Society in depth – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 26 Feb 2020 22:23:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Scholars divisions arouse disappointments over renewal of religious discourse Tue, 04 Feb 2020 17:41:45 +0000 As for the renewal process, he suggested that this matter is an issue that deserves much reflection and analysis, believing that it is all about diligence, and the protection of people from extremism.

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The recent divisions between Egypt’s Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb and President of Cairo University Mohamed Al-Khosht last week in verbal debates over Islamic heritage brought the divisions between religious and secular parties to the front pages of Egyptian media.

The debate alerted the public that the two sides have failed to reach a consensus regarding the renewal process in Egypt.

Prominent journalist Emad Al-Din Adeeb commented in an op-ed from the privately-owned Al-Watan newspaper on the debate between Al-Tayeb and Al-Khost, saying that “instead of seeing what happened as an intellectual struggle or division within society, we should be happy with such controversy and encourage and develop it, because it is a dialogue between distinguished scholars that combine jealousy with religion and mastery of human knowledge.”

As for the renewal process, he suggested that this matter is an issue that deserves much reflection and analysis, believing that it is all about diligence, and the protection of people from extremism.

Mohga Ghalib, member of the Social Solidarity Committee in Parliament denied the need for legislation regarding the renewal of religious discourse.

Ghalib, who is also former dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University, said renewal of religious discourse needs to focus on important issues that occupy public opinion and are closely related to citizens. She also stressed the need to work for more coordination on efforts between the concerned authorities to renew the religious discourse.

Commenting on the recent conference, Ghalib emphasised that these conferences are of great importance in renewing religious discourse, especially in what is presented by important research and working papers that have a great impact in resolving crises.


Political Islam researcher Tawfek Hamid said, “Al-Azhar failed, over the years, in the renewal of religious thought and discourse, because it seems that the entity is still studying the jurisprudence of the four schools, the same jurisprudence that was taught hundreds of years ago already.”

Hamid, who is also a writer, said, “It is difficult to imagine how an institution that was based on indoctrination, memorisation, and reflection, only within the limits of certain doctrines – could carry out the task of renewing Islamic thought that had not been renewed for hundreds of years since the door to ’diligence’ on the origins of religion was locked.”

Osama Al-Abd, head of the Religious Affairs and Endowments Committee of Parliament, said that Al-Azhar expresses the moderation and tolerance of Islam, the highest institution can carry out the mission of renewing religious discourse and confronting extremist ideology, because the institution has the backing of hundreds of thousands supporters and alumnae supporting its mission.

He said that Al-Azhar can do this task with the participation of all institutions in the state of education, youth, and other entities, pointing out that the Religious Affairs Committee is a partner of Al-Azhar in combating extremism.  


Al-Abd also added that the Al-Azhar International Conference for the Renewal of Islamic thought came just in time since Muslim nations needs to fight extremism and terrorism of all kinds.

The Monday and Tuesday conference focuses on how to renew religious discourse, refuting misconceptions about Islam, discussing women and family issues, as well as the roles of religious, academic, and international institutions in this regard.

During the conference, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called on religious institutions, especially Al-Azhar, to pay special attention to renewing religious discourse, stressing that failing to do so would leave the door open for youth to be influenced by wrong interpretations of the Quran and Sunnah. He also said that he wishes to see Al-Azhar’s international conference as the start of an annual chain conference aimed at developing Islamic thought.

Over the years, several religious clerics stressed the necessity of finding solutions to get rid of all extremist ideas and misconceptions surrounding religion, demanding a specific map for major issues to be discussed, and representing all different sectors of society.

Division continues between intellectuals and religious scholars over finding a certain process regarding the application of the renewal of religious discourse.

It seems that Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest seat of Sunni Islamic learning, intellectuals, and other religious institutions, have failed to reach a consensus regarding the renewal after long debates that continued six years until now, which draws an unclear path for this matter’s future.

Since 2014, several conferences, seminars, and meetings in Egypt and abroad, and media interviews have been held about the necessity of this renewal, but every time it either ends with official recommendation or more debates rising controversy in the public.

On the sidelines of these activities, the state has ordered building new mosques, restoration of dilapidated ones, and unifying Friday sermons to control any extreme messages.

In one of the recent verbal debates on the issues, Al-Tayeb and Al-Khosht asked whether the renewal should be built on principles inherited from predecessors or start from the ground up to face modern challenges, during an international conference on religious renewal.

Last week, Al-Azhar organised a conference in Cairo to discuss urgent issues on the religious stage and religious renewal. Delegates and scholars from 46 countries were invited to the Al-Azhar International Conference on Renovation of Islamic Thought.

Al-Khosht called for not considering Islamic heritage while drafting the new discourse, and forming a new kind of religious thought, explaining that it is impossible to renew current religious discourse since antiquated concepts of Islam only suits traditional lifestyles.

Religious heritage should be renewed in consideration for the modern world, Al-Khost said, adding that this does not mean “restoration of an old building with new concepts,” but the establishment of a new building with modern concepts to reach a new religious era. 

His viewpoint was not welcomed by Al-Tayeb, who immediately denounced it.


Tayeb said the new discourse should align with Islamic heritage, saying that, “The heritage, which some people take lightly today, built a nation, taught people co-existence, allowed Muslims to reach Andalusia and China,” adding that “the current sedition is political, not heritage.” He also criticised those who blame Islamic heritage for making Muslims weak.

Public opinion varied regarding both stances, as some people praised Al-Tayeb for his view, which they believe reflects the stance of all inside Al-Azhar and in other religious institutions.

This is not the first time for a public debate of top institutions to be unable to agree on a unified vision for reform. In 2018, Minister of Religious Endowment Mokhtar Gomaa, and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb, previously had their own division on the renewal, as Al-Tayeb demanded consideration of all the sayings of the prophet in the renewal, while Gomaa said that some of the eras cannot be followed in the current stage due to world developments and changes and urged that renewal of religious discourse should consider the requirements of modern times. 

Former Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour criticised Al-Tayeb, saying “it is clear that Al-Tayeb does not want to renew religious discourse, and does not hesitate in fooling everyone who calls for it. We can understand from his statements and actions that Al-Azhar revises old religious discourses and only amends it by adding some parts and removing others. This confirms that there is no overall direction to renew religious discourse and there is only a partial view.”

Al-Tayeb has not yet reached the stage of taking bold decisions, due to its affiliation with the “Ash’ari school of thought. He did not take any radical position like his predecessor Imam Muhammad Abdo. The task of renewing religious discourse is the task of Al-Azhar, but that, in itself, is a fatal mistake,” Asfour said in press statements. 

Asfor also said that the “renewel of Islamic thought is the issue of the future of a nation, and we have to follow the path of Imam Muhammad Abdo. This renewal is important for all Muslims.”

He denounced making Al-Azhar the only entity tasked with renewing religious discourse. Al-Azhar, he said, “is no religious priesthood in Islam, Al-Tayeb is not a mediator between people and God

The intellectual relies on his mind and makes it a priority for understanding religion. This is not a deviation from religion and there are some Islamic schools that do this, such as Mu’tazila and Rashdaya,” Asfour concluded. 

Meanwhile, Islamic Research Academy Secretary General Ayyad said that Al-Azhar provides a speech that matches the requirements of the times and adheres to the principles of Sharia.

Ayyad commented on calls that rejected the renewal in general, mentioning that there are some who say that renewal is departure from the principles of religion and heritage, and there are others who see that renewal as a means to return to the age of the Prophet Muhammad’s companions and followers. Both are wrong, he said, explaining that scholars have already exerted effort in this matter, and this is what happened by Imam Al-Shafi’i. When he moved from Iraq to Egypt, he renewed his doctrine, and set a new one that fit Egypt. 

Commenting on Al-Khosht, he said that the term renewal of religious discourse spreads among people, and every person goes to the intellectual version they adopted. Al-Azhar adopts the renewal of religious discourse from the texts of religion and the nature of Sharia alongside the state’s orientation to this matter.

The renewal of religious discourse means offering the discourse according to the requirements of the era and its conditions, provided that it combines the requirements of Sharia with its constants and fits with reality, he said, stressing that Al-Azhar does not involves itself in polemics.

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NCW calls to suspend Tamim Younis`s clip, which causes division among activists Sat, 11 Jan 2020 08:18:55 +0000 During the clip, Younis narrates the story of his admiration for a girl, then proposes to her, before being turned down.

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Throughout history, art has always been the centre of debate between advocates of Mimesis and Anti-mimesis, where pro-mimesis believe that arts are an imitation of life, as Plato and Aristotle spoke of mimesis as the re-presentation of nature. While, anti-mimesis such as Oscar Wilde, believe that”Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” We see this again days after the recent release of a song called Salmonella on Youtube, which has been causing great controversy on social media. Some say that the video presents a problem in a lite and funny way, while others think that this song spreads and encourages sexual harassment.
Salmonella is written and performed by Tamim Younis, an Egyptian Comedian and artist, who is best known for his work as an advertising director, before entering the field of comedy, the most remarkable of his comedy programmes is “Abla Fahita.” Younis’ controversial song also features Mahmoud EL Asiily, the Egyptian singer.
During the clip, Younis tells the story of his admiration of the girl. So much so that he decides to propose. However, when he proposes, she turns him down. After the rejection, the hero’s behaviour changes from intense romance to intense violence, making fun of the girl, saying a series of sarcastic insults, as well as disrespecting her to other people, in addition to repeating the phrase of “This will happen when you say No,” adding that if she were to say yes, her life would be better.
On Monday, the National Council for Women (NCW) announced that it presented a complaint to Google’s management team, calling for suspending the broadcast of the clip. The NCW stated on a press statement that the song carries a message that insults women and diminishes their rights, in addition to that the song encourages bullying.
“The song is also a blatant incitement to women’s abuse. It also contains expressions that don’t keep pace with public morals, in addition to that, it encourages the crime of insulting and slandering through electronic communication sites per the Penal Code,” the NCW explained.
The NCW said that the policies for publishing on websites have some rules, the most important of which is “prohibiting the publication of content that promotes hatred, supports, and justifies the hateful practices against other members of society.
In response, Younis appeared in a Facebook video denying all the accusations of encouraging violence against women. He defended the clip by saying that the song is making fun and criticising the type of men who, after rejection, turn from romantic to violent towards the girl, assuring that he was just joking and that he loves joking.
After calls from the NCW for suspending the clip, and the response of Tamim, the feminist community and its critics divided into two groups, in which some agree with the call of the NCW to suspend this clip while others see that Tamim highlighted a problem but in a funny, sarcastic way.
Commenting on the clip, Founder of Scream, an anti-Harassment initiative, and Chair of the Conservative Party’s Women’s Committee, Dalia Fakry told DNE that the song lyrics are crude and disgusting, and that is also fed into the idea that due to a woman’s refusal, a man is allowed to respond by insulting the woman, and encourages violence.
She continued that despite the song’s lyrics, Tamim’s insistence on gaining the girl’s love and then his immediate tarnishing of her reputation after she refuses is making fun of the overall situation nor does it give any clear commentary on the issue. It just mimics what men do in reality without giving any repercussions on the matter.
“Even if he was just making fun of this type of man, unfortunately, our society does not understand this kind of hidden meaning, as our youth do not have enough awareness. So instead, what they’ll take from this song is a man’s inability to accept rejection and to handle that. Everyone will now change the way they will deal with rejection depending on their understanding,” she said.
Unlikely, she mentioned that sometimes women in Egypt encounter violent incidents, such as threats and intimidation due to refusing a marriage proposal, but society would usually classify this as a rude incident. However, now she is worried that this art encourages this violent behaviour and that Egypt will witness more of these sorts of incidences.
Agreeing with Fekry, Nihad Abu Al-Qumsan, lawyer and head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, criticised Tamim’s song on her Facebook account, explaining that it was racist against women and a derogation from women`s rights and a way to bully them.
On the other hand, Gawaher Eltaher, Lawyer and Director of the Access to Justice Programme at the Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance, told DNE that the song carries no message of sexual harassment. On the contrary, it discusses and highlights the problem that a lot of girls face when rejecting marriage proposals.
“I think the song’s release came at a bad time since, on the same day, a video was released showing a girl being subjected to terrible sexual harassment in El-Mansoura. So many people liked the accident to the song,” according to ElTaher

Commenting on the NCW`s calls for suspending broadcasting the song, Eltaher thought that the action is considered a violation of our freedom to opinion, believing that stopping the broadcast is not the solution and that the NCW should call for an open discussion with the writer.
“I think there are more important issues than the song, that the NCW should take action over,” she commented.
Agreeing with ElTaher, a Doctor in Faculty of Mass Communication who prefer to remain anonymous, told DNE that whoever studied directing knows well that the director convey a clear message through shooting and directing techniques, explaining that the clip`s team want to discuss the problem of how some men deal with the rejection but in a funny way.

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Egypt prepares draft law to oblige men to insure their ex-wives Fri, 27 Sep 2019 10:00:32 +0000 “Divorced woman to be paid insurance benefits immediately after divorce,” says deputy chairperson of FRA

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While divorce rates in Egypt are on rise, more women are struggling for their rights after separation from their husbands. It has been a matter of dispute between divorced couples in family courts for long years in Egypt. Despite the existence of clear laws on this issue, some men refuse to pay alimony to their ex-wives. Therefore, the government has introduced a special insurance for divorced women and their children. 

Last week, the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) finalised the general insurance draft law. The new law proposes to make it compulsory for Egyptians to insure against the risk of divorce.

Deputy chairperson of the FRA, Khaled Al-Nashar, said the draft law suggests a new article obligating husbands to pay insurance premium defined by the insurance company – the cost of insurance policy a husband is purchasing – based on the married couple’s information and income. The insurance premium shall be paid on an annual basis, semi-annual, or monthly.

Al-Nashar explained that this insurance policy will preserve the rights of divorced women, referring to some cases where women get divorce after 30 years or more of marriage, and then they find no place to live in or stable income for themselves or their children.

In addition to the insurance premium, a fixed fee shall be paid by men for the insurance policy before signing the marriage contract, he continued.

Al-Nashar said in a press statement last week that the FRA is preparing an actuarial study to determine the fees of the insurance policy against divorce. The authority has addressed the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and other concerned bodies to provide marriage and divorce annual statistics to define the insurance policy fees.

Reda Abdel Moaty, vice chairperson of the FRA, said the insurance policy against divorce will be in favour of divorced women as it will ensure their rights and save them the hustle of going to courts to get alimony.

Ex-wives shall receive insurance benefits immediately after getting divorce, all at once or in instalments, without waiting for court verdicts. This not bias to women, but for the sake of society,” Abdel Moaty added.

However, he explained, the insurance benefits will not replace alimony or other obligations.

The suggested insurance policy against divorce comes within other 21 types of compulsory insurance in the general insurance draft law, which is set to be sent to the cabinet for reviewal, and if approved it will be sent to parliament for discussion.

Some parliament members welcomed the draft law, while others rejected it. The opponents believe it is difficult to apply such insurance policy due to the big differences between social classes, religious rules, and income levels.

Meanwhile, the draft law sparked controversy on social media. Manu wonder if it can guarantee divorced women’s rights, and others expressed their concern that it may increase the expenses of marriage, which will affect marriage rates in Egypt.

Parliament member Fay’aa Fahim said that creating an insurance policy against divorce will protect women and their children after separation, but the matter still need further study before application to avoid adding to the burden on young people already bearing high expenses of marriage.

On the other hand, sociologists attributed high divorce rates in Egypt to the lack of awareness among young people about marriage. This issue prompted President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to assign the Ministry of Social Solidarity last year to create programmes and studies on the phenomenon, and provide awareness sessions for young people willing to marry.

Nermin Abu Salem, founder of “Breadwinning Mothers” Facebook group including nearly 70,000 divorced and widowed women, welcomed the suggested insurance policy. She said, “the Islamic Sharia law oblige men to spend on their families, but this policy will protect the rights of women who are often responsible for raising their children after divorce without a stable source of income or housing. Women are usually the most affected after divorce.”

Another parliament member Amna Nosseir also supported the suggested insurance policy against divorce, considering it as a positive step to put an end to the “social tragedy” women experience after divorce.

Sociologist Asmaa Mourad told Al-Arabiya TV channel that there is a need to study this draft law carefully before issuing it, because it addresses various social segments and impacts young people who are already struggling to cover high marriage expenses.

She added that the draft law has possible positive and negative sides; it will add to the burden on husbands, increase marital age, and raise expenses of marriage, while the positive side is ensuring suitable source of income for divorced women and their children.

Moreover, Ibrahim Ali Salim, chief of Marriage Officiants Syndicate, said the marriage contract between husband and wife entails rights and duties of both, stressing that the financial rights are the most important aspect of the contract.

Salim added there are approximately 1.2m marriages and divorces annually in Egypt, and these contracts’ fees go to a family insurance fund, to be paid for divorced women.

Earlier in September, the CAPMAS announced that marriage and divorce statistics declined by 25.4% and 27%, respectively in June 2019, compared to June 2018.

The number of marriage contracts in June 2019 reached 63,200, compared to 84,700 contracts in June 2018, a decrease of 25.4% according to the CAPMAS. Meanwhile the number of divorces in June 2019 reached 10,000 cases, compared to 13,700 cases for the same month of the previous year, a decrease of 27%.

The number of marriage contracts in 2018 amounted to 887,315 contracts, compared to 912,606 contracts in 2017, a decline of 2.8%. The number of divorce certificates reached 211,554 certificates in 2018, compared to 198,269 certificates in 2017, an increase of 6.7%, according to the CAPMAS.

Moreover, Reda El-Danbouki, the Executive Director of Women’s Center for Legal Guidance and Awareness, said in a press statement, “The idea of ​​a compulsory insurance policy against divorce is good in principle, given the large number of divorced women who are unable to afford their living expenses and their children’s expenses simultaneously.”

However, he added, the idea needs some amendments. He wondered who will get the insurance benefits in case the couple stayed married forever, noting that public employees are already paying insurance during their work time, so the compulsory insurance against divorce will just add to their burdens.

Other experts believe that make this insurance policy optional is the best solution to avoid legal obstacles and reduce the financial burdens on young people who are going to marry, he added.

El-Danbouki said a marriage contract can have a new clause, to be called special conditions, where it is possible to put some guarantees for the rights of wife after divorce. For example, they may divide their wealth between them in case of divorce. He pointed out that some women get all the furniture of the marriage apartment which in some cases cost up to EGP 500,000.

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Can homeschooling replace formal education in Egypt? Sun, 30 Jun 2019 11:44:21 +0000 Collection of testimonies and experiences of parents as well as educators on homeschooling

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Alternatives to formal education are on the rise, homeschooling became one of the alternatives available to parents, allowing them a chance to offer a richer, more personalised educational experience than any of traditional school curriculum can.

Nouha Hafez, one of the parents –currently working in an academy offering homeschooling option– who decided tread on that path. She believes that homeschooling her son Ali, allowed him to be less stressed, and unleash his talents.

Another parent, Nesma share a similar view, Nesma felt the long hours her children spent at school with a poor curriculum and a lack of activities were of no benefit to them, and that now her daughter became more eager to study.

However, Egypt doesn’t recognise homeschooling, and the children has to be enrolled in a school, the only option available for them to be homeschooled, is to be enrolled in a school that allow them to enroll without attendance, they only need to go take the exams in such school.
According to Kamel Mogheith, an educational expert, modern technology made homeschooling more efficient, as social media allowed better communication between homeschooled students and their tutors.

Furthermore, Moustafa Farouk who currently is the head of an academy that offer homeschooling option to the parent, said that the idea started when he faced problems with the schools where her kids are enrolled at. So he decided to look for alternative options, and review the experience from different countries.

Another parent, says that his daughter personalty has changed, as she became more interested in learning, not out of fear of punishment, but instead she became eager to learn.

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Sudanese protesters continue to press for “revolutionary” demands Tue, 16 Apr 2019 10:00:27 +0000 Protest leaders called their supporters on Monday to mobilise outside army headquarters, claiming attempt to disperse their sit-in, however military council denies

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The pace of events and developments is accelerating in Sudan after the ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir, as the Transitional Military Council is racing through several decisions to establish what it calls a “state of freedom and justice” in the country. Meanwhile, protesters are pressing military rulers to hand over power to a civilian government soon.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which headed the four-month protest, called on people to respond by joining the sit-in to “protect revolution,” and urged the council “to immediately transfer power to a civilian government,” according to a statement published on its social media pages. The mass protest outside the defence ministry entered its 10th consecutive day on Monday.

Sudanese protest leaders called on their supporters to mobilise outside the army headquarters, saying there was an attempt to “disperse the sit-in,” where thousands have camped.

The SPA did not say who was attempting to disperse the crowd, but witnesses said several army vehicles had surrounded the area.

“There is an attempt to disperse the sit-in in front of the army headquarters, they are trying to remove the barricades,” the SPA said in a statement to AFP.

“We call on our people to come immediately to the sit-in area to protect our revolution.” Witnesses said troops were seen removing the barricades that demonstrators had put up as a security measure.

Thousands remained camped outside the complex overnight after protest leaders issued demands to the Transitional Military Council established after the veteran president was overthrown. The United States, Britain, and Norway urged the Transitional Military Council and other parties to hold talks over the country’s transition toward civilian rule.

The African Peace and Security Council granted on Monday the transitional council in Sudan 15 days to hand over power to a civilian government.

This came during a press conference of the African council, following a meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, to discuss developments in the situation in Sudan.

The council said it rejected what it called the “takeover by the Transitional Military Council of power in Sudan.”

Meanwhile, Sudan’s Transitional Military Council on Monday said it was restructuring the council and appointed Colonel General Hashem Abdel Muttalib Ahmed Babakr as army chief of staff.

During a press conference on Sunday, spokesperson Major General Shams El Din Kabbashi Shinto said the Transitional Military Council was “ready to implement” whatever civilian government the opposition parties agreed upon.

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council has removed defence minister Awad ibn Auf from his role and appointed a new intelligence chief, an army spokesperson said on Sunday.

Lieutenant General Abu Bakr Mustafa will replace Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, known as Salah Gosh, as head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Shinto said.

Colonel General Mohamed Othman Al-Hussein was appointed as deputy chief of staff, the Transitional Military Council said in a statement.

On Sunday, the council met with political parties and urged them to agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister, an AFP news agency correspondent at the meeting said.

“We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice, and democracy,” a council member, Lieutenant General Yasser Al-Ata, told members of several political parties.

“We won’t appoint a prime minister. They will choose one,” he said, referring to opposition and protest groups.

Shinto also said the army would not disperse the protesters, but called on the protesters “to let normal life resume,” and remove unauthorised roadblocks.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters delivered a list of demands during talks with the council late on Saturday, according to a statement by the coalition of Freedom and Change.

At first they were pushing the army to back their calls to oust Bashir. Since his departure, they have called on the country’s new ruling military council to meet the demands of their ‘revolution.’

The delegation said the demands will “enhance confidence between the parties” during the transition period.  Proposed demands include “the immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government, addressing past grievances and abuses through transitional justice mechanisms, and dissolving the National Conference Party and handing over its property to the state.”

They also included “eliminating the control of the National Congress over the security services, dismantling the security apparatus and the parallel forces of the army and the militias of the National Congress, reforming the economic institutions of the state and liberating them from the state’s deep control, and abolishing all laws restricting freedoms.”

They also demanded the re-instatement of the country’s 2005 Constitution, which the military council suspended shortly after ousting Bashir, and the liberation of all civilians detained in relation to the protest movement, as well as army and police personnel in detention for refusing to shoot at protesters.

On the other hand, the Sudanese foreign ministry called upon the international community to support the new Transitional Military Council to contribute toward a “democratic transformation, building a state of institutions, and achieving a balanced and fair development.”

The departure of Ibn Auf, a close aide of Al-Bashir, set off a wave of celebrations in the capital, Khartoum, including among the thousands who had defied a military-imposed curfew to keep converging outside a huge complex housing the army headquarters and the president’s residence.

What happened since the overthrow of Al-Bashir

The military council has issued several decisions including cancelling the Emergency Law and the curfew, laws restricting freedoms, including a review of controversial Public Order Law, restructuring the anti-corruption commission according to new standards, the dissolution of a number of institutions, including the presidency of the republic, parliament and the council of states, and the freezing of bank accounts.

The discharge of the minister of defence and the first president of the Transitional Military Council Ibn Auf, from his post and referring him to retirement, the discharge of the Chief of Staff Kamal Abdel-Marouf from military service and referring him to retirement, and accepting the resignation of the Director of the NISS, Salah Gosh, and referring him to retirement, as well as the discharge of Sudanese ambassadors in Washington and Geneva from their posts, and restructuring the security and intelligence apparatus.

Al-Bashir and his supporters

Sudan’s Transitional Military Council has arrested members of the former government and promised not to disperse protesters.

The whereabouts of Sudan’s former leader are currently unknown, but the coup leaders said he was in a secure place. However, the military council said it will not extradite him, although he could well be put on trial in Sudan, as Bashir has been indicted on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

Bashir’s National Congress Party called his overthrow unconstitutional on Saturday, and demanded that the military council release the party’s imprisoned members.

President Bashir has long been a member of Sudan’s military establishment, which has dominated the country in the last six decades since its independence in 1956.

He came to power after he joined forces with Islamists in a 1989 military coup which toppled a freely-elected but largely ineffective government.

Economic conditions in Sudan have been deteriorating in recent months, particularly after the currency devaluation which took place earlier, causing prices to surge.

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Anticipated NGOs law likely to introduce more freedoms to civil society workers Tue, 09 Apr 2019 10:00:15 +0000 New draft law was prepared after dropping amendment to current law, says Ghada Wally

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After two years of endless controversy and long debates between the government and civil society over the current Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) Law, Egypt has officially decided to replace it with a new law upon the calls and demands of NGOs stakeholders.

During the World Youth Forum six months ago, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has approved amendments to the existing law under the supervision of the Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Wally.

Two days ago, Wally said a new draft law was prepared after the ministry had decided to replace the current law rather than amend it.

The decision came to strengthen the civil work in respect for its positive role in social development, which raises the question of whether the new law would end the state of controversy that has continued for 17 years since the issuance of the first NGOs Law for 2002 and until the current one was issued in 2017.

The cancelled controversial law was drafted by the head of the parliament’s social solidarity committee, Abdel Hady Al-Kasby, and was ratified by President Al-Sisi in May 2017, to replace Law no 84 for 2002, six months after the parliament’s approval.

The law, consisting of 89 articles, was approved, while another draft was sent from the cabinet to the parliament in September, but was not discussed.

The law was criticised for imposing restrictions on the work of NGOs, whether human rights organisations or those working in the development field. Civil activists said the law imposed harsh punishments on violators, up to five years in jail and EGP 1m in fines.

The new draft law has not yet been released, but some of its features have been reported to the media. The parliament will hold discussion sessions over the law and then it will be referred to the president for ratification.

Wally said in a press statement that the new law will take all international standards into consideration, confirming that the final draft came to answer most of the concerns and objections of the workers of civil society. It would be consistent with the Constitution and international conventions signed by Egypt, she added.

The law aims to encourage civil work and encourage Egyptians to volunteer and contribute to the civil developmental efforts, Wally said.

Several community dialogue sessions headed by the assigned parliamentary committee were held during the past few weeks with NGOs representatives, public and legal figures, and youth over the amendment of the existing law, which focused on reconsidering the disputed articles to come up with a set of recommendations satisfactory to all concerned bodies.

The sessions urged benefiting from international experiences in such laws governing the civil work. The cabinet initially approved the new draft law during its 3 April meeting, Wally said.

Expected provisions in the new law

The new law seeks to unify the bodies entrusted with overseeing civil society institutions in one administrative entity, and to establish a database in which all civil society institutions, activities, programmes, and sources of funding shall be registered.

The planned administrative authority would allow normal citizens or public figures in Egypt to launch or implement an initiative or a campaign from the ones authorised for NGOs.

The new law would also permit foreigners who have permanent or temporary residence in Egypt to join NGOs boards, on the condition that they do not exceed 25% of the board members.

The law also would allow local NGOs to open branches outside Egypt and to receive funds from individuals, institutions, or foreign NGOs authorised to work in Egypt.

The competent minister may authorise any of the foreign communities in Egypt to establish an association concerned with the affairs of its members.

Moreover, the new law would also organise the licensing of NGOs in order to allocate places to accommodate children, the elderly, ill people, others in need of social care, and persons with disabilities.

The new law will grant the right to NGOs to receive cash from inside Egypt from normal or public figures of Egypt or from foreign NGOs authorised to operate inside Egypt.

It would allow anyone to collect cash or in-kind donations other than civil society organisations after obtaining permission from the planned administrative authority.

All NGOs must disclose its funding sources and their purposes.

Disputed articles in current law

Article 8: It is related to the establishment of NGOs and stipulates that an official document on the NGO’s work be submitted, specifying its location. A fee of EGP 10,000 should be paid to launch the NGO, and be presented along with its founders’ criminal records and financial disclosures. Executive regulations may require that more documents are to be submitted.

Article 9: It states that NGOs will only be established after its founder has received approval, and it should not be approved in the event of submitting any inaccurate papers or failing to submit any of the required documents.

Article 19: If any NGO wants to partner with another organisation, whether local or international, in any civil work that aligns with its purpose, it should first receive a licence from the authorities permitting such work. The administrative authority will be responsible for settling the conditions for both NGOs to cooperate.

Article 21: It stipulates that any NGO can relocate its headquarters and open a new office in any governorate, but only following ministerial approval. The NGO must submit documentation which discloses the new headquarters, including any new activities that will be carried out by the NGO in this place.

Article 24: NGOs should notify the state of any financial grant, and if no response was received within 60 days, it means that the grant has been rejected.

The law includes harsh penalties for NGOs that violate the law, ranging from 1-5 years in prison and EGP 50,000-1m in fines.

NGOs and MPs reflect over new draft law

Deputy of the social solidarity committee in parliament, Mohamed Abu Hamed, said that abolishing the existing law came with a presidential mandate, adding that the president has set a course for reaching the proposed amendments by entrusting the government with dialogue with NGOs.

“The House of Representatives will respond positively to the amendments of the NGO Law approved by the government, because the previous witnessed huge rejections,” he said.

He pointed out that the parliament wants to reach a law that satisfies all civil society organisations, and is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives during the coming period for discussion.

He continued: “The procedures of funding NGOs were seen during the drafting of the previous law as a national security concern. The parliament will study the new draft law also in consideration of national security.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the elimination of the 2017 law was a good first step.

“Repealing Egypt’s draconian 2017 NGO law, which could have ended any meaningful existence for nongovernmental groups in the country, and replacing it with a law that eliminates all prison penalties for nongovernmental groups and their staff would be a positive move,” said Sarah Lee Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“The government should quickly publicise this draft so that civil society, which will be most affected by the law, has an opportunity to review and comment on its contents,” she added.

Around 47,000 local associations and 100 foreign employees in Egypt are required to work under the new law, which is dedicated to regulating the work of civil society organisations. In August 2017, the US decided to reduce $290m of its military aid to Egypt, saying that its decision was due to Egypt’s low human rights record, highlighting flaws of the current NGOs Law. Last July, the aid was reinstituted.

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Journalists express trepidation over press’ future following penalties list Tue, 26 Mar 2019 08:00:56 +0000 SMC blocks privately-owned Al-Mashhad newspaper for 6 months, fines it EGP 50,000 in first enforced penalty code

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While journalists and media personnel are wishing to amend the recently-approved media and press laws, as they believe their implementation hinders their work, a new penalty list came onto the scene to make matters worse for the profession.

The Supreme Media Council (SMC), headed by Makram Ahmed

The Supreme Media Council (SMC), headed by Makram Ahmed, issued last week a nine-page penalty list including 29 articles, approved by parliament, specifying a penalty for every violation to regulate all forms of media as well as social media accounts for people with more than 5,000 followers. It also applies to press institutions, national newspapers, private media institutions, public media institutions, private media outlets, public media outlets, websites, and newspapers.

The list stirred great controversy among press and media communities, with several parties expressing rejection toward some of its articles and called for a unified position by the press community to appeal it.

The list covers all media violations starting from rumours, disrespecting other’s opinions, defamations, disgracing someone’s honour, libel and slander, inciting violence or hatred, invasion of privacy, or violating the code of children, women and people with special needs, and was recently approved by the council.

Penalties range from warnings to media publications and fines and penalties of EGP 250,000 without a court order. Other sanctions include banning and blocking websites and social media accounts with over 5,000 followers if they are deemed a threat to national security. Media outlets that continue to publish “offensive material” will be fined up to EGP 5m.

First, commenting on whether the council has a right to release a penalty list or not, media professor Yasser Abdel Aziz agreed that the council has to issue a penalty list to control inappropriate media practices, as it is an independent national authority responsible and its main task is to control the performance of the Egyptian media, protect the public interest from harmful practices, maintain the right of the public to receive quality information, and meet established standards.

Yaser Abdel Aziz

However, the list also included some vague phrases which are open to several interpretations and open up a territory for divisions, Abdel Aziz said, citing examples of such phrases including “harming the feelings of the public,” or “undermining the cohesion of the Egyptian people.” He also added that these phrases violate a journalist’s right of freedom of expression and to criticise, suggesting that the council should remove them from the new list, reviews and re-issues it again but without the disputed articles, which may undermine freedom of expression and the viability of the profession.

Abdel Aziz further explained that the list was met with substantial rejection due to the inclusion of clauses contrary to constitutional articles, professional rules, and threats of further restrictions on media practices and right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The media expert said that council can punish any journalist for ‘unaccepted’ content on social media, in accordance to the list, and this was contrary to constitutional Article 211 which determines the responsibilities of the SMC as to “organise the audio, visual, print, and digital media,” and did not mention that the council could have the right to control personal accounts on social media platforms.

“The SMC grants itself the right to impose sanctions on the media in violation of the code of professional honour, which is not part of its duties,” he said.

Moreover, the list also violates Article 77 of the Constitution by giving itself the right to punish journalists and media personnel, while the article stipulates that syndicates are the only entities with the right to punish them if they commit any professional violation, he said, adding that the council also gives itself the right to impose the penalty of ‘blocking’ any media or press outlet’s website, which is an act prohibited by Article 71 of the Constitution.

For the past two years, around 450 websites have been blocked in Egypt, where journalists aspire the Media Council would find a possible solution for this issue.

Abdel Aziz concluded that the list in general “includes a number of violations of a legal and professional nature, which violate the scope of freedom of opinion and expression, and make the practice of media work risky, and warns of serious consequences”.

Only few days after its release, the Media Council took several actions toward several newspapers, including the British Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the BBC.

In its first implementation of the penalty code, the Media Council ordered the blocking of the privately-owned newspaper, Al-Mashhad, for six months and fined it EGP 50,000 to be paid within two weeks for publishing inappropriate content.

Moreover, the complaints committee of the SMC, headed by Gamal Shawky, recommended taking legal action against the BBC and fining it EGP 250,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency, for reportedly insulting Egyptian people.

Emad El-Din Hussien

One day following the recommendation, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) sent a letter to the BBC accusing it of “promoting the lies of the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist group” in an “inflammatory article” published on the BBC’s Arabic-language website. The SIS also has summoned the head of the BBC’s Cairo office over the article, which is titled ‘#Rest_assured_you_are_not_alone campaign renews calls for protests against Sisi’.

The Editor-in-Chief of the privately-owned Shorouk newspaper, Emad El-Din Hussien, commented on the list saying that, “I fully understand that the state aims to fight the rumours and lies that permeate the media, especially on social media websites, but the problem is simply that the state, while implementing this, would seriously kill the profession.”

Hussien said that the penalties decided by the council are very huge, as the ranges would fine journalists in different cases from EGP 50,000, to 500,000 and in other cases could reach EGP 5,000,000, and it also granted itself the right to prevent broadcasting, publication or confiscating any material, as well as giving the head of the council the right to sign or cancel the penalty alone.

“Entire Egyptian newspapers, satellite channels and websites suffer from severe economic crises, and so in case any one of them is fined with EGP 250,000 or 500,000, this would lead to their closure,” he said.

In the same context, the National Council for Human Rights stressed that the list was drafted contrary to the provisions of the constitution and the law, and that the judiciary is the only entity permitted to issue sentences of conviction and punishment, noting that the provisions of this list included restrictions on the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression and professional work.

A member of the Press Syndicate board, Mohamed Saeed Abdel Hafez, previously said that some of syndicate’s board members agreed to submit a request to the syndicate’s council to refer the head of SMC for investigation due to violating the law and the constitution through blocking Al-Mashhad newspaper.

Members of the Press Syndicate board have been discussing the matter with lawyers, according to Abdel-Hafiz, and have filed an appeal with the State Council against the new list.

Diaa Rashwan

Plus, the newly-elected Head of the Press Syndicate, Diaa Rashwan, said that the syndicate is yet to provide its final opinion regarding the new sanctions list issued by the council, as the syndicate has the right to comment according to the constitution.

He also said in an official statement that the syndicate is scheduled to discuss all the articles in the list, and will review previous reports prepared in January by the syndicate’s council regarding the list, which was referred to the SMC, noting that the syndicate has the right to provide its opinion in accordance to Constitutional articles 70, 71, 72, 77, and article 76 of the Syndicates Law.

Moreover, the Media Syndicate submitted a number of comments to the council, but the council did not consider most of them, Seham Salah, deputy of the syndicate, said. 

Noteworthy, the syndicate submitted comments on five articles to the council, which are related to the accountability of media professionals, but they were deleted and replaced with Article 27, which infringes upon the right of the Media Syndicate to hold accountable excesses issued by media personnel.

“Article 27 violates the law of the Media Syndicate, which recognises the right to hold any media accountable in case of infringement,” Salah said, adding, “There are a number of articles that stipulate the suspension or cancellation of a licence for certain media personnel, as well as the suspension of programmes, which is totally unacceptable under any circumstances because it is contrary to the freedom of opinion and expression.”

Meanwhile, as criticism was ongoing, the Head of the SMC, Makram Ahmed, rejected the reactions of journalists and media personnel over the list, depicting them as “distortion attempts.”

The list was approved by the State Council and was discussed while taking the journalists’ comments and media personnel into consideration, he said, adding that the list did not add anything new as it came to complete the recently approved Media and Press Laws.

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Repercussions of Bouteflika’s decision to abstain from running for elections remain vague Tue, 19 Mar 2019 12:00:27 +0000 New Algerian Prime Minister Bedoui reportedly began talks to form new government

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While the Algerian newly-appointed Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has started talks to form a new government, which appears to be the latest move to appease protesters, experts cannot still expect certain repercussions for the decision of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s withdrawal to run for a fifth term.

Last week, the 82-year-old wheelchair-bound leader announced he will not run for a fifth term and will postpone the presidential elections, which were due to be held in April.

Noureddine Bedoui was appointed as prime minister last week after his predecessor Ahmed Ouyahia resigned in the wake of the mass protests. As Bedoui reportedly began working on the new government, prominent opposition leader Abderrazak Makri called on Bouteflika and the ruling elite to step down.

“The gang [the ruling authority] has refused to respond to the Algerian people until today and this moment. It has to listen to the voice of the street and implement what it wants,” said Makri, the head of the Islamist Movement for the Society of Peace, in an online statement last week.

Bedoui is a close ally of Bouteflika’s and has been tasked with bringing about political reforms until new presidential elections are held.  His government is also expected to organise a national conference, but no dates have been given for either the elections or the conference.

Views of foreign writers varied, as some of them believed that the decisions of Bouteflika turned a page from the history of modern Algeria, where the country will choose its successor, while some considered the step as ‘half a victory’ due to the street mobilisation.

Moreover, others questioned the move, saying it was to “gain time, and to give an opportunity in order to ensure the continuity of the ruling regime, but differently, through a respected figure who should know how to deal with the new balances.”

Writer Abdullah Raqdi at the London-based newspaper Raialyoum said that the engagement of the Algerian people was “a declaration of a new dawn for a society that decided to put an end to the path of decline and failure made by the current regime.”

Journalist Gihad El-Khazen said that, “Perhaps the demonstrations of hundreds of Algerians, and the scenes of millions of Algerians who filled the capital, among others, convinced the Algerian President not to continue in his position, or maybe the Algerian army realised that it should not stand against its citizens. It is important now that a page of Algeria’s modern history will unfold within weeks, and the country will choose a successor to Bouteflika.”

Prominent Yemeni journalist Sadek Nasher said Bouteflika’s decisions “have defused a deep crisis in the country, although they were unable to end it completely because many political parties continue to question its goal, but ultimately putting Algeria before political and social entitlements, and even a new constitution would completely change the face of the country in the coming decades.”

The writer warns that the widespread rejections of the step presented by the president “lends the next phase many concerns and fears, especially since Bouteflika’s supporters see the rejections as constitutional violations, and deliberate the extension of the current presidential mandate of Bouteflika,” which means that the crisis is still in place.

Earlier in February, President Bouteflika announced his intention to run for a fifth term in the upcoming elections scheduled in April.  His supporters believe that the leader is ‘mentally and intellectually’ capable of running the country.  However, since suffering from a stroke in 2013, he has rarely been seen in public and does not travel around the country or abroad–except for medical treatment.

Thousands of Algerians demonstrated in several cities across the country against the Algerian President Bouteflika’s declaration that he will run in the coming presidential election seeking a fifth presidential term.

The protesters were chanting against Bouteflika with slogans such as “No for fifth term,” and “No for Bouteflika,” as they waved the Algerian flag. They also clashed with the security forces who were intensively deployed in the capital’s main squares as well as major cities.

The protesters also chanted against Saeed Bouteflika, the younger brother of the Algerian President, who currently acts as his adviser, as well as Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, and they called for his dismissal.

Security forces responded with tear gas and cordoned off the May 1 Square in the capital Algiers, and prevented protesters from entering it. Algeria’s authorities have banned demonstrations in the capital city since 2001.

These protests were the largest in Algeria since 2001. Despite intensive security measures in Algiers, calls to protest against Bouteflika’s presidential candidacy succeeded to attract thousands of citizens after opposition political parties called for marches outside the capital. Security forces have been actively restricting the protesters’ movements, blocking their roads, and dispersing gatherings.

Kada Ben Amar, Algerian writer for the daily newspaper Echourouk, said that what was achieved after Bouteflika’s letter was “half a victory, which dropped the fifth oath which was not logical at all.” The president himself admitted that he did not want to run from the beginning, but at the same time, this came to contain the anger of the street and invest in Algeria’s peace in order to direct the country and the people toward a genuine change, as the archaic faces no longer have a place nor role in it.

Ben Amar stated, “The time has come for everyone to raise their voices of reason, including the street which began to resort to the elites, perhaps to find someone who deserves to speak and negotiate in their names in the next stage.”

“The language of reason in this matter is to accept the principle of dialogue on the foundations of the new Algerian political system, and decide on who will be in charge of steering the ship, as well as how to set a realistic calendar which will determine the way to prepare a constitution based on the new republic and then to adopt it,” he said, adding, “This is the plan of action for the next phase.”

This comes as some writers doubt Bouteflika’s recent decisions. Khairallah Khairallah from the London-based Al Arab newspaper says that it is clear that “the goal of the narrow circle surrounding Bouteflika is to gain time to plan.”

“It simply means that members of this narrow circle want Bouteflika to remain president, even if they are right, until the end of the year,” he said, adding, “In any case, the unknown title of Algeria’s current phase after the Bouteflika page, will remain.”

The writer refers to the need for “a new system in which the beginning is to recognise that Algeria is a third world country, and it needs a different system which rearranges priorities, including attention to what the average citizen wants and needs.”

In the same context, writer Al-Habib Al-Aswad says that President Bouteflika, in his decisions, “wanted a deadline to rearrange the papers again, giving them and those around them an opportunity to ensure continuity, but differently, through a respected figure who knows how to deal with balances.”

Writer Tawfiq Rabahi said the ruling regime in Algeria “cannot leave the political and electoral game open to the unknown.” He added that the participation of what he described as “false witnesses” in the upcoming presidential elections, “gives the regime a new legitimacy of another four years.”

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Egypt introduces ‘Mawadda’ initiative to fight high divorce rates Wed, 20 Feb 2019 07:00:32 +0000 Initiative expected to start with trial phase in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said until July

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As Egypt is ranked among the countries with the highest rates of divorce, the Egyptian government has introduced a family protection initiative entitled ‘Mawadda’ in order to raise awareness on tolerance among partners, and how partners can prepare for the marriage life.

The initiative draws questions on the possibility of its success, especially as the rates of divorce are reaching unprecedented records. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi have been long criticising the high rates of divorce in Egypt, and addressed the concerned entities to enact plans in order to counter this issue.

During the sixth round of the National Youth Conference, the president addressed the minister of social solidarity, Ghada Wali, to prepare a national project with the purpose of reducing the steady rise in divorce cases within the society.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly reviewed a report prepared by Wali on the initiative which aims to reduce the high rates of divorce. The initiative is expected to start as a trial in the governorates of Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said until July, where the highest rates of divorce are recorded, according to the report.

The trial phase will determine the future of the initiative, highlighting its challenges and strengths and other points to be considered in any other upcoming phases. After the success of the initiative, it will expand to additional governorates across the nation by next October, the report further noted.

In press statements, Wali said that the new initiative contributes toward reducing the divorce rates through discussing topics related to choosing one’s own life partner, the spouses’ rights and duties, in addition to the different marital issues and how to deal with them especially economic pressures, family management, and women’s health.

Furthermore, the initiative will support young people in entering the marital life, while equipping them with all the necessary expertise to form the family, and will also provide guidance in order to resolve any disputes, the minster noted. Wali added that it will also activate family dispute resolution bodies to reduce divorce cases, and will also review the legislation which supports the family entity and preserves the rights of both partners and children.

Noteworthy, Mawadda targets around 800,000 youth from the age of 18 to 35, who are university and higher institutes students. Conscripts of the ministries of defence and interior, and those who work in the public service can attend the initiative’s courses as well. The initiaThe activities will also include reviewing all the legal legislation related to marriage with the participation of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta, and the ministry of justice, without violating Islamic law.tive targets married couples who have cases that are registered at the settlement disputes offices, affiliated to the ministry of justice.

The trainers will include 700 universities and academies, and 500 trainers from the recruitment camps of the armed forces and the interior ministry, in addition to 5,000 maazouns (marriage officiant).

Mawadda will work as an obligatory training programme for couples who are to be married, requiring them to complete an average of 30 hours of attendance, with a final exam.

The activities will also include reviewing all the legal legislation related to marriage with the participation of Al-Azhar, Dar Al-Ifta, and the ministry of justice, without violating Islamic law.

Through the initiative, the state will be able to prepare a database of beneficiaries for this project linked through the number of national identities in order to determine the number of marriages and divorces, measure the rates annually, count the number of family cases disputes, and measure the interaction with the initiative itself.

The initiative will also work on social platforms through having accounts on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, in addition to airing a radio programme dubbed ‘We will complete our lives’, which will be broadcasted on all local radio stations, as well as prepare short awareness brochures, in addition to telecasting a programme every week starting from October on Al-Nas channel.

Wael Wafaa, a social consultant, stated that the initiative is important and must be adequately supported to ensure its success and sustainability on the long-term as the rise in the divorce rate comes due to several reasons, ranging from social, psychological, and economic ones, but the absence of the family role had a significant impact on the high divorce rates.

Speaking on the reasons behind divorce, he explained, “In the past, the father or the mother of each partner used to have a role in raising awareness on managing the family entity, through providing advice and guidance on how they can have a good and safe marriage life”. He denounced the personality of the majority of married couples, stating that marital relationship at the present is no longer based on integration, as each of them is only expecting more from the other, and they become very harsh if any situation needs their compromise.”

“In many cases, partners even reject to communicate with each other, increasing the severity of the problems between them, and this state of conflict is common among the majority of Egyptian families,” he said.

The consultant also believes that some couples who are to be married are not eligible to form a family, while depicting marriage as “a company with integrated and strong pillars,” urging that there must be a common dialogue between the spouses and thought between them in order to overcome any problems.

Meanwhile, Amira Hassanin, a behavioural psychologist, said that the initiatives which were launched in the field of reforming marital relations with the purpose of reducing divorce rates proved their failure, and they were just created for a media show, saying that there must be a national project in order to reduce the divorce rates which have significantly risen.

Hassanin said that the success of the initiative and its continuation will require it to become a national project to be managed by specialists in psychology, sociology, and clerics, as well as to introduce real stories.

Moreover, she also said there is a deficiency in education from both the family and school, as well as factors affecting economic conditions because of the high prices, pointing to the negative role of some media outlets and a large number of TV programmes. The reasons are also due to the rise of cultural differences and conflict between spouses. She also stated that some of the advice givers are not eligible for such advice, and sometimes portray divorce as a “progressive step” which women should take, portraying her as a heroine who should be freed from the husband’s control.

“There is a huge inadequacy in the education which is provided by the family and the school, as well as other factors affecting marriage such as economic conditions, and the negative role of some media outlet that spike disagreement between spouses, and some of the providers of advice to couples are not even eligible for such advice,” she commented on the reasons of divorce.

Meanwhile, the Islamic preacher, Khaled El-Gendi, commented in press statement that the success of the Mawadda initiative requires the expertise of Al-Azhar scholars, the leading experts, legal advisers, professors of psychology and sociology, and all those who are experienced in solving marital problems, as well as the elderly mothers and men to sum up their previous experiences.

He also said that that the economic conditions are not the reason for the high rate of divorce, these arguments are flimsy, as couples do not have to overstress themselves and can live with their current incomes, and help each other in bearing the costs of marriage.

Divorce rates in Egypt have been on the rise during the past years. In 2017, the Egyptian census, according to the deputy minister of health and population, confirmed that the total number of divorced people reached 710,850. Divorce cases occur mostly in the age group between 25 and 30 years old.

The causes of divorce are varied, including financial troubles, social incompatibility between spouses, lack of responsibility, drug addiction, and the interference of family and friends in married couples’ lives, all of which can lead to child exposure to violence, neglect, and school dropouts.

A total number of 240 cases of divorce occur daily in Egypt, making the country one of the highest in the world in terms of divorce rates, which rose to 40% over the past half century, at a rate of approximately one divorce every six minutes. The country, according to cabinet reports, has 2.5 million divorcees.

Divorces have become a disturbing phenomenon because they threaten social cohesion, especially in the presence of children, and the issue requires a community response to solve its causes.

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Fate of Personal Status Law remains pending until controversy between Parliament, NCW ends Tue, 12 Feb 2019 09:30:27 +0000 Al-Azhar, NCW drafted other bills, did not respond to Parliament’s draft law

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As controversy continues, the fate of the Personal Status Law remains yet undetermined, despite the presence of several suggestions and proposals for the law, which all were submitted to the Egyptian Parliament.

Egypt’s Parliament is currently working on a bill, submitted by MP Mohamed Fouad. Starting from January, the Parliament has been providing the concerned authorities including Al-Azhar, the Coptic Church, the National Council for Women (NCW), and the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) a fixed period in order to provide their opinions and views, but none of the mentioned entities has sent any response yet, and rather submitted other bills.

On 10 January, Ahmed Helmy al-Sherif, the deputy of the constitutional and legislative affairs committee, issued the law to the concerned parties and fixed January as a deadline, yet the concerned entities submitted other bills, and did not respond to the Parliament’s sent one, according to Fouad.

He denounced the stance of the NCW and its absence from attending the community dialogue session, which was held to discuss the draft Personal Status Law. Fouad said that the NCW has announced, more than once,  their preparation of a draft law on personal status, and about holding frequent meetings and community dialogues on it. Moreover, he stated that the NCW declared that it was submitted to the cabinet, in addition to publishing prominent features of the draft law, but so far did not announce its articles.

He further commented that the NCW’s stance proves that there is not any draft law, and what they announced during the last period does not exist in reality, and only aims to hinder the discussions.

The member refereed that are already five bills submitted to the NCW until now, stating that all of these laws are being reviewed by the parliament. A bill was submitted by MP Abla Al-Hawari, while another one was submitted by MP Hala Abu Saad, and a third one by Gamal Shuwaikh, as well as three other amendments submitted by MP Samir Rashad Abo Taleb.

Hassan Sanad, a member of the legislative committee of the NCW, said that the bill which was submitted by the Parliament’s members was sent in February for an opinion, and the response is being prepared.

On the other hand,  Fouad said during a press statement that he rejects the NCW’s approaches in dealing with the MPs, and stressed that the NCW did not respond to the Parliament when it resorted to it as a consultant, and asserted that the Parliament will discuss the laws by the middle of this month, and will not include the NCW as they chose this path.

Meanwhile, the NCW prepared their own draft law for the Personal Status Law, which culminates to the other proposed bills. Several MPs are demanding information on the NCW’s drafted law, which was sent to the cabinet last June in order to take the appropriate legal action and send it to the concerned authorities.

As for the NCW, they stated that the preparation of this draft law comes in an attempt by the NCW to deal with the various problems which are present in the Personal Status Law.

On the other hand, the NCCM supported the proposal of the NCW’s new bill, which aims at addressing the several issues in the Personal Status Law, and it takes the best interests of the children into account.

Azza Ashmawy, the secretary general of the NCCM, said that we they cannot waive any of the gains which are granted to the Egyptian child, as stipulated by the Constitution and the law, or even the international conventions. She commented that Fouad’s proposed bill does not guarantee a fair protection for children.

Furthermore, she added that there are three million children in parental custody— either by father or mother— after their separation, which is a ratio of about 3%, in comparison to the number of children in Egypt, stressing that the NCCM will not allow the exposure of any child to violence, or ill-treatment as a result of family disagreements.

Al-Ashmawi commended the efforts of the Head of the NCW, Maya Morsi, on the issues of childhood and motherhood, stressing that the constant communication and cooperation between the two councils serves the interest of the Egyptian society.

Regarding his proposed bill, Fouad said that his draft law is attempting to eliminate the suffering of some mothers when fathers abduct the children and escape, through establishing a specialised family police which will be responsible for implementing courts’ rulings.

Moreover, the bill further stipulates harsh penalties for parents who kidnap their children, or who delay or extend the period of returning the child back to the other parent, after completing the agreed upon timeframe for hosting the child.

Noteworthy, the previous acts are not criminalised by the current Penal Code, since they were always viewed as individual cases.

He also added that his draft law guarantees the custodial mother the right to receive expenses for her children by determining a clear percentage of the father’s income, and by making sure that the father does not manipulate his income by submitting inaccurate documents to the court.

Fouad also pointed out that he aims, through his draft, to end the dispute between the father and mother on the expenses after divorce.

It is worth mentioning that in Egypt, several couples sometimes disagree and take their disputes to courts after divorce, when fathers reject paying for their children’s expenses, which result in enormous quantities of those types of cases in courts.

Accordingly, the law will guarantee the non-custodial mother the right to host the child one day a week, and grants her a week in the summer holidays, as well as to divide the holidays between both parents. The law will also allow the family members of the non-custodial side, whether grandmothers or aunts, to see the child during the hosting periods, which is not stipulated in the current law, which limits it to the non-custodian parent only.

Similarly, while the dispute between the NCW and the MPs is ongoing, Al-Azhar also worked on drafting a new law on personal status, and is currently preparing to send it to the House of Representatives. A number of MPs considered that Al-Azhar is exceeding its competence, and considered the move as a form of disregard to the MPs’ demand to provide the institution’s opinion on the proposed draft law.

Regarding the draft of Al-Azhar, the committee responsible for the preparation of the draft said that it completed the law, to include 110 articles.

The committee held around 30 meetings in order to reach a legal solution in accordance with the Sharia for the many arising marriage problems, as well as that of divorce and custody, which gives men and women the rights affirmed by Islam. The Parliament has the right to either reject it or agree to it, as stated by the members of the committee.

Noteworthy, Al-Azhar formed a committee in October 2017 in order to prepare an integrated draft law on personal status issues, including the Grand Mufti; the former Al-Azhar deputy, Abbas Shoman; the former Grand Mufti, Nasr Farid Wasil, and several members from the Senior Scholars’ Council, and the Islamic Research Academy.

MP Mohamed Abu Hamed objected the preparation of the Al-Azhar a draft law on personal status, stressing that Al-Azhar is body which gives opinion on religious matters, and that the Personal Status Law is mainly a civil one, and has few articles which are related to religion. Accordingly, the Constitution of Al-Azhar stipulates that it should only be limited to giving opinion.

Moreover, Abu Hamed pointed out that since April 2017, the Parliament has received six bills with bills relating to the Personal Status Law, which include a full bill submitted by Fouad and 59 other deputies, another full draft submitted by Abla Al-Hawari and 60 other deputies, and another one by Samir Rashad and 80 other deputies, as well as three bills submitted by some deputies’ amendments on a number of articles of the current Personal Status Law.

The member concluded that the Parliament’s legislative committee is not the one responsible for hindering the law, as it granted a long time for Al-Azhar and the NCW, nearly a year, stressing that the poll is not a mechanism of deterrence, especially if the concerned parties of the law are to express their opinion. The opinion, after all, is advisory and non-binding to the parliament.

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Egypt fights homelessness as part of community development initiatives Tue, 29 Jan 2019 08:00:31 +0000 Over last 15 days, around 1,686 homeless people of different ages rescued, says social solidarity minister

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Continuing its progress in the community development field since last year, the Egyptian government has launched a new social initiative as part of a series of social projects introduced to improve conditions of the most vulnerable individuals.

Following the cold wave that hit the country over the past two weeks, the ministry of social solidarity created an initiative to rescue homeless people. The Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly, initiated the “We are With You” campaign on 15 January, in coordination with the ministries of interior and health, to solve the problem of homelessness in Egypt.

The initiative assigned special convoys nationwide to return lost children to their families or offer them shelters. For those who do not want to be relocated, the convoys provide them food, medicine, and blankets instead. It further provides rehabilitation to help people resume their normal lives.

There are 17 convoys working in different areas and governorates across Egypt, each includes sociologists, psychologists, doctors, and specialists to handle homeless children. They return lost children to their families if they were reachable, otherwise they send them to child care centres. The same options are offered for the homeless seniors.

The Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Waly

These convoys also include rapid intervention teams affiliated to the ministry of social solidarity and members of the Tahya Misr Fund’s Children Without Shelter initiative.

There are least 12 million homeless people in Egypt, including 3 million children, mainly in Cairo, Giza, Qaliubiya, Alexandria, Menoufiya, Sharqeya, Suez, Beni Suef, Minya, and Assiut, according to the ministry of social solidarity.

The ministry offered several contact channels though hotlines and social media so people can report any homeless person. The initiative marks a good start for this year, said Waly, noting that following the recent cold wave, intensive efforts have been exerted by the Children Without Shelter initiative and the ministry to rescue homeless persons.

Over the past 15 days, around 1,686 homeless people of different ages were rescued, however, the initiative was initially targeting only children.

The ministry said that 95 adults and 80 children were rescued on Saturday. Cairo had the lion’s share of these cases with a total of 68 homeless people, followed by Giza with 20 individuals, and Assiut with 19 individuals.

This campaign received a fund of EGP 50m from the ministry of social solidarity and extra EGP 114m from the Tahya Misr Fund. The Egyptian Food Bank also financed the initiative through providing free meals.

The CEO and Managing Director of the Egyptian Food Bank, Moez Al-Shahdi, said that this initiative to rescue homeless people is very positive.

“It is clear to everyone that there are people [in Egypt] who are struggling to find shelters or obtain life’s basic needs,” said Al-Shahdi.

The Deputy Head of the campaign, Ayman Abdel Aziz, said the campaign aims to provide the social and psychological rehabilitation of children and to reunite them with their families, if it is possible. He added that the campaign also focuses on helping the elderly through providing hot meals and blankets if they refuse to return to their families or move to the ministry’s care centres.

The government is currently building more shelters for street children and now plans to coordinate with different NGOs to build more shelters for the homeless.

Abdel Aziz noted that the initiative’s teams were carefully selected from 3,000 applicants, and received training, in collaboration with international organisations with long experience in this field, such as FACE for Children in Need, Save the Children fund, and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Sayed Hamed, a coordinator in one of the rapid intervention teams, said that his team was not working randomly, but actually they were monitoring several areas to reach those in need, noting that they have a strategy for providing support and meals for homeless people.

He added that his team has started since 2016 to offer support for the homeless upon the directives of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

Hamed pointed out that rapid intervention teams are spread all over the country.

Moreover, the campaign’s spokesperson, Hazem Al-Mallah, described the initiative as a “multipronged” mission that includes fixed and mobile units so that they can reach out to the homeless everywhere. It also develops shelters for the homeless, offers case management services-including a follow-up of homeless people after returning them to their families to ensure they do not return to street-and raises social awareness about the issue.

The Egyptian population living below the poverty line exceeded 30%, while the state is working on providing different social development projects. On Saturday, President Al-Sisi witnessed the launch of the ‘Nour Al-Hayah’ (Life’s Light) initiative, which aims to treat diseases that cause blindness or blurry vision. The initiative will be funded by the Tahya Misr Fund.

Earlier in January, Al-Sisi also started the Decent Life initiative to serve as an umbrella for civil society initiatives aimed at providing healthcare, social services, job opportunities, and developing infrastructure.

On Sunday, the Minister of Health, Hala Zayed, announced that a new family-planning initiative will be launched as a part of the “100 Million Health” campaign to control overpopulation.

The new initiative aims to raise awareness about the benefits of having only two children, Zayed explained, adding that it will be divided into multiple stages covering all governorates according to the size of population issue in each area, considering the studies conducted in this regard.

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Public figures call to amend presidential term; Al-Sisi asserts respecting constitution Tue, 25 Dec 2018 12:00:38 +0000 Referendum must be carried out to amend constitutional article, says Fathy

The post Public figures call to amend presidential term; Al-Sisi asserts respecting constitution appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

“The president will not stay two days later after his term ends,” President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared. This has been stated directly to the public during different occasions to express that the president is committed to the duration of his presidential term, stipulated by the Egyptian constitution of 2014.

However, throughout 2017 and 2018, several people called for the amendment of the constitutional article related to determining the duration of the presidential term, in order to extend the president’s duration in office.

Egypt abides by the constitution, which was passed after a referendum in 2014, with 98% voting in its favour.

In one of the recent movements, Lawyer Ayman Abdel Hakim, along with five other lawyers, filed a lawsuit to the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters, in order to amend the existing constitutional article No140 which limits the presidents’ duration in office to two terms.

According to article No140 of the 2014 constitution, “The president of the republic is elected for a period of four calendar years, commencing on the day the term of his predecessor ends. The president may only be re-elected once.”

The lawsuit sought to allow Al-Sisi to run for a third term in office. If approved, the president can benefit from this move during the upcoming presidential elections expected in 2020.

About the lawsuit

The Cairo Court of Urgent Matters postponed on Sunday, the viewing of the lawsuit to 20 January. Following the session, dozens of citizens gathered while holding photos of Al-Sisi and chanted in favour of him.

The lawyer said in press statements that he filed the lawsuit so that the president can run for a third term as he believes that Al-Sisi made a lot of achievements, and he is the only one who should remain in office.

According to Abdel Hakim, about 310 citizens attended the court session to express their approval of the lawsuit.

Regarding the lawsuit, he explained that he prepared three memoranda which included the president’s achievements during his term.

“Egypt needs to give the president a chance to run for new terms to complete the path of achievements and the relations with other countries. We cannot start from scratch, in view of the relations that Al-Sisi built with all the presidents and kings of the world,” the lawyer said.

He also reviewed the achievements and projects which took place in Egypt during Al-Sisi’s ruling, starting from the new Suez Canal, the Suez Canal Development Project, the 1.5m feddan project, The projects of the General Authority for Roads, Bridges, and Land Transport, the national project for the development of Upper Egypt’s governorates, as well as the establishment of a new generation of urban cities, in addition to the national project for social housing.

He concluded that there are other additional national projects, including the national electricity project, the Jalala Plateau project, the Golden Triangle project, as well as others.

Can we amend the constitutional article?

Fathy Fekry, law professor at Cairo University and former member of the committee which worked on drafting the constitution of 2014, said that a referendum should be first conducted to be able to delete the note which bans this article’s amendment, and in order to add or delete any articles, which he believes would be “difficult to implement to a great extent.”

The professor highlighted that the constitution prohibits the amendment of the article related to the duration of the presidential term, among other articles.

Yet, Fekry also said that regardless of the entity seeking to amend the constitution, the people’s approval is the foundation and the only guarantee of validity.

Meanwhile, MP Ismail Nasr El-Din said that he has previously called to amend the duration of the presidential ruling to be from four to six years, while restricting the nomination to two terms, as stated in the constitution of 2014.

Accordingly, the article would change to become, “The term of the presidency is six years, beginning from the date of announcement of the election’s result.”

Article number 226 in the transitional provisions of the current 2014 constitution stipulates that the amendment of one or more articles could only be requested by the president of the republic or by one-fifth of the members of the House of Representatives. The request shall specify the articles requested to be amended and the reasons behind such amendments.

In all cases, the House of Representatives shall discuss the request within 30 days from the date of its receipt. The house shall issue its decision to accept the amendment in whole or in part, by a majority of its members.

If the request is rejected, the same articles may not be requested to be amended again before the next legislative term.

If the amendment appeal is approved by the house, it shall discuss the text of the articles to be amended, within 60 days from the date of approval. If approved by a two-thirds majority of the members, the amendment shall be subjected to a public referendum within 30 days from the date of approval. 

The amendment shall be effective starting the day the referendum’s result is announced, with the approval of a valid majority of the participants. 

Nevertheless, texts pertaining to the re-election of the president of Egypt or the principles of freedom or equality stipulated in this constitution may not be amended, unless the amendment brings more guarantees.

Moreover, Amr Hashim Rabie, deputy director of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, and parliamentary expert, said that it is impossible to amend the constitution in terms of extending the president’s duration in office, adding, “Any violation of the constitution will open the doors of hell and will lose constitutional legitimacy.”

On the other hand, political analyst Amr Al-Shobaki said back in 2017, “There are no permanent constitutional texts. All constitutions can be amended. After these four years of implementation, it is possible to find materials that need to be amended.”

Not the first call to amend the presidential term

Several public figures pointed out during several occasions that the constitution requires some amendments in order to align itself with the country’s requirements during the current stage. 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal previously reiterated during the parliament’s sessions and in other meetings, “The constitution does not satisfy the aspirations of the Egyptians,”

During the most recent talk of the speaker of the parliament, he stated that the constitution was a consensual one, and might not be useful as it was drafted under exceptional circumstances, and therefore could not be sustained on the long term.

The Head of the Parliament’s Media and Culture Committee, Osama Heikal, previously stated, “There are some articles which need to be reconsidered in the constitution,” calling for the amendment. His statements were supported by other deputies.

This is not the first time, as the topic was discussed more than once, most notably before the recent presidential elections, when proposals were made to increase the term of the president in office.

What does the president say?

In an interview in 2017 with CNBC, Al-Sisi publicly said he will not seek a third term in office, asserting that he respects the country’s constitution and will not interfere with it. “I support preserving two four-year terms.”

Earlier in March this year, Al-Sisi swept the presidential elections with 97% valid votes, securing a second term, while his not very-known rival, Head of the pro-government El-Ghad Party, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, secured just 2.92% of the votes.

Before the elections, every time the president was asked about the possibility of his candidacy in the upcoming elections, he never responded neither with confirmation nor with rejection, but instead declared that his candidacy will be based on the peoples’ decision.

In his interview with the editors-in-chief of several national newspapers in August 2017, Al-Sisi said that he would run for the elections, if the Egyptians called him to do so.

Speaking about the presidential elections during the third National Youth Conference, Al-Sisi said that “he will not stay in the office if people reject his presence.” He also reiterated the same answers in his interview with CNN in September 2016.

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Egypt to fight obesity after long years of consuming starchy food Tue, 18 Dec 2018 14:00:37 +0000 State shed light for the first time on obesity rates, necessity of fighting nation’s high rates of related-diseases

The post Egypt to fight obesity after long years of consuming starchy food appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

While President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi was demanding the citizens to be healthier and improve their eating habits, Egyptians were already complaining about food prices hike.

In two different occasions in November, Al-Sisi called for increasing awareness of the public about the danger of obesity, especially among school students and youth.

Egypt launched the largest-ever nationwide health screening campaign, ‘100 million lives’, in September 2018, for hepatitis C and other non-communicable diseases.

The screening of 17 million Egyptians as part of the campaign’s first phase showed that 75% of Egyptians have an above normal weight.

Al-Sisi noted that about 11 million of the targeted Egyptian citizens in the screening suffer from different diseases, most commonly diabetes, blood pressure problems, hepatitis C, and obesity, asking “why do we do this to ourselves?”

He added that the citizens should be educated about the effect of their weight on their health, as it paves the way to several diseases.

The president’s remarks came during the inauguration of a number of national projects, in the presence of Prime Minister Moustfa Madboly and a number of state officials.

“We have 700,000 people detected positive with hepatitis C and 11 million with no-communicable diseases, out of a total of 17 million. About 25% of those have normal weight while the rest have above normal weight or suffer from obesity, which will turn into life-threatening diseases.”

The president continued “every citizen needs to ask himself and look at his stomach, and then he will know how the problem is big.”

Earlier in November, Al-Sisi expressed concerns about the overweight of young Egyptians during a session at the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh, urging his government and society to establish “a culture of self-care”, while asserting that sports should be the main subject in school and university curriculums.

It may be the first time that the Egyptian state sheds the light on obesity rates and the necessity of fighting the nation’s high rates of related-diseases.

Reactions to the president’s statements varied. Some supported him and called on the people to respond positively to this call to decrease rates of obesity in Egypt, while others criticised the issue, saying that they cannot even afford normal amounts of food.

The flotation of Egyptian pound in November 2016 increased the prices of all products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as services, making life harder for the citizens.

Since the flotation, the majority of Egyptians has been complaining about how the monthly budget for commodities became insufficient to secure all their needs.

Starchy food is common among Egyptians, as they mainly rely on traditional high-calorie meals. Beans, falafel, and koushary are among the most common dishes for Egyptians. Rice and pasta are always served in everyday meals.

The traditional food in Egypt relies on products that include high calories, which made healthy food more expensive for being less demanded.

According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80% of Egyptians dies due to non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. About 15% of pre-school age Egyptian children are overweight, while 37% of women infertility (aged from 15 to 49) are overweight, and 48% of females are suffering obesity.

“My mother uses butter in cooking, so how can I lose weight?”

Rodiana Ahmed, a business administration student, said that her mother uses butter in cooking as her family could not accept the idea of cooking with olive oil because this was never part of their culture.

Ahmed’s family always cook its food with homemade butter which includes high calories.

Ahmed said that her weight is over 90kg and that she has been trying to lose weight for the past three years, so she decided to adopt her own lifestyle away from her family’s eating habits.

“I am spending EGP 2,500 monthly in the sake of losing weight and being a healthy person, and this adds a burden on my shoulder,” said Ahmed, who also works as a makeup assistant artist.

Ahmed’s parents are paying for her education, but giving her little money for her daily expenses, which covers only transportation and tutoring expenses, so she decided to work a nightshift job to cover her personal needs.

“I visit the gourmet market every month to buy healthy products which usually cost around EGP 800 to 1,000. I cook them myself to follow a diet prescribed by my doctor,” she said, adding that she pays a total EGP 500 per month as doctor’s fees.

Ahmed added “I really believe that to maintain a routine of healthy food is very difficult and requires a lot of money. Sometimes when I am not able to cook, I buy healthy food from a specialised restaurant. Salads only can cost around EGP 60 or 70, and sometimes EGP100. When I do not have enough money for such expensive food, I tend to grilled-food, which usually costs around EGP 50 per meal.”

Ahmed’s story showed that the problem does not lie in the high prices of healthy food only, but that eating starchy food is part of the Egyptian culture.

Nutritionists are really important

Farah Sherif, 26, food blogger, urged that she really believes that the problem is not about healthy food or traditional food, but the high prices of different products. People tend to fast food which is cheap and available everywhere compared to healthy food.

“I cannot deny that anything healthy and clean is expensive in Egypt. As healthy food is better than fast food, it is really very expensive. We have some markets specialised for selling healthy food in Egypt, such as Gourmet and Fresh Food Market, whose prices are not affordable for many of citizens. Such markets are all well known for high-class people as they are the only citizens who can afford their food,” Sherif said.

However, people can still cook healthy food with low calories and low budgets at home, she added, saying that people are fully aware of risks of the fast food, but there are no other options for them as they do not know how to eat healthy food with low budgets.

Egyptians need a full re-arrangement for their lifestyles, I think we need to launch a nationwide awareness campaign on how they can choose healthy food with low budgets and provide them with plans to be healthier and play sports.

She further recommended that the state should realise the importance of nutritionists as they are really doing great jobs and can be the ones who tell people how to be healthy with low budgets.

Parliament will take a stance

Mohamed Al-Amari, head of the health committee in parliament, said in a press statement that combating obesity is on its agenda in the coming period. The committee will examine the possible mechanisms to address this phenomenon and its impact on human health.

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Parliament calls for local entities to take part in confronting overpopulation Tue, 27 Nov 2018 11:30:03 +0000 Defence committee organises 6 meetings to support state strategy of birth control, family planning: MP Amer

The post Parliament calls for local entities to take part in confronting overpopulation appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egypt has for long been addressing overpopulation, being one of the top challenges facing the country, however, no clear vision has so far been introduced on how the state will confront the phenomenon.

Egypt has already created several birth control programmes, but many questions were raised recently over their effectiveness. Observers are questioning the progress of family planning programmes, believing they almost failed in facing the birth control issue, with limited achievements, as the Egyptian population witnessed unprecedented increases during past years.

Many campaigns were organised to increase peoples’ awareness about the potential problems when having more than two children. Clearly, the state needs to find more unconventional ways to convince Egyptians about the importance of family planning in light of difficult economic and living conditions.

Ayman Zahry, an expert in population studies, said that Egypt’s family planning programmes did not fail in confronting overpopulation, however they could not persuade citizens of the advantages of small families, citing several reasons, mainly religion and traditions.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi repeatedly addressed the phenomenon and warned against its negative consequences. The government also called on Egyptians to follow family planning methods to decrease the country’s population growth.

The Egyptian population reached 104.2 million people, 9.4 million of which live abroad, said Abu Bakr El-Gendy, head of Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) in October 2017.

Overpopulation became one of the major challenges threatening the country’s economy and capability of offering all citizens equal services, prompting the government to renew its previous calls for birth control. The issue of overpopulation has a big role in reducing the ability of the Egyptian state to deliver the most basic public services, including education, healthcare, and housing.

The national defence and security parliamentary committee, headed by Kamal Amer, held a meeting on Sunday to follow up on the efforts of the National Population Council to address the overpopulation issue. The council issued a number of recommendations that included strict measures to be taken on all state levels to stem overpopulation in Egypt.

The committee has been working to support the state’s strategy of birth control and family planning and Sunday’s meeting was its members’ seventh to tackle the issue.

Amer said that the Egyptian population is growing rapidly and all possible measures should be taken to contain this phenomenon and help the country face economic challenges in the coming period.

As for the committee’s recommendations, it began by suggesting the provision of special privileges for families with one child. Amer said that the state shall issue honorary certificates to parents who have one child, adding that this child shall be exempt from tuition payments at all education stages. He shall also be granted priority in the job market when he reaches employment age. For the parents, the state shall grant them life insurance after retirement and comprehensive health insurance.

In January 2018, parliamentary member Mohamed Masoud drafted a law of 13 articles which called on the state to develop and implement a family planning programme aiming to balance population rates by preventing privileges for a third child. But controversy stirred among parliament members over the bill, as some described it as unconstitutional, while others welcomed it.

Early marriage

On top of the measures, the committee suggested intensifying punishments on child marriages, which spread in Egypt particularly in rural areas, including those who contract this marriage. In addition, the committee addressed the government to increase the marriage age for girls and ensure that girls below 18 will not be allowed to marry. It is also recommended to prohibit early withdrawal from education.


For health, the committee recommended providing free contraceptives to women who only have two children through health units and hospitals nationwide, and to prevent the leakage of these substances so they are not used for any illegal purposes, Masoud added.

Media and Religion 

The committee said that media campaigns aimed to raise citizens’ awareness about the dangers of overpopulation are no longer sufficient, and now it is the time for strict measures to be taken to contain this phenomenon, taking into account the linking population growth to economic growth.

As for religious entities’ efforts, the committee said that government should seek help of religious institutions, both Islamic and Christian, to promote birth control initiatives in all governorates and stand up to the overpopulation problem.

In this context, Amer pointed out that clerics should inform people that the government does not aim to prevent birth, but family planning in order to increase economic growth.


He added that the committee recommended that the ministries of education and higher education play a greater role in implementing the new birth control strategy through changing education curriculums to include lessons on birth control, the advantages of small families, and the dangers of early marriage.

Moreover, Amer praised the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) programme, which has been launched by the ministry of social solidarity three years ago to protect poor people through income support, saying that it has been doing a good job in spreading the culture of birth control.

“This programme is based on the slogan ‘Two Children is Enough’ and offers many incentives for women and families in the Nile Delta and Upper Egypt governorates to feel the benefits of birth control.”

The Takaful and Karama projects are divided into two parts: the first aims to provide cash support to poor families who have children in different education levels to ensure that they will continue their education.

The other part is providing medical support to families with pre-school children, who are less than 6-years-old, and to pregnant women. The medical support requires that families implement all of the steps stipulated in healthcare programmes by the ministry of health. The maximum number of beneficiaries of this programme is three children per household.

On Sunday, the parliament’s health affairs committee voted during a meeting in favour of a grant agreement between Egypt and the US on birth control programmes, in which the US will grant financial aid to the government valued at $11m. The grant will also support the current birth control programme in general.

“To help achieve this objective, the agreement will help offer all the tools necessary to make birth control measures more appealing to families, provide training needed to improve family planning services in health units, and conduct a demographic survey of Egypt in 2018 to collect reliable and high-quality data on population and health in Egypt,” said the agreement.

Several of the programmes that were created on birth control became ineffective after the end of Mubarak’s 30-year era. Many of the countries that used to donate contraceptives stopped granting them to the state. Years ago, these contraceptives used to be financed by the state, but their prices are currently expensive and not affordable to all segments.

Late 2017, the state started a new family planning campaign titled “Lifesaver” to assist people to become committed to birth control. The campaign, sponsored by the ministry of health, aims to reduce the country’s expected population from 128 million people in 2030 to 112 million, thus helping the state achieve development which will contribute to improving the citizens’ living standard.

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Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival to Liv Ullmann Lifetime Achievement Award Tue, 13 Nov 2018 17:31:09 +0000 Festival has also released its line-up of films

The post Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival to Liv Ullmann Lifetime Achievement Award appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has announced on Sunday that it will be awarding Norwegian actress and Director Liv Ullmann with the festival’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Director Ingmar Bergman, an associate of the actress, will have a mini-focus programme.

Ullmann, a renowned and awarded actress and film director, and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund, is celebrating her 80th birthday this year. Having starred in and directed several films which have been screened at Black Nights and its sub-festival Sleepwalkers over the years, she will receive the honorary Lifetime Achievement Award – the first of three to be handed out by the festival this year.

Ullmann rose to international stardom in the 1960’s, having appeared in a series of films directed by Bergman, with whom she developed a long-lasting and productive collaboration, having performed in 10 of his films and some of his most celebrated works, such as Persona (1966), The Passion of Anna (1969), Cries and Whispers (1972) and Autumn Sonata (1978).  Both Autumn Sonata and Cries and Whispers were also screened at Black Nights in 2008 as part of the Ingmar Bergman retrospective.

It was for the role of Kristina Nilsson in The Emigrants, directed by Jan Troell, that she was nominated for the first time, in 1972, for Academy Award for Best Female Actress. The film was screened at Black Nights in 1999, as part of the Jan Troell retrospective. She also received two BAFTA nominations for Scenes From a Marriage (1973) and Face to Face (1976), for which she also received her second Academy Award nomination. Both films were directed by Bergman. She has been nominated for the Golden Globes six times, winning once in 1972 with The Emigrants.

Ullmann began her directing career in 1992 with Sophie, which was selected by Denmark as their candidate for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. Her film Faithless premiered in the Official Selection of Cannes in 2000 and was also shown at the fourth edition of Black Nights. She has directed three more films, the latest of which, Miss Julie, features Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell in leading roles.

Tiina Lokk, the head of Black Nights commented: “The whole body of work of Liv Ullmann can be regarded as a representation of Nordic film culture, and she has done marvellous work, both as an actress and a director as well as a woman. She is a strong personality who can set a fine example to many these days, as she succeeded at a time when the film industry hadn’t heard about gender quotas – it was all down to professionality and the extent of the qualities of the person.”

The festival will also hold a celebration of Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday, which includes an exhibition by the Bergman foundation and a small focus programme screening a rare film of his that is rarely shown – a Cold War-era spy thriller These Things Can’t Happen Here (1950), also internationally known as High Tension. Far from the director’s favourites in his oeuvre, the film holds significant historical value to Estonia since Bergman used Estonian theatre actors who had fled the Soviet occupation during WW2 in it.

Bergman addressed this matter even in his diary where he wrote during the shooting of the film: “A creative paralysis hit me after only four days of shooting. That was exactly when I met the exiled Baltic actors who were going to participate. The encounter was a shock. Suddenly I realised which film we ought to be making. Among these exiled actors I discovered such a richness of lives and experiences that the unevenly developed intrigue in ‘This can’t happen here’ seemed almost obscene.”

The festival has secured exclusive screening rights from the Swedish Film Institute and the screenings of both films will be accompanied by a lecture from the Bergman-expert Christo Burman, who is a senior lecturer in media arts, aesthetics and narration at the University of Skövde, Sweden.

The focus will also include a screening of Bergman’s classic Autumn Sonata and an exhibition of Ingmar Bergman and his Legacy in Fashion and Art, with an emphasis on the influence that Bergman – as an iconic filmmaker and reluctant trendsetter – has on today’s fashion and art.

The festival has also announced the line-up of the Baltic Competition programme, brought back to life after a seven-year hiatus. Three out of the 11 films announced are having their international premieres in Tallinn.

Estonia will be represented by three films. The feature-length animation Captain Morten and the Spider Queen, an Estonian-Belgian-Irish-UK co-production by director Kaspar Jancis, which premiered at Animafest Zagreb this summer. The film, dubbed by renowned actors such as Brendan Gleeson and Ciarán Hinds, presents a tale of a young boy who learns to take control over his life when he is shrunk to the size of an insect, and has to sail his own toy boat through a flooded café.

The feature-length debut by Liina Triškina-Vanhatalo, Take it or Leave it, is Estonia’s candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. The story, striking acutely at several social cords of Estonian society, follows a struggling construction worker who unexpectedly has to take on the role of a single father. The film is produced by Ivo Felt who received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Tangerines in 2014.

Director Moonika Siimets offers a moving perspective on Stalinist terror through a child’s perspective in The Little Comrade, which was warmly received by local audiences and those at Busan IFF, winning the Public Choice Award.

Latvia’s documentary To be Continued, chronicles three children with different social backgrounds during their first year in school—it is the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Another documentary Bridges of Time, co-produced with Lithuania and Estonia, studies the poetical world created by the new wave of documentary filmmakers in the Baltic countries during the 1960’s.

The feature films from Latvia include Bille, set at the end of 1930’s, the childhood years of the writer Vizma Belševica, that will have its international premiere at Black Nights, and Foam at the Mouth, a tale about an ex-police officer whose new project involving three service dogs goes awfully wrong.

Lithuania is represented by four films. Making its international premiere, Ashes in the Snow presents a tale of a group of people deported to the Siberian taiga during the Stalinist repressions of 1941. The other titles are Summer Survivors, a tale of an ambitious young psychologist who accepts to transport two patients to a seaside psychiatric unit which premiered at Toronto IFF, Breathing into Marble which arrives from a busy festival run that included Karlovy Vary and Busan IFF, and the documentary 100 Years Together, following several Lithuanians celebrating the country’s centenary. The film won the Public Choice Award at Vilnius IFF.

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Discourse on banning Niqab reappeared on scene over counter-terrorism rhetoric Tue, 06 Nov 2018 07:00:25 +0000 MP Ghada Al-Agamy prepared bill to ban wearing of face-cover in public places

The post Discourse on banning Niqab reappeared on scene over counter-terrorism rhetoric  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Talks over one of the most controversial topics in Egypt—the banning of the face cover—known as the ‘Niqab,’ returned back to the scene after some MPs declared drafting a bill to ban females from wearing it and entering public places.

Calls for banning the ‘Niqab’ are not new in Egypt society, as they began with debates over its validity in Islam, and for the necessity of others to know the identity of those who are wearing the face cover. Currently, the ‘Niqab’ became a threat to peoples’ security, especially since many crimes were carried out by face-covered criminals. In addition, security forces arrested terrorists hiding under face covers during the past years.

Presently, large groups in the country believe that banning the ‘Niqab’ is a must to maintain the country’s security and fight terrorism.

MP Ghada Al-Agamy said that the bill came to ban the wearing of the face cover in public places and government institution, and whoever will oppose the ban will pay a fine not less than EGP 1,000 which could be increased if repeated.

“The security conditions experienced by Egypt made the ‘Niqab’ ban an urgent demand, especially after it became clear that terrorists use it to hide from security forces,” Al- Agamy justified, noting that that the negative aspects of the face cover have become countless.

“Egyptian national security is in danger, and the ‘Niqab’ is being used in operations that affect Egypt’s security. Therefore, the prohibition of wearing it in public places has become a worthy demand in accordance with the constitution and the law which consider the security of the homeland and the citizen an important goal that must be met,” the member added.

The bill determined that the public places where the ‘Niqab’ will be banned will include hospitals, health centres, schools, cinemas, theatres, public libraries, museums, places affiliated with the state and those not, as well as in public transportation, airports, playgrounds, lecture halls, nurseries, public and private, and any other place categorised by government as a public area.

Al-Agmy said that the bill is supported by other 60 members, and will be presented to the committee of constitutional and legislative affairs for discussion, adding that the law was delayed for a long time and it has to be enforced.

The move came as state judiciary authority issued a recommendation to approve the banning of staff members in all faculties of Cairo University from wearing the ‘Niqab’. In 2016, Cairo University had already banned staff members from wearing it, which stirred a huge controversy at the time, while the university justified the decision by saying that the ‘Niqab’ hinders direct communication with students.

In mid-December, the American University in Cairo declared a decision to ban female students, faculty members, and workers from wearing the ‘Niqab’ inside the university, justifying that the move was for security reasons. Later it was overturned after the university administration met with some of those who are affected by the decision and discussed the issue with them.

Females wearing face cover believe that it is demanded by the Islamic religion, however, disputes over its validity continue among religious scholars.  Article 64 of the Egyptian constitution states that freedom of belief is absolute. The freedom of practising religious rituals and establishing places of worship for the followers of the Abrahamic religions is a right regulated by law.

The wearing of the veil has recently increased in Egypt, especially with the rise of political Islam and Salafist waves. The concepts of the ‘Niqab’ will remain debatable, as there is division over the ‘Niqab’, where some believe it is a form of social freedom, as everyone has the right to wear anything if they are not harming other people, but at the same time, there should be more security procedures to recognise the identity of the face-covered females to ensure security. Meanwhile, other people feel afraid or are uncomfortable in the presence of face-covered individuals, whose faces they cannot see.

Due to security threats, face-covered females were already banned from entering hotels and resultants, among other places, resulting in exposing them to several discriminatory practices.

MP Heba Hagras said that she supports the ‘Niqab’ ban given the exceptional circumstances experienced by the country, as banning the ‘Niqab’ will allow security forces to arrest terrorists and will prevent fraudulent criminals.

She also said that the ‘Niqab’ should not be allowed in schools as the student has the right to recognise their teachers and view their facial expressions during lessons.

“Whoever wants to wear a face cover, can do at home, and never come out with it to the streets,” said journalist Nashwa El-Houfy who expressed her support of the bill.

“The ‘Niqab’ is not part of religion, but rather an old Jewish custom”, El-Houfy said, adding that “the banning of face-cover is not a matter of personal freedom, but a violation of society’s freedom”.

Daily News Egypt conducted several interviews to understand various point of views, which varied between supporting the bill and completely rejecting it. Support for ‘Niqab’ ban came under two justifications including impacting the safety of a place, or personal freedom, while often the debate argued that the ‘Niqab’ was not demanded in Islam. Others say that this bill will add restrictions to the life of fully face-covered females and could be categorised as discrimination, which, in a way, is banning them from practising their social life freely like any other person.

I don’t agree

“Niqab is a personal freedom. It is a personal right, however, I am not a big fan for Niqab but I believe the fact that everyone is free to live the way they want as long as I want people to accept me I should accept them likewise, ”Aya Hilal, 25, dentist.


“No, I don’t support the bill, as I disagree with any governmental intervention in individuals’ lifestyle choices. It will open the door for more bans and interventions in everyone’s life,” Mohamed Ahmed, 28, journalist.

“No, I don’t agree with it. Because freedom of dress is part of freedom of expression and freedom of belief, and they are both guaranteed by the terms of law and the constitution. Also because banning Niqab is sort of policing what women should and should not wear and it controls them in ways that are unfathomable,” Toqaa Nabil, 25, journalist.

“It is a clear violation to personal freedom, Niqab is Sunnah and we are living in a Muslim country which follows Islamic Shariaa, so we should at least show respect to it, not ban,” Hend El-Behairy, 28, journalist.

I agree:

“I support it. I can’t deal with anyone who I am not allowed to see his or her face. Also for me, Niqab is a hide for negative practices,” Fatma El-Dairy, 38, governmental employee.

“After all this number of kidnap, killing fraud cases made by those face covered, I totally support it, My right is to see the face of the one standing in front of me as he can see me,” Nouran Attalah, 27, pianist.

“Speaking of term of freedoms, everyone is free to wear what he wants, and no is allowed to tell me what to wear, especially that it will be illogical to accept bikinis and revealing and reject covered clothes, but we cannot deny the fact that Niqab is a result of many crimes and is not demanded in Islam, so if the law is passed I will accept it,” Aya Zain El-Din, 27, accountant.

“I want Niqab to be banned and I accept also if Niqabis will be forced to take it off because we are in a time that identity of everyone should be clear to all. Also how I can deal with someone I can not see his face,” Nada Magdy, 30, housewife.

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Egypt handles potato shortage, absorbs public anger Tue, 30 Oct 2018 13:00:25 +0000 Minister of Agriculture granted to potato traders respite of 45 days to release their products in the market

The post Egypt handles potato shortage, absorbs public anger appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A scene repeated recently in Egypt, as dozens of people crowd around vegetable stands provided by the ministry of interior in several areas across the country to sell potatoes at reasonable prices after a severe shortage of the strategic crop that hit the local market.

Last week, the Egyptians were shocked with extraordinary hike in potato prices, jumping from EGP 5 to EGP 15 per kilo, to become one of the most expensive vegetable in the country. The interior ministry’s vegetables outlets sell potatoes for EGP 8 per kilo.

The price hike of potatoes followed a shocking shortage across the country. Potato traders were blamed for the crisis, after the government revealed that tonnes of potatoes were stored by the traders to sell them later at higher prices.

Meanwhile, the ministry of agriculture adopted strict measures to find reasons behind this shortage. The ministry carried out inspection campaigns nationwide, which resulted into discovering large amounts of potatoes stored in special refrigerators at several wholesale warehouses, head of the agriculture ministry’s central department of pest control Mamdouh El-Sebay said in a televised interview.

He revealed that traders buy potatoes from farmers for EGP 2 per kilo and sell them for more than EGP 10. “The ministry’s campaign found around 300 tonnes of potatoes at one of traders’ stores which he bought from a framer at EGP 2.5 per kilo,” El-Sebay said.

Deputy Head of the El-Obour Market Union Hatem Naguib said that wholesale prices declined by 30-40%, thanks to the supply and interior ministries, as well as civil society groups’ efforts. He added that traders should decrease their products’ profit margins to between 10 and 20%, to maintain affordable potatoes prices.

Potatoes, one of Egypt’s favoured vegetables

Seventeen governorates have planted potatoes in Egypt this season, therefore the coming potatoes supply in November will contribute to decreasing the prices, Naguib added.

Egypt normally plants potatoes in abundance and is known for its low prices compared to other vegetables. Egypt produces nearly 5m tonnes of potatoes annually, mostly for local consumption while only 850,000 tonnes are exported.

Potato is a highly consumed in the Egyptian household, due to its affordability.  Around 27.8% of Egypt’s population, which exceeds 100 million people, lives at or below the national poverty line, according to official figures.

Ezz El-Din Abo Stait, minister of agriculture, granted respite of a month and a half to potato traders to release their products in the market.

He said that it comes amid the ministry’s efforts to achieve food security for Egyptians, pointing out that this will lead to a breakthrough in the current crisis and reduce the potato prices in the local markets.

He also decided to form a committee in cooperation with the concerned authorities from the ministries of interior, supply, internal trade and local development to facilitate releasing potatoes that were stored in refrigerators, at the rate of 5% per day. The priority is given to official vegetable outlets that sell products at the common market price.

On social media networks, many complained of high prices, while others believed that the potatoes shortage resulted from the gap between the summer and winter agriculture seasons, hence it will not last for a long time.

Osama Khair El-Din, former president of the Union of Producers of Agricultural Crops, explained that potatoes are planted twice a year. The first crop is planted in winter and harvested in November, while the other is planted in May or June and stored in refrigerators for consumption in the summer until the end of October.

Traders offer different perspective to the crisis

Mohamed Hesham Kheidr, deputy head of the Farmers Syndicate and owner of a refrigerator, said that he is not selling potatoes but just storing them for EGP 330 per tonne during the summer, therefore the increase in electricity prices affected the prices of potatoes.

He pointed out that the electricity prices reached EGP 2 up from EGP 1.45 per kw, not to mention the sales and value-added taxes. He noted that refrigerators are mostly used now to store potatoes for food industry companies.

However, wholesalers have had another explanation for the causes of the problem. Naguib said that the apparent potatoes shortage caused by retailers’ tendency to purchase potatoes from refrigerators and farmers at higher prices than those supplied to the wholesale markets, such as the Obour and 6th of October.

Potato prices at retailers reached EGP 10 per kilo, while in the Obour and 6th of October markets, the potatoes price reached EGP 8-9 per kilo, therefore the traders supply lower quantities to wholesale markets.

The prices in the wholesale market are also affected by the high costs of transportation and food losses, bringing its price to EGP 10 per kilo, and sold for EGP 12 per kilo to final consumers.

During the last year, prices hike of potatoes took its toll on the farmers’ livelihood, as the price did not exceed EGP 900 per tonne, which affected the selling rate of their crops, Emad Abu Hussein, head of the Farmers Syndicate, said.

Egypt’s inflation jumped to 15.4% in September, an increase of more than 2% over the previous month, the highest level in the last eight months.

The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) said there has been an increase in food and beverages prices in September, which is the largest component of the goods and services used to monitor inflation.

The food prices, which rose 4.8% month over month, were the main driver for the witnessed hike. In September report, vegetable prices increased by 17.2% on monthly bases, while fruit prices rose by 7.4%. 

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Stories denote impact of bullying experiences on self-confidence Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:00:51 +0000 They made me feel incomplete because I was not married like them , says source

The post Stories denote impact of bullying experiences on self-confidence appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

“My voice is not soft and calm like all other girls, but rather rough and strong. I was always judged for this characteristic by all my colleagues at school. Every time I would open my mouth and talk, I would see surprised expressions on their faces,” Mona Emad, 29, said while sharing her school bullying experience and how it affected her.

Emad narrated several situations of bullying for having a low-pitched ‘manly’ voice at different stages in her life, which led her to feel insecure about her voice for a number of years and think of undergoing surgery to improve it. She pointed out that the issue started at school, when her classmates used to single her out for having a different voice than other girls every time she talked.

“I used to hear phrases like, ‘why does your voice sound like this?’ and ‘you have a stronger voice than mine’ or ‘your voice is ugly,’ ‘you scared me’ ‘your voice is disturbing my ears’ or, ‘how you are going to flirt with your future husband with a voice like that?” Emad recalled.

The twenty-nine-year-old housewife is among hundreds of people who were exposed to bullying during childhood.

Bullying is experienced by young students on a daily basis, at both private and government schools. Dozens of people grew up believing that they suffer from major flaws because of the comments they heard at school from their teachers and classmates.

Children can be exposed to bullying for wearing glasses, having acne, or for skin colour, body weight or height, clothing, performance level at school, and manner of speech, or pronunciation. They could also be bullied for anything that seems ‘odd’ to others in their appearance or lifestyle.

Emad explained that there was a group of classmates who constantly made fun of her when she spoke. “Sometimes they used to ask me utter certain words so they can laugh. I cried constantly. I reported it to my teacher and she summoned their parents to discuss the issue.”

“I really would have accepted my voice when I was child if other people had done so. I complained many times to my parents to take me to a doctor to ‘fix’ my voice, but they always rejected the idea until I grew up and understood that I am normal, and people are different. Now as an adult, I still hear comments about my voice, but I no longer care,” Emad concluded. 

In September, Egypt launched the first national anti-bullying campaign under the supervision of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and in partnership with the Ministry of Education, and with the cooperation of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), funded by the European Union (EU).

The month-long campaign is expected to end the first week of October, after raising awareness about the harmful impact of bullying, and providing solutions to counter the phenomenon.  The message is being distributed through posts on social media platforms, billboards, and televised advertisements.

The Head of NCCM Azza Al-Ashmawy said in previous comments to Daily News Egypt that the campaign seeks to help children, parents, and teachers to stand against all forms of bullying and violence faced by children in schools.

She added that during her discussions with children regarding the issue, they came up with several ideas, such as having a punishment room for bullies to remain in for a whole week, “in order to be labelled just as they label other children.”

A study by the EU disclosed that the highest level of violence facing children occurs at home, followed by school, with 29-47% of children aged between 13-17-years-old reporting that physical violence among peers was commonplace. The study came according to the latest global data published in 2011, indicating that slightly over 1 in 3 students aged between13-15 around the world experience bullying.

Mohamed Amr, deputy of minster of education told DNE in media statements during a conference, that the ministry has currently started a huge reform plan, and the campaign is a part of it, noting that teachers are a priority of the reform plan.

“We will provide teachers training sessions by foreign experts on advanced education systems, and correct ways of dealing with students. It will take time to see results, but we will continue. Before, people didn’t take it this seriously, but now we will work harder,” Amr said.

“Bullying is not the only issue facing the ministry’s agenda,” he concluded.

Teachers also practice violence against students in many cases of bullying. Mohamed Magdy, 32, an entrepreneur, said that his math teacher use to call him “stupid’.

“My teacher used to tell me that I will fail and will never succeed. He was actually the reason why I hated math throughout my primary stage, and was not confident enough to solve any equation,” Magdy also said.

“My father believed the teacher, and he never thought for a minute why I was underperforming in the subject as he always believed that the problem was that I am not studying enough,” added Magdy.

“Ironically, I graduated from the faculty of management, and I have my own business now,” he concluded.

Speaking to Abdel Hafez Tayel, the head of the Egyptian Centre for the Right to Education, on the reasons behind teachers bullying students, he told to DNE that teachers are not well appreciated in Egypt.

“First of all, bullying is a cultural issue. The teacher bullies as result of being pressured by the ministry, as they are working extra hours, while being less paid, and they are not granted fair rights,” Tayel explained.

“Teachers bullying students is a result of what they face from the ministry in the first place,” he urged, saying that when one is comfortable at his workplace, and is being well appreciated, he perform better.

When asked why teachers in private schools also bullying students, Tayel said that it is a transference phenomenon.

Bullying is not only at school

“People are always the ones who make you feel good or bad about your appearance or character. That is why I really believe that there is nothing called a flaw, we are the ones who make them by judging others,” said Sherine Tarek, who was always criticised for her curly hair during her schooldays.

“People around me made me feel bad about my hair. I used to hate my hair although it is a perfect specimen of curly hair. For my entire life I bought products to straighten my hair so I would satisfy people, without ever believing that I have really good hair,” she said

Tarek suffered from insecurity and a bad relationship with her hair due to peoples’ negative comments as it was common among Egyptians that any female who does not having straight hair is not pretty.

“There are several groups on social media giving hints and information for girls on how they could have curly hair, and I found out that there people spending hundreds of pounds just to have their hair like mine. This made me realise that I really have great hair, and looking beautiful has nothing to do with straight hair,” Tarek said.

Moreover, a thirty-year-old female accountant who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, said that she is unmarried and satisfied, but people’s comments are really disturbing her.

She narrated that few years after graduation her friends all got married. Mostly they all had children. “Whenever we would meet, they would speak about topics that I could not relate to. I would feel I was excluded, and bored. When I would tell them to change the topic so I could join them, they would reply that my topics are trivial for them now, and that their topics are interesting now because they have more responsibilities than me,” she continued.

Also, her friends were always arranging dates for her despite her repeated rejections. “They made me feel incomplete because I was not married like them. I sincerely wished that they would believe that I am really happy and not pretending to be,” she concluded.

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Females facing weak awareness at work to deal with sexual harassment Tue, 18 Sep 2018 11:30:16 +0000 Hashtags against sexual harassment at workplace went viral on social media during past weeks after recent cases reported by females with their colleagues

The post Females facing weak awareness at work to deal with sexual harassment appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Under inactivated law and awareness, sexual harassment became a ghost following females anywhere she heads or stays at, the phenomenon became expected anywhere and from anyone.

As a female, you can be harassed while sitting in a restaurant, you can be stopped by a harasser in the streets, whereby a harasser can come to offer to take you on a date, or follows you in streets, or be touched by him, while buying something or while being inside public transportation.

In all these previous situation females can still shout or resist, but it is not the same when harassment happens at the workplace.

Females in many cases of sexual harassment at the workplace choose to remain silent and not to report about harassment due fear of termination or to be accused of exaggeration or distorting the reputation of a workmate.

After some sexual harassment cases have surfaced on the scene during the past weeks, stirring controversy on social media platforms, feminist groups called on a strict dealing with harassment in workplace and adding a new article criminalising sexual harassment at the workplace and explaining how companies should deal with the issue.

During the past weeks, several hashtags on social media spoke against harassment at work following reports by a female journalist accusing her supervisor of harassing her.

As a result, more social media initiatives and awareness campaigns in Egypt were created aimed at condemning sexual violence against women, demanding that the rule of law gets to be applied, and encouraging women to speak up and create support networks.

Egypt’s Penal Code already include some articles that punish verbal and psychical harassment, but was long criticised by legal experts for not including a clear mechanism of implementation, resulting in having these articles not activated well.

The head of the New Woman Foundation (NWF) Mona Ezzat recommended that the new amendments should be added to the labour work stipulating that the one who is facing harassment charges at work should not be allowed continue his work until the end of investigations.

Majority of females interviewed have witnessed sexual harassment in government and private workplaces, more in factories, according to a report conducted by the NWF. The interviewed females reported facing specific looks at their bodies, and sexual suggestive comments.

The findings of the report showed that there is an urgent need to raise women’s awareness of legal protections, actions to be taken when subjected to sexual harassment, and noted that there is lack of programmes for gender equality, anti-violence, and intra-union discrimination. However, there were many reports speaking about the lack of awareness inside workplaces, whereby still few companies are dealing seriously with the issue.

In one of the recent campaigns made by HarassMap initiative a plane to create awareness at work in an organisation or institution on sexual harassment and how to deal with it.

Few years, the initiative already began ‘Safe corporates’ campaign that came to eradicate sexual harassment at work place through offering trainings, tools, and expert support to help businesses adopt, implement, and follow up on anti-sexual harassment policies.

Recently, HarassMap launched a specialised training programme conducted for Uber male and female drives, to raise their awareness on what behaviours are determined as sexual harassment and when they determine that they are facing harassment themselves. The initiative is further contacting companies to raise awareness on importance of fighting sexual harassment and how their legal department should deal with harassment cases.

I left because I can’t talk

A 26 year old dentist said: “I was working as a doctor assistant in dentistry clinic, my supervisor, who was 34, used to drag me by my hand every time he wants to assign me to do a task. At the beginning I used to justify that he has no bad intentions, but after speaking to my friends they all agreed that is a form of harassment she should not accept it, especially, that he was always touchy.”

“Also every time when he is nervous of work, after shouting at us, he comes to me and pat my shoulder,” she also said, noting that “his attitude was general with all females working at the clinic, there are some who accepted the attitude, but I never did, every time I find him touchy I pull myself back.”

When asked if she ever confronted him, she said that when he found that she is unsatisfied with his attitude, he started to limit himself with her.

The young dentist explained that she kept on questioning herself at the beginning if what is happening from her boss is normal or harassment.

“Later I left, I could not continue working in a place where I was not feeling comfortable,” she said.

Usually, woman take time at the beginning to determine whether what she is facing can be a violation towards her body or not, and in many cases speaking is not a good option for females at work.

I was young I can’t decide

“When I was at the secondary stage. In my summer vacation my parents contacted a family friend to make me start a training at his media company, that were shooting advertisement. At that time I was every young all my ambition was to work as a director, so working at such a place was a significant step to reach my dream,” said Enji Ahmed, a mass communication graduate.   

She continued that she was happy working there, the owner introduced her to the team including his assistant who was mainly following up with her over work since the owner was not available all the time.

The age difference between her and the assistant was 25 years, and he was engaged, she noted.

“Two weeks later, I started to work out of the office with the assistant and the rest of the crew at shooting locations, which sometimes was the reason I got back home late. Sometimes he offered to drive me home, and I used to agree only when his fiancée was always with us, so I will not be alone with him,” Ahmed said, adding that “afterwards, I started to realise inappropriate looking, phrases, but I was ignoring him, saying to myself that I might be misunderstanding him until he psychically harassed me.”

The 25 year said: “He touched me from the back while standing with a group of people, I took a long time to understand, I panicked and was afraid to tell anyone. I started to step away from him, even our colleagues realised my attitude with him, however, he did not stop his behaviour, but he continued it.”

When I tried once to speak to the owner, he was always breathing down my neck to make sure that I do not report him to my manager, so I left, she concluded.

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Definition of sexual harassment continues to face uncertainty, awaits laws to be enforced Tue, 28 Aug 2018 11:00:02 +0000 During past weeks many hashtags on social media spoke against harassment following Fifth Settlement incident

The post Definition of sexual harassment continues to face uncertainty, awaits laws to be enforced appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Though harassment has been a long-standing issue in the Egyptian community, over the past two years the topic was submerged by others. It has now resurfaced stirred by the recent “on the run scandal,” where a stranger approached a girl on the street and repeatedly asked her to go for a coffee together despite the fact that the girl repeatedly turned down his offer.

When the girl used her mobile phone camera to document the incident, she faced waves of criticism that put her in the position of the perpetrator and forced her to defend herself.

Social media users both females and males viewed the girl as an attention seeker for publishing the video especially, that she has published a second video for another harasser.

The video quickly became the top trending story in Egypt, with thousands of Egyptians debating whether the man’s actions amounted to sexual harassment. What is more to the story is that they claimed that she faced harassment solely for the way she was dressed; however, the videos did not show how she was dressed. Users kept on blaming her and circulating her personal photos and judging her.

The lawyer of the harasser Mahmoud Suleiman said that he intended to submit a lawsuit to the prosecutor general accusing the girl of defaming his client for publishing the video.

The case is somehow similar to the incident of TV presenter Reham Saeed in Egypt who has been jailed for ‘violating the privacy’ of a girl interviewed on her show to speak about the harassment she faced. Saeed wanted to prove that the girl deserved to be harassed for the way she was dressed.

The case, publicly known as the “shopping mall victim,” was reopened after the girl was subjected to a second assault by the same man after his release from jail on previous sexual harassment charges.

Women face verbal and physical harassment on a daily basis in Egypt, especially, on streets and in public transportation. A Thomson Reuters survey ranked Egypt “as the most dangerous megacity for women,” saying that the treatment of women in the Egyptian capital has worsened since the 2011 uprising seeking social change.

During the protests known as Cabinet Clashes in 2011, a young woman was dragged and beaten. Instead of pointing fingers against the perpetrator, the girl was blamed for going there in the first place. Salafist preachers took it upon themselves to place responsibility on the girl herself.

This was not the first-time tables were turned, but it was a prominent point to kick start a trend of victim blaming that has since continued, especially against harassment victims.

Assaults increase during public gatherings, such as on holidays or protests, where there have been numerous accounts of gang assaults. According to a study by the United Nations in 2013, 99.3% of Egyptian women and girls surveyed reported having been sexually harassed.

Harassment is not only in the streets; a Cairo University media professor was referred to an investigation over sexual harassment allegations last year after a voice recording for him harassing a female students went viral.

Definition of harassment in Egyptian law

In several foreign laws the definition of sexual harassment is an undesirable behaviour based on gender, race, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation or any other act protected by law.

Harassment is an intentional behaviour that violates the dignity, freedom, and privacy of the individual and creates a frightening, hostile or degrading environment for that individual.

The Egyptian law to combat harassment did not include all forms of harassment, and did not sort all type of harassment, it just limited it to punishment for any sexual or pornographic insinuations or gestures, whether verbally or physically, and this would also be applicable on means of telecommunications or mobile apps or online social platforms. The law further punishes harassing the harasser.

The penalties are new to the law, as prior to 2014, there were no direct articles punishing sexual harassment. The new amendments escalated the penalties for any form of verbal or nonverbal sexual harassment or abuse in public or private areas, to at least six months imprisonment and a fine of between EGP 3,000 and EGP 5,000.

The amendments were triggered by a mass sexual assault on 8 June during celebrations in Tahrir Square for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s inauguration. A video uploaded on YouTube, showing a stripped woman being sexually assaulted by a group of men, went viral on social media, prompting the government’s response.

Harassment rates are increasing in Egypt, girls are gradually losing their safety in the streets. Harassers do not differ between veiled or unveiled or face-covered females.

The Harassmap initiative presents forms of sexual harassment faced by women in the streets which include intrusive leering of the body or eyes, facial expressions such as sneezing, winking, and mouth opening, comments on the body, tracking a person by car or waiting for her outside place of work, home or at his car, asking for sexual suggestive comments or inviting her to dinner or suggestions that are sexually explicit or implied.

Moreover, also insisting on walking with a person or delivering her by car or requesting a phone number despite her refusal, close proximity, showing intimate parts of the body, and threating of assault or rape.

Due to debates over the definition of harassment, a number of  legal experts called for specific definitions of sexual harassment to be added in the law and providing punishment for each type.

In a statement on Monday, Al-Azhar rejected the justification of a woman’s dress code as a reason of woman’s harassment, stressing that verbal and physical harassment is not religiously permissible and is inappropriate behaviour.

Al-Azhar called for the activation of laws, which criminalise harassment and punish it and also called upon concerned institutions to raise awareness of the types of harassment and their dangers, and to avoid their destructive effects on morality and modesty, especially, the harassment of children.

Mai Saleh, a feminist working at the New Women non-governmental organisation, told Daily News Egypt, that the feminist organisation is currently drafting a bill to amend harassment penalties to include all its forms.

Commenting on the video to capture harassment, she said that prosecution always disregards complaints of harassment due to lack of proof. Videos and photos do not expose victims, but to give them the right to prove their claim.

“We look forward to the suggestion of adding visual proofs in legislature to defend the rights of harassment victims,” she said.

Official reports claimed in the past two years that harassment rates have decreased during feast occasions, which previously used to face high harassment rates, however, many females are still complaining of harassment on social media platforms.

Saleh explained that these reports are not necessarily incorrect, as she believes that security presence has to be stronger during in streets during feasts to deter harassers from harassing women.

Nagla Al-Adly, director of complaints office at the National Council for Women, said that police observed 15 cases of harassment during Eid Al-Adha, which marks an increase from the previous Eid.

Compared to harassment rates in recent years, in 2016 a number of 174 sexual harassment cases had been filed in the Cairo and Giza governorates during Eid Al-Adha and during the 2015 Eid Al-Adha, the “I Saw Harassment” initiative reported 447 verbal and physical sexual harassment incidents. It also accused security personnel of sexually harassing females during the Eid celebrations.

Earlier this week, a video capturing the moment tens of men sexually harassed three Egyptian women in one of the country’s streets went viral on social media. Also, a husband who was defending his ‘harassed’ wife on an Alexandria beach was killed on Friday, by a frequent harasser.

In past weeks, several hashtags on social media spoke against harassment following the Fifth Settlement incident. Notably, there have been previous social media initiatives and awareness campaigns in Egypt that aimed at condemning sexual violence against women, demanding that the rule of law be applied, and encouraging women to speak up and create support networks.

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Thanaweya Amma traditional system to end within two years Tue, 14 Aug 2018 12:00:02 +0000 New secondary educational system to be applied as trial on 1st level to examine its success

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Egypt’s long-applied Thanaweya Amma system is to be changed within the upcoming years, after being replaced by the new system adopted by the government, which is expected to improve the condition of secondary education for the first time in the history of the country.

Minister of Education Tarek Shawky

Last month, during the sixth National Youth Conference, Minister of Education Tarek Shawky announced the programme of the new secondary education system that will replace the traditional Thanaweya Amma system in the academic year 2018/19 through cancelling the scoring system of calculating total grades and switching to a grade point average (GPA).

The GPA system will evaluate students based on performance of coursework and electronically graded multiple-choice exams, while the current system evaluates only students’ answers on final examinations.

The upcoming Thanaweya Amma system will grade students based on the three years of study in that educational stage, instead of the final year in the current system. The new secondary system is mainly based on technology through submitting tablet devices to students and teachers.

The ministry believes that the new system will eliminate the phenomenon of cheating and private tutoring, and it will increase learning and creativity skills in students.

Mohamed Omar, deputy minister of education for teachers’ affairs, revealed that the ministry’s plan to deal with the phenomenon of private lessons is through imposing tough sanctions on those who give private lessons and that no educational teacher will be allowed to engage in this activity without prior authorisation from the state.

Training of teachers will start in September to qualify them to be eligible with the new system, which will be applied on students of the first secondary stage. The new system will end the traditional Thanaweya Amma system by 2020/21, and it will limit private lessons and difficult, indirect exams. Thanaweya Amma exams usually include questions not suitable for the learning levels of students.

The development plan will require students to use tablets in learning and acquiring information through the new national educational platform Knowledge Bank and other sources. A large number of schools have been equipped to use technology, and the rest of the schools will be completed by the start of the new school year.

Egypt’s Knowledge Bank will play an important role in the new system of secondary education, and its role will be inside and outside the school. The ministry is working on adding new content to the bank to serve students in their studies.

Among the most prominent content added to the Knowledge Bank are educational programmes for all ages in the educational ladder, as well as interactive programmes for mathematics from the first to the third secondary grades, in addition to three-dimensional films in science and mathematics.

The platform is expected to help students to rely on other sources for learning rather than relying on school books only, as it will provide other educational sources and references that students can look for in cases of research or understanding.

Shawky developed other several innovative initiatives, including an online digital portal that includes educational, research, and cultural resources for a wide array of users, and Teacher First, a training programme for teachers on using ICT techniques in education, which are now available for Egyptian teachers.

However, while the system will witness major changes, there will be no change to the format of university admission.

Thanaweya Amma is Egypt’s secondary school certificate, which is a prerequisite to apply for any universities or higher education institutions.

Since students will be using tablets, the ministry is currently working on the processing of the technological infrastructure within schools to include the development of an internal server for each school, including the digital content of the curriculum. Internet will be the basis of the system, as the questions and curriculum will all be available through it.

The Ministry of Education said previously that the development plan is only limited to changing the evaluation system, noting that it is only seeking to develop the evaluation to measure the skills of understanding and creativity rather than conservation and indoctrination.

The ministry aims to qualify students to enter university in ways that meet the needs of the labour market and the process of industrial revolution.

Under the new system, the student will perform twelve exams during the three years of the secondary level, where the current national exam, which takes place in the secondary school every year, will be cancelled.

The exams will witness substantial changes in form and content to encourage student thinking skills. They will initially be based on multiple-choice systems, short- and long-term answers, projects, and verbal fluency.

The results of the exams will be compiled during the three years through average cumulative grade point system (GPA), which will determine the student graduation and total grades.

The responsibility for implementing this new system will be shared by Parliament, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Communications. The minister of education has previously presented to Parliament executive plans for the implementation of the new secondary school system, which were approved.

Parents spend large amounts of money on private tutoring, as well as school tuition fees. Students depend on private tutoring more than school classes during the Thanaweya Amma stage to learn the subjects they will be tested on. The majority of those studying in governmental schools do not attend their classes. Private tutoring could lead a family to pay over EGP 20,000 in a single year.

The exam seasons of the past two years saw the leaking of exam papers by online pages, which resulted in the arrest of several Ministry of Education officials. Education experts have always criticised the secondary system for including syllabuses that add no long-term benefits to the system.

For years, Thanaweya Amma has been a nightmare for Egyptian students, stirring among them fears and doubts of not reaching their goals—as in many cases, the final total of their grades was the main reason that hindered some students from entering the faculty of their dreams. The system in Egypt is very complicated, as students are required to study a number of subjects, and the grades of each subject are combined to come up with the total that determines which faculty he or she can apply for.

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Egypt strikes against population growth to save economic progress Tue, 07 Aug 2018 12:00:02 +0000 Al-Sisi previously marked issue as one challenge threatening country’s development

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Population growth became one of the major challenges threatening the economy and the capability of the state to offer all citizens equal rights, causing the government to renew its long-years of calls to birth control.

In late 2017, the state has started a new family planning campaign titled ‘life saver’ to assist people to become committed to birth control. The campaign which is sponsored by the Ministry of Health to reduce the population from 128 million in 2030 to 112 million, thus helping the state achieve development, which contributes to improving the lives of citizens.

Rural areas are the target of the campaign, as many residents of these areas believe that large families are an economic source of strength.

Egypt has already sponsored many social protection services for pensioners and under-privileged citizens, which led the state to huge sums and the growth which impacted these funds.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called on young couples, to have a gap of 3 to 4 years between every child, and that one or two children is enough, during the session called “Ask the president”, Al-Sisi said of the 6th National Youth Conference in Cairo University in late July. It was not his first call as in May 2017 he remarked that population growth was one of the challenges threatening Egypt’s development.

During 2017, the state repeatedly called on citizens to engage in birth control to help the government to complete its economic developments goal.

Several of the programmes that were created to control birth rate increase became ineffective after the end of Mubarak’s 30 years-era. Many of the countries that used to donate contraceptives stopped granting them to the Egyptian state. Years ago, these contraceptives were sponsored by the state. Currently rtheir prices are expensive and not affordable to all segments.

However, last month, the House of Representatives approved presidential decree No 174 of 2018 approving the grant agreement with United States of America on improving the health outcomes of the certain groups including women.

Al-Sisi asserted that the state is making great efforts in the file of population growth and that Egypt needs a long time to feel an outcome, as the issue emerged in the eras of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak.

Governmental officials also have confirmed in several press statement that population growth is the main challenge facing the country, which must be combated as the country has reached an unprecedented increase that would affect what has been accomplished in terms of economic growth.

The issue of population growth is severely related to reducing the ability of the Egyptian state to deliver the most basic of public services, including quality education, healthcare, and housing.

The Egyptian population reached 104.2 million; 94.98 million of which live within Egypt, while 9.4 million live abroad, said Abu Bakr El-Gendy, head of Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics  (CAPMAS) in October 2017.

The CAPMAS said the population of Egypt rose from 59.2 million in 1996 to 72.6 million in 2006 and to 94.8 million in 2017, which implies an average annual growth rate of 2.04% during the period 1996 to 2006 and to 2.56% during the period 2006 to 2017.

Regarding the distribution of citizens in governorates, the population of Cairo is the highest, accounting for 10.1% of the total population, followed by Giza (9.1%). The governorates of Daqahleya and Sharqiya also have large populations. Meanwhile, the lowest populations are in border governorates and in Port Said and in Suez.

Egypt suffers from a 12% unemployment rate, according to a CAPMAS report in 2016. About 18.4 million are illiterate, which equals a quarter the population, and out of that figure, 10.6 million are females.

Movements in parliament

Last week, controversy stirred among parliament members (MPs) over a bill calling to cut subsidies for families’ third child as a way to regulate population growth, as some commented on it as unconstitutional, while others welcomed it.

In January 2018, the bill, which included 13 articles, was drafted by Mohamed Masoud called on the state to develop and implement a residential programme aimed at balancing population growth rates by not giving benefits for a third child.

Controversy over the law returned following the president’s statements to enforce a bill to combat the increasing population growth rate.

Member Hala Abu El-Saad, said that the draft law is illegal, as Article 53 of the Egyptian constitution requires equality of rights among citizens, while MP Ahmed Rafaat said that the bill is constitutional, will achieve equality, and will not be applied retroactively.

Deputy of the parliamentary committee of defence Yehia El-Kedwany, said the efforts of the state to determine the birth rate declined significantly in the wake of 2011, which resulted in the aggravation of the problem and becoming a crisis threatening national security.

In this regard, he requested the ministry of health, to provide contraceptives free of charge for citizens, noting since the neediest and low-income citizen cannot afford to purchase them and therefore do not use them.

Moreover, head of the parliamentary committee of social solidary Abdel Hady El-Kassaby said that it is important to reduce the population growth, and previous governments failed to address the population issue, which put pressure on economic resources and the distribution of service shares to citizens.

“We’ve got 105 million citizens, and there is poor distribution of the population, and every day we have 5,760 children, which means we have increased by 2,000,063 thousand citizens, an increase that represents a census state, so the share of each citizen gradually at least in all services in water, food, and hospitals,” he also said.

The parliament previously recommended increase in the amount allocated by the government to family planning programmes from EGP 2bn to EGP 4bn to meet the population increase.

Al-Azhar supports birth control

Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence and Islamic Law at Al-Azhar University said in a statement to

everything that benefits the public for all is a preservative to Sharia and religion, especially that the current period requires organising awareness conferences in all governorates on family planning.

He warned from the risks of early marriage, taking care of children and that the offspring does not exceed the two children to save preservation of society from the population “explosion.”

State subsidies

Among social protection and support projects that have been executed during recent years, Takaful and Karama came as the top of services benefiting the most vulnerable groups in the villages of Upper Egypt and in some areas adjacent to the governorates of Cairo and Giza.

The project has succeeded in providing coverage for a large number of the most vulnerable groups across the country and improving the deteriorating conditions of families with no income.

The Takaful and Karama projects are divided into two parts: the first aims at providing cash support to poor families who have children studying at different education levels, to ensure that they will continue their education process.

Families who have students in primary level education receive EGP 60 for each child per month, while parents with children in the preparatory stage receive EGP 80, and EGP 100 is given for each student in the secondary stage. These cash payments are provided to families so long as their children have a school attendance rating of at least 80%.

The programme provides medical support to families with pre-school children, who are less than six years old, and to pregnant mothers. The medical support requires that families implement all of the steps stipulated in healthcare programmes by the Ministry of Health. The maximum number of beneficiaries of this programme are three children per household.

Also, Egypt provides baby formula, which cost the government EGP 46, and sells it out for EGP 5, a price that is less than 10% of the actual cost.

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State strikes social media rumours via harsh legislation Tue, 24 Jul 2018 12:30:47 +0000 The Egyptian state has been long pointing on several occasions that social media platforms are the main reason of spread of rumours and negative energy among citizens in the country, suggesting the creation of legislation to criminalise or fine any users who posts or publishes something that could be seen as a threat to the …

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The Egyptian state has been long pointing on several occasions that social media platforms are the main reason of spread of rumours and negative energy among citizens in the country, suggesting the creation of legislation to criminalise or fine any users who posts or publishes something that could be seen as a threat to the country or interests of the citizens.

During the past years, particularly following revolution of 25 January, social media networks have been the platform where people can express their opinions on several political and economic topics, especially in the case that no more opponents are welcomed on most of media outlets, due to restrictions on the press.

Mainly, Facebook and Twitter were also widely used to expose security forces’ alleged violence against protesters, speak about health and education negligence, conditions of detainees, and stories of injustices. At the same time, a state of confusion appeared on social media, as many have used this freedom in a way that caused the publishing of misleading information.

With the growing influence of social media, which people are increasingly relying on for information, the government has started to pay attention to what is being posted on those platforms. The power of social media has contributed in changing many situations in the country, bringing violators to justice, helping citizens to voice their concerns, publishing achievements, and marketing many products and projects as well.

A huge wave of criticism appeared on social media platforms due to price hikes of fuel, electricity, and transport that came as part of recent economic reforms sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which have caused many Egyptians to suffer economic hardship. This wave was annoying to the state, as it was believed that this will lessen people’s support for the state’s economic reform project and their patience to be present until its accomplishment.

Egypt has encountered 21,000 rumours in only three months, aimed at creating confusion and instability, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a televised speech during a military graduation ceremony that marked the commemoration of the 23 July revolution of 1952, adding that the real threat the country is facing is being undermined from within: “the pressure, the rumours, the terrorist acts, hopelessness, and discontentment,” Al-Sisi added.

Following the statements of the president, parliament members have repeated their calls for legislation that would be dedicated only for putting limits for rumours on social media.

A member of Parliament’s communications and information technology committee said that “Facebook has directly contributed to fuelling conflicts in the Middle East and dissemination of data and information that is not accurate at all; therefore the parliament intends, during the next legislative term, to issue a number of legislations to reduce the chaos of rumours spread over social networking sites.”

He explained that these laws will not affect the freedom of the press and will not be, as some claim, used to silence people.

The parliament has already passed a controversial law allowing the state to supervise users of social networking sites. Article 19 of the newly approved press and media law stipulates the Supreme Media Council to stop or block any personal website, blog, or social media account that has a high number of followers—exceeding 5,000—in case it commits a specific offence that will be seen publishing false news or advocating or inciting a violation for law or violence or hate. This article will deal with these accounts or blogs as a media outlet, which is viewed as an attack on personal freedom of opinion and expression, which violates the Constitution.

Previously, a number of members of the Press Syndicate council declared their rejection and condemnation regarding Article 19 of the draft law as “catastrophic” as it grants the Supreme Media Council a duty that is among its roles and comes in violation with Article 77 of the Constitution.

Head of media and culture committee Osama Heikal said that it was important to make a regulation for press and media law through social networking sites, which are followed by many, pointing out that freedom of opinion and expression will not be affected, but the punishment will be on spreading rumours.

He pointed out that citizens currently rely heavily on media to obtain information, saying that about 70% of the community do not read newspapers, do not watch television, but rely on electronic media and social networking sites that contribute to the spread of rumours.

Regarding the press, he continued that the sanctions that will be signed on the promoters of rumours, or news that do not rely on sources, or blocking for the sites issued from abroad, saying that “if inside Egypt I can get him, but outside Egypt will be blocked to preservation of society.”

He added that the law will be updated to keep abreast of the technological development that will dominate the media.

Head of committee of communication Nadal Saeed said that the parliament also will amend Article 188 of the Penal Code, concerning the publication and promotion of false news, during the upcoming legislative term.

The penalty for publishing false news includes imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine of not less than EGP 5,000 and not more than EGP 20,000, However, none of these penalties are suitable for the chaos of rumours that have spread recently by the electronic platforms, Saeed said.

He also added that “there are more than 2 million fake accounts on Facebook, which is very dangerous, and thus we seek to create new controls for users in favour of protecting the information of citizens and their personal lives, which still does not mean the closure of these sites.”

Saeed noted that the committee receives a large number of complaints every month, which could be about 700 monthly complaints, including accusing users of slander, libel, and publication of false news and information.

In a similar context, Ahmed Zadian, secretary of the communications and information technology committee, called on the government to quickly complete the executive regulation cybercrime law in order to begin implementing the penalties contained in this law.

In June, the Egyptian Parliament approved a draft law submitted by the government against crimes of information technology, known as the cybercrime law, which marks the first of its kind in Egypt in the field of combating cybercrime.

The law provides for penalties of up to EGP 5m for internet users and companies serving in violation of the provisions of this law. It further penalises those involved in disseminating information about movements of the army or police or promoting the ideas of terrorist organisations to prison, and imposing fines of tens of thousands of pounds on those found to be involved in the theft and penetration of others’ e-mail.

Several parliamentarians expressed their agreement with the law, believing that the law is extremely important to fight any personal life infringements and protecting the country’s security.

Last May, the government blocked nearly 20 websites, as officials claimed they were fuelling terrorism. They included news websites which the government has considered hostile to Egypt, such as Al-Jazeera and other Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated websites. The Egyptian Ministry of Interior is one body that is actively monitoring social media pages and has announced over the years the shutdown of hundreds of pages reportedly inciting violence.

In the following months, the campaign extended to more websites, among which were many local news websites, specialised online platforms (on arts, women, sports, etc.), and foreign websites as well. The critical content of some websites had already been the subject of denunciation by the government and pro-state media campaigns, which established that those websites were working on an agenda against the country and its people.

According to data from the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, there are nearly 33 million internet users in Egypt as of 2017, a 41% internet penetration.

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Despite ongoing critics, press, media law officially passed Tue, 17 Jul 2018 11:30:25 +0000 State of division appeared between members of council of Press Syndicate regarding amendments approved by parliament

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Egypt’s Parliament approved the press and media law that will regulate the work of three bodies supervising the profession, during a plenary session on Monday.

The law is officially approved after one day of being amended by the parliament. The amendment came in response to remarks made by the Press Syndicate and State Council.

Despite that there were 28 articles amended, members of the Press Syndicate are not fully satisfied with them, vowing to organise a general assembly to discuss the issue.

Also, a state of division appeared between members of the council of the Press Syndicate, regarding the amendments approved by the parliament over the press and media law. Half of the members of the Press Syndicate rejected the amendments and called for a general assembly to discuss the issue, while the head of the Press Syndicate, Abdel Mohsen Salama, and the National Press Authority praised the amendments and thanked the parliament for considering their remarks.

Following the approval of the demands, disputes took place between members of the council, as some believed that it is unsatisfactory and others saw it sufficient and consistent with the demands.

The Press Syndicate said in a statement that the parliament ignored, during Sunday’s session, most of the comments made by the syndicate, regarding some articles of the law and also ignored the remarks of Egypt’s highest judicial apparatus, the State Council, which pointed out that there are several constitutional defects in a number of the articles.

The syndicate added that the parliament did not make any changes in the articles on restricting the freedom of the press and came inconsistent with the constitution and threatened the independence of the national press institutions.

While Salama thanked on Sunday President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for supporting press freedom, saying that this support has helped to resolve a dispute between the parliament and the syndicate on newly approved laws regulating the press and the media. He also expressed appreciation for the parliament and Speaker Ali Abdul Aal, as well as the parliament’s culture and media committee, for responding to most of the notes and suggestions presented by the syndicate about controversial articles in the new law.

The press and media law, which includes regulation for the National Press Authority, National Media Authority, and Supreme Media Council, were preliminarily approved earlier in June. Since then, controversy has stirred among journalists over the validity of articles of the law.

The syndicate’s council said the parliament did not change formulation of the article that stipulates granting the Supreme Media Council the right to “cancel, consolidate, and confiscate press institutions,” which opens the door to the privatisation of national institutions and dismissal of hundreds of workers.

It also added that the article related to the retirement of journalists, which stipulates that age will be decided by the Supreme Media Council, which experts believed will open the door of favouritism and wasting real competencies in press institutions.

The syndicate said the amendments are not satisfactory, as articles that give powers to the Supreme Media Council, such as 4, 5, and 19, are still not amended, as they will allow it to prevent the circulation and withdrawal of licenses and blocking public and personal sites, which undermines the essence of the profession and its independence.

As for Article 12, it has been amended to allow permits only in places where photography is prohibited, after it stipulated that journalists should get a permission from the Supreme Media Council before attending conferences and public meetings, conduct interviews with citizens, and take photographs in public areas, where photography is not prohibited.

The syndicate commented on this by saying that this article left the identification of places to an unknown entity, which restricts the task of the journalist, making it impossible to practice the profession freely.

Article 29, which was believed to return per-trial detention against journalists, is amended to be consistent with constitutional Article 71, which stipulates that no sanctions may be imposed against freedoms. However, the syndicate said that the article still will lead to possible interpretation of the investigative bodies.

Members of the Press Syndicate council called for the enforcement of its law and to respond, during a meeting on Tuesday 17 July in an attempt to answer requests of hundreds of colleagues for an extraordinary general assembly to declare a clear position on the press law.

The signatory members are Gamal Abdel Rahim, Mohamed Kharaja, Hussein Al-Zanati, Mahmoud Kamel, and Mohamed Saad Abdel Hafeez.

These members stressed that they have tried over the past month to communicate with the parliament to reach amendments to the texts of articles that clash with the constitution and the public interest, adding that the amendments presented were disappointing, therefore it led them to opt for a general assembly for clarification.

They further demanded the press community to pay attention to what is being waged against the profession, especially after the issuance of statements from its associates welcoming what happened.

Previously, the Press Syndicate was the first to announce its remarks against the law, pointing out several articles that they believe do not align with the constitution, which guarantees the freedom of expression, and that they were invited to attend the discussion of the law. Later, the State Council released a report noting the unconstitutionality of some articles.

On Thursday, two deputies of the Press Syndicate, Ibrahim Abu Kela and Khaled El-Meery, met with the head of the parliamentary media and culture committee, Osama Heikal, to discuss the remarks of the syndicate over the law and how it could be amended. Heikal said in press statements that there was a complete consensus between the parliament and the syndicate over most of the comments.

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Parliamentarians reject law, hashtag created to criticise ‘selling Egyptian nationality’ Tue, 17 Jul 2018 11:00:34 +0000 Mohamed Badrawy, a member of the parliament’s economic committee, explained that the bill to hand Egyptian nationality to foreigners is divided in terms of residence to four categories: foreigners with special residence, regular, temporary, and deposited residence, which is the newest part added to the law. According to the new amendment officially approved, it determines …

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Mohamed Badrawy, a member of the parliament’s economic committee, explained that the bill to hand Egyptian nationality to foreigners is divided in terms of residence to four categories: foreigners with special residence, regular, temporary, and deposited residence, which is the newest part added to the law.

According to the new amendment officially approved, it determines the licensees of residence and duration, the value of the deposit and the type of currency, organises the procedure of depositing and refunding, and the banks, where it is deposited, after approval of the minister of interior and the cabinet.

The minister of interior may grant Egyptian nationality to every foreigner who has lived in Egypt for a period of at least five consecutive years, after submitting the application for receiving the nationality, in accordance with the regulations stipulated by law.

Reaction to the amendment varied, as some welcomed it for boosting the Egyptian economy, while others believed that this would threaten the national security. In this regard, Badrawy added that the draft law is an insult to national dignity, as well as a threat to Egyptian national security, while countries suffer from the negative effects of migrants.

He pointed out that the justification of the state at the time for the proposed law was a crisis in hard currency, which now exceeds $40bn; however, the bill allows foreigners to deposit the value in Egyptian pounds.

Haitham El-Harari, a member of the critical parliamentary bloc 25-30, said that he rejected the bill, as he believes that it is against national security and made the Egyptian nationality a commodity sold and bought in exchange for money. He also said that the parliament did not give him the full opportunity to express his opinion, during the discussion session.

Also, other members in the bloc have expressed rejection of the law, and a hashtag called “No for selling Egyptian nationality” emerged on social media platforms. The phrase “It is a shame to sell the Egyptian citizenship” was common among posts and tweets of Egyptians on social media.

On Sunday, the Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal said, “the Egyptian citizenship is dear—not sold or bought—but the whole world believes in the principle of a long and stable residence for those who do not commit any act that would endanger the security of the state or jeopardise its public order.”

Additional reporting by Abdel Razek Al-Shuweiki

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Tablets Vs. Toys: Technology threatens childhood as we know it ? Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:00:16 +0000 Toys R Us closure raises questions over future of toys sales

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“I guess everyone has grown up, there is no more Toy R Us kids”, this was a sentence told by Toys R Us worldwide toys store who shut down its stores this month, marking an end of era.

Although the closure of worldwide production and retailer “Toys R Us” came as surprising for many adults who have long enjoyed toys of the store in their childhood, but others have expected that action due to prices hikes and growth of online games.

Toys R Us closure raised many questions on the future of toys store that are facing a big threat, as people are gradually becoming unable to afford expensive games, replacing it with smart phones and kids tablets.

‘Toys R Us’ a brand that dates to 1957, closed its door on Friday after seventy years of being source of happiness for thousands of children around the world through providing different type of toys, clothing and video games. A number of 735 stores across the United States this week. The retailer has filed bankrupt in September 2017 with $4.9 billion in debt. Before closing they have began long season of sales to sell all goods in its stores.

Following its closure, a wave of anger and nostalgia expressed  by many adults who were raised on the toys of the store, while others have seen the action as expected due to its unfordable prices.

It’s true that “Toys R Us” were one of the very expensive toys store around the world, targeting upper classes. A photo have been circulating showing Geoffrey the Giraffe  standing in an empty aisle with a suitcase in his  hand preparing to leave for a “very long vacation.” The photo have received over 25,000 likes.

Some international media reports have published that the reason beyond the closure was the competition among amazon, target and others.

In general, toys prices have been gradually increasing over the world, led many parents to teach their children to use smart phones and tablets as more cheaper and more flexible. On Internet, children can find more variety of free games in which made digital toys and internet-connected devices for children, such as Smarty, are a rapidly growing.

In Egypt, majority of parents use tablets to stop their children nagging, and offer their children for entertainment without need to buy expensive games every period. These tablets are designed specifically for children to allow them try lot of games which mostly are attractive to their eyes of children and allows parents to control the children.

Despite there have been applications that allows parent to control their children use for tablets, Many psychologist have expressed that that  some digital worlds would be too controlling and don’t encourage a child to use his imagination.

The volume of toys trade in Egypt is estimated at 20 million pounds annually, 90% of these games are imported from China, according to the statistics of the competition protection system.

In some cases, some families have resorted to buy used games or games sold in streets which is more cheaper than ones present in big shops to avoid harms of online games.

Daily News Egypt visited “top toys’ one of leading toys store in Egypt, the store located in Dokki district were not crowded with children or families, bit over loaded with games in each of its side.

The prices of toys were very expensive, especially those related to IQ, in which really raised question on who would ever be able to get toy for each child with EGP 300.

Zahraa Abu El-Khair, a mother of eight months baby girl, said “toys store in Egypt are divided into two forms, one for the very rich and other for middle classes who apparently disappeared following new economic reform”.

She continued: “currently, it is hard to find a game that worth EGP 100 all are really expensive  to get for my kid games a squeeze toy, the cheetahs one I can get worth EGP 650, sometimes I can find one toy worth EGP 1000.”

When asked how are you going to save your daughter from online games, she said: “ Since both, leading and normal shops are expensive. I can create games for my daughter at home. I wont buy toys and I don’t have enough budget to do so. I started taking ideas from the Internet on how to entertain my children at home without making them to use tablets. There are activities that I can teach to my children, like for babies I can get a large bowl fill it with unboiled pasta and little amount of water, so she can play with it. This more tempting for many babies.

The pound’s flotation raised the prices of different products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as electricity services, making life harder for Egyptians.

Moreover, Hanaa Abdel Moneem, a mother of three boys, said: “If I buy a game for every one of my three sons, the cost will reach EGP 900 a month, I can’t do this. I break my children’s heart every time they want a new game, So I got for them three a tablet, which is more cheaper and will led them to stop nagging for new games toys.”

In November 2016, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) floated the pound as part of the requirements set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Egypt agreed to a $12bn loan over three years. The pound’s flotation raised the prices of different products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as electricity services, making life harder for Egyptians.

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Saving money no longer option for Egyptians under price hikes Tue, 26 Jun 2018 10:00:17 +0000 Egyptians, especially members of the middle class, have been gradually changing their lifestyles over the past years, not only by cutting their expenses, but also by giving up many things that were once essential to their daily routines. Members of the middle and upper middle classes had been enjoying many things seen by lower classes …

The post Saving money no longer option for Egyptians under price hikes  appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptians, especially members of the middle class, have been gradually changing their lifestyles over the past years, not only by cutting their expenses, but also by giving up many things that were once essential to their daily routines.

Members of the middle and upper middle classes had been enjoying many things seen by lower classes as privileges, while the current economic situation has caused them to recognise these as privileges that can no longer be part of their monthly plans.

Going out with friends on the weekend, or even on weekdays, travelling several times throughout the year, driving cars, buying clothes on a regular basis, having high-end products, and monthly visits to the supermarket and beauty salons were always viewed as essentials in their lives, not privileges.

The recent changes in Egypt’s economic situation have caused prices to double and increase even higher, obliging people to change their priorities, while also diminishing their ability to save money.

Saving money is one a common practice among people all over the world. It was always normal to save some money for emergencies, for certain goals, or to maintain significant sums of money, especially for the middle class.

Egyptians were very successful in doing this; over the past years, many families managed to save significant amounts of money, which enabled them to build houses, buy savings certificates, buy apartments for their children, own properties, and store money for emergencies, which they are now spending.

With stagnant salaries amid rising prices, consumers have changed their financial behaviour by looking for different methods that could help reduce expenditure.

In November 2016, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) floated the pound as part of the requirements set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Egypt agreed to a $12bn loan over three years. The pound’s flotation raised the prices of different products, including food, medicine, electronics, and fuel, as well as electricity services, making life harder for Egyptians.

The inflation rate in May increased by 0.3% from the previous month, reaching 274.7 points from 273.9, according to the monthly bulletin released by Egypt’s official statistics body, the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

Daily News Egypt interviewed citizens of different social statuses and ages. Some agreed that they still can save money despite the worsening conditions, while others believed that it has become difficult to save as long as the value of their incomes are unstable.

Some of the interviewed citizens narrated their experiences on how they were able to save money during the early years of the 21st century.

Saving money is no longer affordable

“I have no doubt that saving money became something unbearable at all now. People who still can do this, really, God is with them,” said Mai Khater, a senior officer who has been working at telecommunications company Etisalat Egypt for 10 years.

“My first salary was EGP 2,700; four months later, it was raised to EGP 5,700. Could you imagine? There was money at that time. I managed to buy a car and apartment for myself and help my family. I was even able to travel three times per year to different places in Europe,” Khater said.

She continued, “my salary at that time was equivalent to EGP 25,000, which actually now is valued as EGP 10,000. The pound’s value has strongly impacted our income. If someone is really earning the amount of the previous salary now, they would never be able to achieve what I did in 2008. And apparently, thank God, I have an apartment—mine is 90 sqm and I got it for EGP 90,000—which I can now sell for EGP 400,000. Look at the difference.”

Currently, she said that she now has a higher salary and owns a private company but is in debt. Things she used to buy, for example, for EGP 100 now cost over EGP 200.

A majority of people continue to receive the same salary as before the flotation, which is the main reason that led them to feel the pressures of inflation.

“Saving money is completely a privilege now. I stopped smoking shisha in fancy coffeeshops, meeting my friends on a daily basis, ordering fast food at work—not to save money, but to afford the expenses of marriage preparations, and it is still not enough,” Ahmed Hussien, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, said when asked how he saves money after the price hikes.

Hussien said that he was scheduled to reserve his wedding in October, but financial difficulties led him to postpone it to January so that he can handle several marriage requirements. His family has provided him with some assistance.

“In the beginning, one year ago, I agreed with the family of my fiancée to arrange a good wedding together, but the plan changed. Now, both of us are not facing financial stability, so we will only do a small reception.”

He continued, “we spent more money than was expected due to the price hikes; for instance, we thought the electronic appliances would cost only EGP 40,000, but they reached EGP 60,000. This is not only applicable for electronics, but to everything else in the apartment, from decoration to furniture. So how can I save? Any amount saved will be paid after a while. Saving is a really hard task.”

Moreover, Salma Abdel Rahman, a 25-year-old public relations officer living in the Mohandessin district, said, “I wish I could really save money, but there is no way as long as my salary is unstable and prices are increasing.”

Abdel Rahaman is completely independent, but by the end of some months, she finds herself having to borrow money from her father or mother. She receives a monthly salary of EGP 5,000, explaining that her expenses include fuelling and cleaning her car, buying medicines and beauty products, and going to the hair dresser.

“I am living with my family, but I only sleep and eat with them. I rarely take money from them, even when I want to visit my doctor or perform medical tests. Now, my family has to help to prepare me for marriage, but they can’t get me all the things I need, so I must save, but I really don’t know how,” she said.

“This is good that I can afford my needs, but I want to do more things. I am in my early 20s; I have to enjoy life, but I am really too poor to do this, even though I am categorised as an upper middle class citizen.”

Money-pooling continues as solution to save money

Money-pooling, commonly known as “gamaaya”, is when individuals borrow and save money together. The neediest people were those practicing it the most, but middle-class citizens have been performing it for years and are increasingly doing so now. It is an old custom amongst mainly rural Egyptians.

Saeed Hamdy, a 26-year-old retail banker, said the only solution to save money, especially now, is joining money pools, which is better than taking loans from banks with high interests.

“Most of the male youth are using a large amount of their salaries in money pools. In some cases, it might not be in one pool, but in two or three, since it is the best and fastest way that can help them to save money,” Hamdy said.

“After inflation, all that I have saved last year will do nothing after the prices have increased. Now I am stuck. I can’t reserve an apartment or buy a car. Not only this, but I can’t be committed to any pool any longer, because then I would not be able to live,” he concluded.

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Expansion of Nation’s Future Party expected to change political landscape Tue, 29 May 2018 14:00:19 +0000 Party stance shocked Support Egypt coalition, which was expected to become political party

The post Expansion of Nation’s Future Party expected to change political landscape appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Nation’s Future Party welcomed over 200 new members to its ranks during the past week, in preparation for internal reconstruction of the party expected to be accomplished in the few upcoming months.

During the past week, mass resignations were submitted by members of parliament affiliated with different parties to leave their respective parties, planning to join the Nation’s Future Party’s instead, alongside independent members.

Around 150 independent members of “For the Sake of Egypt” association have joined the party. The association was formed in 2016 to support the re-election of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the presidential election of 2018. Also, around 50 members affiliated with the Free Egyptians Party submitted their resignations to join the Nation’s Future Party.

“The party has significantly expanded after the merger of the members of For the Sake of Egypt. The party managed to include a large number of MPs, especially independents,” Atef Nasser, the head of the parliamentary bloc of the Nation’s Future Party said in media statement. 

Nassar said that party members increased from 57 to 250 after the new expansion. “We got 150 independent MPs, and a number ranging between 40 and 50 MPs who were members of the Free Egyptians Party and Al-Wafd Party,” he said.

Among the members who quit the Free Egyptians Party were head of parliament’s human rights committee, Alaa Abed; Abdel-Hadi El-Qasabi, head of parliament’s social solidarity committee; and head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee Tarek Radwan.

Moreover, from Al-Wafd Party, Hossam El-Khouli, the former deputy head of the party, resigned to become the secretary general of the Nation’s Future Party, while businessperson Al-Sayed Al-Badawi, who served two terms as the head of Al-Wafd Party, resigned as honorary president of the party, a title he had received by consensus.

These figures are supposed to be valuable additions for the Nation’s Future Party due to their long expertise in the field of politics. El-Khouli said that former members of Free Egyptians Party and Al-Wafd Party will lend their expertise to the party, and that the party aspires to be Egypt’s leading and majority party”.

In a previous media statement, Abed said that the expansion and reconstruction of the Nation’s Future Party will change the political atmosphere of the country, as it will be the leading party in Egypt.

On Thursday, members of the Nation’s Future Party met with members of For the Sake of Egypt to discuss their future work after their merger. The head of Nation’s Future Party Ashraf Rashad gave a speech regarding the new situation of the party, saying the merger of the party with the association is expected to create changes regarding filling the political vacuum that Egypt experienced over the past several years. The merger came in execution of recommendations by Al-Sisi in that regard.

The Nation’s Future Party was the first party to heed calls by Al-Sisi to unify political parties through merging with For the Sake of Egypt. During the fifth National Youth Conference, Al-Sisi called on political parties to unite to create an opportunity for closer dialogue.

“We strongly believe in Al-Sisi’s initiative and so we have moved quickly to convince more than 150 independent MPs to join our ranks,” said Rashad.

The Nation’s Future Party, which is liberally conservative, was founded in 2015 as a party representing the youth, but gradually hired more high-ranking political figures and gained more members from other competing parties. The party had supported many initiatives to re-elect Al-Sisi for another term. It further won 57 seats in the Egyptian Parliament in the parliamentary elections of 2015.

Journalist Hassan Abu Taleb, in an op-ed in state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram, commented on the changes in the Nation’s Future Party, saying that the integration is a natural development, not an exceptional situation, and is based on the conviction that building a strong and large party and its competing with other parties is the only viable path, and small parties will turn to it in order to achieve legitimate parliamentary and political gains, as defined by the constitution.

The party’s newfound position of strength was unexpected and shocking to the majority Support Egypt parliamentary coalition, which announced to the press last month that it was planning to transform into a political party.

Nasser commented on that, saying that he believes that the decision of 150 independent MPs to join the party came as a big surprise to the leaders of Support Egypt, but that the support that the Nation’s Future Party has witnessed was due to complaints surrounding the poor performance of the Support Egypt coalition’s leadership and its failure to impose discipline in parliament.

There was a state of anger within the Nation’s Future Party after news of negotiations to merge the party with the For the Sake of Egypt association. Members of the party expressed dissatisfaction with the merger by launching an initiative dubbed “You can pick flowers but you cannot delay spring”, explaining that they refuse the marginalising of the party’s youth who were able to prove their formidable presence over the past four years of work. They were able to occupy a number of important positions within parliament, in addition to their strong presence on the ground through organisational structures of young people in 27 governorates as part of the party’s functions, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.

During the past several years, the weakness of the political scene in Egypt was long questioned and criticised, as it was clearly recognised that the performance of opposition groups in the country had weakened, and that they were not represented in any of the state’s major events.

Political science professor Hassan Nafaa told Daily News Egypt that there is already vacuum, and this will definitely continue to be a challenge during the next stage. The role of political parties and non-governmental organisation is very weak, he said, and there is no mechanism that could stimulate democracy in the country.

Commenting on the political vacuum, political science professor Ahmed Abd Rabo wrote in op-ed in privately-owned newspaper Al-Shorouk, “it is not new if we compare the year 2017 with the previous years in terms of politics. The restrictions on civil society continues, the file of rights is constantly declining, as well as the constant tracking of political activists and some cadres of political parties. The message is clear to all: the system’s only message is security and there is no room for politics.”

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Despite hikes, few improvements seen in metro stations Tue, 15 May 2018 10:00:09 +0000 Increasing metro fare comes as part of plans for development of metro systems, says transportation minister

The post Despite hikes, few improvements seen in metro stations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptians have been facing price hikes on a range of products and services in the country for over two years. Since signing a $12bn loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Egypt has pledged and implemented a harsh major economic reform programme that started in 2016. In addition, the government has implemented several other procedures to bridge the budget deficit and stimulate the economy’s growth—one of these procedures is hiking metro ticket prices.

On Friday, the Ministry of Transportation raised the price of metro fares to EGP 3-7, hiking the price for the second time in less than a year.  The pricing system is now based on the number of stations travelled. From a flat rate of EGP 2, now, for the first nine stations, Egyptians will pay EGP 3, which rises to EGP 5 for up to 16 stations, and EGP 7 for more than 16 stations. The decision will not be imposed on students, the elderly, and people with special needs.

The ticket price had already been increased to EGP 2 on 23 March, four months after the pound’s flotation. Prior to that, the flat metro fare had remained, for many years, at EGP 1.

Minister of Transportation Hesham Arafat said that the decision comes as part of completing plans for the development of the Cairo metro system and to maintain the vital facility, which serves millions of Egyptians on a daily basis, as well as to provide a distinctive service for passengers.

He further said in a statement that the decision was made due to the heavy financial losses of the metro system, as its accumulated loans have reached almost EGP 618.6m, in addition to a deficit in maintenance and reparation costs from 2016 until the current year. He added in the statement that the increase aims at improving the metro, providing people with “special” services, and achieving social justice.  

Comprehensive plan to develop metro stations

Egyptian authorities have repeatedly justified the changing of metro ticket prices as a way to implement a comprehensive development plan for metro stations. There are already a number of changes seen in the metro stations throughout the past few months.

The plan to upgrade the infrastructure of the first and second Cairo metro lines requires funding of up to EGP 30.76bn, of which only EGP 26.35bn was paid for the first line, and EGP 4.4bn for the second line, Ahmed Abdel Hady, spokesperson of the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation, clarified in media statements on Friday, adding that the plan includes a comprehensive development and modernisation of the infrastructure of the first line, as well as the purchasing of new trains and upgrading of existing trains, in addition to the development of the second line’s signalling systems.

The plan also includes the development of electric feed, communications system, and rails of the first line of the metro, which will cost €730m, said the minister, adding that there are already six new trains that have been added to the second line of the metro.

“The company is doing its best to provide distinguished services to passengers, and the increase of the prices of metro tickets was necessary and inevitable,” the chairperson of the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation, Ali Fadali, said.

Fadali added that the new prices will help to improve the service by providing the required funding to purchase spare parts for maintenance work, adding that new trains will be introduced during the coming period as part of the development plans for the first and second lines.

The ministry has contracted with a number of banks to receive EGP 30bn to renew the first line of the subway system, noting that citizens mostly complain of large crowds during their trips via the subway He said that in order to eliminate this issue, which is a result of a growing population, there should be a better signalling system, at a cost of €280m, which is expected to reduce the waiting time between trains, and therefore allow more trains to run.

New electronic gates already seen

Previously, officials of the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation and the Ministry of Transportation were quoted in local media reports saying that there would not be an increase in ticket prices this year, unless the installation of electronic gates in stations of the first and second lines is completed.

Since the beginning of 2018, new electronic gates began to be noticed by metro commuters as rumours of an imminent price hike swirled. Those new gates can also be used with smart cards.

In February 2018, Hady said the company was close to completing the replacement the old gates with new electronic ones. Meanwhile, Hassan Tawfeeq, spokesperson for the National Authority for Tunnels, confirmed that the installation of the electronic gates will be completed in the second line of the metro by the end of March.

The National Authority for Tunnels contracted with French company Thales Group to manufacture and supply 850 new gates at a cost of about EGP 160m, replacing the old gates in the first and second lines of the metro. That contract included completing the supply and installation of gates within 18 months from the date of activation.

The decision stirred controversy among Egyptians, as many were discontent with the price increases, as they added an additional burden to the already high living costs, following the government’s economic measures implemented in the last two years, including energy subsidy cuts and tax hikes, all as part of a $12bn three-year IMF loan agreement that was signed in 2016.

On the other hand, on social media, some users made posts saying that they were not against the decision, “as the ticket prices in other countries are much higher than in Egypt.” However, some advised that there should be a discount on specific ticket prices for either the underprivileged or the neediest social classes.

More than 3 million people use the metro daily, as it is the most affordable means of transportation in the city that low-income people, along with the working and middle classes, depend on. Throughout all hours of the day, one can find crowds of passengers standing and sitting inside each metro carriage, waiting to reach their destination. Once a train’s doors open, another crowd charges into it, with people regularly pushing each other in order to not miss the ride, often without regard for risk of injury.

Alternative transportation methods may not cost less, as the government is expected to slash petroleum subsides for the third time in July. 

Prices of public transportation tickets as well as taxi rides have spiked. In late June, the government increased the prices of fuel, as the price of a litre of 92 octane petrol rose to EGP 5 from EGP 3.5, 80 octane petrol and diesel fuel both increased from EGP 2.35 to EGP 3.65, and 95 octane petrol increased from EGP 6.25 to EGP 6.6. Those were the second increases in fuel prices in less than a year, as the government also raised fuel prices in November 2016.

The ticket prices are not the only concern that metro commuters harbour; the improvement of basic quality of services has long been a demand. Safety precautions, regulations on overcrowding, and improvement of poorly maintained stations have long been called for by metro riders.

Economists have previously suggested plans to expand metro revenues without raising ticket prices, such as better utilising the marketing aspect, activating commercial promotion professionally to make the most of advertisements placed on tickets, entry and exit gates, escalators, and stairways. In a previous televised interview, the head of the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operation, Khaled Sabra, said that the metro works 24 hours a day and serves 1.3 billion passengers per year. Revenues of the metro are estimated at over EGP 3m per day, which can greatly assist in upgrading its services.

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Buying apartment is no longer obstacle to marriage for many Egyptian youth Tue, 08 May 2018 06:00:50 +0000 For decades, Egyptian youth have suffered from prerequisite of owning apartment

The post Buying apartment is no longer obstacle to marriage for many Egyptian youth appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A common phrase is often said to Egyptian men who wish to get married to the bride of their choice by her parents in Egypt. From the beginning, the phrase is usually: “first, get the apartment, then do not worry about anything else.” Hence, it is commonly known in the country that when a man owns an apartment, he is elevated to the status of being eligible as a potential groom for any family.

In Egypt, having an apartment is one of the requirements for marriage, which is a matter that has complicated many relationships in the long run. The prerequisite of the groom having to own an apartment is one of the country’s social constructs across different social classes. Men should own apartments, most preferably of a certain size considered “average”, and in very rare cases will the parents of a bride accept a rental apartment for their daughter.

For decades, Egyptian youth have grappled with this issue. For some, it has been enough reason to force them to not even think about marriage until they are financially stable.

The apartment issue is one of the main reasons that has broken up many relationships. Parents of the bride believe that apartment ownership is a preservation of the rights of their daughter and a means to secure a good future life for her.

Under the current economic situation, it became very stressful for young people to buy an apartment by themselves. Prices of apartments, small or average, have all jumped to over EGP 500,000.

Marriage requirements in Egypt are determined as a measure of a bride’s worth. Thus, the waiving of any of these requirements could be seen as “downgrading” the girl, as some families believe that calling for many expensive requests is a way to indicate how valuable their daughter is.

Buying an apartment was and continues to be an obstacle that places matrimony out of reach for many young people in Egypt. Nowadays, seldom can a young man be ready to purchase an apartment on his own; usually, hsi parents are the ones who support him financially to get one. Daily News Egypt spoke to some couples that were able to break this societal stigma and found that some have looked to more practical solutions.

Groom and father-in-law split the cost

“Life evolves every day, people’s needs are always changing, while salaries are not helpful in affording all the expenses, so how come we still want young people to pay from their salary to get an apartment on their own? This is unfair,” said Ahmed Atef, 50, an engineer.

Atef, a father of a 23-year-old bride, agreed with his son-in-law to, together, buy the apartment, which means that each of them would pay 50% of the total amount. The groom’s monthly salary does not exceed EGP 7,000, he has no properties to sell, and his parents are not helping him, but he only inherited from his father a small amount that will help him to prepare the apartment.

“I know that if it was my son, he will never be able to buy an apartment, and that I should help him. Everyone in my family has criticised me for helping my daughter’s groom, but he is like my son, and he is serious and really doing his best to pay all the expenses. We agreed that I will pay the down payment and he will continue the remaining amount every month,” Atef said.

When Atef was asked why they did not opt for renting an apartment, he said that it would be very odd for his family and friends to know that his daughter lives in a rented apartment with her husband, justifying that all the girls in her family were offered good apartments by their partners.

“Despite me understanding the situation of my daughter’s groom, I still cannot comprise more, otherwise he will think that my daughter is cheap or unworthy,” Atef said.

It is common among many Egyptians that a groom who can buy a fancy apartment in a compound or an upscale area, fill it with extravagant furniture, and purchase expensive bridal jewellery is the right one for their daughter, regardless of his behaviour, character, or attitude.

‘I support my fiancé in secret’

Another case is a woman who is secretly helping her financé pay the monthly instalment for their apartment.

“In front of my family, the groom is the one who is paying the whole amount of the apartment, while in fact I am helping him, because he is not rich to pay every three months around EGP 18,000,” the twenty-six-year old researcher said.

The researcher, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she is from a higher social class than her fiancé, and that none of her family members are satisfied about her relationship, and they are always censuring her.

“I know he is not rich, he cannot get me an apartment in a good area like my friends, but I do not really care about these matters. We love and respect each other and this is really what is more important. We can start from the bottom now, and work together to improve our life,” she said, adding, “I don’t think the way my parents think. They believe that he should get me all that I want. Meanwhile, here in my parent’s home, I am responsible for myself; they do not give me a pound.”

She continued that her fiancé was able to pay a very simple down payment and that she is paying with him the monthly instalments from her salary, which is higher than his.

Parents buying the apartment

“Hadayek Al-Ahram is one of the areas that is categorised as an upper middle- or middle-class area and apartments are still being sold at good prices. A 150 sqm apartment can cost around EGP 500,000, which is something you can never find in Egypt’s current top areas like Sixth of October or Fifth Settlement,” said Gomaa Mohamed, a broker from the Hadayek Al-Ahram district.

He explained that whenever a young man buys an apartment on his own, he pays a very small down payment, then the owner obliges him to pay a higher monthly instalment.

“Usually families are the ones who are buying for their sons, I rarely find a young man who buys an apartment on his own. Young men mainly apply for affordable housing projects or social housing projects,” Mohamed said.

Hadayek Al-Ahram is a series of lands owned by families and investors who constructed buildings as investments. When asked why the prices of the district are not as expensive as in Sixth of October or other areas, Mohamed said because the roads are not well-constructed there, and that contributes to its low-price margin compared to other areas.

Father buys apartments for his sons and daughters

Amira Hussien, a 25-year-old newly married interior designer, said that she is living with her husband in her apartment.

“My father got an apartment for every one of us, my sisters, brothers, and I. My fiancé already has an apartment, but it is in a low-class area, and we could not sell it to buy another one because the condition of the market is not really helpful, so my father suggested that we can live in my apartment, but my fiancé will get the furniture and bear all the wedding expenses alone,” Abdellatif said.

She added that this solution was much better for her fiancé, as they both believe that selling an apartment and buying another would have wasted too much time and money.

Abdellatif said that she did not worry too much about people’s comments on how her financé is living in her apartment. “We all have financial problems, even the rich have debts. The problem is not what people will say; people will always talk. The problem is that I do not think it would really be fair if we broke up just for an apartment.”

From upmarket villa to rental apartment

Nada Magdy, a 35-year-old English teacher, grew up in an upper middle-class family. She used to live with her family in a two-floor upmarket villa in the city of Sheikh Zayed. Now, she lives with her husband in a small rented apartment in the district of Maadi.

“My father was very considerate of the conditions of my fiancé, he did not really pressure him to buy an apartment. I wish all people would think this way. Everything was good with us, expect that he has no apartment, and for my family, it was not really a big deal,” Magdy said.

Despite old social concepts, some families succeed in prioritising the happiness of their sons or daughters, as placing obstacles in their way has never been good for the interests of both sides.

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