The American University in Cairo
The Middle East Studies Program
Volume 9 Issue 2
Mania for Salvation
"A human being possessed by a belief and not eager to pass it on to others is a phenomenon alien to the earth, where our mania for salvation makes life unbearable. Look around you: everywhere specters of preaching….Everyone trying to remedy everyone else's life….The longing to become the source of events affects every man like a mental disorder. Society--an inferno of saviors. What Diogenese was looking for with his lantern [he used to say he looked for the truth] was an indifferent man." Thus spake the Romanian-Parisian philosopher E.M. Cioran. I often think of Cioran's words when I hear a grave, self-righteous sermon of a preacher or a reformer. They have echoed in my mind ever since I first came across the US Greater Middle East initiative (Greater than what?). The GMEI (note how it has already been acronymed to confer on it the aura of a reality) purportedly aims at refurbishing the dilapidated house of the Arabs. It would furnish it with democracy, equality of women, free trade zones, quality education and, for an icing on this chocolate cake, money for small entrepreneurs (the big ones invest their millions in the US and Europe). In sum, it will deliver a bundle of revolutions-- bourgeois, sixties, Reaganite/Thatcherite-- in a single stroke. Such revolutionary talk naturally has made Arab governments queasy. For one thing, they have not been consulted by George Bush before he announced it. They are beginning to feel dispensable. Their ministers have been told they would be electronically finger-printed at US airports (high-tech humiliation?). And of course they have no desire to lose their gilded palaces and security apparatuses. So they tell the world they are zealots about reform, but for those unwieldy traditions and structures of Arab societies and the forces of darkness lurking to seize the day--blame the repressed; frighten the world of the Arab street (haven't you noticed the sudden disappearance of the "Arab street" from expert discourse?). And, yes, the Arab street and befuddled intellectuals-what is their place in this undifferential equation? Many say they crave freedom. They want to have a say in who leads them; don't want to be imprisoned if they organized a union, or beaten by dark-uniformed police if they rallied for Iraq or Palestine; and love for their kids to have the best education. They say they want this and more. But they are squeezed between a rock and a hard place. They trust Washington and London as much as they trust their beloved, highly-electable dictators. The reason is simple: they have been long in cahoots with their rulers. These capitals seldom spoke to the Arab peoples. Their media habitually anointed Arab presidents and kings, especially the kings, with adjectives like, "moderate," and "pro-Western." It mattered little if they were not moderate with, or pro-, their people. The interests of the Arab people were marginal in their calculus, cavalierly jettisoned in the world of bigpowers games and expediency to win elections. So, what will Washington do next? Stop supplying arms to the armies of these regimes? Will it be able to stand the pressure of the corporations that manufacture the weapons? Will the elected representatives of the US government accept governments chosen by the Arab people? The only freely elected Arab leader, Yasser Arafat, has been transfigured into an "outlaw of the peace process," to quote an original phrase by candidate John Kerry. Will they order Sharon to dismantle his Great Wall of Israel? What will be imposed? And on whom? So here we go again, confronted with but the latest instant of distorted interactive communications between the United States and the Arabs, the sour fruit of power asymmetry, mismatch of interests, and thick layers of unhappy historical memory. May the bashful Cairo spring give me heart to endure the impending salvation mania. By Sharif Elmusa
Word from the Director
IN THIS ISSUE
*W ord from the Director
* I, Orhan Vei l Translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat * Spring by Sharif S. Elmusa
Middle East Talks ~
*Human Rights in Egypt
*Sudanese Studies in the United St ates: A Historical Perspective * A Musical Meeting of East and West *W omen, Gender, and Mediterranean Migrants i n Nineteenth-Century Tunisia * Day 1, Cairo * In the Neighborhood:
MIDDLE EAST TALKS
H U M A N RIGHTS
n March 7, Equal Opportunity Council will not only be a monitoring body, but and Affirmative Action (EOAA) also act as a preventative mechanism. In order hosted some distinguished mem- to achieve these goals, the NCHR will map out bers of the newly founded a national plan for advancing human rights, National Council for Human verify citizens' complaints regarding human Rights (NCHR). The speakers were Mr. rights abuses, and ensure honest implementaMounir Abdel Nour, chairman of the parlia- tion of international treaties on human rights. mentary committee of the Wafd Party; Ms. Other functions will include fostering a culture Mona Zul Fikkar, senior partner of Shalakami of human rights and presenting an annual Law Office; Dr. Mostafa El-Fiqqi, chairman of report on the human rights situation to the president, the People's the External Affairs Assembly and the Shura Committee of NDP & Council. People's Assembly and Dr. Laila Takla, chair of Egyptian “Moreover, the memSociety for the Conservation bers of the NCHR Although theisformation of the NCHR a positive of Environment. assured the audience development in terms of human rights in Egypt, The event was presented to that the council will whether the council will be be part of a series of panel able to act independently discussions that aimed to be transparent“ from the government still inform the public on the remains a crucial question. responsibilities of the NCHR, Indeed, this was one of the which was set up by the government on January 19, 2004, in line with a law main criticisms that was raised by the audience proposed by President Hosni Mubarak and during the panel discussion last Sunday. The adopted by parliament last year. Currently, the speakers responded to these criticisms by sayNCHR is headed by Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a ing that it is too early to criticize the NCHR as former UN secretary general. On the other being pro-government. Moreover, the memhand, it is also affiliated with the Shura bers of the NCHR assured the audience that the Council, which will be in charge of appointing council will be transparent in its affairs and will NCHR members for renewable terms of three work for the benefit of people. They claimed that one should not expect a newly born baby years each. to run. Hence, only time will show the fate of According to the speakers who were present at Egypt's new trial in the enduring question of the panel discussion, the most vital task for the human rights. NCHR will be to lay down the infrastructure of human rights in Egypt. In other words, the By Hande Bayrak
Sudanese St d e uis in the United St t s ae: A Historical
n a well attended lecture given on March 4, 2004 by visiting scholar Dr. Richard Lobban of Rhode Island College, students and community members in Cairo learned a great deal about our neighbor to the south. While Sudan has historically had many ties with Egypt, both cultural and economic, many modern Egyptians and Americans know little about the history of Sudanese studies in the western scholarly world, and the impact that Sudan and the W est have had on each other. This lecture was part of a series dealing w t A r c , particularly dedicated to ih f i a the memory of former A U C President John D. Gerhart, whose personal and academic interest in Africa was noted and respected.
Sudan being of pa t c l r i t r s riua neet because of the European mania with finding the "true" source of the N l . A strong colonial influence, ie lasting until World Wa I , l d s h lr I e co ars to see Sudan as a source of resources, and thus a place that should only be studied in order to better and more easily rule it. A t i t hs time Sudan was not allowed selfdefinition or representation by western academia.
W ith the 20th century, Sudanese studies began to be less dominated by classically and/or colonially trained scholars and allowed new viewpoints to be seen. The colonial prejudice is clear, b t c a s c l b a u lsia is stems from the general view of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian Sudanese studies in Europe and sources that Sudan was less the US (the terms were collapsed sophisticated, less developed, less for much of the lecture due to the c v l z d T i i p i i b l e tainted iiie. h s m l c t e i f colonial perspective of both regions generations of scholarship. Happily during the relevant time period) has for Sudanese studies (although undergone fundamental changes unhappily for the displaced populas n e i i c p i n The 18th centu- t o ) t e b i d n o t e Aswan High i c ts n e t o . in h ulig f h r i America was most marked by a Dam in the 1960s and the subseyn distinct lack of interest in Sudan, quent changes to Upper Nubia and and the larger African and Middle Upper Sudan led to intensive Eastern regions in general, by archaeological and anthropological American scholarship. The bulk of studies of this area. Finally the work relating to these regions Sudanese studies was able to write was done by Biblical scholars look- about a self-defined Sudan. This ing solely for insights i t trend has continued, with new topno Crsint h i t a i y. ics of research exploring issues of gender, southern Sudan, and The 19th century was perceived at human rights . the time as an age of exploration and colonial empires. The interior History has shown to be importa t n o Africa was probed for its secrets fr i role in uncovering past and f ; o ts
The Creative Side The Creative Side The Creative Side The Creat
I, Orhan Veli
I, Orhan Veli. The famous author of the poem ``Suleyman Effendi, may he rest in peace,'' Heard that you are curious About my private life. Let me tell you: First I am a man, that is, I am not a circus animal, or anything like that. I have a nose, an ear, Though they are not shapely. I live in a house, I have a job. Neither do I carry a cloud on my head Nor a stamp of prophecy on my back. Neither am I modest like King George of England Nor aristocratic like the recent Stable keeper of Celal Bayar. I love spinach. I am crazy about puffed cheese pastries. I have no eyes For material things, Really not. Oktay Rifat and Melih Cevdet Are my best friends, And I have a lover, Very respectable. I cannot tell her name. Let literary critics find it. I also keep busy with unimportant things, Only between projects, How can I say, Perhaps I have a thousand other habits, But what is the point of listing them all. They just resemble these. Orhan Veli Kanik Translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat, 1989
Two swallows perched on the rail of the balcony-make a spring. A few acacias in bloom fringed by evergreens-make a spring. Green shutters of a window and a tiger on an orange towel roaring from the clothes line-make a spring. A mint leaf suspended in a glass of tea, and Umm Kulsum singing "One night of love is worth a thousand and one nights"-make a spring. Keep your fingers crossed, the desert stirs with cynical sand.
--Sharif S. Elmusa
ative Side The Creative Side The Creative Side The Creative Side
A Musical Meeting of East and WesT
hile Cairo is filled with opportunities for enjoying Arabic music and poetry, AUC students rarely have the chance to hear a truly new and different interpretation of these genres. However, a concert held February 29th 2004 provided us with just this chance. This concert featured music by Russian composer Agnes Bashir, who, along with pianist Nadia Mikhail-Abboushi, provided piano accompaniment. Palestinian musician Tania Tamari Nasir was the vocalist, singing lyrics from the Arabic poetry of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. Although Jabra could not attend this event, he was very active in collaborating with both Bashir and Nasir during the creative process. This artistic collaboration was originally meant to be staged in March 2003 as part of AUC's Year of Palestine program. Unfortunately regional tensions in the past year made travel too difficult for the various artists, but finally AUC was able to host these three artists. Mrs. Tania Tamari Nasir is not a professional singer, but has extensive singing experience. She has performed in at a number of concerts both within Palestine and abroad. Lately, Nasir has focused her interest on singing contemporary compositions by local composers such as Agnes Bashir, whose works are based
on poems by renowned Arab poets such as Jabra Ibrahim Jabra. She describes these songs as experimental and innovative in nature. Mrs. Agnes Bashir was born in Tbilisi, Georgia and holds a masters degree in musicology, composition and piano from the Russian State Academy of Music in Moscow. She moved to Iraq after marrying the Iraqi musician Fikri Bashir, whom she met in Moscow. Bashir is the recipient of many international awards and prizes. Mrs. Nadia Mikhail-Abboushi shares her colleagues' love of music and has been playing piano for many years. In 1969 she studied piano formally at the State University of Potsdam in New York. In 1993 Mikhail-Abboushi cofounded the piano department at the National Conservatory of Music in Ramallah, and is the head of this department. Bashir's music was quite interesting in its understanding and sympathy for traditional Arabic music, while also expressing and emphasizing the meaning in the poetic texts themselves. This concert proves that a successful fusion of Western and Eastern ideas and art is possible, and that together they highlight each other's differences while at the same time creating a new artistic language that is understood by both.
By Colleen Johnson & Riman Barakat
Women, Gender, and Mediterranean Migrants in Nineteenth-Century Tunisia
Lecture by Dr Julia Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona, 15 March 04
r Clancy-Smith's lecture, as the title suggests, dealt with the subject of migration flows across the Mediterranean in the nineteenth century. Nowadays we are accustomed to think of migration as primarily south to north, from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe, and there is much discussion of the issues raised by the presence of large resident Muslim communities in Europe. It is important to recall that the problem of nonindigenous migrant communities is not new, and that the direction of migration in the nineteenth century was mainly in the opposite direction, from north to south, i.e., from Europe, and especially the southern European littoral (Spain, Sardinia, Corsica, southern France, Italy, Sicily, Malta, Greece and the Greek islands) to the predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Dr Clancy-Smith argued that the most likely destination of European migrants in the middle decades of the nineteenth century was Tunisia. Another important aspect of her talk was the analysis of the ethnic and social composition of these migrants. Again, we tend to think of the Europeans in the age of imperialism as always forming a kind of elite within the colonial or semicolonial periphery, but in fact the data she presented showed that there were tens of thousands of migrants who were from humble backgrounds. The Maltese are a case in point, most of whom seem to have been fleeing the poverty of their homeland and seeking to find their fortune in a new location. The ethnicity of these groups also raises the question of who was a European: the Maltese generally had British protection since their island was
part of the Empire, but the British themselves and persons of northern Europe would not have thought of the Maltese as Europeans at all. High-born Europeans had more in common with the Bey of Tunis and his courtiers than they did with the petty traders and proletarians from the Mediterranean fringe. Consular documents, which are probably the main documentary record of this migration and its impact, show that there was an attempt to rigorously monitor the influx and behavior of women who came into Tunisia from the outside during this period. A special tazkara, or pass, was required to bring a woman into the country; and, unlike men, women who got into trouble with the law were not incarcerated, rather they were expelled or repatriated as quickly as possible. Ahmad Bey, the reforming governor of midnineteenth-century Tunisia, actually welcomed Catholic orders into his country as a means of bringing the unruly migrants under a stricter moral regime. Single women were viewed as a threat to the social order; Ahmed Bey clearly hoped that the religious orders would aid in suppressing the wanton behavior of unmarried European women in the Regency. The social history of this period is obviously still a work-in-progress, and Dr Clancy-Smith's lecture alerted us to the complicated interconnections of ethnicity, class, and gender in her analysis of EuropeanMuslim relations in the nineteenth century Mediterranean. A summary by Michael J Reimer, AUC History Dept.
Day 1, Cairo.
Egypt did not radiate the heavy ambience of sudden death and extreme danger, as one casual tourist would expect. Instead, the atmosphere was surprisingly easy. Maybe it’s due to the fact that this area has harbored so many souls through the times, that a dubious Norwegian individual hosed down by an AK-47 or knifed and dumped in the Nile, is no reason to fall into Western Norwegian melancholy. However, as long as I am solvent, I hope they’ll let me live. That means that I’m at least safe at the airport. Cairo is so extremely big that it is hard to contemplate it. The management tasks the Cairo mayor faces must be of such a nature that a long-time-ago he probably turned into a drewling amoebae. Or, it could be that the mayor of Cairo actually is an alien from outer space with several heads and hands and some tentacles in reserve in case of emergency. over a pale and worn out jogging suit; the handler, a o e a l i h s a r i e s n vrl n i iln’ c l r . The pro, like the handler, oos As expected, I haven’t been able to turns up for "work" at 0800hrs sharp: achieve much. Day 1 has been just the Finn at the local bench with one as expected. As expected, my lug- beer in his hand and the handler, gage did not turn up at the airport. never late for the catering trolley as Amsterdam airport is infamous for soon as the plane has opened its incompetence in boarding luggage doors. They are both cosmopolita . n on airplanes, and even though I am The Finn goes to a bar where huge tempted to believe that one oppor- clocks display the time in Paris, Lontunistic Egyptian yanked my bag off don and New York and the handler the assembly line, truth is that 99.9% whistles after the stewardesses flying of all Egyptians must be more honest in from Paris, London and New Yo k r. than your average Dutch luggage handler. Any luggage handler in the However, t e e e d t e s m l r t e . hr n h iiaiis absurd world of airports t a i . L t While the Finnish pro is a decent God , ht s e me explain, dear reader. The story fearing drunk, the handlers are about "the handler" is paved with genetically useless, dirty and rude shady undertones. Must they all face lowlifes that have made it their craft t e e e n l f r s o h l o t e r f n l to be lazy. Instead of carrying lugh tra ie f el n hi ia d y The only thing is that luggage gage from A to B, they are sleeping a! handlers are immorta s l k t e H g l , i e h i h- o i. An ugly display indeed. And n t landers. Only a luggage handler can contrary to the Finnish pro that is kill another luggage handler. And content with harvesting one beer at a then they need a holy Samsonite time at the grocery shop, the hansuitcase filled with lead not sporting a dlers have developed a wolf’s instinct "heavy" tag because their backs are for garbage. These creatures can f a i e t a ’ t e Achilles heel of any down unlimited amounts o o d a rrgl, hts h f l i handler.And it also explains why they plane food. As scabbed vultures they usually are spotted in a horizonta a a t f r t e n x f l . The luggage is l wi o h et il psto. oiin o cus js a dsrcin i ti f ore ut itato n hs
Dy 1 a :
anyone outside the luggage hall ever could imagine. Why are they allowed to carry on with their dysfunctional ways? It is a question that never could be answered by earthly words. The mayor of Cairo would of course know the answer, but hey, he’s from outer space. If an earthling like me should attempt to answer this question, I could in my inferior ways indicate that maybe the check-in people give the traveler such good service that the evil ways of the handlers are overlooked. However this does not in return explain why the major international airlines still have customers. The transportation industry is much more simplistic in Egypt. One only needs a cousin with a Fiat to be able t d i e a Tai This has profoundly o rv x. shaped the traff c o C i o Among i f ar. the 20 million residents of Cairo, the Taxi rules the transportative veins running in endless one-way ring roads. The traffic is in many ways as a water system. Instead of water, vehicles are running through the "pipes." Instead of welded joints t e e a e t a i police sealing the h r r r ff c pps arih. I i awy batfl ie itgt t s las euiu watching professionals fighting a lost cause. It signalizes that they take their duty seriously and the Egyptian police does exactly that. One day they issued 17 000 fines. It was rumored that they had red numbers in their books.
On the other hand, luggage handlers should be respected. They are one of the universe’s complete creatures. They are at complete peace with themselves. The nearest comparison must be the Finnish professional drunk. The Finnish pro takes pride in his trade. He, like the handler wears a uniform. The Finn, a knitted vest
eternal quest for old buns with cheese and dry brownies. The "feast" is naturally consumed horizontal ly accompanied by fermenting "coff e e, tea or juice?" This explains why my luggage never arrived; however it is only pa t o t e r f h s o y. The story runs deeper than tr
ll of us who have been attendi g AUC for some time have n surely noticed and wondered about the woman who seems to always be on the couch on Yousef A l Guindi Street near the AUC library entrance. To s t s y o r c r o i y, and aif u uist in order to introduce her to the A U C community, we decided to pay her a visit and learn more about the life of this unique woman by giving her a chance to relate her personal story.
Hajja Farida was raised in Cairo by her father and stepmother. She did not finish school, as her family couldnt a ’ fford it, although she wanted to. At a young age her father arranged fr hr t mry hs frt cui, a o e o ar i is osn jeweler. A fter marrying she lived with her well-to-do husband and his famil but felt continually uncomfortable y, and unwelcome in their house. She eventually left her husband to live w t h r s s e but sadly was forced i h e i t r, by her husband to leave her children behind with him. A short time later her 10 year-old son died while living with her ex-husband and his new w f . T i d fficult period seems to ie hs i have been a defining one in her life. A e f n i g i d ff c l t l v w t h r ft r i d n t i i u t o i e i h e s s e she found comfort on a street i t r, corner where she opened a small kiosk to sell chocolates, tissues and t e l k . This street corner near A U C h ie is where Hajja Farida has lived for the past 25 years. Hajja Farida cooks for herself on a small burner she keeps near the couch and uses the refrigerator in the nearby travel agency. She is now 65 years old and finds solace in the fact that her kiosk has helped her to live and has provided for her niece and nephew, whom she put through school and supported
f n n i l y. Her niece, present during iacal our interview, obviously loves her like her own mother, comforting her as she cried about the past, mostly about having lost touch with her daughter. We also tried to comfort her by telling her that we (students ) are all her children. She laughed and recalled that most AUCians tell her the same thing and that she loves us all like her own. Her open heart and aiiyt fe frohr,wehrrl b l t o e l o t e s h t e e ative or friend, is one of her best charatrsis ceitc. She remembers the donation drive t a AUC students had for the ht Palestinians almost two years ago and is proud that she was able to donate to the campaign, saying: "We need to take care of our Arab brothers and sisters. Our hearts need to be together. We love the Palestinians." When asked about AUCians, Hajja Farida said only the kindest things and told us about how generous students are to her. During Eid they send her food, and many buy her medication and give her money. H r e kiosk is not doing well, she says, so she would like to sell other things, perhaps s tationary products that she knows AUC students need more than snacks. About five years ago Hajja Farida was hit by a car on the same corner where she lives. She recalls the support she was given by AUC students who took her to hospita , pa d f r l i o medical fees and were a consta t n source of support. She continues to walk with a crutch as a result of the accident and has other health problems that include diabetes. She constantly stresses how much
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