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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Friday, July 29, 2005

Details: Today

I woke up around 10 am, really depressed and not wanting to think about the day ahead. I had a couple of things to do, my goals for the day so to speak : 1) try to salvage the day and get the permit; 2) tell everyone what happened in case I can’t salvage anything; 3) ensure that the whole thing doesn’t turn out to be a fiasco. Somehow I couldn’t decide which one was harder. Anyway, until noon I was working on accomplishing goal #1: getting the permit. I was trying to reach someone that has more influence on this national security guy, but his phone wasn't ringing. So around 11 I figured I should start the damage control campaign and send out text messages informing people that the event was cancelled. I e-mailed people that showed their interest in coming and posted my message that the whole thing was over. I then had to call the other people helping me organize and plan this and inform them that the whole thing got cancelled. That part sucked. How can you explain to people the logic behind the illogical? Forget that, how can you put them in the same situation you were put in? After all the work they had to do to lobby for this thing to work, they had to call all of those people and convince them not to go, because the vigil was canceled, just like that. And the worst part is: you will no longer have any credibility with those people. You won’t be able to get them to come the next time. No one will believe you. Or they will just think you will just cancel on them in the last minute. No one will take you seriously the next time. So, even if we wanted to do another one like this, we can't. No one would come. ( I sometimes wonder if that was the goal for their revoke permit this late in the game: to ensure we wouldn’t attempt to do anything like this again. This time it was against terrorism, the next time it maybe against the government.) Anyway… So, after bumming everyone out, I call A. and see what he is up to. He is acting as if nothing changed. Like we still have the permit: "You are still coming, right?". When I wince he assures me that he knows what will happen with the security people : nothing. As long as there are foreigners and press, there is nothing that they can do, he assures me. Yet still I am not convinced. Part of the initial agreement I made with Karim is not to do this unless it's 100% legal and safe, and this promised to be neither. Not to mention, if it gets ugly, it will harm Egypt's reputation. I inform him that that would be unacceptable to me :"I don’t want to sell you out, but I don’t wanna hurt Egypt's image as well", I told him. He claimed he understood, but he was going to do it anyway. "Only people who are willing to gamble end up winning", he told me. I told him that I agreed, but I am not going to gamble with this country's reputation, betting on a bunch of foreigners showing up when they may not do so. Not to mention, I was told specifically not to go. I am not going to disobey the orders of the national security people. I don't like my phone tabbed, thank you very much. But before we hang up on each other and part ways, I ask him to of me a favor " If you are going to do this anyway and succeed, I promised someone I would light a candle for this American girl named Katrina. Can you light one for her?" He said he would, and I believed him. So he goes his way, and it’s around 4:30 when I find out that Karim is sending his friend Aly to ensure that our people, if they show up, would leave and know that the thing was cancelled. To ensure that the "Pray for peace" name is not used. I remember that my name is on the requests for permits, so I call the higher-up guy and he is nowhere. So I call his underling and declare that I have nothing to do with the vigil that's about to take place. I am not going, and A. is completely acting by himself. "Whatever he does" I tell him, "is not sanctioned by me or my mother", because he knew who she was and felt that he could use her name to get his way or get this thing to happen. I can’t be there, so I can’t be held responsible for the people there. The guy understood, and said it was fine. I take the chance to ask him " so, how were those riots you guys expected today?" to which he replies " oh, the demonstrators decided to reschedule their demonstrations until tomorrow. Not a single riot happened today. That whole Azhar area has been entirely peaceful today". WTF? GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR So, all of this, all of the canceling and the " we have to ensure everything is safe" and "we are revoking your permit for security reasons" crap was bullshit? You have got to be kidding me. I was fuming, and all that I could think of is one thing : I want to go! I just want to see it. I want to see if A. will be able to pull it off. So I call GM. "Hey GM, how are you doing" "What do you think? Feeling like shit and depressed." "What do you say we take a cab to the vigil site and see how it's like?" " Ehh, not a good idea? You were told specifically not to go!" " Yeah, but that A. dude is going and he is going to do that vigil without a permit or anything. I wanna see it. We wouldn’t be participating. We are bloggers, we will just observe and blog. It's our duty!" "I don’t know. Maybe" "Come on man. It will be fun. It will be like an adventure. Plus, are you telling me you don’t want to see what it's going to be like?" "Fine, fine. I am coming. I swear to god that one day you are gonna get me in some seriously deep shit." "I love you too man. Come on. Under my house in 20 minutes." "Fine!" So now I am feeling all giddy again, and I go down to the atm machine to get some cash, to have the damn machine- I shit you not- eat my card. The reason? The machine says the card is expired, which is bullshit, because it's valid for another 2 years. Today just sucks. (God is telling you not to go, I think) So I head upstairs, meet my aunt, borrow some cash and head down and meet GM. We get in a cab and we start formulating strategies on how to handle the situation. It basically came down to this: If the situation seems too policed, we will just ask the driver to take us back. No harm, no foul. We arrive there and we are faced with this scene: 4 huge riot police trucks, with at least 50 riot police deployed in full gear, 30 regular police soldiers, 20 police officers and 10 suits, and one of them was the Higher-up guy who rejected our permit. It was a freaking army and that's just the outside people: who knew how many were inside! They were stopping cars it seems, and interrogating their inhabitants and the Higher-up guy was looking at our direction. I started shouting at the cab driver "keep going, take us back, step on the gas. Move it" and we escaped the area. ( I am such a coward) So we arrive back at my place and we decide to go somewhere and chill and relax, when my phone rings and its my mother, complaining how the national security people were upset at her because this A. guy came over with foreigners and press and wouldn’t leave unless he has his vigil and he is claiming it's our responsibility to get rid of him. Lots of talk and backtalk ensues, and in the end we agree with A. to end the vigil around 8 and then leave. We inform the security people the same thing and that we have nothing to do with this and we hang up on them. My Mother wasn't amused at all, especially that A. apparently was on the national security lists and has prior incidents of "troublemaking" and that by affiliating with him they will put me under suspicion and surveillance. Great. So me and GM just go somewhere and get something to eat and drink, with a giant watch in front of us showing us the minutes as they go by and the time gets closer to 8. We discuss how the whole thing was happening without us and how we both chickend out when the moment of truth came. Dealing with the Egyptian authorities is not fun, and we didn’t even deal with them really, not like the other people who get jailed and tortured by them. I tell him how they must have his phone tabbed and are monitoring his internet activity since I call him and he calls me, and he informs me that from now on no more writing about Egypt: "I will get back to writing about Iraq. What made me ever stop writing about Iraq?" he joked. But half what's said in jest… So anyway, time goes by, we get a phone call that the vigil ended and that 30 people were present and that all the cameras got confiscated, probably out of embarrassment. I can’t seem to decide whether I feel admiration for A. for doing this, anger for using my name, or jealousy for actually accomplishing what I set out to accomplish. Hmmm… But then I remember that we started this thing, even if we didn’t finish it. Without us there wouldn’t be a vigil today. We made the calls, we got the place, we got the ball rolling. In some sense, the fact that it wasn't us out there today, but rather 30 complete strangers that got together to protest terrorism ,because of something we started and planned, is more of a success then if we were involved. We are not alone. We are not an anomaly. Others exist, and they are willing to make that point regardless of police intimidation or fear of retribution. I take some solace in that. I mean, at the end of the day, It doesn’t matter who did it, what matters is that it happened. Right? Yeah. Thought so too! Sigh...


At 7/29/2005 05:21:00 PM, Anonymous Alaa said...

IMO A did the right thing.

this will not tarnish Egypt's image it will tarnish the regime's image, Egypt != the regime.

this regime's image cannot get worse, they did sexually harras peacful protesters on the referendum, they insist it was a proper referendum even after the judges who are supposed to monitor it released a report that clearly states it was a scam, they did mass arrests and tortured a huge portion of al arish population after taba just to get another attack in sharm.

how can the image be worse?

At 7/29/2005 06:09:00 PM, Blogger gbaikie said...

"And the worst part is: you will no longer have any credibility with those people. You won’t be able to get them to come the next time. No one will believe you. Or they will just think you will just cancel on them in the last minute. No one will take you seriously the next time. So, even if we wanted to do another one like this, we can't. No one would come."

Don't underestimate the people you asked to come.
How bad is it that you tried to get a permit, got one, than had it revoked. And you kept them informed. Much worse if you hadn't kept them informed. You keep your part of the trust, they gave you.

I say try to it again and again, and again.
At least now, apparently you know who to get permit from.
I would follow up with this guy:
Phone him, ask it the event caused him any trouble, ask him how if you had future gathering how best they could be arranged, etc.
If he bitchs, let him bitch. Ask him if he thinks eqyptians should ever be allowed to assemble peacefully, if so when? Etc.

At 7/29/2005 06:39:00 PM, Blogger madtom said...

"it will harm Egypt's reputation"

What reputation? How can you harm something that does not in fact exists. You live under a dictatorship, acting like you live within a society governed by laws, don't make it so.

By backing down, you just gave in to the terrorist, as that was their only goal.
The candle should be a funeral candle.

At 7/29/2005 06:43:00 PM, Blogger madtom said...

I just wanted to add something, You should call your uncle and tell him you've changed you mind. Run in the election to keep your families position.
I don't see any difference between that and this, and at least you will be in with the folks. Why lose that if your not really willing to change the politics, or do the hard work of civil disobedience. You studied here in the US so I'll assume you know, probably better than me what that means.

At 7/29/2005 07:10:00 PM, Blogger thewiz said...

gbaikie gave good advice. First, be honest and the people will trust you.

Second call the security guy apologize, "hope we didn't cause you amy trouble, tried to get ahold of everyone. . . ." And then ask what to do next. Always make it look like you are working WITH them.

The worst thing thing to do to a gov lacky is to challenge or question their authority. Been there, done that, lesson learned.

And never, never give up.

At 7/29/2005 07:46:00 PM, Blogger Twosret said...

"IMO A did the right thing."


You have agreed with me and others on the difference between your political movement and ours. Based on those differences we have operated seperately.

I got SM involved in this project and pressured him to work with us. We had our set of rules and I think SM did exactly what we agreed on.

Now that I am no longer part of this project, as an Egyptian, I really hope to see less criticism and more unity and words of encouragement because at the end of the day we work on DIFFERENT projects but for ONE good purpose.

I hope you understand that the emotions shown in different posts about this specific topic and how disheartening it is for SM, Karim and others are worth considerations on the comment section.

I know you are kind enough to understand me because you know how it feels when you are faced by obstacles and struggles.


At 7/29/2005 08:30:00 PM, Anonymous karim elsahy said...

"Part of the initial agreement I made with Karim is not to do this unless it's 100% legal and safe, and this promised to be neither. Not to mention, if it gets ugly, it will harm Egypt's reputation. I inform HIM that that would be unacceptable to me :"I don’t want to sell you out, but I don’t wanna hurt Egypt's image as well", "

I understand what you ment here(after a couple reads) but can you clarify that by HIM (in caps above) you mean A. It reads like you were having this conversation with me. (I was like huh?....oh)

At 7/29/2005 11:50:00 PM, Anonymous Alaa said...

> I really hope to see less criticism and
> more unity and words of encouragement
> because at the end of the day we work on
> DIFFERENT projects but for ONE good
> purpose.

what criticism?

besides criticism does not negate unity, my opinion is the approach where you seek permits is doomed to always fail, so I consider expressing this as constructive dialog.

>I hope you understand that the emotions
>shown in different posts about this
>specific topic and how disheartening it
>is for SM, Karim and others are worth
>considerations on the comment section.

no unfortunately I don't understand what emotions you are talking about to begin with, and I can't see how anything I said can possibly dishearten anyone.

>I know you are kind enough to understand
>me because you know how it feels when you
>are faced by obstacles and struggles.

I don't know how it feels when one is faced by obstacles of one's own choices, but anyways I never felt the urge to ask others not to express their opinions, not to offer their take on what could be done better because of it.

besides the comments section are not for the blog owner only, I seriously considered it important for the readers of this blog to know that the other option of standing for your rights and ignoring emergency law is available and makes sense to many.

At 7/30/2005 12:07:00 AM, Blogger Twosret said...


I think you have better things to do today than to discuss this with me.

Best of luck

At 7/30/2005 07:25:00 AM, Blogger barkingboy said...

SM what the hell man.. you did what any person would have done in a position like that.. going when SPECIFICALLY AND DIRECTLY being told NOT to go by the officials, could have caused you and your mom some serious shit.. and you could have forgotten about any security permits in the future..

its not cowardly.. its using your brain.. u have to humour them sometimes to get what to want later..

and ure not gonna be much use arrested..

On the other hand I think A also did what he had to do.. the security officials are a bunch of cowards less concerned about ure safety than simply not wanting 'general disturbance'.. If everyone listens to them every time we would never have had any demonstrations.. not against terrorism.. not against government fraud.. not against tomatoes.. not against nothing.. since A wasn't in direct contact with the security officials he went and did what he had to do..

I think it all turned out like teamwork.. each one did his own part to get to the end..

Cheers for you both.

At 7/30/2005 10:51:00 AM, Blogger gatorbait said...

Sam, you are no coward. Never, ever again say that about yourself. You,BP,Karim and Twos showed real guts just by getting this thing cranked up. You have many battles yet ahead, ok? This is a skirmish.

Remember, you've already been very effective by getting the Government worried enough to wonder . Good, now the next time Condi drops by, she'll have something else to ask "Why?" about.

You did the right thing, man. Cowardice is one thing, discretion in the face of hopeless odds is quite another.

At 7/30/2005 01:35:00 PM, Anonymous Don Cox said...

I think you did the right things all through. You might need to talk to the police guys so they know that you tried to cancel it - otherwise there will be no permit next time either. They are probably scared it could turn into a Tianamnen Square.

At 7/30/2005 07:18:00 PM, Blogger newc said...

You stated your place correctly. You may have underestimated your power but many do that.

You wanted to have a demonstration denouncing terrorism. That was all.
You asked permission and was denied before you had a chance to disseminate the information.

From the way things worked the other day, it looked pretty positive.

You did right to look because I would be concerned too. You did right to drive on too.

The entire world is watching.

You have a good heart my brother.

At 7/30/2005 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Memz said...

great effort and all the respect for trying. You muct choose your battles and this for sure wouldnt have been a smart one to fight!

At 7/31/2005 04:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh the brave heroic anti-terrorism hero! calling everybody else wussies!
u found out that just being a member of the elite won't let u play politics without willing to take even the slightest risk.
u can't be an activist in egypt and not take a risk, so u gotta choose. u can't take both just coz mummy and daddy know people in our corrupt police state.


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