Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Fine Journalist Vanishes Into Egypt’s Gulag

There are not many Egyptian journalists like Ismail Alexandrani. A sociologist by training, he was always drawn as a writer and journalist to those who are marginalized in the excitable hurly burly of Egypt’s press and popular culture: Nubians, disabled people, the Sinai Bedouins. It was his interest in the people of the Sinai, separated by a narrow canal but a wide cultural gulf from the people of the Nile Valley, which eventually turned him into perhaps the world’s leading expert on the insurrectionary armed groups there. And this week, his expertise and erudition have dealt him a grim fate: he has been arrested and is being held incognito on improbable charges of supporting terrorism.

Forced to live abroad since last year, Alexandrani tried to slip into Egypt under the radar this week to visit his ailing mother. But the Egyptian embassy in Germany tipped authorities off that he was flying into an outlying resort city on the Red Sea coast, and he was duly snatched up at the airport and bundled off to the forbidding headquarters of State Security Investigations in Cairo.

Alexandrani has always been willing to work against the grain. In the early days of Egypt’s ultimately failed Arab Spring ‘revolution,’ he wrote an insightful essay criticizing the cult of martyrdom which had then been built up around Khaled Said, the young man whose beating death at the hands of Alexandria policemen inspired many of the young activists in 2011 to demonstrate against the regime. We are not all Khaled Said, Alexandrani wrote: we do not all have good teeth, expensive clothes, live in nice neighborhoods next to the sea, and have a foreign passport that lets us travel wherever we like. Though common, lower class Egyptians beaten to death by policemen do not make for good Facebook campaigns, they are equally if not more deserving of our solidarity, Alexandrani suggested. The essay was, perhaps needless to say, never published by any media, local or foreign.

Even before the military coup which stripped power from the elected Muslim Brothers in the summer of 2013, Alexandrani was warning that the militarization of the Suez and Sinai regions of Egypt’s east was a mistake that could cost Mohamed Morsi his presidency, opening a way for the military back into Egypt’s public life; this “could be the beginning of the end of the Brotherhood rule in people’s hearts,” he wrote. Morsi was overthrown six months later, with the military promising to restore stability as it had supposedly been doing in the Sinai.

The reality in the Sinai was far from stable. After the coup, Alexandrani’s attention turned to the armed groups which had arisen among the northern Sinai’s largely Bedouin population; Jund al-Islam, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, shadowy groups of angry young men who blew up the pipelines selling Egyptian gas to the despised neighbor and former occupier, Israel, or who murdered policemen and fired the odd rocket. The Egyptian state’s scorched-earth responses, with mass imprisonments, demolished houses, hostage-taking and occasionally the dynamiting of whole villages, was, he wrote, not going to bear anything but poisoned fruit.

That poison has come in the resurrection of the extreme-even among extremists-ideology of takfir: treating everyone in the broader Muslim society as a heretic deserving of execution, Alexandrani wrote in an article translated here recently. The extremists of the Sinai swore allegiance, first to Al-Qaeda, and then to the Iraqi-Syrian entity that calls itself the Islamic State. And their attacks on policemen mutated into enormous car bombs and blown-up airliners. Egypt’s generals got what they may have wanted all along after the coup and the horrific massacre at Rabaa al-Adawiyya and the mass arrests and mass death sentences pronounced against innocuous political actvists: a full-scale, though hopefully manageable Islamist insurrection.

And now they have Ismail Alexandrani as well, a fine and honest journalist who has always pointed out the Egyptian military-state’s errors and miscalculations and horrific mistakes, and who will now pay very dearly for working against the grain in a country which no longer tolerates real criticism of its violent and brutal military regime.

This piece first appeared at International Boulevard.

More articles by:
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail