can shit be when it comes to the act of rape or child molestation?

To bring this back to the lifting of the ban on women drivers, I wonder why I should have considered this ban part of culture. Something that is not intrinsically good or bad, rather than an infringement of the universal human right of freedom of movement in a vehicle of one’s choosing?

There is something weighty and almost sacred about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, as the name says, entails universal values. Where then, do we draw the line between universal good and evil and culture differences that are ‘just’ relative? I am not saying I have the answer. I don’t know who exactly would decide on the universality of good and evil in practice. I am well aware it is not as black and white as portrayed in fairy tales and cartoons, but maybe our culture of relativism is a cop out that is just too easy.



Twice Upon a Time in Morocco


Camel beach, Morocco

After my Latin American adventure, I returned to Europe, where I got a warm reception, as always, from my dear friends Rick and Louis and a cold reception from the weather. The weather was manageable, as I connected with family and friends and planned to go to Southern Africa within the next couple of weeks for more sun, surf and family time. African care and efficiency was not what I hoped and expected it to be however, much to my disappointed and my visa couldn’t be arranged in time, despite having booked five months in advance. As I wanted more surf and didn’t want to waste a ticket or spend winter in Europe, I decided to go to Morocco instead.



El Maghreb, Ya3nie (So, Morocco)

Although Morocco, or el Maghreb in Arabic, wouldn’t be as hot as the southern hemisphere and I wouldn’t be connecting with blood relatives, I would still be visiting Mother Africa and connecting with my surf family. In Rio I met surfer Kareem, a lovely and very talented guy, who owns a surf camp in the village of Tamraght near the more well-known surfer village Taghazout, located just north of Agadir in Morocco. I had my very first surfing experience in the same village about nine years ago. Kareem made me an offer, which was hard to refuse and my Finnish surf sister Leena- say Layna– who I also met in Rio, would be there as well, so off to Morocco I went. It was great meeting Kareem and Leena again and to get to know other surfers and non-surfers at the camp, yet Morocco was a bit of a shock to the system. In Morocco too, the weather did unusual things and in the first week in particular, it was exceptionally cold for the time of year. In general, in northern and western Europe, it’s warm indoors when it’s cold outside. North African houses are not built for the cold, however, so you’re wearing a coat and a million other layers indoors, which is wrong on so many levels. In addition to that, the waters were also colder than usual and I was really suffering. I was cold before I entered the water. My wetsuit was too thin, I didn’t have any boots, wearing two wetsuits made me feel very restricted, I couldn’t get a thicker wetsuit; all in all, I mainly felt uncomfortable in the waters. As a bad carpenter blaming her tools and circumstances, I barely caught any waves and I don’t feel I’ve made any progress, which was quite disappointing, but that is surfing and that is life. Surrender to what is (and isn’t) and all that jazz.


The times they are a-changin’


Tamraght village mosque

Tamraght hadn’t changed much. I’m sure more surf camps have opened their doors in the last decade, but the Berber-community-on-a-hill still has an authentic and sleepy village-feel, unlike nearby Taghazout, which is a surfer’s town and completely geared towards riders from abroad. The camp’s instructors took us to nearby beaches, like Banana beach, Camel beach and Desert point and we made an excursion to Imsouane, which is about an hour and half’s drive away towards Essaouira. Imsouane is a small fishers’ village located in a bay and known for the longest rideable waves in Morocco. I had visited the village nine years ago and it had changed considerably. In 2009, you would only find locals on the waves and there wasn’t a tourist infrastructure whatsoever. Now you have camps, hostels and guest houses offering surf and yoga, surf shops, cafes and restaurants. The latter three are mainly housed in shacks and Imsoune still has a very chilled vibe. I hope it stays that way. Nine years ago I was mainly a nuisance to the local boys in the waters and didn’t catch anything at whichever beach. This time I was better informed about surfing etiquette, yet caught very little. I hope it’s a case of third time lucky, as I really like Morocco and I would like to enjoy its famous waves. One thing is certain; I ain’t returning in winter. I’m a wimp; I don’t like cold weather and I like surfing in waters colder than 17 degrees even less. Another splendid excuse to hit tropical waters.

Jordan: the Uprising and the Great Peace


arab revoltA week ago it was Independence Day in El Urdun, or Jordan in transliterated Arabic. This year 2016 is extra special as this month it will be exactly 100 years after the beginning of the so-called Arab Revolt. This uprising was immortalised in the cinematographic classic Lawrence of Arabia on T.E Lawrence, the British diplomat, military officer and spy, who fought with the Arabs in the Levant against the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the 1910s, midway the First World War. This whole episode was romanticised in Lawrence’s autobiography and literary classic Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in which he described the desert of the Wadi Rum in the south of the country in most lyrical fashion.

What’s in a Revolt

After the First World War the Ottoman Empire imploded and instead of gaining independence the Levant and the Arabian peninsula got new masters in the form of the French and the Brits. These ‘victors’ carved up the region, as if it were a piece of juicy meat. As determined by the Sykes- Picot agreement all areas were officially  called ‘protectorates’ not being entirely clear what these areas needed protection from. The French claimed Lebanon and Syria and the Brits the area that is currently known as Israel/ Palestine, Jordan and Iraq. The region known as Palestine was promised as a fiefdom to the zionist movement in 1917 by means of the Balfour declaration in exchange for US support in the war. But that is – obviously- not how we learn it in school. The British mandate of Trans- Jordan was ruled by a puppet leader in the form of Abdullah bin Hussein, who became Abullah I King of Jordan after the country gained ‘independence’ in 1946. He was the second son of the emir of Mecca and was considered a suitable puppet ruler due to his ties with T.E Lawrence. As the Arab revolt and its centenary are a big deal in this region I have the idea that Abdullah bin Hussein is considered a hero and the architect of the ‘great uprising’ against the Ottoman Empire. Every state and especially post-colonial states, need(s) their heroes. It’s just very often- let’s just say always- white-washed from history that these heroes have very strong links with their former colonisers. Like I just mentioned Jordan, like many other colonial states,  gained fake-independence after the Second World War and the royal ruling class remained in power when Jordan was proclaimed an independent state in 1946.

Oasis of Refuge

Jordan has remained a remarkable oasis of calm in a volatile region forming a place of refuge for several hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Palestinians fled to the country when Israel was bombed into existence in 1948 and after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Around half of all Jordanian citizens are of Palestinian decent and many thousands still live in refugee camps without having any citizenship. After US and British hell-raising since the mid-noughties and the proxy war in Syria after the Arab spring, several thousands of Iraqis and Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan putting significant stress on the country, which it citizens seem to undergo with calm and dignity. It is unclear what Jordan’s ‘lucky charm’ is and why neighbouring countries seem to lack it.

To work or not to work

Official unemployment figures are high as almost 15% of the working population is out of work. I heard from a few people that this unemployment is self-inflicted as many jobs in hospitality and tourism are filled by foreigners, as (some) Jordanians consider themselves too good for certain roles. Just like in London Town back in the days (before the crash), when almost all non-managerial roles in hospitality were occupied by foreigners and if there was a Brit among them, he or she would most likely to be an actor. Some things seem the same all over the world.

A hotel I recently stayed at employed two young women from the Philippines. The owner told me it would be much easier and cheaper for him to employ Jordanians, as he needs to pay several thousands a year for working visas and residency permits and the like, but they seem hard, if not impossible to find. As I know what being stranded in the Land of job-hunting frustration feels like, I know it can be hard finding employment that you are happy with. It is a fine balance between making compromises and sticking to your guns. You didn’t do that degree course, internship or what-the fuck-ever to wait tables, clean toilets or any other jobs few locals seem willing to do. That’s when one moves to Malta or other places of economic and meteorological refuges I guess.

Holy Adventures in Sacred Lands



Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo

After a mild winter, plenty of 9-to-5 bollocks and the longing for a new adventure, which I planned when I was in marvellous SA, I boarded a plane to the so-called cradle of Western civilisation from which I was to take another flight to the Holy Land. In Athens I met up with an old mate from London who showed me his groovy neighbourhood of Exarchia and brought me to the top of the hill from which I could see the Acropolis, which made my five-year-old traveller’s heart very excited. Boarding a plane around midnight flying over the Eastern Mediterranean and what I assume must have been Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, we landed in Amman, Jordan in the early hours of Friday ,which is the day off in the Arab world. As it was ‘their’ day off, it was also my day off, so I did very little on that day. The next day it was a sight- seeing day when I and two other travellers staying at the same hotel went to see the ancient monuments of Umm Quais, Ajloun Castle and Jerash. Jerash is also called the Pompei of the East and as the site is of considerable size and in a great state it is very impressive indeed.

I’ve been to the mountaintop

The next day I visited with three different travellers Mount Nebo, which Moses, according to the biblical book Deuteronomy chapter 32, had climbed to be shown the Promised Land shortly before he died. He is supposed to have been buried in the vicinity, but no one know where exactly. The question is if he existed in the first place, but that is a contemplation for another post. Before our visit to Mount Nebo we spent a view hours at the Dead Sea, which was just fabulous. I had driven passed he Dead Sea when I was in the Holy Land about 6 years ago, but didn’t have a dip into it. On the Jordanian side there are not many, if any public beaches at the Dead Sea. So one goes to a resort for which one pays and entrance fee varying from 15 Jordanian Dinars, which is pretty much the same as 15 pounds sterling, up to 50 JD for the fancier resorts. Besides the beach there is a restaurant, two swimming pools, changing facilities and stuff for rent and sale like towels and beachwear. This particular beach we were at in it self is not that special and contained a few chairs and parasols. While you wade into the water there doesn’t seem to be anything special to water until you wade in a bit deeper and your legs are pushed upwards as by magic- i.e. a lot of salt- which is such a weird sensation that it made me giggle to the amusement of some ladies in the vicinity. I gave myself a proper mud bath with Dead Sea mud and floated around for a couple of hours. It’s the most relaxing sensation and one’s skin feels baby soft afterwards.

Jordan Charm

After a few days I can hardly call myself an expert on the country, but up till now the experience has been great. Amman is just noisy and although there is plenty to see, it is no comparison to Umm-ad-dunya, The Invincible, my beloved Cairo.  I have only travelled a fairly small region, yet the area in the North bordering Lake Tiberius and the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the Northern stretch of the Dead Sea, have been very varied and strewn with magnificent sites. Jordanians in general seem gentler, less pushy than Egyptians and the country seems slightly more developed.

When I told people my next adventure was to take me to Jordan I got a few raised eyebrows from some square-heads who tend to believe what they read in the papers. Jordan is full of Arabs and muslims so therefore it must be very dangerous. It is true that the wider region is in great turmoil and Jordan, luckily and surprisingly, is an oasis of calm. When I asked a couple of locals why Jordan seems to be able to avoid all the trouble one said half-jokingly, but with a most serious undertone that Jordan is the 51st state of the US and calm most remain. The US has tens of thousands of military personal based in the country of which at least 10.000 apparently are based at the US embassy. A very large proportion of Jordanians are from Palestinian decent and about half a million Palestinians are still housed in refugee camps, where many have been for decades. The Jordanian flag is very similar to the Palestinian flag and often you see the two flags waving side by side on buildings and on cars. Many Jordanians fled what was called Palestine in 1948, during what muslim and christian Arabs call the Nakba or the catastrophe and in 1967 during another Arab- Israeli war. One of our guides told us that he fled his birth place of Bethlehem in 1967 as a 19 year-old young man never to return, as the Israeli state doesn’t allow him and many others with him to return to his homeland. The extra bitter taste is that on a clear day you can see Jericho, Jerusalem and Bethlehem on the other side of the Dead Sea. The homeland is so close yet so far. Despite a lot of misinformation my experience with Palestinians is that there are very kind and dignified people and also with the Jordanians of Palestinian decent I sense little to no feelings of resentment or hatred, which is most remarkable.

More Jordan Magic

What is up next is the country’s most famous site the Pink City of Petra and the desert area Wadi Rum, after which I plan to do some (more) hiking in Dana Biosphere and hunt some more crusader castles. This country is magic. It can be difficult not to be influenced by what the square-heads are saying, but it pays to ignore them. This country is magnificent and I think the best is yet to come.

Things that make you go “ugh!” (and go for independence)


cameron eton messIt has been a year since I made my Malta Move and as good and exciting as  it felt in the beginning the better and the more exciting it is now. I´ve managed to provide myself with a better quality of life and I believe that is quite a present to give oneself. My money here goes a lot (I mean A  LOT) further, the summers are long and proper, filled with plenty of entertainment, and besides all that I got to know some groovy people. But I´m very blessed; I tend to meet groovy people wherever I go. There are a few minor cons, but the pros by far outweighs those contras. The improvements are not only related to matters like weather, money and people. It also seems that the ruling classes of Great Britain, the country I ´fled´ from, make it more and more obvious that there really isn´t a vision – I´m sure there is one, but probably one, we, the people are not allowed to know- and that there is not much care for the needs and wants of the people. Most of my friends in the UK lead happy and fabulous lives, yet recent political developments by no means make me feel home sick.

First, the banking scandals keep on hitting us – gold price rigging by HSBC, RBS mortgage advice fraud-to the extent that people are no longer surprised. And still many a banker has the audacity to say the public has to stop the banker bashing. What do you mean out of touch?! The British people have been indoctrinated that the financial sector is good for the country and prior to 2008 that indeed seemed the case. But after massive boom came an even greater bust the earlier mentioned ongoing banking scandals clearly illustrate that the financial sector hasn´t got the interest of the people at heart, if it had a heart in the first place. When Cameron says protecting the financial sector is protecting  Britain´s national interest, he is basically saying that the national interest is not the interest of the people. The sector might provide many jobs and make a lot of money created out of thin air, but it´s not the people who are profiting from those billions generating. The trickle- down effect is a fallacy. Those financial institutions make nice tax deals with HRMC (UK tax collecting agency) and that tiny bit of  tax paid is spent on tax breaks for wealthy people or waging war in countries the UK has absolutely no business. New regulations and newly created institutions like the Financial Conduct Authority are to give the people the idea that the sector is reforming, but it´s business as usual and that massive bust of 2008 could and probably will happen again. So Don´t believe the hype.

No wonder quite a few Scots want to leave the union and if I lived in Scotland I would totally go for independence. Scottish first minister Alex Salmond doesn´t seem to have given the Scottish post-union economic structure and monetary policy much thought as his ideas on this matter seem a tat too simplistic and vague. But that doesn´t mean others haven´t given it a thought, as the independence movement is bigger than Salmond, or that Scotland wouldn´t be able to be a prosperous nation on its own accord. If Scotland is going to vote in favour of independence in a couple of weeks´ time, the million dollar question is: how truly independent will an independent Scotland be? Is there a nation on this earth that is truly by the people for the people? It doesn´t even have to be by the people, as long as it is for the people. Switzerland with her system of almost direct democracy might come close in comparison to the nations, that keep on invading other nations to ´spread democracy´, yet make a tragic farce of their own democracies back home: a fraction of the electorate chooses which individuals the vast majority get shafted by.

Talking of invading other countries, it seems the UK and the US are dead keen – literally that is- to ´return´ to Iraq and the wider region – not that they have been away-  although they are playing it cool. Isis, which apparently has changed its name to IS, is causing death and utter destruction in the region and Yes-We-Can-Scam-The-People Obama talks about the collective as if they were a bunch of naughty school boys that have destroyed the White House´s  flower beds. While IS or whatever the fuck their name will be tomorrow, has explicitly stated that they want to create an Islamic state in the Levant, which includes the state of Israel, the state of Israel, normally very vocal when it claims to be under attack, has been awfully and suspiciously quiet about the matter. Now, a couple of weeks ago a video was released in which an IS fighter with a British accent brutally murders an American journalist, who had been taken hostage, and all of the sudden the UK and US governments talk of a threat to national security. Why and how is not clear, but Prime Minister Cameron comes back from holiday- something he failed to do when London Town suffered from riots for several days  in the summer  of 2012- and apparently both US and UK governments are working hard to uncover the identity of this fighter, how is entirely unclear. Muslim kids from Western countries have been fighting in conflict areas with muslim populations for decades (Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq,) and this is all old news to MI5, MI6 and other security services. Yet, the scaremongering has begun and now we all have to be terribly scared of a terrorist attack, because there is a video of a guy with a British accent killing an American citizen. And now very recently it seems a second ‘IS beheading video’ has been released. Why are the frauds called the US and UK governments not at all interested in who is so very generously funding the beast called IS and remove this so-called terror threat in that way? Incompetence? Really?

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Scottish flag

ISIS: New and Improved Islamist Threat


terror_dees-320x269Only a week and a bit ago, all I had on my mind was footie, but a looming deadline for a gig and some peculiar actions in the Middle East made me refocus. Since a  few weeks an entity called ISIS, which allegedly is a militant islamist organisation, seemingly having appeared out of nowhere, has been hitting the headlines. Apparently it is running a campaign of terror in Iraq and Iraqi Prime Minister El Maliki and his government have asked for American support to deal with this threat. The US government has committed to sending military advisors, yet President Obama insist the country won’t send any combat troops. Despite it all sounding terribly frightening an imminent I also find it terribly fishy.

The name ISIS is said to stand for Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant- which makes ISIL rather than ISIS, but let´s not be anal here- and allegedly is a collective of islamist insurgent factions. It is a rather peculiar name as Iraq is part of the Levant – It´s like saying: the free state of the Netherlands and the Benelux- so they just could have called themselves ISL, but somehow that wasn´t chosen. ISIS has a rather dense Wikipedia page in English, of which the fast majority of footnotes directly referring to ISIS are less than a month old. The Wikipedia page in Arabic is far less informative, barely contains any footnotes and the ones that are accessible seem to be a direct translations from English language news stories. Besides the Wikipedia page and news  articles, all repeating each other, there is little to no other information to be found online. Furthermore, this group seems to be running a very organised marketing campaign, which would be the envy of many a new company or organisation: apparently it has developed fancy apps one can downloaded – to do what with I have no idea- and well-designed images and promo videos in English have been produced to further its cause. O, and then its military power is such that the Iraqi government needs western assistance to deal with this threat. So, a very young organisation (less than a month old), with an excellent marketing, PR and design department addressing the masses in English, despite being islamist and from the Arab World, has been able to build up such military power the Iraqi government is calling upon the Americans for help. There might be a first time for anything, but quite frankly, I’m not having any if this bollocks. I and many with me fell for it once a bit more than a decade ago.

Great atrocities happen on 11 September 2001 in the US of A, when the mighty American air defence wasn’t able to intercept four allegedly hijacked planes. Two of these planes flew into massive skyscrapers in Manhattan, which, against the law of science, both collapsed in free fall after they had been burning for a few hours. Another plane flew into the Pentagon exactly in the wing a few biliion dollar went missing as was announced the day before. Yet, no evidence of a plane crashing into the building in the form of cctv  or other images has ever been published. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania to be swallowed up by the ground. Within hours the US government blamed a tall Saudi man with a beard called Osama Bin Laden, considered head of an organisation labeled Al Qaida, which was a collection of fighters paid by the CIA to scare away the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Osama´s family is extremely wealthy and has close ties with the Bush family – yeah, the one that produced two presidents- and other hot shots in the US. Osama Bin Laden denied responsibility for the attacks, yet, less than a month later military action was launched in Afghanistan as Osama son of Laden was allegedly hiding in a cave there. Talking of a swift response. It took more than a year, however, for the US government to start the inquiry into what is referred to as 9/11, so it was clearly a case of shoot first, ask questions later. A not so-well-known fact is that Osama was seriously ill at the time and was receiving treatment for kidney failure. Several Arab newspapers reported that he died in 2002, but I guess that is just a minor detail.

Within 5 weeks after the campaign was launched the seriously retarded Taliban regime, which then controlled Afghanistan, was chased out of the capital Kabul. Yet, the mightiest army in the world wasn’t able to find a tall man with a beard in a cave. Less than a year later in 2002 the then- US defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated that intelligence had revealed that Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaida and massive piles of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam and his Ba´ath party had ruled Iraq with authoritarian and strictly secular rule for decades, yet all of the sudden Saddam, had links with and islamist group for no apparent reason. Never mind the logic; the US was going to kick his ass as well. The UN didn’t give its mandate, but Bush and his crew didn´t care and they, together with their lapdog Tony Bliar went to war anyway. They got rid of Saddam in a matter of weeks. As the strong man was gone and US and British forces thought it wise to undo Iraqi society from any Ba’ath party influence the shit was really hitting the fan and despite democratic elections the country has been unstable and very violent ever since. As you might remember the massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were never found. Officially the US government withdrew all its troops at the end of 2013, although it still has Marine Embassy Guards and private military contractors deployed.

In 2011 the US decided to kill off phantom boogie man Osama bin Laden and the story goes that he was executed by navy seals, who raided his compound in Pakistan and his body was buried at sea. No solid evidence to prove that these events truly took place have ever been released, however.

So just to recap: the official 9/11 story contains a lot of holes and with the speed the blame was laid at the phantom organisation of Al Qaida and troops were deployed in Afghanistan knowing straight away where the boogie man was residing, it seems the US government had at least some insight knowledge of the atrocious events that happened that September day in 2001. As Al Qaida never really existed  links between Saddam Hussein and the phantom organisation were imaginary as well, just like those scary biological and chemical weapons. Osama is no more and seemingly Al Qaida is no more so apparently one is in need of another islamist boogie man to keep the people fearful.

I now have to believe that within the region of the Levant, which was destablised by western forces, there is this very powerful islamist militia, which carries the name of the Ancient-Egyptian mother goddess, coming out of absolutely nowhere, with great military power and a solid and flashy marketing campaign recruiting fighters with promo material in English rather than Arabic, that for some unexplained reason forms a threat to the West. So now the US and UK have another excuse to increase their military spending,  further erode civil liberties, increase mass surveillance and above all keep the people fearful. I bought all that shit once, but I’m having it no more. It’s not ISIS one needs to fear. Be very afraid of the forces that brought ISIS into existence.

MaSr: Something Nasty Has Hit the Fan-Again


images (1)The recovering news junkie- that would be me- hasn´t been very much on top of the news lately. As I´m no longer evaluating media coverage for a living I guess one can say the recovery is almost complete. As I have been too busy preparing and looking forward to my Malta move and milking the glorious British summer of 2013, much of the civil-unrest plague pestering the Middle East has been off my radar. Until yesterday, two years and 8 months after the seemingly impossible had happened, Egypt was right back in Dark Fairy focus. Yesterday it was announced that the islamist party the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been banned for decades and had won the country´s first free and fair elections in May last year, was banned by the army yet again. As if the whole process of the last two years and 8 months had been for absolutely nothing.

For those who are less geeky when it comes to politics of the Arab World let the Dark Fairy enlighten you.

Once upon a time there was an authoritarian ruler called Husni Mubarak, who had ruled Egypt for more than 30 years after his predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981. As one of the few Arab nations Egypt had signed a peace deal with Israel -the reason behind Sadat´s assassination- and the country was a strong ally to the US that provided the country with billions worth of aid and military support. The country was stable, yet, due to the state of emergency, repressed. In January 2011 it was repressed business as usual. Elections were planned for September later that year and the only question raised was whether Mubarak would run for yet another term or let one of his sons run in his place. As disillusion had ruled for too long the miracle the people had hoped for for decades was no longer expected. But then that miracle in the form of the Arab Spring did happen and to everyone’s surprise the Egyptian people got rid of their dictator. After the army, claiming to function as an interim government, hung on to power for too long elections were organised and held in May last year. This resulted in a small majority for the previously banned islamist party the Muslim Brotherhood, which despite its clandestine status was – and still is- a very active grassroots movement. The party’s  leader, Mohammed Mursi, became president. The Egyptian liberal elite wary of islamists in general  feared a hijacking of the democratic process as one could argue that islamism and democracy are not compatible, while the West feared loss of its influence and general instability in the region. Mursi´s leadership was controversial from the start. Besides undemocratic tendencies it was also rather uninspiring. The country remained in a state of unrest as people continued to hit the streets. After being in power for a little over a year, the forever-power hungry army flexed its muscles yet again and removed Mursi from power. However bad a leader, when democratically elected any removal by a non-elected entity is a called a coup and coups are not funky.

Several weeks later, when I had made my Malta move I happen to reside close to the Egyptian embassy, which I pass everyday on my leisurely daily commute. I wonder if the ambassador and his – I´m sure it´s a he- people had been ousted with the former president. The neighbourhood I live in is very quiet and one often wonders if anyone actually lives in all those stately mansions. If they do, they sure don´t wander the streets. At the Egyptian embassy, however, there is always some sort of activity. Shabaab (young men) are hanging around audibly speaking Masree (Egyptian Arabic) and I wonder, which side are you lot on?

After all that, on a Monday three years and 8 months almost to the day after Mubarak was ousted, the Muslim Brotherhood is banned yet again. The big question is – yet again- what is next for Egypt? Where does this leave democracy and where does this leave the internal peace? How can something that started out so promising and exciting go so totally apeshit without turning into a civil war in less than three years? And who says the Brotherhood won´t take up arms? I guess time will tell and I sure hope it plans to tell us a happy-ending story before too long, ´cause no one needs yet another conflict in the region or in the world for that matters.