Restricted Frequency #138
Coming to Washington, overthrowing Sisi, and new apparel
This Tuesday, I’ll be in Washington, D.C.
As indicated in the image above, I’m there for the Cultural Majlis hosted by instructor, commentator, and art collector Sultan Al Qassemi. The talk I’ll be giving will delve into some of the processes behind a wide array of projects I’ve worked on; from street-art to paintings, prints, graphics, The Solar Grid, video art, installations, and more! I might even… throw in a joke or two.
Seats are very limited though, so be sure to RSVP if you’re in DC and would like to attend.
In the newsletter’s previous edition (Sep 20), I shared an illustration I did of Sisi-as-cat-burglar, which shortly thereafter went pretty viral.
On September 21st, it appeared on the streets of Paris and a protest in Washington, D.C. It then sprung up in Berlin and New York City on September 22nd. On September 23rd, it was spotted in some of the backstreets of Cairo, and on September 24th it was all over Oslo. On September 25th, it was used for an ad takeover in NYC, and then another one by September 30th, the latter within proximity to the Egyptian Consulate. It also became the go-to social media avatar for those against Sisi’s atrocities, as well as the “Facebook event” banner for most organized actions against Sisi around the world.
(photo by Aymann Ismail)
This is nothing to celebrate nor is it anything to brag about, because Sisi is still in power and he is more ruthless than ever. The fact remains: Sisi must go.
This may seem to some like, I dunno, too ambitious a goal to set, but it is not. We unseated Mubarak, dictator of 30 years who had far more reach and far more clout than Sisi could ever dream of. Something he probably is in fact dreaming of given that after serving only one term in office, he amended the constitution to allow him to stay put well until the year 2030.
Now, allowing that to happen would—simply put—be a crime. It would be a crime at the expense of those living under Sisi’s rule today, and very likely the next generation to come. It’s a singular thing that would affect the lives of millions—millions—of people.
Let’s consider some numbers here, shall we?
More than 60,000 political prisoners since Sisi took office.
Over 7,513 civilians have faced military tribunals.
More than 3,270 Egyptians killed by their own security forces to date.
2,658 death sentences handed out by Egyptian courts.
More than 461 deaths in police custody.
Over 500 people banned from travel.
All of this after just one term in office.
And in just the past month alone?
Close to 4000 arrests have been made.
This dwarfs the arrests made in Hong Kong over the past 4 months, which amount to no more than 2,022.
Yet, Washington Lawmakers found it fit to restrict the export of teargas, water-cannons, and rubber bullets to China. But as far as Egypt goes, well Egypt can get all those things and more—much, much more—for free.
Why is that?
Is it because Hong Kong just so happens to be the media’s protest du jour? Or could it perhaps be because of the political antagonism that has long been brewing between the US and China? Or, is it because Egypt sits right in the heart of the Middle East, and Sisi knows all too well the right card to play?
The terrorism card obviously.
The counter-terrorism narrative indeed constituted Sisi’s speech at the UNGA and virtually every television appearance he’s ever made, including a 60-minutes interview he adamantly tried to keep from airing. He tried… and failed.
Sisi doesn’t always get his way. And it is up to everyone other than Sisi to make sure he gets his way less and less and less until there is no way to be had.
What’s particularly interesting about Sisi’s stance on terrorism, is that it stands on terribly feeble legs, because designated “acts of terrorism” have only spiked since Sisi’s speedy ascent to power in 2013.
Not to mention that these attacks tend to occur when Sisi needs them the most, like say for example the attack that took place the day Sisi returned to Egypt from the United Nations General Assembly. The day there were rumors of major protests to unseat him, the same day he had Tahrir Square on lock-down, and the same day he organized a government sponsored rally in support of his presidency. And only one day before multiple billboards went up all over the city announcing support for Sisi’s “war on terror”, one that has been ongoing for more than 5 years now.
This is indicative of one of two things. Either:
a) Sisi himself is sponsoring these “terror attacks”, fully knowing what he will get in return.
b) He hasn’t been doing a particularly good job at battling terrorism.
Either way, this isn’t someone who should be getting over 2 billion dollars in military aid to stomp out terrorism. That is, simply put, preposterous.
But so far we’ve been looking at numbers, and Stalin said it best: “When one man dies, it is a tragedy. When a million die, it’s a statistic.”
So let’s put aside these numbers and statistics and graphs, all of which are clear indicators of the murderous nature of the man in charge of a country of over 100 million people. Let’s put that all aside and instead take a closer look at some of the personal stories involved.
On September 29th, Alaa Abdel Fattah was blindfolded and abducted by Egyptian state security agents and instantly taken to the maximum security wing of Tora Prison. The minute he arrived, he was slapped and kicked as he passed through the prison gates. He was then told to strip down to his underwear and forced to walk down a long corridor of people, who inflicted terrible beatings on him along the way. This is known as the prison’s “Welcome Parade”, which lasted a full 15 minutes.
All this prior to being charged with anything. When he was finally interrogated, he discovered that he was being charged with “joining an illegal organization, receiving foreign funding through said organization, and spreading false news through misuse of social media”. None of which is true, although he had taken to social media to criticize Sisi’s policies, which I guess is all it really takes. Upon his lawyer’s arrival to represent him, he too was arrested and accused of the very same charges!
Esraa Abdel Fattah (unrelated) was driving her car when she was suddenly stopped mid traffic. She was then slapped around by security agents and forced out of her car and taken to State Security headquarters for questioning where she was asked to unlock her phone for them. After refusing two “excessively large” agents showed up and proceeded to beat the living shit out of her. The officer assigned to interrogate her then proceeded to choke her, at which point she gave up her password. With her hands above her head, she was then hung by a pair of handcuffs as the officer proceeded to question her about some of the content on her phone. This lasted for 8 hours.
Although Esraa is being accused of things not entirely dissimilar to Alaa’s, the papers reporting her arrest came with this headline:
”Nights of Debauchery in Esraa Abdel Fatah’s Home”
Oh, it gets better. Here’s an excerpt from the story:
"“She used to light social media on fire with her pictures on the beaches of Hurghada laid out in a skimpy bathing suit. She is the ‘activist’ Esraa Abdel Fattah. Social media is ablaze once again with news of her long nights of sweet friendship and good times with fellow activist Mohammed Salah.” (not the football player, btw)
Mahinour El-Masry, a human rights lawyer, was abducted by security officers in plainclothes before being bundled into a nondescript minivan. This after appearing at State Prosecution to represent others who were wrongfully arrested. She too is being accused of “aiding a terrorist group” and the “spread of fake news”.
Malak El-Kashef, a trans woman, was held in a men’s only prison for 4 months. During this time, she underwent a forced “anal examination”. This despite the reasons for her arrest being connected to a call to protest following a train crash that killed 25 people.
In recent weeks, there have been over 13 inflammatory news stories on Malak, claiming everything from “excessive lewdness” to, of course, “aiding a terrorist organization”. This has resulted in over 10,000 hate messages against her on social media, and most recently an assault on her and her flatmates in their Alexandria apartment.
These are just 4 stories out of thousands. Let that sink in for a moment.
It is unfair that this is the treatment that some people are getting all for what? For wanting peaceful assembly? For demanding a free press and more representative parliament? Are any of those really so terrifying?
Leader after leader after leader has made claim that “Egyptians are not ready for democracy.” Well heck, maybe they’d be ready if every fucking dictator that came to power wasn’t granted billions in military aid by foreign governments.
Nobody is asking for any kind of “military intervention” in Egypt to remove Sisi from power. We know how these military interventions go, and we’re good, we don’t need that. But at the very least don’t allow your governments to actively give weapons to Egypt, that’s all we’re asking. And it really ain’t much.
Aside from that, we got it. We have over 5000 years experience in building up our own deities and tearing them down. And you can bet that that will be the fate that meets Sisi, just as it was the guy before him, and the guy before the guy before him. And we will do it the way we do it best. We will sing and dance and make jokes and plays and films. We will draw and paint and assemble in public squares until our reverberations shake the foundations of Sisi’s high castle and bring it all crashing down for good.
Aside from demanding your government to cease all supply of arms to Egypt (assuming you live in a real democracy and believe yourself to have that kinda pull), you can also print out any one of these hi-res posters and hang in your neighborhood:
Or, if that’s a little extra risque for you, you can also get yourself a bunch of these stickers if that’s easier:
It may not seem like much, but if the 60-minutes fiasco is any indication, Sisi really cares about his image. And that’s something we can definitely chip away at.
On a completely different note, Garage.ganzeer is carrying a bunch of new apparel if you fancy:
Many thanks for bearing with me and talk soon,
October 17, 2019